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Scripture by the Name of Synagogues; which Word fignifies Congregations. Synagogues therefore, were Places, where the Jews of fuch a certain District or Quality, us'd to affemble and meet together to hear the Law expounded.
The first Mention we find of them, is in one of the Pfalms, to which the Name Pfal. of Asaph is prefix'd; tho' it is reasonable to conclude, from the Contents of it, that it could not be compos'd by that Mufician; nor any one else fo old as the Time of David: but by fome infpired Perfon after the Captivity; when their Temple and City, and all that belong'd to them were deftroy'd and burnt by the Babylonians: when this Pfalmift might well fay, They have burnt up all the fynagogues of God in the land.
Whoever was the Author, it is pretty plain from hence, that these Synagogues were in ufe before the Babylonish Captivity; and probably from the very Time of Mofes himself. St. James fays, Mofes Acts xv. of old time bath, in every city, them that 21. preach him, being read in the fynagogues every fabbath day. They were scatter'd
up and down in the Countreys of Judæa, Galilee, and that Neighbourhood. In whatever City as competent Number of Jews fojourn'd, they had a Synagogue, one or more, if the Government would permit them. We read of several in Daib. vi. 9. mafcus and of one in Jerufalem it felf; for the Benefit of thofe of the Jewish Religion who were Foreigners the Citizens themselves reforting to the Temple upon all religious Occafions.
The Scribes (of whom we fhall speak more particularly hereafter) us'd to officiate in these Synagogues, as the Priests did in the Temple: and fome of them were call'd Rulers of the Synagogue; who had the ordering of Matters there. But they all affected to appear confiderable, änd were remarkably ambitious of fitting in the chief Seats there, for which our Mark. LORD rebukes them.
Those who had been guilty of any notorious Crime, or were otherwise thought unworthy, were caft out of thefe Synagogues; that is, excommunicated; reckon'd as mere Heathens; fhut out from all Benefits of the Jewish Religion. They came
to a Refolution, that whoever confefs'd John ix* that JESUS was the CHRIST, he should be put out of the Synagogue. And therefore, when the blind Man who had been reaftor'd to Sight, perfifted in confeffing that he believ'd the Perfon who had been able i to work fuch a Miracle, could not have done it if he were not of God, they caft bim out. Thefe Synagogues are in use among them to this Day.
CHA P. V.
SECT. I. Their HOLY DAYS.
E have done with the Places us'd for religious Worship by the Jews; we come next to treat of the Days that were accounted facred among them. The more effectually to do which, it may be proper to take notice of their Manner of dividing and computing Time in general; and to see what Account we have C of their Years, Months, and Weeks; by which means we shall get the most ad
Gen. i. 14.
vantageous View of fuch Days, as were to be observ'd by them with more than ordinary Solemnity.
Their Computation of Time, by Years.
It is agreed on all Hands, that the Jewish Year was Lunifolar; confifting of twelve Lunar Months, with an Intercalation, to make the whole agree with the Solar Year. Those Luminaries, the Sun and Moon, were ordain'd partly for this Purpose, at their Creation. God faid, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night: and let them be for figns, and for feafons, and for days and years. However their Year was of two kinds, natural and legitimate; or common and facred. Their natural or common Year began with the Autumnal Equinox; that being the Time when they fuppos'd the World was first created. The legal or facred took its Beginning, by God's fpecial Direction, from the Time of their Emigration out of Egypt; which was about the vernal Equinox. This was just before their Harvest began; that, after they had gather'd all
all in One, answering to our March; the 20 Other to September.
Of the natural Year's beginning with the latter, we have Proofs from these two Ordinances; by which the feast of in-gathering is appointed to be kept, at the End of the Year: The feast of in-gathering, Exod. which is in the end of the year, when thou haft gather'd in thy labours out of the field. E Again, thou shalt obferve the feast of ingathering at the year's end *.
Concerning the Beginning of the facred or legal Year, we find the following Direction, at the Inftitution of the Paffover in Egypt; This month shall be unto you the Exod. beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year to you. And accordingly this Month is most commonly call'd the Month of Abib, from the Earing of the Corn, and the Blooming of the first Fruits about that Season: which is another Rea
* Exod. xxxiv. 22. The Chaldee Paraphraft upon 2 Kings 8. 2. fays, The Month Ethanim, now the feventh Month, but formerly the firft. And Jofephus, in his Antiquities, tells us that Noah's Flood began in the fecond Month of the Year, which the Macedonians call Dios, the Hebrews Marefhuan, and the Romans October.