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Introduction to the Old Testament by John Edgar McFadyen

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JOHN EDGAR McFADYEN, M.A. (Glas.) B.A. (Oxon.)

_Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis, Knox College,

To My Pupils Past and Present


This _Introduction_ does not pretend to offer anything to
specialists. It is written for theological students, ministers, and
laymen, who desire to understand the modern attitude to the Old
Testament as a whole, but who either do not have the time or the
inclination to follow the details on which all thorough study of it
must ultimately rest. These details are intricate, often perplexing,
and all but innumerable, and the student is in danger of failing to
see the wood for the trees. This _Introduction_, therefore,
concentrates attention only on the more salient features of the
discussion. No attempt has been made, for example, to relegate every
verse in the Pentateuch[1] to its documentary source; but the method
of attacking the Pentateuchal problem has been presented, and the
larger documentary divisions indicated.
[Footnote 1: Pentateuch and Hexateuch are used in this volume to
indicate the first five and the first six books of the Old Testament
respectively, without reference to any critical theory. As the first
five books form a natural division by themselves, and as their
literary sources are continued not only into Joshua, but probably
beyond it, it is as legitimate to speak of the Pentateuch as of the

It is obvious, therefore, that the discussions can in no case be
exhaustive; such treatment can only be expected in commentaries to
the individual books. While carefully considering all the more
important alternatives, I have usually contented myself with
presenting the conclusion which seemed to me most probable; and I
have thought it better to discuss each case on its merits, without
referring expressly and continually to the opinions of English and
foreign scholars.

In order to bring the discussion within the range of those who have
no special linguistic equipment, I have hardly ever cited Greek or
Hebrew words, and never in the original alphabets. For a similar
reason, the verses are numbered, not as in the Hebrew, but as in the
English Bible. I have sought to make the discussion read continuously,
without distracting the attention--excepting very occasionally-by
foot-notes or other devices.

Above all things, I have tried to be interesting. Critical
discussions are too apt to divert those who pursue them from the
absorbing human interest of the Old Testament. Its writers were men
of like hopes and fears and passions with ourselves, and not the
least important task of a sympathetic scholarship is to recover that
humanity which speaks to us in so many portions and so many ways
from the pages of the Old Testament. While we must never allow
ourselves to forget that the Old Testament is a voice from the
ancient and the Semitic world, not a few parts of it--books, for
example, like Job and Ecclesiastes--are as modern as the book that
was written yesterday.

But, first and last, the Old Testament is a religious book; and an
_Introduction_ to it should, in my opinion, introduce us not
only to its literary problems, but to its religious content. I have
therefore usually attempted--briefly, and not in any homiletic
spirit--to indicate the religious value and significance of its
several books.

There may be readers who would here and there have desiderated a
more confident tone, but I have deliberately refrained from going
further than the facts seemed to warrant. The cause of truth is not
served by unwarranted assertions; and the facts are often so difficult
to concatenate that dogmatism becomes an impertinence. Those who know
the ground best walk the most warily. But if the old confidence has
been lost, a new confidence has been won. Traditional opinions on
questions of date and authorship may have been shaken or overturned,
but other and greater things abide; and not the least precious is
that confidence, which can now justify itself at the bar of the most
rigorous scientific investigation, that, in a sense altogether unique,
the religion of Israel is touched by the finger of God.










































In the English Bible the books of the Old Testament are arranged,
not in the order in which they appear in the Hebrew Bible, but in
that assigned to them by the Greek translation. In this translation
the various books are grouped according to their contents--first the
historical books, then the poetic, and lastly the prophetic. This
order has its advantages, but it obscures many important facts of
which the Hebrew order preserves a reminiscence. The Hebrew Bible
has also three divisions, known respectively as the Law, the
Prophets, and the Writings. _The Law_ stands for the Pentateuch.
_The Prophets_ are subdivided into (i) the former prophets, that
is, the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings,
regarded as four in number; and (ii) the latter prophets, that is,
the prophets proper--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve
(i.e. the Minor Prophets). _The Writings_ designate all the rest
of the books, usually in the following order--Psalms, Proverbs, Job,
Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel,
Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles.

It would somewhat simplify the scientific study even of the English
Bible, if the Hebrew order could be restored, for it is in many ways
instructive and important. It reveals the unique and separate
importance of the Pentateuch; it suggests that the historical books
from Joshua to Kings are to be regarded not only as histories, but
rather as the illustration of prophetic principles; it raises a high
probability that Ruth ought not to be taken with Judges, nor
Lamentations with Jeremiah, nor Daniel with the prophets. It can be
proved that the order of the divisions represents the order in which
they respectively attained canonical importance--the law before 400
B.C., the prophets about 200 B.C., the writings about 100 B.C.--and,
generally speaking, the latest books are in the last division. Thus
we are led to suspect a relatively late origin for the Song and
Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles, being late, will not be so important a
historical authority as Kings. The facts suggested by the Hebrew
order and confirmed by a study of the literature are sufficient to
justify the adoption of that order in preference to that of the
English Bible.


The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified
language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement
upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation,
i.-ii. 4_a_, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the
far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and
religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it
becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and
moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of man's place and task in the
world, and of his need of woman's companionship, ii. 4_b_-25,
it plunges at once into an account, wonderful alike in its poetic
power and its psychological insight, of the tragic and costly[1]
disobedience by which the divine purpose for man was at least
temporarily frustrated (iii.). His progress in history is, morally
considered, downward. Disobedience in the first generation becomes
murder in the next, and it is to the offspring of the violent Cain
that the arts and amenities of civilization are traced, iv. 1-22.
Thus the first song in the Old Testament is a song of revenge,
iv. 23, 24, though this dark background of cruelty is not unlit by a
gleam of religion, iv. 26. After the lapse of ten generations (v.)
the world had grown so corrupt that God determined to destroy it by a
flood; but because Noah was a good man, He saved him and his household
and resolved never again to interrupt the course of nature in judgment
(vi.-viii.). In establishing the covenant with Noah, emphasis is laid
on the sacredness of blood, especially of the blood of man, ix. 1-17.
Though grace abounds, however, sin also abounds. Noah fell, and his
fall revealed the character of his children: the ancestor of the
Semites, from whom the Hebrews sprang, is blessed, as is also Japheth,
while the ancestor of the licentious Canaanites is cursed, ix. 18-27.
From these three are descended the great families of mankind (x.)
whose unity was confounded and whose ambitions were destroyed by the
creation of diverse languages, xi. 1-9.
[Footnote 1: Death is the penalty (iii. 22-24). Another explanation of
how death came into the world is given in the ancient and interesting
fragment vi. 1-4.]

It is against this universal background that the story of the
Hebrews is thrown; and in the new beginning which history takes with
the call of Abraham, something like the later contrast between the
church and the world is intended to be suggested. Upon the sombreness
of human history as reflected in Gen. i.-xi., a new possibility breaks
in Gen. xii., and the rest of the book is devoted to the fathers of
the Hebrew people (xii.-l.). The most impressive figure from a
religious point of view is Abraham, the oldest of them all, and the
story of his discipline is told with great power, xi. 10-xxv. 10.
He was a Semite, xi. 10-32, and under a divine impulse he migrated
westward to Canaan, xii. 1-9.

There various fortunes befell him--famine which drove him to Egypt,
peril through the beauty of his wife,[1] abounding and conspicuous
prosperity--but through it all Abraham displayed a true magnanimity
and enjoyed the divine favour, xii. 10-xiii., which was manifested
even in a striking military success (xiv.). Despite this favour,
however, he grew despondent, as he had no child. But there came to
him the promise of a son, confirmed by a covenant (xv.), the symbol
of which was to be circumcision (xvii.); and Abraham trusted God,
unlike his wife, whose faith was not equal to the strain, and who
sought the fulfilment of the promise in foolish ways of her own,[2]
xvi., xviii. 1-15. Then follows the story of Abraham's earnest but
ineffectual intercession for the wicked cities of the plain--a story
which further reminds us how powerfully the narrative is controlled
by moral and religious interests, xviii. 16-xix. Faith is rewarded
at last by the birth of a son, xxi. 1-7, and Abraham's prosperity
becomes so conspicuous that a native prince is eager to make a
treaty with him, xxi. 22-34. The supreme test of his faith came to
him in the impulse to offer his son to God in sacrifice; but at the
critical moment a substitute was providentially provided, and
Abraham's faith, which had stood so terrible a test, was rewarded by
another renewal of the divine assurance (xxii.). His wife died, and
for a burial-place he purchased from the natives a field and cave in
Hebron, thus winning in the promised land ground he could legally
call his own (xxiii). Among his eastern kinsfolk a wife is
providentially found for Isaac (xxiv.), who becomes his father's
heir, xxv. 1-6. Then Abraham dies, xxv. 7-11, and the uneventful
career of Isaac is briefly described in tales that partly duplicate[3]
those told of his greater father, xxv. 7-xxvi.
[Footnote 1: This story (xii. 10-20) is duplicated in xx.; also in
xxvi. 1-11 (of Isaac).]
[Footnote 2: The story of the expulsion of Hagar in xvi. is
duplicated in xxi. 8-21.]
[Footnote 3: xxvi. 1-11=xii. 10-20 (xx.); xxvi. 26-33=xxi. 22-34.]

The story of Isaac's son Jacob is as varied and romantic as his own
was uneventful. He begins by fraudulently winning a blessing from
his father, and has in consequence to flee the promised land,
xxvii.-xxviii. 9. On the threshold of his new experiences he was
taught in a dream the nearness of heaven to earth, and received
the assurance that the God who had visited him at Bethel would
be with him in the strange land and bring him back to his own,
xxviii. 10-22. In the land of his exile, his fortunes ran a very
checkered course (xxix.-xxxi.). In Laban, his Aramean kinsman, he
met his match, and almost his master, in craft; and the initial
fraud of his life was more than once punished in kind. In due time,
however, he left the land of his sojourn, a rich and prosperous man.
But his discipline is not over when he reaches the homeland. The past
rises up before him in the person of the brother whom he had wronged;
and besides reckoning with Esau, he has also to wrestle with God. He
is embroiled in strife with the natives of the land, and he loses his
beloved Rachel (xxxii.-xxxv.).

Into the later years of Jacob is woven the most romantic story of
all--that of his son Joseph (xxxvii.-l.)[1] the dreamer, who rose
through persecution and prison, slander and sorrow (xxxvii.-xl.) to
a seat beside the throne of Pharaoh (xli.). Nowhere is the providence
that governs life and the Nemesis that waits upon sin more dramatically
illustrated than in the story of Joseph. Again and again his guilty
brothers are compelled to confront the past which they imagined they
had buried out of sight for ever (xlii.-xliv.). But at last comes the
gracious reconciliation between Joseph and them (xlv.), the tender
meeting between Jacob and Joseph (xlvi.), the ultimate settlement of
the family of Jacob in Egypt,[2] and the consequent transference of
interest to that country for several generations. The book closes
with scenes illustrating the wisdom and authority of Joseph in the
time of famine (xlvii.), the dying Jacob blessing Joseph's sons
(xlviii.), his parting words (in verse) to all his sons (xlix.), his
death and funeral honours, l. 1-14, Joseph's magnanimous forgiveness
of his brothers, and his death, in the sure hope that God would one
day bring the Israelites back again to the land of Canaan, l. 15-26.
[Footnote 1: xxxvi. deals with the Edomite clans, and xxxviii. with
the clans of Judah.]
[Footnote 2: In one version they are not exactly in Egypt, but near
it, in Goshen (xlvii. 6).]

