Three millions of people, with their flocks and herds, with borrowed jewelry and raiment, with unleavened dough in kneading troughs bound in their clothe upon their shoulders, in one night commenced their journey for the land of promise. We are not told how they were informed of the precise time to start. With all the modern appliances, it would require months of time to inform, three millions of people of any fact.
In this vast assemblage there were six hundred thousand men of war, and with them were the old, the young, the diseased and helpless. Where were those people going? They were going to the desert of Sinai, compared with which Sahara is a garden. Imagine an ocean of lava torn by storm and vexed by tempest, suddenly gazed at by a Gorgon and changed instantly to stone! Such was the desert of Sinai.
All of the civilized nations of the world could not feed and support three millions of people on the desert of Sinai for forty years. It would cost more than one hundred thousand millions of dollars, and would bankrupt Christendom. They had with them their flocks and herds, and the sheep were so numerous that the Israelites sacrificed, at one time, more than one hundred and fifty thousand first-born lambs. How were these flocks supported? What did they eat? Where were meadows and pastures for them? There was no grass, no forests--nothing! There is no account of its having rained baled hay, nor is it even claimed that they were miraculously fed. To support these flocks, millions of acres of pasture would have been required. God did not take the Israelites through the land of the Philistines, for fear that when they saw the people of that country they would return to Egypt, but he took them by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea, going before them by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night, in a pillar of fire.
When it was told Pharaoh that the people had fled, he made ready and took six hundred chosen chariots of Egypt, and pursued after the children of Israel, overtaking them by the sea. As all the animals had long before that time been destroyed, we are not informed where Pharaoh obtained the horses for his chariots. The moment the children of Israel saw the hosts of Pharaoh, although they had six hundred thousand men of war, they immediately cried unto the Lord for protection. It is wonderful to me that a land that had been ravaged by the plagues described in the Bible, still had the power to put in the field an army that would carry terror to the hearts of six hundred thousand men of war. Even with the help of God, it seems, they were not strong enough to meet the Egyptians in the open field, but resorted to strategy. Moses again stretched forth his wonderful rod over the waters of the Red Sea, and they were divided, and the Hebrews passed through on dry land, the waters standing up like a wall on either side. The Egyptians pursued them; "and in the morning watch the Lord looked into the hosts of the Egyptians, through the pillar of fire," and proceeded to take the wheels off their chariots. As soon as the wheels were off, God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea. Moses did so, and immediately "the waters returned and covered the chariots and horsemen and all the hosts of Pharaoh that came into the sea, and there remained not so much as one of them."
This account may be true, but still it hardly looks reasonable that God would take the wheels off the chariots. How did he do it? Did he pull out the linch-pins, or did he just take them off by main force?
What a picture this presents to the mind! God the creator of the universe, maker of every shining, glittering star, engaged in pulling off the wheels of wagons, that he might convince Pharaoh of his greatness and power!
Where were these people going? They were going to the promised land. How large a country was that? About twelve thousand square miles. About one-fifth the size of the State of Illinois. It was a frightful country, covered with rocks and desolation. How many people were in the promised land already? Moses tells us there were seven nations in that country mightier than the Jews. As there were at least three millions of Jews, there must have been at least twenty-one millions of people already in that country. These had to be driven out in order that room might be made for the chosen people of God.
It seems, however, that God was not willing to take the children of Israel into the promised land immediately. They were not fit to inhabit the land of Canaan; so he made up his mind to allow them to wander upon the desert until all except two, who had left Egypt, should perish. Of all the slaves released from Egyptian bondage, only two were allowed to reach the promised land!
As soon as the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea, they found themselves without food, and with water unfit to drink by reason of its bitterness, and they began to murmur against Moses, who cried unto the Lord, and "the Lord showed him a tree." Moses cast this tree into the waters, and they became sweet. "And it came to pass in the morning the dew lay around about the camp; and when the dew that lay was gone, behold, upon the face of the wilderness lay a small round thing, small as the hoar-frost upon the ground. And Moses said unto them, "this is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat." This manna was a very peculiar thing. It would melt in the sun, and yet they could cook it by seething and baking. One would as soon think of frying snow or of broiling icicles. But this manna had another remarkable quality. No matter how much or little any person gathered, he would have an exact omer; if he gathered more, it would shrink to that amount, and if he gathered less, it would swell exactly to that amount. What a magnificent substance manna would be with which to make a currency--shrinking and swelling according to the great laws of supply and demand!
