MOSES (מֹשֶׁ֔ה; LXX, Μωυση̂ς, Vulgate Moyses). The national hero who delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, established them as an independent nation, and prepared them for entrance into Canaan.
The meaning of Moses' name is uncertain. If Hebrew, as suggested by
With the word “now” the historian passes from the death of Joseph, who saved the patriarchs from starvation in Canaan by bringing them down into Egypt, to the time of Moses who led their descendants forth from bondage. He first lists the tribes who were in Egypt and stresses their amazing fruitfulness (
The first forty years
Moses is introduced to the reader in a striking way. Sometimes the ancestry of a person is given in some detail; here it is stated in the broadest of terms: “a man from the house of Levi went and took to wife a daughter of Levi.” From the words which follow, “the woman conceived and bore a son,” one might infer that Moses was their first child. This inference is promptly corrected by the mention of a sister whose name is not mentioned until
“And the child grew” (literally “became large”), an indefinite statement. The mother probably kept the child for two or three years (cf.
Life in Egypt
“When Moses had grown up” (
Five verses now suffice to describe its dramatic and unhappy conclusion, yet they are significant because of the light which they throw on the development of Moses’ character. “One day, when Moses had grown up” introduces two closely related incidents which marked the close of the first forty years of Moses’ life (
“He went out the next day” (
The second forty years
Moses in Midian
Forty years passed swiftly (
The daughters may have thanked him, but they left him. They called him “an Egyptian” and probably were wary of foreigners, so their father had to make amends for their lack of hospitality. In this incident there is not the slightest suggestion of any prior connection or contact of Moses with Jethro or the Midianites. It was as a total stranger that this Egyptian came to this locality and he was treated as such.
Moses and Jethro
“And Moses was content to dwell with the man” (
Moses at the bush
The first two forty-year periods of Moses’ life, both of which end in a startling and climactic event, have been largely covered by a single chapter of Exodus; but this second period ends with an event which introduced and determined the whole of the third period of forty years which was to follow. It begins by describing what may have been Moses’ chief occupation for forty years: “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro.” And he led them by slow stages as a shepherd leads his flock “to Horeb, the mountain of God” (
The call of Moses is perhaps the most revealing, as it was the most momentous event in his entire life. Whether the name “mountain of God” is used proleptically or not is uncertain. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush (seneh)” called in the New Testament “bush,” (batos). Moses probably had noticed often that a thorn bush burns rapidly and with a great crackling (
Then God revealed Himself as the God of Moses’ forebears, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and told Moses that He had heard the cry of their descendants and had come to deliver them. He then made a truly amazing proposal to Moses: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (
The sign was a double challenge to Moses: to his faith in the God of his fathers and to his love of his people, a people who on his first attempt to serve them had met him with hostility and rejection. Moses at first apparently parried the challenge by asking what name he should give to the God whom he was to represent to the people as their deliverer. He asked the question as if he meant to imply that he knew the name of the God of his fathers, but was not sure just how he should speak of Him to the people when they ask the name of this God who will deliver them. Perhaps he was asking the question as much for himself as for them. The answer is, “I am who I am” (
The command then was repeated that Moses go to the Israelites and announce to them God’s promise of deliverance and of entrance into the good land promised to their fathers. Moses was given the assurance that they would obey and that he would go with them to Pharaoh to request permission for a three days’ journey into the wilderness to worship the God of their fathers who had appeared to them through Moses. The request which they proposed was modest, designed to show the unreasonableness of Pharaoh’s refusal; and they were to make it as a request, not as a demand: “And now, we pray you, let us go” (
Moses raised the natural objection that the people would not believe that God had sent him to deliver them from Pharaoh. The Lord gave him three signs: his rod becomes a serpent, his hand becomes leprous, and the water turns into blood. There is a striking difference between these signs for the people and for Pharaoh, and the sign given Moses for himself (
Moses raised still another objection: he was not qualified for the task to which God was calling him. He never had been eloquent (Hebrew “a man of words”) and this call to extraordinary service had not changed this in any way. God’s answer was that human speech is God-given, as are all man’s faculties. Despite this indisputable fact, which is supported by the promise that God will teach him what to say, Moses still resisted with the words, “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person” (
Return to Jethro
Moses returned to Jethro, told him nothing of the divine commission that he had received, offered a plausible and adequate excuse (cf.