The unity of the book of Genesis is unmistakable; yet a close
inspection reveals it to be rather a unity of idea than of execution.
While in general it exhibits the gradual progress of the divine
purpose on its way through primeval and patriarchal history, in
detail it presents a number of phenomena incompatible with unity of
authorship. The theological presuppositions of different parts of
the book vary widely; centuries of religious thought, for example,
must lie between the God who partakes of the hospitality of Abraham
under a tree (xviii.) and the majestic, transcendent, invisible
Being at whose word the worlds are born (i.). The style, too,
differs as the theological conceptions do: it is impossible not to
feel the difference between the diffuse, precise, and formal style
of ix. 1-17, and the terse, pictorial and poetic manner of the
immediately succeeding section, ix. 18-27. Further, different
accounts are given of the origin of particular names or facts:
Beersheba is connected, e.g. with a treaty made, in one case,
between Abraham and Abimelech, xxi. 31, in another, between Isaac
and Abimelech, xxvi. 33. But perhaps the most convincing proof that
the book is not an original literary unit is the lack of inherent
continuity in the narrative of special incidents, and the occasional
inconsistencies, sometimes between different parts of the book,
sometimes even within the same section.

This can be most simply illustrated from the story of the Flood
(vi. 5ff.), through which the beginner should work for himself-at
first without suggestions from critical commentaries or introductions--as
here the analysis is easy and singularly free from complications;
the results reached upon this area can be applied and extended to
the rest of the book. The problem might be attacked in some such way
as follows. Ch. vi. 5-8 announces the wickedness of man and the
purpose of God to destroy him; throughout these verses the divine
Being is called Jehovah.[1] In the next section, _vv_. 9-13, He
is called by a different name--God (Hebrew, _Elohim_)--and we
cannot but notice that this section adds nothing to the last;
_vv_. 9, 10 are an interruption, and _vv_. 11-13 but a
repetition of _vv_. 5-8. Corresponding to the change in the
divine name is a further change in the vocabulary, the word for
_destroy_ being different in _vv_. 7 and 13. Verses 14-22
continue the previous section with precise and minute instructions
for the building of the ark, and in the later verses (cf. 18, 20)
the precision tends to become diffuseness. The last verse speaks of
the divine Being as God (Elohim), so that both the language and
contents of _vv_. 9-22 show it to be a homogeneous section.
Note that here, _vv_. 19, 20, two animals of every kind are to
be taken into the ark, no distinction being drawn between the clean
and the unclean. Noah must now be in the ark; for we are told that
he had done all that God commanded him, _vv_. 22, 18.
[Footnote 1: Wrongly represented by _the Lord_ in the English
version; the American Revised Version always correctly renders by
_Jehovah_. _God_ in v. 5 is an unfortunate mistake of A.V.
This ought also to be _the Lord_, or rather _Jehovah_.]

But, to our surprise, ch. vii. starts the whole story afresh with a
divine command to Noah to enter the ark; and this time, significantly
enough, a distinction is made between the clean and the unclean-seven
pairs of the former to enter and one pair of the latter (vii. 2). It
is surely no accident that in this section the name of the divine
Being is Jehovah, _vv_. 1, 5; and its contents follow naturally
on vi. 5-8. In other words we have here, not a continuous account,
but two parallel accounts, one of which uses the name God, the other
Jehovah, for the divine Being. This important conclusion is put
practically beyond all doubt by the similarity between vi. 22 and vii. 5,
which differ only in the use of the divine name. A close study of the
characteristics of these sections whose origin is thus certain will
enable us approximately to relegate to their respective sources other
sections, verses, or fragments of verses in which the important clue,
furnished by the name of the divine Being, is not present. Any verse,
or group of verses, e.g. involving the distinction between the clean
and the unclean, will belong to the _Jehovistic_ source, as it is
called (J). This is the real explanation of the confusion which
every one feels who attempts to understand the story as a unity. It
was always particularly hard to reconcile the apparently conflicting
estimates of the duration of the Flood; but as soon as the sources
are separated, it becomes clear that, according to the Jehovist, it
lasted sixty-eight days, according to the other source over a year
(vii. 11, viii. 14).

Brief as the Flood story is, it furnishes us with material enough to
study the characteristic differences between the sources out of
which it is composed. The Jehovist is terse, graphic, and poetic; it
is this source in which occurs the fine description of the sending
forth of the raven and the dove, viii. 6-12. It knows how to make a
singularly effective use of concrete details: witness Noah putting
out his hand and pulling the dove into the ark, and her final return
with an olive leaf in her mouth. A similarly graphic touch,
interesting also for the sidelight it throws on the Jehovist's
theological conceptions is that, when Noah entered the ark, "Jehovah
closed the door behind him," vii. 16. Altogether different is the
other source. It is all but lacking in poetic touches and concrete
detail of this kind, and such an anthropomorphism as vii. 16 would
be to it impossible. It is pedantically precise, giving the exact
year, month, and even day when the Flood came, vii. 11, and when it
ceased, viii. 13, 14. There is a certain legal precision about it
which issues in diffuseness and repetition; over and over again
occur such phrases as "fowl, cattle, creeping things, each after its
kind," vi. 20, vii. 14, and the dimensions of the ark are accurately
given. Where J had simply said, "Thou and all thy house," vii. 1,
this source says, "Thou and thy sons and thy wife and thy sons'
wives with thee," vi. 18. From the identity of interest and style
between this source and the middle part of the Pentateuch, notably
Leviticus, it is characterized as the priestly document and known to
criticism as P.

Thus, though the mainstay of the analysis, or at least the original
point of departure, is the difference in the names of the divine
Being, many other phenomena, of vocabulary, style, and theology, are
so distinctive that on the basis of them alone we could relegate
many sections of Genesis with considerable confidence to their
respective sources. In particular, P is especially easy to detect.
For example, the use of the term Elohim, the repetitions, the
precise and formal manner, the collocation of such phrases as "fowl,
cattle, creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth," i. 26 (cf.
vii. 21), mark out the first story of creation, i.-ii. 4_a_, as
indubitably belonging to P. Besides the stories of the creation and
the flood, the longest and most important, though not quite the only
passages[1] belonging to P are ix. 1-17 (the covenant with Noah),
xvii. (the covenant with Abraham), and xxiii. (the purchase of a
burial place for Sarah). This is a fact of the greatest significance.
For P, the story of creation culminates in the institution of the
Sabbath, the story of the flood in the covenant with Noah, with the law
concerning the sacredness of blood, the covenant with Abraham is sealed
by circumcision, and the purchase of Machpelah gives Abraham legal
right to a footing in the promised land. In other words the interests
of this source are legal and ritual. This becomes abundantly plain in
the next three books of the Pentateuch, but even in Genesis it may be
justly inferred from the unusual fulness of the narrative at these
four points.
[Footnote 1: The curious ch. xiv. is written under the influence of
P. Here also ritual interests play a part in the tithes paid to the
priest of Salem, v. 20 (i.e. Jerusalem). In spite of its array of
ancient names, xiv. 1, 2, which have been partially corroborated by
recent discoveries, this chapter is, for several reasons, believed
to be one of the latest in the Pentateuch.]

When we examine what is left in Genesis, after deducting the
sections that belong to P, we find that the word God (Elohim),
characteristic of P, is still very frequently and in some sections
exclusively used. The explanation will appear when we come to deal
with Exodus: meantime the fact must be carefully noted. Ch. xx.,
e.g., uses the word Elohim, but it has no other mark characteristic
of P. It is neither formal nor diffuse in style nor legal in spirit;
it is as concrete and almost as graphic as anything in J. Indeed the
story related--Abraham's denial of his wife--is actually told in
that document, xii. 10-20 (also of Isaac, xxvi. 1-11); and in
general the history is covered by this document, which is called the
Elohist[1] and known to criticism as E, in much the same spirit, and
with an emphasis upon much the same details, as by J. In opposition
to P, these are known as the prophetic documents, because they were
written or at least put together under the influence of prophetic
ideas. The close affinity of these two documents renders it much
more difficult to distinguish them from each other than to
distinguish either of them from P, but within certain limits the
attempt may be successfully made. The basis of it must, of course,
be a study of the duplicate versions of the same incidents; that is,
such a narrative as ch. xx., which uses the word God (Elohim) is
compared with its parallel in xii. 10-20, which uses the word
Jehovah, and in this way the distinctive features and interests of
each document will most readily be found. The parallel suggested is
easy and instructive, and it reveals the relative ethical and
theological superiority of E to J. J tells the story of Abraham's
falsehood with a quaint navet (xii.); E is offended by it and
excuses it (xx.). The theological refinement of E is suggested not
only here, xx. 3, 6, but elsewhere, by the frequency with which God
appears in dreams and not in bodily presence as in J (cf. iii. 8).
Similarly the expulsion of Hagar, which in J is due to Sarah's
jealousy (xvi.), in E is attributed to a command of God, xxi. 8-21;
and the success of Jacob with the sheep, which in J is due to his
skill and cunning, xxx. 29-43, is referred in E to the intervention
of God, xxxi. 5-12. In general it may be said that J, while
religious, is also natural, whereas E tends to emphasize the
supernatural, and thus takes the first step towards the austere
theology of P.[2]
[Footnote 1: In this way it is distinguished from P, which, as we
have seen, is also Elohistic, but is not now so called.]
[Footnote 2: A detailed justification of the grounds of the critical
analysis will be found in Professor Driver's elaborate and admirable
_Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament_, where
every section throughout the Hexateuch is referred to its special
documentary source. To readers who desire to master the detail, that
work or one of the following will be indispensable: _The Hexateuch_,
edited by Carpenter and Battersby, Addis's _Documents of the Hexateuch_,
Bacon's _Genesis of Genesis_ and _Triple Tradition of the Exodus_,
or Kent's _Student's Old Testament_ (vol. i.)]

J is the most picturesque and fascinating of all the sources-attractive
alike for its fine poetic power and its profound religious insight.
This is the source which describes the wooing of Isaac's bride (xxiv.),
and the meeting of Jacob and Rachel at the well, xxix. 2-14; in this
source, too, which appears to be the most primitive of all, there are
speaking animals--the serpent, e.g., in Genesis iii. (and the ass in
Num. xxii. 28). The story of the origin of sin, in every respect a
masterpiece, is told by J; we do not know whether to admire more the
ease with which Jehovah, like a skilful judge, by a few penetrating
questions drives the guilty pair to an involuntary confession, or
the fidelity with which the whole immortal scene reflects the eternal
facts of human nature. The religious teaching of J is extraordinarily
powerful and impressive, all the more that it is never directly
didactic; it shines through the simple and unstudied recital of
concrete incident.

It is one of the most delicate and not the least important tasks of
criticism to discover by analysis even the sources which lie so
close to each other as J and E, for the literary efforts represented
by these documents are but the reflection of religious movements.
They testify to the affection which the people cherished for the
story of their past; and when we have arranged them in chronological
order, they enable us further, as we have seen, to trace the
progress of moral and religious ideas. But, for several reasons, it
is not unfair, and, from the beginner's point of view, it is perhaps
even advisable, to treat these documents together as a unity:
_firstly_, because they were actually combined, probably in the
seventh century, into a unity (JE), and sometimes, as in the Joseph
story, so skilfully that it is very difficult to distinguish the
component parts and assign them to their proper documentary source;
_secondly_, because, for a reason to be afterwards stated,
beyond Ex. iii. the analysis is usually supremely difficult; and,
_lastly_, because in language and spirit, the prophetic
documents are very like each other and altogether unlike the
priestly document. For practical purposes, then, the broad
distinction into prophetic and priestly will generally be
sufficient. Wherever the narrative is graphic, powerful, and
interesting, we may be sure that it is prophetic,[1] whereas the
priestly document is easily recognizable by its ritual interests,
and by its formal, diffuse, and legal style.
[Footnote 1: If inconsistencies, contradictions or duplicates appear
in the section which is clearly prophetic, the student may be
practically certain that these are to be referred to the two
prophetic sources. Cf. the two derivations of the name of Joseph in
consecutive verses whose source is at once obvious: "_God_
(Elohim) has taken away my reproach" (E); and "_Jehovah_ adds
to me another son" (J), Gen. xxx. 23, 24. Cf. also the illustrations
adduced on pp. 13, 14.]

