Chap. XI.

More compendiously of some others.

MANY others there are which we resign unto Divinity, and perhaps deserve not controversie. Whether David were punished only for pride of heart in numbring the people, as most do hold, or whether as Josephus and many maintain, he suffered also for not performing the Commandment of God concerning capitation; that when the people were numbred, for every head they should pay unto God a shekell, we shall not here contend. Surely, if it were not the occasion of this plague, we must acknowledge the omission thereof was threatned with that punishment, according to the words of the Law.1 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, that there be no plague amongst them. Now how deeply hereby God was defrauded in the time of David, and opulent State of Israel, will easily appear by the sums of former lustrations. For in the first,2 the silver of them that were numbred was an hundred Talents, and a thousand seven hundred threescore and fifteen shekels; a Bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the Sanctuary; for every one from twenty years old and upwards, for six hundred thousand, and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men. Answerable whereto we read in Josephus, Vespasian ordered that every man of the Jews should bring into the Capitol two dragms; which amounts unto fifteen pence, or a quarter of an ounce of silver with us: and is equivalent unto a Bekah, or half a shekel of the Sanctuary. For an Attick dragm is seven pence half-peny or a quarter of a shekel, and a didrachmum or double dragm, is the word used for Tribute money, or half a shekel; and a stater the money found in the fishes mouth,3 was two Didrachmums, or an whole shekel, and tribute sufficient for our Saviour and for Peter.

We will not question the Metamorphosis of Lots wife,[4] or whether she were transformed into a real statua of Salt: though some conceive that expression Metaphorical, and no more thereby then a lasting and durable column, according to the nature of salt, which admitteth no corruption:[5] in which sense the covenant of God is termed a Covenant of Salt; and it is also said, God gave the Kingdom unto David for ever, or by a Covenant of Salt.[6]

That Absalom was hanged by the hair of the head, and not caught up by the neck, as Josephus conceiveth,[7] and the common argument against long hair affirmeth, we are not ready to deny. Although I confess a great and learned party there are of another opinion; although if he had his Morion or Helmet on, I could not well conceive it; although the Translation of Ierom or Tremelius do not prove it, and our owne seems rather to overthrow it.

That Iudas hanged himself, much more that he perished thereby, we shall not raise a doubt. Although Iansenius discoursing the point, produceth the testimony of Theophylact and Euthymius, that he died not by the Gallows, but under a cart wheel, and Baronius also delivereth this was the opinion of the Greeks, and derived as high as Papias, one of the Disciples of Iohn. Although also how hardly the expression of Matthew is reconcilable unto that of Peter,[8] and that he plainly hanged himself, with that, that falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, with many other, the learned Grotius plainly doth acknowledge. And lastly, although as he also urgeth, the word ἀπήγξατο in Matthew, doth not only signifie suspension, or pendulous illaqueation, as the common picture describeth it, but also suffocation, strangulation or interception of breath, which may arise from grief, dispair, and deep dejection of spirit,9 in which sense it is used in the history of Tobit concerning Sara, ἐλυπήθη σφόδρα ὤστε ἀπάγξασθαι, Ita tristata est ut strangulatione premeretur, saith Iunius; and so might it happen from the horrour of mind unto Iudas. So do many of the Hebrews affirm, that Achitophel was also strangled,[10] that is, not from the rope, but passion. For the Hebrew and Arabick word in the Text, not only signifies suspension, but indignation, as Grotius hath also observed.

Many more there are of indifferent truths, whose dubious expositions, worthy Divines and Preachers do often draw into wholesome and sober uses whereof we shall not speak; with industry we decline such Paradoxes, and peaceably submit unto their received acceptions.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}. Ross, Arcana Microcosmi II.14 devotes a paragraph to denying the possibility that the transformation of Lot's wife was but metaphorical in one sense or another.

