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NEW SERIES-No. 14. (v. 3
For March and April, 1821.
The laws and bistory of Moses. How to read and regard them both, to separate and to connect them. Michaelis' “Comnentaries on the Laws of Moses," Jerusalem, Doederlein, Lilienthal. Hints of song collections in the Mosaic history. A fountain song, and an exulting triuinphal"
song. The poetical parts of the first book of Moses, about which you question me, must not be forgotten : but first let me go on with the general view of his facts. With the beginning of the second book comes the history of Moses himself,
of his people, and of his legislation. To read them aright you must preserve the same point of view as before; and in the first place distinguish between his laws and his history.
His Laws stand out prominently enough ; and seem to have been recorded fragment-wise in the order in which they were promulgated. After the general description, (Exod. xix. 3-6,) follow the words which God himself spake from the mount, (chap. xx.) and the laws which He prescribed, (chap. xxi-xxii.) The rest is a sketch of the tabernacle, and of what pertains to it, (chap. xxv-xxxi.) At the second retiring of Moses to the mount, (xxxiv. 10–26, there is an addition of several laws, which it was important for every Israelite to know ; and now the plan of the temple is executed. The whole third book of Moses seems to be a text-book for the priests; according to which they regulated the worship of God; decided upon clean and unclean, leprosy, degrees of consanguinity; appointed the seasons of festivals ; adNero Series - vol. III.
judged penalties, &c. These also are given fragment-wise and appended one to another, as the beginning and end of the several portions, often show. The consecration of Aaron and the fate of his sons naturally belong to this priestly code, partly as an example, and partly as a salutary warning.' in the fourth book we have supplements of various kinds, and more particular appointments ;- no doubt as time and occasion called for them : these are intermingled, as in the second book, with historical passages, army rolls, &c. which show them to have been gradually put together in the latter years of the journey through the wilderness. The fifth book is, as its name imports, a moving repetition and last review of the laws, by the law-giver himself a little before his death. He illustrates what needs explanation, supplies what is incomplete, and takes a noble leave of his people. Song and benediction (chap. xxxii. xxxiii.) are still the living memorials of his service and life; the mightiest of men, the greatest of lawgivers, dies on the borders of the untrodden, far-descried land.
It is not without reason that I have called your attention to this situation and shape of his laws. Suppose for a moment, that against certain circumstances of his history, of the leading forth of his people, of his marches and journeyings, unanswerable doubts might be suggested ; still they would relate only to such circumstances ; they would not affect the great essential of these books,—the records of the Mosaic legislation. In behalf of these, their genuine singleness, their simple fragmentary form, is a witness of their having been gradually composed, thus joined together, and judicially, as it were, attested. No hand dared to lay itself on these remains of the man of God, to bring them into any other order, or to dispose them in any other shape than those, which the original circumstances of their formation had given them. It appears to me that this primitive poverty and want of arrangement are the greatest possible attestations to the authenticity of
individual portion. Learn to regard Moses first in this point of view, as a lawgiver; and begin with reading his history merely as an illustration of that point : then will appear to you the expansion and sublimity of his spirit, his almost superhuman patience, fortitude and worth. Were nothing true of his miracles or his divine commission ; were all this but the poetical embellishment of later times to the long past and really remarkable history of their fathers; still the study of his laws and sentiments, his designs and deeds, would point out to you a man, who surpasses Lycurgus and Solon ; and who in some respects laid the corner-stone of the fabric of pure reason and philanthropic law, on which the most enlightened nations of the
world have since continued to build. He erected, I grant, no palace-temple of legislation, but a tabernacle; which was indeed small and antique and lowly, but so rich and so tull of purpose as perhaps no temple of state policy has ever been.
Our age affords excellent helps for the pursuit of this study. Michaelis? « Commentaries on the Laws of Moses” is a very learned disquisition on the Mosaie legislation. The last part of Jerusalem's “ Considerations” contains deep views into the spirit of these laws : this lamented man is the first theologian in Germany, that I know of, who has possessed such richness
of beautiful and philosophic attainments, and so truly a political discernment. If you would advance further, and look at the face of Moses through the veil of the Talmud, I may name to you a crowd of other aids, though for the most part of a mean order, of which Ughelli: has made a copious collection. You must not on this occasion be frightened at Spencer's hypothesis, that Moses had reference to the Egyptian laws. Spencer has sometimes carried it too far; but in itself nothing can be more natural than the supposition. Moses was one of the Egyptians; the Israelites came out of Egypt; their manner of thinking was formed there ; and if you adopt the idea of the most immediate inspiration, still it is to be considered that God has always accommodated himself to the human soul and its faculties, and never confounds or new models instead of leading them onwards. It was among the objects of the Mosaic legislation to be entirely separate and estranged from Egypt ; so that this theory not only has nothing profane in it, but leads us into a circle of local circumstances, which were employed for the promotion of the divine ends. At the same time, I do not advise you yet to read Spencer's work on the ritual laws of the Hebrews. I am confident that there will be still many new illustrations brought to sight, the more Egyptian antiquity developes itself in the Coptic tongue, and perhaps some time or other in its own primeval language of the Pharaohs. As yet all even of what has been discovered has not been applied to bear on this subject : the valuable works of Jablonski himself are not unmixed and clean gathered fruits.
“ But now for Moses and the wonderful HISTORY OF HIS MARCH. Who can assure us that he himself wrote it? That it was not rather put together in later times, when all had become marvellous tradition ; interpolated into the laws; and, since it was impossible then to discriminate, transmitted to future generationsa divine romance? Is not its whole form and tone almost a demonstration that such is the fact ?! No more than that of the history of the patriarchs, which precedes it, is a similar proof. He who will judge of the events and circumstances of that age of the world,