The documents already discussed constitute the chief sources of the
book of Genesis; but there are occasional fragments which do not
seem originally to have belonged to any of them. There were also
collections of poetry, such as the Book of Jashar (cf. Josh. x. 13;
2 Sam. i. 18), at the disposal of those who wrote or compiled the
documents, and to such a collection the parting words of Jacob may
have belonged (xlix.). The poem is in reality a characterization of
the various _tribes; v_. 15, and still more plainly _vv_.
23, 24, look back upon historical events. The reference to Levi,
_vv_. 5-7, which takes no account of the priestly prerogatives
of that tribe, shows that the poem is early (cf. xxxiv. 25); but the
description of the prosperity of Joseph (i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh),
_vv_. 22-26, and the pre-eminence of Judah, _vv_. 8-12,
bring it far below patriarchal times--at least into the period of
the Judges. If _vv_. 8-12 is an allusion to the triumphs of
David and _vv_. 22-26 to northern Israel, the poem as a whole,
which can hardly be later than Solomon's time--for it celebrates
Israel and Judah equally--could not be earlier than David's; but
probably the various utterances concerning the different tribes
arose at different times.

The religious interest of Genesis is very high, the more so as
almost every stage of religious reflection is represented in it,
from the most primitive to the most mature. Through the ancient
stories there gleam now and then flashes from a mythological
background, as in the intermarriage of angels with mortal women, vi.
1-4, or in the struggle of the mighty Jacob, who could roll away the
great stone from the mouth of the well, xxix. 2, 10, with his
supernatural visitant, xxxii. 24. It is a long step from the second
creation story in which God, like a potter, fashions men out of
moist earth, ii. 7, and walks in the garden of Paradise in the cool
of the day, iii. 8, to the first, with its sublime silence on the
mysterious processes of creation (i.). But the whole book, and
especially the prophetic section, is dominated by a splendid sense
of the reality of God, His interest in men, His horror of sin, His
purpose to redeem. Broadly speaking, the religion of the book stands
upon a marvellously high moral level. It is touched with humility-its
heroes know that they are "not worth of all the love and the faithfulness"
which God shows them, xxxii. 10; and it is marked by a true inwardness-for
it is not works but implicit trust in God that counts for righteousness,
xv. 16. Yet in practical ways, too, this religion finds expression in
national and individual life; it protests vehemently against human
sacrifice (xxii.), and it strengthens a lonely youth in an hour of
terrible temptation, xxxix.


The book of Exodus--so named in the Greek version from the march of
Israel out of Egypt--opens upon a scene of oppression very different
from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel
is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in
Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption.
Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates
largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a
deliverer, Moses, whose parentage, early training, and fearless love
of justice mark him out as the coming man (ii.). In the solitude and
depression of the desert, he is encouraged by the sight of a bush,
burning yet unconsumed, and sent forth with a new vision of God[1]
upon his great and perilous task (iii.). Though thus divinely
equipped, he hesitated, and God gave him a helper in Aaron his
brother (iv.). Then begins the Titanic struggle between Moses and
Pharaoh--Moses the champion of justice, Pharaoh the incarnation of
might (v.). Blow after blow falls from Israel's God upon the
obstinate king of Egypt and his unhappy land: the water of the Nile
is turned into blood (vii.), there are plagues of frogs, gnats,
gadflies (viii.), murrain, boils, hail (ix.), locusts, darkness
(x.), and--last and most terrible of all--the smiting of the first-born,
an event in connexion with which the passover was instituted. Then
Pharaoh yielded. Israel went forth; and the festival of unleavened
bread was ordained for a perpetual memorial (xi., xii.); also the
first-born of man and beast was consecrated, xiii. 1-16.
[Footnote 1: The story of the revelation of Israel's God under His
new name, Jehovah, is told twice (in ch. iii. and ch. vi.).]

Israel's troubles, however, were not yet over. Their departing
host was pursued by the impenitent Pharaoh, but miraculously delivered
at the Red Sea, in which the Egyptian horses and horsemen were
overwhelmed, xiii. l7-xiv. The deliverance was celebrated in a
splendid song of triumph, xv. 1-21. Then they began their journey
to Sinai--a journey which revealed alike the faithlessness and
discontent of their hearts, and the omnipotent and patient bounty
of their God, manifested in delivering them from the perils of
hunger, thirst and war, xv. 22-xvii. 16. On the advice of Jethro,
Moses' father-in-law, God-fearing men were appointed to decide for
the people on all matters of lesser moment, while the graver cases
were still reserved for Moses (xviii.)[1]The arrival at Sinai
marked a crisis; for it was there that the epoch-making covenant
was made--Jehovah promising to continue His grace to the people,
and they, on their part, pledging themselves to obedience. Thunder
and lightning and dark storm-clouds accompanied the proclamation
of the ten commandments,[2] which represented the claims made by
Jehovah upon the people whom He had redeemed, xix.-xx. 22. Connected
with these claims are certain statutes, partly of a religious but
much more of a civil nature, which Moses is enjoined to lay upon the
people, and obedience to which is to be rewarded by prosperity and
a safe arrival at the promised land, xx. 23-xxiii. 33. This section
is known as the Book of the Covenant, xxiv. 7. The people unitedly
promised implicit obedience to the terms of this covenant, which was
then sealed with the blood of sacrifice. After six days of
preparation, Moses ascended the mountain in obedience to the voice
of Jehovah (xxiv.).
[Footnote 1: This chapter is apparently misplaced. In Deut. i. 9-18
the incident is set just before the _departure from_ Sinai (cf.
i. 19). It may therefore originally have stood after Ex. xxxiv. 9 or
before Num. x. 29.]
[Footnote 2: Or rather, the ten words. In another source, the
commands are given differently, and are ritual rather than moral,
xxxiv. 10-28 (J).]

At this point the story takes on a distinctly priestly complexion,
and interest is transferred from the fortunes of the people to the
construction of the sanctuary, for which the most minute directions
are given (xxv.-xxxi.), concerning the tabernacle with all its
furniture, the ark, the table for the shewbread, the golden
candlestick (xxv.), the four-fold covering for the tabernacle, the
wood-work, the veil between the holy and the most holy place, the
curtain for the door (xxvi.), the altar, the court round about the
tabernacle, the oil for the light (xxvii.), the sacred vestments for
the high priest and the other priests (xxviii.), the manner of
consecration of the priests, the priestly dues, the atonement for
the altar, the morning and evening offering (xxix.), the altar of
incense, the poll-tax, the laver, the holy oil, the incense (xxx.),
the names and divine equipment of the overseers of the work of
constructing the tabernacle, the sanctity of the Sabbath as a sign
of the covenant (xxxi.).

After this priestly digression, the thread of the story is resumed.
During the absence of Moses upon the mount, the people imperilled
their covenant relationship with their God by worshipping Him in the
form of a calf; but, on the very earnest intercession of Moses they
were forgiven, and there was given to him the special revelation
of Jehovah as a God of forgiving pity and abounding grace. In the
tent to which the people regularly resorted to learn the divine will,
God was wont to speak to Moses face to face, xxxii. 1-xxxiv. 9.
Then follows the other version of the decalogue already referred
to--ritual rather than moral, xxxiv. l0-28--and an account of the
transfiguration of Moses, as he laid Jehovah's commands upon the
people, xxxiv. 29-35. From this point to the end of the book the
atmosphere is again unmistakably priestly. Chs. xxxv.-xxxix,
beginning with the Sabbath law, assert with a profusion of detail
that the instructions given in xxv.-xxxi. were carried out to the
letter. Then the tabernacle was set up on New Year's day, the divine
glory filled it, and the subsequent movements of the people were
guided by cloud and fire (xl.).

The unity of Exodus is not quite so impressive as that of Genesis.
This is due to the different proportion in which the sources are
blended, P playing a much more conspicuous part here than there.
Without hesitation, more than one-fourth of the book may be at once
relegated to this source: viz. xxv.-xxxi., which describe the
tabernacle to be erected with all that pertained to it, and xxxv.-xl.,
which relate that the instructions there given were fully carried out.
The minuteness, the formality and monotony of style which we noticed
in Genesis reappear here; but the real spirit of P, its devotion to
everything connected with the sanctuary and worship, is much more
obvious here than there. This document is also fairly prominent in
the first half of the book, and its presence is usually easy to detect.
The section, e.g., on the institution of the passover and the festival
of unleavened bread, xi. 9-xii. 20, is easily recognized as belonging
to this source. Of very great importance is the passage, vi. 2-13,
which describes the revelation given to Moses, asserting that the
fathers knew the God of Israel only by the name El Shaddai, while the
name of Jehovah, which was then revealed to Moses for the first time,
was unknown to them. The succeeding genealogy which traces the descent
of Moses and Aaron to Levi, vi. 14-30, and Aaron's commission to be
the spokesman of Moses, vii. 1-7, also come from P. This source also
gives a brief account of the oppression and the plagues, and the
prominence of Aaron the priest in the story of the latter is very
significant. In E the plagues come when _Moses_ stretches out
his hand or his rod at the command of Jehovah, ix. 22, x. 12, 21; in
P, Jehovah says to Moses, "Say unto _Aaron_, 'Stretch forth thy
hand' or 'thy rod,'" viii. 5, 16.

The story to which we have just alluded, of the revelation of the
name Jehovah, is also told in ch. iii., where it is connected with
the incident of the burning bush. Apart from the improbability of
the same document telling the same story twice, the very picturesque
setting of ch. iii, is convincing proof that we have here a section
from one of the prophetic documents, and we cannot long doubt which
it is. For while one of those documents (J), as we have seen, uses
the word Jehovah without scruple throughout the whole of Genesis,
and regards that name as known not only to Abraham, xv. 7, but even
to the antediluvians, iv. 26, the other regularly uses Elohim. This
prophetic story, then, of the revelation of the name Jehovah to
Moses, must belong to E, who deliberately avoids the name Jehovah
throughout Genesis, because he considers it unknown before the time
of Moses. This very fact, however, greatly complicates the
subsequent analysis of the prophetic documents in the Pentateuch;
because, from this point on, both are now free to use the name
Jehovah of the divine Being, and thus one of the principal clues to
the analysis practically disappears.[1] Considering the affinity of
these documents, it is therefore competent, as we have seen, to
treat them as a unity.
[Footnote 1: Naturally there are other very important and valuable
clues. e.g, the holy mount is called Sinai in J and Horeb in E.]

The proof, however, that both prophetic documents are really present
in Exodus, if not at first sight obvious or extensive, is at any
rate convincing. In one source, e.g. (J), the Israelites dwell by
themselves in a district called Goshen, viii. 22 (cf. Gen. xiv. 10);
in the other, they dwell among the Egyptians as neighbours, so that
the women can borrow jewels from them, iii. 22, and their doors have
to be marked with blood on the night of the passover to distinguish
them from the Egyptians, xii. 22. Again in J, the people number over
600,000, xii. 37; in E they are so few that they only require two
midwives, i. 15. Similar slight but significant differences may be
found elsewhere, particularly in the account of the plagues. In J,
e.g., Moses predicts the punishment that will fall if Pharaoh
refuses his request, and next day Jehovah sends it: in E, Moses
works the wonders by raising his rod. In Exodus, as in Genesis, J
reveals the divine through the natural, E rather through the
supernatural. It is an east wind, e.g., in J, as in the poem, xv.
10, that drives back the Red Sea, xiv. 21a (as it had brought the
locusts, x. 13); in E this happens on the raising of Moses' rod,
xiv. 16. Here again, as in Genesis, we find that E has taken the
first step on the way to P. For this miracle (in E) at the Red Sea,
which in J is essentially natural, and miraculous only in happening
at the critical moment, is considerably heightened in P, who relates
that the waters were a wall unto the people on the right hand and on
the left, xiv. 22.

These three great documents constitute the principal sources of the
book of Exodus; but here, as in Genesis, there are fragments that
belong to a more primitive order of ideas than that represented by
the compilers of the documents (cf. iv. 24-26); there is, besides
the two decalogues, a body of legislation, xx. 23-xxiii. 33; and
there is a poem, xv. 1-18. _The Book of the Covenant_, as it is
called, is a body of mainly civil but partly religious law,
practically independent of the narrative. The style and contents of
the code show that it is not all of a piece, but must have been of
gradual growth. The 2nd pers. sing., e.g., sometimes alternates with
the pl. in consecutive verses, xxii. 21, 22. Again, while some of
the laws state, in the briefest possible words, the official penalty
attached to a certain crime, xxi. 12, others are longer and
introduce a religious sanction, xxii. 23, 24, and a few deal
definitely with religious feasts, xxiii. 14-19, obligations, xxii.
29-31, or sanctuaries, xx. 23-26. In general, the code implies the
settled life of an agricultural and pastoral people, and the
community for which it is designed must have already attained a
certain measure of organization, as we must assume that there were
means for enacting the penalties threatened. A remarkably
humanitarian spirit pervades the code. It mitigates the lot of the
slave, it encourages a spirit of justice in social relations, and it
exhibits a fine regard for the poor and defenceless, xxii. 21-27. It
probably represents the juristic usages, or at least ideals, of the
early monarchy.