Departure for Egypt
“So Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on an ass, and went back to the land of Egypt.” The fact that he mounted both wife and sons on a single donkey indicates that both children were quite young, the younger a mere babe in arms. This may mean, as already suggested, that Moses did not receive Zipporah as his wife until toward the end of the forty years, or else that like Rachel, Zipporah had to wait many years until the crown of motherhood was given her.
The bloody husband (Exodus 4:24-31)
When Moses was returning to Egypt a strange thing happened, which throws a little more light on Moses’ life in Midian and supports the view that Moses’ children were very young at that time. The incident at the inn is best understood as indicating that Moses had failed to circumcise the baby before leaving home. This may have been due partly to haste and preoccupation with the mission which had been given him. But it was more probably due to Zipporah’s objection to the performance of the rite. Whether she had objected in the case of Gershom, we do not know. Here at the inn, when she realized that Moses’ life was in danger and apparently felt that she was responsible, she performed the rite herself, but evidently with great reluctance (as is shown by her words, twice repeated, “you are a bridegroom of blood to me”). Whatever the reason, Moses had sinned in failing to perform the covenant rite which was required of every Israelite under penalty of death (
The meeting with Aaron (
Exod 4:14, 27)
The Lord sent Aaron (first mentioned in
The third forty years
If Moses’ slaying of the Egyptian and his flight from Egypt marked the close of the first period of Moses’ life, the call which he received at the mount of God may be regarded as marking the ending of the second period. If so, the third period begins with the return to Egypt and Moses’ entering upon the God-assigned task of delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage. This period then consists of two parts which somewhat overlap. The first is the conflict with Pharaoh which ends with the triumph song of
Moses and Pharaoh
The first request
After Moses and Aaron had accredited themselves to the elders and people of Israel (
Pharaoh’s first step was to charge the Hebrews with idleness and to make their task more arduous; they were not to be supplied with straw, but were to make just as many bricks as before. When the Israelite “officers” (i.e. scribes or tally-keepers) are thus ill-treated they complain to Moses and Aaron. Moses carries the complaint to the Lord (
The contest with Pharaoh
“But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, yea, with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land’” (
First is the God of Israel, with the words, “I am the Lord (Yahweh): I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty ( ), but by my name the Lord (Yahweh) I did not make myself known to them” (
“...the writer would suggest the following renderings: And God spake unto Moses and said unto him: I am Jehovah and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob in the character of the God of Might (or, mighty God), and in the character of my name Jehovah I did not make myself known unto them. Or, if the last part of the verse is to be regarded as a question, the rendering should be: And in the character of my name Jehovah did I not make myself known unto them? Either of these suggested translations will bring this verse into entire harmony with the rest of the Pentateuch. Consequently, it is unfair and illogical to use a forced translation of
Exodus 6:3in support of a theory that would destroy the unity of authorship and the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch” (PTR, XXII, p. 119).
In view of the failure of their first meeting with Pharaoh, the Lord reaffirmed His promises to the people, assuring them of His entire awareness of their distressing situation and His purpose to rescue them. When Moses gave this reassurance to the people they were too dispirited to listen to him. When Moses was again told to demand the release of Israel, he complained that it was useless to do so. For if the people would not listen to him, how could he expect Pharaoh to do so? Yet the Lord simply repeated His purpose of deliverance.
The last plague was the most terrible of all. It is introduced by the words, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt.” It would accomplish what all the others had failed to do. Not merely would Pharaoh let Israel go; “When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely” (
In the case of all the plagues which preceded, Moses and Aaron played an important but a rather impersonal role; here appear two personal touches. One is the statement that “the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people” (
The death of all the first-born children evoked such a popular reaction that Pharaoh was compelled to release the Israelites. Under Moses’ leadership they celebrated the Passover (see Passover; Feasts), and marched out of Egypt, taking with them their children, cattle, household goods, and the bones of Joseph.
