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and ever-present God, the object of worship, obedience, trust, and love. His name was Jahveh, the “I am,” the Being of beings.*
In a certain sense Moses taught the strict unity of God. Hear, O Israel ; the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. vi. 4), is a statement which Jesus calls the chief of the commandments (Mark xii. 29, 30). For when God is conceived of as the Supreme Being he becomes at once separated by an infinite distance from all other deities, and they cease to be gods in the sense in which he is God. Now as Moses gave to Jehovah infinite attributes, and taught that he was the maker and Lord of heaven and earth, eternal (Deut. xxxiii. 27), a living God, it followed that there was no God with him (Deut. xxxii. 39), which the prophets afterwards wrought out into a simple monotheism. “I am God, and there is no other God beside me" (Isaiah xliv. 8). Therefore, though Moses did not assert in terms a simple monotheism, he taught what contained the essential germ of that idea.
This one God, supreme and infinite, was also so spiritual that no idol, no statue, was to be made as his symbol. He was a God of truth and stern justice, visiting the sins of parents on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hated him, but showing mercy to thousands of those who loved and obeyed him. He was a God who was merciful, long-suffering, gracious, repenting him of the evil, and seeking still to pardon and to bless his people. No doubt there is anthropomorphism in Moses. But if man is made in God's image, then God is in man's image too, and we must, if we think of him as a living and real God, think of him as possessing emotions like our human emotions of love, pity, sorrow, anger, only purified from their grossness and narrowness.
*“'Behold, when I shall come to the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say, What is his name ? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THE I AM. . . . . Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you !'
“ It has been observed that the great epochs of the history of the Chosen People are marked by the several names, by which in each the Divine Nature is indicated. In the patriarchal age we have already seen that the oldest Hebrew form by which the most general idea of Divinity, is expressed is 'El-Elohim,' The Strong One, The Strong Ones,' • The Strong.' " Beth-El,” Peni-E1,' remained even to the latest times memorials of this primitive mode of address and worship. But now a new name, and with it a new truth, was introduced. I am Jehovah ; appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of El-Shaddai (God Almighty); but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them. The only certain use of it before the time of Moses is in the name of ‘Jochebed,' borne by his own mother. It was the declaration of the simplicity, the unity, the self-existence of the Divine Nature, the exact opposite to all the multiplied forms of idolatry, human, animal, and celestial, that prevailed, as far as we know, everywhere else.” — Stanley's Jewish Church.
Human actions and human passions are no doubt ascribed by Moses to God. A good deal of criticism has been expended upon the Jewish Scriptures by those who think that philosophy consists in making God as different and distant from man as possible, and so prefer to speak of him as Deity, Providence, and Nature. But it is only because man is made in the image of God that he can revere God at all. Jacobi says that, “God, in creating, theomorphizes man; man, therefore, necessarily anthropomorphizes God.” And Swedenborg teaches that God is a man, since man was made in the image of God. Whenever we think of God as present and living, when we ascribe to him pleasure and displeasure, liking and disliking, thinking, feeling, and willing, we make him like a
And not to do this may be speculative theism, but is practical atheism. Moses forbade the Jews to make any image or likeness of God, yet the Pentateuch speaks of his jealousy, wrath, repentance; he hardens Pharaoh's heart, changes his mind about Balaam, and comes down from heaven in order to see if the people of Sodom were as wicked as they were represented to be. These views are limitations to the perfections of the Deity, and so far the views of Moses were limited. But this is also the strong language of poetry, which expresses in a striking and practical way the personality, holiness, and constant providence of God.
