Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
What importance the written letter, the book of the law, possessed for the Jews, we all know from the New Testament. Of ancient Israel, again, it is said in the introductory poem of Goethe's West-Oestlicher Divan, that the word was so important there, because it was a spoken word. The contrast which Goethe evidently perceived is really characteristic, and deserves some further attention.
1. Even if it be the case that Deuteronomy and the Priestly Code were only reduced to writing at a late period, still there remains the Jehovistic legislation (Exod. xx.-xxiii. xxxiv.) which might be regarded as the document which formed the starting-point of the religious history of Israel. And this position is in fact generally claimed for it; yet not for the whole of it, since it is commonly recognised that the Sinaitic Book of the Covenant (Exod. xx.-xxiii. 19) was given to a people who were settled and thoroughly accustomed to agriculture, and who, moreover, had passed somewhat beyond the earliest stage in the use of money. 1
The Decalogue alone is commonly maintained to be in the strictest sense Mosaic. This is principally on account of the statement that it was written down on the two stone tables of the sacred ark. Yet of Deuteronomy also we read, both that it was written on twelve stones and that it was deposited in the sacred ark (Deut. xxxi. 26). We cannot therefore place implicit reliance on such statements. What is attested in this way of the Decalogue seems to find confirmation in 1 Kings viii. 9. But the authority of this statement is greatly weakened by the fact that it occurs in a passage which has undergone the Deuteronomistic
revision, and has been, in addition to this, subjected to interpolation. The more weight must we therefore allow to the circumstance, which makes for a different conclusion, that the name "The Ark of the Covenant" (i.e., the box of the law) 1 is peculiar to the later writers, and, when it occurs in older narratives, is proved by its sporadic appearance, as well as by a comparison of the Septuagint with the Massoretic text, to be a correction. In early times the ark was not a mere casket for the law; the "the ark of Jehovah" was of itself important, as we see clearly enough from 1 Sam. iv.-vi. Like the twelve maççebas which surrounded the altar on the holy hill of Shechem, and which only later assumed the character of monuments of the law, so the ark of the covenant no doubt arose by a change of meaning out of the old idol. If there were stones in it at all, they probably served some other purpose than that of writing materials, otherwise they would not have been hidden as a mystery in the darkness of the sanctuary; they must have been exposed to public view. Add to this that the tradition is not agreed as to the tenor of the ten words said to have been inserted on the two tables; two decalogues being preserved to us, Exod. xx. and Exod. xxxiv., which are quite different from each other. It results from this that there was no real or certain knowledge as to what stood on the tables, and further that if there were such stones in the ark—and probably there were—there was nothing written on them. This is not the place to decide which of the two versions is prior to the other; the negative result we have obtained is sufficient for our present purpose.
2. Ancient Israel was certainly not without God-given bases for the ordering of human life; only they were not fixed in writing. Usage and tradition were looked on to a large extent as the institution of the Deity. Thus, for example, the ways and rules of agriculture. Jehovah had instructed the husbandman and taught him the right way. He it was whose authority gave to the unwritten laws of custom their binding power. "It is never so done in Israel," "that is folly in Israel," and similar expressions of insulted public conscience are of frequent occurrence,
and show the power of custom: the fear of God acts as a motive for respecting it. "Surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will slay me for my wife's sake," so Abraham says to himself in Gerar. "How shall I do such great wrong and sin against God?" says Joseph to the woman in Egypt. "The people of Sodom were wicked and sinned grievously against Jehovah," we read in Gen. xiii. 13. Similarly Deut. xxv. 18: "The Amalekites attacked Israel on the march, and killed the stragglers, all that were feeble and fell behind, and feared not God." We see that the requirements of the Deity are known and of force, not to the Israelites only, but to all the world; and accordingly they are not to be identified with any positive commands. The patriarchs observed them long before Moses. "I know Abraham," Jehovah says, xviii. 19, "that he will command his children to keep the way of Jehovah, to do justice and judgment."