"Upon this manna the children of Israel lived for forty years, until they came to a habitable land. With this meat were they fed until they reached the borders of the land of Canaan." We are told in the twenty-first chapter of Numbers, that the people at last became tired of the manna, complained of God, and asked Moses why he brought them out of the land of Egypt to die in the wilderness. And they said:--"There is no bread, nor have we any water. Our soul loatheth this light food."
We are told by some commentators that the Jews lived on manna for forty years; by others that they lived upon it for only a short time. As a matter of fact the accounts differ, and this difference is the opportunity for commentators. It also allows us to exercise faith in believing that both accounts are true. If the accounts agreed, and were reasonable, they would be believed by the wicked and unregenerate. But as they are different and unreasonable, they are believed only by the good. Whenever a statement in the Bible is unreasonable, and you believe it, you are considered quite a good Christian. If the statement is grossly absurd and infinitely impossible, and you still believe it, you are a saint.
The children of Israel were in the desert, and they were out of water. They had nothing to eat but manna, and this they had had so long that the soul of every person abhorred it. Under these circumstances they complained to Moses. Now, as God is infinite, he could just as well have furnished them with an abundance of the purest and coolest of water, and could, without the slightest trouble to himself, have given them three excellent meals a day, with a generous variety of meats and vegetables, it is very hard to see why he did not do so. It is still harder to conceive why he fell into a rage when the people mildly suggested that they would like a change of diet. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, nothing but manna. No doubt they did the best they could by cooking it in different ways, but in spite of themselves they began to loathe its sight and taste, and so they asked Moses to use his influence to secure a change in the bill of fare.
Now, I ask, whether it was unreasonable for the Jews to suggest that a little meat would be very gratefully received? It seems, however, that as soon as the request was made, this God of infinite mercy became infinitely enraged, and instead of granting it, went into partnership with serpents, for the purpose of punishing the hungry wretches to whom he had promised a land flowing with milk and honey.
Where did these serpents come from? How did God convey the information to the serpents, that he wished them to go to the desert of Sinai and bite some Jews? It may be urged that these serpents were created for the express purpose of punishing the children of Israel for having had the presumption, like Oliver Twist, to ask for more.
There is another account in the eleventh chapter of Numbers, of the people murmuring because of their food. They remembered the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic of Egypt, and they asked for meat. The people went to the tent of Moses and asked him for flesh. Moses cried unto the Lord and asked him why he did not take care of the multitude. God thereupon agreed that they should have meat, not for a day or two, but for a month, until the meat should come out of their nostrils and become loathsome to them. He then caused a wind to bring quails from beyond the sea, and cast them into the camp, on every side of the camp around about for the space of a days journey. And the people gathered them, and while the flesh was yet between their teeth the wrath of God being provoked against them, struck them with an exceeding great plague. Serpents, also, were sent among them, and thousands perished for the crime of having been hungry. The Rev. Alexander Cruden commenting upon this account says:--
"God caused a wind to rise that drove the quails within and about the camp of the Israelites; and it is in this that the miracle consists, that they were brought so seasonably to this place, and in so great numbers as to suffice above a million of persons above a month. Some authors affirm, that in those eastern and southern countries, quails are innumerable, so that in one part of Italy within the compass of five miles, there were taken about an hundred thousand of them every day for a month together; and that sometimes they fly so thick over the sea, that being weary they fall into ships, sometimes in such numbers, that they sink them with their weight.
No wonder Mr. Cruden believed the Mosaic account.
Must we believe that God made an arrangement with hornets for the purpose of securing their services in driving the Canaanites from the land of promise? Is this belief necessary unto salvation? Must we believe that God said to the Jews that he would send hornets before them to drive out the Canaanites, as related in the twenty-third chapter of Exodus, and the second chapter of Deuteronomy? How would the hornets know a Canaanite? In what way would God put it in the mind of a hornet to attack a Canaanite? Did God create hornets for that especial purpose, implanting an instinct to attack a Canaanite, but not a Hebrew? Can we conceive of the Almighty granting letters of marque and reprisal to hornets? Of course it is admitted that nothing in the world would he better calculated to make a man leave his native land than a few hornets. Is it possible for us to believe that an infinite being would resort to such expedients in order to drive the Canaanites from their country? He could just as easily have spoken the Canaanites out of existence as to have spoken the hornets in. In this way a vast amount of trouble, pain and suffering would have been saved. Is it possible that there is, in this country, an intelligent clergyman who will insist that these stories are true; that we must believe them in order to be good people in this world, and glorified souls in the next?
We are also told that God instructed the Hebrews to kill the Canaanites slowly, giving as a reason that the beasts of the field might increase upon his chosen people. When we take into consideration the fact that the Holy Land contained only about eleven or twelve thousand square miles, and was at that time inhabited by at least twenty-one millions of people, it does not seem reasonable that the wild beasts could have been numerous enough to cause any great alarm. The same ratio of population would give to the State of Illinois at least one hundred and twenty millions of inhabitants. Can anybody believe that under such circumstances, the danger from wild beasts could be very great? What would we think of a general, invading such a State, if he should order his soldiers to kill the people slowly, lest the wild beasts might increase upon them? Is it possible that a God capable of doing the miracles recounted in the Old Testament could not, in some way, have disposed of the wild beasts? After the Canaanites were driven out, could he not have employed the hornets to drive out the wild beasts? Think of a God that could drive twenty-one millions of people out of the promised land, could raise up innumerable stinging flies, and could cover the earth with fiery serpents, and yet seems to have been perfectly powerless against the wild beasts of the land of Canaan!
Speaking of these hornets, one of the good old commentators, whose views have long been considered of great value by the believers in the inspiration of the Bible, uses the following language;--"Hornets are a sort of strong flies, which the Lord used as instruments to plague the enemies of his people. They are of themselves very troublesome and mischievous, and those the Lord made use of were, it is thought, of an extraordinary bigness and perniciousness. It is said they live as the wasps, and that they have a king or captain, and pestilent stings as bees, and that, if twenty-seven of them sting man or beast, it is certain death to either. Nor is it strange that such creatures did drive out the Canaanites from their habitations; for many heathen writers give instances of some people driven from their seats by frogs, others by mice, others by bees and wasps. And it is said that a Christian city, being besieged by Sapores, king of Persia, was delivered by hornets; for the elephants and beasts being stung by them, waxed unruly, and so the whole army fled."
Only a few years ago, all such stories were believed by the Christian world; and it is a historical fact, that Voltaire was the third man of any note in Europe, who took the ground that the mythologies of Greece and Rome were without foundation. Until his time, most Christians believed as thoroughly in the miracles ascribed to the Greek and Roman gods as in those of Christ and Jehovah. The Christian world cultivated credulity, not only as one of the virtues, but as the greatest of them all. But, when Luther and his followers left the Church of Rome, they were compelled to deny the power of the Catholic Church, at that time, to suspend the laws of nature, but took the ground that such power ceased with the apostolic age. They insisted that all things now happened in accordance with the laws of nature, with the exception of a few special interferences in favor of the Protestant Church in answer to prayer. They taught their children a double philosophy; by one, they were to show the impossibility of Catholic miracles, because opposed to the laws of nature; by the other, the probability of the miracles of the apostolic age, because they were in conformity with the statements of the Scriptures. They had two foundations: one, the law of nature, and the other, the word of God. The Protestants have endeavored to carry on this double process of reasoning, and the result has been a gradual increase of confidence in the law of nature, and a gradual decrease of confidence in the word of God.
We are told, in this inspired account, that the clothing of the Jewish people did not wax old, and that their shoes refused to wear out. Some commentators have insisted that angels. attended to the wardrobes of the Hebrews, patched their garments, and mended their shoes. Certain it is, however, that the same clothes lasted them for forty years, during the entire journey from Egypt to the Holy Land. Little boys starting out with their first pantaloons, grew as they traveled, and their clothes grew with them.
Can it be necessary to believe a story like this? Will men make better husbands, fathers, neighbors, and citizens, simply by giving credence to these childish and impossible things? Certainly an infinite God could have transported the Jews to the Holy Land in a moment, and could, as easily, have removed the Canaanites to some other country. Surely there was no necessity for doing thousands and thousands of petty miracles, day after day for forty years, looking after the clothes of three millions of people, changing the nature of wool and linen and leather, so that they would not "wax old." Every step, every motion, would wear away some part of the clothing, some part of the shoes. Were these parts, so worn away, perpetually renewed, or was the nature of things so changed that they could not wear away? We know that whenever matter comes in contact with matter, certain atoms, by abrasion, are lost. Were these atoms gathered up every night by angels, and replaced on the soles of the shoes, on the elbows of coats, and on the knees of pantaloons, so that the next morning they would be precisely in the condition they were on the morning before? There must be a mistake somewhere.
