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This distinguished success, in their first martial enterprise, gave great encouragement to the Israelites; and that so remarkable an action might be transmitted to posterity, God commanded Moses to record it in a book, that Joshua, the general, might thereby be animated to future services; for,” said he, “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven."* As a memorial of this victory, Moses erected an altar on the spot, and offered sacrifice to the Lord. The name he gave it was Jehovah-Nissi, which signifies “the Lord is my banner."
Soon after the defeat of the Amalekites, Moses left Rephidim, and proceeded with all his people toward Mount Sinai,t where God at first appeared to him in the burning bush, and not far whence dwelt Jethro, his father-in-law.
Jethro having heard of all that God had done for Moses and his people, and understanding they were now near him, he took his daughter Zipporah (Moses's wife) with their two sons, Gershom and Eliezar, and went to the Israelites' camp, where, after mutual salutations and embraces, Moses 'entertained his father-in-law with a particular account of everything that had happened to him during his absence. In return, Jethro offered up solemn praises to God, and joined with Moses and the rest of the elders of Israel in sacrifices, and such other rejoicings as were thought proper on the occasion.
During Jethro's stay in the camp, he took notice of the great weight of business under which Moses labored, in hearing the complaints, and determining the differences, of so great a body of people; and therefore, being a wise and experienced man himself, he advised his son-in-law to appoint certain subordinate officers, properly qualified, men of sincerity and abilities, such as feared God and hated covetousness, to be rulers; some over thousands, some over hundreds, some over fifties, and some over tens, who should hear and determine all trifling disputes among the people, and refer the greater and more weighty causes only to him; assuring him that if, with God's approbation, he followed this advice, it would prove advantageous both to him and the people. Moses, highly approving of this salutary advice from his father-in-law, immediately
it in practice, soon after which Jethro took his leave, and returned to his own habitation.
It was three months after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, when they encamped in the wilderness of Sinai, near the mount of God. They had not been long here before the Almighty summoned Moses to come up to him on the mount. Moses readily obeying the Divine command, the Almighty charged him to remind the Israelites of the many wonders he had wrought in their favor, and to assure them that (notwithstanding their frequent murmurings and distrust of his providence) if, for the future, they would become obedient to his laws, he would still look upon them as his peculiar people, a favorite nation, and a royal priesthood.
Moses having communicated this gracious message from the Almighty to the elders, and they to the people, they unanimously answered, that whatsoever the Lord had commanded, or should afterward command, they would strictly and • obediently perform.
With this answer Moses ascended the mount, and after making it known to the Almighty, he commanded him to direct the people to cleanse and purify themselves two days, for that on the third he should come down upon the mountain and make a covenant with them. He likewise gave him a strict charge to set boundaries about the foot of the mount, which none should attempt to pass under the severest penalties.
These orders were strictly obeyed, and every preparation made conformable to the Divine injunctions. On the third day, early in the morning, the people saw the
# AMALEK, or AMALEKITES, a very ancient people, supposed to have descended from Ham, Gen. xiv. 7, Num. xxiv. 20; but especially the posterity of Esau's grandson: they were powerful in Arabia, and cherishing the hatred of Esau against Jacob, they endeavored to cut off Israel in the desert, but they were defeated by Joshua, Exod. xvii. 8-16. For this wickedness God doomed them to be extirpated, Num. xxiv. 20; 1 Sam. xv. 1-33; Xxx. 1-18.
† A mountain of Arabia Petrea, famous for its being the supposed place round which the Israelites were assembled when God gave them his law by the ministry of Moses, Exod. xvi. 1, xix. 1, 2–20; Lev. xxvi. 46; Gal. iv. 25. Sinai is a summit of the rocky district of Mount Horeb, on the peninsula formed by the two arms or gulfs of the Red sea, about two hundred and sixty miles from Cairo in Egypt. There are two lofty peaks in this range from six to eight thousand feet high, floreb and Sinai : but travellers are not able to determine which of them is Sinai proper : one is called El Tor, or the Mountain, and the whole mountain range is called Djebel Mousa, or the Mount of Moses, by the Arabs, Exod. ii. 1-12; Deut. iv. 10–15, v. 2. Superstition has determined that the more elevated is Sinai, on which is built a chapel dedicated to St. Catharine, and a monastery to the same saint, at the foot of the mountain: to visit these sacred places, travellers are obliged to submit to various impositions from the Arabs.
mountain surrounded with a thick cloud, out of which proceeded such dreadful peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, as filled them with horror and amazement.