Much greater importance is attached to the special Torah of Jehovah, which not only sets up laws of action of universal validity, but shows man the way in special cases of difficulty, where he is at a loss. This Torah is one of the special gifts with which Israel is endowed (Deut. xxxiii. 4); and it is intrusted to the priests, whose influence, during the period of the Hebrew kings, of which we are now speaking, rested much more on this possession than on the privilege of sacrifice. The verb from which Torah is derived signifies in its earliest usage to give direction, decision. The participle signifies giver of oracles in the two, examples gibeath moreh and allon moreh. The latter expression is explained by another which alternates with it, "oak of the soothsayers." Now we know that the priests in the days of Saul and David gave divine oracles by the ephod and the lots connected with it, which answered one way or the other to a question put in an alternative form. Their Torah grew no doubt out of this practice. 1 The Urim and Thummim are regarded, according to Deut. xxxiii. 8, as the true and universal insignia of the priesthood; the ephod is last mentioned in the historical
books in 1 Kings ii. 26, 1 but appears to have remained in use down to the time of Isaiah (Hos. iii. 4; Isa. xxx. 22). The Torah freed itself in the process of time, following the general mental movement, from such heathenish media and vehicles (Hab. ii. 19). But it continued to be an oral decision and direction. As a whole it is only a power and activity of God, or of the priests. Of this subject there can be no abstract; the teaching; is only thought of as the action of the teacher. There is no torah as a ready-made product, as a system existing independently of its originator and accessible to every one: it becomes actual only in the various utterances, which naturally form by degrees the basis of a fixed tradition. "They preserve Thy word, and keep Thy law; they teach Jacob Thy judgments and Israel Thy statutes" (Deut. xxxiii. 9, 10).
The Torah of the priests appears to have had primarily a legal character. In cases which there was no regular authority to decide, or which were too difficult for human decision, the latter was brought in the last instance before God, i.e., before the sanctuary or the priests (Exod. xviii. 25 seq.). The priests thus formed a kind of supreme court, which, however, rested on a voluntary recognition of its moral authority, and could not support its decisions by force. "If a man sin against another, God shall judge him," 1 Sam. ii. 25 says, very indefinitely. Certain legal transactions of special solemnity are executed before God (Exod. xxi. 6). Now in proportion as the executive gained strength under the monarchy, jus—civil justice—necessarily grew up into a separate existence from the older sacred fas. The knowledge of God, which Hosea (chap. iv.) regards as the contents of the torah, has as yet a closer connection with jurisprudence than with theology; but as its practical issue is that God requires of man righteousness, and faithfulness, and good-will, it is fundamentally and essentially morality, though morality at that time addressed its demands less to the conscience than to society. A ritual tradition naturally developed itself even before the exile (2 Kings xvii. 27, 28). But only those rites were included in the Torah which the priests had to teach others, not those which they discharged themselves; even in Leviticus this distinction may be traced; the instructions characterised as toroth being chiefly those as to animals which might or might not be eaten, as to clean and unclean states, as to leprosy and its marks (cf. Deut. xxiv. 8).
So it was in Israel, to which the testimony applies which we have cited: and so it was in Judah also. There was a common proverb in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, "The Torah shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the ancient, nor the word from the prophet:" but no doubt the saying was not new in their time, and at any rate it will apply to the earlier time as well. Not because they sacrifice but because they teach, do the priests here appear as pillars of the religious order of things; and their Torah is a living power, equal to the occasion and never-failing. Micah reproaches them with judging for reward (iii. 11), and this shows their wisdom to have been based on a tradition accessible to them alone; this is also shown by some expressions of Deuteronomy (xvii. 10 seq., xxiv. 8). We have the counterpart to the proverb above cited (Jer. xviii. 18; Ezek. vii. 26) in the complaint in Lamentations (ii. 9): "Jerusalem is destroyed; her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the Torah is no more; the prophets obtain no vision from Jehovah;" after the ruin of the sanctuary and the priests there is no longer any Torah; and if that be so, the axe is laid to the root of the life of the people. In the post-exile prophets the torah, which even in Deuteronomy (xvii. 11) was mainly legal in its nature, acquires a strong savour of ritual which one did not notice before; yet even here it is still an oral teaching of the priests (Hag. ii. 11).
The priests derived their Torah from Moses: they claimed only to preserve and guard what Moses had left (Deuteronomy xxxiii 4, 9 seq.). He counted as their ancestor (xxxiii. 8; Judges xviii. 30); his father in-law is the priest of Midian at Mount Sinai, as Jehovah also is derived in a certain sense from the older deity of Sinai. But at the same time Moses was reputed to be the incomparable originator and practicer of prophecy (Num. xii. 6 seq.; Deut. xxxiv. 10; Hos. xii. 14), as his brother Aaron also is not only a Levite (Exod. iv. 14), but also a prophet (iv. 15; Num. xii. 2). There is thus a close relation between priests and prophets, i.e., seers; as with other peoples (1 Sam. vi. 3; 1 Kings xviii. 19, compare with 2 Kings x. 19), so also with the Hebrews. In the earliest time it was not knowing the technique of worship, which was still very simple and undeveloped, but being a man of God, standing on an intimate footing with God, that made a man a priest, that is one who keeps up the communication with heaven for others; and the seer is better qualified than others for the office (1 Kings xviii. 30 seq.).
[paragraph continues] There is no fixed distinction in early times between the two offices; Samuel is in 1 Sam. i.-iii. an aspirant to the priesthood; in ix. x. he is regarded as a seer.
