ePub 版

has happened, that he sickens, and in ten days dies. Abigail, who appears to have been a widow at her own disposal, is then taken to wife by David himself. By and by there is an irruption of Amalekites, and Abigail, with the other women, is carried off. Chase being given to the marauders, who speedily retire, David's men discover a famished invalid, left upon the ground by the enemy, and who is described as 66 an Egyptian." They refresh him with " a piece of a cake of figs," and in return he gives information such as leads to the recovery of all the plunder, Abigail and her maids included. The picture this little story affords of the state of society in ancient Palestine, and of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, is most graphic, and the allusion to the fruits just what one would expect. It is impossible, however, to leave it without mentally asking, Is all this recorded merely as history? When assured that, as a part of the Bible, it is the bona fide "Word of God," no wonder that unbelievers titter and scoff. Not without a purpose, bearing directly on man's spiritual welfare, can the Divine Wisdom have caused it to occupy the place it does no true preacher can view it in any light but that of a parable in design, or doubt that even the raisins and the figs possess their own language. Either the tale is beneath the dignity of God's most Holy Word, and therefore inappropriate to its pages; or it holds a deep and living significance. Not without a reason either can it be recorded that Hezekiah's mortal sickness was relieved by means of figs, the king acknowledging their efficacy in a song of thanksgiving (2 Kings xx. 7; Isa. xxxviii. 21); nor without a reason that, when Nehemiah protests so sorrowfully against the desecration of the Sabbath, he names business done by the fig-merchants as a part of that abominable "Sunday trading" which has existed, it would seem, for 2300 years. "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day. . . . Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this ye do, and profane the Sabbath-day? Did not your fathers thus; and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon our city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath" (xiii. 15-18).

For trees and fruit of value so sterling to be destroyed by God as a punishment was, of course, fearful. "I will surely consume them, saith the Lord; there shall be no grapes in the vine, nor figs on the

fig-tree, and the leaf shall fade" (Jer. viii. 13). "I will cause all her

mirth to cease.

(Hosea ii. 12).

I will destroy all her vines and her fig-trees" Similar words occur in Jer. v. 7, Joel i. 7, 12, and in Amos iv. 9. When reading of God's Providence in relation to Moses, how awful again must have been the condition of the Egyptians, when "He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish; when their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings; when He smote their vines also and their fig-trees" (Ps. cv.). No doubt, like all other crops, like the harvest and the vintage, its figs, in the common course of nature, were sometimes a failure. Suffering from the short supply, how beautiful then become the patient words, "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither fruit be in the vines; though the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Hab. iii. 17). It is but another way of saying, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

Several remarkable incidents are in Scripture identified with the fig, all of course with their spiritual lesson, which the pious reader in every instance desires to discover. Such are the "cursing" of the barren fig-tree, recorded by two of the evangelists (Matt. xxi. 19; Mark xi. 13, 20, 21), and the calling of Nathanael from beneath a fig-tree (John i. 48-50). As an act of our Lord's, who did nothing without a purpose, and whose actions, as well as words, were all parables; and especially as it is St. John who mentions the circumstance, trivial though it may seem, it cannot have been accidental.

Remarkable allegories are likewise founded upon the fig, or involve allusion to it. It appears in Jotham's celebrated apologue of the trees going forth to choose a king (Judges ix.); in the comparison of Israel and Judah to two baskets of the fruit, one good, and the other evil (Jer. xxiv. and xxix. 17); and in the well-known parable in Luke xiii.,-"A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard." Thither, too, may be referred the Divine words, "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matt. vii. 16; Luke vi. 44), and the parallel idea in James iii. 12. In Isaiah xxxiv. 4, we have the awful intimation which is fulfilled in Rev. vi. 13,-" And the stars of heaven fell unto earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind." Other comparisons occur in Hosea ix. 10, and Nahum iii. 12.

Considering the value of the fig as an article of food in early times,

it is surprising to find how little notice is taken of it in the language of symbolic art, and how seldom it appears in classical poetry. The place it holds is only indifferent at the best; the traditions, as a rule, are not inviting, and hence, probably, the infrequency of allusion.

