Verse 10. "There arose not a prophet, &c." - Among all the succeeding prophets none was found so eminent in all respects nor so highly privileged as Moses; with him God spoke face to face] admitted him to the closest familiarity and greatest friendship with himself. Now all this continued true till the advent of Jesus Christ, of whom Moses said, "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me;" but how great was this person when compared with Moses! Moses desired to see God's glory; this sight he could not bear; he saw his back parts, probably meaning God's design relative to the latter days: but Jesus, the Almighty saviour, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, who lay in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared God to man. Wondrous system of legal ordinances that pointed out and typified all these things! And more wonderful system of Gospel salvation, which is the body, soul, life, energy, and full accomplishment of all that was written in the LAW, in the PROPHETS, and in the PSALMS, concerning the sufferings and death of Jesus, and the redemption of a ruined world "by his agony and bloody sweat, by his cross and passion, by his death and burial, by his glorious resurrection and ascension, and by the coming of the Holy Ghost!" Thus ends the PENTATEUCH, commonly called the LAW of MOSES, a work every way worthy of God its author, and only less than the NEW COVENANT, the law and Gospel of our Lord and saviour JESUS CHRIST.
Now to the ever blessed and glorious TRINITY, FATHER, WORD, and SPIRIT, the infinite and eternal ONE, from whom alone wisdom, truth, and goodness can proceed, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
MASORETIC Notes On DEUTERONOMY
The number of verses in ELLAH HADDEBARIM, Deuteronomy, is 955; the symbol of which is Ånj in which word Å tsade stands for 900, n nun for 50, and j cheth for 5.
The middle verse is the 10th of chap. xvii. And thou shalt observe to do all that they command thee.
Its Pareshioth or larger sections are 11, the numerical symbol of which is gj chag; Psa. cxviii. x17: Bind the SACRIFICE with cords to the horns of the altar. In which word j cheth stands for 8, and g gimel for 3.
Its Sedarim or smaller sections are 27, the symbolical sign of which is dygy yaggid; Prov. xii. 17: He that speaketh truth, SHOWETH FORTH righteousness. In which word the two y y yods stand for 20, d daleth for 4, and g gimel for 3.
Its Perakim or modern chapters are 34, the symbol of which is bbl lebab; Psa. cxi. 1. I will praise the Lord with my whole HEART. In which word the two b b beths stand for 4, and the l lamed for 30.
The number of open sections is 34, of its close sections 124, total 158; the symbol of which is µlyjny yanchilem, 148, and dw-bk cab-od, 10, 1 Sam. ii. 8: To make them to INHERIT the throne of his GLORY. The numerical letters of the word µlyjny yanchilem, 148, with dw od, 10, taken from dwbk cabod, make 158, the total of its open and close sections.
The number of verses in the whole Pentateuch is 5845, the. memorial symbol of which is hmjh hachammah, Isa. xxx. x16: Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of THE SUN. In which word, the letters taken in their proper order make the 5845 sum, hkmh .
The middle verse of the Law is Lev. viii. 8: And he put the breastplate upon him, and he put in the breastplate the URIM and the THUMMIM.
The number of OPEN sections in the whole Law is 290, the symbol of which is yrp peri; (Cant.) So iv. 16: Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his precious FRUITS. The number of its CLOSE sections is 379, the symbol of which occurs in the word h[bb bishbuah; Num. xxx. 10: Or bound her soul with a bond BY AN OATH.
Total number of all the open and close sections, 669, the memorial symbol of which is rsjt al lo techsar; chap. viii. i10: THOU SHALT NOT LACK any thing in it.
SECTIONS of the Book of Deuteronomy, carried on from Numbers, which ends with the FORTY-THIRD.
The FORTY-FOURTH, called µyrbd debarim, begins chap. i. 1, and ends chap. iii. 22.
The FORTY-FIFTH, called njtaw vaethchannen, begins chap. iii. 23, and ends chap. vii. 11.
The FORTY-SIXTH, called bq[ ekeb, begins chap. vii. 12, and ends chap. xi. 25.
The FORTY-SEVENTH, called har reeh, begins chap. xi. 26, and ends chap. xvi. 17.
The FORTY-EIGHTH, called µyfp shophetim, begins chap. xvi. 18, and ends chap. xxi. 9.
The FORTY-NINTH, called axt tetse, begins chap. xxi. 10, and ends chap. xxv. 19.
The FIFTIETH, called awbt tabo, begins chap. xxvi. 1, and ends chap. xxix. 8.
The FIFTY-FIRST, called µybxn nitstsabim, begins chap. xxix. 9, and ends chap. xxx. 20.
The FIFTY-SECOND, called ūlyw vaiyelech, begins chap. xxxi. 1, and ends chap. xxxi. 30.
The FIFTY-THIRD, called wnyzah haazinu, begins chap. xxxii. 1, and ends chap. xxxii. 51.
