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might ill treat them under such circum


On the subject of this celebrated text, it is well known, that two great divisions of sentiment, on the critical meaning of the term лy, and the moral of the precept it contains, have been found in the two schools of Hillel and Shammai. These two learned Rabbies, so frequently mentioned by Josephus, advanced very different notions on this text. The first contended, that the former part of the clause (which was to be read disjunctively) controlled the meaning of the latter, and thus opened the text to a construction, well suited, indeed, to the carnal minds of the people, to imply any, the slightest causes of dislike, as a sufficient ground of separation; dissatisfaction with her mode of preparing his meals, or the sight of any woman more pleasing to him than his wife. We can hardly conceive any thing more pregnant with mischief, than such a perversion of this term. But the more virtuous Shammai, who was for upholding the rigour and purity of the divine law, insists on its exclusive reference to unchastity, to which he confines this case of turpitude.

Ex sententia scholæ Sammaenæ uxor marito, haud erat repudianda nisi si inveniebat in eâ rem turpitudinis, secundum id quod scrip

tum est. At juxtam scholam Hillelianam etiam ob cibum ejus nimio ardore coctum, (causam quantulam cunque,) secundum id etiam quod scriptum est.* It is amusing to see the same passages of Scripture quoted by learned men to justify opposite conclusions.


One of the passages in the Gemara, quoted by Lightfoot, favors the interpretation of Shammai; Whosoever, said the law, had corrupted a maid, might not put her away all his days: so neither could a man dismiss his wife, unless he found some foulness, i. e. adultery in her."

Of course, the lax interpretation of Hillel found the greater number of abettors from the corrupt inclinations of men. We shall have occasion, hereafter, to notice the prevalence of these loose notions in the time of Christ, and the check they received from his authority; but we may just remark, how strikingly opposed the purity of his precepts was to the glosses of the Rabbies. R. Akibal (one of the number, a specimen of the rest) says, it was the permission of the Jewish legislator, that, if any one saw a woman, whom he was delighted withal, above his wife, he might dismiss his wife, and marry her; whereas,

* Selden Uxor Hebraica. ch. xix.

the interpretation given by Christ, of the prohibition of that legislator, is, "Whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."*

We pass now to consider more particularly the manner of using this privilege of Divorce, and the cases of some of those who are said to have indulged it. Though Divorce was allowed, it was placed under many regulations. Formerly, it was practised in secrecy, and at the pleasure of either party; but now, certain forms were to be attended to, and a degree of publicity was required.

The wife could not, in a fit of anger, be hastily dismissed, but a legal instrument was to be prepared, called the Bill of Divorcement. The verbal order, rash, peremptory, and perhaps quickly repented of, was now displaced by a written declaration, probably specifying the reasons of the act, and duly authenticated in the presence of grave and qualified witnesses. This instrument was doubtless prepared by a public notary; and we may suppose it more than probable, that it contained some provisions for the maintenance of the wife, out of the husband's substance, termed in the

* Matthew v. 28.

Ecclesiastical Courts, the allotment of alimony, from the husband's faculties.

Ten particulars were requisite, in order to render this bill valid: the chief of which were, that it should be a written document, prepared by a notary or proctor, in the presence of one or two learned Rabbies: that it should be the dictate of the man's own mind, and not extorted from him; that it should be delivered to the wife in person, and that it should put her beyond his power. There were other trifling niceties, such as its being written on ruled vellum, to contain, neither more nor less than twelve lines, in square letters; besides that, neither the notary, the Rabbies, nor the witnesses, were to be related to either of the parties, nor to each other.

Let us attend a little to the effect of this, and we shall discover a propriety in it, of great moment. The reasons of this arrangement were two-fold, and both afforded a considerable safeguard to the wife.

1. The restrictions it imposed on the passions of the men; and,

2. The evidence it supplied of the wife's actual state.

Before this period, a man, under the influence of passion, might hastily dismiss his wife; and when the act was past, recall, repent of it

without avail. But here was provision for an act to be deliberately executed, affording some time for reflection on its probable consequences.

This is the way that the celebrated Picart states it; "These many formalities took up a great deal of time, in order to prevent the people from making an ill use of this privilege of divorce, so that it often happened, that they changed their minds and were reconciled, before the instruments of divorce could be made out, and afterwards lived very happily together.*

Spencer, in his treatise on the Hebrew rites, has also regarded this provision as intended for a counterpoise against the too great facility of separation. "Cum libellus non nisi subducta ratione et animo sedatiore scribi potuerit, multis inde divortiis obstaculo fuit."†

This was the first result of the new provision to guard against precipitation. But there was the other reason, and that the principal one for the written record of this act, that which arises out of the second clause of the Divorce law, in Deuteronomy xxiv.; "She may go and be another man's wife." It was the power of re-marriage which was contemplated in this

Religious Customs, vol. iii.

+ Page 654.

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