In later times also, when priests and prophets drew off and separated from each other, they yet remained connected, both in the kingdom of Israel (Hos. iv. 5) and in Judah. In the latter this was very markedly the case (2 Kings xxiii. 2; Jer. xxvi. 7 seq., v. 31; Deut. xviii. 1-8, 9-22; Zech. vii. 3). What connected them with each other was the revelation of Jehovah which went on and was kept alive in both of them. It is Jehovah from whom the torah of the priest and the word of the prophet proceeds: He is the true director, as Isaiah calls Him in the passage xxx. 20 seq., where, speaking of the Messianic time, he says to the people, "Then thy director (מוריך) is no more concealed, but thine eyes see thy director, and thine ears hear the words of One calling behind thee; this is the way, walk ye in it; when ye are turning to the right hand or to the left." Torah and word are cognate notions, and capable of being interchanged (Deut. xxxiii. 9; Isa. i. 10, ii. 3, v. 24, viii. 16, 20). This explains how both priests and prophets claimed Moses for their order: he was not regarded as the founder of the cultus.
The difference, in the period when it had fully developed itself, may be said to be this: the Torah of the priests was like a spring which runs always, that of the prophets like a spring which is intermittent, but when it does break forth, flows with all the greater force. The priests take precedence of the prophets when both are named together; they obviously consolidated themselves earlier and more strongly. The order, and the tradition which propagates itself within the order, are essential to them: they observe and keep the torah (Deut. xxxiii. 9). For this reason, that they take their stand so entirely on the tradition, and depend on it, their claim to have Moses for their father, the beginner and founder of their tradition, is in itself the better founded of the two. 1 In the ordinary parlance of the Hebrews torah always meant first, and
chiefly the Priestly Torah. The prophets have notoriously no father (1 Sam. x. 12), their importance rests on the individuals; it is characteristic that only names and sketches of their lives have reached us. They do indeed, following the tendency of the times, draw together in corporations; but in doing so they really renounce their own distinctive characteristics: the representative men are always single, resting on nothing outside themselves. We have thus on the one side the tradition of a class, which suffices for the occasions of ordinary life, and on the other the inspiration of awakened individuals, stirred up by occasions which are more than ordinary. After the spirit of the oldest men of God, Moses at the head of them, had been in a fashion laid to sleep in institutions, it sought and found in the prophets a new opening; the old fire burst out like a volcano through the strata which once, too, rose fluid from the deep, but now were fixed and dead.
The element in which the prophets live is the storm of the world's history, which sweeps away human institutions; in which the rubbish of past generations with the houses built on it begins to shake, and that foundation alone remains firm, which needs no support but itself. When the earth trembles and seems to be passing away, then they triumph because Jehovah alone is exalted. They do not preach on set texts; they speak out of the spirit which judges all things and itself is judged of no man. Where do they ever lean on any other authority than the truth of what they say; where do they rest on any other foundation than their own certainty? It belongs to the notion of prophecy of true revelation, that Jehovah, overlooking all the media of ordinances and institutions, communicates Himself to the individual, the called one, in whom that mysterious and irreducible rapport in which the deity stands with man clothes itself with energy. Apart from the prophet, in abstracto, there is no revelation; it lives in his divine-human ego. This gives rise to a synthesis of apparent contradictions: the subjective in the highest sense, which is exalted above all ordinances, is the truly objective, the divine. This it proves itself to be by the consent of the conscience of all, on which the prophets count, just as Jesus does in the Gospel of John, in spite of all their polemic against the traditional religion. They are not saying anything new: they are only proclaiming old truth. While acting in the most creative way they feel entirely passive: the homo tantum et audacia which may with perfect justice be applied to such men as Elijah, Amos, and Isaiah, is with them equivalent
to deus tantum et servitus. But their creed is not to be found in any book. It is barbarism, in dealing with such a phenomenon, to distort its physiognomy by introducing the law.