_The Song of Moses_, xv. 1-18, also appears to belong to the
monarchy. The explicit mention of Philistia, Edom and Moab in
_vv_. 14, 15 imply that the people are already settled in
Canaan, and the sanctuary in _v. 17b_ is most naturally, if not
necessarily, interpreted of the temple. The poem appears to be an
elaboration of the no doubt ancient lines:

Sing to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously;
The horse and his rider He hath thrown into the sea (xv. 21).

The religious, as opposed to the theological, interest of the book
lies entirely within the prophetic sources. Here the drama of
redemption begins in earnest, and it is worked out on a colossal
scale. From his first blow struck in the cause of justice to the day
on which, in indignation and astonishment, he destroyed the golden
calf, Moses is a figure of overwhelming moral earnestness. Few books
in the Old Testament have a higher conception of God than Exodus.
The words of the decalogue are His words, xx. 1, and the protest
against the calf-worship (xxxii.-xxxiv.) is an indirect plea for His
spirituality. But the highest heights are touched in the revelation
of Him as merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in
goodness and truth, xxxiv. 6--a revelation which lived to the latest
days and was cherished in these very words by the pious hearts of
Israel (cf. Pss. lxxxvi. 15; ciii. 8; cxi. 4; cxlv. 8).


The emphasis which modern criticism has very properly laid on the
prophetic books and the prophetic element generally in the Old
Testament, has had the effect of somewhat diverting popular
attention from the priestly contributions to the literature and
religion of Israel. From this neglect Leviticus has suffered most.
Yet for many reasons it is worthy of close attention; it is the
deliberate expression of the priestly mind of Israel at its best, and
it thus forms a welcome foil to the unattractive pictures of the
priests which confront us on the pages of the prophets during the
three centuries between Hosea and Malachi. And if we should be
inclined to deplore the excessively minute attention to ritual, and
the comparatively subordinate part played by ethical considerations
in this priestly manual, it is only fair to remember that the hymn-book
used by these scrupulous ministers of worship was the Psalter-enough
surely to show that the ethical and spiritual aspects of religion,
though not prominent, were very far from being forgotten. In xvii.-xxvi.
the ethical element receives a fine and almost surprising prominence:
the injunction to abstain from idolatry, e.g., is immediately preceded
by the injunction to reverence father and mother, xix. 3,4. Indeed,
ch. xix. is a good compendium of the ethics of ancient Israel; and,
while hardly to be compared with Job xxxi., still, in its care for the
resident alien, and in its insistence upon motives of benevolence and
humanity, it is an eloquent reminder of the moral elevation of Israel's
religion, and is peculiarly welcome in a book so largely devoted to the
externals of the cult.

The book of Leviticus illustrates the origin and growth of law.
Occasionally legislation is clothed in the form of narrative--the
law of blasphemy, e.g., xxiv. 10-23 (cf. x. 16-20)--thus suggesting
its origin in a particular historical incident (cf. I Sam. xxx. 25);
and traces of growth are numerous, notably in the differences
between the group xvii.-xxvi. and the rest of the book, and very
ancient heathen elements are still visible through the
transformations effected by the priests of Israel, as in the case of
Azazel xvi. 8,22, a demon of the wilderness, akin to the Arabic
jinns. Strictly speaking, though Leviticus is pervaded by a single
spirit, it is not quite homogeneous: the first group of laws, e.g.
(i.-vii.), expressly acknowledges different sources--certain laws
being given in the tent of meeting, i. 1, others on Mount Sinai,
vii. 38. The sections are well defined--note the subscriptions at
the end of vii. and xxvi.--and marked everywhere by the scrupulous
precision of the legal mind.

There is no trace in Leviticus of the prophetic document JE. That
the book is essentially a law book rather than a continuation of the
narrative of the Exodus is made plain by the fact that that
narrative (Ex. xl.) is not even formally resumed till ch. viii.


_(a) For worshippers_, i.-vi. 7. Laws for the burnt offering of
the herd, of the flock, and of fowls (i.). Laws for the different
kinds of cereal offerings--the use of salt compulsory, honey and
leaven prohibited (ii.). Laws for the peace-offering--the offerer
kills it, the priest sprinkles the blood on the sides of the altar
and burns the fat (iii.) For an unconscious transgression of the
law, the high priest shall offer a bullock, the community shall
offer the same, a ruler shall offer a he-goat, one of the common
people shall offer a female animal (iv.). A female animal shall be
offered for certain legal and ceremonial transgressions; the poor
may offer two turtle doves, or pigeons, or even flour, v. 1-13.
Sacred dues unintentionally withheld or the property of another man
dishonestly retained must be restored together with twenty per cent.
extra, v. 14-vi. 7.

_(b) For priests_, vi. 8-vii. 38. Laws regulating the daily
burnt offering, the cereal offering, the daily cereal offering of
the high priest, and the ordinary sin offering, vi. 8-30. Laws
regulating the guilt offering, the priests' share of the sacrifices,
the period during which the flesh of sacrifice may be eaten, the
prohibition of the eating of fat and blood (vii.).


This section is the direct continuation of Exodus xl., which
prescribes the inauguration of Aaron and his sons into the priestly
office. Laws regulating the consecration of the high priest and the
other priests--washing, investiture, anointing, sin offering, burnt
offering, with accompanying rites (viii., cf. Exod. xxix.). The
first sacrificial service at which Aaron and his sons officiate--the
benediction being followed by the appearance of Jehovah's glory
(ix.). The first violation of the law of worship and its signal
punishment, x. 1-7. Officiating priests forbidden to use wine,
x. 8-11. Priests' share of the meal and peace offerings, x. 12-15.
An error forgiven after an adroit explanation by Aaron (law in
narrative form), x. 16-20.


This section appropriately follows x. 10, where the priests are
enjoined to distinguish between the clean and the unclean. Laws
concerning the animals which may or may not be eaten--quadrupeds, fish,
birds, flying insects, creeping insects, reptiles--and pollution
through contact with carcasses (xi.). Laws concerning the purification
of women after childbirth (xii.). Laws for the detection of leprosy
in the human body, xiii. 1-46, and in garments, xiii. 47-59. Laws for
the purification of the leper and his re-adoption into the theocracy,
xiv. 1-32. Laws concerning houses afflicted with leprosy, xiv. 33-57.
Laws concerning purification after sexual secretions (xv.). The laws
of purification are appropriately concluded by the law for the great day
of atonement, with regulations for the ceremonial cleansing of the high
priest and his house, the sanctuary, altar, and people (xvi.). Two
originally independent sections appear to be blended in this chapter-one
(cf. _vv._ 1-4) prescribing regulations to be observed by the high
priest on every occasion on which he should enter the inner sanctuary,
the other with specific reference to the great day of atonement.

IV. LAW OF HOLINESS (xvii.-xxvi.)

This section, though still moving largely among ritual interests,
differs markedly from the rest of the book, partly by reason of its
hortatory setting (cf. xxvi.), but especially by its emphasis on the
ethical elements in religion. It has been designated the Law of
Holiness because of the frequently recurring phrase, "Ye shall be
holy, for I, Jehovah, am holy," xix. 2, xx. 26--a phrase which,
though not peculiar to this section (cf. xi. 44), is highly
characteristic of it. Animals are to be slaughtered for food or
sacrifice only at the sanctuary xvii. 1-9; the blood and flesh of
animals dying naturally or torn by beasts is not to be eaten, xvii.
10-16. Laws regulating marriage and chastity with threats of dire
punishment for violation of the same (xviii.). Penalties for Moloch
worship, soothsaying, cursing of parents and unchastity (xx.), with
a hortatory conclusion, xx. 22-24, similar to xviii. 24-30.

Ch. xix. is the most prophetic chapter in Leviticus, and bears a
close analogy to the decalogue, _vv_. 3-8 corresponding to the
first table, and _vv_. 11-18 to the second. The holiness which
Jehovah demands has to express itself not only in reverence for
Himself and His Sabbaths, but in reverence towards parents and the
aged; in avoiding not only idolatry and heathen superstition, but
dishonesty and unkindness to the weak. The ideal is a throroughly
moral one. A modern reader is surprised to find in so ethical a
chapter a prohibition of garments made of two kinds of stuff mingled
together _v_. 19; no doubt such a prohibition is aimed at some
heathen superstition--perhaps the practice of magic.

Laws concerning priests and sacrifices (xxi., xxii.). The holiness
of the priests is to be maintained by avoiding, as a rule (without
exception in the case of the high priest), pollution through corpses
and participation in certain mourning rites, and by conforming to
certain conditions in their choice of a wife. The physically
deformed are to be ineligible for the priesthood (xxi.). Regulations
to safeguard the ceremonial purity of the sacred food: imperfect or
deformed animals ineligible for sacrifice (xxii.). In ch. xxiii.,
which is a calendar of sacred festivals, the festivals are
enumerated in the order in which they occur in the year, beginning
with spring--the passover, regarded as preliminary to the feast of
unleavened bread; the feast of weeks (Pentecost) seven weeks
afterwards; the new year's festival, on the first day of the seventh
month; the day of atonement; and the festival of booths. There are
signs that the section dealing with new year's day and the day of
atonement, _vv_. 23-32, is later than the original form of the
rest of the chapter dealing with the three great ancient festivals
that rested on agriculture and the vintage. Of kindred theme to this
chapter is ch. xxv.--the sacred years--(_a_) the sabbatical
year: the land, like the man, must enjoy a Sabbath rest, _vv_.
1-7; _(b_) the jubilee year, an intensification of the Sabbatical
idea: every fiftieth year is to be a period of rest for the land,
liberation of Hebrew slaves, and restoration of property to its
original owners or legal heirs, _vv_. 8-55. In xxiv. 1-9, are
regulations concerning the lampstand and the shewbread; the law, in
the form of a narrative, prohibiting blasphemy, _vv_. 10-23, is
interrupted by a few laws concerning injury to the person,
_vv_. 17-22.

The _laws of holiness_ conclude (xxvi.) with a powerful
exposition of the blessing which will follow obedience and the curse
which is the penalty of disobedience. The curse reaches a dramatic
climax in the threat of exile, from which, however, deliverance is
promised on condition of repentance.

Ch. xxvii. constitutes no part of the Law of Holiness--note the
subscription in xxvi. 46. It contains regulations for the commutation
of vows (whether persons, cattle or things) and tithes-commutation
being inadmissible in the case of firstlings of animals fit for
sacrifice and of things and persons that had come under the ban.

Special importance attaches to the Law of Holiness, known to
criticism as H (xvii.-xxvi.). In its interest in worship, it marks a
very long advance on the Book of the Covenant (Exod. xxi.-xxiii.),
and it would seem to stand somewhere between Deuteronomy and the
priestly codex. It is profoundly interested, like the former, in the
ethical side of religion, and yet it is almost as deeply concerned
about ritual as the latter. But though it may be regarded as a
preliminary step to the priestly code, it is clearly distinguished
from it, both by its tone and its vocabulary: the word for idols,
e.g. (things of nought), xix. 4, xxvi. 1, does not occur elsewhere
in the Pentateuch. It specially emphasizes the holiness of Jehovah;
as has been said, in H He is the person _to whom_ the cult is
performed, while the question of _how_ is more elaborately
dealt with in P. There are stray allusions which almost seem to
point to pre-exilic days; e.g. to idols, xxvi. 30, Moloch being
explicitly mentioned, xviii. 21, xx. 2; and the various sanctuaries
presupposed by xxvi. 31 would almost seem to carry us back to a
point before the promulgation of Deuteronomy in 621 B.C.; but on the
other hand the exile appears to be presupposed in xviii. 24-30,
xxvi. 34. This code, like all the others in the Old Testament, was
no doubt the result of gradual growth--note the alternation of 2nd
pers. sing. and pl. in ch. xix.--but the main body of it may be
placed somewhere between 600 and 550 B.C. The section bears so
strong a resemblance to Ezekiel that he has been supposed by some to
be the author, but this is improbable.