The statement that “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” (13:19), throws an interesting light on the situation. The words “and Moses took,” suggest that this was an act of piety which Moses performed without receiving special instruction from God. Amid all the confusion and the many demands upon his time and leadership, Moses thought of the oath which Joseph, looking forward confidently to this event, had imposed on his brethren; now after a lapse of centuries Moses fulfilled this sacred obligation. This mention of what Moses did, apparently on his own initiative, is especially interesting and significant as affording a glimpse into his sense of personal responsibility.
The guiding cloud led the Israelite host into a situation in which they were trapped between the sea and the pursuing chariotry of Pharaoh; and when the latter drew near the Israelites were terrified and bewailed their perilous state (
Pharaoh and the Egyptians were finally beaten; the chariotry of Egypt overwhelmed in the returning waters, never to trouble Israel again (
The murmuring in the wilderness
At this point (
The theophany at Sinai (ch. 20)
The tremendous and terrifying scene which accompanied the giving of the law at Sinai provides further insight into the character of Moses. The awesomeness of the spectacle is described (
Aaron and the seventy elders (ch. 24)
The difference between Moses and the rest of the people, even the Seventy and Aaron and his sons, is emphasized by the fact that while these representatives of the people were to come up and worship afar off, Moses alone was to come near to the Lord. This ceremony followed the solemn ratification of the covenant, which involved the reading of the book, the solemn acceptance by the people, and the sprinkling of “the blood of the covenant” (
Moses then spent forty days in God’s presence and during this time he neither ate nor drank. Like his Lord, Moses had meat to eat that the people knew not of (
Moses and the Tabernacle
After the tremendous scene which attended the proclaiming of the Decalogue and the sight of the glory of their God which was given to Aaron and the Seventy, the glory abode upon for seven days. Then Moses was summoned to come up into the mount. He left Aaron and Hur in charge (
The first apostasy (ch. 32)
Later, while Moses was in the mount receiving instructions as to the conditions under which their God would dwell in their midst, the people apostatized from this God, whom they had promised to obey. “Up, make us gods, who shall go before us” (
In this terrible situation, it was no wonder that the Lord at once revealed to Moses what had taken place and threatened to destroy Israel. Moses at once interceded with God for the deliverance of his people. When he descended the mountain, he was filled with great anger upon seeing what had taken place, and he destroyed the tables of the Decalogue, ground the golden image to powder, scattered it on the water and forced the people to drink it. Then he turned upon Aaron himself, demanding an explanation for this “great sin” (
Then Moses returned to the Lord, confessed Israel’s “great sin” (
Having received the promise that the Lord would send His angel to lead the people, Moses removed the tent (or perhaps it is his own tent) to a distance from the camp and there the Lord spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (
The veil on Moses’ face
After the second stay of Moses on the mount, as he came down his face “shone,” “gave off horns,” i.e. rays (
The Tabernacle and its ritual
As the proclamation of the Decalogue (
The investiture of Aaron and his sons
It is significant that nothing is said here or elsewhere about Moses’ apparel. Moses’ rod and his shining face were described, but unlike Aaron nothing is said about Moses’ vesture. The reason for this is that Aaron’s position was symbolical, ritualistic, and hereditary (
After this solemn rite, there occurred one of the most amazing events in Israel’s history, the sacrifice of Nadab and Abihu. Aaron had four sons; and he and they were all anointed, and they only, to the office of priest. Nadab and Abihu, however, “offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them.” It might seem as if the wilfullness and disobedience of the nation found typical expression in this act which was so severely punished. Moses’ comment is: “This is it what the Lord has said, ‘I will show myself holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified’” (
The departure from Sinal
The twelve tribes, then Levi, and it then gives their “stations” in the camp with reference to the Tabernacle. Following certain laws dealing with impurity and jealousy, Moses was given the words of the beautiful “Blessing” which the priests were to pronounce upon the people and, in so doing, “put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (
The fullest statement regarding the manner in which Moses was accustomed to receive his instructions from the Lord is significantly placed after the record of the dedication of the altar (
Chapter 9 deals with the passover celebrated a year after the Exodus, and in connection with it instructions are given regarding a second passover to be held a month after the regular one, for those providentially hindered from observing it at the proper time. When this problem first arose, Moses told those concerned to wait until he could inquire of the Lord about the matter. This shows clearly that Moses was given instructions when and as they were needed and that he constantly was seeking divine guidance (cf.
