Part 3 out of 3
images. These were usually made of wood and were cherished in many
a Hebrew family, as for example, that of Jacob (cf. the story of
his flight from Laban, Gen. 31) or of David (I Sam. 19). The
spirit of the law is truly interpreted by the later priestly
commentator who places completely under the ban all attempts
visibly to represent the Deity. Is the spirit of this command
disregarded by the modern Greek church? In certain parts of the
Roman Catholic world? In any phases of Protestant worship?
How is the third command interpreted to-day? The exact meaning of
the original Hebrew is not entirely clear. It may be interpreted
literally: "Thou shall not invoke the name of Jehovah, thy God, in
vain." The interpretation turns on the meaning of the phrase, in
vain. This admits of four different translations: (1)
Purposelessly, and therefore needlessly or irreverently; (2) for
destruction, as when a man calls down a curse upon another; (3) for
nothing, that is in swearing to what is not true; and (4) in the
practice of sorcery or witchcraft, for this word was frequently
used by the Hebrews as a scornful designation of heathen
abominations. Is it possible that the original command was
intended to guard against each of these evils? If so, it broadens
and deepens its modern application. Its fundamental idea is
evidently reverence and sincerity.
Why did the Hebrew law-givers place these three laws, which
emphasize absolute loyalty to Jehovah, at the beginning of the
decalogue? What do we mean to-day by loyalty to God? Loyalty to
Jehovah was not only the corner stone of Israel's religion but also
of the Hebrew state. During the wilderness period and far down
into later periods it was the chief and at times practically the
only bond that bound together the individual members of the tribe
and nation. Disloyalty to Jehovah was treason, and even the mild
code found in the book of Deuteronomy directs that apostasy be
punished by public stoning. Loyalty to God or at least to the
individual sense of right to-day as in the past is the first
essential of effective citizenship. Which is the more essential
for the welfare of the state, the manual, the mental or the
religious training of its citizens? Where is the chief emphasis
placed to-day? Is this right?
THE SOCIAL AND ETHICAL BASIS OF THE SABBATH LAW.
The institution of the Sabbath in different countries apparently
has a long and complex history. Many explanations have been given
of its origin, aside from the direct divine command. The simplest
and most satisfactory is probably that it was originally connected
with the worship of the moon. There are many indications in Hebrew
history that the early ancestors of the Israelites were moon
worshippers. To-day as in the distant past the inhabitants of the
deserts from whence came the forefathers of the Hebrews make their
journeys under the clear, cool light of the moon, avoiding the hot,
piercing rays of the mid-day sun. The moon with its marvelous
transformations is unquestionably the most striking and
awe-inspiring object in the heavens. It is not strange, therefore,
that many primitive peoples and especially the nomadic desert
dwellers worshipped it as the supreme embodiment of beauty and
In China feast days once a month were doubtless connected with the
phases of the moon. Among the American Indians time was reckoned
by numbers of moons. The custom of observing as sacred the four
days, which marked the transition from one quarter of the moon to
another, was also widespread. In the Hebrew religion the feast of
the New Moon was closely identified with that of the Sabbath. The
Hebrew month was also the lunar month of approximately twenty-eight
days. The new moon, therefore, marked the beginning of the month
and each succeeding Sabbath a new phase of the moon. The fourth
commandment seems, therefore, like the others to have a basis in
nature, and also, as we shall note, a social reason. Would a
commandment be truly divine if it did not have a natural and
reasonable basis? By the ancients rest from labor was regarded as
one of the essential elements in the sacred day. The prophet Amos
denounced the merchants of Northern Israel because they were
When shall the new moon pass that we may sell grain,
And the Sabbath that we may open the corn?
In its earlier ceremonial interpretation, to abstain from all labor
on the Sabbath was clearly regarded as a primary obligation. Like
fasting, it is probably regarded as an offering due to Jehovah.
The word "holy" in the Hebrew means set apart, distinct. The
Sabbath, therefore, was to differ from the other days of the week.
The great ethical prophets of the Assyrian period were the first
completely to divest this ancient institution of its heathen
significance and give it a deeper religious, and therefore social
and humanitarian interpretation. They gave it its true and eternal
content, declaring that God decreed that all who labor should have
their needed rest. The prophet who added the noble interpretation
in Deuteronomy 5:14, 15, declares that it was not only that old and
young, master and slave, might rest, but also that even the toiling
ox and ass and the resident alien might have the relaxation which
their tired bodies required. Thus these inspired prophets traced
the ultimate basis of the institution of the Sabbath to God's
providence for the innate needs of man. They recognized that it
was essential for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of
the individual and, therefore, for the welfare of the State. That
the Hebrews might not forget this obligation, the prophets appealed
to the memory of the days when the Israelites themselves were
slaves in the land of Egypt and the thought of how Jehovah
delivered them from their slavery.
Tuan Fang, the great Manchu viceroy who only recently met martyrdom
at the hands of his warring countrymen, said when visiting America
a few years ago, "I think that when I return to China I will
introduce Sunday in my province." When asked whether he would make
it the seventh day, he replied, "Yes, for I think that the seventh
day is far better than the tenth. Furthermore, for the convenience
and economy of all, I will make it correspond to the Christian
Sunday. From my study of the conditions in America and of the
needs in China I am convinced that the Sabbath is a most valuable
and essential institution."
Later Judaism revived the earlier heathen content of the Sabbath,
and lost sight of its deeper political, social and humanitarian
significance. Unfortunately the Christian church and above all our
Puritan fathers followed the guidance of the later priests rather
than of the early prophets. Jesus with his clear insight into
human hearts and needs, and with his glowing love for men,
repudiated the harsh, mechanical interpretation of the Sabbath
current in his day and reasserted the teachings of the great
prophets that preceded him; "The Sabbath was made for man, not man
for the Sabbath."
Does the social and humanitarian interpretation of the Sabbath
obscure or deepen its religious significance? Does the great body
of the Christian church to-day accept the interpretation of the
prophets and of Jesus, or that of early heathenism and later
Judaism? Does the interpretation of the prophets and of Jesus
furnish a basis on which all classes in the state can unite in
appreciating and in jealously guarding the Sabbath? Does the
acceptance of one or the other of these interpretations
fundamentally affect our actual observance of the Sabbath? Our
motives and our spirit? Our attitude toward our fellow men?
