Page images
PDF
EPUB

can be no possibility of mistake. It is not merely affirmed in a credible history, of whose truth we have abundant guarantee; but the nature of the case precludes falsehood or error. An accepted system of legislation, whose authority is confessed and submitted to, has, in that fact, the strongest possible proof of its genuineness. No forged body of laws could ever be imposed upon any people. No supposititious code, issued in the name of Moses in a subsequent age, could have been accepted without inquiry, and installed as the law of the land. It is indeed supposable that the current laws and usages of any given period might be popularly supposed to be more ancient than they really were. But this is not what we are asked to believe. We are told that the first that is known of the book of Deuteronomy is that it was found in the temple in the days of Josiah. It claims to be the work of Moses, but it never emanated from him. Its enactments had never been in force before. No such laws were known at

any

time during the history of the people. They were not in harmony with existing customs or with prevailing ideas, but were in some essential points directly antagonistic to them. It was prepared with the view of inaugurating a new departure, of carrying into effect reforms which Hezekiah had made a vigorous attempt to introduce, but had failed. Such was the hostility of the masses, and such the influence of parties interested in opposing them, that “a violent and bloody reaction ” followed under Manasseh, and “in Josiah's time the whole work had to be done again from the beginning” (p. 244). And yet a newly-found book, purporting to be the law of Moses, but which “ had no external credentials” (p. 351), and which, if the facts be as alleged, every one must have known was not what it claimed to be, was at once accepted by Josiah, “to whom it was of no consequence to know the exact date and authorship of the book” (p. 363). One at least of its provisions was unwelcome to the priests (p. 362), but they raised no question as to the origin of a code so mysteriously discovered. And under its potent influence, regulations were readily carried into effect, which had been so stubbornly resisted before. And Ezra, it seems, met with similar success in introducing the Levitical code after the exile. If Mr. Gladstone could but find some law-book in Dublin which had never been

[ocr errors]

Mosesthe national legislator.

321

heard of before, how easily and amicably the whole Irish question might be settled !

But this use of the name of Moses, we are told, is simply "a legal fiction;" “in Israel all law was held to be derived from the teaching of Moses” (p. 385). Such a notion could not have arisen unless Moses really was the great legislator of the nation, and something more than the ten commandments was directly traceable to him. This of itself creates a presumption in favour of the Mosaic origin of the codes ascribed to him, unless there be good reason to the contrary. The instances which are adduced to show that customs or statutes of a later date were imputed to Moses admit of no such interpretation, and could only be distorted to this end by one intent upon making out a case."

1 Professor Smith says (p. 387) : “A peculiarly clear case of this occurs in the law of war. According to 1 Sam. xxx. 24, 25, the standing law of Israel as to the distribution of booty was enacted by David, and goes back only to a precedent in his war with the Amalekites who burned Ziklag. In the priestĪy legislation the same law is given as a Mosaic precedent from the war with Midian (Num. xxxi. 27).” The fact is that Moses gave no law upon the subject whatever. It is simply related, as one of the incidents of the battle with Midian, that the prey was divided into two parts between them who went out to battle and all the congregation. The circumstances were peculiar, and it was not made a general rule. David did not divide the booty into two equal parts, but ordered that the 200 who guarded the baggage should individually have like shares with the 400 who engaged in the conflict; and the division was not, as Moses directed, between the army on the one hand and the people on the other, but between the two divisions of his little army, while to the people at large he simply sent presents. A more exact precedent is found in Josh. xxii. 8, though even in that instance no law was enacted. David made the first statute in relation to the matter ; though some critic may be able to discover that even this is only a “legal fiction," that being attributed to David which was really originated by Judas Maccabeus, who gave an equal share of the spoils of the enemy to the feeble and needy classes (2 Macc. viii. 28, 30). In Ezra ix. 11, “where the law of the Pentateuch is cited as an ordinance of the prophets” (p. 310), the prophets are inclusive of Moses (Deut. xviii. 18; Hos. xii. 13), not distinguished from him.

