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  • JOSEPHUS' WRITINGS - BOOK 3, CH. 15
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    HOW MOSES WAS DISPLEASED AT THIS, AND FORETOLD THAT GOD WAS ANGRY AND THAT THEY SHOULD CONTINUE IN THE WILDERNESS FOR FORTY YEARS AND NOT, DURING THAT TIME, EITHER RETURN INTO EGYPT OR TAKE POSSESSION OF CANAAN.

    1. MOSES came now boldly to the multitude, and informed them that God was moved at their abuse of him, and would inflict punishment upon them, not indeed such as they deserved for their sins, but such as parents inflict on their children, in order to their correction. For, he said, that when he was in the tabernacle, and was bewailing with ears that destruction which was coming upon them God put him in mind what things he had done for them, and what benefits they had received from him, and yet how ungrateful they had been to him that just now they had been induced, through the timorousness of the spies, to think that their words were truer than his own promise to them; and that on this account, though he would not indeed destroy them all, nor utterly exterminate their nation, which he had honored more than any other part of mankind, yet he would not permit them to take possession of the land of Canaan, nor enjoy its happiness; but would make them wander in the wilderness, and live without a fixed habitation, and without a city, for forty years together, as a punishment for this their transgression; but that he had promised to give that land to our children, and that he would make them the possessors of those good things which, by your ungoverned passions, you have deprived yourselves of.

    2. When Moses had discoursed thus to them according to the direction of God, the multitude, grieved, and were in affliction; and entreated Most to procure their reconciliation to God, and to permit them no longer to wander in the wilderness, but bestow cities upon them. But he replied, that God would not admit of any such trial, for that God was not moved to this determination from any human levity or anger, but that he had judicially condemned them to that punishment. Now we are not to disbelieve that Moses, who was but a single person, pacified so many ten thousands when they werre in anger, and converted them to a mildness temper; for God was with him, and prepared way to his persuasions of the multitude; and as they had often been disobedient, they were now sensible that such disobedience was disadvantageous to them and that they had still thereby fallen into calamities.

    3. But this man was admirable for his virtue, and powerful in making men give credit to what he delivered, not only during the time of his natural life, but even there is still no one of the Hebrews who does not act even now as if Moses were present, and ready to punish him if he should do any thing that is indecent; nay, there is no one but is obedient to what laws he ordained, although they might be concealed in their transgressions. There are also many other demonstrations that his power was more than human, for still some there have been, who have come from the parts beyond Euphrates, a journey of four months, through many dangers, and at great expenses, in honor of our temple; and yet, when they had offered their oblations, could not partake of their own sacrifices, because Moses had forbidden it, by somewhat in the law that did not permit them, or somewhat that had befallen them, which our ancient customs made inconsistent therewith; some of these did not sacrifice at all, and others left their sacrifices in an imperfect condition; many were not able, even at first, so much as to enter the temple, but went their ways in this as preferring a submission to the laws of Moses before the fulfilling of their own inclinations, they had no fear upon them that anybody could convict them, but only out of a reverence to their own conscience. Thus this legislation, which appeared to be divine, made this man to be esteemed as one superior to his own nature. Nay, further, a little before the beginning of this war, when Claudius was emperor of the Romans, and Ismael was our high priest, and when so great a famine (27) was come upon us, that one tenth deal [of wheat] was sold for four drachmae, and when no less than seventy cori of flour were brought into the temple, at the feast of unleavened bread, (these cori are thirty-one Sicilian, but forty-one Athenian medimni,) not one of the priests was so hardy as to eat one crumb of it, even while so great a distress was upon the land; and this out of a dread of the law, and of that wrath which God retains against acts of wickedness, even when no one can accuse the actors. Whence we are not to wonder at what was then done, while to this very day the writings left by Moses have so great a force, that even those that hate us do confess, that he who established this settlement was God, and that it was by the means of Moses, and of his virtue; but as to these matters, let every one take them as he thinks fit.