IMPORTANCE OF CHILDREN'S LOYALTY TO PARENTS
It is generally recognized by scientists that the place of animals
in the scale of being is dependent upon the length of their period
of infancy. The lower forms of animal life are mature almost as
soon as they are born. Minnows never come under the care of their
genitors, but are independent as soon as they are hatched. The
young of the less developed quadrupeds are soon weaned and
forgotten by their parents. The longer the young remain in the
care of their parents the higher the form of the animal. The great
difference between men and most of the higher animals is thought by
many to be dependent upon the length of childhood, and the
consequent care and attention given by the parents. Even among
human beings it is scarcely too much to say that the longer the
time of education and training under proper supervision lasts, the
more successful finally at the end of life the man will be. When
one considers that Aristotle, who is perhaps generally accepted as
the world's greatest thinker, associated with his great teacher,
Plato, twenty years, until he was thirty-eight years of age and
produced nearly all his important works only after that time, we
may see one example of the profound importance of training. The
care of parents for their children throughout all of their early
years would naturally imply loyalty of children to the parents as a
mark of gratitude for the time and affection expended upon them.
In one of his characteristic poems, filled with wise suggestion,
Lowell speaks of obedience as that "great tap root" of the state
and civilization. The habit of obedience is one of the finest
characteristics in family life, and obedience to parents normally
becomes obedience to law in the citizen, one of the surest bonds of
society and one of the most necessary conditions of social progress.
This fact was so fully recognized in the patriarchal stage of
society that the head of the family within the tribe had the power
even of life and death over the members of his household. In
practically all early societies we find this authority of the
parent and the obedience of the child insisted upon as fundamental.
In the Orient, even to the present day, this respect of children
for their parents is closely bound up with their religion and their
civilization. The first wish of every man is that be may have a
son to sacrifice to his memory after he has gone. And not only in
China, but in many other states we find ancestral worship springing
from this relation of father and son.
The primitive Hebrew laws (Ex. 21:15, 17) made death the penalty
for a child who struck or cursed his parents. In many countries
parricide is considered the worse type of murder. The very old
Sumerian law of ancient Babylon punished with slavery the son who
repudiated his father. In the fifth commandment no penalty is
named for disrespect toward one's parents. The religious sanction
only is implied, though the penalty of death was inflicted by the
law of the tribe.
In society to-day our aim in education is to develop individuality
and for a country with a democratic form of government this type of
education should be encouraged. Disobedience or disrespect ho
parents has no longer a legal penalty, although the children may be
compelled by law to support their parents. But gratitude toward
parents and a normal affectionate family life are practically
essential to social welfare. Aside from its civic aspect, there is
nothing in society more beautiful than the right relationship
between parents and children. Jesus, who represented the kingdom
of God as a household, found that the best analogy for the
relationship of men to God and the best descriptions of the divine
nature are based upon this relationship.
PRIMARY OBLIGATIONS OF MAN TO MAN.
The second five commandments of the decalogue deal with the
obligations of man to man. These commands still find a central
place in modern society as the best guarantees of social stability,
security and peace. All of the crimes with which they deal, except
that of covetousness, were punished, in Hebrew custom and law, by
definite penalties. In many instances these penalties were still
more severe among other early peoples.
As soon as society emerges from the savage state, the crime of
adultery is always forbidden. Nothing else stirs the worst of
human passions as does sexual jealousy. Even to-day probably no
other cause is more productive of murder and suicide. In early
societies, like that of the Israelites, to this normal human
feeling of personal wrong was added that of the loss of property,
for wives or concubines were considered as property. Hence the
penalty for adultery among the Hebrews, as with many ancient and
many modern peoples, was death.
As soon as society develops from the savage into the pastoral
stage, private property is recognized in the flocks and herds. In
the development of society additional types of property rights
appear under various forms of ownership, until it is not too much
to say that modern society is based largely upon property rights.
The evils associated with property are many, but as yet, at any
rate, the rights of property are a benefit to the state, provided
those rights are exercised under proper legal supervision. It
should be recognized, however, that the command, "Thou shall not
steal," may well have various meanings, dependent upon the laws of
property. Our law restricts the right of legacy, the sale or even
the possession of poisons and often of dangerous weapons.
Similarly the degree of ownership of other goods is often limited.
The ninth command, not to bear false witness against one's
neighbor, is often interpreted as simply a violation of one's oath
in court, or when appended to formal legal papers. But in most
modern countries the command is also interpreted so as to include
lying. If this crime is defined in its broadest sense, as lack of
truth and trustworthiness, it is in many ways the greatest sin man
can commit against society. Practically all modern economic and
social relations are based upon the security of contracts and upon
the readiness of business men and citizens to keep their word. It
may be well questioned whether the crime of murder is as dangerous
to society as the habit of deception, for the temptation of murder
is rare as compared with that of deception; while the evil is often
less far-reaching in its consequence and less despicable.
In the last command, that directed against covetousness, the
law-giver goes beyond the external act to the motive and spirit in
the mind of the individual. If this command is kept in spirit, the
others are practically unnecessary. This command is like in kind
to that of Jesus in the New Testament, where all the commandments
are summed up into one: "Love one another."
THE PRESENT-DAY AUTHORITY OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
The various books that make up our Bible were each written to meet
the needs of the people of its day; but inasmuch as the prophets
and law-givers from the days of Moses to those of Jesus touched
upon the most vital questions of human life and society, these
principles are most of them universal and applicable to all tribes
and nations and races and peoples.
Necessarily there are many variations in the specific methods by
which these commands are to be carried out. The honor and
reverence due everywhere to mother and father may well have
different applications, depending upon the type of civilization,
the customs of living and the type of home life that exist in the
different countries. The injunction to keep the Sabbath may well
be carried out with the same spirit in various ways. What
constitutes theft depends upon the law of the separate state and
upon the rights of property granted by that law, but everywhere the
primary obligations of the individual to God, to society and to his
fellow men remain substantially the same. As he develops a more
tender conscience, a more just and kindly attitude toward his
fellows, a greater reverence toward his Creator, the spirit with
which be keeps these commandments is becoming continually more
urgent, whatever may be the specific way in which they may be
carried out for the benefit of his fellow men and of society.
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Does idol worship exist in any part of the civilized world to-day?
If so, where and in what forms?
Are those addicted to profanity necessarily and intentionally
irreverent? What is the origin of this habit? How may it be
eradicated? What are some of the best methods by which children
may be guarded against it?
Do you think it is right for the state to become responsible for
the religious education of its citizens?
What is the fundamental difference between the so-called
"Continental Sabbath" and that observed by Jesus?
In what way may Sunday be made a day of greater profit and
significance to the working man?
What attitude should one take regarding so-called "white" or
"society lies"? Under what circumstances, if any, is it right to
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Decalogues in Exodus 20-23. _Hist. Bible_ II, 209-24.
(2) Jesus' Version of the Ancient Prophetic Decalogue. See Matt.
5:17, 18; 6:19-21; 12:1-12, 31, 32; 15:3-5; 22: 36-39.
(3) Compare the Moral Ideals of the Decalogue with those of the
Present-Day Socialists. Cross, _The Essentials of Socialism_;
Walling, _Socialism as It Is_; Spargo, _Elements of Socialism_.
