Introduction to the Old Testament by John Edgar McFadyen - HTML preview

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treat them as a unity.

[Footnote 1: Naturally there are other very important and valuable

clues. e.g, the holy mount is cal ed Sinai in J and Horeb in E.]

The proof, however, that both prophetic documents are really present

in Exodus, if not at first sight obvious or extensive, is at any

rate convincing. In one source, e.g. (J), the Israelites dwell by

themselves in a district cal ed Goshen, vi i. 22 (cf. Gen. xiv. 10);

in the other, they dwel among the Egyptians as neighbours, so that

the women can borrow jewels from them, i i. 22, and their doors have

to be marked with blood on the night of the passover to distinguish

them from the Egyptians, xi . 22. Again in J, the people number over

600,000, xi . 37; in E they are so few that they only require two

midwives, i. 15. Similar slight but significant differences may be

found elsewhere, particularly in the account of the plagues. In J,

e.g., Moses predicts the punishment that wil fall if Pharaoh

refuses his request, and next day Jehovah sends it: in E, Moses

works the wonders by raising his rod. In Exodus, as in Genesis, J

reveals the divine through the natural, E rather through the

supernatural. It is an east wind, e.g., in J, as in the poem, xv.

10, that drives back the Red Sea, xiv. 21a (as it had brought the

locusts, x. 13); in E this happens on the raising of Moses' rod,

xiv. 16. Here again, as in Genesis, we find that E has taken the

first step on the way to P. For this miracle (in E) at the Red Sea,

which in J is essentially natural, and miraculous only in happening

at the critical moment, is considerably heightened in P, who relates

that the waters were a wal unto the people on the right hand and on

the left, xiv. 22.

These three great documents constitute the principal sources of the

book of Exodus; but here, as in Genesis, there are fragments that

belong to a more primitive order of ideas than that represented by

the compilers of the documents (cf. iv. 24-26); there is, besides

the two decalogues, a body of legislation, xx. 23-xxi i. 33; and

there is a poem, xv. 1-18. _The Book of the Covenant_, as it is

called, is a body of mainly civil but partly religious law,

practically independent of the narrative. The style and contents of

the code show that it is not all of a piece, but must have been of

gradual growth. The 2nd pers. sing., e.g., sometimes alternates with

the pl. in consecutive verses, xxi . 21, 22. Again, while some of

the laws state, in the briefest possible words, the official penalty

attached to a certain crime, xxi. 12, others are longer and

introduce a religious sanction, xxi . 23, 24, and a few deal

definitely with religious feasts, xxii . 14-19, obligations, xxi .

29-31, or sanctuaries, xx. 23-26. In general, the code implies the

settled life of an agricultural and pastoral people, and the

community for which it is designed must have already attained a

certain measure of organization, as we must assume that there were

means for enacting the penalties threatened. A remarkably

humanitarian spirit pervades the code. It mitigates the lot of the

slave, it encourages a spirit of justice in social relations, and it

exhibits a fine regard for the poor and defenceless, xxi . 21-27. It

probably represents the juristic usages, or at least ideals, of the

early monarchy.

_The Song of Moses_, xv. 1-18, also appears to belong to the

monarchy. The explicit mention of Philistia, Edom and Moab in

_vv_. 14, 15 imply that the people are already settled in

Canaan, and the sanctuary in _v. 17b_ is most naturally, if not

necessarily, interpreted of the temple. The poem appears to be an

elaboration of the no doubt ancient lines:

Sing to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously;

The horse and his rider He hath thrown into the sea (xv. 21).

The religious, as opposed to the theological, interest of the book

lies entirely within the prophetic sources. Here the drama of

redemption begins in earnest, and it is worked out on a colossal

scale. From his first blow struck in the cause of justice to the day

on which, in indignation and astonishment, he destroyed the golden

calf, Moses is a figure of overwhelming moral earnestness. Few books

in the Old Testament have a higher conception of God than Exodus.

The words of the decalogue are His words, xx. 1, and the protest

against the calf-worship (xxxii.-xxxiv.) is an indirect plea for His

spirituality. But the highest heights are touched in the revelation

of Him as merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in

goodness and truth, xxxiv. 6--a revelation which lived to the latest

days and was cherished in these very words by the pious hearts of

Israel (cf. Pss. lxxxvi. 15; cii . 8; cxi. 4; cxlv. 8).


The emphasis which modern criticism has very properly laid on the

prophetic books and the prophetic element general y in the Old

Testament, has had the effect of somewhat diverting popular

attention from the priestly contributions to the literature and

religion of Israel. From this neglect Leviticus has suffered most.

