the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
This illustrious legislator of the Israelites was of the tribe of Levi, in the line of Koath and of Amram, whose son he was, and therefore in the fourth generation after the settlement of the Israelites in Egypt. The time of his birth is ascertained by the exode of the Israelites, when Moses was eighty years old, Exodus 7:7 . By a singular providence, the infant Moses, when exposed on the river Nile, through fear of the royal decree, after his mother had hid him three months, because he was a goodly child, was taken up and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, and nursed by his own mother, whom she hired at the suggestion of his sister Miriam. Thus did he find an asylum in the very palace of his intended destroyer; while his intercourse with his own family and nation was still most naturally, though unexpectedly, maintained: so mysterious are the ways of heaven. And while he was instructed "in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and bred up in the midst of a luxurious court, he acquired at home the knowledge of the promised redemption of Israel; and, "by faith" in the Redeemer Christ, "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ," or persecution for Christ's sake, "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of reward," Exodus 2:1-10; Acts 7:20-22; Hebrews 11:23-26; or looked forward to a future state.
When Moses was grown to manhood, and was full forty years old, he was moved by a divine intimation, as it seems, to undertake the deliverance of his countrymen; "for he supposed that his brethren would have understood how that God, by his hand, would give them deliverance; but they understood not." For when, in the excess of his zeal to redress their grievances, he had slain an Egyptian, who injured one of them, in which he probably went beyond his commission, and afterward endeavoured to reconcile two of them that were at variance, they rejected his mediation; and "the man who had done wrong said, Who made thee a judge and a ruler over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?" So Moses, finding it was known, and that Pharaoh sought to slay him, fled for his life to the land of Midian, in Arabia Petraea, where he married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, or Reuel, prince and priest of Midian; and, as a shepherd, kept his flocks in the vicinity of Mount Horeb, or Sinai, for forty years, Exodus 2:11-21; Exodus 3:1; Exodus 18:5; Numbers 10:29; Acts 7:23-30 . During this long exile Moses was trained in the school of humble circumstances for that arduous mission which he had prematurely anticipated; and, instead of the unthinking zeal which at first actuated him, learned to distrust himself. His backwardness, afterward, to undertake that mission for which he was destined from the womb, was no less remarkable than his forwardness before, Exodus 4:10-13 .
At length, when the oppression of the Israelites was come to the full, and they cried to God for succour, and the king was dead, and all the men in Egypt that sought his life, "the God of glory" appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, from the midst of a bush, and announced himself as "the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob," under the titles of Jahoh and AEhjeh, expressive of his unity and sameness; and commissioned him first to make known to the Israelites the divine will for their deliverance; and next to go with the elders of Israel to Pharaoh, requiring him, in the name of "the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, to suffer the people to go three, days' journey into the wilderness, to sacrifice unto the Lord their God," after such sacrifices had been long intermitted during their bondage; for the Egyptians had sunk into bestial polytheism, and would have stoned them, had they attempted to sacrifice to their principal divinities, the apis, or bull, &c, in the land itself: foretelling, also, the opposition they would meet with from the king, the mighty signs and wonders that would finally compel his assent, and their spoiling of the Egyptians, by asking or demanding of them (not borrowing) jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, (by way of wages or compensation for their services,) as originally declared to Abraham, that "they should go out from thence with great substance,"
Genesis 15:14; Exodus 2:23-25; Exodus 3:2-22; Exodus 8:25-26 .
To vouch his divine commission to the Israelites, God enabled Moses to work three signal miracles:
1. Turning his rod into a serpent, and restoring it again:
2. Making his hand leprous as snow, when he first drew it out of his bosom, and restoring it sound as before when he next drew it out: and,
3. Turning the water of the river into blood. And the people believed the signs, and the promised deliverance, and worshipped. To assist him, also, in his arduous mission, when Moses had represented that he was "not eloquent, but slow of speech," and of a slow or stammering tongue, God inspired Aaron, his elder brother, to go and meet Moses in the wilderness, to be his spokesman to the people, Exodus 4:1-31 , and his prophet to Pharaoh; while Moses was to be a god to both, as speaking to them in the name, or by the authority, of God himself, Exodus 7:1-2 . At their first interview with Pharaoh, they declared, "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not," or regard not, "the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." In answer to this haughty tyrant, they styled the Lord by a more ancient title, which the Egyptians ought to have known and respected, from Abraham's days, when he plagued them in the matter of Sarah: "The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: Let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword:" plainly intimating to Pharaoh, also, not to incur his indignation, by refusing to comply with his desire. But the king not only refused, but increased the burdens of the people, Exodus 5:1-19; and the people murmured, and hearkened not unto Moses, when he repeated from the Lord his assurances of deliverance and protection, for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage, Exodus 5:20-23; Exodus 6:1-9 .
