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Deuteronomic law in the reign of Josiah. There is at any rate no difficulty in accounting for the influence of the idea on the thought of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the later Isaiah, and we may reasonably suppose that the exile tended to popularize the conception, and to foster the belief that the continuance of Israel's covenant status depended upon the strict maintenance of 'holiness' with all that this might imply.
Such in brief outline is the history, so far as it can be certainly traced, of the idea of a covenant between Jehovah and Israel. The attempt, however, to ascribe its origination to the prophets of the eighth century seems to be based on inconclusive arguments. There is good reason to suppose that the idea had its foundation in pre-prophetic times, for the prophets' plainly do not regard the conception as an innovation,' and it harmonizes entirely with the distinctively ethical character of Mosaism. Further, the thought constantly recurs that even the legal covenant is essentially a work of grace, prepared for in patriarchal times by a covenant of promise1. The initiative comes from Jehovah, who necessarily appoints the conditions upon the observance of which the maintenance of covenant union depends. It is a 'disposition' (Sa0kn) rather than an agreement' or contract between two equal parties (ovv0kn); and its basis is purely moral. According to the prophetic survey of the national history which we find in the book of Deuteronomy; the covenant requirement was wholly contained in the Decalogue: These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick
1 Cp. Lev. xxvi. 42; Deut. iv. 31.
2 Oehler in Herzog, Real-Encyklopädie s. v. 'Testament': 'Unterscheidet sich diaðýên von σvviên dadurch, dass bei jener kein rein wechselseitiges Verhältniss stattfindet, sondern von einem der beiden Paciscenten, als dem diabéuevos, die Initiative und die Feststellung der Vertragsbedingungen ausgeht.' Riehm points out that in this use of diann is involved the possibility of a transition from the thought of a 'covenant' to that of a 'testament' (Handwörterbuch des Bibl. Altertums, s.v. ' Bund').
darkness, with a great voice, and he added no more1. The prophetic view manifestly was that the moral element in the Mosaic system was predominant if not exclusive; that the Decalogue, not the ritual law, was its peculiar characteristic. It was in fact the work of Moses to teach Israel two things: first, the significance of the revelation of God's nature and character implied in the events of the exodus; secondly, the truth that the vocation to be Jehovah's people involved a higher and purer morality. It has been justly said that Moses' work as the originator of a higher religion bears the impress of a simplicity analogous to the simplicity of Christ. The later prophets recognized that they were called to be continuators of his mission, and in looking back on the forces which had moulded Israel's history, they discerned in the moral law the distinctive feature of the covenant. They strenuously endeavoured to reinstate this law in its original position, and to vindicate its supremacy by applying it as a standard of measurement to the social and political conditions of their age.
But behind the fact of human obligation lay the mystery of redemptive love, deigning to enter into relationship with man. It was this high relationship that was conceived as a covenant, implying as it did both the dignity of human nature and the condescending grace of God. It was in fact such a contract as can only subsist between beings who are united by a pre-existing kinship of nature. Indeed the covenantal idea is most aptly illustrated by actual examples of primitive contracts between man and man. In its essence a covenant did not materially differ from an oath; both were generally accompanied by symbolic ceremonies3; both imposed mutual obligations
1 Deut. v. 22; cp. Jer. vii. 22. 2 Bruce, Apologetics, p. 222. 3 On the phrase see Driver on the Book of Deuteronomy, iv. 13; Delitzsch, New Commentary on Genesis, vol. ii. pp. 13, 14. On the relation between a covenant and an oath see R. Kraetzschmar, Die Bundesvorstellung im A. T. (1. Teil), pp. 15, 16.
of service. It was a covenant that linked together in perpetuity friends like Jonathan and David1; a covenant that secured a man's fidelity to his betrothed 2. The prophets were the successive witnesses of the act of divine grace by which the life of divine fellowship and covenant consecration had been initiated. But the Mosaic covenant did but indicate in a rudimentary fashion the true consummation to which the deliverance from Egypt pointed, namely the life of personal friendship between God and man. God reveals Himself in the Decalogue as educating man for that life; to use the striking phrase of Irenaeus, He is seen praestruens hominem per decalogum in suam
It was then the moral requirement involved in the covenant which formed the basis and distinctive mark of Israel's religion. He who made Himself known to the people in acts of grace and power demanded of them a life conformed to His own character. He required not merely the ordinary expressions of religious homage, but a higher morality, justice, humanity, mercy, and good faith. In other words, at Sinai were laid down the great ethical principles which afterwards became the standard of prophetic religion, and within the lines of which all subsequent Torah, all prophetic or priestly instruction, was bound to move 1. The knowledge of God mentioned by Hosea may certainly have embraced legal, civil, and ceremonial decisions,
1 1 Sam. xviii. 3; xx. 8, 16, 42; xxiii. 18. 2 Ezek. xvi. 8.