The FIFTY-FOURTH, called hkrbh tazw vezoth habberachah, begins chap. xxxiii. 1, and ends chap. xxxiv. 12.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES
WE have now passed through the Pentateuch, and have endeavoured carefully to mark its important contents. Its antiquity sets it at the head of all the writings in the world; and the various subjects it embraces make it of the utmost consequence to every civilized part of the earth. Its philosophy, jurisprudence, history, geography, and chronology, entitle it to the respect of the whole human race; while its system of theology and religion demonstrably prove it to be a revelation from GOD. But on these topics, as many observations have already been made as the nature of a commentary professing to study brevity can possibly admit.
Of MOSES, the writer of the Pentateuch, considered as a historian and philosopher, a great deal has been said in the course of the notes on the book of GENESIS; and especially at the conclusion of the fiftieth chapter; to which the reader is particularly referred. Of Moses as a legislator, volumes might be written, and the subject not be exhausted. What is called the Law of Moses, is more properly the Law of God; and hwhy trwt Torath Yehovah, the Law of Jehovah, is the grand title of the Pentateuch. Such a definition of this term as comports with the nature, structure, and design of the Pentateuch, has already been given in the note, See "Exod. xii. 40", to which the reader is requested to refer.
Could we conceive Moses to have been the author of this system, we must consider him more than mortal: no wisdom of man has ever yet been able to invent such a code of laws.
This merit however has been disputed, and his laws severely criticised by certain persons whose interest it was to prove religion to be a cheat, because they had none themselves; and whose case must be hopeless could it be proved to be true. To some whose mental taste and feeling are strangely perverted, every thing in heathenism wears not only the most fascinating aspect, but appears to lay claim to and possess every excellence. These have called up Confucius, Menu, Zoroaster, and Mohammed himself, to dispute the palm of excellence with Moses! To examine the claims of such competitors, and to decide on their respective merits would require a large treatise, and my limits confine me to a sketch.
To any godly, impartial mind, properly acquainted with the subject, little needs to be said; to those who are prejudiced, all reasoning is thrown away. A few words on the merit of each of these competitors must suffice.
1. To Con fu tsee, the great Chinese lawgiver, corruptly called Confucius, are attributed, in the records of his country, a number of ordinances and institutions which do honour to his times and to his people; but alas! how much of the darkness, erroneousness, and infirmity of the human mind do they exhibit! And however profitable they may be, as prudential maxims and social regulations to a certain extent, how little are they calculated to elevate or ennoble the human mind, or inspire men with a just notion of vice and virtue! Their author had no correct notion of the Divine nature; his laws had no sanction but that of convenience or necessity, and, notwithstanding their boasted excellence, have left, from the time of their promulgation to the present day, the sum total of that immense nation which profess to be governed by them, in the thickest darkness of the most degrading idolatry, closely verging upon atheism itself! Not so the Mosaic code; it was the light that lightened the universe, and the glory of the people who were governed by its dictates. We have the firmest ground and the most ample authority to assert, that the greatest kings, the wisest statesmen, the most accomplished poets and rhetoricians, the most magnanimous heroes, and the most holy and useful people that ever existed, were formed on the model, and brought up in the bosom and under the influence, of the Mosaic institutions. While the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes of SOLOMON, the history and poetic compositions of DAVID, the inimitable discourses of ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, Joel, HABAKKUK, and others of the Jewish prophets remain, every intelligent reader will have the fullest proofs of the truth of the above assertion, which shrinks not under the pretense of being hazarded; but which must spring up in every ingenuous mind, from the fullest conviction of its own truth, after a serious perusal of the sacred code in question. All those eminent personages were brought up in the Mosaic school and were prepared by the Pentateuch for the prophetic influence.
2. The Institutes of MENU, lately clothed in an English dress by the elegant hand of Sir William Jones, have been thought to stand in fair competition with the laws of Moses. I have read them carefully, with strong prejudice in their favour; and have endeavoured, to the best of my judgment, duly to appreciate their worth. I have sought for resemblances to the Mosaic institutions, because I thought it possible that the same God who was so fully known in Jewry, might have made at least a partial revelation of himself in Hindostan; but while I alternately admired and regretted, I was ultimately disappointed, as I plainly saw that the system in its essential parts lacked the seal of the living God. My readers may justly question my competency to form a correct opinion of the work under consideration-I shall not therefore obtrude it, but substitute that of the translator, who was better qualified than perhaps any other man in Europe or Asia, to form a correct judgment of its merits. "The work," says he, "now presented to the European world, contains abundance of curious matter, extremely interesting both to speculative lawyers and antiquaries; with many beauties which need not be pointed out, and with many blemishes which cannot be justified or palliated. It is a system of despotism and priestcraft, both indeed limited by law, but artfully conspiring to give mutual support though with mutual checks. It is filled with strange conceits in metaphysics and natural philosophy; with idle superstitions, and with a scheme of theology most obscurely figurative, and consequently liable to dangerous misconception. It abounds with minute and childish formalities, with ceremonies generally absurd and often ridiculous; the punishments are partial and fanciful; for some crimes dreadfully cruel, and for others reprehensibly slight; and the very morals, though rigid enough on the whole, are in one or two instances, as in the case of light oaths and pious perjury, unaccountably relaxed."-PREFACE to the Institutes of Menu.