Yet for many reasons it is worthy of close attention; it is the

deliberate expression of the priestly mind of Israel at its best, and

it thus forms a welcome foil to the unattractive pictures of the

priests which confront us on the pages of the prophets during the

three centuries between Hosea and Malachi. And if we should be

inclined to deplore the excessively minute attention to ritual, and

the comparatively subordinate part played by ethical considerations

in this priestly manual, it is only fair to remember that the hymn-book used by these scrupulous ministers of worship was the Psalter-enough

surely to show that the ethical and spiritual aspects of religion,

though not prominent, were very far from being forgotten. In xvii.-xxvi.

the ethical element receives a fine and almost surprising prominence:

the injunction to abstain from idolatry, e.g., is immediately preceded

by the injunction to reverence father and mother, xix. 3,4. Indeed,

ch. xix. is a good compendium of the ethics of ancient Israel; and,

while hardly to be compared with Job xxxi., still, in its care for the

resident alien, and in its insistence upon motives of benevolence and

humanity, it is an eloquent reminder of the moral elevation of Israel's religion, and is peculiarly welcome in a book so largely devoted to the externals of the cult.

The book of Leviticus il ustrates the origin and growth of law.

Occasional y legislation is clothed in the form of narrative--the

law of blasphemy, e.g., xxiv. 10-23 (cf. x. 16-20)--thus suggesting

its origin in a particular historical incident (cf. I Sam. xxx. 25);

and traces of growth are numerous, notably in the differences

between the group xvi .-xxvi. and the rest of the book, and very

ancient heathen elements are still visible through the

transformations effected by the priests of Israel, as in the case of

Azazel xvi. 8,22, a demon of the wilderness, akin to the Arabic

jinns. Strictly speaking, though Leviticus is pervaded by a single

spirit, it is not quite homogeneous: the first group of laws, e.g.

(i.-vi .), expressly acknowledges different sources--certain laws

being given in the tent of meeting, i. 1, others on Mount Sinai,

vii. 38. The sections are wel defined--note the subscriptions at

the end of vii. and xxvi.--and marked everywhere by the scrupulous

precision of the legal mind.

There is no trace in Leviticus of the prophetic document JE. That

the book is essential y a law book rather than a continuation of the

narrative of the Exodus is made plain by the fact that that

narrative (Ex. xl.) is not even formal y resumed til ch. vii .


_(a) For worshippers_, i.-vi. 7. Laws for the burnt offering of

the herd, of the flock, and of fowls (i.). Laws for the different

kinds of cereal offerings--the use of salt compulsory, honey and

leaven prohibited (ii.). Laws for the peace-offering--the offerer

kil s it, the priest sprinkles the blood on the sides of the altar

and burns the fat (ii .) For an unconscious transgression of the

law, the high priest shall offer a bullock, the community shall

offer the same, a ruler shal offer a he-goat, one of the common

people shall offer a female animal (iv.). A female animal shal be

offered for certain legal and ceremonial transgressions; the poor

may offer two turtle doves, or pigeons, or even flour, v. 1-13.

Sacred dues unintentional y withheld or the property of another man

dishonestly retained must be restored together with twenty per cent.

extra, v. 14-vi. 7.

_(b) For priests_, vi. 8-vi . 38. Laws regulating the daily

burnt offering, the cereal offering, the daily cereal offering of

the high priest, and the ordinary sin offering, vi. 8-30. Laws

regulating the guilt offering, the priests' share of the sacrifices,

the period during which the flesh of sacrifice may be eaten, the

prohibition of the eating of fat and blood (vi .).


This section is the direct continuation of Exodus xl., which

prescribes the inauguration of Aaron and his sons into the priestly

office. Laws regulating the consecration of the high priest and the

other priests--washing, investiture, anointing, sin offering, burnt

offering, with accompanying rites (vii ., cf. Exod. xxix.). The

first sacrificial service at which Aaron and his sons officiate--the

benediction being fol owed by the appearance of Jehovah's glory

(ix.). The first violation of the law of worship and its signal

punishment, x. 1-7. Officiating priests forbidden to use wine,

x. 8-11. Priests' share of the meal and peace offerings, x. 12-15.

An error forgiven after an adroit explanation by Aaron (law in

narrative form), x. 16-20.


This section appropriately fol ows x. 10, where the priests are

enjoined to distinguish between the clean and the unclean. Laws

concerning the animals which may or may not be eaten--quadrupeds, fish, birds, flying insects, creeping insects, reptiles--and pol ution

through contact with carcasses (xi.). Laws concerning the purification

of women after childbirth (xi .). Laws for the detection of leprosy

in the human body, xii . 1-46, and in garments, xi i. 47-59. Laws for

the purification of the leper and his re-adoption into the theocracy,

xiv. 1-32. Laws concerning houses afflicted with leprosy, xiv. 33-57.

Laws concerning purification after sexual secretions (xv.). The laws

of purification are appropriately concluded by the law for the great day of atonement, with regulations for the ceremonial cleansing of the high priest and his house, the sanctuary, altar, and people (xvi.). Two

originally independent sections appear to be blended in this chapter-one (cf. _vv._ 1-4) prescribing regulations to be observed by the high

priest on every occasion on which he should enter the inner sanctuary,

the other with specific reference to the great day of atonement.