Can we believe that the real God, if there is one, ever ordered a man to be killed simply for making hair oil, or ointment? We are told in the thirtieth chapter of Exodus, that the Lord commanded Moses to take myrrh, cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and olive oil, and make a holy ointment for the purpose of anointing the tabernacle, tables, candlesticks and other utensils, as well as Aaron and his sons; saying, at the same time, that whosoever compounded any like it, or whoever put any of it on a stranger, should be put to death. In the same chapter, the Lord furnishes Moses with a recipe for making a perfume, saying, that whoever should make any which smelled like it, should be cut off from his people. This, to me, sounds so unreasonable that I cannot believe it. Why should an infinite God care whether mankind made ointments and perfumes like his or not? Why should the Creator of all things threaten to kill a priest who approached his altar without having washed his hands and feet? These commandments and these penalties would disgrace the vainest tyrant that ever sat, by chance, upon a throne. There must be some mistake. I cannot believe that an infinite Intelligence appeared to Moses upon Mount Sinai having with him a variety of patterns for making a tabernacle, tongs, snuffers and dishes. Neither can I believe that God told Moses how to cut and trim a coat for a priest. Why should a God care about such things? Why should he insist on having buttons sewed in certain rows, and fringes of a certain color? Suppose an intelligent civilized man was to overhear, on Mount Sinai, the following instructions from God to Moses:--
"You must consecrate my priests as follows:--You must kill a bullock for a sin offering, and have Aaron and his sons lay their hands upon the head of the bullock. Then you must take the blood and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with your finger, and pour some blood at the bottom of the altar to make a reconciliation; and of the fat that is upon the inwards, the caul above the liver and two kidneys, and their fat, and burn them upon the altar. You must get a ram for a burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons must lay their hands upon the head of the ram. Then you must kill it and sprinkle the blood upon the altar, and cut the ram into pieces, and burn the head, and the pieces, and the fat, and wash the inwards and the lungs in water and then burn the whole ram upon the altar for a sweet savor unto me. Then you must get another ram, and have Aaron and his sons lay their hands upon the head of that, then kill it and take of its blood, and put it on the top of Aaron's right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot. And you must also put a little of the blood upon the top of the right ears of Aaron's sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet. And then you must take of the fat that is on the inwards, and the caul above the liver and the two kidneys, and their fat, and the right shoulder, and out of a basket of unleavened bread you must take one unleavened cake and another of oil bread, and one wafer, and put them on the fat of the right shoulder. And you must take of the anointing oil, and of the blood, and sprinkle it on Aaron, and on his garments, and on his sons' garments, and sanctify them and all their clothes."--Do you believe that he would have even suspected that the creator of the universe was talking? Can any one now tell why God commanded the Jews, when they were upon the desert of Sinai, to plant trees, telling them at the same time that they must not eat any of the fruit of such trees until after the fourth year? Trees could not have been planted in that desert, and if they had been, they could not have lived. Why did God tell Moses, while in the desert, to make curtains of fine linen? Where could he have obtained his flax? There was no land upon which it could have been produced. Why did he tell him to make things of gold, and silver, and precious stones, when they could not have been in possession of these things? There is but one answer, and that is, the Pentateuch was written hundreds of years after the Jews had settled in the Holy Land, and hundreds of years after Moses was dust and ashes.
When the Jews had a written language, and that must have been long after their flight from Egypt, they wrote out their history and their laws. Tradition had filled the infancy of the nation with miracles and special interpositions in their behalf by Jehovah. Patriotism would not allow these wonders to grow small, and priestcraft never denied a miracle. There were traditions to the effect that God had spoken face to face with Moses; that he had given him the tables of the law, and had, in a thousand ways, made known his will; and whenever the priests wished to make new laws, or amend old ones, they pretended to have found something more that God said to Moses at Sinai. In this way obedience was more easily secured. Only a very few of the people could read, and, as a consequence, additions, interpolations and erasures had no fear of detection. In this way we account for the fact that Moses is made to speak of things that did not exist in his day, and were unknown for hundreds of years after his death.
In the thirtieth chapter of Exodus, we are told that the people, when numbered, must give each one a half shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary. At that time no such money existed, and consequently the account could not, by any possibility, have been written until after there was a shekel of the sanctuary, and there was no such thing until long after the death of Moses. If we should read that Caesar paid his troops in pounds, shillings and pence, we would certainly know that the account was not written by Caesar, nor in his time, but we would know that it was written after the English had given these names to certain coins.
So, we find, that when the Jews were upon the desert it was commanded that every mother should bring, as a sin offering, a couple of doves to the priests, and the priests were compelled to eat these doves in the most holy place. At the time this law appears to have been given, there were three million people, and only three priests, Aaron, Eleazer and Ithamar. Among three million people there would be, at least, three hundred births a day.