The first sounding of the trumpet was the signal for the people to approach the mountain ; upon which, as soon as it began, Moses brought them out of the camp, and conducted them as near to the mount as the barrier would permit. Here they beheld an alarming sight indeed: the whole surface of the mount was covered with fire and smoke, while the foundation of it seemed to tremble and shake under them. In the midst of this dreadful scene the trumpet was heard to sound louder and louder, and the claps of thunder and flashes of fire were more frequent and violent. At length, on a sudden, the most solemn silence took place; and, after a short pause, the Almighty was heard (from the midst of the fire and smoke which yet continued) to pronounce the Law of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments ;* which is, indeed, a complete system of the moral part of the Jewish institutes, and, in few but very significant words, comprehends the duty of mankind to God, themselves, and their neighbor.
When the Divine voice ceased, the people, astonished at what they saw and heard, removed farther from the camp: and, in the height of their fear and surprise, addressed themselves to Moses, beseeching him that, for the future, he would speak to them in God's stead, and whatever he enjoined they would obey, because, were they again to hear the dreadful voice of God, they should certainly die with horror and astonishment
Moses was far from being displeased at this request, as it evinced the reverence and respect they entertained, first, to the Divine Being, and next to himself. To ease their minds from the great terror they had felt, he assured them that all this wonderful scene was not exhibited to them with a design to create in them any slavish fear, but a filial confidence and submission to such laws as the Divine wisdom should hereafter think fit to enjoin.
Having said this to the people, Moses again ascended the mountain, where (in addition to the Decalogue) he received from God several other laws, both ceremonial and political; the whole of which were calculated with a wise design to preserve the people in their obedience to God; to prevent their intermixture with other nations, and to advance the welfare of their commonwealth, by securing to all the members of it a quiet enjoyment of their lives and properties.
When Moses had received these additional laws, he returned from the mount, and immediately erected an altar to God, on which he offered up burnt and peace offerings. Having written down the last laws delivered to him by God, he caused them to be read to all the people, and exacted a solemn promise from them that they would keep them faithfully. He then confirmed the covenant, by sprinkling the altar, the book, and the people, with the blood of the victims slaughtered on the occasion; and, to perpetuate the remembrance of this alliance between God and his people, he ordered twelve pillars to be raised near the altar, according to the number of the twelve tribes.
Having delivered these laws to the people, and offered sacrifices to God, Moses took Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, some part of the way toward the mountain, where, without incurring the least hurt, they were vouchsafed a pros pect of the divine presence. Here Moses, having committed the care of the people to these elders, left them, and taking only Joshua with him, proceeded toward the mount, on arriving at which he left Joshua, and ascended it alone.
* THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.—Though the ten commandments were given to the Jews particularly, yet the things contained in them are such as all mankind from the beginning were bound to observe; and therefore under the Mosaic dispensation they, and the tables on which they were engraven, and the ark in which they were put, were distinguished from tho rest of God's ordinances by a peculiar regard, as containing the covenant of the Lord. And though the Mosaic dispensation be now at an end, yet concerning these moral precepts of it, our Saviour declares, that “one jot or tittle shall in nowise pass from the law till all be fulilled.” To comprehend the full extent of these commandments it will be requisite to observe the following rules. Where any sin is forbidden in them, the opposite duty is implicitly enjoined: and where any duty is enjoined, the opposite sin is implicitly forbidden. Where the highest degree of any evil is prohibited, whatever is faulty in the same kind, though in a lower degree, is by consequence prohibited. and where one instance of virtuous behavior is commanded, every other, that hath the same nature, and the same reason for it, is understood to be commanded too. What we are expected to abstain from, we are expected to avoid, as far we can, all temptations to it, and occasions of it, and what we are expected to practise, we are expected to use all fit means that may better enable us to practise it. All that we are bound to do ourselves, we are bound on fitting occasions to exhort and assist others to do when it belongs to them; and all that we are bound not to do, we are to tempt nobody else to do, but keep them back from it as much as we have opportunity. The ten commandments, excepting two that required enlargement, are delivered in a few words : which brief manner of speaking hath great majesty in it. But explaining them according to these rules,—which are natural and rational in themselves, favored by ancient Jewish writers, authorized by our blessed Saviour,-we shall find that there is no part of the moral law but may be fitly ranked under them.