The murmuring over manna
Scarcely had the journeying resumed when the murmuring began again (
Miriam and Aaron
An incident occurred which Moses must have felt most keenly, a personal attack by his own sister and brother. It is significant that Miriam is mentioned first. This, and the fact that it was she who was punished, indicates that she was the prime mover; and the occasion was another woman. Who the woman was is unknown. That she was a Cushite (Ethiopian) indicates that she could not have been Zipporah. It was not long since Jethro had brought Zipporah back to Moses (
It assumed great importance for Moses personally and especially for his influence as leader. “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth” (
Rebellion and rejection
The sending of the spies into Canaan is represented as taking place by command of God, and at the request of the people, a request which Moses approved (
Caleb’s appeal for obedience and faith was rejected. Moses and Aaron were blamed for inept leadership and the further appeal of Joshua and Caleb was met with the threat to stone them. This rebellious reaction of the congregation provoked a threat from Jehovah to exterminate them all (cf.
The fortieth year
Failure at Kadesh-barnea
So Aaron and Moses were both involved, and God’s sentence upon them is, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (
For forty years Moses and Aaron had led Israel and “suffered he their manners,” as the King James Version quaintly describes it (
Shortly afterward Aaron died on Mount Hor (
Defeat of Arad and the Amorites
The king of Arad attacked Israel without provocation and suffered total destruction (
Arrival at Jordan
Finally Israel arrived in the plains of Moab opposite Jericho in full view of the land of promise, poised for conquest (
The Balaam story (
This story is in a sense a prophecy of Israel’s history in the land of promise. For the first time since leaving Egypt God’s people encountered the seductions and allurements of that licentious idolatry which they were to meet in the land of Canaan, and because of which its inhabitants were to be dispossessed by Israel. They yielded to this seduction to such a degree that their leaders were severely punished, and 24,000 of the people perished in a plague, while Phineas’ zeal for the Lord is commended and rewarded.
The plague was followed by the second census (ch. 26), which is recorded in a different manner from the first and which gives somewhat different figures for each of the tribes, yet a total for all of them which is only slightly less (601,730) than that for the first census and of the Levites a slight increase (23,000). The phenomenal increase of Israel in Egypt came to an end when the generation which came out of Egypt refused to go forward to possess the land of promise. These years were years of stagnation; and the covenant sign, circumcision, was not observed (
The case of the daughters of Zelophehad, relating to inheritance, was raised (
The vengeance on the Midianites is described with minute detail concerning the disposition of the spoil, both of humans and of livestock, all of which is based on the census figures given in
The request of the two and a half tribes that they might possess the lands East of the Jordan (
Moses’ valedictory: Deuteronomy
If the abrupt and almost trivial ending of the Book of Numbers is intended to indicate that the great story of Israel’s beginnings as a nation is not ended, the Book of Deuteronomy no less clearly forms the conclusion of this great history of deliverance. In it Moses is not merely, as in the three preceding books, the chief actor; here he is also the only speaker, and in the discourses which constitute the main part of the book, are both his summary and his application of that history for Israel. That it is Moses, the leader and lawgiver who speaks to Israel, and through her to all the Israel of God in the generations to come, is made clear by express statements to that effect, and also by the fact that the utterances themselves are so markedly and characteristically Mosaic.
Moses accepted mutely the sentence that he is not to lead the people into Canaan (
He then expresses all his hopes and fears for Israel in a song (
Moses, the prophet without peer in the Old Testament foresees with the anguish of a great love, all the misery and suffering which their sins of disobedience will bring on his people. Solemnly he warns: “I will call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (
The finest and truest tribute to Moses’ memory is given in the words of his epitaph: “And there was not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel” (
The traditional view of the Jewish church and of the Christian church, that Moses was a person and that the narrative with which his life-story is interwoven is real history, is in the main sustained by commentators and critics of all classes.
It is needless to mention the old writers among whom these questions were hardly under discussion. Among the advocates of the current radical criticism may be mentioned Stade and Renan, who minimize the historicity of the Bible narrative at this point. Renan thinks the narrative "may be very probable." Ewald, Wellhausen, Robertson Smith, and Driver, while finding many flaws in the story, make much generally of the historicity of the narrative.