IV. LAW OF HOLINESS (xvii.-xxvi.)

This section, though still moving largely among ritual interests,

differs markedly from the rest of the book, partly by reason of its

hortatory setting (cf. xxvi.), but especial y by its emphasis on the

ethical elements in religion. It has been designated the Law of

Holiness because of the frequently recurring phrase, "Ye shall be

holy, for I, Jehovah, am holy," xix. 2, xx. 26--a phrase which,

though not peculiar to this section (cf. xi. 44), is highly

characteristic of it. Animals are to be slaughtered for food or

sacrifice only at the sanctuary xvi . 1-9; the blood and flesh of

animals dying naturally or torn by beasts is not to be eaten, xvi .

10-16. Laws regulating marriage and chastity with threats of dire

punishment for violation of the same (xvi i.). Penalties for Moloch

worship, soothsaying, cursing of parents and unchastity (xx.), with

a hortatory conclusion, xx. 22-24, similar to xvii . 24-30.

Ch. xix. is the most prophetic chapter in Leviticus, and bears a

close analogy to the decalogue, _vv_. 3-8 corresponding to the

first table, and _vv_. 11-18 to the second. The holiness which

Jehovah demands has to express itself not only in reverence for

Himself and His Sabbaths, but in reverence towards parents and the

aged; in avoiding not only idolatry and heathen superstition, but

dishonesty and unkindness to the weak. The ideal is a throroughly

moral one. A modern reader is surprised to find in so ethical a

chapter a prohibition of garments made of two kinds of stuff mingled

together _v_. 19; no doubt such a prohibition is aimed at some

heathen superstition--perhaps the practice of magic.

Laws concerning priests and sacrifices (xxi., xxi .). The holiness

of the priests is to be maintained by avoiding, as a rule (without

exception in the case of the high priest), pol ution through corpses

and participation in certain mourning rites, and by conforming to

certain conditions in their choice of a wife. The physical y

deformed are to be ineligible for the priesthood (xxi.). Regulations

to safeguard the ceremonial purity of the sacred food: imperfect or

deformed animals ineligible for sacrifice (xxii.). In ch. xxi i.,

which is a calendar of sacred festivals, the festivals are

enumerated in the order in which they occur in the year, beginning

with spring--the passover, regarded as preliminary to the feast of

unleavened bread; the feast of weeks (Pentecost) seven weeks

afterwards; the new year's festival, on the first day of the seventh

month; the day of atonement; and the festival of booths. There are

signs that the section dealing with new year's day and the day of

atonement, _vv_. 23-32, is later than the original form of the

rest of the chapter dealing with the three great ancient festivals

that rested on agriculture and the vintage. Of kindred theme to this

chapter is ch. xxv.--the sacred years--(_a_) the sabbatical

year: the land, like the man, must enjoy a Sabbath rest, _vv_.

1-7; _(b_) the jubilee year, an intensification of the Sabbatical

idea: every fiftieth year is to be a period of rest for the land,

liberation of Hebrew slaves, and restoration of property to its

original owners or legal heirs, _vv_. 8-55. In xxiv. 1-9, are

regulations concerning the lampstand and the shewbread; the law, in

the form of a narrative, prohibiting blasphemy, _vv_. 10-23, is

interrupted by a few laws concerning injury to the person,

_vv_. 17-22.

The _laws of holiness_ conclude (xxvi.) with a powerful

exposition of the blessing which will follow obedience and the curse

which is the penalty of disobedience. The curse reaches a dramatic

climax in the threat of exile, from which, however, deliverance is

promised on condition of repentance.

Ch. xxvii. constitutes no part of the Law of Holiness--note the

subscription in xxvi. 46. It contains regulations for the commutation

of vows (whether persons, cattle or things) and tithes-commutation

being inadmissible in the case of firstlings of animals fit for

sacrifice and of things and persons that had come under the ban.

Special importance attaches to the Law of Holiness, known to

criticism as H (xvii.-xxvi.). In its interest in worship, it marks a

very long advance on the Book of the Covenant (Exod. xxi.-xxii .),

and it would seem to stand somewhere between Deuteronomy and the

priestly codex. It is profoundly interested, like the former, in the

ethical side of religion, and yet it is almost as deeply concerned

about ritual as the latter. But though it may be regarded as a

preliminary step to the priestly code, it is clearly distinguished

from it, both by its tone and its vocabulary: the word for idols,

e.g. (things of nought), xix. 4, xxvi. 1, does not occur elsewhere

in the Pentateuch. It specially emphasizes the holiness of Jehovah;

as has been said, in H He is the person _to whom_ the cult is

performed, while the question of _how_ is more elaborately

dealt with in P. There are stray al usions which almost seem to

point to pre-exilic days; e.g. to idols, xxvi. 30, Moloch being

explicitly mentioned, xvi i. 21, xx. 2; and the various sanctuaries

presupposed by xxvi. 31 would almost seem to carry us back to a

point before the promulgation of Deuteronomy in 621 B.C.; but on the

other hand the exile appears to be presupposed in xvi i. 24-30,

xxvi. 34. This code, like al the others in the Old Testament, was

no doubt the result of gradual growth--note the alternation of 2nd

pers. sing. and pl. in ch. xix.--but the main body of it may be

placed somewhere between 600 and 550 B.C. The section bears so

strong a resemblance to Ezekiel that he has been supposed by some to

be the author, but this is improbable.