But Moses was not merely a man of genius, he was also a man of knowledge and learning. During forty years he lived in Egypt, where all the learning of the world was collected; and, being brought up by the daughter of Pharaoh as her son, was in the closest relations
with the priesthood. The Egyptian priests were those to whom Pythagoras, Herodotus, and Plato went for instruction. Their sacred books, as we have seen, taught the doctrine of the unity and spirituality of God, of the immortality of the soul, and its judgment in the future world, beside teaching the arts and sciences. Moses probably knew all that these books could teach, and there is no doubt that he made use of this knowledge afterward in writing his law. Like the Egyptian priests he believed in one God; but, unlike them, he taught that doctrine openly. Like them he established a priesthood, sacrifices, festivals, and a temple service; but, unlike them, he allowed no images or idols, no visible representations of the Unseen Being, and instead of mystery and a hidden deity gave them revelation and a present, open Deity. Concerning the future life, about which the Egyptians had so much to say, Moses taught nothing. His rewards and punishments were inflicted in this world. Retribution, individual and national, took place here. As this could not have been from ignorance or accident, it must have had a purpose, it must have been intentional. The silence of the Pentateuch respecting immortality is one of the most remarkable features in the Jewish religion. It has been often objected to. It has been asserted that a religion without the doctrine of immortality and future retribution is no religion. But in our time philosophy takes a different view, declaring that there is nothing necessarily religious in the belief of immortality, and that to do right from fear of future punishment or hope of future reward is selfish, and therefore irreligious and immoral. Moreover it asserts that belief in immortality is a matter of instinct, and something to be assumed, not to be proved ; and that we believe in immortality just in proportion as the soul is full of life. Therefore, though Moses did not teach the doctrine of immortality, he yet made it necessary that the Jews should believe in it by the awakening influence of his law, which roused the soul into the fullest activity.
But beside genius, beside knowledge, did not Moses also possess that which he claimed, a special inspiration ?
And if so, what was his inspiration and what is its evidence? The evidence of his inspiration is in that which he said and did. His inspiration, like that of Abraham, consisted in his inward vision of God, in his sight of the divine unity and holiness, in his feeling of the personal presence and power of the Supreme Being, in his perception of his will and of his law. He was inwardly placed by the Divine Providence where he could see these truths, and become the medium of communicating them to a nation. His inspiration was deeper than that of the greatest of subsequent prophets. It was perhaps not so large, nor so full, nor so high, but it was more entire ; and therefore the power
that went forth from the word and life of Moses was not surpassed afterward. “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” No prophet afterward till the time of Jesus did such a work as he did. Purity, simplicity, and strength characterized his whole conduct. His theology, his liturgy, his moral code, and his civil code were admirable in their design and their execution.
We are, indeed, not able to say how much of the Pentateuch came from Moses. Many parts of it were probably the work of other writers and of subsequent times. But we cannot doubt that the essential ideas of the law proceeded from him.
We have regarded Moses and his laws on the side of religion and also on that of morals; it remains to consider them on that of politics. What was the form of government established by Moses? Was it despotism or freedom? Was it monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, or republicanism? Were the Jews a free people or an enslaved people ?
Certainly the Jews were not enslaved. They had one great protection from despotism, - a constitution. The Mosaic law was their constitution. It was a written constitution, and could therefore be appealed to. It was a published constitution, and was therefore known by all the people. It was a sacred constitution, given on the authority of God, and therefore could not be modified, except by the same authority. This constitution therefore
was a protection against despotism. A constitution like this excludes all arbitrary and despotic authority. We can therefore safely say that the law of Moses saved the nation from despotism. Thus he gave them an important element of political freedom. No matter how oppressive laws are, a government of fixed law involves in the long run much more real freedom than the government, however kind, which is arbitrary, and therefore uncertain and changeable.
But were these laws oppressive ? Let us look at them in a few obvious points of view.
What did they exact in regard to taxation? We know that in Eastern governments the people have been ground to the carth by taxation, and that agriculture has been destroyed, the fruitful field become a wilderness, and populous countries depopulated, by this one form of oppression. It is because there has been no fixed rate of taxation. Each governor is allowed to take as much as he can from his subordinates, and each of the subordinates as much as he can get from his inferiors, and so on, till the people are finally reached, out of whom it must all come. But under the Mosaic constitution the taxes were fixed and certain. They consisted in a poll-tax, in the first-fruits, and the tithes. The poll-tax was a half-shekel paid every year at the Temple, by every adult Jew. The first-fruits were rather an expression of gratitude than a tax. The tithes were a tenth part of the annual produce of the soil, and went for the support of the Levites and the general expenses of the government.
Another important point relates to trials and punishments. What security has one of a fair trial, in case he is accused of crime, or what assurance of justice in a civil cause ? Now we know that in Eastern countries everything depends on bribery. This Moses forbade in his law. % Thou shalt take no gift, for the gift blindeth the eyes; thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the poor, but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor."
Again, the accuser and accused were to appear together before the judge. The witnesses were sworn, and were