« AnteriorContinuar »
The posterity of Jacob, while remaining in Egypt, maintained, notwithstanding the augmentation of their numbers, that patriarchal form of government, which is so prevalent among the Nomades. Every father of a family exercised a father's authority over those of his own household. Every tribe obeyed its own prince, No pi, who was originally the first-born of the founder of the tribe, but, in progress of time, appears to have been elected. As the people increased in numbers, various heads of families united together, and selected some individual from their own body, who was somewhat distinguished, for their leader. Perhaps the choice was sometimes made merely by tacit consent; and, without giving him the title of ruler in form, they were willing, while convinced of his virtues, to render submission to his will. Such an union of families was denominated in Hebrew pias no and as n°2, and also nroon, Num. 3:24, 30, 35. In other instances, although the number varied, being sometimes more and sometimes less than a thousand, it was denominated books, mos, a thousand, 1 Sam. 10; 19. 23:23. Judg. 6:15. Num. 26: 5–50. The heads of these united families were designated in Hebrew by the phrases, nias no "ynn, Borås offsh, and Esnip: "ths "on", Num. 1: 16. 10. 4. They held themselves in subjection to the princes of the tribes, who were called, by way of distinction from other chiefs, p-n-p: and bonpo top "snip. Both the princes and heads of families are mentioned under the common names of pop; seniors or senators, and Bruno own heads of tribes. Following the law of reason and the rules, established by custom, they governed with a paternal authority the tribes and united families, and, while they left the minor concerns to the heads of individual families, aimed to superintend and promote the best in252 § 214. the FUNDAMENTAL LAw
terests of the community generally. Originally it fell to the princes of the tribes themselves to keep genealogical tables; subsequently they employed scribes especially for this purpose, who in the progress of time, acquired so great authority, that under the name of b"-tou. [translated in the English version officers, they were permitted to exercise a share in the government of the nation, Exod. 5: 14, 15, 19. It was by magistrates of this description, that the Hebrews were governed, while they remained in Egypt, and the Egyptian kings made no objection to it, Exod. 3: 16. 5: 1, 14, 15, 19.
§ 214. The FUNDAMENTAL Law of the Mosaic INstitutions.
The posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were set apart and destined to the great object of preserving and transmitting the true religion, Gen. 18:16–20. comp. Gen. 17: 9–14. 12:3. 22: 18. 28: 14. Having increased in numbers, it appeared very evident, that they could not live among nations given to idolatry, without running the hazard of becoming infected with the same evil. They were, therefore, in the providence of God, assigned to a particular country, the extent of which was so small, that they were obliged, if they would live independently of other nations, to give up in a great measure the life of shepherds, and devote themselves to agriculture. Further; very many of the Hebrews during their residence in Egypt had fallen into idolatrous habits. These were to be brought back again to the knowledge of the true God, and all were to be excited to engage in those undertakings, which should be found necessary for the support of the true religion. All the Mosaic institutions aim at the accomplishment of these objects. The fundamental principle, therefore, of those institutions was this, that the true God, the CREAtoR AND Governor of the UNIverse, AND. NoNE other, ought To be worshipped. To secure this end the more certainly, God, through the instrumentality of Moses, offered himself as king to the Hebrews, and was accepted by the united voice of their community. Accordingly the land of Canaan, which was destined to be occupied by them, was declared to be the land of Jehovah, of which He was to be the king, and the Hebrews merely the hereditary occupants. . In consideration of their acknowledgment of
OF THE MOSAIC INSTITUTIONS. 253
God, as their ruler, they were bound, like the Egyptians, to pay a twofold tythe, Exod. 19:4–8. Lev. 27: 20–34. Num. 18:21, 22. Deut. 12: 17–19. 14:22, 29. 26: 12–15. In compliance with the duties, which naturally fall to the immediate ruler of a people, God promulgated, from the clouds of mount Sinai, the prominent laws for the government of the people, considered as a religious community, Exod. xx. These laws were afterwards more fully developed and illustrated by Moses. The rewards, which should accompany the obedient, and the punishments, which should be the lot of the transgressor, were at the same time announced, and the Hebrews promised by a solemn oath to obey, Exod. xxi.-xxiv. Deut. xxvii.-xxx. In order to keep the true nature of the community fully and constantly in view, all the ceremonial institutions had reference to God, not only as the sovereign of the universe, but as the king of the people. The people were taught to feel, that the tabernacle was not only the temple of Jehovah, but the palace of their king ; that the table, supplied with wine and shew-bread, was the royal table; that the altar was the place, where the provisions of the . monarch were prepared; that the priests were the royal servants, and were bound to attend not only to sacred but secular affairs, and were to receive, as their salary, the first tythes, which the people, as subjects, were led to consider a part of that revenue, which was due to God, their immediate sovereign. Other things of a less prominent and important nature had reference to the same great end. Since, therefore, God was the sovereign, in a civil point of view as well as others, of Palestine and its inhabitants, the commission of idolatry by any inhabitant of that country, even a foreigner, was a defection from the true king. It was in fact treason, was considered a crime equal in aggravation to that of murder, and was, consequently, attended with the severest punishment.— Whoever invited or exhorted to idolatry, was considered seditious, and was obnoxious to the same punishment. Incantations also, necromancy, and other practices of this nature were looked upon as arts of a kindred aspect with idolatry itself, and the same punishment was to be inflicted upon the perpetrators of them, as upon idolators. The same rigour of inquiry after the perpetrators of idolatry was enforced, that was exhibited in respect to other crimes of the deepest aggravation; and the person, who knew of
254 § 215. condition of the HEBREws
the commission of idolatry in another, was bound by the law to complain of the person thus guilty before the judge, though the criminal sustained the near relationship of a wife or a brother, a daughter or a son.