It is easy to see how the minuteness of the ritual religion of

Leviticus could degenerate into casuistry. Its emphasis on externals

is everywhere visible, and its lack of kindly human feeling is only

too conspicuous in its treatment of the leper, xii . 45, 46. But

over against this, to say nothing of the profound symbolism of the

ritual, must be set the moral virility of the law of holiness--its

earnest inculcation of commercial honour, reverence for the aged,

xix. 32, and even unselfish love. For it is to this source that we

owe the great word adopted by our Saviour, "Thou shalt love thy

neighbour as thyself," xix. 18, though the first part of the verse shows that this noble utterance still moves within the limitations

of the Old Testament.


Like the last part of Exodus, and the whole of Leviticus, the first

part of Numbers, i.-x. 28--so cal ed,[1] rather inappropriately,

from the census in i., i i., (iv.), xxvi.--is unmistakably priestly

in its interests and language. Beginning with a census of the men of

war (i.) and the order of the camp (ii.), it devotes specific

attention to the Levites, their numbers and duties (ii ., iv.). Then

fol ow laws for the exclusion of the unclean, v. 1-4, for

determining the manner and amount of restitution in case of fraud,

v. 5-10, the guilt or innocence of a married woman suspected of

unfaithfulness, v. 11-31, and the obligations of the Nazirite vow,

vi. 1-21. This legal section ends with the priestly benediction, vi.

22-27. Then, closely connected with the narrative in Exodus xl., is

an unusual y elaborate account of the dedication gifts that were

offered on the occasion of the erection of the tabernacle (vi .).

This quasi-historical interlude is again fol owed by a few sections

of a more legal nature--instructions for fixing the lamps upon the

lampstand, vi i. 1-4, for the consecration of the Levites and their

period of service, vii . 5-26, for the celebration of the passover,

and, in certain cases, of a supplementary passover, ix. 1-14. Then,

with the divine guidance assured, and the order of march determined,

the start from Sinai was made, ix. 15-x. 28.

[Footnote 1: In the Greek version, followed by the Latin. This is

the only book of the Pentateuch in which the English version has

retained the Latin title, the other titles being al Greek. The

Hebrew titles are usual y borrowed from the opening words of the

book. The Hebrew title of Numbers is either "And he said" or "in the wilderness"; the latter is fairly appropriate--certainly much more so than the Greek.]

At this point, the old prophetic narrative (Exod. xxxii.-xxxiv.),

interrupted by Exodus xxxv. 1-Numbers x. 28, is resumed with an

account of the precautions taken to secure reliable guidance through

the wilderness, x. 29-32, and a very interesting snatch of ancient

poetry, through which we may easily read the unique importance of

the ark for early Israel, x. 33-36. The succeeding chapters make no

pretence to be a connected history of the wilderness period; the

incidents with which they deal are very few, and these are related

rather for their religious than their historical significance, e.g.

the murmuring of the people, the terrible answer to their prayer for

flesh, the divine equipment of the seventy elders, the magnanimity

of Moses (xi.), and the vindication of his prophetic dignity (xi .).

Before the actual assault on Canaan, spies were sent out to

investigate the land. But the people allowed themselves to be

discouraged by their report, and for their unbelief the whole

generation except Caleb (and Joshua)[1] was doomed to die in the

wilderness, without a sight of the promised land (xi i., xiv.). The

thread of the narrative, broken at this point by laws relating to

offerings and sacrifices, xv. 1-31, the hallowing of the Sabbath,

xv. 32-36, and the wearing of fringes, xv. 37-41, is at once resumed

by a complicated account of a rebel ion against Moses, which ended

in the destruction of the rebels, and in the signal vindication of

the authority of Moses, the privileges of the tribe of Levi, and the

exclusive right of the sons of Aaron to the priesthood (xvi.,

xvi .). Again the narrative element gives place to legislation

regulating the duties, relative position and revenues of the priests

and Levites (xvi i.) and the manner of purification after defilement


[Footnote 1: Caleb alone in JE, Joshua also in P.]

