Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

152 Jews


A name derived from the patriarch Judah, and given to the descendants of Abraham by his eldest son Isaac. We shall here present the reader with as comprehensive a view of this singular people as we can.

1. Jews, history of the.–The Almighty promised Abraham that he would render his seed extremely numerous: this promise began to be fulfilled in Jacob’s twelve sons. In about two hundred and fifteen years they increased in Egypt from seventeen to between two and three millions, men, women, and children. While Joseph lived, they were kindly used by the Egyptian monarchs; but soon after, from a suspicion that they would become too strong for the natives, they were condemned to slavery; but the more they were oppressed, the more they grew. The midwives, and others, were therefore ordered to murder every male infant at the time of its birth; but they, shifting the horrible task, every body was then ordered to destroy the male children wherever they found them. After they had been thus oppressed for about one hundred years, and on the very day that finished the four hundred and thirtieth year from God’s first promise of a seed to Abraham, and about four hundred years after the birth of Isaac, God, by terrible plagues on the Egyptians, obliged them to liberate the Hebrews under the direction of Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh pursued them with a mighty army; but the Lord opened a passage for them through the Red Sea; and the Egyptians, in attempting to follow them, were drowned. After this, we find them in a dry and barren desert, without any provision for their journey; but God supplied them with water from a rock, and manna and quails from heaven. A little after, they routed the Amalekites, who fell on their rear. In the wilderness God delivered them the law, and confirmed the authority of Moses. Three thousand of them were cut off for worshipping the golden calf; and for loathing the manna, they were punished with a month’s eating of flesh, till a plague brake out among them; and for their rash belief of the ten wicked spies, and their contempt of the promised land, God had entirely destroyed them, had not Moses’s prayers prevented. They were condemned, however, to wander in the desert till the end of forty years, till that whole generation, except Caleb and Joshua, should be cut off by death. Here they were often punished for their rebellion, idolatry, whoredom, &c. God’s marvellous favours, however were still continued in conducting and supplying them with meat; and the streams issuing from the rock Meribah, followed their camp about thirty-nine years, and their clothes never waxed old. On their entrance into Canaan, God ordered them to cut off every idolatrous Canaanite; but they spared vast numbers of them, who enticed them to wickedness, and were sometimes God’s rod to punish them. For many ages they had enjoyed little prosperity, and often relapsed into awful idolatry, worshipping Baalim, Ashtaroth. Micah and the Danites introduced it not long after Joshua’s death. About this time the lewdness of the men of Gibeah occasioned a war of the eleven tribes against their brethren of Benjamin: they were twice routed by the Benjamites, and forty thousand of them were slain. In the third, however, all the Benjamites were slain, except six hundred. Vexed for the loss of a tribe, the other Hebrews provided wives for these six hundred, at the expense of slaying most of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead. There relapses into idolatry also brought on them repeated turns of slavery from the heathen among or around them. See books of Judges and Samuel. Having been governed by judges for about three hundred and forty years, after the death of Joshua they took a fancy to have a king. Saul was their first sovereign, under whose reign they had perpetual struggles with the Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines. After about seven years’ struggling between the eleven tribes that clave to Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, and the tribe of Judah, which erected themselves into a kingdom under David, David became sole monarch. Under him they subdued their neighbours, the Philistines, Edomites, and others; and took possession of the whole dominion which had been promised them, from the border of Egypt to the banks of the Euphrates. Under Solomon they had little war: when he died, ten of the Hebrew tribes formed a kingdom of Israel, or Ephraim, for themselves, under Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, in opposition to the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, ruled by the family of David. The kingdom of Israel, Ephraim, or the ten tribes, had never so much as one pious king: idolatry was always their established religion. The kingdom of Judah had pious and wicked sovereigns by turns, though they often relapsed into idolatry, which brought great distress upon them. See books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Not only the kingdom of Israel, but that of Judah, was brought to the very brink of ruin after the death of Jehoshaphat. After various changes, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse, the kingdom of Israel was ruined, two hundred and fifty-four years after its erection, by So, king of Egypt, and Halmanaser, king of Assyria, who invaded it, and destroyed most of the people. Judah was invaded by Sennacherib; but Hezekiah’s piety, and Isaiah’s prayer, were the means of their preservation: but under Manasseh, the Jews abandoned themselves to horrid impiety: for which they were punished by Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who invaded and reduced the kingdom, and carried Manasseh prisoner to Babylon. Manasseh repented, and the Lord brought him back to his kingdom where he promoted the reformation; but his son Amon defaced all. Josiah, however, again promoted it, and carried it to a higher pitch than in the reigns of David and Solomon. After Josiah was slain by Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, the people returned to idolatry, and God gave them up to servitude to the Egyptians and the Chaldeans. The fate of their kings Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jechoiachin, and Zedekiah, was unhappy. Provoked by Zedekiah’s treachery, Nebuchadnezzar invaded the kingdom, murdered vast numbers, and reduced them to captivity. Thus the kingdom of Judah was ruined, A. M. 3416, about three hundred and eighty-eight years after its division from that of the ten tribes. In the seventieth year from the begun captivity, the Jews, according to the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia, who had overturned the empire of Chaldea, returned to their own country. See Nehemiah, Ezra. Vast numbers of them, who had agreeable settlements, remained in Babylon. After their return they rebuilt the temple and city of Jerusalem, put away their strange wives, and renewed their covenant with God.

