3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them;
6 The Lord our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:
7 Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south. and by sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
8 Behold, I have set the before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.
10 The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.
THIS book contains an account of what passed in the wilderness the last month of the fortieth year, which is supposed to be written by Ezra, as the history is continued several days after the death of Moses. Moses' farewell address to the children of Israel is full of wisdom, with a touch of pathos. This had been a melancholy year with the Hebrews in the death of Miriam, Aaron and Moses. The manner in which this people were kept wandering up and down on the very verge of the land of Canaan because they were rebellious does seem like child's play. No wonder they were discouraged and murmured. It is difficult from the record to see that these people were any better fitted to enter the promised land at the end of forty years than when they first left Egypt. But the promise that they should be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, according to Adam Clarke, had been fulfilled. He tells us that only three thousand stars can be seen by the naked eye, which the children of Israel numbered at this time six hundred thousand fighting men, beside all the women and children. Astronomers, However, now estimate that there are over seventy-five million stars within the range of their telescopes. If census takers had prophetic telescopes, they could no doubt see the promises to the Hebrews fully realized in that one line of their ambition.
34 And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain.
Though the women were ignored in all the civil affairs and religious observances of the Jews, yet in making war on other tribes they thought them too dangerous to be allowed to live, and so they killed all the women and children. The women might much better have helped to do the fighting, as it is far easier to die in the excitement of the battlefield than to be murdered in cold blood. In making war on neighboring tribes, the Jewish military code permitted them to take all the pure, virgins and child women for booty to be given to the priests and soldiers, thus debauching the men of Israel and destroying all feelings of honor and chivalry for women. This utter contempt for all the decencies of life, and all the natural personal rights of women as set forth in these pages, should destroy in the minds of women at least, all authority to superhuman origin and stamp the Pentateuch at least as emanating from the most obscene minds of a barbarous age.
Deuteronomy v, vi.
16 ¶ Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
17 Thou shalt not kill.
18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
19 Neither shalt thou steal.
20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.
2 That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
The best commentary on these texts is that no Revising Committee of Ecclesiastics has found it necessary to make any suggestions as to whom the commandments are addressed. Suppose we reverse the language and see how one-sided it would seem addressed only to women. Suppose this were the statement. Here is a great lawgiver and he says: "Thou art to keep all God's commandments, thou and thy daughters and thy daughter's daughters, and these are the commandments: 'Thou shalt honor thy mother and thy father.' 'Thou shalt not steal nor lie.' 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's husband, nor her field, nor her ox, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.'"
Would such commandments occasion no remark among Biblical scholars? In our criminal code to-day the pronouns she, her and hers are not found, yet we are tried in the courts, imprisoned and hung as "he," "him" or "his," though denied the privileges of citizenship, because the masculine pronouns apply only to disabilities. What a hustling there would be among prisoners and genders if laws and constitutions, Scriptures and commandments, played this fast and loose game with the men of any nation.
5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
Adam Clarke in his comments on chapter iv, says, "there was no form of worship at this time on the face of the earth that was not wicked and obscene, puerile and foolish and ridiculous, except that established by God himself among the Israelites, and every part of this taken in its connection and reference may be truly called a wise and reasonable service. Almost all the nations of the earth manifested in time their respect for the Jewish religion by copying different parts of the Mosaic code as to civil and moral customs."
As thoughtful, intelligent women, we question all this: First.--We see no evidence that a just and wise being wrote either the canon or civil laws that have been gradually compiled by ecclesiastics and lawgivers. Second.--We cannot accept any code or creed that uniformly defrauds woman of all her natural rights. For the last half century we have publicly and persistently appealed from these laws, which Clarke says all nations have copied, to the common sense of a more humane and progressive age. To-day women are asking to be delivered from all the curses and blessings alike of the Jewish God and the ordinances he established. In this book we have the ten commandments repeated.
E. C. S.