These laws are followed by a section of continuous narrative. Moses

and Aaron, for certain rebel ious words, are divinely warned that

they wil not be permitted to bring the people into the promised

land--a warning which was followed soon afterwards by the death of

Aaron on Mount Hor. Edom haughtily refused Israel permission to pass

through her land (xx.). Sore at heart, they fretted against God and

Moses, and deadly serpents were sent among them in chastisement, but

the penitent and believing were restored by the power of God and the

intercession of Moses. Then Israel turned north, and began her career

of conquest by defeating Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of

Bashan (xxi.). Her success struck terror into the heart of Balak, the

king of Moab; he accordingly sent for Balaam, a famous soothsayer,

with the request that he would curse Israel (xxi .). Instead, however,

he foretold for her a splendid destiny (xxi i., xxiv.). But the reality fel pitiful y short of this fair ideal, for Israel at once succumbed

to the seductions of idolatry and impurity,[1] and the fearful punishment which fel upon her for her sin was only stayed by the zeal of Phinehas, the high priest's son, who was rewarded with the honour of perpetual

priesthood, xxv. 1-15. Implacable enmity was enjoined against Midian,

xxv. 16-18.

[Footnote 1: Moabite idolatry, and intermarriage with the Midianites--

ultimately, it would seem, the same story. JE gives the beginning of

it, _vv_. 1-5, and P the conclusion, _vv_. 6-18.]

From this point to the end of the book the narrative is, with few

exceptions, distinctly priestly in complexion; the vivid scenes of

the older narrative are absent, and their place is taken, for the

most part, either by statistics and legislative enactments or by

narrative which is only legislation in disguise. A census (xxvi.)

was taken at the end, as at the beginning of the wanderings (i.),

which showed that, except Caleb and Joshua, the whole generation had

perished (cf. xiv. 29, 34). Then fol ow sections on the law of

inheritance of daughters, xxvii. 1-11, the announcement of Moses'

imminent death and the appointment of Joshua his successor, xxvii.

12-23, a priestly calendar defining the sacrifices appropriate to

each season (xxvi i., xxix.), and the law of vows (xxx.). In

accordance with the injunction of xxv. 16-18 a war of extermination

was successfully undertaken against Midian (xxxi.). The land east of

the Jordan was al otted to Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of

Manasseh, on condition that they would help the other tribes to

conquer the west (xxxii.). Fol owing an itinerary of the wanderings

from the exodus to the plains of Moab (xxxii .) is a description of

the boundaries of the land allotted to the various tribes (xxxiv.),

directions for the Levitical cities and the cities of refuge

(xxxv.), and, last of all, a law in narrative form, determining that

heiresses who possessed landed property should marry into their own

tribe (xxxvi.).

Even this brief sketch of the book of Numbers is enough to reveal

the essential incoherence of its plan, and the great divergence of

the elements out of which it is composed. No book in the Pentateuch

makes so little the impression of a unity. The phenomena of Exodus

are here repeated and intensified; a narrative of the intensest

moral and historical interest is broken at frequent intervals by

statistical and legal material, some of which, at least, makes hardly

any pretence to be connected with the main body of the story. By far

the largest part of the book comes from P, and most of it is very

easy to detect. No possible doubt, e.g., can attach to i.-x., 28, with

its interest in priests, Levites, tabernacle and laws. As significant

as the contents is the style which is not seldom diffuse to tediousness, e.g., in the account of the census (i.), the dedication gifts (vii.),

or the regulation of the movements of the camp by the cloud, ix. 15-23.

Ch. xv., with its laws for offerings, sacrifices and the Sabbath,

ch. xvii., with its vindication of the special prerogatives of the

tribe of Levi, and chs. xvii ., xix., which regulate the duties and

privileges of priests and Levites, and the manner of purification, are

also unmistakable. Chs. xxvi.-xxxi., as even the preliminary sketch of

the book would suggest, must, for similar reasons, also have the same

origin. To P also clearly belong xxxi i. and xxxiv. with their statistical bent, and xxxv. and xxxvi. with their interest in the Levites and

legislation. Besides these sections, however, the presence of P is

certain--though not always so easily detected, as it is in combination

with JE--in some of the more distinctively narrative sections, e.g. in

the account of the spies (xii ., xiv.), of the rebel ion against the

authority of Moses and Aaron (xvi.), of the sin of Moses and Aaron,

xx. 1-13, and of the settlement east of the Jordan (xxxi .). About

such narratives as the death of Aaron, xx. 22-29, or the zeal and

reward of Phinehas, xxv. 6-18, there can be no doubt.

With the exception of a few odd verses, al that remains, after

deducting the passages referred to, belongs to the prophetic

narrative (JE). The radical difference in point of style and

interests between JE and P occasionally extends even to their

account of the facts. The story of the spies furnishes several

striking il ustrations of this difference. In JE they go from the

wilderness to Hebron in the south of Judah, xii . 22, in P they go

to the extreme north of Palestine, xi i. 21. In JE Caleb is the only

faithful spy, xi i. 30, xiv. 24, P unites him with Joshua, xiv.