THE EARLY TRAINING OF A RACE.
ISRAEL'S EXPERIENCE IN THE WILDERNESS AND EAST OF THE JORDAN--Num.
11-14; 21:21-31; 32:39-42.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 204-29.
Edward Jenks, _Hist. of Politics_, Chap, III.
Then as they journeyed from the mountain of Jehovah the ark of
Jehovah went before them, to seek out a halting place for them.
And whenever the ark started, Moses would say,
Arise, O Jehovah,
And let thine enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate thee flee before thee.
And when it rested, he would say,
Return, O Jehovah, to the ten thousand of thousands of
Israel.--_Num. 10:33, 35, 36_.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, hovereth over her young, taketh
them, beareth them upon her wings, so the Lord his God did lead him
and there was no strange God with him.--_Deut. 32: 11_.
Before man made us citizens, great Nature made us men--_Lowell_.
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain
Till earth and sky stand presently at God's great
But there is neither East, nor West, border nor breed
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come
from the ends of the earth.
The measure of the success of our lives can only lie in the stature
of our manhood, in the growth in unworldliness and in the moral
elevation of our inner self.--_Henry Drummond_.
THE WILDERNESS ENVIRONMENT.
The accounts regarding the experiences of the Israelites in the
wilderness lack the unity which characterizes the records of the
earlier and later periods. They simply give occasional pictures of
the life of the Hebrew fugitives. They must be interpreted in the
light of the peculiar background of the wilderness and of the
nomadic life which flourishes there to-day as it did in the past.
The Hebrews on escaping from Egypt entered the South Country, which
extends seventy miles from the rocky hills of Judah southward until
it merges into the barren desert. During the later Roman period
the northern and northwestern portions of this territory were
partially reclaimed by agriculturalists; but in early periods, as
to-day, it was pre-eminently the home of wandering, nomadic tribes.
This wild, treeless region is divided by rocky ranges running from
east to west. Parallel to these are deep, hot and for the most
part waterless valleys. In the springtime these valleys are
covered by a sparse vegetation; from a few perennial springs flow
waters that irrigate the immediately surrounding land; but they
soon lose themselves in the thirsty desert. During the summer the
vegetation disappears almost entirely, and the struggle for
subsistence becomes intense. The nature of the country makes it
necessary for its inhabitants constantly to journey from one
pasture land and spring to another.
The home of the Hebrews at this time, like that of the modern
Arabs, was the tent. The stories that have come down from this
period suggest the experiences through which they passed. The
constant insistent problem in this region was and is how to secure
adequate supplies of food and water. During the greater part of
the year the chief food of the people is the milk and curds
supplied by their herds. At times, however, these fail to meet the
needs even of the modern Bedouin inhabitants of this South Country.
They then gather the gum that exudes from the tamarisk tree or the
lichens from the rocks. From these they make a coarse flour and
bread which keeps them alive until the winter rains again bring
their supply of water and pasturage. Some scholars hold that this
coarse food was the manna of the Biblical accounts. They argue
that later generations, familiar with the barrenness of the
wilderness and believing that the Hebrews at this time numbered
many thousands, naturally concluded and reported that their
ancestors were miraculously fed. At certain periods, also, the
meagre fare of the desert dweller is supplemented by the quails
which he is able to capture and these are a welcome relief to his
monotonous diet. About the perennial springs, which gush forth
from the barren rock, there also grew up stories of a miraculous
provision for the needs of Jehovah's people; for all springs and
especially those in the desert were regarded by the ancients as
miracles. Even in more fertile lands the Greeks reared beside such
springs temples to the god, whom they thought of as thus signally
revealing himself. In the deeper sense each of these early Hebrew
stories is historical, for they all record the fundamental thought
and belief that through this strenuous, painful period, even as in
later crises in their history, Jehovah was guiding his people and
giving them not only food and water, but also that training in the
school of danger and privation which was essential for their
Even more insistent than the constant struggle for food and water
were the dangers that came from the hostile tribes which already
occupied this much-contested territory. For the possession of the
springs and pasture lands they fought with the energy and craft
that characterize the Bedouin tribes to-day. Hence, to the
Hebrews, fresh from the fertile fields of Egypt, their life in the
wilderness represented constant hardship, privation, suffering and
INFLUENCE OV THE NOMADIC LIFE UPON ISRAEL'S CHARACTER AND IDEALS.
The wilderness left a stamp upon Hebrew character and life that may
be traced even to-day in the later descendants of that race. It
tightened their muscles and gave them that physical virility which
has enabled them to survive even amidst the most unfavorable
conditions. It taught them how to subsist on the most meagre food
supply and to thrive where the citizen of a more prosperous land
would inevitably starve.
It is probable that in their early nomadic experiences the Hebrews
acquired those migratory habits which, intensified by unwonted
vicissitudes, have carried them to almost every civilized land. In
the wilderness they also learned the art of nomadic warfare which,
to win victories, depended not so much upon open attack as upon
strategy. The common dangers of the wilderness life tightened the
racial and religious bonds that held them together. Only by the
closest union could they resist the perils that beset them. Upon
the complete devotion of each man to the interest of the tribe hung
his fate, as well as that of the community as a whole. Hence arose
that devotion to race, that readiness to avenge every wrong and to
protect each individual, even if it cost the life-blood of the
tribe, which is illustrated in many of the stories that come from
this early period. How far has this racial characteristic survived?
In a community thus closely bound together the morality of each
individual was guarded with a jealousy unknown in more settled
prosperous communities. Thus, for example, adultery from the first
appears to have been punished by public stoning. How far has this
characteristic survived to the glory of the Jewish race?
The tribal organization also cherished the freedom of each
individual. His voice was heard in its council and his rights were
carefully protected. The free atmosphere of the desert tolerated
no despotism, and the sheik was the servant of all. These
fundamental conceptions of government persisted even when, under
the influence of a new agricultural environment, the Hebrews
established the kingship and monarchy. It was the struggle between
these inherited democratic ideals and those of the neighbors who
were ruled by despots, that ultimately disrupted the Hebrew kingdom
and called forth those great champions of liberty and social
justice, the prophets of the Assyrian period. It was this same
democratic atmosphere that made possible the work of those
prophets, who openly denounced the crimes of king and people. How
far have the Jews throughout all their history allied themselves
with democratic movements?
THE INFLUENCE OF THE WILDERNESS LIFE UPON ISRAEL'S FAITH.
The pressure of constant danger intensified the sense of dependence
upon a power outside and above themselves. It led them to look
constantly to Jehovah as their sole guide and deliverer. A
continued attitude crystallized into a habit. Hence, throughout
their troubled career the Hebrews have been conscious of the
presence of God and have found in him their defender and personal
friend as has no other people in human history.