Certainly we are not expected to believe that these three priests devoured six hundred pigeons every twenty four hours.
Why should a woman ask pardon of God for having been a mother? Why should that be considered a crime in Exodus, which is commanded as a duty in Genesis? Why should a mother be declared unclean? Why should giving birth to a daughter be regarded twice as criminal as giving birth to a son? Can we believe that such laws and ceremonies were made and instituted by a merciful and intelligent God? If there is anything in this poor world suggestive of, and standing for, all that is sweet, loving and pure, it is a mother holding in her thrilled and happy arms her prattling babe. Read the twelfth chapter of Leviticus, and you will see that when a woman became the mother of a boy she was so unclean that she was not allowed to touch a hallowed thing, nor to enter the sanctuary for forty days. If the babe was a girl, then the mother was unfit for eighty days, to enter the house of God, or to touch the sacred tongs and snuffers. These laws, born of barbarism, are unworthy of our day, and should be regarded simply as the mistakes of savages.
Just as low in the scale of intelligence are the directions given in the fifth chapter of Numbers, for the trial of a wife of whom the husband was jealous. This foolish chapter has been the foundation of all appeals to God for the ascertainment of facts, such as the corsned, trial by battle, by water, and by fire, the last of which is our judicial oath. It is very easy to believe that in those days a guilty woman would be afraid to drink the water of jealousy and take the oath, and that, through fear, she might be made to confess. Admitting that the deception tended not only to prevent crime, but to discover it when committed, still, we cannot admit that an honest god would, for any purpose, resort to dishonest means. In all countries fear is employed as a means of getting at the truth, and in this there is nothing dishonest, provided falsehood is not resorted to for the purpose of producing the fear. Protestants laugh at Catholics because of their belief in the efficacy of holy water, and yet they teach their children that a little holy water, in which had been thrown some dust from the floor of the sanctuary, would work a miracle in a woman's flesh. For hundreds of years our fathers believed that a perjurer could not swallow a piece of sacramental bread. Such stories belong to the childhood of our race, and are now believed only by mental infants and intellectual babes.
I cannot believe that Moses had in his hands a couple of tables of stone, upon which God had written the Ten Commandments, and that when he saw the golden calf, and the dancing, that he dashed the tables to the earth and broke them in pieces. Neither do I believe that Moses took a golden calf, burnt it, ground it to powder, and made the people drink it with water, as related in the thirty-second chapter of Exodus.
There is another account of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses, in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. In this account not one word is said about the people having made a golden calf, nor about the breaking of the tables of stone. In the thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus, there is an account of the renewal of the broken tables of the law, and the commandments are given, but they are not the same commandments mentioned in the twentieth chapter. There are two accounts of the same transaction. Both of these stories cannot be true, and yet both must be believed. Any one who will take the trouble to read the nineteenth and twentieth chapters, and the last verse of the thirty first chapter, the thirty-second, thirty-third, and thirty-fourth chapters of Exodus, will be compelled to admit that both accounts cannot be true.
From the last account it appears that while Moses was upon Mount Sinai receiving the commandments from God, the people brought their jewelry to Aaron and he cast for then, a golden calf. This happened before any commandment against idolatry had been given. A god ought, certainly, to publish his laws before inflicting penalties for their violation. To inflict punishment for breaking unknown and unpublished laws is, in the last degree, cruel and unjust. It may be replied that the Jews knew better than to worship idols, before the law was given. If this is so, why should the law have been given? In all civilized countries, laws are made and promulgated, not simply for the purpose of informing the people as to what is right and wrong, but to inform them of the penalties to be visited upon those who violate the laws. When the Ten Commandments were given, no penalties were attached. Not one word was written on the tables of stone as to the punishments that would be inflicted for breaking any or all of the inspired laws. The people should not have been punished for violating a commandment before it was given. And yet, in this case, Moses commanded the sons of Levi to take their swords and slay every man his brother, his companion, and his neighbor. The brutal order was obeyed, and three thousand men were butchered. The Levites consecrated themselves unto the Lord by murdering their sons, and their brothers, for having violated a commandment before it had been given.
It has been contended for many years that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of all ideas of justice and of law. Eminent jurists have bowed to popular prejudice, and deformed their works by statements to the effect that the Mosaic laws are the fountains from which sprang all ideas of right and wrong. Nothing can be more stupidly false than such assertions. Thousands of years before Moses was born, the Egyptians had a code of laws. They had laws against blasphemy, murder, adultery, larceny, perjury, laws for the collection of debts, the enforcement of contracts, the ascertainment of damages, the redemption of property pawned, and upon nearly every subject of human interest. The Egyptian code was far better than the Mosaic.