It is further alleged (pp. 319, 432) that there are conflicting statements respecting the position of the tabernacle with respect to the camp of Israel, only one of which can be true history,—the other must be later law veiled in historic form. But this apparent discrepancy is due to the interpreter, not to the text. It is brought about by the fashionable method of dissecting the Pentateuch, and then viewing the separate paragraphs in their isolation, and without regard to their connection, or only so much regard to it as will choose variance where that is possible in preference to harmony. We protest against the entire procedure, notwithstanding the eminence and ability of those who indulge in it. It opens a boundless field for the display of the critic's ingenuity, but it is not rational interpretation, and would as easily create the semblance of self-contradiction in any author to whom it The style in which the laws are framed, and the terms in which they are drawn up, point to the sojourn in the wilderness, prior to the occupation of Canaan, as the time when both the Levitical and the Deuteronomic codes were produced (Lev. xviii. 3 ; Deut. xi. 9). The standing designation of Canaan is, The land which the LORD giveth thee to possess it (Deut. xv. 4, 7; xxi. 1, 23). The laws look forward to the time “when thou art come into the land, etc., and shalt possess it"? (Deut. xvii. 14; Lev. xiv. 34; xix. 23; xxv. 2), or “when the LORD hath cut off these nations and thou

[ocr errors]

should be applied. If a meaning be given to Ex. xxxiii. 7-11, which it can. not bear in the connection in which it is found, but which it is assumed that it might have had in some other imaginable connection, and especially if, with Dillmann, the sense of vv. 1-6 be altered by leaving out words or clauses ad libitum, it may be made to appear that according to this passage and a few others, the sacred tent stood outside of the camp; whereas it is elsewhere spoken of as pitched in the centre of the camp. But if we discard imaginary possibilities, and give to these verses their obvious sense as they stand, the alleged discrepancy disappears. Immediately after the ratification of God's covenant with Israel, Moses went up into the mount and received direction to make a sanctuary in which God might dwell among his people. The sin of the golden calf ruptured the covenant and put an end to all proceedings under it. Without going on to construct the tabernacle according to the specifications given him, he set before the eyes of the people a visible sign of their altered relation to the Lord by pitching a provisional tabernacle outside of the camp, and at a distance from it, to signify that God would not remain in the midst of them (Ex. xxxiii. 3). It is called “ the tabernacle,” ver. 7, because it is definitely conceived by the writer as the one used for the purpose, and which was well remembered by him and by his readers. (Comp. the use of the Heb. article in Ex. ii. 15; Num. xi. 27; Hab. ii. 2.) In Num. xi. 24, 26, 30 ; xii. 4, 5, persons are said to go out of the camp unto the tabernacle, and out of the tabernacle into the camp; but this does not prove the tabernacle to have been outside of the camp. If a gentleman goes out of his yard into his house, it does not follow that his house is not in his yard. So that all that the Professor tells us about early sanctuaries being outside of cities, and Ezekiel paving the way for the sanctuary being located in the midst of the people, is quite irrelevant. Num. x. 33 is adduced to prove that the sanctuary was outside the camp when the people were on the march, but it makes no mention of the sanctuary; it simply says that the ark went before them, when they left Sinai, as their guide. And this is not in conflict with ver. 21 : comp. iv. 15-21. To suppose such a contradiction within the compass of a few verses is to impute the most extraordinary heedlessness to the writer, or, if any prefer, the compiler of the book. While the tabernacle and the sacred vessels had their place assigned them between the tribes as they moved forward, the ark, which was the symbol and the seat of God's presence, was singled out, as we are expressly told, to lead the way.

i This is the case even in Deut. xix. 14, where the last clause of the verse makes it apparent that the setting of the landmarks did not precede the enacting of the law. The Hebrew for “they of old time" means simply “first,” and is applicable to those who originally marked the boundary at whatever date.

Non-Mosaic legislation.