3. It is a vain imagination to suppose that the prophets expounded and applied the law. Malachi (circa 450 B.C.) says, it is true, iv. 4, "Remember ye the torah of Moses my servant;" but where shall we look for any second expression of this nature? Much more correctly than modern scholars did these men judge, who at the close of the pre-exilic history looked back on the forces which had moulded it, both the divine and those opposed to God. In their eyes the prophets are not the expounders of Moses, but his continuators and equals; the word of God in their mouth is not less weighty than in the mouth of Moses; they, as well as he, are organs of the spirit of Jehovah by which He is present in Israel. The immediate revelation to the people, we read in Deuteronomy xviii., ceased with the ten commandments: from that point onwards Jehovah uses the prophets as His mouth: "A prophet like unto thee," He says to Moses, "will I raise up to them from among their brethren, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him; and whosoever shall not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." We find it the same in Jeremiah; the voice of the prophets, always sounding when there is need for it, occupies the place which, according to the prevailing view, should have been filled by the law: this living command of Jehovah is all he knows of, and not any testament given once for all. "This only I commanded your fathers when I brought them up out of Egypt: Obey my voice, and walk ye in all the ways that I will command you. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of Egypt, I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear." And even after the exile we meet in Zechariah (520 B.C.) the following view of the significance of the prophets: "Thus spake Jehovah of hosts [to the fathers before the exile], Speak true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother, and oppress not the widow nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor: and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in his heart. But they refused to hearken, and shrugged the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as a flint, lest they should hear the Torah and the
words which Jehovah Sebaoth hath sent by His Spirit through the old prophets: therefore came a great wrath from Jehovah Sebaoth. And as He cried and they would not hear, so now shall they cry and I will not hear, and I will blow them away among the peoples. . . . Thus saith Jehovah Sebaoth [after the exile to the present generation], As I thought to punish you without pity because your fathers provoked me to anger, so again have I thought in these days to do well to the house of Judah: fear ye not. These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour, and love no false oath, for all these are things which I hate, saith Jehovah" (Zech. vii. 9-11, viii. 14-16). The contents of the Torah, on obedience to which the theocracy is here based, are very suggestive, as also its derivation from the "old" prophets. Even Ezra can say (ix. 10, 11): "We have forsaken Thy commandments which Thou hast commanded by the servants the prophets, saying, The land unto which ye go to possess it is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the land, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness." He is thinking of Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and Levit. xvii.-xxvi.
Of those who at the end reflected on the meaning of the development which had run its course, the writer of Isaiah xl.-lxvi. occupies the first place. The Torah, which he also calls mishpat, right (i.e., truth), appears to him to be the divine and imperishable element in Israel. With him, however, it is inseparable from its mouthpiece, the servant of Jehovah, xlii. 1-4, xlix. 1-6, l. 4-9, lii. 13-liii. 12. The name would denote the prophet, but here it stands for the people, a prophet on a large scale. Israel's calling is not that of the world-monarchies, to make sensation and noise in the streets (xiii. 1-4), but the greater one of promulgating the Torah and getting it received. This is to be done both in Israel and among the heathen. What makes Israel a prophet is not his own inner qualities, but his relation to Jehovah, his calling as the depository of divine truth: hence it involves no contradiction that the servant should begin his work in Israel itself. 1 Till now he has
spent his strength only in the bosom of his own people, which is always inclined to fall away from Jehovah and from itself: heedless of reproach and suffering he has laboured unweariedly in carrying out the behests of his Master and has declared His word. All in vain. He has not been able to avert the victory of heathenism in Israel, now followed by its victory over Israel. Now in the exile Jehovah has severed His relation with His people; the individual Hebrews survive, but the servant, the people of Jehovah, is dead. Then is the Torah to die with him, and truth itself to succumb to falsehood, to heathenism? That cannot be; truth must prevail, must come to the light. As to the Apostle Paul the Spirit is the earnest of the resurrection of those who are born again, so to our author the Torah is the pledge of the resurrection of Israel, the justification of the servant of Jehovah. The final triumph of the cause, which is God's, will surpass all expectations. Not only in Israel itself will the Torah, will the servant of Jehovah prevail and bring about a regeneration of the people: the truth will in the future shine forth from Israel into the whole world, and obtain the victory among all the Gentiles (xlix. 6). Then it will appear that the work of the servant, resultless as it seemed to be up to the exile, has yet not been in vain.
It is surely unnecessary for me to demonstrate how uncommonly vivid, I might say how uncommonly historical, the notion of the Torah is as here set forth, and how entirely incompatible that notion is with "the Torah of Moses." It might most fitly be compared with the Logos of the prologue of John, if the latter is understood in accordance with John x. 35, an utterance certainly authentic, and not according to Philo. As Jesus is the revelation of God made man, so the servant of Jehovah is the revelation of God made a people. The similarity of their nature and their significance involves the similarity of their work and of their sufferings, so that the Messianic interpretation of Isa. lii. 13-liii. 12 is in fact one which could not fail to suggest itself. 1
1. In the 18th year of King Josiah (621 B.C.) Deuteronomy was found and published. In the account of the discovery, 2 Kings xxii. xxiii., it is always called simply the book of the Torah; it was accordingly the first, and in its time the only book of the kind. It is certainly the case that the prophets had written down some of their speeches before this, and the priests also may before this time have written down many of their precepts: it appears in fact, as Vatke surmises, that we have a monument of their spirit, e.g., in the Sinaitic Book of the Covenant. Deuteronomy presupposes earlier attempts of this kind, and borrows its materials largely from them; but on the other hand it is distinguished from them not only by its greater compass but also by its much higher claims. It is written with the distinct intention not to remain a private memorandum, but to obtain public authority as a book. The idea of making a definite formulated written Torah the law of the land, is the important point: 1 it was a first attempt and succeeded at the outset beyond expectation. A reaction set in afterwards, it is true; but the Babylonian exile completed the triumph of the law. Extraordinary excitement was at that time followed by the deepest depression (Amos viii. 11 seq.). At such a time those who did not despair of the future clung anxiously to the religious acquisitions of the past. These had been put in a book just in time in Deuteronomy, with a view to practical use in the civil and religious life of the people . The book of the Torah did not perish in the general ruin, but remained in existence, and was the compass of those who were shaping their course for a new Israel. How thoroughly determined they were to use it as their rule we see from the revision of the Hexateuch and of the historical books which was taken in hand during the exile.