It is easy to see how the minuteness of the ritual religion of
Leviticus could degenerate into casuistry. Its emphasis on externals
is everywhere visible, and its lack of kindly human feeling is only
too conspicuous in its treatment of the leper, xiii. 45, 46. But
over against this, to say nothing of the profound symbolism of the
ritual, must be set the moral virility of the law of holiness--its
earnest inculcation of commercial honour, reverence for the aged,
xix. 32, and even unselfish love. For it is to this source that we
owe the great word adopted by our Saviour, "Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself," xix. 18, though the first part of the verse
shows that this noble utterance still moves within the limitations
of the Old Testament.


Like the last part of Exodus, and the whole of Leviticus, the first
part of Numbers, i.-x. 28--so called,[1] rather inappropriately,
from the census in i., iii., (iv.), xxvi.--is unmistakably priestly
in its interests and language. Beginning with a census of the men of
war (i.) and the order of the camp (ii.), it devotes specific
attention to the Levites, their numbers and duties (iii., iv.). Then
follow laws for the exclusion of the unclean, v. 1-4, for
determining the manner and amount of restitution in case of fraud,
v. 5-10, the guilt or innocence of a married woman suspected of
unfaithfulness, v. 11-31, and the obligations of the Nazirite vow,
vi. 1-21. This legal section ends with the priestly benediction, vi.
22-27. Then, closely connected with the narrative in Exodus xl., is
an unusually elaborate account of the dedication gifts that were
offered on the occasion of the erection of the tabernacle (vii.).
This quasi-historical interlude is again followed by a few sections
of a more legal nature--instructions for fixing the lamps upon the
lampstand, viii. 1-4, for the consecration of the Levites and their
period of service, viii. 5-26, for the celebration of the passover,
and, in certain cases, of a supplementary passover, ix. 1-14. Then,
with the divine guidance assured, and the order of march determined,
the start from Sinai was made, ix. 15-x. 28.
[Footnote 1: In the Greek version, followed by the Latin. This is
the only book of the Pentateuch in which the English version has
retained the Latin title, the other titles being all Greek. The
Hebrew titles are usually borrowed from the opening words of the
book. The Hebrew title of Numbers is either "And he said" or "in the
wilderness"; the latter is fairly appropriate--certainly much more
so than the Greek.]

At this point, the old prophetic narrative (Exod. xxxii.-xxxiv.),
interrupted by Exodus xxxv. 1-Numbers x. 28, is resumed with an
account of the precautions taken to secure reliable guidance through
the wilderness, x. 29-32, and a very interesting snatch of ancient
poetry, through which we may easily read the unique importance of
the ark for early Israel, x. 33-36. The succeeding chapters make no
pretence to be a connected history of the wilderness period; the
incidents with which they deal are very few, and these are related
rather for their religious than their historical significance, e.g.
the murmuring of the people, the terrible answer to their prayer for
flesh, the divine equipment of the seventy elders, the magnanimity
of Moses (xi.), and the vindication of his prophetic dignity (xii.).
Before the actual assault on Canaan, spies were sent out to
investigate the land. But the people allowed themselves to be
discouraged by their report, and for their unbelief the whole
generation except Caleb (and Joshua)[1] was doomed to die in the
wilderness, without a sight of the promised land (xiii., xiv.). The
thread of the narrative, broken at this point by laws relating to
offerings and sacrifices, xv. 1-31, the hallowing of the Sabbath,
xv. 32-36, and the wearing of fringes, xv. 37-41, is at once resumed
by a complicated account of a rebellion against Moses, which ended
in the destruction of the rebels, and in the signal vindication of
the authority of Moses, the privileges of the tribe of Levi, and the
exclusive right of the sons of Aaron to the priesthood (xvi.,
xvii.). Again the narrative element gives place to legislation
regulating the duties, relative position and revenues of the priests
and Levites (xviii.) and the manner of purification after defilement
[Footnote 1: Caleb alone in JE, Joshua also in P.]

These laws are followed by a section of continuous narrative. Moses
and Aaron, for certain rebellious words, are divinely warned that
they will not be permitted to bring the people into the promised
land--a warning which was followed soon afterwards by the death of
Aaron on Mount Hor. Edom haughtily refused Israel permission to pass
through her land (xx.). Sore at heart, they fretted against God and
Moses, and deadly serpents were sent among them in chastisement, but
the penitent and believing were restored by the power of God and the
intercession of Moses. Then Israel turned north, and began her career
of conquest by defeating Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of
Bashan (xxi.). Her success struck terror into the heart of Balak, the
king of Moab; he accordingly sent for Balaam, a famous soothsayer,
with the request that he would curse Israel (xxii.). Instead, however,
he foretold for her a splendid destiny (xxiii., xxiv.). But the reality
fell pitifully short of this fair ideal, for Israel at once succumbed
to the seductions of idolatry and impurity,[1] and the fearful punishment
which fell upon her for her sin was only stayed by the zeal of Phinehas,
the high priest's son, who was rewarded with the honour of perpetual
priesthood, xxv. 1-15. Implacable enmity was enjoined against Midian,
xxv. 16-18.
[Footnote 1: Moabite idolatry, and intermarriage with the Midianites--
ultimately, it would seem, the same story. JE gives the beginning of
it, _vv_. 1-5, and P the conclusion, _vv_. 6-18.]

From this point to the end of the book the narrative is, with few
exceptions, distinctly priestly in complexion; the vivid scenes of
the older narrative are absent, and their place is taken, for the
most part, either by statistics and legislative enactments or by
narrative which is only legislation in disguise. A census (xxvi.)
was taken at the end, as at the beginning of the wanderings (i.),
which showed that, except Caleb and Joshua, the whole generation had
perished (cf. xiv. 29, 34). Then follow sections on the law of
inheritance of daughters, xxvii. 1-11, the announcement of Moses'
imminent death and the appointment of Joshua his successor, xxvii.
12-23, a priestly calendar defining the sacrifices appropriate to
each season (xxviii., xxix.), and the law of vows (xxx.). In
accordance with the injunction of xxv. 16-18 a war of extermination
was successfully undertaken against Midian (xxxi.). The land east of
the Jordan was allotted to Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of
Manasseh, on condition that they would help the other tribes to
conquer the west (xxxii.). Following an itinerary of the wanderings
from the exodus to the plains of Moab (xxxiii.) is a description of
the boundaries of the land allotted to the various tribes (xxxiv.),
directions for the Levitical cities and the cities of refuge
(xxxv.), and, last of all, a law in narrative form, determining that
heiresses who possessed landed property should marry into their own
tribe (xxxvi.).

Even this brief sketch of the book of Numbers is enough to reveal
the essential incoherence of its plan, and the great divergence of
the elements out of which it is composed. No book in the Pentateuch
makes so little the impression of a unity. The phenomena of Exodus
are here repeated and intensified; a narrative of the intensest
moral and historical interest is broken at frequent intervals by
statistical and legal material, some of which, at least, makes hardly
any pretence to be connected with the main body of the story. By far
the largest part of the book comes from P, and most of it is very
easy to detect. No possible doubt, e.g., can attach to i.-x., 28, with
its interest in priests, Levites, tabernacle and laws. As significant
as the contents is the style which is not seldom diffuse to tediousness,
e.g., in the account of the census (i.), the dedication gifts (vii.),
or the regulation of the movements of the camp by the cloud, ix. 15-23.
Ch. xv., with its laws for offerings, sacrifices and the Sabbath,
ch. xvii., with its vindication of the special prerogatives of the
tribe of Levi, and chs. xviii., xix., which regulate the duties and
privileges of priests and Levites, and the manner of purification, are
also unmistakable. Chs. xxvi.-xxxi., as even the preliminary sketch of
the book would suggest, must, for similar reasons, also have the same
origin. To P also clearly belong xxxiii. and xxxiv. with their statistical
bent, and xxxv. and xxxvi. with their interest in the Levites and
legislation. Besides these sections, however, the presence of P is
certain--though not always so easily detected, as it is in combination
with JE--in some of the more distinctively narrative sections, e.g. in
the account of the spies (xiii., xiv.), of the rebellion against the
authority of Moses and Aaron (xvi.), of the sin of Moses and Aaron,
xx. 1-13, and of the settlement east of the Jordan (xxxii.). About
such narratives as the death of Aaron, xx. 22-29, or the zeal and
reward of Phinehas, xxv. 6-18, there can be no doubt.

With the exception of a few odd verses, all that remains, after
deducting the passages referred to, belongs to the prophetic
narrative (JE). The radical difference in point of style and
interests between JE and P occasionally extends even to their
account of the facts. The story of the spies furnishes several
striking illustrations of this difference. In JE they go from the
wilderness to Hebron in the south of Judah, xiii. 22, in P they go
to the extreme north of Palestine, xiii. 21. In JE Caleb is the only
faithful spy, xiii. 30, xiv. 24, P unites him with Joshua, xiv.
6,38. In JE the land is fertile, but its inhabitants are invincible,
in P it is a barren land. The story of the rebellion of Korah,
Dathan and Abiram is peculiarly instructive (xvi.). It will be
noticed that Dathan and Abiram are occasionally mentioned by
themselves, _vv_. 12, 25, and Korah by himself, _vv_. 5,
19. If this clue be followed up, it will be found that the rebellion
of Dathan and Abiram is essentially against the authority of Moses,
whom they charge with disappointing their hopes, _vv_. 13, 14.
On the other hand, the rebellion headed by Korah is traced to two
sources:[1] it is regarded in one of these as a layman's protest
against the exclusive sanctity of the tribe of Levi, _v_. 3,
and, in the other, as a Levitical protest against the exclusive
right of the sons of Aaron to the priesthood, _vv_. 8-11.
Perhaps the most striking difference between JE and P is in the
account of the ark. In JE it goes before the camp, x. 33 (cf. Exod.
xxxiii. 7), in P the tabernacle, to which it belongs, is in the
centre of the camp, ii. 17, which is foursquare.
[Footnote 1: Two strata of P are plainly visible here.]

Much more than in Genesis, and even more than in Exodus have J and E
been welded together in Numbers--so closely, indeed, that it is
usually all but impossible to distinguish them with certainty; but,
here, as in Exodus, there are occasional proofs of compositeness.
The apparent confusion of the story of Balaam, e.g. (xxii.), in
which God is angry with him after giving him permission to go, is to
be explained by the simple fact that the story is told in both
sources. This duplication extends even to the poetry in chs. xxiii.
and xxiv. (cf. xxiv. 8, 9, xxiii. 22, 24).

There is not a trace of P in the Balaam story. All the romantic and
religious, as opposed to the legal and theological interest of the
book, is confined to the prophetic section (JE); and it greatly to
be regretted that more of it has not been preserved. The structure
of the book plainly shows that it has been displaced in the
interests of P, and from the express reference to the "ten times"
that Israel tempted Jehovah, xiv. 22, we may safely infer that much
has been lost. But what has been preserved is of great religious,
and some historical value. Of course, it is not history in the
ordinary sense: a period of thirty-eight years is covered in less
than ten chapters (x. II-xix.). But much of the material, at least
in the prophetic history JE, rests on a tradition which may well
have preserved some of the historical facts, especially as they were
often embalmed in poetry.