+ These laws the reader will find in the Book of Exodus beginning at the twenty-first chapter, and ending at the twenty-third, both inclusive.
No sooner had Moses reached the summit of the mount, than the whole was corered with a thick cloud, and the glory of the Lord appeared upon it, like a devouring fire, in the sight of the children of Israel. On the seventh day God called to Moses, upon which he entered the midst of the cloud, and there continued for the space of forty days and forty nights.
During this long stay of Moses in the mount, he received instructions from God in what manner the tabernacle should be made, wherein he intended to be worshipped. He described to him the form of the sanctuary, the table of the show-bread, the altar of frankincense, the altar of burnt-offerings, the court of the tabernacle, the basin to wash in, the ark, the candlestick, and all the other sacred utensils. He gave him the form of the sacerdotal vestments, and taught him how the priests were to be consecrated; what part of the oblation they were to take, and in what manner the perpetual sacrifice was to be offered. He appointed the two chief men who were to be the builders of the tabernacle, namely, Bezaleel, of the tribe of Judah, and Aho liab, of the tribe of Dan. Having done this, and recommended a strict observation of the sabbath, the Almighty gave Moses the two tables of stone, on which were written, with his own hand (at least by his own direction), the ten great Commandments, which were the sum and substance of their moral law.
The long absence of Moses during his stay in the mount occasioned great murmurings among the people in the camp, who, giving their ruler over for lost, assembled themselves in a riotous manner about Aaron's tent, demanding him to make some gods to go before them. Astonishing as this demand was, yet such was the weakness of Aaron, and such his want of courage, that, instead of expostulating the matter with them, he not only tamely submitted to their request, but even contributed to their idolatry. He ordered them to take the golden ear-rings from their wives and children and bring them to him: having done this, he converted them into the figure of a molten calf,* with which the people were so well pleased that they unanimously exclaimed, “This is thy God, o Israel, that brought thee out of the land of Egypt.”
When Aaron saw with what satisfaction the people received their golden god (as if possessed with the same idolatrous spirit), he built an altar before it, and proclaimed a solemn feast to be held the succeeding day. But it proved rather a feast of revelling and luxury, than one arising from religious motives; for after they had made their oblations and peace-offerings, they sat down to eat and drink, and spent the whole day in feasting, dancing, and other imprudent amusements.
While the wanton Israelites were thus idolatrously revelling in the camp, Moses was in conversation with God on the mount, little suspecting so sudden a change in a people, who had so lately and solemnly entered into a covenant of obedience to all that God should command. But he from whom no secrets can be hid was instantly apprized of this sudden revolt: “Go, get thee down,” said he: "for thy people, whom thou broughtest out of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. I know them to be an obstinate people, therefore intercede not for them, but see me express my resentment in their destruction; and to thee will I transfer the blessings I intended for them, and of thee will I make a great nation.”
But so far was Moses from seeking his own interest in the destruction of the people, that he threw himself at the feet of the Lord, and interceded for their pardon with so much importunity, that the Almighty was at length, in some measure, appeased, and Moses had reason to imagine that he would not inflict on them the punishment he had intended.
Happy in having obtained this pardon for the Israelites, Moses, taking with him the two tables on which were written the laws, hastened from the mount, and at the bottom of it found Joshua, who had been waiting his return. As they proceeded on
. It is the opinion of most commentators, that the reason why they worshipped the figure of a calf rather than any other creature was, from the corruptions they had learned among the Egyptians. These people worshipped their idol Apis, or Serapis, in a living bull, as likewise an image made in the form and similitudo of a bull with a bushel on his head, in memory as some say, of Pharaoh's dreams, and Joseph's wise management in measuring out the corn to the people during the seven years' famine.
toward the camp, Joshua, hearing the noise of people shouting, observed to Moses, that there was the sound of war in the camp. But Moses, who knew the cause of at, told him that the noise was not like that which was either common to victory, or those who cried for quarters; but like the noise of those who rejoiced on some other occasion.
As soon as they approached the camp Moses saw the golden calf, and the people dancing before it; at which he was so incensed, that, in the violence of his rage, he threw the tables on which the law was written against a stone on the ground, and they were broken to pieces. He then took the idol calf and melted it, after which, grinding it into a powder, and mixing it with water in order to make them more sensible of their folly in worshipping that for a god which was to pass through their bodies), he obliged them to drink it.*
Having inflicted this punishment on the people, Moses proceeded to chastise Aaron for having suffered such idolatrous acts to be practised. But all the excuse he could make was, that the people became so turbulent that, for his own safety, he was compelled to comply with their demand.
But Moses's business was to take vengeance on the idolaters; and, therefore, leaving his brother Aaron, he went into the midst of the camp, and called such to his assistance as had not been concerned in the late rebellion : “Let those," said he, “who are for the Lord, join themselves with me.” In consequence of this, all the sons of Levi (who were totally exempt from the general guilt) immediately repaired to Moses, who ordered them to take their swords, go through the camp, and kill all the ringleaders of this idolatrous defection, together with their adherents, without paying any respect to age or quality, friendship or consanguinity. The Levites strictly obeyed the orders of Moses, and the number slain on that day was about three thousand men. For this laudable zeal and ready obedience Moses blessed the family of Levi, assuring them that by thus shedding the blood of their idolatrous brethren, without favor or distinction, they had obtained the approbation of the Lord, who would certainly not fail of rewarding them for it herealier.t
This severe punishment inflicted on the idolatrous delinquents struck a terror throughout the whole camp. The next day Moses, in a very solemn manner, reproved them for their ingratitude and folly; but at the same time promised them that he would go again up to the mount, and try how far his prayers would prevail with the divine mercy to avert the punishment which they had so justly deserved.
Moses, agreeably to his promise, returned to the mount, and acknowledged to the Lord the great sin committed by his people. At the same time he besought forgiveDess for them with that earnestness and concern, that he prayed God to blot him out of his book rather than not pardon them. But this was inconsistent with the divine justice, and therefore God gave him this short answer: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”
The divine wrath being in a great measure appeased at the intercession of Moses, the Lord commanded him to lead the people to the place he had appointed ; but at the same time let him know he was not willing to go with them, because, being a stiff-necked people, they might provoke him to consume them on the way. To show,
• DESTRUCTION OF THE GOLDEN CALF.—As there is not the least question but that all which was known to the Hebrews of the metallurgic arts at this early time, had heen acquired in Egypt, the making of tho golden calf may be taken in evidence, amply confirmed by their existing monuments, of the very great skill in those arts which the Egyptians had attained. But the destruction of the same image, in the manner described, is a still more striking evidence of this. The art of thus treating gold was a secret, probably but known to Moses, in virtue of his perfect acquaintance with all the sciences which the Egyptians cultivated. Goguet, remarking on the subject, observes that those who work in metal know that this is an exceedingly difficult operation. Commentators have been much perplexed to explain how Moses burnt the golden image, and reduced it to powder. Most of them offer only vain and improbable conjectures. But an able chymist has removed every difficulty on the subject, and has suggested this simple process as that which Moses employed. Instead of tartaric acid, which we employ for a similar purpose, the Hebrew legislator used natron, which is very common in the East. (STAHLL. Vitull. aureus, in Opuso. Chym.. Phys., Medic., P. 385.) The Scripture in informing us that Moses made the Israelites drink this poidor, shows that he was perfectly acquainted with all the effect of his operation. He wished to aggravate the punishment of their disobedience ; and for this purpose no means could have been more suitable : for gold, rendored potable by the process of which I have spoken, is of a most detestable taste." (" Origine des Lois," epoq. i. bv. ii. chap 14,)
To this, from Goguet, it may be well to add that the operation of the acid, which aots upon gold is much | zsisted by the metal being previously heated. In this we see the reason why Moses cast the golden image - to the fire in the first instance.
+ This prediction was afterward fulflled: for, on the institution of the priesthood, the Levites were opointed to the honor and emoluinents of that office, though in subordination to that of Aaron and his réterity.
however, that he had not quite forsaken them, he told Moses that he would send his angel before them to drive out the inhabitants of the promised land, that he might perform the oath which he had made to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This was very afflicting news to the Israelites, who now plainly perceived that God's withdrawing his immediate presence from them was the consequence of their rebellion ; upon which they very grievously mourned, and, to show their humiliation, laid aside the ornaments they were accustomed to wear.
But Moses, still to humble them the more, and to show them how highly they had offended God by their wicked apostacy, took a tent, and pitching it at some distance without the camp, called it " the tabernacle of the congregation,” intimating that the Lord was so highly offended with them for their idolatry that he had removed from them, and would no longer dwell among them, as he had hitherto done. Soon after Moses repaired to the tabernacle, which he had no sooner entered than it was surrounded by the cloudy pillar, which had so much assisted the Israelites in their departure from Egypt.
This additional token of the divine wrath made the people particularly attentive to the motions of Moses; and therefore when he went out of the camp to the tabernacle they rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, looking after him till he had got in. And when they saw the cloudy pillar, which they knew was a token of God's presence, they all fell down and worshipped.
While Moses was in the tabernacle he was visited by God, who permitted him, in a very familiar manner, to converse with him; which favor Moses improved to the advantage of the people, endeavoring, with the greatest importunity, to obtain a reconciliation between them and their justly offended God.
A short time after this the Almighty commanded Moses to prepare two new tables of stone, like the former which he had broken, and to come up alone with them in the morning to Mount Sinai; “ and I,” said he, “will write in those tables the words that were in the first."
Moses strictly obeyed this command, and, early in the morning, repaired to Mount Sinai with the two tables, where, prostrating himself before the divine Majesty, he with the greatest fervency besought him to pardon the sins of the people. The Almighty was pleased to listen to his request, at the same time promising that he would make a covenant with his people on these conditions : That they should keep his commandments; that they should not worship the gods of the Canaanites; that they should make no alliances with the people of that country; that they should have no strange gods; and that they should strictly keep the sabbath, the passover, and other festivals ordained by the law.
For forty days and nights did Moses at this time continue (as he had done before) on Mount Sinai, without either eating or drinking, at the expiration of which he re turned to the people, bringing with him the two tables of the law. By the long converse he had held with God, his face had contracted such a lustre that the people were not able to approach him; and therefore whenever he talked with them he covered his face with a veil, but took it off when he went into the tabernacle to receive the divine commands.
Agreeably to the instructions Moses had received from God during his last stay on the mount, he called the people together, and informed them that it was the Lord's will to have a tabernacle built for the performance of religious worship; and that he had commanded him to speak to them to bring in their offerings, which were to consist of such articles as were necessary for accomplishing the work.* These offerings were not to be exacted, but the people were to present them voluntarily; and so desirous were they of making some atonement for their past sins, that they soon brought in more than was requisite, so that Moses was obliged to cause proclamation to be made to restrain their liberality.
Having thus obtained a sufficient collection of all kinds of materials, Moses placed them in the hands of Bezaleel and Aholiah, the two great artists in building, whom God had before made choice of; and so expeditious were they in executing the work,
• The directions given at this time were tho same with those which Moses received on his first going up to the mount; but, by reason of the people's transgression in idolizing the calf, they were not then delivered to them.