About 3490, or 3546, they escaped the ruin designed them by Haman. About 3653, Darius Ochus, king of Persia, ravaged part of Judea, and carried off a great many prisoners. When Alexander was in Canaan, about 3670, he confirmed to them all their privileges; and, having built Alexandria, he settled vast numbers of them there. About fourteen years after, Ptolemy Lagus, the Greek king of Egypt, ravaged Judea, and carried one hundred thousand prisoners to Egypt, but used them kindly, and assigned them many places of trust. About eight years after, he transported another multitude of Jews to Egypt, and gave them considerable privileges. About the same time, Seleucus Nicator, having built about thirty new cities in Asia, settled in them as many Jews as he could; and Ptolemy Philadelphus, of Egypt, about 3720, bought the freedom of all the Jew slaves in Egypt. Antiochus Epiphanes, about 3834, enraged with them for rejoicing at the report of his death, and for the peculiar form of their worship, in his return from Egypt, forced his way into Jerusalem, and murdered forty thousand of them; and about two years after he ordered his troops to pillage the cities of Judea, and murder the men, and sell the women and children for slaves. Multitudes were killed, and ten thousand prisoners carried off; the temple was dedicated to Olympius, an idol of Greece, and the Jews exposed to the basest treatment. Mattathias, the priest, with his sons, chiefly Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, who were called Maccabees, bravely fought for their religion and liberties. Judas, who succeeded his father about 3840 gave Nicanor and the king’s troops a terrible defeat, regained the temple, and dedicated it anew, restored the daily worship, and repaired Jerusalem, which was almost in a ruinous heap. After his death, Jonathan and Simon, his brethren, successively succeeded him; and both wisely and bravely promoted the welfare of the church and state. Simon was succeeded by his son Hircanus, who subdued Idumea, and reduced the Samaritans. In 3899 he was succeeded by his son Janneus, who reduced the Philistines, the country of Moab, Ammon, Gilead, and part of Arabia. Under these three reigns alone the Jewish nation was independent after the captivity. After the death of the widow of Jameus, who governed nine years, the nation was almost ruined with civil broils. In 3939, Aristobulus invited the Romans to assist him against Hircanus, his elder brother. The country was quickly reduced, and Jerusalem took by force; and Pompey, and a number of his officers, pushed their way into the sanctuary, if not into the Holy of Holies, to view the furniture thereof. Nine years after, Crassus the Roman general, pillaged the temple of its valuables. After Judea had for more than thirty years been a scene of ravage and blood, and twenty-four of which had been oppressed by Herod the Great, Herod got himself installed in the kingdom. About twenty years before our Saviour’s birth, he, with the Jews’ consent began to build the temple. About this time the Jews had hopes of the Messiah; and about A. M. 4000, Christ actually came, whom Herod (instigated by the fear of losing his throne) sought to murder. The Jews, however, a few excepted, rejected the Messiah, and put him to death. The sceptre was now wholly departed from Judah; and Judea, about twenty-seven years before, reduced to a province. The Jews since that time, have been scattered, contemned, persecuted, and enslaved among all nations, not mixed with any in the common manner, but have remained as a body distinct by themselves.