The book of Numbers throws some light on the importance of ancient
poetry as a historical source. It cites a difficult fragment and
refers it to the book of the wars of Jehovah, xxi. 14, it confirms
the victory over Sihon by a quotation from a war-ballad which is
referred to a guild of singers, xxi. 27, it quotes the ancient words
with which the warriors broke up their camp and returned to it
again, x. 35, 36, and it relieves its wild war-scenes by the lovely
Song of the Well, xxi. 17, 18. Probably other episodes in the books
of Numbers, Joshua and Judges (e.g. ch. v.) ultimately rest upon
this lost book of the wars of Jehovah. The fine poetry ascribed to
Balaam, which breathes the full consciousness of a high national
destiny, may belong to the time of the early monarchy, xxiv. 7,
perhaps to that of David, to whom xxiv. 17-19 seems to be a clear
allusion. The five verses that follow Balaam's words, xxiv. 20-24,
are apparently a late appendix; the mention of Chittim in _v_.
24 would almost carry the passage down to the Greek period (4th
cent. B.C.), and of Asshur in _v_. 22 at least to the Assyrian
period (8th cent.), unless the name stands for a Bedawin tribe (cf.
Gen. xxv. 3).

Historically P is of little account. This is most obvious in his
narrative of the war with Midian (xxxi.), in which, without losing a
single man, Israel slew every male in Midian and took enormous
booty. It is suspicious that the older sources (JE) have not a
single word to say of so remarkable a victory; but the impossibility
of the story is shown by the fact that, though all the males are
slain, the tribe reappears, as the assailant of Israel, in the days
of Gideon (Jud. vi.-viii.). The real object of the story is to
illustrate the law governing the distribution of booty, xxxi. 27--a
law which is elsewhere traced, with much more probability, to an
ordinance of David (I Sam. xxx. 24). From this unhistorical, but
highly instructive chapter, we learn the tendency to refer all
Israel's legislation, whatever its origin, to Moses, and the further
tendency to find a historical precedent, which no doubt once
existed, for the details of the legislation. It is from this point
of view that the narratives of P have to be considered. The story of
the fate of the Sabbath-breaker is simply told to emphasize the
stringency of the Sabbath law, xv. 32-36, the particular dilemma in
ix. 6-14 is created, as a precedent for the institution of the
supplementary passover, the case of the daughters of Zelophehad
serves as a historical basis for the law governing the property of
heiresses (xxxvi.). In other words, P is not a historian; his
narrative, even where it is explicit, is usually but the thin
disguise of legislation.

As in Genesis and Exodus, almost every stage in the development of
the religion of Israel is represented by the book of Numbers.
Through the story in xxi. 4-11 we can detect the practice of
serpent-worship, which we know persisted to the time of Hezekiah (2
Kings xviii. 4); and the trial by ordeal, v. 11-31, though in its
present form late, represents no doubt a very ancient custom. P
throws much light on the usages and ideas of post-exilic religion.
But it is to the prophetic document we must go for passages of
abiding religious power and value. Here, as in Exodus, the character
of Moses offers a brilliant study--in his solitary grandeur, patient
strength, and heroic faith; steadfast amid jealousy, suspicion and
rebellion, and vindicated by God Himself as a prophet of
transcendent privilege and power (xii. 8). Over against the narrow
assertions of Levitical and priestly prerogative (xvi., xvii), which
reflect but too faithfully the strife of a later day, is the noble
prayer of Moses that God would make all the people prophets, and put
His spirit upon them every one, xi. 29.


Owing to the comparatively loose nature of the connection between
consecutive passages in the legislative section, it is difficult to
present an adequate summary of the book of Deuteronomy. In the first
section, i.-iv. 40, Moses, after reviewing the recent history of the
people, and showing how it reveals Jehovah's love for Israel,
earnestly urges upon them the duty of keeping His laws, reminding
them of His spirituality and absoluteness. Then follows the
appointment, iv. 41-43--here irrelevant (cf. xix. 1-l3)--of three
cities of refuge east of the Jordan.

The second section, v.-xi., with its superscription, iv. 44-49, is a
hortatory introduction to the more specific injunctions of xii.-xxviii.,
and deals with the general principles by which Israel is to be governed.
The special relation between Israel and Jehovah was established on the
basis of the decalogue (Ex. xx.), and with this Moses begins, reminding
the people of their promise to obey any further commands Jehovah might
give (v.). But as the source of all true obedience is a right attitude,
Israel's deepest duty is to love Jehovah, serving Him with reverence,
and keeping His claims steadily before the children (vi.). To do this
effectively, Israel must uncompromisingly repudiate all social and
religious intercourse with the idolatrous peoples of the land, and
Jehovah their God will stand by them in the struggle (vii). In the
past the discipline had often indeed been stern and sore, but it had
come from the hand of a father, and had been intended to teach the
spiritual nature of true religion; worldliness and idolatry would
assuredly be punished by defeat and destruction (viii.). And just as
deadly as worldliness is the spirit of self-righteousness, a spirit
as absurd as it is deadly; for Israel's past has been marked by an
obstinacy so disgraceful that, but for the intercession of Moses, the
people would already have been devoted to destruction,[1] ix. 1-x. 11.
True religion is the loving service of the great God and of needy men,
and it ought to be inspired by reverent fear. Obedience to the
divine commands will bring life and blessing, disobedience will be
punished by the curse and death, x. 12-xi.
[Footnote 1: Ch, x. 6-9 is an interpolation; _vv_. 6, 7 a
fragment of an itinerary relating the death of Aaron, and _vv_.
8, 9 the separation of the tribe of Levi to priestly functions.]

This hortatory introduction is succeeded by the specific laws which
form the main body of the book (xii.-xxvi., xxviii.). Roughly they
may be classified as affecting (_a_) religious (xii.-xvi.),
(_b_) civil (xvii.-xx.), and (_c_) social (xxi.-xxv.)
life, the religious being made the basis of the other two.

(_a_) As the true worship is jeopardized by a multiplicity of
sanctuaries, these sanctuaries are declared illegal, and their
paraphernalia are to be destroyed; worship is to be confined
henceforth to one sanctuary (xii.), and every idolatrous person and
influence are to be exterminated (xiii.). The holiness of the people
is to be maintained by their abstaining from the flesh of certain
prohibited animals[1] xiv. 1-21, and the sacred dues such as the
tithes, xiv. 22-29, and firstlings, xv. 19-23, are regulated.
Religion is to express itself in generous consideration for the poor
and the slave, xv. 1-18, as well as in the three annual pilgrimages
to celebrate the passover, the feast of weeks, and the feast of
booths, xvi. 1-17.
[Footnote 1: This section is not altogether in the spirit of Deut.
and is found with variations in Lev. xi. If it is not a late
insertion in Deut. from Lev., probably both have borrowed it from an
older code.]

(_b_) Besides the local courts there is to be a supreme central
tribunal, xvi. 18-20, xvii. 8-13. No idolatrous symbols are to be
used in the Jehovah worship; idolatry is to be punished with death,
xvi. 21-xvii. 7. The character and duties of the king are defined,
and his obligation to rule in accordance with the spirit of Israel's
religion, xvii. 14-20; the revenues and privileges of the Levitical
priests are regulated and the high position and function of the
prophets are defined in opposition to the representatives of
superstition in heathen religion (xviii.). Following the laws
affecting the officers of the theocracy are laws--which finely
temper justice with mercy--concerning homicide, murder and false
witness[1] (xix.). A similar combination of humanity and sternness
is illustrated by the laws--whether practicable or not--regulating
the usages of war, xx., with which may be taken xxi. 10-14.
[Footnote 1: Kindred in theme is xxi. 1-9, dealing with the
expiation of an uncertain murder.]

(_c_) The laws in xxi-xxv. are of a more miscellaneous nature
and deal with various phases of domestic and social life--such as
the punishment of the unfilial son, the duty of neighbourliness, the
protection of mother-birds, the duty of taking precautions in
building, the rights of a husband, the punishment of adultery and
seduction, the exclusion of certain classes from the privilege of
worship, the cleanliness of the camp, the duty of humanity to a
runaway slave, the prohibition of religious prostitution, the
regulation of divorce, the duty of humanity to the stranger, the
fatherless and the widow, and of kindness to animals, the duty of a
surviving brother to marry his brother's childless widow, the
prohibition of immodesty, etc.

By two simple ceremonies, one of thanksgiving, the other a
confession of faith, Israel acknowledges her obligations to
Jehovah[1] (xxvi.), and the great speech ends with a very impressive
peroration in which blessings of many kinds are promised to
obedience, while, with a much greater elaboration of detail,
disaster is announced as the penalty of disobedience (xxviii.). In
chs. xxix,, xxx., which are of a supplementary nature, Moses briefly
reminds the people of the goodness of their God, and warns them of
the disaster into which infidelity will plunge them, though--so
gracious is Jehovah--penitence will be followed by restoration. In a
powerful conclusion he sets before them life and death as the
recompense of obedience and disobedience, and pleads with them to
choose life.
[Footnote 1: Ch. xxvii., which, besides being in the 3rd person,
interrupts the connection between xxvi. and xxviii., can hardly have
formed part of the original book. It prescribes the inscription of
the law on stones, its ratification by the people, and the curses to
be uttered by the Levites.]

The speeches are over, and the narrative of the Pentateuch is
resumed. In a few parting words, Moses encourages the people and his
successor Joshua, who, in xxxi. 14, 15, 23, receives his divine
commission, and finally gives instructions for the reading of the
law every seven years, xxxi. 1-13. Verses 16-30 (except 23)
constitute the preface to the fine poem known as the _Song of
Moses_, xxxii. 1-43, which celebrates, in bold and striking
words, the loving faithfulness of Jehovah to His apostate and
ungrateful people.[1] This poem, after a few verses in which Moses
finally commends the law to Israel and himself receives the divine
command to ascend Nebo and die, is followed by another known as the
_Blessing of Moses_ (xxxiii.). In this poem, which ought to be
compared with Gen. xlix., the various tribes are separately
characterized in language which is often simply a description[2]
rather than a benediction, and the poem concludes with an
enthusiastic expression of joy over Israel's incomparable God. The
book ends with an account of the death of Moses (xxxiv.).
[Footnote 1: The song must be much later than Moses, as it describes
the effect, _v_. 15ff., on Israel of the transition from the
nomadic life of the desert, _v_. 10, to the settled
agricultural life of Canaan, and expressly regards the days of the
exodus as long past, _v_.7. It is difficult to say whether the
enemy from whom in _vv_. 34-43, the singer hopes to be divinely
delivered are the Assyrians or the Babylonians: on the whole,
probably the latter. In that case, the poem would be exilic;
_v_. 36 too seems to presuppose the exile.]
[Footnote 2: These descriptions--to say nothing of _v_.4 (Moses
commended _us_ a law)--are conclusive proof that the poem was
composed long after Moses' time. Reuben is dwindling in numbers,
Simeon has already disappeared (as not yet in Gen. xlix). Judah is
in at least temporary distress, and the banner tribe is Ephraim,
whose glory and power are eloquently described, _vv_.13-17.
Levi appears to be thoroughly organized and held in great respect,
_vv_. 8-ll. The poem must have been written at a time when
northern Israel was enjoying high prosperity, probably during the
reign of Jeroboam II and before the advent of Amos (770 B.C.?).]

Deuteronomy is one of the epoch-making books of the world. It not
only profoundly affected much of the subsequent literature of the
Hebrews, but it left a deep and abiding mark upon Hebrew religion,
and through it upon Christianity.

The problem of its origin is as interesting as the romance which
attached to its discovery in the reign of Josiah (621 B.C.).
Generally speaking, the book claims to be the valedictory address of
Moses to Israel. But even a superficial examination is enough to
show that its present form, at any rate, was not due to Moses. The
very first words of the book represent the speeches as being
delivered "on the other side of the Jordan"--an important point
obscured by the erroneous translation of A.V. Now Moses was on the
east side, and obviously the writer to whom the east side was the
other side, must himself have been on the west side. The law
providing for the battlement on the roof of a new house, xxii. 8,
shows that the book contemplates the later settled life of cities or
villages, not the nomadic life of tents; and the very significant
law concerning the boundary marks which had been set up by "those of
the olden time," xix. 14, is proof conclusive that the people had
been settled for generations in the land.

