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WHETHER THE PENTATEUCH CONTAIN CONCLUSIVE EVI
DENCE FOR ITS OWN AUTHENTICITY, AND WHETHER THE ART OF WRITING CAN BE PROVED TO HAVE EXISTED AT THE TIME OF MOSES.
It has been said, that we may find sufficient proof in the Pentateuch itself that Moses was its author, inasmuch as he is often represented to have “written something in a book.” The passages to which most weight is attached are those which follow: in Exod. xvii. 14, Moses is commanded to write in a book for a memorial” an account of the victory over the Amalekites; Exod. xxiv. 4, 7, and xxxiv. 27, he writes all the ordinances of Jehovah; Numb. xvii. 2, the names of the tribes, and Numb. xxxiii. 2, the encampments in the wilderness; mention, moreover, of a written law is frequently made in Deuteronomy?. On
T“When the king sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites.”—Deut, xvii. 18.
“ If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God; then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sickness, and of long continuance. Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”—Deut. xxviii. 58–61.
“The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his 30
THE PENTATEUCH AND MOSES.
the other hand we may observe, first, that in all these cases only small portions are mentioned, which give us no ground for supposing that Moses was the author of the whole, and least of all of Deuteronomy, which is the admitted production of some later writer!;" secondly, that it may very possibly have been the belief of the narrator that these fragments were written by Moses, whether this belief were mere supposition, or founded on the existence of some more ancient documents (of which the account of the war with the Amalekites may have been one?); and thirdly, that we everywhere discover abundant proof that the compiler, whoever he was, could not possibly have been Moses himself. The compiler speaks of Moses in the third person ; he loads him with praise and admiration”, narrates his death with the assurance that no one had found his sepulchre even unto that day4, honestly informs us that Moses had written the song the same days, that all had happened at that time, and even represents him objectively
jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.”-Deut. xxix. 20. See also Hartmann, p. 358 et seq.
1 Bleek in Stud. und Krit. 1831, iii. p. 517 et seq. 2 Bleek, p. 512.
3 “ And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”—Deut. xxxiv. 10.
4.“ And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor : but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”— Deut. xxxiv. 6.
5“ Moses therefore wrote this song the same day and taught it the children of Israel.”—Deut. xxxi. 22.
6 “And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain.”—Deut. ii. 34. Again : “And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan.”—Deut. iii. 4.
pronouncing his blessing on the people, an occasion on which he would have been little likely to have forgotten his part if he had had the least intention of ascribing the composition to his hero.
Admitting that the art of writing had come into general use at that period, there are still some passages which prove that the narrator could only have pictured to himself the immediate transcription of the Law ; no actual eye-witness could have said, “ all the words of this law shall be written on great stones plastered over with plaster 2.” These, at the most, could only have contained a few short sentences; and, as they appear in Exod. xx. 2—14, even if written in the smallest (early] writing, such, for instance, as that of the Phænicio-Athenian inscription,-sufficient space could not possibly have been found on two portable tables of stone for the ten commandments themselves 3. Since, however, these very laws had undergone alterations as early as Deut. v. 6—21, we might be justified in inferring some subsequent additions, if the existence of the tables themselves had appeared to be sufficiently accredited.
[Moses is here spoken of objectively, or as distinct from the writer :] “ Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congrega. tion of Jacob. And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel weregathered together.”—Deut.xxxiii.4,5. 32
2 “And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster. And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law.”—Deut. xxvii. 2, 3.
3 [The size of the two tables of stone, which were in the ark, must have been less than that of the ark itself, and the ark is described as 2} cubits long, 1} cubit broad, and ii cubit deep, or about 4 feet long by 23 feet broad and 2; deep. (Exod. xxxvii. 1.) The tables were described as written upon, on both sides, so that only one half of the commandments need to have been written on one side : Exod. xxxii. 5, and xxxiv. 4.]
THE PENTATEUCH AND MOSES.
The historical theory, in this instance, leaves Moses in a difficulty, as the (first] tables of stone are referred by the narrative to the Deity [and the second tables to Moses] ; and it is not out of place to inquire, whether Moses had hewn them himself on the mountain, or whether some stonecutter may have possibly assisted him in the task ? 1 They are said to have been preserved in the Ark of the Covenant, but in that case no Hebrew writer could have seen them, for after the time of Nebuchadnezzar the Ark vanishes altogether from history, and the only passages which allude to the tables of stone occur in later writings 4. To the Laws of the Tables we shall return in a subsequent chapter.
Here, unfortunately, we can only touch upon a question which it would require a separate work to treat as it deserves : this is no other than whether Moses was acquainted with the art of writing? For that this is a fact so “conclusively
? [In Deut. X. 3, it is said, with respect to the second tables, that Moses hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and that he went up into the mount, having the two tables in his hand. The first tables, mentioned in Exod. xxxii. 16, are there described as the work of God, and the writing as the writing of God graven upon the tables. Moses is said to have written the ten commandments upon the second tables (Exod. xxxiv. 28), and to have put the tables into the ark : Exod. xl. 20.]
z " Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.”—Deut. xxxi. 26.
3 See Hoffmavn, Encycl., art. Ark of the Covenant, (Bundeslade.)
4 “ There was nothing in the ark, save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.”—1 Kings viii. 9; and 2 Chron. v. 10.
“ Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant."- Hebrews ix. 4.
EASTERN INVENTION OF WRITING.
established 1;” we are by no means disposed to admit. To students of antiquity, and particularly to those who have specially devoted themselves to the history of writing, the discussion of this question may appear to be perfectly superfluous; and it may perhaps be viewed in much the same light by others, who, obstinately prejudiced against all honest inquiry, close their ears to every semblance of argument, and even go so far as to assert that the Israelites were transported to Egypt by Providence for the express purpose of learning to write?; it only remains, therefore, rather than be chargeable with omission, to lay before the reader the latest results which the study of palæography has yielded.
The honour of inventing writing (we mean of course among the Semitic nations, for the Indian and Chinese characters have no connexion with the ancient Jewish) has been ascribed by turns to the Babylonians, Phænicians, and Egyptians : the decision between them rests entirely on a comparison of probabilities and of the existing documents, as any historical evidence which relates to this question is of far too late a date. The probabilities seem in favour of the Babylonians, who are known to have attained a high degree of culture at a very early period; and a brick with Semitic letters, from the walls of this city (whether derived from the tower of Belus or some other building), is possibly the oldest specimen of this character in existence. It is, nevertheless, very possible, that the Phænicians may have been the principal agents in diffusing a knowledge of this art among the nations of Western Asia ; and, admitting the inscriptions on stone in the Phæi Bertholdt, p. 766.
? Werner, p. 89. 3 Founded principally on Vater, p. 524, and Hartmann, p. 584. VOL. I.