As later generations meditated on the perils of the wilderness
through which their ancestors passed, they naturally felt that only
under the immediate guidance of a divine power could they have
escaped. They were familiar with the way in which the caravans
travel through the desert: in front of the leader is borne aloft a
brazier filled with coals. From this smouldering fire there arises
by day a column of smoke that, in the clear air of the desert, can
be easily seen afar by any who may straggle behind. At night these
glowing coals seem like a pillar of fire, telling of the presence
of their leader and protector. With the same vivid imagery,
according to some interpreters, the later Hebrews pictured the
march of their ancestors through the wilderness, and thereby
symbolized the belief that Jehovah was then present and that
through his prophet Moses he was personally guiding his people.
How far have these Old Testament narratives been thus interpreted
by modern western readers? Does it change their spiritual
significance to seek to learn their origin and real literary
character? Are there still to be found, often in humble walks of
life, earnest Christians who have similar deep spiritual
experiences and describe them with the same vivid imagery and
concreteness? Is the value of our conception of God's presence and
activity in human history deepened and strengthened or lessened by
the thought that in the past, even as to-day, he accomplished his
ends by natural rather than contra-natural methods? Are the faith
and institutions of nations and individuals developed most through
special revelations or through ordinary, constant, daily training
and experience? Is it not true that to us all there come at times
experiences akin to those that underlie these wonderful narratives?
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EAST-JORDAN CONQUESTS.
Desert dwellers take little account of the lapse of time. It is
not strange that the data regarding the duration of the sojourn in
the wilderness are late and exceedingly vague. The number forty in
the Bible is the concrete Hebrew equivalent of many. Ordinarily
the forty years represent a generation. A period of about forty
years accords well with the facts of contemporary Egyptian
chronology. If the Hebrews fled from Egypt about 1200, during the
period of anarchy following the breakdown of the nineteenth
Egyptian dynasty, they could not have entered Palestine much before
the middle of the twelfth century, for Ramses III of the Twentieth
Dynasty succeeded in re-establishing and maintaining his authority
in Southern Palestine until his death about 1167 B.C.
The account of the spies, preserved according to some writers in
variant versions by each of the great groups of Hebrew narratives,
indicates that the Hebrews attempted but failed to enter Canaan
from the south. For tribesmen like the Israelites, chafing under
their harsh environment and recalling the prosperity of the land of
Egypt, Palestine with its green hills and fertile fields was an
irresistible lodestone luring them on to the conquest. The reasons
why they failed to enter Canaan from the south are suggested in the
narrative of the spies and confirmed by a study of the historical
geographical situation. The Canaanite cities of Southern Palestine
were built largely with the view to protecting their inhabitants
from the ever-lurking nomad invaders. On the other hand the
Hebrews had none of the equipment needed to conquer walled cities.
More than that the barren hills of the South Country did not
furnish the base of supplies necessary to maintain a protracted
siege. The early Hebrew narratives imply that certain nomadic
tribes, as, for example, the Calebites, the Kenizzites and the
Jerahmeelites, independently gained a foothold on the southern
borders of Canaan and ultimately assimilated with the Hebrew tribe
of Judah when the latter entered Palestine. The earliest Hebrew
accounts, however, as well as the logic of the situation indicate
that the great body of the Israelites, whose ancestors had been in
the land of Egypt, entered Palestine from the east. Throughout all
its history the east-Jordan land has witnessed the constant
transition of Arab tribes from the nomadic life of the desert to
the more settled civilization, of agricultural Palestine. Here on
the eastern heights that overlook the Jordan valley and the land of
Canaan the traveller still finds the Arab tents and flocks of the
nomads beside the plowed fields of the village-dwellers. On the
rolling plains of northern Moab and southern Gilead there are few
commanding heights or natural fortresses. The important towns,
like Dibon and Heshbon, lay on slightly rising hills. The
character of the ruins to-day does not indicate that they were ever
surrounded by formidable walls. Whether the Hebrews conquered them
by open attack or by strategy, as in the case of the town of Ai, is
not stated. It is certain, however, that here they first gained a
permanent foothold in agricultural Palestine. From the conquered
they here learned their initial lessons in the arts of agriculture
and became acquainted with that more advanced Canaanite
civilization which they later absorbed. Coming fresh from the
desert, where only the fittest survived, their numbers rapidly
increased in this quieter and more favorable environment. Soon to
the constant pressure of the desert population on the east was
added that of over-population, so that necessity, as well as
ambition, impelled them to cross the Jordan to seek homes among the
hills to the west.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MOSES' WORK.
The study of the beginnings of Israel's history in the light of its
physical, social and economic environment reveals clearly the many
powerful forces then at work. At the same time these do not alone
explain Israel's later history and the uniqueness of its character
and faith. These later facts plainly point back to a strong,
commanding personality, who shaped the ideals and institutions of
this early people and left upon them the imperishable imprint of
his own unique individuality. Although the traditions regarding
him have been transmitted for centuries from mouth to mouth, they
portray the character and work of Moses with remarkable clarity and
impressiveness. Moses was primarily a patriot. He was also a
prophet-statesman, able to grasp and interpret the significance of
the great crises in the life of his people and to suggest practical
solutions. Moreover, he was able to inspire confidence, and to
lead as well as direct. In the harsh environment of the wilderness
he was able to adjust himself to most difficult conditions. In
leading the Hebrew serfs from the land of Egypt, he became indeed
the creator of the future Hebrew nation. In the wilderness be
trained that child nation. As judge and counsellor, he taught
concretely the broad principles which became the foundation of
later Hebrew law.
As guardian of the oracle and priest of the desert sanctuary,
Moses, like the later prophet of Islam, but with far greater
spiritual power and deeper insight, taught his people not only the
art of worship, but certain of the great essentials of religion.
He it was who formulated in a positive faith the wholesome
reaction, which he and his kinsmen felt against the gross
polytheism of Egypt. The inspiration of all of Moses' work was his
own personal faith. The first great vision of Jehovah's character
and purpose that he had received in the land of Midian was
doubtless often renewed amidst the same wild, impressive scenes.
The exact nature of the deeper, more personal side of his character
and faith must be inferred from the close analogies that may be
drawn from the memoirs of Isaiah or Jeremiah. At the same time it
is a mistake to infer that Moses' beliefs were as lofty as those of
the later prophets who stood in the light of a larger experience.
On the other hand, it is not just to disregard the fact that Moses,
being a prophet, was far in advance of the primitive age in which
he lived. Not only did Moses create the Hebrew nation and teach it
its first lessons in practical politics and religion, but he it was
who first instilled into his race commanding loyalty to the one
God, Jehovah, and taught that religion was more than form: that it
meant right thinking and doing. Thus Moses was the forerunner of
Israel's later prophets, who broke away from the narrow heathen
interpretation of religion and defined it in terms of life and
THE EARLY STAGES IN THE TRAINING OF THE HUMAN RACE.