6,38. In JE the land is fertile, but its inhabitants are invincible,

in P it is a barren land. The story of the rebellion of Korah,

Dathan and Abiram is peculiarly instructive (xvi.). It will be

noticed that Dathan and Abiram are occasional y mentioned by

themselves, _vv_. 12, 25, and Korah by himself, _vv_. 5,

19. If this clue be followed up, it will be found that the rebellion

of Dathan and Abiram is essential y against the authority of Moses,

whom they charge with disappointing their hopes, _vv_. 13, 14.

On the other hand, the rebel ion headed by Korah is traced to two

sources:[1] it is regarded in one of these as a layman's protest

against the exclusive sanctity of the tribe of Levi, _v_. 3,

and, in the other, as a Levitical protest against the exclusive

right of the sons of Aaron to the priesthood, _vv_. 8-11.

Perhaps the most striking difference between JE and P is in the

account of the ark. In JE it goes before the camp, x. 33 (cf. Exod.

xxxi i. 7), in P the tabernacle, to which it belongs, is in the

centre of the camp, i . 17, which is foursquare.

[Footnote 1: Two strata of P are plainly visible here.]

Much more than in Genesis, and even more than in Exodus have J and E

been welded together in Numbers--so closely, indeed, that it is

usual y all but impossible to distinguish them with certainty; but,

here, as in Exodus, there are occasional proofs of compositeness.

The apparent confusion of the story of Balaam, e.g. (xxii.), in

which God is angry with him after giving him permission to go, is to

be explained by the simple fact that the story is told in both

sources. This duplication extends even to the poetry in chs. xxii .

and xxiv. (cf. xxiv. 8, 9, xxi i. 22, 24).

There is not a trace of P in the Balaam story. Al the romantic and

religious, as opposed to the legal and theological interest of the

book, is confined to the prophetic section (JE); and it greatly to

be regretted that more of it has not been preserved. The structure

of the book plainly shows that it has been displaced in the

interests of P, and from the express reference to the "ten times"

that Israel tempted Jehovah, xiv. 22, we may safely infer that much

has been lost. But what has been preserved is of great religious,

and some historical value. Of course, it is not history in the

ordinary sense: a period of thirty-eight years is covered in less

than ten chapters (x. II-xix.). But much of the material, at least

in the prophetic history JE, rests on a tradition which may well

have preserved some of the historical facts, especial y as they were

often embalmed in poetry.

The book of Numbers throws some light on the importance of ancient

poetry as a historical source. It cites a difficult fragment and

refers it to the book of the wars of Jehovah, xxi. 14, it confirms

the victory over Sihon by a quotation from a war-bal ad which is

referred to a guild of singers, xxi. 27, it quotes the ancient words

with which the warriors broke up their camp and returned to it

again, x. 35, 36, and it relieves its wild war-scenes by the lovely

Song of the Well, xxi. 17, 18. Probably other episodes in the books

of Numbers, Joshua and Judges (e.g. ch. v.) ultimately rest upon

this lost book of the wars of Jehovah. The fine poetry ascribed to

Balaam, which breathes the full consciousness of a high national

destiny, may belong to the time of the early monarchy, xxiv. 7,

perhaps to that of David, to whom xxiv. 17-19 seems to be a clear

allusion. The five verses that follow Balaam's words, xxiv. 20-24,

are apparently a late appendix; the mention of Chittim in _v_.

24 would almost carry the passage down to the Greek period (4th

cent. B.C.), and of Asshur in _v_. 22 at least to the Assyrian

period (8th cent.), unless the name stands for a Bedawin tribe (cf.

Gen. xxv. 3).

Historically P is of little account. This is most obvious in his

narrative of the war with Midian (xxxi.), in which, without losing a

single man, Israel slew every male in Midian and took enormous

booty. It is suspicious that the older sources (JE) have not a

single word to say of so remarkable a victory; but the impossibility

of the story is shown by the fact that, though al the males are

slain, the tribe reappears, as the assailant of Israel, in the days

of Gideon (Jud. vi.-vi i.). The real object of the story is to

il ustrate the law governing the distribution of booty, xxxi. 27--a

law which is elsewhere traced, with much more probability, to an

ordinance of David (I Sam. xxx. 24). From this unhistorical, but

highly instructive chapter, we learn the tendency to refer al

Israel's legislation, whatever its origin, to Moses, and the further

tendency to find a historical precedent, which no doubt once

existed, for the details of the legislation. It is from this point

of view that the narratives of P have to be considered. The story of

the fate of the Sabbath-breaker is simply told to emphasize the

stringency of the Sabbath law, xv. 32-36, the particular dilemma in

ix. 6-14 is created, as a precedent for the institution of the

supplementary passover, the case of the daughters of Zelophehad

serves as a historical basis for the law governing the property of

heiresses (xxxvi.). In other words, P is not a historian; his

narrative, even where it is explicit, is usual y but the thin

disguise of legislation.