At their second interview with Pharaoh, in obedience to the divine command, again requiring him to let the children of Israel go out of his land; Pharaoh, as foretold, demanded of them to show a miracle for themselves, in proof of their commission, when Aaron cast down his rod, and it became a serpent before Pharaoh and before his servants, or officers of his court. The king then called upon his wise men and magicians, to know if they could do as much by the power of their gods, "and they did so with their enchantments; for they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron's rod swallowed up their serpents." Here the original phrase, ויעשו כן , "and they did so," or "in like manner," may only indicate the attempt, and not the deed; as afterward, in the plague of lice, "when they did so with their enchantments, but could not," Exodus 8:18 . And, indeed, the original term, להטיהם , rendered "their enchantments," as derived from the root לאט , or לוט , to hide or cover, fitly expresses the secret deceptions of legerdemain, or sleight-of-hand, to impose on spectators: and the remark of the magicians, when unable to imitate the production of lice, which was beyond their skill and dexterity, on account of their minuteness,— "This is the finger of a God!"—seems to strengthen the supposition; especially as the Egyptians were famous for legerdemain and for charming serpents: and the magicians, having had notice of the miracle they were expected to imitate, might make provision accordingly, and bring live serpents, which they might have substituted for their rods. And though Aaron's serpent swallowed up their serpents, showing the superiority of the true miracle over the false, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 , it might only lead the king to conclude, that Moses and Aaron were more expert jugglers than Jannes and Jambres, who opposed them, 2 Timothy 3:8 . And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, so that he "hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said," or foretold, Exodus 6:10-11; Exodus 7:8-13 . For the conduct of Moses as the deliverer and lawgiver of the Israelites, See , See , and See .
At Mount Sinai the Lord was pleased to make Moses, the redeemer of Israel, an eminent type of the Redeemer of the world. "I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him:" which Moses communicated to the people. "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: unto him shall ye hearken," Deuteronomy 18:15-19 . This prophet like unto Moses was our Lord Jesus Christ, who was by birth a Jew, of the middle class of the people, and resembled his predecessor, in personal intercourse with God, miracles, and legislation, which no other prophet did, Deuteronomy 34:10-12; and to whom God, at his transfiguration, required the world to hearken, Matthew 17:5 . Whence our Lord's frequent admonition to the Jewish church, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," Matthew 13:9 , &c; which is addressed, also, by the Spirit to the Christian churches of Asia Minor, Revelation 3:22 .
In the affair of the Golden Calf, ( See Exodus 32:2-35 , on which occasion Moses gave a signal proof of his love for his people, by interceding for them with the Lord; and of his own disinterestedness, in refusing the offer of the Almighty to adopt his family in their room, and make of them "a great nation." He prayed that God would blot him out of his book, that is, take away his life, if he would not forgive "the great sin of his people;" and prevailed with God to alter his determination of withdrawing his presence from them, and sending an inferior angel to conduct them to the land of promise. So wonderful was the condescension of God to the voice of a man, and so mighty the power of prayer.,) the conduct of Moses showed the greatest zeal for God's honour, and a holy indignation against the sin of Aaron and the people. And when Moses drew nigh, and saw their proceedings, his anger waxed hot, and he cast away the tables of the covenant, or stone tablets on which were engraven the ten commandments by the finger of God himself, and brake them beneath the mount, in the presence of the people; in token that the covenant between God and them was now rescinded on his part, in consequence of their transgression. He then took the golden calf, and burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and mixed it with water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. After thus destroying their idol, he inflicted punishment on the idolaters themselves; for he summoned all that were on the Lord's side to attend him; and all the Levites having obeyed the call, he sent them, in the name of the Lord, to slay all the idolaters, from one end of the camp to the other, without favour or affection either to their neighbour or to their brother; and they slew about three thousand men. The Lord also sent a grievous plague among them for their idolatry,
When the Lord had pardoned the people, and taken them again into favour, he commanded Moses to hew two tablets of stone, like the former which were broken, and to present them to him on the top of the mount; and on these the Lord wrote again the ten commandments, for a renewal of the covenant between him and his people. To reward and strengthen the faith of Moses, God was pleased, at his request, to grant him a fuller view of the divine glory, or presence, than he had hitherto done. And, to confirm his authority with the people on his return, after the second conference of forty days, he imparted to him a portion of that glory or light by which his immediate presence was manifested: for the face of Moses shone so that Aaron and all the people were afraid to come nigh him, until he had put a veil on his face, to hide its brightness. This was an honour never vouchsafed to mortal before nor afterward till Christ, the Prophet like Moses, in his transfiguration also, appeared arrayed in a larger measure of the same lustre. Then Moses again beheld the glory of the Word made flesh, and ministered thereto in a glorified form himself, Exodus 34:1-35; Matthew 17:1-8 .