Laws spring from the instinct of self-preservation. Industry objected to supporting idleness, and laws were made against theft. Laws were made against murder, because a very large majority of the people have always objected to being murdered. All fundamental laws were born simply of the instinct of self-defence. Long before the Jewish savages assembled at the foot of Sinai, laws had been made and enforced, not only in Egypt and India, but by every tribe that ever existed.
It is impossible for human beings to exist together, without certain rules of conduct, certain ideas of the proper and improper, of the right and wrong, growing out of the relation. Certain rules must be made, and must be enforced. This implies law, trial and punishment. Whoever produces anything by weary labor, does not need a revelation from heaven to teach him that he has a right to the thing produced. Not one of the learned gentlemen who pretend that the Mosaic laws are filled with justice and intelligence, would live, for a moment, in any country where such laws were in force.
Nothing can be more wonderful than the medical ideas of Jehovah. He had the strangest notions about the cause and cure of disease. With him everything was miracle and wonder. In the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus, we find the law for cleansing a leper:--"Then shall the priest take for him that is to be cleansed, two birds, alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel, over running water. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them, and the living bird, in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy, seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field."
We are told that God himself gave these directions to Moses. Does anybody believe this? Why should the bird be killed in an earthen vessel? Would the charm be broken if the vessel was of wood? Why over running water? What would be thought of a physician now, who would give a prescription like that?
Is it not strange that God, although he gave hundreds of directions for the purpose of discovering the presence of leprosy, and for cleansing the leper after he was healed, forget to tell how that disease could be cured? Is it not wonderful that while God told his people what animals were fit for food, he failed to give a list of plants that man might eat? Why did he leave his children to find out the hurtful and the poisonous by experiment, knowing that experiment, in millions of cases, must mean death?
When reading the history of the Jewish people, of their flight from, slavery to death, of their exchange of tyrants, I must confess that my sympathies are all aroused in their behalf. They were cheated, deceived and abused. Their god was quick-tempered, unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising but never performed. He wasted time in ceremony and childish detail, and in the exaggeration of what he had done. It is impossible for me to conceive of a character more utterly detestable than that of the Hebrew god. He had solemnly promised the Jews that he would take them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had led them to believe that in a little while their troubles would be over, and that they would soon be in the land of Canaan, surrounded by their wives and little ones, forget the stripes and tears of Egypt. After promising the poor wanderers again and again that he would lead them in safety to the promised land of Joy and plenty, this God, forgetting every promise, said to the wretches in his power:--"Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and your children shall wander until your carcasses be wasted." This curse was the conclusion of the whole matter. Into this dust of death and night faded all the promises of God. Into this rottenness of wandering despair fell all the dreams of liberty and home. Millions of corpses were left to rot in the desert, and each one certified to the dishonesty of Jehovah. I cannot believe these things. They are so cruel and heartless, that my blood is chilled and my sense of justice shocked. A book that is equally abhorrent to my head and heart, cannot be accepted as a revelation from God.
When we think of the poor Jews, destroyed, murdered, bitten by serpents, visited by plagues, decimated by famine, butchered by each other, swallowed by the earth, frightened, cursed, starved, deceived, robbed and outraged, how thankful we should be that we are not the chosen people of God. No wonder that they longed for the slavery of Egypt, and remembered with sorrow the unhappy day when they exchanged masters. Compared with Jehovah, Pharaoh was a benefactor, and the tyranny of Egypt was freedom to those who suffered the liberty of God.
While reading the Pentateuch, I am filled with indignation, pity and horror. Nothing can be sadder than the history of the starved and frightened wretches who wandered over the desolate crags and sands of wilderness and desert, the prey of famine, sword, and plague. Ignorant and superstitious to the last degree, governed by falsehood, plundered by hypocrisy, they were the sport of priests, and the food of fear. God was their greatest enemy, and death their only friend.
It is impossible to conceive of a more thoroughly despicable, hateful, and arrogant being, than the Jewish god. He is without a redeeming feature. In the mythology of the world he has no parallel. He, only, is never touched by agony and tears. He delights only in blood and pain. Human affections are naught to him. He cares neither for love nor music, beauty nor Joy. A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain, and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, and changeable, infamous and hideous:--such is the God of the Pentateuch.