As in Genesis and Exodus, almost every stage in the development of

the religion of Israel is represented by the book of Numbers.

Through the story in xxi. 4-11 we can detect the practice of

serpent-worship, which we know persisted to the time of Hezekiah (2

Kings xvi i. 4); and the trial by ordeal, v. 11-31, though in its

present form late, represents no doubt a very ancient custom. P

throws much light on the usages and ideas of post-exilic religion.

But it is to the prophetic document we must go for passages of

abiding religious power and value. Here, as in Exodus, the character

of Moses offers a bril iant study--in his solitary grandeur, patient

strength, and heroic faith; steadfast amid jealousy, suspicion and

rebellion, and vindicated by God Himself as a prophet of

transcendent privilege and power (xi . 8). Over against the narrow

assertions of Levitical and priestly prerogative (xvi., xvii), which

reflect but too faithfully the strife of a later day, is the noble

prayer of Moses that God would make al the people prophets, and put

His spirit upon them every one, xi. 29.


Owing to the comparatively loose nature of the connection between

consecutive passages in the legislative section, it is difficult to

present an adequate summary of the book of Deuteronomy. In the first

section, i.-iv. 40, Moses, after reviewing the recent history of the

people, and showing how it reveals Jehovah's love for Israel,

earnestly urges upon them the duty of keeping His laws, reminding

them of His spirituality and absoluteness. Then follows the

appointment, iv. 41-43--here irrelevant (cf. xix. 1-l3)--of three

cities of refuge east of the Jordan.

The second section, v.-xi., with its superscription, iv. 44-49, is a

hortatory introduction to the more specific injunctions of xii.-xxvi i., and deals with the general principles by which Israel is to be governed.

The special relation between Israel and Jehovah was established on the

basis of the decalogue (Ex. xx.), and with this Moses begins, reminding the people of their promise to obey any further commands Jehovah might

give (v.). But as the source of al true obedience is a right attitude, Israel's deepest duty is to love Jehovah, serving Him with reverence,

and keeping His claims steadily before the children (vi.). To do this

effectively, Israel must uncompromisingly repudiate al social and

religious intercourse with the idolatrous peoples of the land, and

Jehovah their God will stand by them in the struggle (vi ). In the

past the discipline had often indeed been stern and sore, but it had

come from the hand of a father, and had been intended to teach the

spiritual nature of true religion; worldliness and idolatry would

assuredly be punished by defeat and destruction (vi i.). And just as

deadly as worldliness is the spirit of self-righteousness, a spirit

as absurd as it is deadly; for Israel's past has been marked by an

obstinacy so disgraceful that, but for the intercession of Moses, the

people would already have been devoted to destruction,[1] ix. 1-x. 11.

True religion is the loving service of the great God and of needy men,

and it ought to be inspired by reverent fear. Obedience to the

divine commands wil bring life and blessing, disobedience wil be

punished by the curse and death, x. 12-xi.

[Footnote 1: Ch, x. 6-9 is an interpolation; _vv_. 6, 7 a

fragment of an itinerary relating the death of Aaron, and _vv_.

8, 9 the separation of the tribe of Levi to priestly functions.]

This hortatory introduction is succeeded by the specific laws which

form the main body of the book (xii.-xxvi., xxvii .). Roughly they

may be classified as affecting (_a_) religious (xi .-xvi.),

(_b_) civil (xvi .-xx.), and (_c_) social (xxi.-xxv.)

life, the religious being made the basis of the other two.

(_a_) As the true worship is jeopardized by a multiplicity of

sanctuaries, these sanctuaries are declared illegal, and their

paraphernalia are to be destroyed; worship is to be confined

henceforth to one sanctuary (xi .), and every idolatrous person and

influence are to be exterminated (xi i.). The holiness of the people

is to be maintained by their abstaining from the flesh of certain

prohibited animals[1] xiv. 1-21, and the sacred dues such as the

tithes, xiv. 22-29, and firstlings, xv. 19-23, are regulated.

Religion is to express itself in generous consideration for the poor

and the slave, xv. 1-18, as wel as in the three annual pilgrimages

to celebrate the passover, the feast of weeks, and the feast of

booths, xvi. 1-17.

[Footnote 1: This section is not altogether in the spirit of Deut.

and is found with variations in Lev. xi. If it is not a late

insertion in Deut. from Lev., probably both have borrowed it from an

older code.]

(_b_) Besides the local courts there is to be a supreme central

tribunal, xvi. 18-20, xvi . 8-13. No idolatrous symbols are to be

used in the Jehovah worship; idolatry is to be punished with death,

xvi. 21-xvii. 7. The character and duties of the king are defined,

and his obligation to rule in accordance with the spirit of Israel's

religion, xvi . 14-20; the revenues and privileges of the Levitical

priests are regulated and the high position and function of the

prophets are defined in opposition to the representatives of

superstition in heathen religion (xvii .). Following the laws

affecting the officers of the theocracy are laws--which finely

temper justice with mercy--concerning homicide, murder and false

witness[1] (xix.). A similar combination of humanity and sternness

is il ustrated by the laws--whether practicable or not--regulating

the usages of war, xx., with which may be taken xxi. 10-14.

