Chap. XXI.

Of the Picture of Haman hanged.

IN common draughts, Haman is hanged by the Neck upon an high Gibbet, after the usual and now practised way of suspension, but whether this description truly answereth the Original,[1] Learned pens consent not, and good grounds there are to doubt. For it is not easily made out that this was an ancient way of Execution, in the publick punishment of Malefactors among the Persians; but we often read of Crucifixion in their Stories. So we find that Orostes[2] a Persian Governour crucified Polycrates the Samian Tyrant. And hereof we have an example in the life of Artaxerxes King of Persia; (whom some will have to be Ahasuerus in this Story) that his Mother Parysatis flead and crucified her Eunuch. The same also seems implied in the letters patent of King Cyrus.3 Omnis qui hanc mutaverit jussionem, tollatur lignum de domo ejus, & erigatur & configatur in eo.

The same kind of punishment was in use among the Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, Carthaginians and Grecians. For though we find in Homer, that Ulysses in a fury hanged the strumpets of those who courted Penelope, yet is it not so easie to discover, that this was the publick practice or open course of justice among the Greeks.

And even that the Hebrews used this present way of hanging, by illaqueation or pendulous suffocation in publick justice and executions; the expressions and examples in scripture conclude not beyond good doubt.[4]

That the King of Hai was hanged,[5] or destroyed by the common way of suspension, is not conceded by the learned Masius in his comment upon that text; who conceiveth thereby rather some kind of crucifixion; at least some patibulary affixion after he was slain; and so represented unto the people until toward the evening.

Though we read in our translation, that Pharoah hanged the chief Baker,[6] yet learned expositors understand hereby some kind of crucifixion, according to the mode of Egypt, whereby he exemplarily hanged out till the fowls of the air fed on his head or face, the first part of their prey being the eyes. And perhaps according to the signal draught hereof in a very old manuscript of Genesis, now kept in the Emperors Library at Vienna; and accordingly set down by the learned Petrus Lambecius, in the second Tome of the description of that Library.

When the Gibeonites hanged the bodies of those of the house of Saul, thereby was intended some kind of crucifying, according unto good expositors, and the vulgar translation; crucifixerunt eos in monte coram domino; many both in Scripture and humane writers might be said to be crucified, though they did not perish immediately by crucifixion: But however otherwise destroyed, their bodies might be afterward appended or fastned unto some elevated engine; as exemplary objects unto the eyes of the people: So sometimes we read of the crucifixion of only some part, as of the Heads of Julianus and Albinus, though their bodies were cast away.

That legal Text7 which seems to countenance the common way of hanging, if a man hath committed a sin worthy of Death, and they hang him on a Tree; is not so received by Christian and Jewish expositors. And as a good Annotator of ours8 delivereth, out of Maimonides: The Hebrews understand not this of putting him to death by hanging, but of hanging a Man after he was stoned to death; and the manner is thus described. After he is stoned to death, they fasten a piece of timber in the Earth, and out of it there cometh a piece of wood, and then they tye both his hands one to another, and hang him unto the setting of the Sun.

Beside, the original word Hakany determineth not the doubt. For that by Lexicographers or Dictionarie interpreters, is rendred suspension and crucifixion; there being no Hebrew word peculiarly and fully expressing the proper word of crucifixion, as it was used by the Romans; nor easie to prove it the custom of the Jewish Nation to nail them by distinct parts unto a Cross, after the manner of our Saviour crucified: wherein it was a special favour indulged unto Joseph to take down the Body.

Lipsius lets fall a good caution to take off doubts about suspension delivered by ancient Authors, and also the ambiguous sence of κρεμάσαι among the Greeks. Tale apud Latinos ipsum suspendere, quod in crucem referendum moneo juventutem, as that also may be understood of Seneca. Latrocinium fecit aliquis, quid ergo meruit? ut suspendatur. And this way of crucifying he conceiveth to have been in general use among the Romans, until the latter daies of Constantine, who in reverence unto our Saviour abrogated that opprobrious and infamous way of crucifixion. Whereupon succeeded the common and now practised way of suspension.

But how long before this abrogation of the Cross, the Jewish Nation had known the true sense of crucifixion: whereof no Nation had a sharper apprehension, while Adrian crucified five hundred of them every day, until Wood was wanting for that service.[9] So they which had nothing but crucifie in their mouths, were therewith paid home in their own bodies: Early suffering the reward of their imprecations, and properly in the same kind.


My notes (and other people's) are in square brackets [ ]; addenda from manuscripts are in curly braces { }; Browne's own marginalia are unmarked.

1 [In Esther 6-7, particularly 7:9-10: 9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.
10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king's wrath pacified.

Possibly the most famous portrait of Haman, in the Sistine Chapel, shows him tied to a sort of pollarded tree in a crucifixion position. This gibbet is hardly 50 cubits high, but perhaps Michelangelo felt that it was sufficiently elevated from the floor to suggest the biblical description.]

2 [Oroetes]

3 In Ezra 6.[11 Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.]

4 [Examples throughout the Bible, among them Deuteronomy 21:22: "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree"; and Matthew 25:5: "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself."]

5 [In Joshua 8:29 "And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, [that remaineth] unto this day"; it is possible, as Browne remarks, that Ai was already dead and was simply being put up for the purpose of terrorism or display: cf. 2Sa 21:12 "And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa".]

6 [In Genesis: 18 And Joseph answered and said, This [is] the interpretation thereof: The three baskets [are] three days:
19 Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.
20 And it came to pass the third day, [which was] Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.
21 And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand:
22 But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.
23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.]

7 Deut. 21. [as above, note 4]

8 Ainsworth.

9 [According to Josephus, Bel. Jud. 5: "they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures, before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more: yet it did not appear to be safe for him to let those that were taken by force go their way, and to set a guard over so many he saw would be to make such as great deal them useless to him. The main reason why he did not forbid that cruelty was this, that he hoped the Jews might perhaps yield at that sight, out of fear lest they might themselves afterwards be liable to the same cruel treatment. So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies."]

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