2. Jews, sentiments of. The Jews commonly reckon but thirteen articles of their faith. Maimonides, a famous Jewish rabbi, reduced them to this number when he drew up their confession about the end of the eleventh century, and it was generally received. All the Jews are obliged to live and die in the profession of these thirteen articles, which are as follow:–1. That God is the creator of all things; that he guides and supports all creatures: that he has done every thing; and that he still acts, and shall act during the whole eternity.–2. That God is one: there is no unity like his. He alone hath been, is, and shall be eternally our God.–3. That God is incorporeal, and cannot have any material properties; and no corporeal essence can be compared with him.–4. That God is the beginning and end of all things, and shall eternally subsist.–5. That God alone ought to be worshipped, and none beside him is to be adored.– 6. That whatever has been taught by the prophets is true.–7. That Moses is the head and father of all contemporary doctors, of those who lived before or shall live after him.–8. That the law was given by Moses.–9. That the law shall never be altered, and that God will give no other.–10. That God knows all the thoughts and actions of men.–11. That God will regard the works of all those who have performed what he commands, and punish those who have transgressed his laws.–12. That the Messiah is to come, though he tarry a long time.–13. That there shall be a resurrection of the dead when God shall think fit.

The modern Jews adhere still as closely to the Mosaic dispensation, as their dispersed and despised condition will permit them. Their service consists chiefly in reading the law in their synagogues, together with a variety of prayers. They use no sacrifices since the destruction of the temple. They repeat blessings and particular praises to God, not only in their prayers, but on all accidental occasions, and in almost all their actions. They go to prayers three times a day in their synagogues. Their sermons are not made in Hebrew, which few of them now perfectly understand, but in the language of the country where they reside. They are forbidden all vain swearing, and pronouncing any of the names of God without necessity. They abstain from meats prohibited by the Levitical law; for which reason, whatever they eat must be dressed by Jews, and after a manner peculiar to themselves. As soon as a child can speak, they teach him to read and translate the Bible into the language of the country where they live. In general they observe the same ceremonies which were practised by their ancestors in the celebration of the passover. They acknowledge a two-fold law of God, a written and an unwritten one; the former is contained in the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses; the latter they pretend, was delivered by God to Moses, and handed down from him by oral tradition, and now to be received as of equal authority with the former. They assert the perpetuity of their law, together with its perfection. They deny the accomplishment of the prophecies in the person of Christ; alleging that the Messiah is not yet come, and that he will make his appearance with the greatest worldly pomp and grandeur, subduing all nations before him, and subjecting them to the house of Judah. Since the prophets have predicted his mean condition and sufferings, they confidently talk of two Messiahs; one Ben-Ephraim, whom they grant to be a person of a mean and afflicted condition in this world; and the other Ben-David, who shall be a victorious and powerful prince.

The Jews pray for the souls of the dead, because they suppose there is a paradise for the souls of good men, where they enjoy glory in the presence of God. They believe that the souls of the wicked are tormented in hell with fire and other punishments; that some are condemned to be punished in this manner for ever, while others continue only for a limited time; and this they call purgatory, which is not different from hell in respect of the place, but of the duration. They suppose no Jew, unless guilty of heresy, or certain crimes specified by the rabbins, shall continue in purgatory above a twelvemonth; and that there are but few who suffer eternal punishment.

