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- The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 5/65 -


could have been used by Moses, and admitting for the sake of argument that Moses did not either himself write, or dictate to another, any part of the documents in question, it would seem that the application of a little common sense would show pretty conclusively that Moses throughout his whole administrative life acted upon a single scientific theory of the application of a supreme energy to the affairs of life, and upon the belief that he had discovered what that energy was and understood how to control it.

His syllogism amounted to this:

Facts, which are admitted by all Hebrews, prove that the single dominant power in the world is the being who revealed himself to our ancestors, and who, in particular, guided Joseph into Egypt, protected him there, and raised him to an eminence never before or since reached by a Jew. It can also be proved, by incontrovertible facts, that this being is a moral being, who can be placated by obedience and by attaining to a certain moral standard in life, and by no other means. That this standard has been disclosed to me, I can prove to you by sundry miraculous signs. Therefore, be obedient and obey the law which I shall promulgate "that ye may prosper in all that ye do."

Indeed, the philosophy of Moses was of the sternly practical kind, resembling that of Benjamin Franklin. He did not promise his people, as did the Egyptians, felicity in a future life. He confined himself to prosperity in this world. And to succeed in his end he set an attainable standard. A standard no higher, certainly than that accepted by the Egyptians, as it is set forth in the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead, a standard to which the soul of any dead man had to attain before he could be admitted into Paradise. Nor did Moses, as Dr. Budde among others assumes, have to deal with a tribe of fierce and barbarous Bedouins, like the Amalekites, to whom indeed the Hebrews were antagonistic and with whom they waged incessant war.

The Jews, for the most part, differed widely from such barbarians. They had become sedentary at the time of the exodus, whatever they may have been when Abraham migrated from Babylon. They were accustomed in Egypt to living in houses, they cultivated and cooked the cereals, and they fed on vegetables and bread. They did not live on flesh and milk as do the Bedouins; and, indeed, the chief difficulty Moses encountered in the exodus was the ignorance of his followers of the habits of desert life, and their dislike of desert fare. They were forever pining for the delights of civilization. "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we eat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full! for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger." [Footnote: Ex. XVI, 3.]

"We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick." These were the wants of sedentary and of civilized folk, not of barbarous nomads who are content with goat's flesh and milk. And so it was with their morality and their conceptions of law. Moses was, indeed, a highly civilized and highly educated man. No one would probably pretend that Moses represented the average Jew of the exodus, but Moses understood his audience reasonably well, and would not have risked the success of his whole experiment by preaching to them a doctrine which was altogether beyond their understanding. If he told them that the favor of God could only be gained by obeying the laws he taught, it was because he thought such an appeal would be effective with a majority of them.

Dr. Budde, who is a good example of the modern hypercritical school, takes very nearly the opposite ground. His theory is that Moses was in search of a war god, and that he discovered such a god, in the god of the Bedouin tribe of the Kenites whose acquaintance he first made when dwelling with his father-in-law Jethro at Sinai. The morality of such a god he insists coincided with the morality which Moses may have at times countenanced, but which was quite foreign to the spirit of the decalogue.

Doubtless this is, in a degree, true. The religion of the pure Bedouin was very often crude and shocking, not to say disgusting. But to argue thus is to ignore the fact that all Bedouins did not, in the age of Moses, stand on the same intellectual or moral level, and it is also to ignore the gap that separated Moses and his congregation intellectually and morally from such Bedouins as the Amalekites.

Dr. Budde, in his _Religion of Israel to the Exile_, insists that the Kenite god, Jehovah, demanded "The sacred ban by which conquered cities with all their living beings were devoted to destruction, the slaughter of human beings at sacred spots, animal sacrifices at which the entire animal, wholly or half raw, was devoured, without leaving a remnant, between sunset and sunrise,--these phenomena and many others of the same kind harmonise but ill with an aspiring ethical religion."

He also goes on to say: "We are further referred to the legislation of Moses, ... comprising civil and criminal, ceremonial and ecclesiastical, moral and social law in varying compass. This legislation, however, cannot have come from Moses.... Such legislation can only have arisen after Israel had lived a long time in the new home."

To take these arguments in order,--for they must be so dealt with to develop any reasonable theory of the Mosaic philosophy,--Moses, doubtless, was a ruthless conqueror, as his dealings with Sihon and Og sufficiently prove. "So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining....

"And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon, king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city." [Footnote: Deut. III, 3-6.]