With the appearance of the law came to an end the old freedom, not only in the sphere of worship, now restricted to Jerusalem, but in the sphere of the religious spirit as well. There was now in existence an authority as objective as could be; and this was the death of prophecy.
[paragraph continues] For it was a necessary condition of prophecy that the tares should be at liberty to grow up beside the wheat. The signs given in Deuteronomy to distinguish the true from the false prophet, are no doubt vague and unpractical: still they show the tendency towards control and the introduction of uniformity; that is the great step which is new. 1 It certainly was not the intention of the legislator to encroach upon the spoken Torah or the free word. But the consequence, favoured by outward circumstances, was not to be avoided: the feeling that the prophets had come to an end did not arise in the Maccabean wars only. In the exile we hear the complaint that the instruction of the priests and the word of the prophets are silent (Lam. ii. 9); it is asked, where he is who in former times put his spirit in Israel (Isa. lxiii. 11); in Nehemiah's time a doubtful question is left unsettled, at least theoretically, till the priest with Urim and Thummim, i.e., with a trustworthy prophecy, shall appear (Neh. vii. 69). We may call Jeremiah the last of the prophets: 2 those who came after him were prophets only in name. Ezekiel had swallowed a book (iii. 1-3), and gave it out again. He also, like Zechariah, calls the pre-exilic prophets the old prophets, conscious that he himself belongs to the epigoni: he meditates on their words like Daniel and comments on them in his own prophecy (xxxviii. 17, xxxix. 8). The writer of Isa. xl. seq.
might with much more reason be called a prophet, but he does not claim to be one; his anonymity, which is evidently intentional, leaves no doubt as to this. He is, in fact, more of a theologian: he is principally occupied in reflecting on the results of the foregoing development, of which prophecy had been the leaven; these are fixed possessions now secured; he is gathering in the harvest. As for the prophets after the exile, we have already seen how Zechariah speaks of the old prophets as a series which is closed, in which he and those like him are not to be reckoned. In the writing of an anonymous contemporary which is appended to his book we find the following notable expression: "In that (hoped-for) day, saith Jehovah, I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, that they be no more remembered, and also I will cause to cease the prophets and the unclean spirit; and if a man will yet prophesy, his parents shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of Jehovah, and his parents shall thrust him through when he prophesieth" (xiii. 2-3).
2. Deuteronomy was the programme of a reform, not of a restoration. It took for granted the existence of the cultus, and only corrected it in certain general respects. But the temple was now destroyed and the worship interrupted, and the practice of past times had to be written down if it was not to be lost. Thus it came about that in the exile the conduct of worship became the subject of the Torah, and in this process reformation was naturally aimed at as well as restoration. We have seen (p. 59) that Ezekiel was the first to take this step which the circumstances of the time indicated. In the last part of his work he made the first attempt to record the ritual which had been customary in the temple of Jerusalem. Other priests attached themselves to him (Lev. xvii.-xxvi.), and thus there grew up in the exile from among the members of this profession a kind of school of people who reduced to writing and to a system what they had formerly practiced in the way of their calling. After the temple was restored this theoretical zeal still continued to work, and the ritual when renewed was still further developed by the action and reaction on each other of theory and practice: the priests who had stayed in Babylon took as great a part, from a distance, in the sacred services, as their brothers at Jerusalem who had actually to conduct them. The latter indeed lived in adverse circumstances and do not appear to have conformed with great
strictness or accuracy to the observances which had been agreed upon. The last result of this labour of many years is the Priestly Code. It has indeed been said that we cannot ascribe the creation of such a work to an age which was bent on nothing but repristination. Granted that this is a correct description of it, such an age is peculiarly fitted for an artificial systematising of given materials, and this is what the originality of the Priestly Code in substance amounts to. 1
The Priestly Code, worked into the Pentateuch as the standard legislative element in it, became the definite "Mosaic law." As such it was published and introduced in the year 444 B.C., a century after the exile. In the interval, the duration of which is frequently under-estimated, Deuteronomy alone had been known and recognised as the written Torah, though as a fact the essays of Ezekiel and his successors may have had no inconsiderable influence in leading circles. The man who made the Pentateuch the constitution of Judaism was the Babylonian priest and scribe, Ezra. He had come from Babylon to Jerusalem as early as the year 458 B.C., the seventh of Artaxerxes Longimanus, at the head of a considerable company of zealous Jews, provided it is said with a mandate from the Persian king, empowering him to reform according to the law the congregation of the temple, which had not yet been able to consolidate itself inwardly nor to shut itself off sufficiently from those without.
