Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 10/65 -
cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth." And the Lord explained that he had no objection to a prophet; if any one among the congregation had an ambition to be a prophet he would communicate with him in a dream; but there must always be a wide difference between such a man or woman and Moses with whom he would "speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches." And then God demanded irritably, "Wherefore, then, were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" "Afterward the cloud," according to the Bible, departed and God with it.
Ever since the dawn of time the infliction of or the cure of disease has been the stronghold of the necromancer, the wise man, the magician, the saint, the prophet and the priest, and Moses was no exception to the rule, only hitherto he had had no occasion to display his powers of this kind. Nevertheless, among the Hebrews of the exodus, the field for this form of miracle was large. Leprosy was very prevalent, so much so that in Egypt the Jews were called a nation of lepers. And in the camp the regulations touching them were strict and numerous. But the Jews were always a dirty race.
In chapter XIII of Leviticus, elaborate directions are given as to how the patient shall be brought before Aaron himself, or at least some other of the priests, who was to examine the sore and, if it proved to be a probable case of leprosy, the patient was to be excluded from the camp for a week. At the end of that time the disease, if malignant, was supposed to show signs of spreading, in which case there was no cure and the patient was condemned to civil death. On the contrary, if no virulent symptoms developed during the week, the patient was pronounced clean and returned to ordinary life.
The miracle in the case of Miriam was this: When the cloud departed from off the tabernacle, Miriam was found to be "leprous, white as snow," just as Moses' hand was found to be white with leprosy after his conversation with the Lord at the burning bush. Upon this Aaron, who had been as guilty as Miriam, and was proportionately nervous, made a prayer to Moses: "Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly.... Let her not be as one dead.
"And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee."
But the Lord replied: "If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again."
This was the Mosaic system of discipline. And it was serious for all parties concerned. Evidently it was very serious for Miriam, who had to leave her tent and be exiled to some spot in the desert, where she had to shift for herself. We all know the almost intolerable situation of those unfortunates who, in the East, are excluded from social intercourse, and sit without the gate, and are permitted to approach no one. But it was also a serious infliction for the congregation, since Miriam was a personage of consequence, and had to be waited for. That is to say, a million or two of people had to delay their pilgrimage until Moses had determined how much punishment Miriam deserved for her insubordination, and this was a question which lay altogether within the discretion of Moses. In that age there were at least seven varieties of eruptions which could hardly, if at all, be distinguished, in their early stages, from leprosy, and it was left to Moses to say whether or not Miriam had been attacked by true leprosy or not. There was no one, apparently, to question his judgment, for, since Jethro had left the camp, there was no one to controvert the Mosaic opinion on matters such as these. Doubtless Moses was content to give Aaron and Miriam a fright; but also Moses intended to make them understand that they lay absolutely at his mercy.
After this outbreak of discontent had been thus summarily suppressed and Miriam had been again received as "clean," the caravan resumed its march and entered into the wilderness of Paran, which adjoined Palestine, and from whence an invasion of Canaan, if one were to be attempted, would be organized. Accordingly Moses appointed a reconnaissance, who in the language of the Bible are called "spies," to examine the country, report its condition, and decide whether an attack were feasible.
On this occasion Moses seems to have remembered the lesson he learned at Sinai. He did not undertake to leave the camp himself for a long interval. He sent the men whom he supposed he could best trust, among whom were Joshua and Caleb. These men, who corresponded to what, in a modern army, would be called the general-staff, were not sent to manufacture a report which they might have reason to suppose would be pleasing to Moses, but to state precisely what they saw and heard together with their conclusions thereon, that they might aid their commander in an arduous campaign; and this duty they seem, honestly enough, to have performed. But this was very far from satisfying Moses, who wanted to make a strenuous offensive, and yet sought some one else to take the responsibility therefor.
The spies were absent six weeks and when they returned were divided in opinion. They all agreed that Canaan was a good land, and, in verity, flowing with milk and honey. But the people, most of them thought, were too strong to be successfully attacked. "The cities were walled and very great," and moreover "we saw the children of Anak there."
"The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south; and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
"And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, ... for we are well able to overcome it.
"But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
"And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched, ... saying, ... all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.
"And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, ... and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight."
Had Moses been gifted with military talent, or with any of the higher instincts of the soldier, he would have arranged to have received this report in private and would then have acted as he thought best. Above all he would have avoided anything like a council of war by the whole congregation, for a vast popular meeting of that kind was certain to become unmanageable the moment a division appeared in their command, upon a difficult question of policy.
Moses did just the opposite. He convened the people to hear the report of the "spies." And immediately the majority became dangerously depressed, not to say mutinous.
"And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
"And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God we had died in this wilderness!...
"And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
"Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel."
But Joshua, who was a soldier, when Moses thus somewhat ignominiously collapsed, retained his presence of mind and his energy. He and Caleb "rent their clothes," and reiterated their advice.
"And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
"If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
"Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them... fear them not.
"But all the congregation bade stone them with stones."
By this time Moses seems to have recovered some composure. Enough, at least, to repeat certain violent threats of the "Lord."
Nothing is so impressive in all this history as the difference between Moses when called upon to take responsibility as a military commander, and Moses when, not to mince matters, he acted as a quack. On the one hand, he was all vacillation, timidity, and irritability. On the other, all temerity and effrontery.
In this particular emergency, which touched his very life, Moses vented his disappointment and vexation in a number of interviews which he pretended to have had with the "Lord," and which he retailed to the congregation, just at the moment when they needed, as Joshua perceived, to be steadied and encouraged.
"How long," vociferated the Lord, when Moses had got back his power of speech, "will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
"I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they."
But when Moses had cooled a little and came to reflect upon what he had made the "Lord" say, he fell into his ordinary condition of hesitancy. Supposing some great disaster should happen to the Jews at Kadesh, which lay not so very far from the Egyptian border, the Egyptians would certainly hear of it, and in that case the Egyptian army might pursue and capture Moses. Such a contingency was not to be contemplated, and accordingly Moses began to make reservations. It must be remembered that all these ostensible conversations with the "Lord" went on in public; that is to say, Moses proffered his advice to the Lord aloud, and then retailed his version of the answer he received.
"Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,
"Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness....
"Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now.
"And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word."
Had Moses left the matter there it would not have been so bad, but he could not contain his vexation, because his staff had not divined his wishes. Those men, though they had done their strict duty only, must be punished, so he thought, to maintain his ascendancy.
Of the twelve "spies" whom Moses had sent into Canaan to report to him, ten had incurred his bitter animosity because they failed to render him
Previous Page Next Page
1 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 20 30 40 50 60 65
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything