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of Moses on the twelve tribes, when it was clearly before the eyes of that lawgiver when he spoke? Because it was a sacred national piece traditionally handed down, which in the mouth of Moses must necessarily be altered to suit that period and situation of Israel; which time had not made superfluous, but rather confirmed.
alludes to,--the use of different names of the Deity,---it may be necessary to explain. I will give as distinct an account as I am able of this singuJar discovery, and of the use to which it has been applied.---A book was published at Brussels in 1753, with the title “ Conjectures sur les Memoires Originaux, dont il paroit que Moise s'est servi pour composer la Genèse.". It was written by John Astruc, a celebrated physician of Languedoc, though his pame did not appear in the title-page. ceived that there was a remarkable variation in the names that were used to designate the Deity. Often for a long space the word Elohim, God, was exclusively employed; and then, tbrough as considerable a portion, the word Jebovah obtained; generally alone, though sometimes joined with Elohim. He observed, too, that this change of the name marked, in a great many instances, distinct subjects and pieces : a new document was evidently introduced with the alternation of this important phrase. He concluded, therefore, that Moses compiled the book of Genesis from two ancient, written documents. He went still further, and attempted a division of the book into two parts on the principle of his hypothesis.- He was followed by Eichhorn, who, adopting bis theory, proposed a different arrangement of the materials. Ilgen, upon the same plan, offered another and more artificial disposition of the supposed originals; differing from his predecessors especially in this, that he assumed the existence of two documents distinguished by the naine Elohim.
Thus much for the fact and the conclusions drawn froin it. Of the fact the reader may easily satisfy himself by turning to his bible : for our translators iovariably render the Hebrew Jehovah LORD; and Elohim, when applied to the Deity, GoD.---But what is the utmost that can with certainty be juferred from it? Not, one would think, that there were just two sets of accounts employed in the composition of Genesis ; for why migbt not many writers have used either of these peculiarities of phrase ? All that can be confidently said of it is, that it confirms, wbat the learned had long supposed before, the fragmentary character of the book ; and its compilation froin written materials. It furbishes one of the means, of which every one would avail bimself, who should attempt to resolve the whole into its separate parts; but has no right to be the only principle of such a separation. But after all, who can ever hope to accomplish such a divj.' sion ? or who can think it of importance that it ever should be accomplished! It is certainly a most daring undertaking with writings of such antiquity, having shewn that they are made up of distinct pieces, to point' out how many of these pieces there are, and even to which of them every word belongs. The most that we can hope to do is here and there to see where a fragment ends and another begins ; and occasionally to extract an entire piece; and to detect in some instances, as in the description of the flood, a mixture of two different accouots.
We have only to exa niue and compare with each other the three systems already mentioned, to be convinced that nothing further can be reasonably expected. The results are different, and the methods of proceeding arc dif
Do not ask me from whom came each of these primitive pieces, or how long, or in what manner, they have been transmitted. These inquiries, if they could lift themselves higher than mere conjecture, could hardly be contained in a letter; and it will be enough for you to the right understanding and feeling of those accounts to regard them as what they are, the voice of the fathers of the remotest ages : something like them all ancient nations possess; but no one that we yet know of has any thing to compare with these, short and echo-like as they are, in point of simplicity, exactness, and bistorical truth. The description of the creation begins ; (chap. 1 to 2. 3) and corresponde so well to the infancy of our race, to its first awaking in the world of God, to its needs respecting the disposal and division of time, labour and rest, and the noblest and simplest ideas and duties of its earthly condition ;-it is so well ordered and indivisible a whole, that I can conceive of nothing to surpass in originality and simplicity this
That it is a song, my ear does not tell me; and that it is no scientific cosmogony, but a natural first glance at the universe, men will probably believe now, on the word of the eloquent and venerable author* of “Considerations on the principal truths of re
ferent. Eichhorn resorts to very frequent interpolations : Ugen devises the idea of a first and second Elohist : Astruc, at a loss how to trace all to his two great sources, supposes no less than ten "memoirs" beside them: and after all is done, the same passages will sometimes be classed by one under the Elohim, and by another under the Jehovah memoir. This seems to indicate pretty strongly the futility of the whole attempt. But what is more positive on this subject is, that there aje other diversities observable in the different parts of Genesis, and those not of style merely but fact, with which the theory now under examination does not coincide. Parts, which could scarcely be produced by the same writer, are arranged under the same head by each of the learned men just mentioned. To select but one out of several instances :who can suppose that chap. 26. 34 and 36, 2, 3, are from the same author ? And yet they belong to the same Elohim document, according to the classification of Astruc and Eichhoro; and are placed by Igen in his first Elohist. The truth appears to be, that there are various indications, in the first book of Moses of a change of authors, beside the one which has been raised into such exclusive importance : and what entitles that to such an importance ? Many of the psalıns address Elohim throughout ; and many address Jehovab with equal exclusiveness. Yet has any one ever imagined from thence, that all the first are from one hand; and that all the others likewise are from one aod that a different hand? Certainly not. W'hy, then, should we apply such a supposition to the fragments of Genesis ?
