Imágenes de páginas



of family interests and a common origin, by which these tribes, at an earlier period, had been connected ? and was there generally any such bond ?

Here certainly a religious element is conspicuous; for Jehovah, the ancestral god of the Hebrews, is represented as fighting for his faithful people?; and Chemosh, the god of the Moabites and Ammonites, also fights for his followers and gives them land to possess. But since accredited history only commences after the reigns of David and Solomon, we cannot depend with certainty on such testimony [as the book of Judges], and we are compelled first to have recourse to the remaining historical books, which were not composed until after the religious system of the nation had been completely developed. We may, however, here at once dispose of the objection put forward by Pustkuchen?, that it is utterly impossible for a monotheistic religion to subsist without the support of written records [by referring to the probable absence of early written documents in the Hebrew nation].

1 “Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess ? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.”Judges xi. 24.

? Untersuchungen (Researches), p. 167.




If we can find sufficient proof in the history of the Jews, that external circumstances (changing as they did in each successive period) must have powerfully contributed to impress the singular form of their national culture,—and if we are compelled, by the admissions of the history itself, to subscribe to the opinion of Jost", that in almost every instance the first impulse to all their leading tendencies was given from without,-we shall be prepared to proceed, without prejudice, to a closer examination of their religious system.

Analogy, beyond doubt, would lead us to infer, that the religious system must have passed through many successive steps of refinement, must have been modified by a great variety of foreign influences, and been gradually adapted to the circumstances of the nation by the seasonable ordinations of wise and inspired individuals, before it could become a ruling principle of action. In this examination, we shall take no further notice of that pious belief in a primæval wisdom and primæval monotheism so utterly destitute of all foundation in history, but shall

| Page 343.



follow the chronological order furnished by the books of the Old Testament. While the complete coincidence between these ancient portions of Hebrew literature and the general style of thought which prevails throughout the East, gives us the fullest assurance that we stand upon no uncertain ground, it justifies us in refusing all sanction to that narrow-minded doctrine which would attribute, in the case of the Jews, to the special plan of the Deity, that result which, according to the invariable laws of his providence, every nation is ordained to work out for itself, and which is necessarily determined by the external relations in which the people are successively placed.

There is one circumstance, of no small importance, which exercised a favourable influence on the religious development of the Hebrews, namely, that during their constant intercourse with the neighbouring nations, and while they were evidently inclined to adopt their superstitions, the people received their earliest admonitions from the mouths of their bards and sages, before an organized priesthood had worked its way to power. For if the whole control of a religion falls too early into the hands of the priests, and is imparted by them to the people, moulded into an established system, and guarded by set forms from every attempt at improvement, a time must certainly arrive (as the history of every nation shows,) when religion will burst her antiquated fetters, and adapt herself in a renovated form to the higher culture of the age: but the approach of this period will be proportionally retarded, wherever the hierarchy has entwined itself round the whole fabric of civil institutions, and penetrated into the recesses of social life. Everywhere, however, the sectarian spirit will begin by slow degrees to speculate on ancient dogmas; the ideas of other



nations will come into collision with those of native growth, until at length some gifted individual (often at the cost of great intellectual efforts) dares to break through the antiquated forms, and to call eternal truths into life. Many an empire, like the Egyptian, has fallen before it has arrived at this spiritual regeneration. Buddha among the Hindoos reformed the ancient Brahminism, Zoroaster among the Persians the worship of the Magi, and both diffused as much light as was possible in their age.

Among the lively Greeks the priesthood never struck so deep a root; the people remained therefore stationary, at nearly the same stage of religious culture which the Hebrews appear to have attained in the interval between David and the Babylonish captivity: this was the very period when the priesthood were striving to establish their authority, and were sometimes at variance both with the state and the prophets, occasionally uniting with them to effect the same ends, yet gradually increasing in their own power.

That the ancestral religion of the Israelites, like the general religion of the kindred tribes of Palestine, was a kind of rude polytheism, is admitted even by themselves, and this too in books which, if written in a more enlightened age, would assuredly have commenced with the stricter worship of Jehovah, had not the voice of history been so decidedly opposed to them. Household gods are mentioned even in the family of Abraham'; the book of Joshua exTHE PLURAL FORM “ELOHIM.”

1 “And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's......And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods ?Gen. xxxi. 19, 30.

" Then Jacob said unto his household, and all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments.”—Gen. xxxv. 2.


pressly states that polytheism had prevailed among the people at an earlier period in Mesopotamia and in Egypt?; and this polytheism, which down to the time of the Captivity never entirely disappeared, may still be traced in the plural form given to the name of the Deity, 'ělohim. This has been admitted, not only by many of the Rabbins?, but also by Le Clerc, Gabler, Eichhorn, Herder, and Ewald", and derives a striking confirmation from the fact, that in many cases, particularly when speaking of idolatry or holding intercourse with heathens, this name is employed with a plural verb and adjective“, –a sufficient proof that it was

1 “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.”—Joshua xxiv.14.

? Talm. Tract. Berach. p. 113; Uebers. von Rabe, Sepher Cosri, p. 256; Ezard, Avoda Sara, p. 196.

3 Krit. Gram. p. 641. .4 “ For God [Elohim] doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods [Elohim], knowing good and evil.”—Gen. iii. 5.

“ And it came to pass, when God [Elohim] caused me to wander from my father's house.”—Gen. xx. 13.

“ And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el : because there God [Elohim] appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.Gen. xxxv. 7.

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods (Elohim), which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.......And he received them (the golden earrings] at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf : and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt....... They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them : they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt....... For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us : for as for this Moses, the man that

« AnteriorContinuar »