« AnteriorContinuar »
The Pentateuch makes its first appearance about the period of the Babylonish Exile, as is proved both by history and by the whole of its contents; and those who are not convinced of this by the proofs which have now been brought forward, would resist the evidence of any proofs.
It will be desirable, before we conclude, to make some special observations on the first portion of the Pentateuch (Genesis), as that which is especially devoted to the history of primæval times; but before we do so, we think it advisable to lay before the reader a short summary of the whole of the five books composing that work.
GENERAL REVIEW OF THE FIVE BOOKS OF THE
The Pentateuch forms a complete work in itself, and (leaving out of view the different degrees of antiquity possessed by particular parts, and the earlier appearance of Deuteronomy), the portions of which it is composed have been so arranged and adapted to each other as to form one continuous narrative down to the death of Moses. This narrative is continued in the book of Joshua, which fills up the interval that would otherwise occur, and forms a complete transition from the fragments of primæval history to the genuine records of the Israelitish nation.
The first book of the Pentateuch serves as an introduction to the others, and cannot be separated from them; for without the book of Genesis, a commencement would be wanting to the narrative of Moses and the departure from Egypt, to which this book appears with prophetic spirit to look forward. Its Greek name, Genesis, has been adopted, a potiori, from the importance of the subject of the Creation which forms the commencement of the book].
The book of Genesis may be divided into two principal sections,—the general mythology (chap. i.-xi. 9.),—and the particular history of the patriarchs, which last is formed
into a connected whole by the poetical blessing of the dying Jacob. These two sections are closely united; each supplies a motive for the other, and both are governed throughout by the same pervading objects. These objects wereto trace the descent of the Israelitish people in one unbroken line from the commencement of the world ; to show how the Deity had made the Hebrew race his peculiar care, from the earliest period of their existence, and who this Deity was; to relate how he had chosen the founders of the Hebrew nation to be his favourites, how he had separated them as a family from the rest of mankind, vouchsafed to aid them with his power and counsel, given them the land of Canaan for an eternal inheritance, and shown his favour to their increasing numbers by removing every hinderance from their path; and, lastly, how the third of the patriarchs [Jacob] left the land which had been promised to him, and journeyed into the land of Goshen, at the request of one of his sons who had risen to high honours in Egypt. In this manner we are prepared for the subsequent parts of the work; so that, properly speaking, the book of Genesis serves only as an introduction to the more important or legislative portion of the Pentateuch, which commences with the Exodus or departure of the family of Jacob from Egypt, from which circumstance the second book derives its name.
The book of Exodus describes the state of the Israelites when they were grown into a powerful people, during their wanderings through the Arabian desert, and down to the erection of a national sanctuary, which was called the tabernacle'. It is evident, therefore, that an interval of more than four hundred years must have intervened between the See supra, p. 174.
conclusion of the book of Genesis and the events recorded in Exodus: the tradition passes over these four centuries without notice, or rather, the author of the Pentateuch does not appear to find in them any opportunity for enlarging on the heroic deeds of his nation.
As in Genesis Abraham is the head and glory of his family,—the centre from whom everything proceeds,—so in Exodus, Moses occupies a like position as the founder of the Hebrew state. In the former case, however, the narrator was obliged to ascend beyond the lifetime of Abraham, in order to prove that the Hebrew nobility was in fact as ancient as the human race; but in the latter case no such introduction was required, for the Hebrew colony had been left in Goshen, which was emphatically called “the best of the land;" and since the horror which the patriarchs entertained of any intermarriage with strangers had been repeatedly mentioned, and the aversion of the Egyptians to shepherds had also been expressly recorded, the author could rest assured that no suspicion of degeneracy was likely to attach to his people. He lived moreover in a land whose inhabitants, although principally occupied in the breeding of cattle, had been compelled to devote some attention to tillage; it was a land of olive-trees and vines, where towns and villages had arisen, and many sources of profit had been opened by trade both at home and abroad; and thus it never occurred to him to make any further inquiries into the local peculiarities of eastern Egypt, or to fill up this long interval by describing the fixed settlement of the Israelites; but he introduces his nation at the end of this long period [of the 400 years in Egypt], under the same character of a wandering tribe in which they had appeared at its commencement. The Chronicles also adopt the same
GENESIS AND EXODUS.
supposition, for they speak of the Israelites as shepherds during their sojourn in Egypt'. We should consequently be doing violence to the meaning of the narrator were we to fill up the period spent in Egypt with conjectures of our own, or attempt to form a different conception of the degree of civilization of these Hebrew shepherds from that which he designed to convey. Nor should we be less in error if we were to suppose that the ancient valley of the Nile possessed all that the Pentateuch ascribed to it at the time when it was written ; or if we were, on the one hand, to infer that the Hebrews could have preserved their nationality unimpaired, merely because they were excluded as strangers from all direct intercourse with the Egyptians; or, on the other hand, to assume that they found in Egypt an admirable school which trained them by degrees to submit to a regular government, to a fixed abode in cities, and to the constant practice of agriculture, and that the character and customs of that remarkable land must have exercised a great and lasting influence on their own; or if we were lastly to imagine, with Ben David, that the religion of the Israelites was earlier than the time of Moses. All this is opposed to the narrative of the author; for, according to him, the Hebrew family is merely represented as increasing to a powerful nation, and receiving its constitution and religion, together with its priesthood and tabernacle, for the first time from Moses. On subjects which he does not mention we have no occasion to inquire, but need only direct our attention to the details with which he supplies us; and from these we learn, that the Egyptians
1 « And Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son, and Ezer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath that were born in that land slew, because they came down to take away their cattle.”—1 Chron. vii. 21.