Imatges de pàgina
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob : for ye know,
adds Moses, how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we
came through the nations which ye passed by; and ye have seen their
abominations and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which
were among them, lest there should be o; you, man, or woman, or
family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our
God to go and serve the Gods of these nations. (Deut. xix. 10—18.)
From these passages, it is evident that the fundamental principle
of the Mosaic Law was the maintenance of one true God, and the
prevention, or rather the proscription, of polytheism and idolatry.
The covenant of Jehovah with the Hebrew people, and their oath
by which they bound their allegiance to Jehovah, their God and
King, was, that they should receive and obey the laws which he
should appoint as their supreme governor, with a particular engage-
ment to keep themselves from the idolatry of the nations round
about them, whether the idolatry they had seen while they dwelt in
the land of Egypt, or that which they had observed in the nations
by which they passed into the promised land. In keeping this al-
legiance to Jehovah, as their immediate and supreme Lord, they
were to expect the blessings of God's immediate and particular
protection in the security of their liberty, peace, and prosperity,
against all attempts of their idolatrous, neighbours; but if they
should break their allegiance to Jehovah, or forsake the covenant
of Jehovah, by going and serving other gods, and worshipping
them, then they should forfeit these blessings of God's protection,
and the anger of Jehovah should be kindled against the land, to
bring upon it all the curses that are written in the book of Deuter-
onomy. (xix. 25–27.) The substance then of this solemn trans-
action between God and the Israelites (which may be called the
Original contract of the Hebrew government) was this:—If the
Hebrews would voluntarily consent to receive Jehovah their lord
and king, to keep his covenant and laws, to honour and worship him
as the one true God, in opposition to all idolatry; then, though
God as sovereign of the world rules over all the nations of the earth,
and all nations are under the general care of his Fo he
would govern the Hebrew nation by peculiar laws of his particular
appointment, and bless it with a more immediate and particular
protection; he would secure to them the invaluable privileges of the
true religion, together with liberty, peace, and prosperity, as a favour-
ed people above all other nations." This constitution, it will be ob-
served, is enforced chiefly by temporal sanctions, and with singular
wisdom, for temporal blessings and evils were at that time the com-
mon and prevailing incitements to idolatry; but by thus taking them
into the #. constitution, as rewards to obedience and punish-
ments for disobedience, they became motives to continuance in the
true religion, instead of encouragements to idolatry.”
* Lowman on the Civil Government of the Hebrews, pp. 8–10. See also Dr.
Graves's Lectures on the Pentateuch, vol. ii. pp. 141–185, for some masterly ob

*Yations on the introduction of temporal sanctions into the Mosaic law. *Michaelis's Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. pp. 190-196.

In the Theocracy of the Hebrews, the laws were given to them by God, through the mediation of Moses, and they were to be of perpetual force and obligation so long as their polity subsisted.

- The judges by whom these laws were administered, were repre

sented as holy persons, and as sitting in the place of God. (Deut. i. 17. xix. 7.) These judges were usually taken from the tribe of Levi; and the chief expounder of the law was the high priest. In this there was a singular propriety; for the Levites, being devoted to the study of the law, were (as will be shown in a subsequent page) the literati among the Israelites. In difficult cases of law, however, relating both to government and war, God was to be consulted by Urim and Thummim ; and in matters, which concerned the welfare of the state, God frequently made known his will by prophets whose mission was duly attested, and the people were bound to hearken to their voice. In all these cases, Jehovah appears as sovereign king, ruling his people by his appointed ministers."

A subordinate design of this constitution of the Hebrew government was, the prevention of intercourse between the Israelites and foreign nations. The prevalence of the most abominable idolatry among those nations, and the facility with which the Israelites had, on more than one occasion, adopted their idolatrous rites, during their sojourning in the wilderness, rendered this seclusion necessary, in order to secure the fundamental principle of the Mosaic law above mentioned : and many of the peculiar ". will, on this principle, be found both wisely and admirably adapted to secure this design.”