    ENDNOTE

    (1) Dr. Bernard takes notice here, that this place Mar, where the waters were bitter, is called by the Syrians and Arabians Mariri, and by the Syrians sometimes Morath, all derived from the Hebrew Mar. He also takes notice, that it is called The Bitter Fountain by Pliny himself; which waters remain there to this day, and are still bitter, as Thevenot assures us and that there are also abundance of palm-trees. See his Travels, Part I. ch. 26. p. 166. (2)The additions here to Moses's account of the sweetening of the waters at Marah, seem derived from some ancient profane author, and he such an author also as looks less authentic than are usually followed by Josephus. Philo has not a syllable of these additions, nor any other ancienter writer that we know of. Had Josephus written these his Antiquities for the use of Jews, he would hardly have given them these very improbable circumstances; but writing to Gentiles, that they might not complain of his omission of any accounts of such miracles derived from Gentiles, he did not think proper to conceal what he had met with there about this matter. Which procedure is perfectly agreeable to the character and usage of Josephus upon many occasions. This note is, I confess, barely conjectural; and since Josephus never tells us when his own copy, taken out of the temple, had such additions, or when any ancient notes supplied them; or indeed when they are derived from Jewish, and when from Gentile antiquity, - we can go no further than bare conjectures in such cases; only the notions of Jews were generally so different from those of Gentiles, that we may sometimes make no improbable conjectures to which sort such additions belong. See also somewhat like these additions in Josephus's account of Elisha's making sweet the bitter and barren spring near Jericho, War, B. IV. ch. 8. sect. 3. (3) It seems to me, from what Moses, Exodus 16:18, St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:15, and Josephus here say, compared together, that the quantity of manna that fell daily, and did not putrefy, was just so much as came to an omer apiece, through the whole host of Israel, and no more. (4) This supposal, that the sweet honey-dew or manna, so celebrated in ancient and modern authors, as falling usually in Arabia, was of the very same sort with this manna sent to the Israelites, savors more of Gentilism than of Judaism or Christianity. It is not improbable that some ancient Gentile author, read by Josephus, so thought; nor would he here contradict him; though just before, and Antiq. B. IV. ch. 3. sect. 2, he seems directly to allow that it had not been seen before. However, this food from heaven is here described to be like snow; and in Artapanus, a heathen writer, it is compared to meal, color like to snow, rained down by God," Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 239. But as to the derivation of the word manna, whether from man, which Josephus says then signified What is it or from mannah, to divide, i.e. a dividend or portion allotted to every one, it is uncertain: I incline to the latter derivation. This manna is called angels' food, Psalm 78:26, and by our Sacior, John 6:31, etc., as well as by Josephus here and elsewhere, Antiq. B. III. ch. 5. sect. 3, said to be sent the Jews from heaven. (5) This rock is there at this day, as the travelers agree; and must be the same that was there in the days of Moses, as being too large to be brought thither by our modern carriages. (6) Note here, that the small book of the principal laws of Moses is ever said to be laid up in the holy house itself; but the larger Pentateuch, as here, some where within the limits of the temple and its courts only. See Antiq. B. V. ch. 1. sect. 17. (7) This eminent circumstance, that while Moses's hands were lift up towards heaven, the Israelites prevailed, and while they were let down towards the earth, the Amalekites prevailed, seems to me the earliest intimation we have of the proper posture, used of old, in solemn prayer, which was the stretching out of the hands [and eyes] towards heaven, as other passages of the Old and New Testament inform us. Nay, by the way, this posture seemed to have continued in the Christian church, till the clergy, instead of learning their prayers by heart, read them out of a book, which is in a great measure inconsistent with such an elevated posture, and which seems to me to have been only a later practice, introduced under the corrupt state of the church; though the constant use of divine forms of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, appears to me to have been the practice of God's people, patriarchs, Jews, and Christians, in all the past ages. (8) This