It is interesting and important to note that Israel's history was
in most respects like that of other growing nations. In the
beginning pastoral society and tribal government develop among
savages primarily through the domestication of animals. The young
of the animals slain in the hunt are kept first as pets: then, when
as a result of the thriftless nature of the savages supplies at
times become scarce, the pets are slain for food. As pets become
more common and population increases, the advantage of breeding for
use is apparent, and private property, in distinction from
community possessions, appears. The growing herds naturally
develop the need of regular service. To meet this need the
institutions of permanent marriage and bondage arise and the wife
or wives and the slaves perform the added work. With the custom of
fixed marriage and the possibility of tracing ancestry through the
father, comes in time ancestral government. The Hebrews seem to
have had this type of government, even in the days of Abraham; and
it lasted until the tribes broke up into clans and families, when
they acquired permanent homes and became agriculturists in the land
Many of the characteristics of the tribe disappear almost entirely,
as wandering nomads settle in a fixed abode, and the patriarchal
rule changes to that of a royal or democratic government. Customs
become fixed in formal statutes. Property in land becomes more
important than that in herds. War becomes the business of a
special army, instead of the frequent duty of all.
But in the tribe there is little competition. All work for the
community, or for the family, rather than for individual interests.
Each man is primarily responsible, not to the state, but to the
head of his family or clan, who in turn answers for his family to
the tribal chief.
Certain of these tribal institutions and ideals have left their
indelible impress on modern society. The tribe was exclusive.
All those not born into the tribe had no right, no welcome there,
for their coming would tend to restrict the common pasturage. They
would be a burden. Though the tent-dweller might be hospitable to
a guest, an alien had no rights except on sufferance. If he were
needy and were received, he usually became a serf or slave. And
yet this exclusiveness is the germ of our patriotism, a noble trait
that may ultimately, but not soon, be replaced by a cosmopolitan
love for humanity.
Allied to this is the personal bond, that obtains in the tribe,
instead of the territorial unity of the modern state. A Frenchman
is such because he is born in France; an Israelite is such because
he is the son of Abraham and knows his people as his blood kinsmen.
This personal tie makes for peace and democracy. Building on this
Jewish tribal trait, Jesus calls all men brethren because sons of a
common Father. His Kingdom of God, likewise, is not territorial.
Its citizens are bound together by the tribal bond of a common
brotherhood and fatherhood. Thus the lessons, so deeply impressed
in the childhood of the race, have a large and growing significance
for the present and future.
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
What reasons may be given to prove that love for humanity is a
virtue more useful to modern civilization than patriotism?
Does the movement for universal peace find any encouragement in the
teachings ascribed to Moses?
On what grounds can the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites be
defended? How did it differ from the taking of Tripoli by Italy?
Or of Porto Rico by the United States?
In the light of the oldest records, was Moses' work in your
judgment accomplished by natural or supernatural methods?
What were the chief characteristics of Moses? What place does he
hold in history?
Is modern socialism in any way a revival of the principles
underlying the old tribal organization? How far did Jesus in his
idea of the Kingdom of God build on the old tribal idea?
_Subjects/or Further Study_.
(1) Characteristics of the Wilderness South of Palestine.
Hastings, _Dict. Bib_. III, 505-6. Kent, _Bib. Geog. and Hist_.,
(2) The Religion of Moses. Hastings, _Dict. Bib_., Extra Vol.
631-634; Marti, _Old Testament Religion_, 36-71.
(3) Compare the tribal organization and customs of the Israelites
with those of the American Indian tribes of to-day. Publications
of the _Indian Association_; publications of the _Mohonk
A NATION'S STRUGGLE FOR A HOME AND FREEDOM.
ISRAEL'S VICTORIES OVER THE CANAANITES.--Josh. 2-9; Judg. 1, 4, 5.
_Hist. Bible_ II,1-4.1.
_Prin. of Politics_ X.
That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
That the people volunteered readily,
Zebulun was a people who exposed themselves to deadly peril,
And Naphtali on the heights of the open field.
Kings came, they fought;
They fought, the kings of Canaan,
At Taanach by the Waters of Megiddo,
They took no booty of silver.
Prom heaven fought the stars,
From their courses fought against Sisera,
The river Kishon swept them away,
That ancient river, the river Kishon.
O my soul, march on with strength!
When did the horse-hoofs resound
With the galloping, galloping of their steeds?
--Judg. 5, 9, 18-22 (Hist. Bible).
This was King Arthur's dreame. Him thought that there was comen
into his lande many gryffons and serpents, and him thought that
they brent and slew all the people in the land. And then him
thought that he fought with them, and they did him passing great
damage and wounded him full sore, but at the last he slewe them
all.--Malory, _Hist. of King Arthur_; _Mort d' Arthur_.
Young gentlemen, have a resolute life purpose. Don't get mad and
don't get scared.--_Burleson_.
THE CROSSING OF THE JORDAN.
In the light of the preceding studies, the motives that led the
Hebrews to cross the Jordan become evident. As the Pilgrim
Fathers, to secure a home where they might enjoy and develop their
own type of belief and methods of civilization, braved the dimly
known dangers of the sea and the wilderness, the Hebrews braved the
contests that unquestionably lay before them. Between the Sea of
Galilee and the Dead Sea the Jordan is fordable at thirty points
during certain parts of the year. The first of the two main fords
in the lower Jordan is just below the point where the Wady Kelt
enters the Jordan from the west and deposits its mass of mud and
silt. The other ford is six miles further north below the point
where the Wady Nimrin comes down from the highlands of Gilead.
Here to-day the main highway connecting the east and the
west-Jordan country crosses the river. This spot was probably the
scene of the historic crossing at the beginning of Hebrew history.
Certain writers hold that variant accounts of the most important
facts in early Hebrew history have here been preserved. Traces of
three different versions of the crossing of the Jordan may still,
in their judgment, be found in the third and fourth chapters of the
book of Joshua. The latest and most familiar narrative represents
the crossing as a superlative miracle and the waters of the rushing
river as piled up like a wall on either side. The Northern
Israelite version appears to have stated that the waters of the
Jordan were dried up, implying that the Hebrews crossed during the
late summer when the river was easily fordable. The earliest
narrative, the Judean prophetic, states that "the waters rose up in
a heap, a great way off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarathan,
and those that went down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt
Sea, were wholly cut off" (Josh. 3:16b). From other references in
the Old Testament it would appear that the city of Adam, which
means red earth, is to-day represented by the ruins of Ed-Damieh,
which stands near the famous Damieh ford at the point where the
river Jabbok enters the Jordan.
