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for a Book upon which their Rights of Inheritance, and the Title they had to all they enjoy'd, depended: This was the Deed, by which they held their Estates \ and the Last Will and Testament, as it were, of their Ancestors, amongst whom the Land was divided. But it is certain, Men are more careful of nothing, than of the Writings by which they enjoy their Estates; and there is no great danger, when a Will is once come to the hands of the right Heir, that it will be lost or falsify'd, to his prejudice: but if the Books of Moses were alter'd, it must be upon the account of some Advantage to such as must be supposed to make the Alterations; and consequently to the Disadvantage* of others, who therefore would have found themselves concern'd to oppose such Alterations. But as the Books of Moses were in tht nature of a Deed of Settlement, to every Tribe and Family; so they were a Law too, which all were obliged to know and observe, under the severest Penalties: And being so generally known, and universally practis'd, it could no more be falsify'd at any time since its first Promulgation, than it could be now at this day. For,
2. Another thing which made the People of Israel less capable of being imposed upon in this matter, was, That they were by their Laws themselves obliged to the constant Study of them; they were to teach them their Children, and to be continually discoursing and meditating on them •, to bind them for a sign upon their hand-, that they might be as frontlets between their eyes to teach them their children, jpeaking of them when they fate in their houses, and when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up; to write them us on the door-pofls -of their houses , and uyon their gates, Deut. xi. 18, 19, 20. Nothing was to be more notorious and familiar to them, and accordingly they were perfectly acquainted with them, and (as JosephTM lays) knew them as well as they did their own Names; they had them constantly in their Mouths, andThou
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sands have died in defence of them, and could by no Menaces or Torments be brought to forsake or repounce them. And to this end, One Day in Seven was by Moses % Law set apart for the learning and understanding of it. The Jews have a Tradition, That Moses appointed the Law Lo be read thrice every Week in their publick Assemblies: And Grotim c is of this opinion. However, the Scripture informs us, that Moses-, of eld time-, had in every city them that preached him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath-day, Act, £v.2i. It is indeed the common opinion, That there were no Synagogues hefore the Captivity; But then, by Synagogues, must be understood Places of Judicature, rather than of Divine Worship: for the Courts pf judicature were'anciently held in the Gates of Cities, not in any Place ; peculiarly assign'd for that use; but there is no reason to question but the Jews had fheir frofeitcha.j9.ar Places of Prayer, from the Beginning j since it is incredible, that those who liv'd ata great distance, and could not come to Jerusalem on the Sabbath-days , and other times of Divine Worship , ( besides the three great Festivals, when all their Males were bound to be at Jerusalem') should not assemble for the Worship of God in the places where they dwelt •, nay, they were by an express Law obliged to it on the Sabbaths : 'The seventh day is the Sabbath of reft, an holy convocation ye shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings , Levit. xxiii- 3- They must therefore have Places in all their Dwellings to resort to, where they held their Convor cations or Assemblies; which is prov'd out of the Jewish Writers, by a very learned d Author.' And to these Assemblies they went on the New Moons, as well as on the Sabbaths, z King. iv. 23. which made the Psalmist lament, that the Enemy had burst up all the Synagogues of God in the land, Psal. lxxiv. 8. And be?
f Grot, ad Match, xv. 2. f Ttorndike. Kelig. Ajsembl. c. 2,3.
irig met together, there is as little doubt to be made but that they read the Law; which was to be read by them in their Families, and much more in their Publick Assemblies , on their solemn Days of Divine Worship. The Books of Moses therefore were read in their Synagogues, in every City, ox fyibiv d%ya!wi from ancient Generations, or from the first Settlement of the Children of Israel in. the Land of Canaan. And thus they still are read by thee Samaritans^ as well as by the'Jetw; which shews, that this was a Custom ever observ'd , not only before the Captivity, but before the Separation of the Ten Tribes.
