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URIM AND THUMMIM,
Whilst the false oracles of demons deceived the idolatrous nations, truth had retired from among the chosen people of God. The septuagint have interpreted Urim and Thummim, manifestation and truth, δηλωσιν ισ αληθειαν ; which expresses how different those divine oracles were from the false and equivocal demons. It is said, in the Book of Numbers, that Eleazar, the successor of Aaron, shall interrogate Urim in form, and that a resolution shall be taken according to the answer given.
The Ephod applied to the chest of the sacerdotal vestments of the high-priest, was a piece of stuff covered with twelve precious stones, on which the names of the twelve tribes were engraved. It was not allowed to consult the Lord by Urim and Thummim, but for the king, the president of the sanhedrim, the general of the army, and other public persons, and on affairs that regarded the general interest of the nation. If the affair was to succeed, the stones of the ephod emitted a sparkling light, or the highpriest inspired predicted the success. Josephus, who was born thirty-nine years after Christ, says that it was then two hundred years since the stones of the ephod had given an answer to consultations by their extraordinary lustre.
The Scriptures only inform us, that Urim and Thummim were something that Moses had put in the high-priest's breast-plate. Some Rabbins by rash con
jectures, have believed that they were two small statues hidden within the breast-plate; others, the ineffable name of God, graved in a mysterious man
Without designing to discern what has not been explained to us, we should understand by Urim and Thummim, the divine inspiration annexed to the consecrated breast-plate.
Several passages of Scripture leave room to believe, that an articulate voice came forth from the propitiatory, or holy of holies, beyond the veil of the tabernacle, and that this voice was heard by the high-priest. If the Urim and Thummim did not make answer, it was a sign of God's anger. Saul abandoned by the spirit of the Lord, consulted it in vain, and obtained no sort of answer. It appears by some passages
of St. John's Gospel, that in the time of Christ, the exercise of the chief-priesthood, was still attended with the gift of prophecy.
REPUTATION OF ORACLES, HOW LOST,
When men began to be better instructed by the lights philosophy had introduced into the world, the false oracles insensibly lost their credit. Chrysippus filled an entire volume with false or doubtful oracles. Enomanus,* to be revenged of some oracle that had deceived him, made a compilation of oracles, to shew their absurdity and vanity. But Enomanus is still more out of humour with the oracle for the answer which Apollo gave the Athenians, when Xerxes was about to attack Greece with all the strength of Asia. The Pythian declared, that Minerva, the protectress of Athens, had endeavoured in vain to appease the wrath of Jupiter ; yet that Jupiter, in complaisance with his daughter, was willing the Athenians should secure themselves within wooden walls; and that Salamis should behold the loss of a great many children, dead to their mothers, either when Ceres was spread abroad, or gathered together. At this Enomanus loses all patience with the Delphian God :
* “ When we come to consult thee," says he to Apollo, “ if thou seest what is in the womb of futurity, why dost thou use expressions which will not be understood ? If thou dost, thou takest pleasure in abusing us : if thou dost not, be informed of us, and learn to speak more clearly. I tell thee, that if thou intendest an equivoque, the Greek word
"This contest,” exclaims he, “ between father and daughter, is very becoming the deities! It is excellent that there should be contrary inclinations and interests in heaven! Poor wizzard, thou art ignorant who the children are that shall see Salamis perish; whether Greeks or Persians. It is certain they must either be one or the other ; but thou needest not have told so openly that thou knowest not what. Thou concealest the time of the battle under these fine poetical expressions ' either when Ceres is spread abroad, or gathered together :' and thou wouldst ca
whereby thou affirmest that Cræsus should overthrow a great empire, was ill-chosen; and that it could signify nothing but Cræsus conquering Cyrus. If things must necessarily come to pass, why dost thou amuse us with thy ambiguities? What dost thou, wretch as thou art, at Delphi, employed in muttering idle prophecies !"-See “ Demonologia, or Natural Knowledge revealed.” p. 162.
jole us with such pompous language ! who knows not that if there be a sea-fight, it must either be in seedtime or harvest? It is certain it cannot be in winter. Let things go how they will, thou wilt secure thyself by this Jupiter whom Minerva is endeavouring to appease. If the Greeks lose the battle, Jupiter proved inexorable to the last; if they gain it, why then Minerva at length prevailed."*
Eusebius has preserved some fragments of this criticism on oracles by Enomanus. “ I might," says Origen, “ have recourse to the authority of Aristotle, aud the Peripatetics, to make the Pythoness much suspected. I might extract from the writings of Epicurus and his sectators an abundance of things to discredit oracles; and I might shew that the Greeks themselves made no great account of them.”
The reputation of oracles was greatly lessened when they became an artifice of politics. Themistocles, with a design of engaging the Athenians to quit Athens, in order to be in a better condition to resist Xerxes, made the Pythoness deliver an oracle, commanding them to take refuge in wooden walls. Demosthenes said, that the Pythoness philippised, to signify that she was gained over by Philip's presents.
CESSATION OF ORACLES.
The cessation of oracles is attested by several prophane authors, as Strabo, Juvenal, Lucien, Lucan, and others. Plutarch accounts for the cause of it, either that the benefits of the gods are not eternal, as themselves are; or that the genii who presided over oracles, are subject to death ; or that the exhalations of the earth had been exhausted. It appears that the last reason had been alleged in the time of Cicero, who ridicules it in his second book of Divination, as if the spirit of prophecy, supposed to be excited by subterranean effluvia, had evaporated by length of time, as wine or pickle by being kept is lost.
* See Demonologia, p. 163.
Suidas, Nicephorus, and Cedrenus relate, that Augustus having consulted the oracle of Delphos, could obtain no other answer but this : the Hebrew child whom all the gods obey, drives me hence, and sends me back to hell : get out of this temple without speaking one word.' Suidas adds, that Augustus dedicated an altar in the Capitol, with the following inscription :
“ To the eldest Son of God.” Notwithstanding these testimonies, the answer of the oracle of Delphos to Augustus seems very suspicious. Cedrenus cites Eusebius for this oracle, which is not now found in his works ; and Augustus' peregrination into Greece was eighteen years before the birth of Christ.
Suidas and Cedrenus give an account also of an ancient oracle delivered to Thules, a king of Egypt, which they say is well authenticated. This king having consulted the oracle of Seraphis, to know if there ever was, or would be, one so great