We may defy its enemies to prove any of these things against the Pentateuch. Priestcraft and despotism cannot appear under its sanction: GOD is KING alone, and the priest his servant; and he who was prevented, by the very law under which he ministered, from having any earthly property, could consequently have no secular power. The king, who was afterwards chosen, was ever considered as God's deputy or vice-gerent; he was obliged to rule according to the laws that were given by God through Moses, and was never permitted either to change them, or add a single precept or rite to the civil or sacred code of his country. Thus despotism and priestcraft were equally precluded. As to its rites and ceremonies, they are at once dignified and expressive; they point out the holiness of their author, the sinfulness of man, the necessity of an atonement, and the state of moral excellence to which the grace and mercy of the Creator have promised to raise the human soul. As to its punishments, they are ever such as the nature and circumstances of the crime render just and necessary -and its rewards are not such as flow merely from a principle of retribution or remunerative justice, but from an enlightened and fatherly tenderness, which makes obedience to the laws the highest interest of the subject.
At the same time that love to God and obedience to his commandments are strongly inculcated, love and benevolence to man are equally enforced, together with piety, which is the soul of obedience, patriotism, the life of society; hospitality to strangers, and humanity to the whole brute creation.
To all this might be added that it includes in it, as well as points out, the Gospel of the Son of God, from which it receives its consummation and perfection. Such, reader, is the law of God given through Moses to the people of Israel.
3. Of the laws of Zerdust or Zeratusht, commonly called Zoroaster, It is unnecessary to speak at large; they are incapable of comparison with the Mosaic code. As delivered in the Zend Avesta, they cannot so properly be called a system as a congeries of puerility, superstition, and absurdity; with scarcely a precept or a rite that has any tendency to elevate the mind, or raise man from his state of moral degradation to a proper rank in civilized society, or to any worthy apprehension of the Maker and Governor of the universe. Harmlessness is the sum of the morality they seem to inculcate, with a certain superstitious reverence for fire, probably as the emblem of purity; and for animal life, principally in reference to the doctrine of the Metempsychosis or transmigration of souls, on which it seems to have been originally built.
4. The KORAN of MOHAMMED is the only remaining competitor that can be supposed to be at all qualified to dispute the palm with the Pentateuch of Moses; but the pretensions of this production will be soon settled, when it is known that it possesses not one excellence, the purity and elegance of its language excepted, which it has not borrowed from the writings of Moses and the prophets, or the sayings of Christ and his apostles. This is a fact which none can successfully dispute, and of which the Koran itself bears the most unequivocal evidences. What can be fairly claimed as the peculium of the Arab lawgiver makes a motley mixture with what he has stolen from the book of God, and is in general as absurd and weak as it is on the whole false and wicked. As to the boasted morality of the Koran, it will have as little to exult in of this kind when the law and the Gospel have taken from it that of which they have been plundered, as the daw in the fable had when the different fowls had plucked away their own feathers, with which the vain bird had decorated herself. Mohammed, it is true, destroyed idolatry wherever he came; and he did the same by true religion; for Judaism and Christianity met with no more quarter from him than the grossest errors of pagan idolatry. To compare him with the pure, holy, disinterested, humane, and heavenly-minded Jewish legislator, would be as gross political as it would be palpable religious blasphemy. When we allow that he was a man of a deep and penetrating mind, well acquainted with the superstitious turn of his countrymen; austere, cunning, and hypocritical; a great general and a brutal conqueror, who seemed to sacrifice at no other shrine than that of his lust and ambition, we do him no injustice: the whole of his system bears the most evident proofs of imposition and forgery; nor is there a character to which imposture can lay claim that does not appear prominently in the Koran, and in every part of the Mohammedan system. The chief of these distinctive marks have already been examined in reference to the Pentateuch, in the concluding note on Exodus 18. These are all found in the Koran, but not one of them in the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch therefore is of God; the Koran came from another quarter.
5. The different systems of the Grecian ethic philosophers cannot come into this inquiry. They were in general incongruous and contradictory, and none of them was ever capable of forming a sect that could be said to have any moral perpetuity.
6. The laws of Lycurgus and Solon could not preserve those states, at the basis of which they were laid; which the laws of Moses have been the means of preserving the people who held them, amidst the most terrible reverses of what are called fortune and fate, for nearly the space of 4, 000 years! This is one of the most extraordinary and astonishing facts in the whole history of mankind.
7. The republic of Plato, of which it is fashionable to boast, is, when stripped of what it has borrowed from Moses, like the Utopia of Sir T.