And then, at the end of every Seven Years, thfe Law was read in the most publick and solemn manner, in the Solemnity of the Tear of Release, in the Feast of Tabernacles. Moses wrote a Book of the Law, and commanded it to be put in the fide of the Ark, Dent. xxxi. 25. as the Two Tables of Stone were put into the Ark it self, chap. x. 5. and this he deliver'd to the Priests, and to all the Elders of Israel, and' commanded them, fay ing, At the end of every seven year 's^ in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles , when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God, in the place which he jhall choose: thou shalt read this law before all Israel, in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children^ and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they ^may hear, and that they may leam, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law s And that their children which have not known any things may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, at long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to voffess. it, Dent. xxxi. 10,11, 12,13. How is it possible that any more effectual care could have been taken to itcV.re a Law from being deprav'd and alter'd by Impostures? Every seventh Day, at least, was set apart for the;
« Samaritan, ad Jos, Scalig. Epist. Antiq. Eccl. Oriental, p. 1 io.1
M 4 reading reading aud learning it, in their several Tribes, throughout all the Land; and then once in seven years it was read at a publick and solemn Feast, when they were all obliged to go up to Jerusalem. And for this purpose, Moses wrote a Book of the Law, which was put in the fide of the Ark, that it might be there for a Testimony against them, if they mould transgress it , much more, if they mould make any Alterations in it.
And out of this Book the King was to write him a Copy of the Law, Deut. xvii. 18. and this Book of the Law was found by Hilkiah the High-Priest, in the House of the Lord, 2Chron. xxxiv. 14. 2 Kings xxii.8. for after all that the wicked and idolatrous Kings fcould do to suppress the Law of Moses, and draw alide the People to Idolatry , the Authentick Book of the Law, written by Moses himself, was still preserv'd - in Jofiatfs time, besides the several Copies which must be dispers'd throughout the Land, for the use of their Synagogues, and those which must be remaining in the hands of the Prophets, and other pious Men.
And there is little reason to doubt, but that this very Book written by Moses, was preserv'd during the Captivity, aud was that Book which Ezra read to the People. It is by no means credible, that the Prophets would suffer that Book to be lost, much less that they would suffer all the Copies generally to be lost or corrupted; which indeed, considering the number, was hardly possible. Is it probable that Jeremiah would use that favour which he had with Ne~ bucbad.nezx.ar, to any other purpose, rather than for * the Preservation of the Book of the Law? This use f Josephw made of his Interest with Titus, to preserve the Holy Scriptures. And the 8 Jews fay, that both the Tabernacle and the Ark were secured by Jeremiah, |n. the burning of the Temple, at the time of their
V- ?■ T .. „■ fr:
f Joseph, vit. sub fin. f 2 Maccab, ij. $.
Captivity, and consequently the Law was prescrv'd, which was kept in the fide of the Ark; but it is much more probable that the Book of their Law was secur'd, than the Ark it self, that being both more easily convey'd away, and not so tempting a Prey to the Enemy. We find the Law cited in the time of the Captivity, by Daniel, Dan. ix. 11. by Nebemiah, Nehem*i. 8,9. and in Tobit, who belong'd to the Ten Tribes, Tob. vi. 12. and vii. 13.
And it is not to be doubted, but that these and other pious Men had Copies of it by them, and were very careful to preserve them. Maimonides h says, that Moses himself wrote out Twelve Books of the Law, one for each Tribe, besides that which was laid up in the side of the Ark •, and the Rabbins teach , that every one is obliged to have a Copy of the Pentateuch by him: And Ezjra and Nebemiab % are said to have brought Three hundred Books of the Law into the Congregation assembled at their Return from Captivity. It is certain,, there were Scribes of the Law, before the Captivity, and in the time of it, Jer. viii. 8. Ezra is stiled a ready Scribe in the Law of Moses '-, and the Scribe-, even a Scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord-, and of his statutes to Israel; And by Artaxerxes-, in his Letter, he is call'd a Scribe of the law of the God of heaven-, Ezra vii. 6, II, 12, By which it appears, that there were Scribes of the Law during the Captivity, who were known by this solemn Style and Character, and whose Care and Employment it was, to study and write over the Law, of whom Ezjra was the principal at the time of their Return.
It is most probable then, that the Book of the Law was preserv'd in Moses % own hand, till the coming of the Jews from Babylon; besides the Copies that were ■ "''■■■ i ■ i
h Maimon. Praf. in Seder Zeraim. p. j.
j Drus.de "rrib.Sect. 1. g. c. i i. Pirke Rab. Elieser c. }8. p.lor.