The critical analysis of the Pentateuch divides this life-story of Moses into three main parts, J, E, and the Priestly Code (P), with a fourth, D, made up mainly from the others. Also some small portions here and there are given to R, especially the account of Aaron’s part in the plagues of Egypt, where his presence in a J-document is very troublesome for the analytical theory. It is unnecessary to encumber this biography with constant cross-references to the strange story of Moses pieced together out of the rearranged fragments into which the critical analysis of the Pentateuch breaks up the narrative. It is recognized that there are difficulties in the story of Moses. In what ancient life-story are there not difficulties? If we can conceive of the ancients being obliged to ponder over a modern life-story, we can easily believe that they would have still more difficulty with it. But it seems to very many that the critical analysis creates more difficulties in the narrative than it relieves. It is a little thing to explain by such analysis some apparent discrepancy between two laws or two events or two similar incidents which we do not clearly understand. It is a far greater thing so to confuse, by rearranging, a beautiful, well-articulated biography that it becomes disconnected—indeed, in parts, scarcely makes sense.
Work and Character
So little is known of the private life of Moses that his personal character can scarcely be separated from the part which he bore in public affairs. It is the work he wrought for Israel and for mankind which fixes his place among the great ones of earth. The life which we have just sketched as the life of the leader of Israel is also the life of the author, the lawgiver, and the prophet.
It is not within the province of this article to discuss in full the great critical controversies concerning the authorship of Moses which have been summed up against him thus: "It is doubtful whether we can regard Moses as an author in the literary sense"HDB, III, 446; see Pentateuch; Deuteronomy. It will only be in place here to present a brief statement of the evidence in the case for Moses. There is no longer any question concerning the literary character of the age in which Moses lived. That Moses might have written is indisputable. But did he write, and how much? What evidence bears at these points?
There are many library marks in the Pentateuch, even in those portions which by nearly all, even the most radical, critics are allowed to be probably the writings of Moses.as a whole has such library marks all over it.
On the one hand this is entirely consistent with the known literary character of the age in which Moses lived. One who was "instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" might have had in his possession Egyptian records. And the author of this article is of that class to whom Professor Clay refers, who believe "that Hebraic (or Amoraic) literature, as well as Aramaic, has a great antiquity prior to the 1st millennium BC"Clay, Amurru, 32.
On the other hand, the use of a library to the extent indicated by the abiding marks upon the Pentateuch does not in the least militate against the claim of Moses for authorship of the same. The real library marks, aside from the passages which are assigned by the critics to go with them, are far less numerous and narrower in scope than in Gibbon or in Kurtz. The use of a library no more necessarily endangers authorship in the one case than in the other.
A tradition from the beginning universally held, and for a long time and without inherent absurdity, has very great weight. Such has been the Moses-tradition of authorship. Since Moses is believed to have been such a person living in such an age and under such circumstances as might suitably provide the situation and the occasion for such historical records, so that common sense does not question whether he could have written "a" Pentateuch, but only whether he did write "the" Pentateuch which we have, it is easier to believe the tradition concerning his authorship than to believe that such a tradition arose with nothing so known concerning his ability and circumstances. But such a tradition did arise concerning Moses. It existed in the days of Josiah. Without it, by no possibility could the people have been persuaded to receive with authority a book purporting to be by him. The question of the truthfulness of the claim of actually finding the Book of the Law altogether aside, there must have been such a national hero as Moses known to the people and believed in by them, as well as a confident belief in an age of literature reaching back to his days, else the Book of the Law would not have been received by the people as from Moses. Archaeology does not supply actual literary material from Israel much earlier than the time of Josiah, but the material shows a method of writing and a literary advancement of the people which reaches far back for its origin, and which goes far to justify the tradition in Josiah’s day. Moreover, to the present time, there is no archaeological evidence to cast doubt upon that tradition.
The Pentateuch in the Northern Kingdom
Evidence for the Mosaic Age
Beyond the limit to which historical evidence reaches concerning the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, internal evidence for the Mosaic age as the time of its composition carries us back to the very days of Moses. Egyptian words in the Pentateuch attest its composition in the Mosaic age, not because they are Egyptian words, for it is quite supposable that later authors might have known Egyptian words, but because they are Egyptian words of such marked peculiarities in meaning and history and of such absolutely accurate use in the Pentateuch, that their employment by later authors in such a way is incredible. The list of such words is a long one. Only a few can be mentioned here.