More, the aerial figment of a philosophic mind, en delire; both systems are inapplicable and impracticable in the present state of man. To persons under the influence of various and discordant passions, strongly actuated by self- interest, they can never apply. They have no tendency to change the moral state of society from vice to virtue: a nation of saints might agree to regulate their lives and conduct by them, but where is such to be found? Though Plato has borrowed much from Moses, yet he has destroyed the effect of the whole by not referring the precepts and maxims to God, by whom alone strength to fulfill them could be furnished. It is the province of the revelation of God to make the knave an honest man; the unholy and profane, pure and pious; and to cause all who act by its dictates to love one another with pure hearts fervently, and to feel the finest and fullest impressions of "The generous mind that's not confined at home, But spreads itself abroad through all the public, And feels for every member of the land." The Pentateuch is an original work; nothing like it was ever found among the nations of the earth. Those who have asserted that its principal institutions have been borrowed from the Egyptians, neither know the Mosaic code, nor are acquainted with the Egyptian mythology. Dr. Priestley has written well on this point, and from his dissertation I shall borrow the following extracts:- 'They who suppose that Moses himself was the author of the institutions, civil or religious, that bear his name, and that in framing them he borrowed much from the Egyptians, or other ancient nations, must never have compared them together; otherwise they could not but have perceived many circumstances in which they differ most essentially from them all. I shall endeavour to point out the more considerable of them.
"1. No heathen ever conceived an idea of so great an object as that of the institutions of Moses, which appears to be nothing less than the instruction of all mankind in the great doctrine of the unity and universal moral government of God, as the Maker of the world, and the common parent of all the human race, in opposition to the polytheism and idolatry which then prevailed, which, besides being grossly absurd in its principles, and leading to endless superstitions, threatened the world with a deluge of vice and misery. For this purpose the Hebrew nation was placed in the most conspicuous situation among all the civilized nations of the world, which were universally addicted to idolatry of the grossest kind, to divinations, necromancy, and other superstitions of a similar nature, and practiced as acts of religion; some of their rites abominably licentious, and others the most shockingly cruel, as the necessary means of recommending themselves to the various objects of their worship. As all mankind imagined that their outward prosperity depended upon the observance of their respective religions, that of the Hebrew nation was made to do so in the most conspicuous manner, as a visible lesson to all the world. They were to prosper beyond all other nations while they adhered to their religion; and to suffer in a manner equally exemplary and conspicuous in consequence of their departure from it. Of this all mankind might easily judge. These great ideas occur in the sacred books of the Hebrews, and nowhere else. They are all distinctly advanced by Moses, and more fully unfolded in the writings of the later prophets. But certainly nothing so great and sublime could have been suggested to Moses from any thing that he saw in Egypt, or could have heard of in other countries.
"2. In no system of religion besides that of Moses was purity of morals any part of it. All the heathen religions were systems of mere ceremonies, on the observance of which it was imagined that the prosperity of the several states depended; and the sole business of the priests was to attend to the due observance of these rites, many of which were so far from being favourable to morals, that they were of the most impure and abominable nature, as is well known to all who have any knowledge of them. On the contrary, it appears, not only from the ten commandments, but from all the writings of Moses, and those of the prophets who succeeded him, that the purest morality, the most favourable to private and public happiness, was the principal and ultimate object of the system. The books of Moses abound with precepts of morality, inculcated in the most forcible manner, and they are distinguished from laws by having no penalty annexed to them. Such precepts as these, Be ye holy, for I am holy; and, What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? could never have been borrowed from any heathen system of religion. In this most important respect the institutions of Moses are a great original, and were never copied by any other lawgiver.
"3. Nowhere in all the heathen world could Moses have heard of such a proper national worship as that which he introduced. The Hebrew nation had not only one single object of their worship, in which they differed essentially from all other nations, but one national altar, one precise ritual, and only one place for the meeting of the whole nation at the public festivals. A whole tribe, a twelfth part of the nation, was set apart for services of a religious nature, and their provision made to depend in a great measure upon their performance of them, being not in lands cultivated by themselves, but in the produce of lands cultivated by others. At this one great national altar sacrifices were performed every morning and evening, in the name and at the expense of the whole nation; and the manner in which this was done was invariable, and not left to the discretion of the performers. In all other countries the places of worship were numerous; and the diversity in the modes of worship varied with the objects of them.
In Egypt in particular the different nomes were exceedingly hostile to each other on this account. Hence arose endless and discordant superstitions.
"4. In no country besides that of the Hebrews were the public festivals expressly instituted in commemoration of such great events respecting their history and religion. It is peculiar to this nation also that the directions for the celebration of them were reduced to writing at the time of their institution, so that there could never be any uncertainty about the origin or the reasons of them. They were only three: the passover, on their deliverance from their state of servitude in Egypt, when the first-born of all the Egyptians were destroyed, and all theirs preserved; the pentecost, on the giving of the law from Mount Sinai; and the feast of tabernacles, in commemoration of their living in tents and booths during their travels through the wilderness. At the first of these festivals the first-fruits of the year were solemnly presented; at the second, the harvest was got in; and at the last, the vintage and all the greater labours of the year were closed.
Among the heathen nations the festivals were numerous and perplexing.
More than sixty were celebrated by the Athenians; the origin and reason of their institution were uncertain; and none of them were calculated to answer any important moral purposes, but were too often the occasion, not of innocent festivity, but of intemperance and debauch. Several of the heathen festivals were celebrated in a manner the most disgusting and shocking to common modesty and common sense.