The negative conclusion is that the book is not, in its present
form, from the hand of Moses, but is a product, at least several
generations later, of the settled life of the people. But it is at
once asked, Do the opening words of the book not commit us expressly
to a belief in the Mosaic authorship, in spite of the resultant
difficulties? Is it not explicitly said that these words are his
words? The answer to this question lies in the literary freedom
claimed by all ancient historians. Thucydides, one of the most
scrupulous historians who ever wrote, states, in an interesting
passage, the principles on which he composed his speeches (i. 22):
"As to the various speeches made on the eve of the war or in its
course, I have found it difficult to retain a memory of the precise
words which I heard spoken; and so it was with those who brought me
reports. But I have made the persons say what it seemed to me most
opportune for them to say in view of each situation; at the same
time I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of
what was actually said." This statement represents the general
practice of the ancient world; the conditions of historical veracity
were satisfied if the speech represented the spirit of the speaker.
And this, as we shall see, is eminently true of the book of
Deuteronomy, which is an eloquent exposition and application of
principles fundamental to the Mosaic religion. If, on the other
hand, it be urged that the book contains deliberate assertions that
it was written by Moses--e.g., "when Moses had made an end of
writing the words of this law in a book," xxxi. 24, cf. 9--the
simple reply is that this very phrase, "all the words of this law,"
is elsewhere used of a body of law so small that it can be inscribed
upon the memorial stones of the altar to be set up on Mount Ebal,
xxvii. 3.

We are free, then, to consider the date of Deuteronomy by an
examination of the internal evidence. The latest possible date for
the book, as a whole, is determined by the story of its discovery in
621 B.C. (2 Kings xxii., xxiii.). There can be no doubt that the
book then discovered by the priest Hilkiah, and read by the
chancellor before the king, was Deuteronomy. It is called the book
of the covenant (2 Kings xxiii. 2), but it clearly cannot have been
the Pentateuch. For one thing, that was much too long; the book
discovered was short enough to have been read twice in one day (2
Kings xxii. 8, 10). And again, the swift and terrible impression
made by it could not have been made by a book so heterogeneous in
its contents and containing romantic narratives such as the
patriarchal stories. Nor again can the discovered book have been
Exodus xxi.-xxiii., though that is also called the book of the
covenant (Exod. xxiv. 7); for some of the most important points in
the succeeding reformation are not touched in that book at all. It
is clear from the narrative in 2 Kings xxii. ff. that the book must
have been a law book; no other meets the facts of the case but
Deuteronomy, and this meets them completely. Point for point, the
details of the reformation are paralleled by injunctions in
Deuteronomy--notably the abolition of idolatry, the concentration of
the worship at a single sanctuary (xii.), the abolition of
witchcraft and star-worship, and the celebration of the passover.
Some of these enactments are found in other parts of the Pentateuch,
but Deuteronomy is the only code in which they are all combined. 621
B.C. then is the latest possible date for the composition of

It is possible, however, to fix the date more precisely. The most
remarkable element in the legislation is its repeated and emphatic
demand for the centralization of worship in "the place which Jehovah
your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there,"
xii. 5. Only by such a centralization could the Jehovah worship be
controlled which, at the numerous shrines scattered over the
country, was being stained and confused by the idolatrous practices
which Israel had learned from the Canaanites. This demand is
recognized as something new, xii. 8. In the ninth and eighth
centuries, when the prophetic narratives of Genesis were written,[1]
these shrines, which were the scenes of an enthusiastic worship, are
lovingly traced back to an origin in patriarchal times. As late as
750-735 B.C., Amos and Hosea, though they deplore the excesses which
characterized those sanctuaries, and regard their worship as largely
immoral, do not regard the sanctuaries themselves as actually
illegal; consequently Deuteronomy must be later than 735. But the
situation was even then so serious that it must soon have occurred
to men of practical piety to devise plans of reform, and that the
only real remedy lay in striking the evil at its roots, i.e. in
abolishing the local shrines. The first important blow appears to
have been struck by Hezekiah, who, possibly under the influence of
Isaiah, is said to have removed the high places (2 Kings xviii. 4),
and the movement must have been greatly helped by the immunity which
the temple of Jerusalem enjoyed during the invasion of Judah by
Sennacherib in 701 B.C. But the singular thing is that no appeal was
made in this reformation to a book, as was made in 621, and as it is
natural to suppose would have been made, had such a book been in
existence. Somewhere then between Hezekiah and Josiah we may suppose
the book to have been composed.
[Footnote 1: See below]

The most probable supposition is that the reformation of Hezekiah
gave the first impulse to the legislation which afterwards appeared
as Deuteronomy. But in the terrible reign of his son Manasseh, the
efforts of the reformers met with violent and bloody opposition.
Judah was under the iron heel of Assyria, and, to the average mind,
this would prove the superiority of the Assyrian gods. Judah and her
king, Manasseh, would seek in their desperation to win the favour of
the Oriental pantheon, and this no doubt explains the idolatry and
worship of the host of heaven which flourished during his reign even
within the temple itself. It was just such a crisis as this that
would call out the fierce condemnation of the idolatrous high places
which characterizes Deuteronomy (cf. xii.) and create the imperative
demand for such a control of the worship as was only possible by
centralizing it at Jerusalem. During this period, too, such a book
may very well have been hidden away in the temple by some sorrowing
heart that hoped for better days. It is improbable in itself (cf.
xviii. 6-8), and unjust to the narrative in 2 Kings xxii., xxiii.,
to suppose that the book was written by those who pretended to find
it. It was really lost; had it been written during the earlier part
of Josiah's reign, there was nothing to hinder its being published
at once. In all probability, then, the book was in the main written
and lost during the reign of Manasseh (_circa_ 660 B.C.). It
has been observed that in some sections the 2nd pers. sing, is used.
in others the pl., and that the tone of the plural passages is more
aggressive than that of the singular; the contrast, e.g., between
xii. 29-31 (thou) and xii. 1-12 (you) is unmistakable. We might,
then, limit the conclusion reached above by saying that the passages
in which a milder tone prevails probably came from Hezekiah's reign,
and the more aggressive sections from Manasseh's.

This date agrees with conclusions reached on other grounds
concerning other parts of the Pentateuch. The prophetic narratives J
and E were written in or before the eighth century B.C., the
priestly code (P) is, broadly speaking, post-exilic.[1] Now if it
can be proved that Deuteronomy knows JE and does not know P, the
natural inference would be that it falls between the eighth and the
sixth or fifth century. But this can easily be proved, for both in
its narrative and legislative parts, Deuteronomy rests on JE. As an
illustration of the former, cf. Deuteronomy xi. 6, where only Dathan
and Abiram are the rebels, not Korah as in P (cf. Num. xvi, 12, 25);
as an illustration of the latter, cf. the law of slavery in Exodus
xxi. 2ff. with that in Deuteronomy xv. 12-18, which clearly rests
upon the older law, but deliberately gives a humaner turn to it,
extending its privileges, e.g., to the female slave.
[Footnote 1: See below.]

Again in many important respects the legislation of Deuteronomy
either ignores or conflicts with that of P. It knows nothing, e.g.,
of the forty-eight Levitical cities (Num. xxxv.); it regards the
Levite, in common with the fatherless and the widow, as to be found
everywhere throughout the land, xviii. 6. It knows nothing of the
provision made by P for the maintenance of the Levite (Num. xviii.);
it commends him to the charity of the worshippers, xiv. 29. Above
all it knows nothing of P's very sharp and important distinction
between priests and Levites (Num. iii., iv.); any Levite is
qualified to officiate as priest (cf. the remarkable phrase in
xviii. 1, "the priests the Levites"). Deuteronomy must, therefore,
fall before P, as after JE.

A not unimportant question here arises: What precisely was the
extent of the book found in 621 B.C.? Certainly the legislative
section, xii.-xxvi., xxviii., possibly the preceding hortatory
section, v.-xi., but in all probability not the introductory
section, i. i-iv. 40. These three sections are all approximately
written in the same style, but i. i-iv. 40 has more the appearance
of an attempt to provide the legislation with a historical
introduction summarizing the narrative of the journey from Horeb to
the borders of the promised land. Certain passages, e.g. iv. 27-31,
seem to presuppose the exile, and thus suggest that the section is
later than the book as a whole. The discrepancy between ii. 14,
which represents the generation of the exodus as having died in the
wilderness, and v. 3ff. hardly makes for identity of authorship; and
the similarity of the superscriptions, i. 1-5, and iv. 44-49, looks
as if the sections i.-iv. and v.-xi. were originally parallel.
Whether v.-xi. was part of the book discovered is not so certain.
Much of the finest religious teaching of Deuteronomy is to be found
in this section; but, besides being disproportionately long for an
introduction, it repeatedly demands obedience to the "statutes and
judgments," which, however, are not actually announced till ch.
xii.; it seems more like an addition prefixed by one who had the
commandments in xii.-xxvi. before him. Ch. xxvii., which is
narrative and interrupts the speech of Moses, xxvi, xxviii., besides
in part anticipating xxviii. 15ff., cannot have formed part of the
original Deuteronomy. On the other hand, xxviii. was certainly
included in it, as it must have been precisely the threats contained
in this chapter that produced such consternation in Josiah when he
heard the book read (2 Kings xxii.). The hortatory section that
follows the legislation (xxix., xxx.), is also probably late, as the
exile appears to be presupposed, xxix. 28, xxx. 1-3. On this
supposition, too, the references to the legislation as "this book,"
xxix. 20, 21, xxx. 10, are most naturally explained.

The publication of the book of Deuteronomy was nothing less than a
providence in the development of Hebrew religion. It was
accompanied, of course, by incidental and perhaps inevitable evils.
By its centralization of worship at the Jerusalem temple, it tended
to rob life in other parts of the country of those religious
interests and sanctions which had received their satisfaction from
the local sanctuaries; and by its attempt to regulate by written
statute the religious life of the people, it probably contributed
indirectly to the decline of prophecy, and started Israel upon that
fatal path by which she ultimately became "the people of the book."
But on the other hand, the service rendered to religion by
Deuteronomy was incalculable. The worship of Jehovah had been
powerfully corrupted from two sources; on the one hand, from the
early influence of the Canaanitish Baal worship, practically a
nature-worship, which set morality at defiance, xxiii. 18; and on
the other, from her powerful Assyrian conquerors. Idolatry not only
covered the whole land, it had penetrated the temple itself (2 Kings
xxiii. 6). The cause of true religion was at stake. There had been
sporadic attempts at reform, but Deuteronomy, for the first time,
struck at the root by rendering illegal the worship--nominally a
Jehovah, but practically a Baal worship--which was practised at the
local sanctuaries.

Again Deuteronomy rendered a great service to religion, by
translating its large spirit into demands which could be apprehended
of the common people. The book is splendidly practical, and formed a
perhaps not unnecessary supplement to the teaching of the prophets.
Society needs to have its ideals embodied in suggestions and
commands, and this is done in Deuteronomy. The writers of the book
legislate with the fervour of the prophet, so that it is not so much
a collection of laws as "a catechism of religion and morals."
Doubtless the prophets had done the deepest thing of all by
insisting on the new heart and the return to Jehovah, but they had
offered no programme of practical reform. Just such a programme is
supplied by Deuteronomy, and yet it is saved from the externalism of
being merely a religious programme by its tender and uniform
insistence upon the duty of loving Jehovah with the whole heart.

The love of Jehovah to Israel--love altogether undeserved, ix. 5,
and manifested throughout history in ways without number--demands a
human response. Israel must love Him with an uncompromising
affection, for He is one and there is none else, and she must
express that love for the God who is a spirit invisible, iv. 12, by
deeds of affection towards the creatures whom God has made, even to
the beasts and the birds, xxv. 4, but most of all to the needy--the
stranger, the Levite, the fatherless and the widow. Again and again
these are commended by definite and practical suggestions to the
generosity of the people, and this generosity is expected to express
itself particularly on occasions of public worship. Religion is felt
to be the basis of morality and of all social order, and therefore,
even in the legislation proper (xii.-xxviii.), to say nothing of the
fine hortatory introduction (v.-xi.), its claims and nature are
presented first. The book abounds in profound and memorable
statements touching the essence of religion. It answers the
question, What doth thy God require of thee? x. 12. It reminds the
people that man lives not by bread alone, viii. 3. It knows that
wealth and success tend to beget indifference to religion, viii.
13ff., and that chastisement, when it comes, is sent in fatherly
love, viii. 5; and it presses home upon the sluggish conscience the
duty of kindness to the down-trodden and destitute, with a sweet and
irresistible reasonableness--"Love the sojourner, for ye were
sojourners in the land of Egypt," x. 19.