manner of electing the judges and officers of the Israelites by the testimonies and suffrages of the people, before they were ordained by God, or by Moses, deserves to be carefully noted, because it was the pattern of the like manner of the choice and ordination of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, in the Christian church. (9) Since this mountain, Sinai, is here said to be the highest of all the mountains that are in that country, it must be that now called St. Katherine's, which is one-third higher than that within a mile of it, now called Sinai, as Mons. Thevenot informs us, Travels, Part I. ch. 23. p. 168. The other name of it, Horeb, is never used by Josephus, and perhaps was its name among the Egyptians only, whence the Israelites were lately come, as Sinai was its name among the Arabians, Canaanites, and other nations. Accordingly when (1 Kings 9:8) the Scripture says that Elijah came to Horeb, the mount of God, Josephus justly says, Antiq. B. VIII. ch. 13. sect. 7, that he came to the mountain called Sinai: and Jerome, here cited by Dr. Hudson, says, that he took this mountain to have two names, Sinai and Choreb. De Nomin. Heb. p. 427. (10) Of this and another like superstitious notion of the Pharisees, which Josephus complied with, see the note on Antiq. B. II. ch. 12. sect. 4. (11) This other work of Josephus, here referred to, seems to be that which does not appear to have been ever published, which yet he intended to publish, about the reasons of many of the laws of Moses; of which see the note on the Preface, sect. 4. (12) Of this tabernacle of Moses, with its several parts and furniture, see my description at large, chap. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. hereto belonging. (13) The use of these golden bells at the bottom of the high priest's long garment, seems to me to have been this: That by shaking his garment at the time of his offering incense in the temple, on the great day of expiation, or at other proper periods of his sacred ministrations there, on the great festivals, the people might have notice of it, and might fall to their own prayers at the time of incense, or other proper periods; and so the whole congregation might at once offer those common prayers jointly with the high priest himself to the Almighty See Luke 1:10; Revelation 8:3, 4. Nor probably is the son of Sirach to be otherwise understood, when he says of Aaron, the first high priest, Ecelus. 45:9, "And God encompassed Aaron with pomegranates, and with many golden bells round about, that as he went there might be a sound, and a noise made that might be heard in the temple, for a memorial to the children of his people." (14) The reader ought to take notice here, that the very Mosaic Petalon, or golden plate, for the forehead of the Jewish high priest, was itself preserved, not only till the days of Josephus, but of Origen; and that its inscription, Holiness to the Lord, was in the Samaritan characters. See Antiq. B. VIII. ch. 3. sect. 8, Essay on the Old Test. p. 154, and Reland, De pol. Templi, p. 132. (15) When Josephus, both here and ch. 6. sect. 4, supposes the tabernacle to have been parted into three parts, he seems to esteem the bare entrance to be a third division, distinct from the holy and the most holy places; and this the rather, because in the temple afterward there was a real distinct third part, which was called the Porch: otherwise Josephus would contradict his own description of the tabernacle, which gives as a particular account of no more than two parts. (16) This explication of the mystical meaning of the Jewish tabernacle and its vessels, with the garments of the high priest, is taken out of Philo, and fitted to Gentile philosophical notions. This may possibly be forgiven in Jews, greatly versed in heathen learning and philosophy, as Philo had ever been, and as Josephus had long been when he wrote these Antiquities. In the mean time, it is not to be doubted, but in their education they must have both learned more Jewish interpretations, such as we meet with in the Epistle of Barnabas, in that to the Hebrews, and elsewhere among the old Jews. Accordingly when Josephus wrote his books of the Jewish War, for the use of the Jews, at which time he was comparatively young, and less used to Gentile books, we find one specimen of such a Jewish interpretation; for there (B. VII. ch. 5. sect. 5) he makes the seven branches of the temple-candlestick, with their seven lamps, an emblem of the seven days of creation and rest, which are here emblems of the seven planets. Nor certainly ought ancient Jewish emblems to be explained any other way than according to ancient Jewish, and not Gentile, notions. See of the War, B. I. ch. 