Almost all the modern Jews are Pharisees, and are as much attached to tradition as their ancestors were; and assert that whoever rejects the oral law deserves death. Hence they entertain an implacable hatred to the Caraites, who adhere to the text of Moses, rejecting the rabbinistical interpretation.

There are still some of the Sadducees in Africa, and in several other places; but they are few in number: at least there are but very few who declare openly for these opinions.

There are to this day some remains of the ancient sect of the Samaritans, who are zealous for the law of Moses, but are despised by the Jews, because they receive only the Pentateuch, and observe different ceremonies from theirs. They declare they are no Sadducees, but acknowledge the spirituality and immortality of the soul. There are numbers of this sect at Gaza, Damascus, Grand Cairo, and in some other places of the east; but especially at Sichem, now called Naplouse, which is risen out of the ruins of the ancient Samaria, where they sacrificed not many years ago, having a place for this purpose on Mount Genzim.

David Levi, a learned Jew, who in 1796 published “Dissertations on the Phrophecies of the Old Testament,” observes in that work, that deism and infidelity have made such large strides in the world, that they have at length reached even to the Jewish nation; many of whom are at this time so greatly infected with scepticism, by reading Bolingbroke, Hume, Voltaire, &c. that they scarcely believe in a revelation; much less have they any hope in their future restoration.

