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It has been inquired why certain crimes are mentioned to the exclusion of others; to which it is replied, by Le Clerc and Michaelis, that those violations of the law are selected which men are guilty of in secret, or which God alone can avenge, such as he who makes an idol and puts it in a secret place; he who despises his father or his mother, the parent generally submitting to indignity rather than delivering up a child to justice; he who secretly removes his neighbour's land-marks; he who misleads the blind; the perfidious judge who is unjust to widows, orphans, and strangers ; be who is guilty of incest and bestiality; the secret assassin ; and he who takes a bribe to condemn the innocent to death. After the Levites shall pronounce aloud these imprecations on the perpetrators of the crimes alluded to, the assembled congregation shall respond by, Amen.
The twenty-eighth chapter enumerates various blessings which should attend those who kept the divine law; and dreadful maledictions which should be the lot of those who violated that law. The former were to be pronounced by six tribes ranged on the declivity of Gerizim; the latter on the declivity of the opposite mountain, Ebal, by the other six tribes. It is not very easy to explain this chapter in connection with the preceding one. of the two sets of maledictions the first, mentioned in the twenty-seventh chapter, were to be pronounced by the Levites on Ebal (14–26), in the sacerdotal capacity, who would then pass over to Gerizim and become one of the tribes in blessing; while the tribes left on Ebal were to proclaim the second set of maledictions. Thus the two courses of maledictions were distinct, and uttered by different parties. It will be observed that the curses in the twenty-eighth chapter are more copious and detailed than the blessings. Neither list is concise or condensed ; so that the speaker may rather be supposed to have followed his own excited feelings, than to have adhered to the form in which the respective utterances were to be pronounced. With less probability it has been conjectured by Palfrey, that they may have been intended to be read aloud in their whole length by some individual, each sentence being appropriated by the tribes appointed for the service, by means of a response at its close. The form is too oratorical to justify the idea that they were proclaimed just as they are now written.
The twenty-ninth and thirtieth chapters contain another discourse of Moses, in which he recounts the divine benefits, for the purpose of encouraging the people to renew the covenant with Jehovah faithfully; and adds the disastrous alternative, should they despise the divine law or fall into idolatry. Pardon
Academical Lectures on the Jewish Soriptures, vol. i. p. 496, note.
is promised to the repentant people. No excuse for ignorance can be pleaded, because the law is so clearly explained. Death and life are plainly set before them. The first verse of the twenty-ninth chapter does not belong to what precedes, as some think. The covenant mentioned was to be made in the land of Moab, not when the Israelites should have crossed the Jordan.
Feeling that he had arrived at the utmost point to which he was permitted to advance, that he was disabled by age and near death, the speaker now encourages the people with the assurance of the divine guidance and protection in taking possession of the promised land; and gives a solemn charge to Joshua before them, exhorting him to the courage which became him as their leader. It is then stated, that he committed the written law to the priests and all the elders of Israel, with the injunction that it should be publicly read every seventh year at the feast of tabernacles, before the assembled people. By the divine command Moses and Joshua repair to the tabernacle, where the Lord appears in a pillar of cloud, giving the sanction of his authority to the arrangement respecting the future leadership of the people. There was communicated to Moses a brief account of the people's apostacy and consequent calamities, after his decease. He is also commanded to write "a song" and teach it to the children of Israel ; which he does accordingly. After all the words of the law had been written in a book, Moses gave it to the Levites to be deposited in the side of the ark of the covenant; and, assembling all the elders and the officers once more, delivered to them the divine message which he had just received. On the same day he was directed to ascend mount Nebo, and, having taken a distant view of the promised land, to rest in death and be gathered to his people. The song of Moses is contained in xxxii. 1-43, in which, after a solemn invocation, he recalls to the recollection of an ungrateful people the benefits they had received from God. He then describes them in the enjoyment of all kinds of possessions and secure occupation of the promised land, but turning aside from the worship of Jehovah to strange gods. In consequence of such conduct God is described as angry, threatening punishment and inflicting it. For greater effect the poet introduces the Almighty himself speaking in His wrath. The conclusion refers to other nations, adopted by Jehovah in place of the Israelites, and celebrating the justice of the divine judgments:
The thirty-third chapter purports to record some of the words of Moses with which he blessed the children of Israel, invoking prosperity upon the tribes in succession.
The last chapter briefly states that Moses went up to mount Nebo to survey the promised land, where he died at the age of one hundred and Beth-peor.
twenty, and was buried in a valley or hollow place, over against
It is added, “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” His funeral obsequies lasted thirty days. He was succeeded by Joshua as civil and military leader.
II. “This Song” IN XXXI. AND XXXII.-good deal of perplexity is connected with the words, “this song," in Deut. xxxi. 19, 21, 22, 30, xxxii. 44. Its usual application is to xxxii. 1-43. It must be confessed, however, that difficulties lie in the way of that interpretation. At the first mention (xxxi. 19) the song is introduced very abruptly, Moses and Joshua being commanded by God at the door of the tabernacle “ to write it out and teach it to the children of Israel that it may be a witness against them for Him.” The language seems to imply that the song was delivered in the first place by God himself to Moses and Joshua, who were merely ordered to write it down for the benefit of the Israelites. It is immediately subjoined, that Moses did as he was commanded; he wrote the song
and taught it to the Israelites (verse 22). In the thirtieth verse the song is again introduced in language which is suitable to a first mention of it; and again in xxxii
. 44, similar language is repeated. It is certainly unusual to sever the directions and statement respecting the song in xxxi. 19-22, from the preceding connection, and refer them to a succeeding passage. Palfrey also urges, that the length of the song is unsuitable for the children of Israel to learn by heart; that its contents do not correspond with the view of its being a message from the Deity, because single expressions are the language of a devout worshipper, and the Lord himself is introduced as speaking in some parts; and that its whole tone, verbose, discursive, pompous, and expressive of human feelings, is adverse to the same interpretation. For these reasons he refers the words, “this song,” to xxxi. 16–18; and then the song means only a brief and solemn admonition to the people which they could easily learn, and retain in the memory.