* Jerusalein's “ Betrachtungen, &c."
ligion;" if they would not believe it on older authority. I cannot agree with the author of "the considerations," that Moses derived this account from Egyptian sources: the ideas and expressions, which seem Egyptian, are common to several nations ; and appear to be primeval thoughts and words, which have flowed out among many different people from the same fountain. What should an Egyptian piece do, introducing narratives that are any thing rather than Egyptian? and is it not entirely in the same spirit with those narratives, and the very original of them all ?--of the history of Paradise and the Fall I have written in the preceding letter: I repeat that I know nothing more childlike, whether we consider the relation itself, or the tone in which it is told. As for the dress of fable in which it is wrapped, that was thrown over it by the nature of the subject and the genius of the age : the origin of evil in the human condition can scarcely be treated otherwise; cannot, at least, be more usefully treated. It is like a fairy tale of the happy, alas vanished ! dream of infancy: and you may wonder at me for believing that, as in the description of the creation are contained the simplest natural philosophy, and system of the world, and origin of man ;-so in this is to be found the simplest philosophy respecting the tangled knots of human condition and its most complicated windings.-So it is with the history of the first tribes of men, their modes of life, inventions, excesses, fortunes; not forgetting the beautiful song of Lamech* on the invention of the sword. If you will read, upon this and much that precedes it, the second part of “Oldest Records ;"'t you will find that many ideas in it are now repeated in different forms by authors, who are in other respects wide asunder; and are confirmed by considerations of various kinds. The same remarks will apply to the history of the flood, which was probably compiled from several traditionary accounts ;-to the beautiful symbol of the
* The charms of this “ beautiful song" are certainly of a very accommodating kind. The fragment is two verses long, and has had perhaps as many constructions put opon it as it contains words. Some suppose that Lamech had really killed some young man for something; others under. stand him as declaring that he had never done any such thing; and others think that the words are mere rhodomontade," they will find me apt enough if they give me occasion." Some hear in them the language of remorse, others of exculpation ;--some of conjugal kindness, and others of rough boasting. Some contend that the piece relates to polygamy, and others are sure that it refers to the manufacture of arms. Isaac Delgado says, “this speech of Jamech to his wives is quite unintelligible:" but he immediately after takes courage, and goes ou with the true sturdy spi. rit of a commentator : “ Lamech's argument must have been this."
† Aelteste Urkunde des Menschengeschlechts.” Leipz. 1774.