"Thou art sent of the king and of his seven counsellors to hold an inquiry concerning Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand. . . . And thou Ezra, according to the wisdom of thy God which is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as acknowledge the laws of thy God, and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God and the law of the king, let him be prosecuted." So we read in
the commission of the Persian king to Ezra, vii. 12-26; which, even should it be spurious, must yet reflect the views of his contemporaries. The expression taken from Ezra's own memoirs, vii. 27, leaves no doubt that he was assisted by Artaxerxes in the objects he had in view. 1
But Ezra did not, as we should expect, at once introduce the law on his arrival in Judah. In concert with the heads of the people, and proceeding on the existing Torah, that, namely, of Deuteronomy, he ordained and relentlessly carried out a strict separation of the returned exiles from the heathen and half-heathen inhabitants of the land. This was done a few months after his arrival in Jerusalem. But a long time, at least fourteen years, elapsed before he produced the law which he had brought with him. Why he delayed so long we can at the best only surmise, as no accounts have reached us of what he did in the interval; there is a great gap in the narrative of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah between the 7th and the 20th year of Artaxerxes. Perhaps the outward circumstances of the young community, which, probably in consequence of the repellent attitude taken up to the surrounding peoples, were not of the happiest, made it unadvisable at once to introduce a legislative innovation; perhaps, too, Ezra desired to wait to see the correcting influence of the practice of Jerusalem on the product of Babylonian scholarship, and moreover to train up assistants for the work. The principal reason, however, appears to have been, that in spite of the good-will of the king he did not enjoy the energetic support of the Persian authorities on the spot, and could not without it get the authority of the new law recognised.
But in the year 445 it came about that a Jew and a sympathiser of Ezra, Nehemiah ben Hakkelejah, cup-bearer and favourite of Artaxerxes, appeared in Judea as Persian governor. With straightforward earnestness he first addressed himself to the task of liberating the Jewish community from outward pressure and lifting them up from their depressed condition; and, this being accomplished, the time had come to go forward
with the introduction of the Pentateuch. Ezra and Nehemiah were manifestly in concert as to this. On the 1st day of the 7th month—we do not know the year, but it cannot have been earlier than 444 B.C.—the whole people came together as one man before the water-gate, and Ezra was called on to produce the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded Israel. The scribe mounted a wooden pulpit; seven priests stood beside him on the right hand, and seven on the left. When he opened the book all present stood up, both men and women; with loud Amen they joined in the opening blessing, lifted up their heads, and cast themselves on the ground. Then he read the book, from early morning till mid-day, in small sections, which were repeated and expounded by a number of Levites dispersed throughout the crowd. The effect was that a general weeping arose, the people being aware that they had not till then followed the commandments of God. Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites had to allay the excitement, and said: "This day is holy unto Jehovah your God; mourn not nor weep. Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and give unto them that have brought nothing with them." The assembled people then dispersed and set on foot a "great mirth," because they had understood the words which had been communicated to them. The reading was continued the next day, but before the heads of families only, and a very appropriate section was read, viz., the ordinances as to festivals, and particularly that about the feast of tabernacles, which was to be kept under branches of trees on the 15th day of the 7th month, the month then just beginning. The matter was taken up with the greatest zeal, and the festival, which had not been kept rite since the days of Joshua ben Nun, was now instituted in accordance with the precepts of Leviticus xxiii. and celebrated with general enthusiasm from the 15th to the 22nd of the month. 1 On the 24th, however, a great day of humiliation was held, with sackcloth and ashes. On this occasion also the proceedings began with reading the law, and then followed a confession of sins spoken by the Levites in the name of the people, and concluding with a prayer for mercy and compassion. This was preparatory to the principal and concluding act, in which the secular and spiritual officials and elders, 85 in number, bound themselves in writing to the Book of the Law, published by Ezra, and all the rest undertook an obligation, with oath and curse, to walk in the Torah of God, given by His servant Moses, and to keep
all the commandments of Jehovah and His statutes and laws. Special attention was directed to such provisions of the Pentateuch as were of immediate importance for the people in the circumstances of the day—the greater part of the whole work is about the ritual of the priests—and those were in particular insisted on which refer to the contributions of the laity to the priesthood, on which the very existence of the hierocracy depended. 1