For a complete list the authorities cited must be consulted. There is ye’or, for the streams of Egypt; achu, for the marshy pasture lands along the Nile; shesh, for the "fine white linen" of the priests; "the land of Rameses" for a local district in lower Egypt; tsaphenath pa`neach, Joseph’s Egyptian name, and acenath, the name of Joseph’s Egyptian wife, and many other Egyptian wordssee Lieblein, in PSBA, May, 1898, 202-10; also The Bible Student, 1901, 36-40.
The Obscurity of the Doctrine of the Resurrection in the Pentateuch
This obscurity has been urged against the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Because of the popular belief concerning the doctrine of the resurrection among the Egyptians, this objection to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch becomes the most forcible of all the objections urged by critics. If the Pentateuch was written by Moses when Israel had just come out of Egypt, why did he leave the doctrine of the resurrection in such obscurity? The answer is very simple. The so-called Egyptian doctrine of the resurrection was not a doctrine of resurrection at all, but a doctrine of resuscitation.
The essential idea of resurrection, as it runs through Scripture from the first glimpse of it until the declaration of Paul: "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body" (
The omission of the doctrine of the resurrection from the Pentateuch at the later date assigned by criticism is very hard to account for. In view of some passages from the Psalms and the Prophets, it appears inexplicable (
The only way by which the people could be weaned away from these Egyptian ideas was by beginning, as the Pentateuch does, with more spiritual ideas of God, of the other world and of worship. The obscurity of the doctrine of the resurrection in the Pentateuch, so far from being against the Mosaic authorship, is very cogent reason for believing the Pentateuch to have come from that age, as the only known time when such an omission is reasonably explicable. Lord, in his lectures, though not an Egyptologist, caught sight of this truth which later work of Egyptologists has made clearMoses, 45. Warburton had a less clear vision of itsee Divine Legation.
The Unity of the Pentateuch
Unity in the Pentateuch, abstractly considered, cannot be indicative of particular time for its composition. Manifestly, unity can be given a book at any time. There is indisputably a certain appearance of unity in narrative in the Pentateuch, and when this unity is examined somewhat carefully, it is found to have such peculiarity as does point to the Mosaic age for authorship. The making of books which have running through them such a narrative as is contained in the Pentateuch which, especially from the end of Genesis, is entangled and interwoven with dates and routes and topographical notes, the history of experiences, all so accurately given that in large part to this day the route and the places intended can be identified, all this, no matter when the books were written, certainly calls for special conditions of authorship. A narrative which so provides for all the exigencies of desert life and so anticipates the life to which Israel looked forward, exhibits a realism which calls for very special familiarity with all the circumstances. And when the narrative adds to all this the life of a man without breaks or repetitions adverse to the purpose of a biography, and running through from beginning to end, and not a haphazard, unsymmetrical man such as might result from the piecing together of fragments, but a colossal and symmetrical man, the foremost man of the world until a greater than Moses should appear, it demands to be written near the time and place of the events narrated.
That a work of fiction, struck off at one time by one hand, might meet all these requirements at a later date, no one can doubt, but a scrap-book, even though made up of facts, cannot do so. In fact, the scraps culled. out by the analysis of the Pentateuch do not make a connected life-story at all, but three fragmentary and disconnected stories, and turn a biography, which is the binding-thread of the books, into what is little better than nonsense.
The unity of the Law, which also can be well sustained, is to the same effect as the unity of the narrative in certifying the narrative near to the time and place of the events narrated. The discussion of the unity of the Law, which involves nearly the whole critical controversy of the day, would be too much of a digression for an article on Mosessee Law; Leviticus; DEUTERONOMY; also Green, Higher Criticism and the Pent; Orr, POT; Wiener, Biblical Sac., 1909—10.