It is interesting to note in this connection that a reliable Moslem
historian states that in the year 1257 A.D. the retreating Moslems
found it neccessary to repair the foundations of an important
bridge which stood at this point. When the workmen arrived on the
scene they were amazed to find the riverbed empty and were able by
working rapidly to complete the repairs before the waters came
rushing down. This remarkable phenomenon seemed to them to be due
to the direct intervention of Allah; but the historian fortunately
records the cause: it was a huge landslide a little further up the
river which temporarily dammed its waters. The oldest Biblical
account of the crossing of the Jordan may point to a like natural
cause. If this be true, does it imply that Jehovah had no part in
preparing the way for the future conquests of his people? Would a
miracle, such as that recorded in the late-priestly tradition, be
any stronger proof of God's presence and activity in human history
than are the provisions which we to-day call natural?
THE CANAANITE CIVILIZATION.
Contemporary inscriptions and recent excavations make it possible
to form a very definite conception of conditions in Canaan when the
Hebrews crossed the Jordan. The dominant civilization was that of
the Canaanites, the descendants of the Semitic invaders from the
desert who entered Palestine centuries before the ancestors of the
Hebrews. Naturally they settled first along the fertile coast
plains that skirt the western Mediterranean. In later times these
were known as the Phoenicians. As the population increased, the
Canaanites pushed their outposts along the broad valleys that
penetrated the uplands of Palestine. These valleys were especially
fertile and attractive in the territory later known as Galilee and
Samaria. The wide Plain of Esdraelon and its eastward extension,
the Valley of Jezreel, cut straight across the central plateau of
Palestine. The Plain of Esdraelon was the strongest centre of the
Canaanite civilization. A few outposts were established in the
Jordan valley, as for example, Laish, later known as Dan, at the
foot of Mount Hermon, and Jericho, at the southern end of the
Jordan valley. Only a few Canaanite villages were found along the
more barren hills of Southern Canaan. There the peoples and
civilization still retained the imprint of their desert origin.
Along the coast plains and across the great Plain of Esdraelon ran
the main highways that connected the three earliest and most
nourishing centres of the world's civilization: the Egyptian on the
southwest, the Amorite on the north, probably between the southern
Lebanons, and the Babylonian to the east and northeast. For
centuries the Canaanites had absorbed the ideas, institutions, and
culture of these stronger peoples. So fundamentally had the
Babylonians impressed the Canaanites that practically all of the
inscriptions coming from this early period are written in the
Babylonian script. Even in writing to their Egyptian conqueror
during the fourteenth century, the Canaanite kings of Palestine
used this same Babylonian system of writing. The Amorite
civilization had so strongly influenced the Canaanites that to-day
it is difficult for the archaeologist to distinguish between the
two. By certain of the Biblical writers the terms Canaanite and
Amorite are used interchangeably. As early as 1600 B.C. Egypt,
under the ambitious conquering kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, had
overrun Palestine and for the next three or four centuries ruled it
as a tributary province. The nearness of Egypt made its influence
still more powerful, so that in nearly every mound and Canaanite
ruin the excavator finds hundreds of reminders of the presence of
the Egyptian civilization.
The Canaanites had long since left behind them the nomadic state
and had developed a strong agricultural and commercial
civilization. Their life centered about certain important cities
like Megiddo on the southwestern side and Bethshean on the eastern
side of the Plain of Esdraelon. Their cities were usually built on
a low-lying hill in the midst of rich encircling plains. They were
provided with thick mud walls, behind which the inhabitants felt
secure from attack. Over each city ruled a petty king, whose
authority, however, did not extend far beyond the surrounding
fields that belonged to the inhabitants of the town. Generally
these city states were independent. In many cases they were
hostile to each other; and the long rule of Egypt had tended to
intensify this hostility, for Egypt had depended upon this local
jealousy to maintain its control. The diversified physical contour
of Palestine likewise strengthened this tendency toward separation
rather than unity.
This type of political organization favored the growth of
polytheism rather than the worship of one god. Each city had its
local god or baal, which was worshipped at a high place either
within the city or on some adjacent height, while in the larger
cities elaborate altars and temples were reared to them. These
local deities were regarded as the gods of fertility which gave to
their worshippers ample harvests and numerous offspring both of the
family and of the nock. The principle of generation occupied such
a prominent place in the Canaanite cults that in time they became
exceedingly immoral and debasing. To secure the favor of their
gods the Canaanites brought rich sacrifices to their altars and
observed certain great annual festivals with ceremonies very
similar to those later adopted by the Hebrews.
While the Canaanites were on a much higher plane of material
civilization than the Hebrews, they ultimately fell a prey to those
hardy invaders of the desert: (1) Because they were incapable of
strong united action, and (2) because their civilization was
corrupt and enervating. Courage and real patriotism were almost
unknown to them even as early as the seventeenth century B.C., when
the Egyptian king Thutmose III invaded the land of Palestine.
Their strong walls and their superior military equipment, however,
made their immediate conquest by the Hebrews impossible. This
explains why the earliest account of the initial conquest, now
found in Judges 1, is chiefly devoted to recounting the strong
Canaanite cities which the Hebrews failed to conquer.
THE CAPTURE OF THE OUTPOSTS OF PALESTINE.
In the light of our present knowledge of the Canaanite civilization
it becomes evident why most of the early Hebrew conquests were in
the south. The only large Canaanite city which they could conquer
in the early days was Jericho. Recent excavations have also shown
why later generations regarded its capture by the Hebrews as a
miracle, although many modern interpreters hold that the early
account does not imply that it was by supernatural means. Like
most of the Canaanite cities, it was situated on a slightly rising
eminence, close to the foothills that on the west rose abruptly to
the central plateau of Canaan. Northward, eastward, and southward,
extended for miles the level plain of the Jordan river, which
plowed its way through its alluvial bed, six miles east of Jericho.
Close by the site of the ancient city came the perennial waters of
the Wady Kelt with which it was possible to irrigate its fields.
Past the town ran the main highway from across the Jordan, along
the northern side of the Wady Kelt, to join the great central
highway that extended through the centre of Palestine. Jericho
was, therefore, the key to the land of Canaan, and its capture was
necessary if the Hebrews were to maintain their connection with
their kinsmen east of the Jordan.
The ruins of the ancient Canaanite town rise between forty and
fifty feet above the plain. It is an oblong mound containing
altogether about twelve acres. The excavations have disclosed a
large part of the encircling wall. It was a construction of
excellent workmanship which still stands practically intact,
testifying to the accuracy of the early Hebrew tradition. Its
foundation is a wall of rubble sixteen feet high and six to eight
feet thick, sloping inward. On the top of this foundation, which
rested on the native rock, was built a supplemental wall of burnt
brick six or seven feet in thickness and rising even now in its
ruined condition on an average eight feet above the lower wall.