The book of Joshua is the natural complement of the Pentateuch.
Moses is dead, but the people are on the verge of the promised land,
and the story of early Israel would be incomplete, did it not record
the conquest of that land and her establishment upon it. The divine
purpose moves restlessly on, until it is accomplished; so "after the
death of Moses, Jehovah spake to Joshua," i. 1.

The book falls naturally into three divisions: (_a_) the
conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (_b_) the settlement of the land
(xiii.-xxii.), (_c_) the last words and death of Joshua
(xxiii., xxiv.). This period seems to be better known than that of
the wilderness wanderings, and, especially throughout the first
twelve chapters, the story moves forward with a firm tread. On the
death of Moses, Joshua assumes the leadership, and makes
preparations for the advance (i.). After sending men to Jericho to
spy and report upon the land (ii.), the people solemnly cross the
Jordan, preceded by the ark (iii.); and, to commemorate the miracle
by which their passage had been facilitated, memorial stones are set
up (iv.). After circumcision had been imposed, v. 1-9, the passover
celebrated, v. 10-12, and Joshua strengthened by a vision, v. 13-15,
the people assault and capture Jericho (vi.). This initial success
was followed by a sharp and unexpected disaster at Ai, for which
Achan, by his violation of the law of the ban, was held guilty and
punished with death (vii.). A renewed assault upon Ai was this time
successful.[1] (viii.). Fear of Israel induced the powerful
Gibeonite clan to make a league with the conquerors (ix.). Success
continued to remain with Israel, so that south (x.) and north, xi.
1-15, the arms of Israel were victorious, xi. 16-xii.
[Footnote 1: The book of Joshua describes only the southern and
northern campaigns; it gives no details concerning the conquest of
Central Palestine. This omission is apparently due to the
Deuterouomic redactor, who, in place of the account itself, gives a
brief idealization of its results in viii. 30-35.]

Much of the land remained still unconquered, but arrangements were
made for its ideal distribution. The two and a half tribes had
already received their inheritance east of the Jordan, and the rest
of the land was allotted on the west to the remaining tribes.
Judah's boundaries and cities are first and most exhaustively given;
then come Manasseh and Ephraim, with meagre records, followed by
Benjamin, which again is exhaustive, then by Simeon, Zebulon,
Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan (xiii.-xix.). Three cities on
either side of Jordan were then set apart as cities of refuge for
innocent homicides, and for the Levites forty-eight cities with
their pasture land, xx. 1-xxi. 42. As Israel was now in possession
of the land in accordance with the divine promise, xxi. 43-45,
Joshua dismissed the two and a half tribes to their eastern home
with commendation and exhortation, xxii. 1-8. Incurring the severe
displeasure of the other tribes by building what was supposed to be
a schismatic altar, they explained that it was intended only as a
memorial and as a witness of their kinship with Israel, xxii. 9-34.

The book concludes with two farewell speeches, the first (xxiii.)
couched in general, the second xxiv. 1-23, in somewhat more
particular terms, in which Joshua reminds the people of the goodness
of their God, warns them against idolatry and intermarriage with the
natives of the land, and urges upon them the peril of compromise and
the duty of rendering Jehovah a whole-hearted service. The people
solemnly pledge themselves to obedience, xxiv. 23-28. Then Joshua's
death and burial are recorded, and past was linked to present in the
burial of Joseph's bones (Gen. 1. 25) at last in the promised land,
xxiv. 29-33.

The documentary sources which lie at the basis of the Pentateuch are
present, though in different proportions, in the book of Joshua, and
in their main features are easily recognizable. The story of the
conquest (i.-xii.) is told by the prophetic document JE, while the
geographical section on the distribution of the land (xiii.-xxii.)
belongs in the main to the priestly document P. Joshua, in common
with Judges, Samuel (in part) and Kings, has also been very plainly
subjected to a redaction known to criticism as the Deuteronomic,
because its phraseology and point of view are those of Deuteronomy.
This redactional element, which, to any one fresh from the study of
Deuteronomy, is very easy to detect, is more or less conspicuous in
all of the first twelve chapters, but it is especially so in chs. i.
and xxiii., and it would be well worth the student's while to read
these two chapters very carefully, in order to familiarize himself
with the nature of the influence of the Deuteronomic redaction upon
the older prophetico-historical material. Very significant, e.g.,
are such phrases as "the land which Jehovah your God giveth you to
possess," i. 11, Deuteronomy xii. 1: equally so is the emphasis upon
the law, i. 7, xxiii. 6, and the injunction to "love Jehovah your
God," xxiii. 11.

The most serious effect of the Deuteronomic influence has been to
present the history rather from an ideal than from a strictly
historical point of view. According to the redaction, e.g., the
conquest of Canaan was entirely effected within one generation and
under Joshua, whereas it was not completely effected till long after
Joshua's death: indeed the oldest source frankly admits that in many
districts it was never thoroughly effected at all (Jud. i. 27-36). A
typical illustration of the Deuteronomic attitude to the history is
to be found in the statement that Joshua obliterated the people of
Gezer, x. 33, which directly contradicts the older statement that
Israel failed to drive them out, xvi. 10. The Deuteronomist is, in
reality, not a historian but a moralist, interpreting the history
and the forces, divine as well as human, that were moulding it. To
him the conquest was really complete in the generation of Joshua, as
by that time the factors were all at work which would ultimately
compel success. The persistency of the Deuteronomic influence, even
long after the priestly code was written, is proved by xx. 4-6,
which, though embodied in a priestly passage, is in the spirit of
Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. xix.). As this passage is not found in the
Septuagint, it is probably as late as the third century B.C.

P is very largely represented. Its presence is recognized, as usual,
by its language, its point of view, and its dependence upon other
parts of the Pentateuch, demonstrably priestly. While in the older
sources, e.g., it is Joshua who divides the land, xviii. 10, in P
not only is Eleazar the priest associated with him as Aaron with
Moses (Exod. viii. 5, 16), but he is even named before him (xiv. 1,
cf. Num. xxxiv. 17). It is naturally also this document which
records the first passover in the promised land, v. 10-12. The
cities of refuge and the Levitical cities are set apart (xx., xxi.)
in accordance with the terms prescribed in a priestly chapter of
Numbers (xxxv.). The prominence of Judah and Benjamin in the
allocation of the land is also significant. The section on the
memorial altar, xxii. 9-34, apparently belonging to a later stratum
of P, is clearly stamped as priestly by its whole temper--its
formality, _v_, 14, its representation of the "congregation" as
acting unanimously, _v_. 16, its repetitions and stereotyped
phraseology, and by the prominence it gives to "Phinehas the son of
Eleazar the priest," _vv_. 30-32. That this document in Joshua
was partly narrative so well as statistical is also suggested by its
very brief account of Achan's sin in ch. vii., and of the treachery
and punishment of the Gibeonites, ix. l7-2l--an account which may
well have been fuller in the original form of the document.

The most valuable part of Joshua for historical purposes is
naturally that which comes from the prophetic document, which is the
oldest. It is here that the interesting and concrete detail lies,
notably in chs. i.-xii., but also scattered throughout the rest of
the book in some extremely important fragments, which indicate how
severe and occasionally unsuccessful was the struggle of Israel to
gain a secure footing upon certain parts of the country.[1] Many of
the difficulties revealed by a minute study of i.-xii. make it
absolutely certain that the prophetic document is really composite
(JE), but owing to the thorough blending of the sources the analysis
is peculiarly difficult and uncertain. That there are various
sources, however, admits of no doubt. The story of the crossing of
the Jordan in chs. iii., iv., if we follow it carefully step by
step, is seen to be unintelligible on the assumption that it is a
unity. In iii. 17 all the people are already over the Jordan, but in
iv. 4, 5, the implication is that they are only about to cross. Ch.
iv. 2 repeats iii. 12 almost word for word. In iv. 9 the memorial
stones are to be placed in the Jordan, in iv. 20 at Gilgal. In vii.
25_b_, 26_a_, Achan alone appears to be stoned, in
_v_. 25_c_ the family is stoned too. A similar confusion
prevails in the story of the fall of Jericho (vi.). In one version,
Israel marches six days silently round the city, and on the seventh
they shout at the word of Joshua; on the other, they march round
seven times in one day, and the seventh time they shout at the blast
of the trumpet.
[Footnote 1: Cf. xv. 14-19, 63; xvi. 10; xvii. 11-18; xix. 47.]

Enough has been said to show that the prophetic document, as we have
it, is composite, though there can seldom be any manner of certainty
about the ultimate analysis into its J and E constituents. There is
reason to believe that most of the isolated notices of the struggle
with the Canaanites scattered throughout xiii.-xxii. and repeated in
Judges i. are from J, while ch. xxiv., with its interest in Shechem
and Joseph, and its simple but significant statement, "They
presented themselves before _God_ (Elohim)," xxiv. 1, is almost
entirely from E.

It used to be maintained, on the strength of a phrase in v. 1--"until
_we_ were passed over"--that the book of Joshua must have been
written by a contemporary. But the true reading there is undoubtedly
that given by the Septuagint--until _they_ passed over-which
involves only a very slight change in the Hebrew. On what, then, do
the narratives of the book really rest? The answer is suggested by
x. 12, 13, where the historian appeals to the book of Jashar in
confirmation of an incident in Joshua's southern campaign. Doubtless
the whole battle was described in one of the war-ballads in this
famous collection (cf. Jud. v.), and it is not unreasonable to suppose
that other narratives in the book of Joshua similarly rest upon other
ballads now for ever lost. The capture of Jericho, e.g., may well have
been commemorated in a stirring song which was an inspiration alike
to faith and patriotism.

If, however, it be true that the book of Joshua has thus a poetic
basis, it is only fair to remember that its prose narratives must
not be treated as bald historical annals; they must be interpreted
in a poetic spirit. There is the more reason to insist upon this, as
a later editor, by a too inflexible literalism, has misinterpreted
the very passage from the book of Jashar to which we have alluded.
What the precise meaning of Joshua's fine apostrophe to sun and moon
may be, is doubtful--whether a prayer for the prolongation of the
day or rather perhaps a prayer for the sudden oncoming of darkness.
The words mean, "Sun, be thou still," and if this be the prayer, it
would perhaps be answered by the furious storm which followed. But,
in either case, the appeal to the sun and moon to lend their help to
Israel in her battles is obviously poetic--a fine conception, but
grotesque if literally pressed. This, however, is just what has been
done by the editor who added x. 14, and thus created a miracle out
of the bold but appropriate imagery of the poet. Similarly it is not
necessary to suppose that the walls of Jericho fell down without the
striking of a blow on the part of Israel, for this too may be
poetry. It may be just the imaginative way of saying that no walls
can stand before Jehovah when He fights for His people. That this is
the real meaning of the story, and that there was more of a struggle
than the poetical narrative of ch. vi. would lead us to believe, is
made highly probable by, the altogether incidental but very explicit
statement in xxiv. 11, "The men of Jericho _fought_ against

With its large geographical element the book of Joshua is not
particularly rich in scenes of direct religious value; yet the whole
narrative is inspired by a sublime faith in the divine purpose and
its sure triumph over every obstacle. In particular, the story of
the Gibeonites suggests the permanent obligation of reckoning with
God in affairs of national policy, ix. 14, while Gilgal is a
reminder of the duty of formally commemorating the beneficent
providences of life (iii., iv.). The story of Achan reveals the
national bearings of individual conduct and the large and disastrous
consequences of individual sin. The valedictory addresses of Joshua
are touched by a fine sense of the importance of a grateful and
uncompromising fidelity to God. But perhaps the greatest thing in
the book is the vision of the heavenly leader encouraging Joshua on
the eve of his perilous campaign, v. 13-15, a noble imagination,
fitted to remind those who are fighting the battles of the Lord that
they are sustained and aided by forces unseen.

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