Lagarde expresses great surprise—and the surprise is reasonable—that so little importance is attributed to this narrative by Old Testament critics; only Kuenen had rightly appreciated its significance. 2 It is obvious that Neh. viii.-x. is a close parallel to 2 Kings xxii. xxiii., especially to xxiii. 1-3. There we read that Josiah caused all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to come together, and went up with the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with the priests and the prophets and all the people, high and low, to the house of Jehovah; where he read to the assemblage all the words of the Book of the Law, and bound himself with all the people before Jehovah to keep all the words of the book. Just as it is in evidence that Deuteronomy became known in the year 621, and that it was unknown up to that date, so it is in evidence that the remaining Torah of the Pentateuch—for there is no doubt that the law of Ezra was the whole Pentateuch—became known in the year 444 and was unknown till then. This shows in the first place, and puts it beyond question, that Deuteronomy is the first, and the priestly Torah the second, stage of the legislation. But in the second place, as we are accustomed to infer the date of the composition of Deuteronomy from its publication and introduction by Josiah, so we must infer the date of the composition of the Priestly Code from its publication and introduction by Ezra and Nehemiah. It would require very strong internal evidence to destroy the probability, thus based on a most positive statement of facts, that the codification of the ritual only
took place in the post-exile period. We have already seen of what nature the internal evidence is which is brought forward with this view. 1
3. Ezra and Nehemiah, and the eighty-five men of the great assembly (Nehemiah viii. seq.), who are named as signatories of the covenant, are regarded by later tradition as the founders of the canon. And not without reason: only King Josiah has a still stronger claim to this place of honour. The introduction of the law, first Deuteronomy, and then the whole Pentateuch, was in fact the decisive step, by which the written took the place of the spoken word, and the people of the word became a "people of the book." To the book were added in course of time the books; the former was formally and solemnly introduced in two successive acts, the latter acquired imperceptibly a similar public authority for the Jewish church. The notion of the canon proceeds entirely from that of the written Torah; the prophets and the hagiographa are also called Torah by the Jews, though not Torah of Moses.
The origin of the canon thus lies, thanks to the two narratives 2 Kings xxii. xxiii., Neh. viii.-x. in the full light of history; but the traditional science of Biblical introduction has no clear or satisfactory account to give of it. Josiah, the ordinary notion is, introduced the law, but not the canon; Ezra, on the other hand, the canon and not the law. An analogy drawn from the secondary part of the canon, the prophets and hagiographa, is applied without consideration to the primary part, the Torah of Moses. The historical and prophetical books were, in part at least, a long time in existence before they became canonical, and the same, it is thought, might be the case with the law. But the case of the law is essentially different. The law claims to have public authority, to be a book of the community; the difference between law and canon, does not exist. Hence it is easy to understand that the Torah, though as a literary product later than the historical and prophetical books, is yet as law older than these writings,
which have originally and in their nature no legal character, but only acquired such a character in a sort of metaphorical way, through their association with the law itself.
When it is recognised that the canon is what distinguishes Judaism from ancient Israel, it is recognised at the same time that what distinguishes Judaism from ancient Israel is the written Torah. The water which in old times rose from a spring, the Epigoni stored up in cisterns.
392:1 Exod. xxi. 35: compare xxi. 33 with Judges ix. 4.
393:1 Compare 1 Kings viii. 21, "the ark wherein is the covenant of Jehovah," and viii 9, "there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, the tables of the covenant which Jehovah had made with the children of Israel." The Deuteronomistic expression "tables of the covenant", alternates in the Priestly Code with that of "tables of testimony"; i e., likewise of the law. For הערות, "the testimony," 2 Kings xi. 12, read הצעדות, "the bracelets," according to 2 Sam. i. 10.
394:1 1 Sam. xiv. xxiii. xxx. In connection with 1 Sam. xxxi. 3 I have conjectured that the verb of which Torah is the abstract means originally to throw the lot-arrows. The Thummim have been compared in the most felicitous way by Freytag, and by Lagarde independently of him (Proph. Chald. p. xlvii.) with the Arabian Tamaim, which not only signifies children's amulets but any means of "averruncatio". Urim is probably connected with ערר "to curse" (cf. Iliad i. 11 and Num. xxiii. 23): the two words of the formula seem mutually to supplement each other.
395:1 Bleek, Einleitung in das A. T., 1878, p. 642.
397:1 It is also more firmly rooted in history; for if Moses did anything at all, he certainly founded the sanctuary at Kadesh and the torah there, which the priests of the ark carried on after him, thus continuing the thread of the history of Israel, which was taken up again in power by the monarchy. The prophets only appeared among the Hebrews from the time of Samuel onwards, but the seers were older than Moses, and can scarcely have had such a close connection with his tradition as the priests at the sanctuary of the ark of Jehovah.