Thus the original wall must have towered between twenty and thirty
feet above the plain. At the northern end of the city stood the
citadel, made of unburnt brick, three stories high. Even the stone
staircase which led to the top is still intact.
According to these investigators the late tradition that these
walls fell flat to the earth as the result of a miracle finds no
confirmation in the ruins themselves. The older Hebrew account,
however, in their judgment agrees perfectly with the evidence
revealed by the spade of the excavator. In imagination it is easy
to follow the perilous journey of the Hebrew spies and to
appreciate the importance of the negotiations by which they secured
the co-operation of Rahab and of the clan within Jericho which she
represented. Later come the Hebrew hordes from across the Jordan
bearing with them the ark which symbolized to them the presence of
Jehovah, who had led them on to victory in many an early battle.
Behind their impregnable walls the inhabitants of Jericho must have
laughed scornfully at the desert host, that seemed utterly
incapable of an effective attack or of a protracted siege.
According to many modern interpreters the earliest Hebrew host
marched silently about the Canaanite stronghold. At first the
inhabitants of Jericho, accustomed to Arab strategy, undoubtedly
held themselves ready for defence. When no attack came, their
vigilance was gradually relaxed. At last on the seventh day, when
conditions were favorable, at the preconcerted signal, a trumpet
blast, the Hebrews rushed toward the walls, the gates were probably
opened by their allies within the city, and Jericho was quickly
captured. The method of attack recorded in the prophetic narrative
was very similar to the strategy used a little later by the Hebrews
in the capture of the smaller towns of Ai and Bethel. They are the
methods still employed by the Bedouins in their attacks upon the
outposts of Palestine.
The fierce nomadic instincts of these early Hebrew warriors are
revealed by the fate which they visited upon Jericho and its
inhabitants. The recent excavations confirm the Biblical testimony
that for several centuries after its initial capture the ancient
town was left a heap of ruins.
Its inhabitants were slain as a great sacrificial offering to
Jehovah, whose true character as one who loves all mankind was
first appreciated by the inspired prophets of a much later From the
plain of Jericho two or three roads led up to the central plateau
of Canaan. The main road along the Wady Kelt ran past the villages
of Ai and Bethel. At most they were small towns and easily
captured. Along this highway went the Hebrew tribes later known as
the Ephraimites and Manassites. The other roads led through the
wilderness southwestward to the heart of Judah. The frontier town
of Bezek, mentioned in the ancient narrative of Judges, has not yet
been identified. The name is perhaps but a scribal corruption of
Bethlehem or of Bethzur further to the south. The other towns
ultimately captured by the southern tribes were Hebron, with its
copious water supply, Debir to the southwest, and Arad and Hormah
which lay on the borders of the South Country. The capture of
these six or seven outposts represents the first stage in the
conquest and settlement of Palestine. It was significant because
it meant that the people from the wilderness had gained a foothold
in the land where they ultimately found their home. It inaugurated
Israel's pioneer period. The Hebrews were no longer homeless
wanderers in the desert, nor sojourners in a foreign land. At this
point Israel's history as a nation properly begins, although the
complete union of the tribes was not consummated until nearly a
WAYS BY WHICH THE ISRAELITES WON THEIR HOMES.
The impression conveyed by the later passages in the book of Joshua
that the Hebrews within a period of seven years became complete
masters of the land of Canaan is different from that made by the
older records in Judges. These indicate that the process was
gradual, extending through several generations. Except at two or
three great crises, this conquest appears to have been peaceful
rather than by the sword, a process of settlement and colonization
rather than of capture. Today throughout many parts of Palestine
one may still see, close to the cities, the black tents and the
flocks of the Bedouin immigrants. In the days of the Hebrew
settlement the Canaanites were largely confined to the fertile
valleys. The uplands were still open to the men from the desert.
Here the Hebrews pitched their tents and finally built their rude
homes. In this more favorable environment their families and their
flocks gradually increased until they began to encroach upon the
territory already occupied by the older inhabitants. The resulting
quarrels and differences were sometimes settled by the appeal to
the sword; more frequently by alliances sealed by intermarriages.
The early narrative in the ninth and tenth chapters of the book of
Judges gives a vivid picture of the resulting condition: in the
strong Canaanite city of Shechem, Hebrews and Canaanites had so far
intermarried that Abimelech, a product of this intermarriage,
succeeded his father Gideon as king of the first little Hebrew
kingdom. At Shechem Hebrews and Canaanites also worshipped side by
side in the common sanctuary, which was known as "the temple of
Baal of the Covenant."
Under the pressure of the increased population certain of the
Hebrew tribes migrated and seized new territory. Such a migration
is vividly recorded in Judges 17 and 18. The little tribe of the
Danites, finding the pressure of their kinsmen on the north and
east and that of the Philistines on the west too strong, captured
the Canaanite city of Laish at the foot of Mount Hermon and thus
found a permanent home in the upper Jordan valley.
It was a cruel, barbarous age in which might was regarded as right.
Thus, Ehud the Benjamite, who treacherously gained admittance to
the presence of Eglon, secretly slew this Moabite oppressor of the
Hebrews. This act instead of being condemned was regarded then and
even by later generations as an example of courageous patriotism.
Was his act justifiable? How would it be regarded in America
DEBORAH'S RALLY OF THE HEBREWS.
The growing numbers and strength of the Israelites at last alarmed
the Canaanites. A certain leader by the name of Sisera formed a
coalition of the strong Canaanite cities encircling the Plain of
Esdraelon. The centre of this coalition was the powerful city of
Megiddo, the ruins of which on the south-western side of the plain
still remain to testify to the natural strength of this ancient
stronghold. The policy of the Canaanites was to keep the different
Hebrew clans apart and thus prevent united action. In the words of
the ancient song:
In the days of Jael the highways were unused,
And travellers walked by round-about paths.
The rulers ceased in Israel;
A shield was not seen in five cities
Nor a spear among forty thousand.