"Sacrificing was a mode more ancient than idolatry, or the institutions of Moses; but among the heathens various superstitious customs were introduced respecting it, which were all excluded from the religion of the Hebrews.
"In the laws of Moses, in which we find even the most minute circumstances of the act of sacrificing prescribed, there is no mention of any thing preceding the slaying of the animal, besides its being sound and of a proper age. It was not brought with any garlands. No oulai, or cakes of barley and salt, were put upon its back. No wine was poured upon its horns. No hair was taken from its forehead to be thrown into the fire on the altar. And nothing is said about inspecting the entrails, with a view to divination, which was a principal object in all the heathen sacrifices. The use that was made of the blood of the victims was peculiar to the Hebrew ritual; and certainly not borrowed from any heathen customs that could have been known to Moses.
"No heathens knew any thing of the sprinkling of the blood in the peculiarly solemn manner in which it was to be done by the Hebrew priests; and so far were they from rigorously abstaining from the eating of blood, that in their sacrifices to the infernal deities they partook of it as a method of feasting with them; and in the Tauribolium the offerer was covered with it from head to foot, and kept himself in that condition as long as he could. (As a proof of this see the note on "Lev. viii. 23".) As Moses did not adopt any of the heathen customs, it is equally evident that they borrowed nothing from him with respect to sacrifices. With them we find no such distinction of sacrifices as is made in the books of Moses, such as burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, trespass-offerings, and peace-offerings, or of the heaving or waving of the sacrifices. Those particulars, therefore, he could not have had from them, whether we can discover any reason for them or not. They either had their origin in the time of Moses, or, which is most probable, were prior to his time and to the existence of idolatry.
"Had Moses copied any thing from the heathens, he would probably have introduced something of their mysteries, which were rites performed in secret, and generally in the night, to which peculiar privileges were annexed, and which it was deemed the greatest crime to reveal; all of them circumstances of a suspicious nature, and evidently liable to great abuse.
"The most remarkable of these mysteries were the Eleusinian, which were celebrated at Athens every four years, and continued nine days. Whatever these rites were, it was made death to reveal them; and if any person not regularly initiated was present at this exhibition, he was put to death without mercy.
"Nothing surely like this can be found in the institutions of Moses. There was nothing in the Hebrew ritual of worship that was any secret. Every thing is expressly described in the written law; and though none but priests could enter the holy place, or the holy of holies besides the high priest, every thing that was done by him there is as particularly described as what was done by the people without; and no service whatever was performed in the night except the attendance at the great altar to keep the fire in a proper state for consuming all the remains of victims; and of this no mention is made in the ritual. It is only presumed by the Jewish writers on the subject that it must have been done of course.
"Had Moses borrowed any thing from the heathens, he could not have overlooked the various modes of divination, sorcery, and witchcraft; their omens of a thousand kinds, their rites for consulting the dead in the art of necromancy, their distinction of days into lucky and unlucky, which constituted a great part of the religious observances of all the heathen nations, civilized or uncivilized. The Romans had even an order of priests called augurs, whose sole business it was to observe the flight of birds, and to make prognostications from them. But so far are we from finding in the books of Moses any thing of this kind, of which those of the Hindoos are full, that they are spoken of with the greatest contempt and abhorrence, and the pretenders to them are directed to be put to death.
"The cities of refuge have been mentioned as compared with the unlimited right of asylum attached to the temples of the heathens; and this may be considered as a religious as well as a civil institution. But the privileges of the Sabbatical year and of the jubilee are wholly of a civil nature, and they must have been an admirable security for personal liberty and the property of families. No Hebrew could bind himself for servitude more than seven years, nor could he alienate his landed property for more than fifty. No gift or sale could have any effect beyond this term, which was fixed for the whole nation, and did not commence at the time of every particular bargain. In consequence of this, though a family might suffer by the imprudence or extravagance of the head of it, the evil had a limit; for at the jubilee all estates reverted to the original proprietors.
"In short, no person can peruse the laws of Moses without acknowledging them to be truly original; and their superiority to those of other ancient nations, the most famed for their wisdom, is an evidence of their Divine origin."- Dissertat. on the Mosaic Institutions.
8. On this subject in general it may be just necessary to add, that the utmost that can be said of all laws merely human is, that they restrain vices through the terror of punishment. God's law not only restrains vice, but it infuses virtue. It alone brings man to the footstool of his Maker, and keeps him dependent on the strong for strength, on the wise for wisdom, and on the merciful for grace. It abounds with promises of support and salvation for the present life, which no false system dared ever to propose; every where Moses in the most confident manner pledges his God for the fulfillment of all the exceeding great and precious promises with which his laws are so plentifully interspersed; and while they were obedient they could say, "Not one word hath failed us of all the good things which the Lord our God spake concerning us." Who that dispassionately reads the Pentateuch, that considers it in itself, and in its reference to that glorious Gospel which it was intended to introduce, can for a moment deny it the palm of infinite superiority over all the systems ever framed or imagined by man? Well might the Israelitish people triumphantly exclaim, "There is none like the God of Jeshurun!" and with that striking propriety does the glorious legislator add, "Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee? O people saved of the LORD!" See the ZEND AVESTA, by Anquetil du Perron, 3 vols., 4to., Paris, 1771.