The law with the penalty attached to it, as may be learnt from other sources, had reference only to the overt acts of idolatry; it was rather a civil than a religious statute, and the judge, who took cognizance of the crime, while he had a right to decide upon the deed, the undeniable act in any given instance, evidently went beyond his province, if he undertook to decide upon the thoughts and feelings of a person implicated, independently of an overt commission of the crime, Deut. 13: 2–19. 17: 2–5.
It has been observed, that the law was not so much a religious, as a civil one. The distinction is obvious. A religious law has reference to the feelings, and those laws, consequently, which command us to love God, to exercise faith in him, and to render him a heartfelt obedience are of this nature, Deut. 6: 4–9, 10: 12. 11: 1, 13. It ought to be remarked, that the severe treatment of idolatry, of which we have given a statement, was demanded by the condition of the times. That was an age, in which each nation selected its deity, not from the dictates of conscience, but from the hope of temporal aid. It was an age, when idolaters were multiplied, and when nothing but the utmost severity in the laws could keep them from contaminating the soil of the Hebrews.
§ 215. Condition of the HEBREws As RESPECTED other NATIONs.
That the Hebrews, surrounded on every side by idolatrous nations, might not be seduced to a defection from their God and king, it was necessary, that they should be kept from too great an intercourse with those nations. This was the object of those singular rites, which, though both proper and useful, were uncommon among the Gentiles. For the Hebrews, having once been accustomed to them, could not readily mingle with other nations; since it was extremely difficult to desert and condemn those institutions, to which they had been accustomed from youth. But lest this seclusion from them should be the source of hatred to other nations, Moses constantly taught, that they should love their
AS RESPECTED OTHER NATIONS. 255
neighbour, on, i. e. every one, with whom they had any thing to do, including foreigners, Exod. 22: 21. 23:9. Lev. 19:34. Deut. 10: 18, 19. 24; 17. 27: 19. To this end he teaches them, that the benefits, which God had conferred upon them in preference to other nations were undeserved, Deut. 7: 6–8, 9:4–24. But although the Hebrews individually were debarred from any close intimacy with idolatrous nations, by various rites; yet as a nation they had liberty to form treaties with gentile states, with the following exceptions. I. The CANAANites, (including the PhilistiNes, who were not of Canaanitish origin,) were excepted. They were neither to be admitted to treaty nor to servitude, but to be destroyed by war, or driven from the country. This was to be done, not only because they unjustly retained the pasturing grounds of the Patriarchs, but because they were esteemed of despicable faith, both as servants and companions, and were, moreover, addicted to idolatry. Being idolaters, they were considered no less than traitors in the kingdom of God, and, therefore, were not to be tolerated, since there was a probability of their leading the Israelites to the commission of the same sin, Exod. 23:32, 33. 34:12, 16. Deut. 7:1–11. 20: 1–18. The Phenicians were not included in this deep hostility, as they dwelt on the northern shore of the country, were shut up within their own limits, and had occupied none of the pasturing grounds of the patriarchs. We learn from Josh. 11:19, that the Canaanites might have avoided the exercise of the hostility of the Hebrews by leaving the country, which in truth many of them did.. Such as pursued this course fled to the Phenicians, and were transported by them into Africa, Procopius de Wandal. II. 10. p. 258. II. The AMAlekites or CANAANites of ARABIA PETREA were in like manner to be destroyed with universal slaughter. This was to be done, because they had attacked the weak and weary Hebrews in their journey through Arabia; and because the robberies, which were committed by them on the southern borders of Palestine, could not be restrained in any other way, Exod. 17:8, 14. Deut. 25: 17. comp. Judges 6: 3–5. 1 Sam. 15:1, et seq. 27: 8, 9. and the 30th chapter. III. The Moabites AND AMMonites were to be excluded forever from the right of treaty or citizenship with the Hebrews, but were not to be attacked in war, Deut. 2:9–19. 23: 7.