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THE PRIMITIVE RITE ITSELF.
I. SOURCES OF BIBLE STUDY.
THOSE who are most familiar with the Bible, and who have already given most time to its study, have largest desire and largest expectation of more knowledge through its farther study. And, more and more, Bible study has come to include very much that is outside of the Bible.
For a long time, the outside study of the Bible was directed chiefly to the languages in which the Bible was written, and to the archæology and the manners and customs of what are commonly known as the Lands of the Bible. Nor are these well-worked fields, by any means, yet exhausted. More still remains to be gleaned from them, each and all, than has been gathered thence by all searchers in their varied lore. But, latterly, it has been realized, that, while the Bible is an Oriental book, written primarily for Orientals, and therefore to be un'erstood only through an
understanding of Oriental modes of thought and speech, it is also a record of God's revelation to the whole human race; hence its inspired pages are to receive illumination from all disclosures of the primitive characteristics and customs of that race, everywhere. Not alone those who insist on the belief that there was a gradual development of the race from a barbarous beginning, but those also who believe that man started on a higher plane, and in his degradation retained perverted vestiges of God's original revelation to him, are finding profit in the study of primitive myths, and of aboriginal religious rites and ceremonies, all the world over. Here, also, what has been already gained, is but an earnest of what will yet be compassed in the realm of truest biblical research.
2. AN ANCIENT SEMITIC RITE.
One of these primitive rites, which is deserving of more attention than it has yet received, as throwing light on many important phases of Bible teaching, is the rite of blood-covenanting: a form of mutual covenanting, by which two persons enter into the closest, the most enduring, and the most sacred of compacts, as friends and brothers, or as more than brothers, through the inter-commingling of their blood, by means of its mutual tasting, or of its inter
THE TWO SYRIANS.
transfusion. This rite is still observed in the unchanging East; and there are historic traces of it, from time immemorial, in every quarter of the globe; yet it has been strangely overlooked by biblical critics and biblical commentators generally, in these later centuries.
In bringing this rite of the covenant of blood into new prominence, it may be well for me to tell of it as it was described to me by an intelligent native Syrian, who saw it consummated in a village at the base of the mountains of Lebanon; and then to add evidences of its wide-spread existence in the East and elsewhere, in earlier and in later times.
It was two young men, who were to enter into this covenant. They had known each other, and had been intimate, for years; but now they were to become brother-friends, in the covenant of blood. Their relatives and neighbors were called together, in the open place before the village fountain, to witness the sealing compact. The young men publicly announced their purpose, and their reasons for it. Their declarations were written down, in duplicate,-one paper for each friend, and signed by themselves and by several witnesses. One of the friends took a sharp lancet, and opened a vein in the other's arm. Into the opening thus made, he inserted a quill, through which he sucked the living blood. The lancet-blade was care
fully wiped on one of the duplicate covenant-papers, and then it was taken by the other friend, who made a like incision in its first user's arm, and drank his blood through the quill, wiping the blade on the duplicate covenant-record. The two friends declared together: "We are brothers in a covenant made before God: who deceiveth the other, him will God deceive." Each blood-marked covenant-record was then folded carefully, to be sewed up in a small leathern case, or amulet, about an inch square; to be worn thenceforward by one of the covenant-brothers, suspended about the neck, or bound upon the arm, in token of the indissoluble relation.
The compact thus made, is called M'âhadat ed-Dam ( p søles ), the "Covenant of Blood." The two persons thus conjoined, are Akhwat el-M'âhadah ( dolet | ), “Brothers of the Covenant." The rite itself is recognized, in Syria, as one of the very old customs of the land, as 'âdah qadeemch (Bulk) "a primitive rite." There are many forms of covenanting in Syria, but this is the extremest and most sacred of them all. As it is the inter-commingling of very lives, nothing can transcend it. It forms a tie, or a union, which cannot be dissolved. In marriage, divorce is a possibility: not so in the covenant of blood. Although now comparatively rare, in view of its responsibilities and of its indissolubleness, this
HOUSE OF THE AMULET.
covenant is sometimes entered into by confidential partners in business, or by fellow-travelers; again, by robbers on the road-who would themselves rest fearlessly on its obligations, and who could be rested on within its limits, however untrustworthy they or their fellows might be in any other compact. Yet, again, it is the chosen compact of loving friends; of those who are drawn to it only by mutual love and trust.
This covenant is commonly between two persons of the same religion-Muhammadans, Druzes, or Nazarenes; yet it has been known between two persons of different religions;1 and in such a case it would be held as a closer tie than that of birth2 or sect. He who has entered into this compact with another, counts himself the possessor of a double life; for his friend, whose blood he has shared, is ready to lay down his life with him, or for him. Hence the leathern case, or Bayt hejâb (❤l)," House of the amulet,"
1 Of the possibility of a covenant between those of different religions, Lane says (Arab.-Eng. Lexicon, s. v. 'Ahd): "Hence des, ¿ (dho'ahd), an appellation given to a Christian and a Jew (and a Sabean, who is a subject of a Muslim government), meaning one between whom and the Muslims a compact, or covenant, exists, whereby the latter are responsible for his security and freedom and toleration as long as he lives agreeably to the compact." And the Blood Covenant is more sacred and more binding than any other compact.
2 Prov. 18: 24.
4 See Lane's Lex. s. v. 66
3 John 15:13.