3. Jews, calamities of.–All history cannot furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews; rapine and murder, famine and pestilence, within; fire and sword, and all the terrors of war, without. Our Saviour wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for persons of any humanity to read the account without being affected. The predictions concerning them were remarkable, and the calamities that came upon them were the greatest the world ever saw. Deut. xxviii. xxix. Matt. xxiv. Now, what heinous sin was it that could be the cause of such heavy judgments? Can any other be assigned than what the Scripture assigns? 1 Thess. ii. 15,16. “They both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and persecuted the apostles: and so filled up their sins, and wrath came upon them to the uttermost.” It is hardly possible to consider the nature and extent of their sufferings, and not conclude the Jews’ own imprecation to be singularly fulfilled upon them, Matt. xxvii. 25. “His blood be on us and our children.” At Cesarea twenty thousand of the Jews were killed. At Damascus ten thousand unarmed Jews were killed: and at Bethshan the Heathen inhabitants caused their Jewish neighbours to assist them against their brethren, and then murdered thirteen thousand of these inhabitants. At Alexandria the Jews murdered multitudes of the Heathens, and were murdered in their turn to about fifty thousand. The Romans under Vespasian invaded the country, and took the cities of Galilee, Chorazen, Bethsaida, Capernaum, &c. where Christ had been especially rejected, and murdered numbers of the inhabitants. At Jerusalem the scene was most wretched of all. At the passover, when there might be two or three millions of people in the city, the Romans surrounded it with troops, trenches, and walls, that none might escape. The three different factions within murdered one another. Titus, one of the most merciful generals that ever breathed, did all in his power to persuade them to an advantageous surrender, but they scorned every proposal. The multitudes of unburied carcases corrupted the air, and produced a pestilence. The people fed on one another; and even ladies, it is said, broiled their sucking infants, and ate them. After a siege of six months, the city was taken. They murdered almost every Jew they met with. Titus was bent to save the temple, but could not: there were six thousand Jews who had taken shelter in it, all burnt or murdered! The outcries of the Jews, when they saw it, were most dreadful: the whole city, except three towers and a small part of the wall, was razed to the ground, and the foundations of the temple and other places were ploughed up. Soon after the forts of Herodian and Macheron were taken the garrison of Massada murdered themselves rather than surrender. At Jerusalem alone, it is said, one million one hundred thousand perished by sword, famine, and pestilence. In other places we hear of two hundred and fifty thousand that were cut off, besides vast numbers sent into Egypt to labour as slaves. About fifty years after, the Jews murdered about five hundred thousand of the Roman subjects, for which they were severely punished by Trajan. About 130, one Barocaba pretended that he was the Messiah, and raised a Jewish army of two hundred thousand, who murdered all the Heathens and Christians who came in their way; but he was defeated by Adrian’s forces. In this war, it is said, about sixty thousand Jews were slain, and perished. Adrian built a city on Mount Calvary, and erected a marble statue of swine over the gate that led to Bethlehem. No Jew was allowed to enter the city, or to look to it at a distance, under pain of death. In 360 they began to rebuild their city and temple; but a terrible earthquake and flames of fire issuing from the earth, killed the workmen, and scattered their materials. Nor till the seventh century durst they so much as creep over the rubbish to bewail it, without bribing the guards. In the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, there were many of them furiously harassed and murdered. In the sixth century twenty thousand of them were slain, and as many taken and sold for slaves. In 602 they were severly punished for their horrible massacre of the Christians at Antioch. In Spain, in 700, they were ordered to be enslaved. In the eighth and ninth centuries they were greatly derided and abused; in some places they were made to wear leathern girdles, and ride without stirrups on asses and mules. In France and Spain they were much insulted. In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, their miseries rather increased: they were greatly persecuted in Egypt. Besides what they suffered in the East by the Turkish and sacred war, it is shocking to think what multitudes of them the eight croisades murdered in Germany, Hungary, Lesser Asia, and elsewhere. In France multitudes were burnt.–In England, in 1020, they were banished; and at the coronation of Richard I. the mob fell upon them, and murdered a great many of them. About one thousand five hundred of them were burnt in the palace in the city of York, which they set fire to, themselves, after killing their wives and children. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries their condition was no better. In Egypt, Canaan, and Syria, the croisaders still harassed them. Provoked with their mad running after pretended Messiahs, Califf Nasser scarce left any of them alive in his dominions of Mesopotamia. In Persia, the Tartars murdered them in multitudes. In Spain, Ferdinand persecuted them furiously. About 1349, the terrible massacre of them at Toledo forced many of them to murder themselves, or change their religion. About 1253, many were murdered, and others banished from France, but in 1275 recalled. In 1320 and 1330, the croisades of the fanatic shepherds, who wasted the south of France, massacred them; besides fifteen hundred that were murdered on another occasion. In 1358 they were totally banished from France, since which few of them have entered that country. In 1291 king Edward expelled them from England, to the number of one hundred and sixty thousand. In the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, their misery continued. In Persia they have been terribly used: from 1663 to 1666, the murder of them was so universal, that but a few escaped to Turkey. In Portugal and Spain they have been miserably handled. About 1392, six or eight hundred thousand were banished from Spain. Some were drowned in their passage to Africa; some by hard usage; and many of their carcasses lay in the fields till the wild beasts devoured them. In Germany they have endured many hardships. They have been banished from Bohemia, Bavaria, Cologne, Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Vienna: they have been terribly massacred in Moravia, and plundered in Bonn and Bamberg. Except in Portugal and Spain, their present condition is generally tolerable. In Holland, Poland, and at Frankfort and Hamburgh they have their liberty. They have repeatedly, but in vain, attempted to obtain a naturalization in England, and other nations among whom they are scattered.

4. Jews, preservation of.–“The preservation of the Jews,” says Basnage, “in the midst of the miseries which they have undergone during 1700 years, is the greatest prodigy that can be imagined. Religions depend on temporal prosperity; they triumph under the protection of a conqueror: they languish and sink with sinking monarchies. Paganism which once covered the earth, is extinct. The Christian church, glorious in its martyrs, yet was considerably diminished by the persecutions to which it was exposed; nor was it easy to repair the breaches in it made by those acts of violence. But here we behold a church hated and persecuted for 1700 years, and yet sustaining itself, and widely extended. Kings have often employed the severity of edicts and the hand of executioners to ruin it. The seditious multitudes, by murders and massacres, have committed outrages against it still more violent and tragical. Princes and people, Pagans, Mahometans, Christians, disagreeing in so many things, have united in the design of exterminating it, and have not been able to succeed. The bush of Moses, surrounded with flames, ever burnt, and is never consumed. The Jews have been expelled, in different times, from every part of the world, which hath only served to spread them in all regions. From age to age they have been exposed to misery and persecution; yet still they subsist, in spite of the ignominy and the hatred which hath pursued them in all places, whilst the greatest monarchies are fallen, and nothing remains of them besides the name.

