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the fact that in the present state of our knowledge there are no clear criteria by which to distinguish precisely the historical nucleus contained in the patriarchal narratives from the idealized picture. If there is uncertainty on this point we can only conclude that knowledge of the precise details of the history is not of vital importance. But from the standpoint of religion, the book is rich in instruction beyond what even the keenest student can fathom. In Genesis,' it has been said, 'is hid all Scripture, as the tree is in the seed1.' 'The book of Genesis,' says another living writer, 'is the true and original birthplace of all theology. It contains those ideas of God and man, of righteousness and judgment, of responsibility and moral government, of failure and hope, which are pre supposed through the rest of the Old Testament, and which prepare the way for the mission of Christ 2' Such an estimate every Christian who thoughtfully studies the Old Testament will eagerly endorse.


Passing to the period of Mosaism, we touch ground which is acknowledged on all sides to be comparatively solid. Even those critics who regard the records of the entire pre-Mosaic period as legendary, allow that the exodus of Israel from Egypt and the personality of Moses are assured historical realities "." It is no doubt true that the figure of Moses himself is drawn in the light of a much later age, but that which made him the most conspicuous creative genius of Hebrew history stands out with luminous clearness, namely, the fact that he was a prophet, a man conscious of a supernatural call, strengthened and sustained throughout his eventful career by the sense

1 Jukes, op. cit. p. 4.

2 Girdlestone, The Foundations of the Bible, p. 155. Cp. Delitzsch, New Commentary on Genesis, vol. i. p. 56.

3 Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, p. 14.

of divine mission. Indeed, since the consolidation of Israel's nationality was in every sense a creative act, it cannot be adequately explained apart from the appearance of a personality like that of Moses 1. 'Nothing,' says Professor Kittel, 'is less likely to arise spontaneously out of the depths of a people's life than those new creations which make epochs in the history of religion and morals. They slumber there, but they do not come to the surface until a single spirit, of whom they have taken entire possession, finds them in himself, grasps them, understands and proclaims them, and thus becomes the religious and moral hero, the prophet of his people 2.' The prophetic activity of Moses is not the less real because it is rather displayed in action than embodied in writings. The results of his activity, which are plainly visible in the subsequent history, show that his work was a work of God, and he himself a commissioned organ of Jehovah's will.

It seems to be most probable that what we call 'Mosaism' had an historical basis in existing religious beliefs, that there already prevailed religious ideas and aspirations to which Moses could appeal, that at least in some inner circle of the Hebrew clans the rudiments of a pure and simple faith had been cherished since patriarchal times. Something, too, may have been owing to the influence of Egyptian culture, with which, according to tradition, Moses was familiar,

1 Bruce, Apologetics, p. 197, makes a suggestive remark: The creation of Israel, like the creation of the world, may have been a much more complicated process than it appears in the sacred page, and the secular history of the process, if it could be written, might assume a very different appearance in many respects to the biblical, just as the scientific history of the physical creation differs widely from that given in the first chapter of Genesis.'

2 History of the Hebrews, vol. i. p. 240. Observe that Moses is referred to as a 'prophet' in Num. xii. 7; Deut. xviii. 15 foll., xxxiv. 10; Hos. xii. 13. God holds converse with him as a man speaketh with his friend, Exod. xxxiii. II. To him is vouchsafed the manifestation of God's character 'which dominates Israel's history,' Exod. xxxiv. 6-8. (Driver, Sermons on the O. T. p. 128.) Cp. Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 399.

3 Cp. Riehm, ATI. Theologie, pp. 54-56.

though it is on the whole probable that the influence of Egypt was prejudicial to the comparatively pure faith which the tribes of Israel may be thought to have inherited from their ancestors 1.

Further, there is no reason a priori for rejecting the supposition that Moses borrowed from other sources such religious forms or institutions as he judged to be suitable vehicles of the main religious thoughts that formed the basis of his system. Nevertheless, his work was that of an originator. Channing has said that the true task of God's ministers is 'to give vitality to the thought of God.' Such was indeed the aim of Moses. He has been sometimes represented as nothing more than a powerful leader or social reformer; but the history of Hebrew religion shows that he was a prophet indeed. In his proclamation of the truth that Jehovah was Israel's God, and that He was a God of righteousness, was contained the expansive germ from which the higher faith of subsequent times was developed.

