Abbildungen der Seite

It pos.

not do consistently with his all-wise procedure in the original constitution of man and beast. The miracle, if such it be, is unique in Scripture.

Having thus seen the improbability of the outwardly literal view as well as of the purely internal one, we are driven to the assumption that the narrative is partly unhistorical. sesses a historical basis adorned with legendary particulars. The simple fact or facts which lie at the foundation of it were dressed out, in the progress of time, with marvellous features.

It may not be out of place to mention, that Philo omits all mention of the ass's speaking; and that the best interpreters adopt the mythic view. Bochart1 has adduced parallels where animals are represented as speaking prophetically, agreeably to the genius of tradition. The mythic view is favoured by the fact, that the mention of the Assyrians in xxiv. 24, and the tenor of the prophecy which presupposes the kingdom as already belonging to Israel, xxiv. 17, place the origin of the entire piece (xxii.-xxiv.) relating to Balaam in a later period, when traditional matter had become incorporated with the historical groundwork and could not be separated from it. There is some danger, however, of taking too much from the original matter. The traces of a later time are certainly discernible to criticism; but they lie partly in the form and rythmical configuration of the poems, as well as in the subject matter itself, though the latter is not free from them. It is difficult to tell at what time Numbers xxii. - xxiv. was actually written. Steudel's opinion that Balaam himself wrote his utterances is quite improbable. Hengstenberg satisfactorily shews, that the use of the names of Deity is inexplicable on that supposition. These titles could only have proceeded from an Israelite. Besides, Balaam could scarcely have written good Hebrew.

Aramaean was his language.

We have argued on the supposition that Balaam really uttered what is attributed to him. But his words are not historical. The basis only is such. Balaam himself was a historical personage. He was a renowned soothsayer, to whose words great efficacy was ascribed by the heathens who had heard of his fame or come in contact with him. The Moabites and Midianites wished him to curse the Israelites and so deprive them of the protection of their God; but he blessed them. These facts the lyrical poet probably learned by tradition, and painted the scene in his own manner. The character of Balaam as here depicted is imaginary in several details. His words, which are poetical and prophetic, are partly those of a later writer.

I Hierozoicon i. p. 168 et seqq.

They are a specimen of lyrical divination, based on historical tradition and put into the mouth of Balaam as prophecy. God may have employed so unworthy an instrument as the seer is represented to be, to communicate a revelation of Himself. But it is unlikely. He was too wavering, covetous, halfheathenish, to be chosen as the medium of communication between a pure God and his creatures on earth. The blessings and curses of such an one could have no virtue in themselves, but only in the imagination of a superstitious age. In consequence of the author's theocratic stand-point, the people of Israel could not be blessed except by Jehovah; and therefore the seer is depicted as a waverer between Baal and Jehovah, impelled against his will by the spirit of the latter. The prophecy is post-Mosaic, as internal evidence shews. The mention of the Kenites and Assyria in the twenty-second verse, the former of whom were allies of Edom, shews that the writer was acquainted with the Edomite wars under Amaziah and Uzziah, and hoped that the latter power would permanently subjugate the restless Edomites. This brings down the time of composition to the first half of the eighth century, and is at the same time a presumptive evidence that the star and sceptre refer to David alone; because, if they alluded to Messiah, another period would not be described immediately after, except it were later; whereas on the Messianic interpretation of the seventeenth verse, it is much carlier.

The twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses some suppose to be a later addition, because it has been thought they do not coincide with the general character of Balaam's prophecies, which were intended to be eulogistic of the Israelites. What gave rise to them is difficult to discover. It is said that ships of Chittim should afflict Eber, and he should perish for ever. According to Hitzig, the reference is to the invasion of Cilicia by the Greeks (B.C. 710). The Assyrians advanced to attack the Cilicians, but were repulsed with great loss; an event which must have been of consequence to the Israelites, and have thrown them into terror. Was that occasion sufficient to give rise to the two verses ? We greatly doubt it. It is more probable that the words refer to a rebellion of the inhabitants of Cyprus against Phenicia—a rebellion that threatened all the north Syrian coast.? Whatever may have been the age of the writer, he certainly belonged to Judah not Israel, as xxiii. 19 shews.

Most assign the piece to the Jehovist. He did not write it himself, however, but found it already existing. The linguistic features do not entirely suit the Jehovist himself. Elohim not unfrequently occurs, as in xxii. 9, 12. There is a considerable resemblance between xxiv. 9 and Gen. xlix. 9, ascribed to imitation by some.

1 Begriff der Kritik, p. 54 et seqq. 2 Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. iii. p. 608.

If the preceding observations be correct, we need not be anxious to inquire minutely into the mixed character of Balaam, the dramatic scenes in which he is pourtrayed, or the words put into his mouth, since they are unhistorical. Difficulties belong to the narrative which it is scarcely worth while to unravel, because of its ideal nature. The personal intercourse between God and Balaam, the appearance of an angel, the speaking of the ass, the exact predictions of the seer, and his utterances in glorification of Israel, are unhistorical.