CONFUCIUS SINARUM PHILOSOPHUS, by Herdtrich, Couplet, &c., folio, Paris, 1687. ZOROASTER, CONFUCIUS, et MAHOMET, compars, par M. Pastoret, 8vo, Paris, 1788. The INSTITUTES of MENU, by Sir William Jones; and the KORAN, with Notes, &c., by Mr. Sale.
A SKETCH OF THE HISTORY AND CHARACTER OF MOSES
HAVING said so much concerning the Pentateuch, there remains little room to say much concerning Moses himself, as his character is so much involved in that of his work. The genuine history of Moses is written by himself, and that is found succinctly detailed in the book of Exodus; Josephus, the rabbins, and the oriental historians, have written lives of this great man which are perfect romances; for by attempting to embellish, they have turned the whole history into ridicule. Trogus Pompeius has copied some of them, unless we allow that his abridger, Justin, is the author of the ill-told falsity which is found in his work. But with these relations we have no concern; and from the account written by himself, collated with the speech of St. Stephen, Acts vii., we learn the following facts:-
MOSES, the son of Amram and Jochebed, both of the tribe of Levi, was born A. M. 2433, B. C. 1571, while the Israelites were in a state of bondage in Egypt, and at that time under the most distressful persecution, the king of Egypt having issued an edict to destroy all the male children of the Hebrews. Added to their parental affection, his personal beauty, (Acts vii. 20,) seems to have induced the parents to hazard every thing to preserve their child's life; they therefore hid him for three months; but finding from circumstances that they could keep him secret no longer, they were determined to abandon him wholly to the care of providence. Having provided a little vessel of bulrushes, or flags pitched, and thus rendered impervious to the water, they set him afloat on the river Nile, and sent his sister Miriam to watch the event. The daughter of Pharaoh coming to that part of the river, either to make her ablutions or to wash her clothes, seeing the vessel afloat, commanded it to be brought to her; and being struck with the helpless state and beauty of the child, judging that it belonged to one of the Hebrews, determined to preserve its life, and adopt it for her own.
Miriam, his sister, who immediately appeared, but was unknown to the princess, offered her services to procure a nurse for the child from among the Hebrew women; she was accordingly employed, and Jochebed, the mother, was soon brought to the spot, and the child was immediately committed to her care, the princess being entirely ignorant of the relation that subsisted between the child and its nurse. At a proper age he was taken to the Egyptian court, and educated there as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and was brought up in all the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians, and became very eminent both in words and deeds; Acts vii. 22.
Here he appears to have stayed nearly forty years. Afterwards, in consequence of having killed one of the oppressors of his Hebrew brethren, he was obliged to take refuge in Midian, where, entering into the service of Jethro, a priest or prince of that country, he married his daughter Zipporah, by whom he had two sons, Eleazar and Gershom, and continued as the guardian of the flocks of his father-in-law for forty years. At the conclusion of this time God manifested himself to him while tending the flocks of his father-in-law at Mount Horeb, and gave him a commission to bring Israel out of Egypt. He went on the Divine errand, became associated with his elder brother, Aaron, opened his commission to the Egyptian king, and wrought several striking miracles to prove the truth of his Divine mission. The king refusing to let the people go, God afflicted him and the land with ten grievous plagues; after which the people were led out, and by a most stupendous miracle passed through the divided waters of the Red Sea, which Pharaoh and his army essaying to do, were drowned. Having led the Israelites into the deserts of Arabia, commonly called wilderness, God gave them the most signal manifestations of his power and goodness in a series of successive miracles, and delivered to Moses their leader that information and those laws which are contained in the Pentateuch. Having governed the people forty years in the desert, and brought them to the very verge of the promised land, he was not permitted to pass over Jordan with them, but died in the plains of Moab, while in familiar converse with his God, in the 120th year of his age. Care, labour, and years, had made no inroads upon his constitution, for it is particularly marked that his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated, Deut. xxxiv. 8; that he preserved all the vivacity of youth and the vigour of manhood to a period in which, even at that time, old age made its greatest depredations upon those who had no other support than what the common course of nature afforded.
After this hasty sketch of so eventful a life as that of Moses, it may be necessary to enter more particularly into an examination of his character and conduct. This is a difficult task; but, in MAGNIS voluisse sat est.