33. sect. 2. (17) It is well worth our observation, that the two principal qualifications required in this section for the constitution of the first high priest, (viz. that he should have an excellent character for virtuous and good actions; as also that he should have the approval of the people,) are here noted by Josephus, even where the nomination belonged to God himself; which are the very same qualifications which the Christian religion requires in the choice of Christian bishops, priests, and deacons; as the Apostolical Constitutions inform us, B. II. ch. 3. (18) This weight and value of the Jewish shekel, in the days of Josephus, equal to about 2s. 10d. sterling, is, by the learned Jews, owned to be one-fifth larger than were their old shekels; which determination agrees perfectly with the remaining shekels that have Samaritan inscriptions, coined generally by Simon the Maccabee, about 230 years before Josephus published his Antiquities, which never weigh more than 2s. 4d., and commonly but 2s. 4d. See Reland De Nummis Samaritanorum, p. 138. (19) The incense was here offered, according to Josephus's opinion, before sun-rising, and at sun-setting; but in the days of Pompey, according to the same Josephus, the sacrifices were offered in the morning, and at the ninth hour. Antiq. B. XIV. ch. 4. sect. 3. (20) Hence we may correct the opinions of the modern Rabbins, who say that only one of the seven lamps burned in the day-time; whereas our Josephus, an eyewitness, says there were three. (21) Of this strange expression, that Moses "left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased, and when he pleased to be absent," see the note on B. II. against Apion, sect. 16. (22)These answers by the oracle of Urim and Thummim, which words signify, light and perfection, or, as the Septuagint render them, revelation and truth, and denote nothing further, that I see, but the shining stones themselves, which were used, in this method of illumination, in revealing the will of God, after a perfect and true manner, to his people Israel: I say, these answers were not made by the shining of the precious stones, after an awkward manner, in the high priest's breastplate, as the modern Rabbins vainly suppose; for certainly the shining of the stones might precede or accompany the oracle, without itself delivering that oracle, see Antiq. B. VI. ch. 6. sect. 4; but rather by an audible voice from the mercy-seat between the cherubims. See Prideaux's Connect. at the year 534. This oracle had been silent, as Josephus here informs us, two hundred years before he wrote his Antiquities, or ever since the days of the last good high priest of the family of the Maccabees, John Hyrcanus. Now it is here very well worth our observation, that the oracle before us was that by which God appeared to he present with, and gave directions to, his people Israel as their King, all the while they submitted to him in that capacity; and did not set over them such independent kings as governed according to their own wills and political maxims, instead of Divine directions. Accordingly we meet with this oracle (besides angelic and prophetic admonitions) all along from the days of Moses and Joshua to the anointing of Saul, the first of the succession of the kings, Numbers 27:21; Joshua 6:6, etc.; 19:50; Judges 1:1; 18:4-6, 30, 31; 20:18, 23, 26-28; 21:1, etc.; 1 Samuel 1:17, 18; 3. per tot.; 4. per tot.; nay, till Saul's rejection of the Divine commands in the war with Amalek, when he took upon him to act as he thought fit, 1 Samuel 14:3, 18, 19, 36, 37, then this oracle left Saul entirely, (which indeed he had seldom consulted before, 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Chronicles 10:14; 13:3; Antiq. B. 7 ch. 4 sect 2.) and accompanied David, who was anointed to succeed him, and who consulted God by it frequently, and complied with its directions constantly (1 Samuel 14:37, 41; 15:26; 22:13, 15; 23:9, 10; 30:7, 8, 18; 2 Samuel 2:1; 5:19, 23; 21:1; 23 :14; 1 Chronicles 14:10, 14; Antiq. B IV ch. 12 sect. 5). Saul, indeed, long after his rejection by God, and when God had given him up to destruction for his disobedience, did once afterwards endeavor to consult God when it was too late; but God would not then answer him, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, 1 Samuel 28:6. Nor did any of David's successors, the kings of Judah, that we know of, consult God by this oracle, till the very Babylonish captivity itself, when those kings were at an end; they taking upon them, I suppose, too much of despotic power and royalty, and too little owning the God of Israel for the supreme King of Israel, though a few of them consulted the prophets sometimes, and were answered