Although this view has the recommendation of simplicity we are compelled to reject it. The writer of xxxii. 46, appears to have thought that the preceding song, 1-43, was the one intended to be learnt by the Israelites, for he says: “Set your
" hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do," etc. The length of the song, supposing it to consist of xxxii. 1-43, is not unsuitable to be retained in the memory of the Israelites, in substance ; and we cannot see that the nineteenth verse of xxxi. really implies that God himself delivered the song as a message from himself in its present form. All that can be assumed is, that in substance the song was a message from the Deity, which the poet enunciated and expanded in his own way:
1 Academical Lectures, etc., vol. i. p. 501, note.
The Divine Being inspired him to deliver it; He did not dictate it audibly. There is indeed some awkwardness in verses 19-22 being introduced without the song itself being immediately given, verses 23-29 intervening and breaking the connection; but this is obviated in a great measure by such as think that from xxxii. 24 we have the words of Moses's continuator, all that precedes having been the composition of the legislator himself. According to that view, Moses himself hastens to complete his writing with a mere reference to his concluding song, leaving it to some other to put it in writing.
It has been asked where the record of Moses terminates. The point is of importance only on the assumption of the legislator himself having written the book; and therefore we need not discuss it. It is obvious that the last two chapters cannot be ascribed to Moses. The thirty-second also, with its inscription (xxxi. 30), appears to be a later addition. The transaction at the
a tabernacle, which none but himself and Joshua could record from personal knowledge, seems also to belong to him. But there his entries apparently end, i.e., with xxxi. 23, as Hengstenberg supposes. His delivering the book to the Levites, the reason of it, and his command to convoke the people that he might address his last message to them, belong to another writer. It is unlikely that xxxii. 44-52 was added by Moses. Other conjectures as to the probable termination of Moses's record need not be stated, because the entire book belongs to a LATER writer and time.
III. “This LAW” IN XXVII. 2, 3.-In Deut. xxvii. 2, 3, we read : “And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister. And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over,” etc.
What is meant by all the words of this law? Not the whole Pentateuch, on account of its extent. Not the decalogue, because Moses does not speak of it in the context; nor is any reference made to it in the execution of this command by Joshua (viii. 30-35). Others have thought that the curses
) recorded in the latter part of the twenty-seventh chapter, and the blessings mentioned at the beginning of the twenty-eighth, compose the law in question, solemnly proclaimed from Ebal and Gerizim. This view is given by Josephus. We do not see any good reason for restricting the term law, especially as connected with all the words of, to the parts specified. Palfrey confines
the term to the first twelve imprecations, which the Levites are supposed to have read aloud from the altar-stones on which they were engraved. This is still more improbable than the last explanation, being far too narrow a sense of “all the words of this law.” Others, as Geddes, Vater, and Hengstenberg, think that the second law is meant, i.e., Deut. iv. 44-xxvi. This is incorrect. The law generally is meant, i.e., the precepts proper belonging to it, which were 613 according to the Jews.?
It has been inquired what was the use of the plaister in the inscription spoken of. Kennicottthinks that the letters were raised in black marble, and the hollow intervals between the black letters filled up with white lime to make them more conspicuous. Michaelis, objecting to this view, suggests that when Moses commanded his laws to be cut in the stones, he had them coated with a thick crust of lime, that when the lime decayed the inscription might be revealed to a future age. Both conjectures proceed on the idea that the legislator wished to transmit his laws to the latest posterity. We agree with Michaelis in thinking, that the writer of Deuteronomy meant to 'attribute this idea to Moses ; for Palfrey's objections rest on the assumption that the law contained merely the twelve curses, and that the inscription was only intended for a temporary purpose.
IV. Moses's DEATH AND BURIAL.-In the thirty-fourth chapter, fifth and sixth verses, we read : “So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor : but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” Some time had elapsed between his burial and this record, as we learn from the phrase, unto this day. How the great legislator died is not stated. When it is said, "he buried him," the meaning is simply impersonal, “one buried him," or "he was buried.” With Kurtz, and many others who take Jehovah as the nominative case to the verb buried we cannot agree; for what could be the meaning of the Deity himself burying Moses? It has been commonly supposed, that the reason why the spot was concealed from the people was, lest it should afterwards become a scene of superstitious or idolatrous worship. But Kurtz imagines that there was little fear of this, in consequence of the great respect which the people had for the most distinguished prophet of the Old Testament. The general view of graves and dead men's bones as producing uncleanness, was sufficiently strong to prevent pious pilgrimages
1 Academical Lectures, etc., vol. i. p. 491. 2 Knobel, Exeget. Handbuch, xiii. p. 306. 8 Works, vol. ii. p. 77, note. * Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. p. 356, translation. 5 Geschichte des alten Bundes, vol. ii. p. 526.