Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/619

This page needs to be proofread.




also, a ■woman might be allowed, where compensa- tion was made, to marrj' and leave her clan, or she might contract through her father or other male relative with a man of another clan provided she remained with her people and bore children for her clan. This marriage-form, known to scholars under the term of Sadiqa-marriage, was undoubtedly practised by the ancient Hebrews, as positive in- dications of its existence are found in the Book of Judges and particularly in the cases of Jerubbaal, Samson, and others. The fact itself that Hebrew harlots who received into their tents or dwellings men of other clans, and who bore children to their own clan, were not looked upon with much disfavour is a sure indication of the existence of the Sadiqa- marriage t}-pe among the Hebrews. One thing is certain, however, that no matter how similar the marriage customs of the ancient Hebrews may have been to those of the early Arabs, the marriage tie among the former was much stronger than, and never as loose as, among the latter. Another form of Hebrew marriage was the so-called levirate tj^pe (from the Lat. levir, i. e. brother-in-law), i. e. the marriage between a widow, whose husband had died childless, and her brother-in-law. She was, in fact, not permitted to marrj- a .stranger, unless the sur- •viving brother-in-law formally refused to marrj^ her. The levirate marriage was intended, first, to prevent the extinction of the name of the deceased childless brother; and secondly, to retain the property within the same tribe and family. The first-born son of such a union took the name of the deceased uncle instead of that of his father, and succeeded to his estate. If there were no brother of the deceased husband alive, then the next of kin was supposed to marrj^ the widow, as we find in the case of Ruth's relati\e who yielded his right to Boaz. According to the laws of Moses, a man was forbidden to remarry- a divorced wife, if she had married again and become a widow, or had been divorced from her second husband. Israel- ites were not forbidden to intermarrj' with anj' foreigners except the seven Canaanitish nations; hence Moses' marriage to a Midianite, and afterwards to a Cushite, woman and that of David to a princess of Geshur were not against the Mosaic law. The high-priest was to marrj- a virgin of his own people, and in the time of Ezechiel even an ordinarj' priest could not marry a widow, unless she were the widow of a priest.

Betrothal was mostly a matter of business to be transacted by the parents and near family friends. A distinction between betrothal and marriage is made even in the Mosaic law, where betrothal is looked upon as more than a promise to marrj'; it was in fact its initial act, and created a bond which could be dissolved only by death or by legal divorce. Faithlessness to this vow of marriage was regarded and punished as adulter^-. Betrothal actually took place after a dowrj' had been agreed upon. As a rule, it was given to the parents of the bride, though sometimes to an elder brother. Marriage contracts ap- pear to have been mostly oral, and made in the pres- ence of witnesses. The earliest accoimt of a written one is found in the Book of Tobit (D. V. Tobias). The wedding festivities lasted ordinarily seven days, and on the day of the wedding the bridegroom, richly dressed and crowned, went in procession to the bride's hoase to take her away from her father. The bride, deeply veiled, was led away amid the blessings of her parents and friends. The bridal proces.sion not infrequently took place at night, in the blaze of torches and with the accompaniment of songs, dancing, and the higiiest expressions of joy- Adultery was punished by death, through stoning of both participants. A man suspecting his wife of unfaithfulness might subject her to a terrible II.— 3.T

ordeal which, it was thought, no guilty wife could well pass through without betraying her guilt. Divorce among the ancient Hebrews was as frequent as among any other civilized nation of antiquity. Mosaic laws attempted only to restrict and to regu- late it. Any " unseemly thing" was sufficient ground for divorce, as also was barrenness. The wife, however, was not allowed to separate herself from her husband for any reason; in the case of her husband's adulterj-, he as well as the other guilty party, as we have seen, would be punished with death.

Concubinage, which differs widely from polygamy, was also extensively practised by the Hebrews. A concubine was less than a wife, but more than an ordinary mistress, and her rights were jealously guarded in the Mosaic Code. The children born of such a union were in no case considered as illegitimate. The principal distinction between a legal wife and a concubine consisted in the latter's social and domestic inferiority. Concubines were not infrequently either handmaids of the wife, or captives taken in wai or purchased of their fathers. Canaanitish and other foreign women or slaves could in no case be taken as concubines. The seducer of an unbetrothed maiden was compelled either to marry her or to pay her father a hea\y fine. In later times, ordinary harlotrj' was punished, and if the harlot was the daughter of a priest she was burnt. Idolatrous harlotrj' and sodomy were severely punished.

The domestic and social life of the Hebrews was frugal and simple. They indulged verj' little in public games and diversions. Hunting and fishing were looked upon as necessities of life. Slavery was extensively practised, and slaves were either Hebrews or foreigners. The Mosaic law is against any kind of involuntary slaverj-, and no Hebrew slave was allowed to be sold to foreigners. An Israelitish slave was to be set free after five or six years servitude and not without some compensation, unless he were willing to serve another term. As was natural. Hebrew slaves were more kindly treated by their Hebrew masters than were foreign ones, who were either captives in war or purchased.

(.3) Death and burial. — The principal sicknesses and diseases mentioned in the Old Testament are: intermittent, bilious, and inflammatory fevers, dysentery produced by sunstroke, inflammation of the head, fits, apoplectic paralj-sis, blindness, in- flammation of the eyes, haemorrhages, epilepsy, diarrhoea, dropsy, various kinds of skin eruptions, scabies, and the various forms of leprosy. To these must be added some psychical diseases, such as madness, melancholy, etc., and also various forms of demoniacal possession. No explicit mention of professional physicians and surgeons is made in the Old Testament.

In case of death, the body was washed and WTapped in a linen cloth and, if financial circum- stances allowed, anointed with sw-eet-smelling spices and ointments. Embalming was neither a general nor a common practice. Burial took place, usually. on the day of the person's death. The dead body was never burnt, but interred, unless for some par- ticular rea.son, as in the case of Saul and his sons. Mourning customs were various, such as wearing sackcloths, scattering dust and ashes on the head, beating the breast, plucking and pulling out the hair and the beard, throwing oneself upon the earth: rending the garments, going about barefooted, veiling the face, and in some cases abstaining from eating and drinking for a short time. The usual period of mourning lasted seven days. With few exceptions the bodies were interred outside of the town, either in caves or in public cemeteries. Persons of high social and financial standing were publicly mourned, and their lx)dies placed in sepulchres hewn in rock.