When we turn to the books of the Pentateuch, in which the historic narratives relating to Mosaism are contained, we notice at once that they do not profess to be complete. The greater part of the history of this period is contained in the priestly document, but the book of Deuteronomy contains a retrospect which is in all probability earlier than the narrative of the priestly writer. It is a striking fact that the Deuteronomic writer is silent in regard to those very subjects which occupy a central place in the priestly writing; for instance, the erection of the tabernacle and the

1 Riehm, p. 53, thinks that the old Semitic worship of Jehovah under the symbol of a bull was revived under Egyptian influence. He also traces to Egypt the worship of satyrs, Lev. xvii. 7 (y). Cp. Renan, Histoire, &c., bk. i. ch. II.

2 Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, p. 48. Cp. p. 55. 'The story of Israel's religion opens with the work of a great personality, who taught his people to worship one God only, a severe but just deity, demanding from the tribes which acknowledged his dominion the practice of the simplest rules of civic morality.'

institution of its worship. But taking the narratives as a whole, it is plain that they do not aim at giving an exhaustive account of the historical facts. The thirty-eight years of wandering in the wilderness are passed over almost in silence, while other incidents, which must have occupied considerable spaces of time, are compressed or grouped together in cameo-like pictures. There are indeed many phenomena in the Pentateuch which justify Kuenen's observation, that in the memory of a nation the events of a series of years become compressed into one great fact and are attached to one great name 2. Nothing indeed can be more natural than that the events of one great crisis in a nation's history should become encircled with a halo of sacred tradition, in which particular incidents recede into the background, and general features and principles of divine action emerge and come to the front. The all-important fact of Jehovah's deliverance and guidance of His chosen people seems to live in the religious consciousness of the Pentateuchal writers, and perhaps somewhat overpowers or dims their interest in historical details.

Let us attempt to indicate briefly the main features of the narrative which deals with the history of the exodus and the wanderings in the wilderness.

1. First, we mark the general tendency of the account, to represent the wonderful deliverance from Egypt as the fundamental fact of Israel's national career. The leading incidents we may regard as practically certain: Israel's flight from Egypt, the passage of the Red Sea, the desert journey, the conflict with Amalek, the delivery of a law at Sinai embodying some definite but rudimentary system of

1 Robertson Smith, O. T. in J. C. pp. 391-393.

2 The Religion of Israel, vol. i. p. 135. Observe that this compression is found also in the account of the processes of creation (see Driver, Sermons on the O. T. p. 173), and also in such a narrative as that of Joshua x. foll., which 'gathers up all the details of slow conquest and local struggle in one comprehensive picture, with a single hero in the foreground.' See Joshua xi. 18 (O. T. in J. C. p. 131).


worship and polity, the long sojourn at Kadesh, the conquest of the region east of Jordan, the occupation and gradual appropriation of the promised land. is in regard to minor points that the evidence is defective, for the circumstantial and curiously minute sketch of the priestly writer, systematic, detailed, and precise though it be, cannot for reasons already indicated be regarded as constituting an independent historical authority. Thus in regard to the nature of the tent of meeting' and its precise position in the camp there is a conflict of evidence, nor is it ever likely to be determined to what extent a sacrificial cultus was actually carried on in the wilderness. The outstanding fact, however, of the Mosaic history is contained in a passage which has been called 'the gospel of the exodus." Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people". The exodus implied first and foremost the exaltation of Israel's God; next, it marked the birth of a nation, and its call to a special position of dependence on its deliverer. Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn 4. The new title corresponded to a unique fact, viz. that the Hebrew race was adopted by Jehovah, and brought into a peculiar relationship to Himself. The prophets occasionally describe God as the creator of Israel 5, in virtue of those mighty redemptive acts by which Israel was severed from Egypt and made the people of divine election. In this display In this display of condescending grace Israel recognized the God of its fathers as the


1 As instances of P's partiality for definite and precise details of number, measure, and weight, see the description of Noah's ark (Gen. vi. 14 foll.), and such passages as Exod. xxxviii. 24-31, Num. vii and xxxi. See Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the O. T. pp. 118-122. 4 Exod. iv. 22.

2 Exod. xix. 4, 5.
5 See Isa. xliii. 15.

3 Exod. xv. I, 2.

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