The eulogium or character given of him by the Spirit of God, though very concise, is yet full and satisfactory: And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom Jehovah knew face to face; in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; and in all that mighty hand (all-conquering power and influence) and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel. Moses is called the servant of God; and he has farther this high character, that as a servant he was faithful to God in all his house, Heb. iii. 5. He faithfully discharged the trust reposed in him; and totally forgetting himself and his own secular interest, with that also of his family, he laboured incessantly to promote God's honour and the people's welfare, which on many occasions he showed were dearer to him than his own life. Moses was in every respect a great man; for every virtue that constitutes genuine nobility was concentred in his mind, and fully displayed in his conduct. He ever conducted himself as a man conscious of his own integrity, and of the guidance and protection of God, under whose orders he constantly acted. He therefore betrays no confusion in his views, nor indecision in his measures; he was ever without anxiety, because he was conscious of the rectitude of his motives, and that the cause which he espoused was the cause of God, and that his power and faithfulness were pledged for his support. His courage and fortitude were unshaken and unconquerable, because his reliance was unremittingly fixed on the unchangeableness of JEHOVAH. He left Egypt having an eye to the recompense of reward in another world, and never lost sight of this grand object; he was therefore neither discouraged by difficulties, nor elated by prosperity. He who in Egypt refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, thereby renouncing the claim he might have had on the Egyptian throne, was never likely to be influenced by secular views in the government of the miserable multitudes which he led out of that country.
His renunciation of the court of Pharaoh and its advantages was the amplest proof that he neither sought nor expected honour or emolument in the wilderness, among a people who had scarcely any thing but what they received by immediate miracle from the hand of God.
I have more than once had occasion to note the disinterestedness of Moses in reference to his family, as well as to himself. This is a singular case; his own tribe, that of Levi, he left without any earthly possession: and though to minister to God was the most honourable employment, yet the Levites could never arise to any political consequence in Israel. Even his own sons became blended in the common mass of the Levites, and possessed no kind of distinction among their brethren. Though his confidence in God was ever unshaken, yet he had a life of toll and perpetual distress, occasioned by the ignorance, obstinacy, and baseness, of the people over whom he presided; and he died in their service, leaving no other property but his tent behind him. Of the spoils taken in war we never read of the portion of Moses. He had none; he wanted none; his treasure was in heaven, and where his treasure was, there also was his heart. By this disinterestedness of Moses two points are fully proved:
1. That he was satisfied, fully so, that his mission was Divine, and that in it he served the living God; and 2.
That he believed in the immortality of the soul, and the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, and therefore he laboured so to pass through things temporal, that he might not lose the things that are eternal. It is strange that the faith of Moses in these points should be questioned by any who had ever seriously read the Pentateuch.
The manner in which he bore the sentence of his exclusion from the promised inheritance, is an additional proof of his persuasion of the reality of the invisible world. No testiness, no murmuring, no expatiating on former services; no passionate entreaties to have the sentence reversed, appear in the spirit or conduct of this truly great man. He bowed to the decision of that justice which he knew could not act wrong; and having buried the world, as to himself, he had no earthly attachments; he was obeying the will of God in leading the people, and therefore, when his Master chose to dismiss him from this service, he was content; and saw, without regret or envy, another appointed to his office.
The moral character of Moses is almost immaculate. That he offended Jehovah at the waters of Meribah there can be no doubt; but in what the offense consisted, commentators and critics are greatly at a loss to ascertain. See the note on "Num. xx. 12"; I have said all that I believe should be said upon the point; and after all, conjecture is obliged to come in, to supply the place of substantial evidence; and the fault is so slight, humanly speaking, as even to glide away from the eye of conjecture itself.
Had the offense, whatever it was, been committed by any ordinary person, it would probably have passed between God and the conscience without any public reprehension. But Moses was great, and supereminently favoured; and a fault in him derived much of its moral delinquency from these very circumstances. He did not sanctify the Lord in the sight of the people-he did not fully show that God himself was the sole worker; he appeared by his conduct to exhibit himself as an agent indispensably necessary in the promised miraculous supply; and this might have had the most dangerous consequences on the minds of this gross people, had not God thus marked it with his displeasure. This awful lesson to the legislator taught the people that their help came from GOD, and not from man; and that consequently they must repose their confidence in HIM alone. But this subject deserves to be more distinctly considered, as in the account given of his death this offense is again brought forth to view. God himself thus details the circumstances: "Get thee up into this mountain, and behold the land of Canaan-and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people as Aaron thy brother, because ye trespassed against me AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel:" chap. xxxii. 49-51. "And Moses went up unto the mountain of Nebo, and the Lord showed him all the land; and the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither: so Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there, according to the word of the Lord; and he buried him;" chap. xxxiv. 1-6. In the above extracts, all the circumstances relative to this event are brought into one point of view; and we see plainly the stress that is laid on the offense against God. YE TRESPASSED AGAINST ME AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL-YE SANCTIFIED ME NOT IN THE MIDST OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. These words may be understood thus: The people of themselves were too much prone to take off their eye from GOD, consult their senses, and depend upon man; and the manner in which Moses and Aaron performed the miracle which God commanded them to do in his name, was such as to confirm them in the carnality of their views, and cause them to depend on an arm of flesh. Ye therefore shall not go into the promised land, said the Lord: and the death of them both was the fullest proof to this people that it was not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, that their enemies were expelled, and that themselves were introduced and established in the promised inheritance. This seems to be the spirit of the whole business: and as Moses had no other end in view but the glory of God, it must have been a supreme satisfaction to his pious soul, that this end was so effectually promoted, though even at the expense of his life. 1.