rainbow, to the discovery of wine, to the most ancient of maps, (chapter 10th) and to the tradition of the tower-building, which seems in spirit to lift itself up with the growing height it describes. Over some of these accounts there lies still a heavy mist of antiquity; yet it is undeniable, that within a few years, and from the most different minds at once, much excellent illustration has been thrown upon them. Jerusalem's “ Considerations” are especially valuable as a leading work. Michaelis in his notes to the first book of Moses has said much well; but much also, as it seems to me, that is foreign from those compositions and the
of them. With the history of Abraham you cannot help feeling how the tone becomes nearer and more familiar. He was called from far, to be a pilgrim in a foreign land which was to belong to his posterity, as the friend of the Lord Jehovah; to stamp the name of that Being upon his race by means of monuments, observances, altars, and still more, through purity of manners, righteousness, and a steadfast faith. As for the manner, in which God conversed with him, and he with God; how, for example, he besought God on behalf of Sodom, and God showed him the stars, revealed the fortunes of his race, demanded of him his son, &c., nothing approaches the simplicity and nobleness as well of the subject as of the description. It is the same with his conduct towards Lot, Melchisedec, Isaac, Ishmael, Eliezer, the children of Heth: like soft rain on the tender
like the dew on roses, distils the artless narration. So goes on the history of his children, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph and his brethren: the most confidential, domestic, sincere, patriarchal and pastoral history. It is very common for men to prate, that the Hebrews have no historical style, and that the first book of Moses is a special proof of this. Nothing was ever more unintelligible to me than such an assumption. I hold the style of these, and of the simplest parts in the other historical books of the Hebrews, to be the very ideal of history for such times, customs, and people :-nay for the truest, best style of all history. 1 Try once, and tell a child something in an opposite style: indulge, for example, in little conceits, alter circumstances and phrases, and contradict yourself, for the sake of some pretty variety, in what you said a moment before ; or, instead of writing plainly, give into observations and pragmatical reflexions ;-the child will not attend to you, but will remind you
before relat. ed it thus and thus; and if he repeats it after you, he will repeat it like the books of Moses, the book of Ruth, the most delightful passages of Samuel and Kings. All the oldest writers of geBuine worth relate even so; Homer and Herodotus, Xenophon New Series--vol. III,
where he does not philosophize, and Livy where he does not interweave speeches : the last, however, speak agreeably to the diversity of their nations and eras. It is enough to show, that where history departs from this simple tone, through philosophy, fictions, impertinent reflexions, and long speeches, it may win in polished periods and rounded ornaments, but it loses the peculiar, the well connected pearls of truth, and comes at last to forfeit the name of history. Nothing in the world is more difficult than this simple style, that we should merely tell what happened, and not what we think, saw or conjecture; as you may easily satisfy yourself of by a single experiment. I do not mean that you
should essay that foolish manner, in which some dull witlings have endeavoured to render the chronicle style of the Bible ridiculous: Every language, age and history, has its own peculiar strain of narrative; and you find it so in these books, according to the difference of time and subject. The familiar, domestic style of the patriarchs, becomes, in the history of the march of the Israelites, in that of their heroes and warlike prophets, more solemn and bold; and often, as is very natural, wholly epic : the style should harmonize with the subject, without any obscurity or love of moralizing, so that the history may stand out naturally and alive. And it is in this very respect, I think, that these family pieces are models. Sublime and truly poetical as is much that we find in the language of the Deity, in the actions and blessings of the patriarchs, often in the mere silence and the easy manner of presenting the scene, when the most difficult events come to be recounted ;still nothing is sought, nothing is borrowed or artificial. I know of nothing nobler than the manner, in which God speaks to Abraham, and Abraham obeys; than the visions which he beholds; than his conference with Melchisedec and the King of Sodom. How magnificently wild, on the contrary, is the first adventure of the child Ishmael; and that prophecy of the angel respecting him in the wilderness! how suited to the history and the spot, to the character and destiny of that archer of the woods! Fearfully hurrying is the overthrow of Sodom, silently sublime the offering up of Isaac, sweetly loquacious the wooing of Rebecca ; the journeying of Isaac is full of timidity, and there is fragrance in his rural, paternal blessing. How secret and holy, again, is Jacob's vision of the opened heaven, and of the God of his fathers so near him! How bitter-sweet his service with Laban
; and how darkly heroic his night conflict with the unknown ; and in fine how infinitely versatile the intricate story of Joseph !--Try now the proof; alter any thing in the soft touches, in the apparent negligences and repetitions ; clothe these poetical features in the