1 Exod. 30.

2 Exod. 38.

3 Mat. 17.27.

4 [Genesis 19. Wilkin: A number of absurd and contradictory stories ([Dr. Adam Clarke] remarks) have been told, of the discovery of Lot's wife still remaining unchanged — and indeed unchangeable, — her form having still resident in it a continual miraculous energy, reproductive of any part which is broken off: so that though multitudes of visitors have brought away each a morsel, yet doth the next find the figure — complete! The author of the poem De Sodoma, at the end of Tertullian's works, and with him, Irenæus, asserts the figure to possess certain indications of a remaining portion of animal life, and the latter father in the height of his absurdity, makes her an emblem of the true church, which, though she suffers much, and often loses whole members, yet preserves the pillar of salt, that is, the foundation of the true faith!! Josephus asserts that he himself saw the pillar. S. Clement also says that Lot's wife was remaining, even at that time, as a pillar of salt. Recent and more respectable travellers however have sought for her in vain, and it is now very generally admitted, either that the statue does not exist — or that some of the blocks of rock-salt met with in the vicinity of the Dead Sea — are the only remains of it.]

5 [Wren: Itt admitteth noe corruption in other things, but itselfe suffers liquation, and corruption too, that is, looses its savour, as appeares by that remarkable speech of our Saviour, Marc. ix, 50.]

6 [Numbers 18]

7 [Absalom "hanged": 2 Samuel 18: "9 And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that [was] under him went away. 10 And a certain man saw [it], and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak."

Josephus: Antiq. Jud. 7.10.2: "But all David's men ran violently upon Absalom, for he was easily known by his beauty and tallness. He was himself also afraid lest his enemies should seize on him, so he got upon the king's mule, and fled; but as he was carried with violence, and noise, and a great motion, as being himself light, he entangled his hair greatly in the large boughs of a knotty tree that spread a great way, and there he hung, after a surprising manner; and as for the beast, it went on farther, and that swiftly, as if his master had been still upon his back; but he, hanging in the air upon the boughs, was taken by his enemies."]

8 [A note by Keck in his 1654 annotations on Religio Medici expands on this difficulty: "The doubtful word he speaks of is in the place of Matthew [27.5]; it is ἀπήγξατο, which signifieth suffocation as well as hanging, (ἀπελθὼν άπήγξατο, which may signifie literally, after he went out he was choak'd) but Erasmus translates it, abiens laqueo se suspendit: The words in the Acts [1:18] are, When he had thrown down himself headlong, he burst in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out; which seems to differ much from the expression of Matthew; yet the Ancient Writers and Fathers of the Church do unanimously agree that he was hanged. ... There are those that are so particular, that they acquaint us with the manner, as that it was done with a Cord. ... on a Fig-Tree, ... the next day after he had given the kiss. So Chrysostom. Homil. 1 de proditor. et Mysterio Coen. Dominic. Guttur prophanum quod hodie christo extendis ad osculum, crastino ex illud extensurus ad laqueum. But there were two, that is, Euthymius and Oecumenius, that tell us, that the hanging did not kill him, but that either the Rope broke, or that he was cut down, and afterwards cast himself down headlong, as it is related in the before mentioned placed of the Acts: Agnitus à quibusdam depositus est ne præfocaretur, deniq; postquam in secreto quodam loco modico vixisset tempore præceps factus sive præcipitatus, inflatus diruptus, ac diffisus est medius, et effusa sunt omnia viscera ejus; ut in Actis. Euthym. cap. 67. in Math. Judas suspendio è vita non decessit, sed supervixit, dejectus est enim prius quam præfocaretur, idq; Apostolorum Acta indicant, quod pronus crepuit medius. Oecumen. in Act. And this may serve to reconcile these two seemingly disagreeing Scriptures."]

9 Strangulat inclusus dolor.

10 [2 Samuel 17:23. As he put his affairs into order first, it seems unlikely that mere passion killed him. The Hebrew "chanaq" חנק is translated hanged once, strangled once; it seems rather to fall on the strangle side (but to strangle oneself might imply hanging).]

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