“The judgments which God has exercised upon this people are terrible, extending to the men, the religion, and the very land in which they dwelt. The ceremonies essential to their religion can no more be observed: the ritual law, which cast a splendour on the national worship, and struck the Pagans so much that they sent their presents and their victims to Jerusalem, is absolutely fallen, for they have no temple, no altar, no sacrifices. Their land itself seems to lie under a never-ceasing curse. Pagans, Christians, Mohammedians, in a word, almost all nations have by turns seized and held Jerusalem. To the Jew only hath God refused the possession of this small tract of ground, so supremely necessary for him, since he ought to worship on this mountain. A Jewish writer hath affirmed, that it is long since any Jew has been settled near Jerusalem: scarcely can they purchase there six feet of land for a burying-place.

“In all this there is no exaggeration: I am only pointing out known facts: and, far from having the least design to raise an odium against the nation from its miseries, I conclude that it ought to be looked upon as one of those prodigies which we admire without comprehending: since, in spite of evils so durable, and a patience so long exercised, it is preserved by a particular providence. The Jew ought to be weary of expecting a Messiah, who so unkindly disappoints his vain hopes: and the Christian ought to have his attention and his regard excited towards men whom God preserves, for so great a length of time, under calamities which would have been the total ruin of any other people.”

5. Jews, number and dispersion of–They are looked upon to be as numerous at present as they were formerly in the land of Canaan. Some have rated them at three millions, and others more than double that number. Their dispersion is a remarkable particular in this people. They swarm all over the east, and are settled, it is said, in the remotest parts of China. The Turkish empire abounds with them. There are more of them at Constantinople and Salonichi than in any other place: they are spread through most of the nations of Europe and Africa, and many families of them are estabished in the West Indies; not to mention whole nations bordering on Prester John’s country, and some discovered in the inner parts of America, if we may give any credit to their own writers. Their being always in rebellions (as Addison observes) while they had the Holy Temple in view, has excited most nations to banish them. Besides, the whole people are now a race of such merchants as are wanderers by profession; and at the same time are in most, if not in all places, incapable of either lands or offices, that might engage them to make any part of the world their home. In addition to this, we may consider what providential reasons may be assigned for their numbers and dispersion. Their firm adherence to their religion, and being dispersed all over the earth, has furnished every age and every nation with the strongest arguments for the Christian faith; not only as these very particulars are foretold of them, but as they themselves are the depositories of these and all other prophecies which tend to their own confusion and the establishment of Christianity. Their number furnishes us with a sufficient cloud of witnesses that attest the truth of the Bible, and their dispersion spreads these witnesses through all parts of the world.

6. Jews, restoration of.–From the declarations of Scripture we have reason to suppose the Jews shall be called to a participation of the blessings of the Gospel, Rom. xi. 2 Cor. 3:16. Hos. 1:11, and some suppose shall return to their own land, Hos. 3:5. Is. 45:17,&c. Ezek. 36. As to the time, some think about 1866 or 2016; but this, perhaps, is not so easy to determine altogether, though it is probable it will not be before the fall of Antichrist and the Ottoman empire. Let us, however, avoid putting stumbling- blocks in their way. If we attempt any thing for their conversion, let it be with peace and love. Let us, says one, propose Christianity to them as Christ proposed it to them. Let us lay before them their own prophecies. Let us show them their accomplishment in Jesus. Let us applaud their hatred of idolatry. Let us show them the morality of Jesus in our lives and tempers. Let us never abridge their civil liberty, nor ever try to force their consciences.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary