Imatges de pÓgina

ther cast a golden calf in one day, and gave it to us to adore it; and instead of punishing your unworthy brother


make him our chief priest, and order your Levites to slay twenty-three thousand men of your people. Would our fathers have suffered this? Would they have allowed themselves to be sacrificed like so many victims by sanguinary priests? You tell us that, not content with this incredible butchery, you have further massacred twenty-four thousand of our poor followers because one of them slept with a Midianitish woman, whilst you yourself espoused a Midianite; and yet you add that you are the mildest of men! A few more instances of this mildness, and not a soul would have remained.

No, if you have been capable of all this cruelty, if you can have exercised it, you would be the most bar. barous of men, and no punishment would suffice to expiate so great a crime.

These are nearly the objections which all scholars make to those who think that Moses is the author of the Pentateuch. But we answer them, that the ways of God are not those of men; that God has proved, conducted, and abandoned his people by a wisdom which is unknown to us; that the Jews themselves for more than two thousand years have believed that Moses is the author of these books; that the church, which has succeeded the synagogue, and which is equally infallible, has decided this point of controversy, and that scholars should remain silent when the church pro


SECTION III. We cannot doubt that there was a Moses, a legislator of the Jews. We will here examine his history, following merely the rules of criticism; the Divine is not submitted to similar examination. We must confine ourselves to the probable; men can only judge as men. It is very natural and very probable, that an Arab nation

* This third section is extracted from the manuscript of which we have spoken in the advertisement. We have thought proper 10 preserve this article, though it is found in part in the preceding ones.-French Ed.


dwelt on the confines of Egypt, on the side of Arabia Deserta; that it was tributary or slave to the Egyptian kings, and that afterwards it sought to establish itself elsewhere; but that which reason alone cannot admit is, that this nation, composed of seventy persons at most in the time of Joseph, increased in two hundred and fifteen years, from Joseph to Moses, to the number of six hundred thousand combatants, according to the book of Exodus, which six hundred thousand men capable of bearing arms imply a multitude of about two millions, counting old men, women, and children. It is not certainly in the course of nature for a colony of seventy persons, as many males as females, to produce in two centuries two millions of inhabitants. The calculations made on this progression by men very

little versed in the things of this world are falsified by the experience of all nations, and all times. Children are not made by a stroke of the pen. Reflect well that at this rate a population of ten thousand persons in two hundred years would produce more inhabitants than the globe of the earth could sustain.

Is it not more probable, that these six hundred thousand combatants, favoured by the author of Nature who worked for them so many prodigies, were forced to wander in the deserts in which they died, instead of seeking to possess themselves of fertile Egypt?

By these rules of an established and reasonable human criticism, we must agree that it is very likely that Moses conducted a small people from the confines of Egypt. There was among the Egyptians an ancient tradition, related by Plutarch in his Treatise on Isis and Osiris, that Tiphon, the father of Jerosselaim and Juddecus, fled from Egypt on an ass.

It is clear from this passage that the ancestors of the Jews, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, were supposed to have been fugitives from Egypt. A tradition, no less ancient and more general, is, that the Jews were driven from Egypt, either as a troop of unruly brigands, or a people infected with leprosy. This double accusation carries its probability even from the land of Goshen, which they had inhabited, a neighbouring land of the

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vagabond Arabs, and where the disease of leprosy, peculiar to the Arabs, might be common. It appears even by the scripture, that this people went from Egypt against their will. The seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy forbids kings to think of leading the Jews back to Egypt.

The conformity of several Egyptian and Jewish customs still more strengthens the opinion that this people was an Egyptian colony, and what gives it a new degree of probability is, the feast of the Passover; that is to say, of the fight or passage instituted in memory

of their evasion. This feast alone would be no proof; for among

all people there are solemities established to celebrate fabulous and incredible events; such were most of the feasts of the Greeks and Romans; but a flight from one country to another is nothing uncommon, and calls for belief. The proof drawn from this feast of the Passover receives a still greater force by that of the tabernacles, in memory of the time in which the Jews inhabited the desert on their departure from Egypt. These similitudes, united with so many others, prove that a colony really went from Egypt, and finally established itself for some time at Palestine.

Almost all the rest is of a kind so marvellous, that human sagacity cannot digest it. All that we can do is to seek the time in which the history of this flight, that is to say, the book of Exodus, can have been written, and to examine the opinions which then prevailed ; opinions of which the proof is in the book itself, compared with the ancient customs of 'nations.

With regard to the books attributed to Moses, the most common rules of criticism permit us not to believe that he can be the author of them.

Ist. It is not likely that he spoke of the places by names which were not given to them until long afterwards. In this book mention is made of the cities of Jair, and every one agrees that they were not so named until long after the death of Moses. It also speaks of the country of Dan, and the tribe of Dan had not given its name to the country of which it was not yet the master.

2nd. How could Moses have quoted the book of the wars of the Lord, when these wars and this book were after his time?

3rd. How could Moses speak of the pretended defeat of a giant named Og, king of Bashan, vanquished in the desert in the last of his government? And how could he add, that he further saw his bed of iron of nine cubits long in Rabath? This city of Rabath was the capital of the Ammonites, into whose country the Hebrews had not yet penetrated. Is it not apparent that such a passage is the production of a posterior writer, which his inadvertence betrays? As an evidence of the victory gained over the giant, he brings forward the bed said to be still at Rabath, forgetting that it is Moses whom he makes speak, who was dead long before.

4th. How could Moses have called cities beyond the Jordan, which, with regard to him, were on this side? Is it not palpable, that the book attributed to him was written a long time after the Israelites had crossed this little river Jordan, which they never passed under his conduct?

5th. Is it likely that Moses told his people, that in the last year of his government he took, in the little province of Argob, a sterile and frightful country of Arabia Petræa, sixty great towns surrounded with high fortified walls, independent of an infinite number of open cities? Is it not much more probable, that these exaggerations were afterwards written by a man who wished to flatter a stupid nation?

6th. It is still less likely, that Moses related the miracles with which this history is filled.

It is easy to persuade a happy and victorious people that God has fought for them; but it is not in human nature that a people should believe a hundred miracles in their favour, when all these prodigies ended only in, making them perish in a desert. Let us examine some of the miracles related in Exodus.

7th. It appears contradictory and injurious to the divine essence to suppose that God, having formed a people to be the sole depository of his laws, and to reign over all nations, should send a man of this people to demand of the king, their oppressor, permission to go into the desert to sacrifice to his God, that this people might escape under the pretence of this sacrifice. Our common ideas cannot forbear attaching an idea of baseness and knavery to this management, far from recognising the majesty and power of the Supreme Being.

When, immediately after, we read that Moses changed his rod into a serpent, before the king, and turned all the waters of the kingdom into blood; that he caused frogs to be produced which covered the surface of the earth; that he changed all the dust into lice, and filled the air with venomous winged insects; that he afflicted all the men and animals of the country with frightful uleers; that he called hail, tempests, and thunder, to ruin all the country; that he covered it with locusts; that he plunged it in fearful darkness for three days; that; finally, an exterminating angel struck with death all the first-born of men and animals in Egypt, commeneing with the son of the king; -again, when we afterwards see his people walking across the Red Sea, the waves suspended in mountains to the right and left, and afterwards falling on the army of Pharaoh, which they swallowed up--when, I say, we read all these miracles, the first idea which comes into our minds is, that this people, for whom God performed such astonishing things, no doubt became the masters of the universe. But no, the fruit of so many wonders was, that they suffered want and hunger in arid sands; and-prodigy on prodigy-all died without seeing the little corner of earth in which their descendants afterwards, for some years, established themselves! It is no doubt pardonable if we disbelieve this crowd of prodigies, at the least of which reason so decidedly revolts.

This reason, left to itself, cannot be persuaded that Moses wrote such strange things. How can we make

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