It is remarkable, that the Elohist merely mentions the fact of Balaam's falling by the sword along with the five kings of Midian (Num. xxxi. 8), and that his counsel was the cause of the Israelites being enticed into the impure worship of Baalpeor or Priapus (xxxi. 16).

After such explanation, some may think our lengthened discussion of Balaam's character, the speaking of the ass, and the meaning of his prophecies, to have been superfluous. Yet it has been judged desirable to treat the subject, in the first instance, in its literal aspect, as though everything happened as it is narrated and Balaam himself spoke the very lyrical poetry put into his mouth, because most readers look at it in that light, without perceiving the insuperable difficulties inherent in the view, or its analogy to the lyrics in Gen. xlix. and Deut. xxxiii. containing the benedictions of Jacob and Moses respectively.

VIII. CHARACTER OF Moses's Laws.—The fundamental laws embodied in the three middle books of the Pentateuch belong to Moses himself. On them the theocracy is based. At least their essence should be referred to him, if not their present form. It is admitted that several of them lost their original form in the course of transmission, tradition having moulded them differently. Yet their substance is Mosaic. In maintaining that they are genuine Mosaic products, we attribute a high revelation to the great legislator, justifying the idea of the theocracy being divine. The laws may be called divine, because the mind of him from whom they proceeded was remarkably enlightened from above. The ancient Hebrews proceeded on the assumption that everything of the legal which came down from antiquity was derived from Moses. On this account they inserted among the laws really bearing his stamp, others of their own times; for by representing everything legal as originating at an early age, its authority was heightened. Accordingly,

1 See Knobel, Exeget. Handbuch, xiii. p. 121 et seqq.

while we look upon Elohistic laws as truly Mosaic, as well as others recorded by the Jehovist, the three middle books of the Pentateuch may be said to represent Mosaism in character and spirit, though including later prescriptions and augmented with later features. It is sometimes difficult to trace the originals of these laws; and to separate the genuine Mosaic ones from such as were afterwards attributed to Moses. But it is not impossible. And it should be remarked, that some of the laws and festivals adopted by Moses were not absolutely new. He profited largely from his experience in Egypt; bringing thence not a few things subsequently incorporated into his legislation. When thus transferred they received a new significance. Their relation was changed in consequence of their connection with the worship of the one Jehovah. In the hands of the legislator they acquired a new aspect, being taken out of nature-worship into a revealed religion, where they prepared man for communion with God by nourishing and strengthening the consciousness of the divine within him. It is remarkable that the fundamental doctrine of Mosaism, viz., that there is but one God, the Creator and Preserver of all, invisible, eternal, omnipotent, holy, and just, was all along inadequately apprehended till the captivity. A few choice spirits grasped it with sufficient distinctness and adhered to it; while to the mass of the people Jehovah was no more than a superior god beside other deities. Polytheism had deeply penetrated the vulgar mind; and though the nation frequently sought Jehovah with conviction of sin and repentance, such conversions, called forth by external circumstances, were transient in their effects. A manifold idolatry, partly of Zabian and partly of Egyptian origin, had its altars in all the cities of the land, in the streets of Jerusalem, and in the very temple of Jehovah immediately before the exile, as we learn from Jeremiah. There is no evidence to shew that the ceremonial law was observed by the Jews with anything like regularity or strictness. The great feasts themselves, such as the passover, the feast of tabernacles, etc., were allowed to fall into desuetude, as the historical books attest. If the externals of true religion were negligently attended to, religion itself must have been sickly.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

I. CONTENTS.—This book may be divided as follows: 1. An introductory discourse by Moses, containing a brief history of Israel since the exodus, with the object of warning and admonishing the people; to which is appended the destination of the cities of refuge east of Jordan, chapters i.-iv. 43.

2. The body of the work, in the form of a long address to the people of Israel by Moses, preceded by a short introduction (iv. 44–49); chapters iv. 44-xxvi.

3. A closing address exhorting anew to the observance of the law, chapters xxvii.-xxx.

4. A descriptive appendix relative to Moses's death, including two larger poetical pieces, viz., the song and blessing of Moses, chapters xxxi.-xxxiv.

In the eleventh month of the fortieth year from the exodus, Moses is represented as delivering the discourses recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. The aged patriarch, feeling that his death is near, and that he himself will not set foot in the land promised to his fathers, is anxious respecting the welfare of those whose leader he had been ; and, like a father, assembles them to receive his last counsels and warning. He takes a brief historical survey of the principal events which had befallen the people from the time they were at mount Sinai till a recent period. Here he touches upon the appointment of officers, the sending of spies into Canaan to bring back a report of its state, and the divine anger manifested towards them for their incredulity and disobedience. He reminds them that they were forbidden to attack the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites; but that Sihon and all the Amorite territory were subdued. This is followed by the story of the conquest of Og king of Bashan, whose territory, with that of Sihon, was distributed to the two tribes and a half; and by Moses's prayer to enter the promised land, which was denied, though he was permitted to see it from the top of Pisgah. The fourth chapter

« ZurückWeiter »