The one who alone appears to have understood the crisis and to have
been able to stir the Israelites to action was Deborah, the
prophetess of the central tribe of Issachar. Israel's struggle for
independence is graphically recorded in the ancient poem found in
Judges 5. The later prose version of the incident, found in Judges
4, supplements the earlier poem. To a chief of a northern tribe of
Napthali, a certain Barak, she turned as the natural leader in the
struggle for independence. Together they sent out the summons to
the different northern tribes. The southern tribes of Judah and
Simeon were apparently ignored. The distant tribes of Asher, Dan
and Reuben were engrossed in their local interests and failed to
respond. The tribesmen who rallied forty thousand strong on the
northern side of the Plain of Esdraelon represented the great
central Hebrew clans. The ancient song, sung by the women as they
met the returning warriors, makes it possible to reconstruct the
battle scene. Through the broad valleys that lead into the Plain
of Esdraelon from the north came the sinewy, unkempt, roughly clad
and poorly equipped Hebrew tribesmen, each clan led by its local
chief. They had "come up to the help of Jehovah against the
mighty." Tribal patriotism, the memory of past grievances, the
desire for plunder, and zeal for Jehovah the God who had led their
forefathers through the wilderness into the land of Canaan, stirred
their courage and fired them to deeds of valor. Well they chose
their battlefield, out on the plain on the northern side of the
muddy, sluggish river Kishon. On the slightly rising ground they
faced the Canaanite warriors who came out across the plain from the
city of Megiddo, six miles away. The Canaanites were armed with
chariots and the best weapons that the early Semitic civilization
could produce, but one thing they lacked,--courage, fired by
Again a striking natural phenomenon appears suddenly to have turned
the tide of Israel's fortune. On the eve of battle a drenching
thunderstorm seems to have swept across the alluvial plain
transforming it into a morass and the sluggish Kishon into a
rushing, unfordable river. In the words of the ancient triumphal
From heaven fought the stars,
From their courses fought against Sisera.
The river Kishon swept them away,
The ancient river, the river Kishon.
O my soul, march on with strength!
Then did the horse-hoofs resound
With the galloping, galloping of their steeds.
The Hebrew even brings out the sound of the sucking of the horses'
hoofs in the soft mud. The storm not only gave to the Hebrews, who
were on foot, a vast advantage, but it meant to them that Jehovah,
whose chariot was the clouds, his weapons, the lightning, and who
spoke through the thunders, was fighting in their behalf.
The victory was overwhelming. Sisera, the Canaanite leader, fled,
but only to fall later, ignominiously slain by a woman. Henceforth
the Canaanite cities of central Palestine were occupied by the
Hebrews. The vanquished were either enslaved or absorbed in
intermarriage. From them, however, the Hebrews learned skill in
agriculture and received a heritage of art, ideas and customs that
had been developed by the Canaanites for many centuries. How far
was this heritage beneficial to the Hebrews? What temptations did
it bring to them? Did it mark a step forward in their development?
Were the early Hebrews a pure or a mixed race?
More important than the spoils and lands which fell to the Hebrews
was the new demonstration of Jehovah's ability and willingness to
deliver his people which they received in the battle beside Kishon.
Throughout all of Israel's colonial period the chief force binding
the scattered Hebrew tribes together was their faith in Jehovah.
The victory greatly strengthened that faith and prepared the way
for the closer union which was necessary before Israel could become
a permanent force among the nations of the earth. The vision of
what they had been able to achieve through united action never
completely faded from the memory of the Hebrews. Their subsequent
experiences also tended to revive this memory. Amidst the warring
elements in Palestine a powerful nation was gradually taking form;
in the school of hard experience it was learning the lessons that
were fitting it for a large life.
THE FINAL STAGE IN THE MAKING OP THE HEBREW NATION.
The final stage in the evolution of Israel is recorded in the
opening chapters of I Samuel and is best studied in detail in
connection with the history of the nation at its zenith. We have
studied the forces which made the nation. A brief summary will
indicate the transition to the next period, that of the kingdom.
The victory over the Canaanites gave the Hebrews possession of the
land and left them free to coalesce into a united nation; but the
centrifugal tribe spirit for a time proved the stronger. Under
Gideon a beginning was made in kingdom making, but owing to the
cruelty and inefficiency of his son Abimelech, the first Hebrew
state lasted little more than a generation.
The compelling power that finally brought all the rival Hebrew
tribes together under a common leader was the conquest of their
territory by the warlike, ambitious Philistines. In inspiring the
Benjamite chieftain Saul to deliver his countrymen in their hour of
shame and peril, Samuel the prophet proved the true father of the
Hebrew kingdom. Under the compulsion of common danger the
Israelites not only followed Saul to victory, but also made him
their king. From this time on Israel took its place among the
nations of the earth.
During their formative period the Hebrews acquired many
characteristics that they have retained throughout their history.
From their early nomadic life they inherited physical strength,
hardihood, adaptability even to the most unfavorable environment,
courage, perseverance and that individual initiative and
self-reliance which come from protracted struggles against
seemingly insuperable odds. It was a harsh but thorough school in
which the infant nation Israel was trained. Their life in the
wilderness and in the period of settlement also developed an
intense love for freedom and that democratic spirit that was the
glory of Israel and the foundation of its political institutions.
People passing their time chiefly out of doors and enjoying the
uplifting stimulus of an unfettered life in the open naturally
acquire a feeling of awe and reverence for the God of nature that
is often lacking in the city dweller. Especially is this true if,
like the early Hebrews, the dwellers in the open feel that need of
divine protection which is begotten by constant exposure to danger,
hunger, hardship and hostile foes. The many crises and the signal
deliverances that came to the Hebrews not only intensified their
faith, but also gave them the consciousness that the God in whom
they put their trust was both able and eager to deliver them.
Prophets like Moses strengthened the popular sense of Jehovah's
immediate presence and interpreted the significance of each event.
Israel's early faith was simple, like that of a little child.
While its beliefs were crude, its trust was strong. It was this
trust and loyalty that carried the child nation through its early
crises and ultimately bound together the separate tribes into a
united commonwealth. Thus Israel's early history illustrates the
fundamental truth, that the most essential, the most powerful force
in the making of a nation is a simple, practical, every-day
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Should the successful and easy crossing of the Jordan by the
Israelites be ascribed to miracle or to their own promptness in
seizing an opportunity unexpectedly offered?
In what ways did the religious zeal of the ancient Hebrews in
battle differ from the fanatical zeal of the modern Moslem in
fighting the Christians? Or the zeal of the Japanese before Port
When, if ever, is assassination justifiable as a political
expedient? Give your reasons.
Were the Hebrews justified in the methods employed in securing
control of Palestine?
Is it right for a progressive nation to compel a backward nation to
submit? Were the Americans on this ground justified in seizing the
lands of the Indians?
What were the chief tenets in the early faith of the Hebrews?
How did Israel's faith affect its political development?
In what important ways was religion effective in making the English
state? The American commonwealth?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Structure and Literary History of the Book of Judges,
McFadyen, _Introd. to O. T_. 76-83; Kent, _Student's O. T_. I, 26,
(2) Conditions in Canaan at the Time of the Hebrew Settlement.
Paton, _Early Hist. of Syria and Pal_., 157-60; Maspero, _Struggle
of the Nations_, 111-208; _Encyc. Bib_. II, 2223-5.
(3) The Motives that Inspired the Leaders of the American
Revolution. Fiske, Lodge, Bancroft or other writers on this period.