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widened the more." To borrow a figure from the same
Like the general laws, so were the punishments among the Assyrians and Babylonians, vague and uncertain. They were, indeed, arbitrary and rigorous, in proportion to the tyrant's present rage and fury. Nothing is recorded of them by profane historians; but it may be gathered from the prophecies of Daniel, that beheading, cutting in pieces, turning the offender's house into a dunghill, and burning in a fiery furnace, were sentences ordered by the kings of Babylon; and hence it may be inferred that these were the usual modes of punishment. See Dan. i. 10; ii. 5; iii. 19.
Little is known concerning the military force of the empire of Assyria, except that it was very great. Thus when Sennacherib invaded Jerusalem, it is recorded that the angel of the Lord smote in the Assyrian camp 66 a hundred and four score and five thousand" men, Isa. xxxvii. 36. That they were noted for their power in horses and chariots is plain, from Isa. v. 26-28, where the prophet predicts the executioners of God's judgments upon his people in these emphatic words
"And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far,
Neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed,
And all their bows bent,
And their wheels like a whirlwind.” Here, says Dr. Henderson, the rapidity with which the Assyrians advanced is beautifully expressed, by comparing the revolution of the wheels of their war-chariots to that of the sudden whirlwind, which seizes upon all within its reach, and rolling it up with indescribable velocity, bears it into the air. The allusion to the hardness of the hoofs of the horses, probably arises from the fact that the ancients did not shoe their horses by nailing iron-plates to the bottom of the hoof, as in our own country. They had, indeed, shoes of leather, gold, and silver, but these enclosed the whole hoof, and were only used on particular occasions. Xenophon, who, in his Cyropadia, represents the Babylonians in his day as supplying 20,000 horse and 200 chariots, to the force opposed to Cyrus, lays much stress on this point, observing that the good hoof
hard and hollow, and when struck on the ground, sounds like a cymbal. Homer continually uses the epithet, “brazenhoofed, to the horses of his heroes, which proves that he considered hard hoofs to be requisite in war-horses.
The trade of this ancient people is no where described at large, but that it must have been considerable, cannot be doubted, especially when Babylon was in the meridian of her glory. This mighty city was, as it were, situated in the midst of the old world, and by the medium of the Euphrates and Tigris, had ready communication with the western and northern parts, as it had also with the eastern, by means of the Persian Gulf. Babylon, moreover, was not only the seat of a potent monarchy, but it also afforded many productions and manufactures of its own, to exchange with its neighbours. In Josh. vii. 21, a "goodly Babylonish garment," or, literally, "a mantle of Shinar," of which Babylon was, in after ages, the famous and dominant capital, is mentioned, which indicates that this district had early acquired the reputation for its manufactured robes, for which its capital was famous among the ancients. That the Babylonians had shipping of their own, may be inferred from the fact, that the prophet denominates their city a “city of waters ;" and the description of the fall of Babylon, in the book of Revelation, under which figure the mystical Babylon, Rome, is represented, proves at
once the mighty riches of this city as an emporium, that the Babylonians had an extensive commerce, and that they abounded in shipping. "The merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandize of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every ship-master, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried,-Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate," Rev. xviii. 11—19.
THE PRIESTLY POWER.
In several passages of Scripture we read of magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans, in connexion with the government of the Assyrian empire. This refers to the priests, who appear to have formed the learned caste;_ occupying the same station as the priests did in Egypt. It does not seem clear, however, that they possessed the same power in the councils, or over the actions of the monarchs. What influence they possessed arose from their learning. This, it is probable, greatly distinguished them from the rest of the people, and caused them to be as much revered as the Egyptian priests were. They chiefly spent their time in the study of philosophy, and they were especially famous in the art of astrology, which would give them immense influence over the minds of the credulous multitude, and cause them to be regarded with deference, even by the haughty monarchs who ruled over them. That they held a conspicuous place in the empire appears evident, from the several transactions recorded in the book of Daniel, and from the fact that Isaial notices them in his denunciations of woe upon that empire.
Stand now with thine enchantments,
Wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth ;
Profane history bears its testimony to the truth of the sacred writings. Diodorus says, that the Chaldeans were greatly given to divination, and the foretelling of future events; and that they employed themselves, either by purifications, sacrifices, or enchantments, in averting evils, and procuring good fortune and success. The art of divination was performed by the rules of augury, the flight of birds, and the inspection of victims. They interpreted dreams and prodigies; and the presages which they derived from the inspection of the entrails of sacrifices, were received as oracles by the multitude. The same author states, that their knowledge and science were traditionally transmitted from father to son, thus proceeding on long established rules, and that they held the world to be eternal, having neither beginning nor end. They maintained however, that all things were ordered, and that the beautiful fabric of the universe was supported, by Divine Providence, and the motions of the heavens performed by some unseen and overruling power. It was from their long observations of the stars, and their knowledge of their motions, that they professed to foretell future events. The Sun, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter, they denominated “interpreters," as being principally concerned in making known to man the will of the gods. They maintained that future events were foreshown by their rising, setting, and colour: presaging hurricanes, tempestuous rains, droughts, famines, appearances of comets, eclipses, earthquakes, and every circumstance which
* These probably were men who marked out for every year the events which, as they pretended, were to occur in each month of that year, after the manner of our ancient almanack makers. Such a custom was both ancient and oriental.
was thought to bode good or evil to nations, kings, and private individuals. Like modern astrologers, they held also that the planets in their courses through the twelve signs, into which the divided they visible heavens, possessed an influence, either good or bad, on men's nativities; so that from a consideration of their several natures, and respective positions, it might be known what should befall them in after life. Several remarkable coincidences are mentioned by ancient historians to have occurred between their prognostications and events, but they partake too much of the fabulous to be admitted into these pages. They are as incredible as the number of years during which the Chaldeans allege that their predecessors were devoted to this study; for when Alexander was in Asia, they reckoned up 470,000 years since they first began to observe the motions of the stars, a circumstance which fully proves their disposition for the marvellous.*
The immense amount of mischief which the study of this vain science gave rise to cannot be estimated. One of the greatest evils which arose from it, was that of idolatry. From the motions and the regularity of the heavenly bodies, they inferred that they were either intelligent beings of themselves, or that they were each under the power of a presiding intelligence. Hence the origin of Sabiism, or the worship of the host of heaven. Their observations led them first to judicial astrology, and then to make images of those intelligences, which they imagined either animated the celestial orbs, or guided their motions. The highest object of regard would be that most glorious of all orbs-the sun. Hence it is supposed, that Belus was the sun itself, with the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians; or the Baal Shemain, or Lord of the
* Dr. Hales seems to set this statement in its proper light. He says: "Cicero represents the foolish and arrogant pretensions of the Chaldeans to a series of recorded observations of the stars for 470,000 years, in round numbers. Diodorus is more particular, and raises it to 473,000 years before Alexander's expedition into Asia. The correct number is somewhat more, 473,040 years; the additional forty years being omitted by Diodorus, as insignificant in so great an amount, upon the same principle that even the 3,000 (fortunately preserved by Diodorus) were omitted by Cicero. But this correct cycle of 473,040 years was evidently formed by the multiplication of two factors; the square of the Chaldean Saros, 18+18 = 324 years, and the Nobonassarean or Sothiacal period of 1,460 years. The square of eighteen seems to have been employed, in order to furnish a larger period, approximating more nearly to the true lunar motions than the Saros itself, or rather its deficient value eighteen years, neglecting the eleven days over."