And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out on them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Lancets—should be lances. This self-mutilation, common in Oriental frenzy, was possibly a portion, or a survival, of human sacrifice, in the notion that self-torture and shedding of human blood must win Divine favour—a delusion not confined to heathen religions, though excusable only in them.1 Kings 18:28. They cried aloud — They were so far from being convinced and put to shame by the just reproach which Elijah cast upon them, that it made them the more earnest and violent in their proceedings, and induced them to act more ridiculously. A deceived heart having turned them aside, they could not deliver their souls by inquiring, Is there not a lie in our right hand? And cut themselves after their manner, &c. — Observe their zeal! They mingled their own blood with their sacrifices; as knowing by experience, that nothing was more acceptable to their Baal (who was indeed the devil) than human blood; and hoping thereby to move their god to help them. And this indeed was the practice of divers heathen in the worship of their false gods. Plutarch, in his book De Superstitione, tells us that the priests of Bellona, when they sacrificed to that goddess, were wont to besmear the victim with their own blood. The Persian magi, according to Herodotus, used to appease tempests and allay the winds by making incisions in their flesh. They who carried about the Syrian goddess, as Apuleius relates, among other mad pranks, were every now and then cutting and slashing themselves with knives, till the blood gushed out; and even to this very day, we are informed, in Turkey, Persia, and in several parts of the Indies, there are a kind of fanatics who think they do a very meritorious service, and highly acceptable to the deity, by cutting and mangling their own flesh.” — Calmet, and Picart’s Religious Ceremonies.
The practice of inflicting gashes on their limbs, in their religious exercises, was common among the Carians, the Syrians, and the Phrygians. We may regard it as a modification of the idea of human sacrifice. The gods were supposed to be pleased with the shedding of human blood.
Lancets - Lancets, in our modern sense of the word, can scarcely have been intended by our translators. The Hebrew word is elsewhere always translated "spears," or "lances;" and this is probably its meaning here.They cried aloud; as if Elijah had spoken the truth, and their god needed rousing.
Cut themselves; mingling their own blood with their sacrifices; as knowing by experience, that nothing was more acceptable to their Baal (which was indeed the devil) than human blood, and hoping hereby to move their god to pity and help them. And this indeed was the practice of divers heathens in the worship of their false gods, as is manifest both from Scripture, as Leviticus 19:28 Deu 14:1 1 Kings 18:28, and from the express testimonies of Plutarch, Lucian, Apuleius, and many others.
and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them; so the priests of Heathen deities used to slash themselves on their shoulders, arms, and thighs, in their devotions to them, as many writers observe (z), fancying their gods were delighted with human blood; particularly the priests of Bellona (a), and the worshippers of the Syrian goddess (b), and of the Egyptian Isis (c).
(z) Vid. Kipping. Antiqu. Roman. l. 1. c. 10. p. 202. (a) Tertul Apolog. c. 9. Lactant. Institut. l. 1. c. 21. (b) Apulei Metamorph. l. 8. (c) Herodot. Euterpe, c. 61. Manetho. Apotelesm. l. 1. ver. 243, 244. Seneca de vita beata, c. 27.And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)28. And they cried aloud] Not recognizing the mockery of Elijah, but admitting that Baal might be overtaken by the necessities or occupations implied in the prophet’s words.
after their manner] For devotees to wound and mutilate themselves in the worship of their divinities was common in other cults beside that of Baal and Ashêrah.
with knives and lancets] R.V. lances. The former of these nouns is commonly rendered ‘sword,’ though it is also used of other instruments for cutting, as of a razor (Ezekiel 5:1), and an axe (Ezekiel 26:9). The second is constantly employed for ‘spear’ in connexion with ‘shield’ of a fully-armed soldier. The Baal-dance was most likely performed by the chief devotees with weapons in their hands, and with these it was that in their frenzy they wounded themselves.Verse 28. - And they cried aloud [Heb. in a great voice, as above. It was not that they took Elijah's words au serieux, but his scorn led them to redouble their efforts, if only to testify their faith in their god. The frantic cries of the Greek Easter (see Porter, 1:168; Conder, 176-178) in Jerusalem, the prayers of the pilgrims for the descent of the holy fire, may help us to realize the scene here described], and cut themselves [cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 47:5] after their manner [Keil quotes from Movers, Phoniz. 1. pp. 682-83, a description of the religious dances offered to the Dea Syria. "A discordant howling opens the scene. Then they rush wildly about in perfect confusion, with their heads bowed down to the ground, but always revolving in circles, so that the loosened hair drags through the mire; then they begin to bite their arms, and end with cutting themselves with the two-edged swords which they are in the habit of carrying. A new scene then opens. One of them, who surpasses all the rest in frenzy, begins to prophesy with sighs and groans," etc. In the "Contemporary Review," vol. 27, pp. 371 sqq., Bishop Caldwell has graphically described the devil dances of Southern India - a description which may be read with profit in this connexion. One sentence may be transcribed here: "He cuts and hacks and hews himself, and not unfrequently kills himself there and then." Kitto mentions "the furious gashes which the Persians inflict upon themselves in their frantic annual lamentation for Hossein." Rawlinson says this was also common among the Carians and Phrygians] with knives [Heb. swords] and lancets [Heb. lances, spears. The A.V. is misleading. The instruments they used were weapons of heavy-armed troops. For רְמָחִים, see Numbers 25:7; Judges 5:8; Jeremiah 46:4], till the blood gushed out upon them. [Heb. until the shedding of blood upon them. It is perfectly clear that their faith in Baal was sincere and profound. Making due allowance for the fact that they were under the eyes of their king and patron, and of representatives of the entire people, it is still impossible to doubt their sincerity. Some of them, it is probable, were Phoenicians. "Of one thing I am assured - the devil dancer never shams excitement" (Caldwell).] Leviticus 9. As Jehovah had there manifested Himself as the God of Israel by causing fire to fall from heaven upon the first sacrifice presented in front of the tabernacle and to consume it, Elijah hoped that in like manner Jehovah would even now reveal Himself as the living God. And the form of decision thus proposed would necessarily appear all the fairer, because Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah, stood alone in opposition to a whole crowd of Baal's prophets, numbering no less than 450 men. And for that very reason the latter could not draw back, without publicly renouncing their pretensions, whether they believed that Baal would really do what was desired, or hoped that they might be able to escape, through some accident or stratagem, from the difficult situation that had been prepared for them, or fancied that the God of Elijah would no more furnish the proof of His deity that was desired of Him than Baal would. In order, however, to cut off every subterfuge in the event of their attempt proving a failure, Elijah not only yielded the precedence to them on the occasion of this sacrifice, but gave them the choice of the two oxen brought to be offered; which made the fairness of his proposal so much the more conspicuous to every one, that the people willingly gave their consent.
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