400:1 This is as if one were to say that there is much to be done before we Evangelicals are truly evangelical. Yet the distinction as worked out in Isaiah xl. seq. is certainly very remarkable, and speaks for a surprising degree of profound meditation.
401:1 The personification is carried further in this passage than anywhere else, and it is possible that the colours of the sketch are borrowed from some actual instance of a prophet-martyr: yet the Ebed Jahve cannot have a different meaning here from that which it has everywhere else. It is to be noted that the sufferings and death of the servant are in the past, and his glorification in the future, a long pause lying between them in the present. A resurrection of the individual could not be in the mind p. 402 of the writer of Isa. xl seq., nor do the details of the description, lii. 12 seq., at all agree with such an idea. Moreover, it is clear that liv. 1-lvi. 8 is a kind of sermon on the text lii. 13-liii. 12; and there the prophecy of the glorification of the servant has reference to Zion. See Vatke, p. 528 seq.
402:1 Duhm, op. cit. p. 201.
403:1 The difference between Deut. xviii. 22 and 1 Kings xxii. 19-23 may be thought to throw light on the two positions. In the former passage we read that if a prophet says something in the name of Jehovah which does not come to pass, it is a word which Jehovah has not spoken. Here, on the contrary, Micaiah ben Imlah, when the prophets of Jehovah promise the king of Israel a happy issue of the campaign against the Syrians, regards the prediction as contrary to the truth, but as none the less on that account inspired by the spirit of prophecy; Jehovah, he said, had made his spirit a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. It may be that this difference reflects to us the interval between two different ages: but on the whole Micaiah's view appears to be rather a piece of ingenuity which might have been resorted to in later times as well. In the seventh century the command, "every firstborn is mine," was held to apply to the human firstborn as well, the sacrifice of which Jehovah was thought to require: this appears from Jeremiah's protest, "I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind," vii. 31, xix. 5. With reference to this Ezekiel says that because the Israelites despised the wholesome commandments of Jehovah, He gave them laws which were not good and statutes by which they could not live. That is a similar ingenious escape from a difficulty, without deeper meaning. See the converse, Koran, Sura ii. 174.
403:2 In his early years Jeremiah had a share in the introduction of the law: but in later times he shows himself little edified by the effects it produced: the lying pen of the scribes, he says, has written for a lie. People despised the prophetic word because they had the Torah in black and white (viii. 7-9).
405:1 Dillmann arrives at the conclusion that the assumption is the most natural one in the world, and still capable of proof from ACD (!) that the priesthood of the central sanctuary wrote down their toroth even in early times; and that it is absurd to suppose that the priestly and ceremonial laws were first written down, or even made, in the exile and in Babylon, where there was no worship. We will let it be absurd, if it is true. It is not progress, though it is a fact, that the kings were succeeded by the high-priests, and the prophets by the Rabbis. Yet it is a thing which is likely to occur, that a body of traditional practice should only be written down when it is threatening to die out, and that a book should be, as it were, the ghost of a life which is closed.
406:1 With regard to his relation to the law, we have to consider the following points: he was a scribe (סופר = literatus), at home in the Torah of Moses, vii. 6. He had directed his mind to study the Torah of Jehovah, and to do and to teach in Israel judgment and statute, vii. 10. "The priest Ezra, the master of the law of the God of heaven," vii. 21. The most important expression, however, is that which states that the law (the wisdom) of his God was in his hand: thus it was his private property, though it claimed authority for all Israel. With this agree the statements as to the object of the learned priest's mission.
407:1 For eight days, according to Lev. xxiii. 39: as against Deut. xvi. 13-15.
408:1 Neh. viii. 1-x. 40. The credibility of the narrative appears on the face of it. The writer of Chronicles did not write it himself, but took it from his main source, from which also he drew the fragments he gives us of the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah. This we see from the fact that while copying Neh. vii. in Ezra ii. he unconsciously goes on with the beginning of Neh. viii. (= Ezra iii. 1). That shows that he found Neh. vii. and viii. in their present connection, and did not write viii. seq. himself, as we might suppose.
408:2 Göttinger Gel. Anzeigen, 1870, p. 1557 seq. Kuenen, Religion of Israel, vol. ii. chapter viii.
409:1 It is not, however, necessary, and it can scarcely be correct, to make Ezra more than the editor, the real and principal editor, of the Hexateuch: and in particular he is not likely to have been the author of Q. Nor on the other hand is it meant to deny that many new features may have been added and alterations made after Ezra. A body of customs is a subject which can scarcely be treated quite exhaustively. There are no directions about the nervus ischiadicus, about the priests having their feet bare, about shutting up before Jehovah (1 Sam. xxi. cf. Jer. xxxvi. 5), or about the stoning of adulterers.