The form of the Hebrew republic was unquestionably democratical : its head admitted of change as to the name and nature of his office, and at certain times it could even subsist without a general head. When Moses promulgated his laws, he convened the whole congregation of Israel, to whom he is repeatedly said to have spoken, but as he could not possibly be heard by six hundred thousand men, we must conclude that he only addressed a certain number of persons who were deputed to represent the rest of the Israelites. Accordingly in Numb. i. 16. these delegates or representatives are termed Tyn op (keRUAy Hoedah), that is, those wont to be called the convention, in 'our version called the renowned of the congregation; and in Numb. xvi. 2. they are denominated myn Nymp my *No (Neslay Edah keru Ay Hörnah), that is, chiefs of the community, or congregation, that are called to the convention, in our version termed, famous in the congregation, men of renown. By comparing Deut. xxix. 9. with Josh. xxiii. 2. it appears that these representatives were the heads of tribes or families, and judges and officers; and Michaelis is of opinion that, like the members of our British House of Commons, they acted in the plenitude of their own power, without taking instruction from their constituents.” o Michaelis's Qommentaries on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. pp. 190–196.

Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. i. pp.202–225. Mr. Lowman (Civil Govern

****, the Hebrews, pp. 17–31) has illustrated the wisdom of this second design

of*: Jewish theocracy by several pertinent examples. Commentaries on the Laws of Kijoi i. 33i.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

1. HEADs or PRINCEs of TRIBES AND FAMILIES.—All the various branches of Abraham's descendants, like the antient Germans or the Scottish clans, kept together in a body according to their tribes and families; each tribe forming a lesser commonwealth, with its own peculiar interests, and all of them at last uniting into one great republic.” The same arrangement, it is well known, obtained among the Israelites, who appear to have been divided into twelve great tribes, previously to their departure from Egypt. By Moses, however, they were subdivided into certain greater families, which are called n) op (Mishpachoth) or families, by way of distinction, and notons (Batey Aboth) or houses of fathers (Num. i. 2. Josh. vii. 14.); each of whom, again, had their heads, which are sometimes called heads of houses of fathers, and sometimes simply heads. These are likewise the same persons, who in Josh. xxiii. 2. and xxiv. 1. are called Elders. (Compare also Deut. xix. 12. and xxi. 1–9.) It does not appear in what manner these heads or elders of families were chosen, when any of them died. The princes of tribes do not seem to have ceased with the commencement, at least, of the monarchy: from 1 Chron. xvii. 16–22. it is evident that they subsisted in the time of David; and they must have proved a powerful restraint upon the power of the king.