At a distant view there appears to be very little observable in the death of Moses; but on a nearer approach we shall find it to have been the most honourable, I might add the most glorious, with which any human being was ever favoured. As to his death itself, it is simply said, He died in the land of Moab-according to the word of the Lord. He was, as has already been observed, in familiar conversation with his Maker; and while in the act of viewing the land, and receiving the last information relative to it, the ancient covenant with the patriarchs, and the performance of the covenant in putting their posterity into possession of this goodly inheritance, he yielded up the ghost, and suddenly passed from the verge of the earthly into the heavenly Canaan. Thus, without the labour and the delay of passing through the type, he entered at once into the possession of the antitype; having simply lost the honour of leading the people a little farther, whom, with so much care and solicitude, he had brought thus far. 2. There is another circumstance in his death which requires particular notice. It is said, He died-according to the word of the Lord: the original words hwhy yp l[ al pi Yehovah, signify literally at (or upon) the mouth of Jehovah; which Jonathan ben Uzziel interprets thus: yyd armym tqyn l[ al neshikath meymera dayeya, "by a kiss of the WORD of Jehovah;" and this has given rise to an ancient tradition among the Jews, "that God embraced Moses, and drew his soul out of his body by a kiss." The Targumist adds, that this was "on the seventh day of the month Adar, the same,, day of the same month on which he was born. 3. The last circumstance worthy of note is, that God buried him, which is an honour no human being ever received besides himself. From the tradition referred to by Saint Jude, Jude 9, it appears that Michael, the archangel, was employed on this occasion; that Satan disputed the matter with him, probably wishing the burial-place of Moses to be known, that it might become an excitement to superstition and idolatry; but being rebuked by the Lord, he was obliged to give over the contention; and though the place of burial was probably the valley of the mountain on which Moses had been conversing with God, and where he died, yet Satan himself could not ascertain the spot, and no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day. 4. It may be asked how Moses, who was bred up at an idolatrous court, which he did not quit till the fortieth year of his age, got that acquaintance with the true God which the apostle states him to have had; and that faith by which he realized spiritual and invisible things, and through which he despised all worldly grandeur and secular emolument. "By faith," says the apostle, "Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward," Heb. xi. 24, &c. This certainly implies a degree of religious knowledge, associated with an experimental acquaintance with Divine things, which we can scarcely ever suppose to have been at all the result of an Egyptian education. But we shall cease to be pressed with any difficulty here, when we consider the circumstance of his being providentially nursed by his own mother, under the authority and direction of the Egyptian princess. This gave him the privilege of frequent intercourse with his parents, and others of the Hebrews, who worshipped the true God; and from them he undoubtedly learned all the great truths of that religion which were taught and practiced among the patriarchs. The circumstance of his Hebrew origin, his exposure on the Nile, his being found and adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh, were facts which could not be concealed, and must have been notorious at the Egyptian court; and when these points are considered, we need not be surprised that he never could be so identified among the Egyptians as that his Hebrew extraction should be forgotten.
That the person whom God designed to be the deliverer of his people should have been a Hebrew by birth, and have retained all his natural attachment to his own people, and yet have been brought up by Pharaoh's daughter, and had all the advantages of a highly-finished education, which the circumstances of his own family could not have afforded, is all a master-piece of wisdom in the designs of the Divine providence. Besides, Moses by this education must have been well known, and even popular among the Egyptians; and therefore the subsequent public part he took in behalf of the Hebrews must have excited the greater attention and procured him the greater respect both among the Egyptians and his own people. All these circumstances taken together show the manifold wisdom and gracious providence of God. 5. Thus end the life and the work of the writer of the Pentateuch, who, by the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which he has amassed in those five books, has enriched the whole civilized earth, and indeed greatly promoted that very civilization. His works, we may justly say, have been a kind of text-book to almost every writer on geology, geography, chronology, astronomy, natural history, ethics, jurisprudence, political economy, theology, poetry, and criticism, from his time to the present day. Books, to which the choicest writers and philosophers in pagan antiquity have been deeply indebted, and which were the text-books to all the prophets; books from which the flimsy writers against Divine Revelation have derived their natural religion, and all their moral excellence; books written in all the energy and purity of the incomparable language in which they are composed; and finally, books which, for importance of matter, variety of information, dignity of sentiment, accuracy of facts, impartiality, simplicity, and sublimity of narration, tending to improve and ennoble the intellect, and meliorate the physical and moral condition of man, have never been equalled, and can only be paralleled by the GOSPEL of the Son of God! Fountain of endless mercy, justice, truth, and beneficence! how much are thy gifts and bounties neglected by those who do not read this law; and by those who, having read it, are not morally improved by it, and made wise unto salvation! On the whole we may remark, that when God calls any person to an extraordinary work, he so orders it, in the course of his providence, that he shall have every qualification necessary for that work. This was the case with Moses: his Hebrew extraction, the comeliness of his person, his Egyptian education, his natural firmness and constancy of character, all concurred with the influences of the Divine Spirit, to make him in every respect such a person, one among millions, who was every way qualified for the great work which God had given him to do; and who performed it according to the mind of his Maker. SERVANT OF GOD, WELL DONE!