323

succeedest them and dwellest in their cities” (Deut. xix. 1), as the period when they are to come into full operation (Deut. xii, 1). The place of sacrifice is not where Jehovah has fixed His habitation, but “the place which Jehovah shall choose to place His name there” (Deut. xii. 5, 10 ff. ; xiv. 23 ff. ; xvi. 2, 6 ff.). Israel is contemplated as occupying a camp (Lev. xiii. 46; xiv. 3 ; xvii. 3 : Num. v. 2-4; xii. 14, 15) and living in tents (Lev. xiv. 8; Deut. xvi. 7). All this, and much more of the same sort, we must suppose to be “legal fiction ;" but it would be too "artificial” (p. 321), in the Professor's view, to imagine that Moses could speak of himself in the third person, as Isaiah (vii. 3 ff.), Jeremiah (xxxvi. 4 ff.), Hosea (i. 2 ff.), and the evangelists Matthew (ix. 9) and John (xiii. 23) have done.

But suppose that we yield our assent to this notion that the Israelites had the singular custom of issuing all their laws in the name of Moses, and that they continued to do so down to the time of Josiah and after the exile, still expressing them as though Israel were encamped in the wilderness of Sinai or on the plains of Moab. It is true that no instance of the kind is recorded in any historical book of the Old Testament. David, and Solomon, and Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah issue their orders and enforce their regulations in their own name and by their own authority. Ezekiel, who, we are told, represents an intermediate stage between Deuteronomy and Leviticus, makes no pretence of Mosaic authority in all that he says respecting the temple and its worship and the Holy Land. The idea of a legal fiction never dawned upon the author of the books of Kings, who records the finding of the law in the temple, but has no suspicion of its recent origin. Let us, however, waive all objection on this ground. But the further insuperable difficulty remains, that by the hypothesis under consideration laws are attributed to a period for which they have no meaning or fitness. Legislation, as Professor Smith himself insists—and this is, in fact, the basis on which his whole argument professedly rests—legislation must be adapted to the times in which it is issued. Its aim is practical ; it concerns matters of present obligation, and its statutes are enacted with the view of being enforced and obeyed. Laws are never issued to regulate a state of things which had passed away ages before and could

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

by no possibility be revived. What are we to think, then, of a hypothesis which assigns the code of Deuteronomy to the reign of Josiah, or shortly before it, when its injunction to exterminate the Canaanites (xx. 16-18) and the Amalekites (xxv. 17-19), who had long since disappeared, would be as utterly out of date as a law in New Jersey at the present time offering a bounty for killing wolves and bears, or a royal proclamation in Great Britain ordering the expulsion of the Danes ? A law contemplating foreign conquests (xx. 10-15) would have been absurd when the urgent question was whether Judah could maintain its own existence against the encroachments of Babylon and Egypt. A law discriminating against Ammon and Moab (xxiii. 3, 4) in favour of Edom (vv. 7, 8) had its warrant in the Mosaic period, but not in the time of the later kings. Jeremiah discriminates precisely the other way, promising a future restoration to Moab (xlviii. 47) and Ammon (xlix. 6), which he denies to Edom (xlix. 17, 18), who is also to Joel (iii. 19), Obadiah, and Isaiah (lxiii. 1-6), the representative foe of the people of God. The special injunction to show no unfriendliness to Egyptians (Deut. xxiii. 7) is insupposable in a code issued under prophetic influence at a time when the prophets were doing everything in their power to dissuade the people from alliance or association with them (Isa. xxx. 1 ff.; xxxi. 1; Jer. ii. 18, 36). The allusious to Egypt imply familiarity with and recent residence in that land; an impressive argument for obedience is drawn from the memory of bondage in Egypt (Deut. xxiv. 18, 22; comp. ver. 15), or of deliverance from it (Deut. xiii. 5, 10; xx. 1; Lev. xix. 36; xxvi. 13 ; Num. xv. 41); warnings are pointed by a reference to the diseases of Egypt (Deut. vii. 15; xxviii. 60). And how can a code belong to the time of Josiah, which, while it contemplates the possible selection of a king in the future (Deut. xvii. 14 ff.), nowhere implies an actual regal government, but vests the supreme central authority in a judge and the priesthood (xvii. 8, 12; xix. 7); which lays special stress on the requirements that the king must be a native and not a foreigner (xvii. 15), when the undisputed line of succession had for ages been fixed in the family of David, and that he must not “cause the people to return to Egypt” (ver. 16), as they seemed ready to do on every grievance in the days of Moses

a

« PreviousContinue »