It will now be readily conceived how the Israelitish state might have subsisted not only without a king, but even occasionally without that magistrate who was called a Judge, although we read of no supreme council of the nation. Every tribe had always its own chief magistrate, who may not inaptly be compared to the lords lieutenants of our British counties; subordinate to them, again, were the heads of families, who may be represented as their deputy-lieutenants; and, if there were no general ruler of the whole people, yet there were twelve smaller commonwealths, who in certain cases united together, and whose general convention would take measures for their common interest. In many cases particular tribes acted as distinct and independent o not only when there was neither king nor judge, but even during the times of the kings. Instances of wars being carried on by one or more particular tribes, both before and after the establishment of the regal government, may be seen in Josh. xvii. 15–17. Judg. iv. 11. and xviii.-xx. 1 Chron. iv. 18–23.41–43. It appears from 1 Chron. xxiii. 11. that a certain number of persons was necessary to constitute a family, and to empower such a family to have a representative head : for it is there said that the four sons of Shimei had not a numerous progeny, and were therefore reckoned only as one family. Hence we may explain why, according to Micah v. 1., Bethlehem may have been too small to be reckoned among the families of Judah. It is impossible to ascertain, at this distance of time, what number of individuals was requisite to constitute a house or family; but probably the number was not always uniform." 2. The JUDGEs, who were appointed by Moses, had also a right, by virtue of their office, to be present in the congregation, or convention of the state. After the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses, for some time, was their sole judge. Jethro, his father-in-law, observing that the daily duties of this office were too heavy for him, suggested to him (subject to the approbation of Jehovah) the institution of Judges, or rulers, of tens, of fifties, of hundreds, and of thousands, who determined every affair of little importance among themselves, but brought the hard causes to Moses. (Exod. xviii. 14–26.) Of the judges of tens, therefore, there must have been sixty thousand; of the judges of fifties, twelve thousand; of the judges of hundreds, six thousand; and of the Judges of thousands, six hundred. These Judges, or Jethronian prefects (as they have been called), seem to have been a sort of justice of the peace in several divisions, probably taken from the military division of an host into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens; this was a model proper for them as an army marching, and not unsuitable to their settlement as tribes and families, in a sort of counties, hundreds, and tithings. Perhaps our old Saxon constitution of sheriffs in counties, hundredors or centgraves in hundreds, and deciners in decennaries, may give some light to this constitution of Moses. Some of our legal antiquaries have thought that those constitutions of the Saxons were taken from these laws of Moses, introduced by Alfred, or by his direction.” . It is not probable, that in the public deliberative assemblies the whole sixty thousand judges of tens had seats and voices. Michaelis conjectures that only those of hundreds, or even those only of thousands, are to be understood, when mention is made of judges in the Israelitish conventions. But, after the establishment of the Hebrews in the land of Cahaan, as they no longer dwelt together, in round numbers, Moses ordained that judges should be appointed in every city (Deut. xvi. 18.), and it should seem that they were chosen by the people. In succeeding ages these judicial offices were filled by the Levites, most probably because they were the persons best skilled in the law of the Hebrews. (See 1 Chron. xxiii. 4. xxvi. 29–32. 2 Chron. xix. 8–11. xxxiv. 13.) 3. During the sojourning of the Israelites in the wilderness, Moses established a council or senate of seventy, to assist him in the government of the people. The Jewish rabbinical writers, who have exercised their ingenuity in conjecturing why the number was limited to seventy, have pretended that this was a permanent and supreme court of judicature; but as the sacred writers are totally silent concerning such a tribunal, we are authorised to conclude that it was only a temporary institution. After their return from the Babylonish captivity, it is well known that the Jews did appoint a sanhedrim or council of seventy at Jerusalem, in imitation of that which Moses had instituted. In the New Testament, very frequent mention is made of this supreme tribunal, of which an account will be found in a subsequent chapter of this volume. 4. Among the persons who appear in the Israelitish congregation or diet (as Michaelis terms it), in addition to those already mentioned, we find the Eyo) shoteRIM) or scribes. It is evident that they were different from the Jethronian prefects or judges; for Moses expressly ordained that they should not only appoint judges in every city, but also shoterim or scribes. Officers of this description, we have already seen" were among the Israelites, during their bondage in Egypt.” What their functions were, it is now difficult to ascertain. Michaelis conjectures, with great probability, that they kept the genealogical tables of the Israelites, with a faithful record of births, marriages; and deaths; and that to them was assigned the duty of apportioning the public burthens and services on the people individually. Under the regal government, these scribes were generally taken from the tribe of Levi. (1 Chron. xxiii. 4. 2 Chron. xix. 8–11. and xxxiv. 13.) In Deut. xxix. 10. xxxi. 28. Josh. viii. 33. and xxiii. 2. we find them as representatives of the people in the diets, or when they entered into covenant with God. time of war they were charged with the duty of conveying orders to the army (Deut. xx. 5.); and in 2 Chron. xxvi. 11. we meet with a chief scribe, who appears to have been what is now termed the mustermaster-general.” III. On the death of Moses, the command of the children of Israel was confided to Joshua, who had been his minister (Exod. xxiv. 13. Josh. i. 1.;) and under whom the land of Canaan was subdued, and divided agreeably to the divine injunctions; but his office ceasing with his life, the government of Israel was committed

* In this manner were the Ishmaelites governed by twelve princes according to the number of Ishmael's sons (Gen. xxv. 16.); and the Bedouins their descendants

wealways preserved some traces of this patriarchal government. Their families continue together; and under the name .F Emir, one is#. among people, who * all his kindred within a certain degree of affinity. Ibid. p. 232.


* Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. i. p. 244. Bacon on English Government, part i. p. 70. Lowman's Civil Government of the Hebrews, p. 162.

to certain supreme magistrates termed Judges. Their dignity was for life; but their office was not hereditary, neither was their succession constant. There were also anarchies, or intervals of several years' continuance, during which the Israelites groaned under the tyranny of their oppressors, and had no governors. But though God himself did regularly appoint the judges of the Israelites, the people, nevertheless, on some occasions elected him who appeared to them most proper to deliver them from their immediate oppression: thus Jephthah was chosen by the Israelites beyond Jordan. As, however, it frequently happened that the oppressions which rendered the assistance of judges necessary, were not felt equally over all Israel, so the power of those judges, who were elected in order to procure their deliverance from such servitudes, did not extend over all the people, but only over that district which they had delivered. Thus, Jephthah did not exercise his authority on this side Jordan, neither did Barak exercise his judicial power beyond that river. In many

1 See p. 76. supra. * Michaelis's Commentaries, vol. i. pp. 249–251. VoI.. III. 12

« AnteriorContinua »