Neither criticism nor archaeology has yet produced the kind or degree of evidence which rationalism demands for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. No trace has yet been found either of the broken tablets at Mt. Sinai or of the autograph copy of the Law of the Lord "by the hand of Moses" brought out of the house of the Lord in the days of Josiah. Nor are these things likely to be found, nor anything else that will certify authorship like a transcription of the records in the copyright office. Such evidence is not reasonably demanded. The foregoing indications point very strongly to the production of the Pentateuch in the Mosaic age by someone as familiar with the circumstances and as near the heart of the nation as Moses was. That here and there a few slight additions may have been made and that, perhaps, a few explanations made by scribes may have slipped into the text from the margin are not unlikely (
The character of Moses as lawgiver is scarcely separable from that of Moses as author, but calls for some separate consideration.
The extent of the Mosaic element in the Pentateuch legislation has been so variously estimated that for any adequate idea of the discussion the reader must consult not only other articlesLAW; COVENANT, PENTATEUCH but special works on this subject. In accord with the reasons presented above for the authorship of the Pentateuch in Mosaic times, the great statesman seems most naturally the author of the laws so interwoven with his life and leadership.
Moses first gave laws concerning the Passover (
Upon the completion of the tabernacle, a priest-code became a necessity. Accordingly, such a code follows with great minutiae of directions. This part of the Law is composed almost entirely of "laws of procedure" intended primarily for the priests, that they might know their own duties and give oral instruction to the people, and probably was never meant for the whole people except in the most general way. When Israel was turned back into the wilderness, these two codes were quite sufficient for the simple life of the wanderings. But Israel developed. The rabble became a nation. Forty years of life under law, under the operation of the Book of the Covenant in the moralities of life, the Priestly Code in their religious exercises, and the brief statutes of Leviticus for the simple life of the desert, prepared the people for a more elaborate code as they entered the promised land with its more complex life. Accordingly, in Deuteronomy that code was recorded and left for the guidance of the people. That these various codes contain some things not now understood is not at all surprising. It would be surprising if they did not.
That some few items of law may have been added at a later time, as some items of history were added to the narrative, is not at all unreasonable, and does in no way invalidate the claim of Moses as the lawgiver, any more than later French legislation has invalidated the Corsican’s claim to the Napoleonic Code.
The essential value of the Mosaic legislation is beyond comparison. Some of the laws of Moses, relating as they did to passing problems, have themselves passed away; some of them were definitely abrogated by Christ and others explicitly fulfilled; but much of his legislation, moral, industrial, social and political, is the warp and woof of the best in the great codes of the world to this day. The morality of the Decalogue is unapproached among collections of moral precepts. Its divinity, like the divinity of the teachings of Jesus, lies not only in what it includes, but also in what it omits. The precepts of Ptah-hotep, of Confucius, of Epictetus include many things found in the Decalogue; the Decalogue omits many things found among the maxims of these moralists. Thus, in what it excludes, as in what it includes, the perfection of the Decalogue lies.
Comparison of Moses' Laws to other Historic Laws
It should be emphasized that the laws of Moses were codes, not a collection of court decisions known to lawyers as common law, but codes given abstractly, not in view of any particular concrete case, and arranged in systematic orderWiener, Biblical Sac., 1909-10. This is entirely in harmony with the archaeological indications of the Mosaic and preceding ages. The , given at least 5 centuries before, is one of the most orderly, methodical and logical codes ever constructedLyon, JAOS, XXV, 254.
The career and the works and the character of Moses culminate in the prophetic office. It was as prophet that Moses was essentially leader. It was as prophet that he held the place of highest eminence in the world until a greater than Moses came.
Moses’ revelation of God ever transcends the speculations of theologians about God as a sunrise transcends a treatise on the solar spectrum. While the speculations are cold and lifeless, the revelation is vital and glorious. As an analysis of Raphael’s painting of the transfiguration belittles its impression upon the beholder, while a sight of the picture exalts that scene in the mind and heart, so the attempts of theologians to analyze God and bring Him within the grasp of the human mind belittle the conception of God, dwarf it to the capacity of the human intellect, while such a vision of Him as Moses gives exalts and glorifies Him beyond expression. Thus, while theologians of every school from Athanasius to Ritschl come and go, Moses goes on forever; while they stand cold on library shelves, he lives warm in the hearts of men.
Such was the Hebrew leader, lawgiver, prophet, poet; among mere men, "the foremost man of all this world."