by them. At the return of the two tribes, without the return of the kingly government, the restoration of this oracle was expected, Nehemiah 7;63; 1 Esd. 5:40; 1 Macc. 4:46; 14:41. And indeed it may seem to have been restored for some time after the Babylonish captivity, at least in the days of that excellent high priest, John Hyrcanus, whom Josephus esteemed as a king, a priest, and a prophet; and who, he says, foretold several things that came to pass accordingly; but about the time of his death, he here implies, that this oracle quite ceased, and not before. The following high priests now putting diadems on their heads, and ruling according to their own will, and by their own authority, like the other kings of the pagan countries about them; so that while the God of Israel was allowed to be the supreme King of Israel, and his directions to be their authentic guides, God gave them such directions as their supreme King and Governor, and they were properly under a theocracy, by this oracle of Urim, but no longer (see Dr. Bernard's notes here); though I confess I cannot but esteem the high priest Jaddus's divine dream, Antiq. B. XI. ch. 8. sect. 4, and the high priest Caiaphas's most remarkable prophecy, John 11:47-52, as two small remains or specimens of this ancient oracle, which properly belonged to the Jewish high priests: nor perhaps ought we entirely to forget that eminent prophetic dream of our Josephus himself, (one next to a high priest, as of the family of the Asamoneans or Maccabees,) as to the succession of Vespasian and Titus to the Roman empire, and that in the days of Nero, and before either Galba, Otho, or Vitellius were thought of to succeed him. Of the War, B. III. ch. 8. sect. 9. This, I think, may well be looked on as the very last instance of any thing like the prophetic Urim among the Jewish nation, and just preceded their fatal desolation: but how it could possibly come to pass that such great men as Sir John Marsham and Dr. Spenser, should imagine that this oracle of Urim and Thummim with other practices as old or older than the law of Moses, should have been ordained in imitation of somewhat like them among the Egyptians, which we never hear of till the days of Diodorus Siculus, Aelian, and Maimonides, or little earlier than the Christian era at the highest, is almost unaccountable; while the main business of the law of Moses was evidently to preserve the Israelites from the idolatrous and superstitious practices of the neighboring pagan nations; and while it is so undeniable, that the evidence for the great antiquity of Moses's law is incomparably beyond that for the like or greater antiquity of such customs in Egypt or other nations, which indeed is generally none at all, it is most absurd to derive any of Moses's laws from the imitation of those heathen practices, Such hypotheses demonstrate to us how far inclination can prevail over evidence, in even some of the most learned part of mankind. (23) What Reland well observes here, out of Josephus, as compared with the law of Moses, Leviticus 7:15, (that the eating of the sacrifice the same day it was offered, seems to mean only before the morning of the next, although the latter part, i.e. the night, be in strictness part of the next day, according to the Jewish reckoning,) is greatly to be observed upon other occasions also. The Jewish maxim in such cases, it seems, is this: That the day goes before the night; and this appears to me to be the language both of the Old and New Testament. See also the note on Antiq. B. IV. ch. 4. sect. 4, and Reland's note on B. IV. ch. 8. sect. 28. (24) We may here note, that Josephus frequently calls the camp the city, and the court of the Mosaic tabernacle a temple, and the tabernacle itself a holy house, with allusion to the latter city, temple, and holy house, which he knew so well long afterwards. (25) These words of Josephus are remarkable, that the lawgiver of the Jews required of the priests a double degree of parity, in comparison of that required of the people, of which he gives several instances immediately. It was for certain the case also among the first Christians, of the clergy, in comparison of the laity, as the Apostolical Constitutions and Canons every where inform us, (26) We must here note with Reland, that the precept given to the priests of not drinking wine while they wore the sacred garments, is equivalent; to their abstinence from it all the while they ministered in the temple; because they then always, and then only, wore those sacred garments, which were laid up there from one time of ministration to another. (27) See Antiq, B. XX. ch. 2. sect, 6. and Acts 11:28.

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