There is nothing extraordinary, or essentially barbarous, in this attitude of Moses. The same theory of duty or convenience has been held in every age and in every land, by men of the ecclesiastical temperament, at the very moment at which the extremest doctrines of charity, mercy, and love were practised by their contemporaries, or even preached by themselves. For example:

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the two great convents of Cluny and Citeau, together, formed the heart of monasticism, and Cluny and Citeau were two of the richest and most powerful corporations in the world, while the south of France had become, by reason of the eastern trade, the wealthiest and most intelligent district in Europe. It suffices to say here that, just about this time, the people of Languedoc had made up their minds, because of the failure of the Crusades, the cost of such magnificent establishments was not justified by their results, and accordingly Count Raymond of Toulouse, in sympathy with his subjects, did seriously contemplate secularization. To the abbots of these great convents, it was clear that if this movement spread across the Rhone into Burgundy, the Church would face losses which they could not contemplate with equanimity. At this period one Arnold was Abbot of Citeau, universally recognized as perhaps the ablest and certainly one of the most unscrupulous men in Europe. Hence the crusade against the Albigenses which Simon de Montfort commanded and Arnold conducted. Arnold's first exploit was the sack of the undefended town of Béziers, where he slaughtered twenty thousand men, women, and children, without distinction of religious belief. When asked whether the orthodox might not at least be spared, he replied, "Kill them all; God knows his own."

This sack of Béziers occurred in 1209. Exactly contemporaneously Saint Francis of Assisi was organizing his order whose purpose was to realize Christ's kingdom upon earth, by the renunciation of worldly wealth and by the practice of poverty, humility, and obedience. Soon after, Arnold was created Archbishop of Narbonne and became probably the greatest and richest prelate in France, or in the world. This was in 1225. In 1226 the first friars settled in England. They multiplied rapidly because of their rigorous discipline. Soon there were to be found among them some of the most eminent men in England. Their chief house stood in London in a spot called Stinking Lane, near the Shambles in Newgate, and there, amidst poverty, hunger, cold, and filth, these men passed their lives in nursing horrible lepers, so loathsome that they were rejected by all but themselves, while Arnold lived in magnificence in his palace, upon the spoil of those whom he had immolated to his greed.

In the case of Moses the contrast between precept and practice in the race for wealth and fortune was not nearly so violent. Moses, it is true, according to Leviticus, declared it to be the will of the Lord that the Israelites should love their neighbors as themselves, [Footnote: Lev. XIX, 18.] while on the other hand in Deuteronomy he insisted that obedience was the chief end of life, and that if the Israelites were to thoroughly obey the Lord's behests, they were to "consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither" should thou serve their gods, "for the Lord thy God is a jealous God." [Footnote: Deut. VII, 16.] And the penalty for slackness was "lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth." [Footnote: Deut. VI, 15.] There is, nevertheless, this much to be said in favor of the morality of Moses as contrasted with that of thirteenth-century orthodox Christians like Arnold; Moses led a crusade against a foreign and hostile people, while Arnold slaughtered the Albigenses, who were his own flock, sheep to whom he was the shepherd, communicants in his own church, and worshippers of the God whom he served. What concerns us, however, is that the same stimulant animated Moses and Arnold alike. The stimulant, pure and simple, of greed. On these points Moses was as outspokenly, one may say as brutally, frank as was Arnold. In the desert Moses commanded his followers to exterminate the inhabitants of the kingdom of Bashan in order that they might appropriate their possessions, which he enumerated, and Moses had no other argument to urge but the profitableness of it by which to secure obedience to his moral law.

Arnold stood on precisely the same platform. He did not accuse Count Raymond of heresy or any other crime, nor did Pope Innocent III consider Raymond as morally guilty of a criminal offence, or worthy of punishment. Indeed, the pope would have protected the Count had it been possible, and summoned him before the Fourth Lateran Council for that purpose. But Arnold told his audience that were Raymond allowed to escape there would be an end of the Catholic faith in France. Or, in other words, monastic property would be secularized. Perhaps he was right. At all events, this argument prevailed, and Raymond and his family and people were sacrificed.

Moses promised his congregation that, if they would spare nothing they should enjoy abundance of good things, without working for them. He was much more pitiless than such a man as King David thought it necessary to be, but Moses was not a soldier like David. He could not promise to win victories himself, he could but promise what he had in hand, and that was the spoil of those they massacred. Moses never had but one appeal to make for obedience, one incentive to offer to obey. In this he was perfectly honest and perfectly logical. His congregation and he, finding Egypt untenable, were engaged in a common land speculation to improve their condition; a speculation in which Moses believed, but which could only be brought to a successful end by obtaining control of the dominant energy of the world. This energy, he held, could be handled by no one but himself, and then only in case those who acted with him were absolutely obedient to his commands, which, taken together, were equivalent to a magical exorcism or spell. Then only could they hope that the Lord of Abraham and Isaac would give them "great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not." [Footnote: Deut. VI, 10, 11.]

Very obviously, if the theory which Moses propounded were sound the assets


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