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thee with their face to the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet, are not such an extravagance of Eastern rhetoric, as we may possibly have been ready to suspect; supposing that this licking the dust refers to kings and queens.
That great commentator Grotius seems to suppose that this kissing the earth by conquered kings is scarcely imaginable. Vitringa reproaches him for it; but Vitringa gives no instance of this sort, which certainly it would have been right for him to have done, in animadverting on an author of such fame. The citations from d'Herbelot may supply that defect to which may be added, that it is common in the East to treat conquered princes with an insolence we can scarcely think credible; and their submissions on the other hand are astonishing. So when Egypt was subdued by the Turks, so lately as the year 1517, the sovereign of that country was hanged over one of the gates of Cairo; and that brutalities of much the same kind obtained in the remotest times of antiquity, may be learnt from Judges i. 7.
Hence some things required by the Prophets might be no more than just severities, and agreeable to the rules of those times, which to us appear somewhat astonishing, such as the death of Agag, and of Ben-hadad. The difference between their and our laws of war ought ever to be remembered, in explaining the Old Testament Scriptures.
b In loc.
Kissing the Hand and putting it on the Head,
ALL the compliments that inferiors make to superiors in the East are not, however, equally abject with those I have been mentioning. "If," says Pitts, "an inferior comes to pay his respects to a superior, he takes his superior's hand, and kisses it, afterwards putting it to his forehead. But if the superior be of a condescending temper, he will snatch away his hand as soon as the other has touched it; then the inferior puts his own fingers to his lips, and afterwards to his forehead; and sometimes the superior will also in return put his hands to his lips."i
This explains what I cited from d'Arvieux, relating to the emir's withdrawing his hand when he approached to kiss it; but what is of more importance than this, it gives a clear account of the ground of some ancient and modern religious ceremonies. Thus Pitts has also told us, that the Mohammedans begin their worship with bringing their two thumbs together, and kissing them three times, and at every kiss touching their foreheads with their thumbs. When they cannot kiss the hand of a superior, they kiss their own, and put it to
i. P. 66.
their foreheads; they venerate an an unseen Being whom they cannot touch, in much the
After a like manner the ancient idolaters worshipped beings they could not touch: If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness: and my heart hath been secretly enticed, and my mouth hath kissed my hand, said Job, ch. xxx, 26, 27.* That this would have been an idolatrous action, has been often remarked; but I do not remember it has been any where observed, to have been exactly agreeable to the civil expressions of respect that obtain in the East.
Kissing what is presented, a Token of Respect to Superiors.
THEY kiss too what comes from the hand of a superior. So Dr. Pococke,' when he describes the Egyptian compliments, tells us, that upon their taking any thing from the hand of a superior, or that is sent from such an one, they kiss it, and as the highest respect put it to their foreheads.
k Perhaps this custom gave rise to the term adoration, an act of divine worship in which the person brought his hand to his mouth and kissed it, whence the latin adoro from ad to and os oris the mouth; others may prefer ud and oro to pray or entreat. EDIT.
Travels, vol. 1. p. 182. See also p. 113.
This is not peculiar to those of that country; for the editor of the Ruins of Balbec observed, that the Arab governor of that city respectfully applied the firman of the Grand Seignior to his forehead, which was presented to him when he and his fellow-travellers first waited on him, and then kissed it, declaring himself the Sultan's slave's slave."
Is not this what Pharaoh refers to in Gen. xli. 40. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word, or on account of thy word, shall all my people KISS, (for so it is in the original,) only in the throne will I be greater than thou: that is, I imagine, the orders of Joseph were to be received with the greatest respect by all, and kissed by the most illustrious of the princes of Egypt.
Drusius might well deny the sense that Kimchi and Grotius put on these words, the appointing that all the people should kiss his mouth". That would certainly be reckoned in the West, in every part of the earth, as well as in the ceremonious East, so remarkable for keeping up dignity and state, a most strange way of commanding the second man in the kingdom to be honoured. It is very strange then that these commentators should propose
m P. 4.
be al peeka yissak kol ועל פיך ישק כל עמי The original is •
ummee literally; and upon thy mouth shall all the people kiss: but pee, may be here used for commandment.
such a thought; and the more so, as the Hebrew word pee is well known to signify word, or commandment, as well as mouth. As this is apparent from Gen. xlv. 21; so also that the preposition y al often signifies according to; or on account of, is put out of the question by that passage, as well as by Sam. iv, 12, Ezra x. 9, &c. These are determinations that establish the exposition I have been giving. Upon thy commandment, or when thou sendest out orders, my people from the highest to the lowest shall KISS, receiving them with the profoundest respect and obedience.
The Egyptian translators called the Septuagint seem to have understood Prov. xxiv. 36. in much the same sense, Lips shall kiss those things that answer right words, shall kiss those writings by which a judge giveth just decisions; and this seems to be a much better explanation of the passage, than any of the four which Pool has given us from the critics, in his Synopsis. The second, with which our version coincides, does not appear by any means to be just. The prefix Lamed should in that case have been joined to the word lips; not to repeat what I observed in the beginning of this article, that nothing can be more dissonant, not only from Eastern customs, but from decencies universally maintained, to suppose that it should be promised to a judge, as a honourable
• Vide Noldii Conc. in part. y úl, 24.