[Footnote 1: Kindred in theme is xxi. 1-9, dealing with the

expiation of an uncertain murder.]

(_c_) The laws in xxi-xxv. are of a more miscel aneous nature

and deal with various phases of domestic and social life--such as

the punishment of the unfilial son, the duty of neighbourliness, the

protection of mother-birds, the duty of taking precautions in

building, the rights of a husband, the punishment of adultery and

seduction, the exclusion of certain classes from the privilege of

worship, the cleanliness of the camp, the duty of humanity to a

runaway slave, the prohibition of religious prostitution, the

regulation of divorce, the duty of humanity to the stranger, the

fatherless and the widow, and of kindness to animals, the duty of a

surviving brother to marry his brother's childless widow, the

prohibition of immodesty, etc.

By two simple ceremonies, one of thanksgiving, the other a

confession of faith, Israel acknowledges her obligations to

Jehovah[1] (xxvi.), and the great speech ends with a very impressive

peroration in which blessings of many kinds are promised to

obedience, while, with a much greater elaboration of detail,

disaster is announced as the penalty of disobedience (xxvi i.). In

chs. xxix,, xxx., which are of a supplementary nature, Moses briefly

reminds the people of the goodness of their God, and warns them of

the disaster into which infidelity wil plunge them, though--so

gracious is Jehovah--penitence wil be followed by restoration. In a

powerful conclusion he sets before them life and death as the

recompense of obedience and disobedience, and pleads with them to

choose life.

[Footnote 1: Ch. xxvii., which, besides being in the 3rd person,

interrupts the connection between xxvi. and xxvii ., can hardly have

formed part of the original book. It prescribes the inscription of

the law on stones, its ratification by the people, and the curses to

be uttered by the Levites.]

The speeches are over, and the narrative of the Pentateuch is

resumed. In a few parting words, Moses encourages the people and his

successor Joshua, who, in xxxi. 14, 15, 23, receives his divine

commission, and final y gives instructions for the reading of the

law every seven years, xxxi. 1-13. Verses 16-30 (except 23)

constitute the preface to the fine poem known as the _Song of

Moses_, xxxi . 1-43, which celebrates, in bold and striking

words, the loving faithfulness of Jehovah to His apostate and

ungrateful people.[1] This poem, after a few verses in which Moses

final y commends the law to Israel and himself receives the divine

command to ascend Nebo and die, is fol owed by another known as the

_Blessing of Moses_ (xxxi i.). In this poem, which ought to be

compared with Gen. xlix., the various tribes are separately

characterized in language which is often simply a description[2]

rather than a benediction, and the poem concludes with an

enthusiastic expression of joy over Israel's incomparable God. The

book ends with an account of the death of Moses (xxxiv.).

[Footnote 1: The song must be much later than Moses, as it describes

the effect, _v_. 15ff., on Israel of the transition from the

nomadic life of the desert, _v_. 10, to the settled

agricultural life of Canaan, and expressly regards the days of the

exodus as long past, _v_.7. It is difficult to say whether the

enemy from whom in _vv_. 34-43, the singer hopes to be divinely

delivered are the Assyrians or the Babylonians: on the whole,

probably the latter. In that case, the poem would be exilic;

_v_. 36 too seems to presuppose the exile.]

[Footnote 2: These descriptions--to say nothing of _v_.4 (Moses

commended _us_ a law)--are conclusive proof that the poem was

composed long after Moses' time. Reuben is dwindling in numbers,

Simeon has already disappeared (as not yet in Gen. xlix). Judah is

in at least temporary distress, and the banner tribe is Ephraim,

whose glory and power are eloquently described, _vv_.13-17.

Levi appears to be thoroughly organized and held in great respect,

_vv_. 8-ll. The poem must have been written at a time when

northern Israel was enjoying high prosperity, probably during the

reign of Jeroboam II and before the advent of Amos (770 B.C.?).]

Deuteronomy is one of the epoch-making books of the world. It not

only profoundly affected much of the subsequent literature of the

Hebrews, but it left a deep and abiding mark upon Hebrew religion,

and through it upon Christianity.

The problem of its origin is as interesting as the romance which

attached to its discovery in the reign of Josiah (621 B.C.).

Generally speaking, the book claims to be the valedictory address of

Moses to Israel. But even a superficial examination is enough to

show that its present form, at any rate, was not due to Moses. The

very first words of the book represent the speeches as being

delivered "on the other side of the Jordan"--an important point obscured by the erroneous translation of A.V. Now Moses was on the

east side, and obviously the writer to whom the east side was the