Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Age Old

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The strong desire of a protracted life, and the marked respect with which aged persons were treated among the Jews, are very often indicated in the Scriptures. The most striking instance which Job can give of the respect in which he was once held, is that even old men stood up as he passed them in the streets (Job 29:8), the force of which is illustrated by the injunction in the law, 'Before the hoary head thou shalt stand up, and shalt reverence the aged' (Leviticus 19:32). Similar injunctions are repeated in the Apocrypha, so as to show the deportment expected from young men towards their seniors in company. Thus, in describing a feast, the author of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach 32:3; Sirach 32:7) says, 'Speak thou that art the elder, for it becometh thee. Speak, young man, if there be need of thee, and yet scarcely, when thou art twice asked.'

Thus the attainment of old age is constantly promised or described as a blessing (Genesis 15:15; Job 5:26), and communities as highly favored in which old people abound (Isaiah 65:20; Zechariah 8:4), while premature death is the greatest of calamities upon individuals, and to the families to which they belong (1 Samuel 2:32); the aged are constantly supposed to excel in understanding and judgment (Job 12:20; Job 15:10; Job 32:9; 1 Kings 12:6; 1 Kings 12:8), and the mercilessness of the Chaldeans is expressed by their having 'no compassion' upon the 'old man, or him who stooped for age' (2 Chronicles 36:17).

The strong desire to attain old age was necessarily in some degree connected with or resembled the respect paid to aged persons; for people would scarcely desire to be old, were the aged neglected or regarded with mere sufferance.

Attention to age was very general in ancient times; and is still observed in all such conditions of society as those through which the Israelites passed. Among the Egyptians, the young men rose before the aged, and always yielded to them the first place. The youth of Sparta did the same, and were silent—or, as the Hebrews would say, laid their hand upon their mouth—whenever their elders spoke. At Athens, and in other Greek states, old men were treated with corresponding respect. In China the deference for the aged, and the honors and distinctions awarded to them, form a capital point in the government, and among the Muslims of Western Asia, whose usages offer so many analogies to those of the Hebrews, the same regard for seniority is strongly shown. Among the Arabs it is very seldom that a youth can be permitted to eat with men. With the Turks, age, even between brothers, is the object of marked deference.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Age Old'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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