43. THE SYCOMORE FIG (Ficus Sycomorus. Nat. Ord. Moracea).-The sycomore-fig, by some called Sycomorus antiquorum, is mentioned, in the Old Testament, under its Hebrew names of shikmoth and shikmim, both forms being plural, about half a dozen different times; and once in the New, under the Greek appellation which science has very properly retained for it. In botanical characters it is nearer to the banyan than to the historical fig, and, like the former, attains prodigious size, and an immense age. The principal stem is sometimes 50 feet in circumference, but short, with substantial boughs spreading in every direction, something after the manner of the British oak. A good idea of the general figure may be gathered from the old-fashioned but excellent drawing in Calmet, pl. 158. No tree is more easily climbed. Being likewise very shady, and therefore commonly planted by waysides, and in open spaces, where several paths meet, it serves as a capital play-place for the native boys and girls, even the youngest, and as a "look-out" for the survey of passing people. Very well, therefore, would it suit Zaccheus on the occasion described in Luke xix. 4,- “Zaccheus . . . sought to see Jesus who He was, and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore-tree to see Him; for He was to pass that way." On account of its grateful shade, it is still encouraged everywhere about Cairo. The fruit, unlike that of the historical fig, but in conformity with that of the greater portion of its genus, is small, and, though sweet and edible, poor and insipid. It is produced in short racemes, directly from the trunk and the principal branches, and, when ripe, is ash-colour or greenish yellow. Rauwolf compares it to the prune, and remarks upon the three or four annual crops. There are few seasons, indeed, during which fruit may not be found; from November until June there seems to be a constant supply. Being at the best very poor, the sycomore-figs are eaten only by the lower classes of the community, as illustrated in Amos vii. 14,—“I was no prophet; neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit." The occupation of herdman, of course, implies a very humble social status. It is still an article of large consumption with the field-labourers of the countries in which the tree prospers.

Being much used in Egypt in particular, it is sometimes called "Pharaoh's Fig." Egypt was one of the chief native countries of this tree. It is tender, flourishing gloriously in warm valleys and upon hot and sandy plains, but the highlands, the hard, cold mountain, it cannot endure, and frost is altogether fatal to it. In Palestine it is usually met with only in the proximity of the sea, where the climate is mild, and in the warm valley of the Jordan. The tenderness of constitution explains the passage in the Psalms; when describing the wonders wrought in the Field of Zoan, David records that "He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomores with frost" (lxxviii. 47). A frost severe enough to destroy the sycomore would unquestionably be one of the greatest wonders now, as well as in the time of the Pharaohs, that could happen in Zoan. The introduction of it into Egypt,-a country where frost is almost unknown,-illustrates, in the most striking manner, the power of the Almighty. Ice is in Egypt scarcely seen once in a lifetime. Of native trees fit to Hence, although

supply timber the ancient Egyptians had very few. the wood of the sycomore-fig is soft and coarse-grained, it was employed by them for various purposes, and especially in the construction of their mummy-cases, the Egyptians having been the inventors of the coffin. Doubtless the timber was rendered more durable by the dryness of the climate-perhaps also by the embalming processes, and the materials employed, and to some extent by the places of storage of the mummies. In the very curious and interesting collection of Egyptian antiquities at Parham Park, near Arundel, Sussex, there is contained an ark or chest said to be constructed of sycomore-wood, found in a tomb at Thebes, and shown by the hieroglyphics to have been put together about 1550 B.C., or sixty years earlier than the time of Bezaleel. The length is about 2 feet 9 inches; the width and height are about 15 inches. That sycomores were very plentiful in ancient Palestine is shown in 1 Kings x. 27, where we are told that "Solomon made cedars to be as the sycomore-trees that are in the vale for abundance." The statement is repeated in 2 Chron. i. 15, and again in 2 Chron. ix. 27. In 1 Chron. xxvii. 28, they are referred to as sufficiently important to the nation to be intrusted to a special officer or superintendent. And in Isaiah ix. 10, there is a beautiful prophecy to the effect that, although the inferior thing may go, a better one always awaits the people who remember God and keep His command

See, for full particulars respecting this curious relic of the past, the "Sussex Archæological Collections," 1854. Vol. vii. p. 22.


"The sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars."

When, in the Middle Ages, the story of Zaccheus was represented to the people in the "Mysteries" or Sacred Dramas, the sycomore-fig being unprocurable, it was customary to employ the branches of a beautiful and familiar species of Acer, sometimes in books called the "great maple." Legend said that when the Virgin Mary journeyed into Egypt to avoid the fury of Herod, she had hidden herself in a tree of the same description, and to represent this, the same species of maple, being remarkable for its shadiness, was employed. Hence this maple acquired a name to which it had no legitimate right, and of the first application of which we little think perhaps when referring to the common sycomore, the Acer Pseudo-platanus of Linnæus. Singular that, by another substitution, making confusion worse confounded, in Scotland at all events, the name of sycomore should have become superseded by that of "Plane."


On Sunday last, the Rev. William Bruce, of London, preached on the subject of "Marriage," in Duke Street, New Church, selecting as his text, Matthew xix. 4, 5.


Instituted in Eden as the Creator's crowning blessing to those of His creatures whom He had formed in His own image and likeness, marriage may justly be regarded as the most perfect, as it is the happiest state of human life. Indeed, whatever is most consistent with that nature which God has bestowed upon His creatures, must be considered as at once the most conducive to their improvement and to their happiness. It is true, indeed, that opinions have prevailed considerably different from this. Institutions have existed for the isolation of the sexes, under the erroneous supposition that, by a life of celibacy, they might be more fully prepared for a happy immortality. If, however, we consult the divine councils, we shall, I think, discover that these ideas have originated in the dark ages of the Christian world, and are by no means consistent either with Scripture, with human reason, or with human experience. As it is undoubtedly 1 As reported in the Southport Daily News.

« 上一頁繼續 »