Cp. Kraetzschmar, p. 20. 3 Iren. Haer. iv. 16. 3. 4 Robertson Smith, O. T. in J. C. p. 305. Montefiore, op. cit. p. 45, says: 'The Torah-or teaching-of the priests, half-judicial, half-pedagogic, was a deep moral influence.... There is good reason to suppose that this priestly Torah is the one religious institution which can be correctly attributed to Moses. If that be so, then not only did the pre-prophetic religion itself include an important ethical element, but this very element was part and parcel of the original Mosaic teaching,' &c. See generally Wellhausen, Prolegomena, ch. x.
5 Hos. vi. 6.
but, says Wellhausen, 'since its practical issue is that God requires of man righteousness, faithfulness and good-will, it is fundamentally and essentially morality, though morality at that time addressed its demands less to the conscience than to society1. Indeed, the practical prominence of social righteousness in the Law, which finds comprehensive expression in the sentence Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, constitutes a link between the prophets and the legalists of Israel, and anticipates with whatever limitations the teaching of the Gospel. It is true that in the development of Hebrew morality there seem to be occasional moments of retrogression. For instance, the intense hatred of foreigners and the exaggerated spirit of nationalism does not appear to have prevailed to the same extent in the pre-exilic period as in subsequent times. The older legislation appears in some respects to breathe a higher spirit than the later; and a similar contrast may be traced between the earlier and the later prophecy, between the universalistic utterances of an Isaiah and the tone of such books as those of Daniel, the Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah 3. The fact is that different elements in the religious character became prominent in different ages, nor was the spirit of any particular period strictly uniform or consistent. In the post-exilic period, for example, the germs are discernible of the temper which gradually developed into Pharisaism, the anxious and scrupulous spirit which aimed at strict legal obedience and careful conformity to a code of minute external ordinances. But at the same time this very period awakened the spiritual joy, fervour, and devotion, the filial delight in God and in His worship, which is reflected in the Psalter. It produced also a type of teaching which laid stress on charity to those in need, and on the doing of kindnesses' as the chief of human duties*.
1 Prolegomena, p. 395.
2 Lev. xix. 17.
See Schultz, O. T. Theology, vol. ii. p. 61 foll. 1 See Schechter, Studies in Judaism, no. ix, and Montefiore's Hibbert Lectures, no. ix, on 'The Law and its Influence.'
The mature fruit of the Law only appeared in an age of violent contrasts, the character of which we are sometimes apt to misconceive. Legalism had its beautiful and beneficent, as well as its baneful and harsh consequences. But if it be true of later Judaism that 'morality penetrated through Jewish society and was a potent link or bridge between class and class,' we must trace this result far back to the character once for all impressed on Hebrew religion by Moses, whose 'great merit,' says Kuenen, ‘lies in the fact of his connexion of the religious idea with the moral life 2'
It seems natural at this point to consider somewhat more in detail the ten words of the covenant 3, in which the will of God for His elect people finds its most simple and universal expression. The Decalogue indeed has been proved by experience to be a comprehensive summary of human duty. It defines in broad outlines the conditions of a right relation to God and to all that He has made 1.
But first a word is necessary on the question of the antiquity of the Decalogue. We have already noticed. that its Mosaic authorship has been questioned mainly on two grounds: first, the uncertainty as to the precise contents of the ten words alluded to in Exodus xxxiv. 27, 28; secondly, the fact that the second commandment seems to be practically unknown until the time. of Hezekiah's reformation, when the long-established
1 Montefiore, p. 547.
Religion of Israel, i. p. 282.
3 Exod. xxxiv. 28. Cp. Deut. iv. 13; x. 14. In some passages (e. g. Exod. xxv. 16, 21) the Decalogue is called 'the testimony,' (minyn) i. e. the declaration of Jehovah's will. So the ark which contained the tables of stone is called 'The ark of Jehovah's covenant' (Deut. x. 8).
Iren. Haer. iv. 15. 1: 'Nam Deus primo quidem pernaturalia praecepta quae ab initio infixa dedit hominibus admonens eos, id est per decalogum, nihil plus ab eis exquisivit.' Ibid. 16. 3: Similiter permanent apud nos, extensionem et augmentum sed non dissolutionem accipientia per carnalem Ejus adventum.' Cp. T. Aquin. Summa Theologiae, i. iiae. qu. 100, art. 3: 'Omnia praecepta [moralia] legis sunt quaedam partes praeceptorum decalogi.' See also Riehm, ATI. Theologie, § 14; Schultz, O. T. Theology, ii. 46 foll.; W. S. Bruce, The Ethics of the O. T. ch. vi.