At Kibroth Hataavah, when the people loathed the manna, and longed for flesh, Moses betrayed great impatience, and wished for death. He was also reproved for unbelief. At Kadesh-barnea, Moses having encouraged the people to proceed, saying, "Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee, go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto you: fear not," Deuteronomy 1:19-21; they betrayed great diffidence, and proposed to Moses to send spies to search out the land, and point out to them the way they should enter, and the course they should take. And the proposal "pleased him well," and with the consent of the Lord he sent twelve men, one out of each tribe, to spy out the land, Deuteronomy 1:22-23; Numbers 13:1-20 . All these, except Caleb and Joshua, having brought "an evil report," so discouraged the people, that they murmured against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt; or would God that we had died in the wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children shall be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, let us make a captain, and return into Egypt." They even went so far as to propose to stone Joshua and Caleb, because they exhorted the people not to rebel against the Lord, nor to fear the people of the land, Numbers 14:1-10;. Deuteronomy 1:26-28 . Here again the noble patriotism of Moses was signally displayed. He again refused the divine offer to disinherit the Israelites, and make of him and his family a "greater and mightier nation than they." He urged the most persuasive motives with their offended God, not to destroy them with the threatened pestilence, lest the Heathen might say, "that the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he sware unto them." He powerfully appealed to the long-tried mercies and forgivenesses they had experienced ever since their departure from Egypt; and his energetic supplication prevailed; for the Lord graciously said, "I have pardoned, according to thy word: but verily, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord;" or shall adore him for his righteous judgments; "for all these men which, have seen my glory and my miracles which I did in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice, surely shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers: neither shall any of them that provoked me see it. As ye have spoken in my ears, so will I do unto you," by a righteous retaliation: "your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in; and they shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, after the number of the days in which ye searched the land, each day for a year, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness." And immediately after this sentence, as the earnest of its full accomplishment, all the spies, except Caleb and Joshua, were cut off, and died by the plague before the Lord, Numbers 14:11-37; Deuteronomy 1:34-39 .
The people now, to repair their fault, contrary to the advice of Moses, presumptuously went to invade the Amalekites and Canaanites of Mount Seir, or Hor; who defeated them, and chased them as bees to Hormah, Numbers 14:39-45; Deuteronomy 1:41-44 . On the morrow they were ordered to turn away from the promised land, and to take their journey south-westward, toward the way of the Red Sea: and they abode in the wilderness of Kadesh many days, or years, Numbers 14:25; Deuteronomy 1:40-46 . The ill success of the expedition against the Amalekites, according to Josephus, occasioned the rebellion of Korah, which broke out shortly after, against Moses and Aaron, with greater violence than any of the foregoing, under Korah, the ringleader, who drew into it Dathan and Abiram, the heads of the senior tribe of Reuben, and two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, among whom were even several of the Levites. ( See . ) But although "all Israel round about had fled at the cry of the devoted families of Dathan and Abiram, for fear that the earth should swallow them up also;" yet, on the morrow, they returned to their rebellious spirit, and murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "Ye have killed the people of the Lord." On this occasion also, the Lord threatened to consume them as in a moment; but, on the intercession of Moses, only smote them with a plague, which was stayed by an atonement made by Aaron, after the destruction of fourteen thousand seven hundred souls, Numbers 16:41-50 .
On the return of the Israelites, after many years' wandering, to the same disastrous station of Kadesh-barnea, even Moses himself was guilty of an offence, in which his brother Aaron was involved, and for which both were excluded, as a punishment, from entering the promised land. At Meribah Kadesh the congregation murmured against Moses, for bringing them into a barren wilderness without water; when the Lord commanded Moses to take his rod, which had been laid up before the Lord, and with Aaron to assemble the congregation together, and to speak to the rock before their eyes; which should supply water for the congregation and their cattle. "But Moses said unto the congregation, when they were assembled, Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch you water out of this rock? And he smote the rock twice with his rod, and the water came out abundantly; and the congregation drank, and their cattle also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel; therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them," Numbers 20:1-13; and afterward in stronger terms: "Because ye rebelled against my commandment," &c.
Numbers 27:14 .
The offence of Moses, as far as may be collected from so concise an account, seems to have been,
1. He distrusted or disbelieved that water could be produced from the rock only by speaking to it; which was a higher miracle than he had performed before at Rephidim, Exodus 17:6 .
2. He unnecessarily smote the rock twice; thereby betraying an unwarrantable impatience.
3. He did not, at least in the phrase he used, ascribe the glory of the miracle wholly to God, but rather to himself and his brother: "Must we fetch you water out of this rock?" And he denominated them "rebels" against his and his brother's authority, which although an implied act of rebellion against God, ought to have been stated, as on a former occasion, "Ye have been rebels against the Lord, from the day that I knew you," Deuteronomy 9:24 , which he spake without blame. For want of more caution on this occasion, "he spake unadvisedly with his lips, because they provoked his spirit," Psalms 106:33 . Thus "was God sanctified at the waters of Meribah," by his impartial justice, in punishing his greatest favourites when they did amiss, Numbers 20:13 . How severely Moses felt his deprivation, appears from his humble, and it should seem repeated, supplications to the Lord to reverse the sentence: "O Lord of gods, thou hast begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand; for what god is there in heaven or in earth that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee let me go over and see the good land beyond Jordan, even that goodly mountain Lebanon," or the whole breadth of the land. "But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and he said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up unto the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan," Deuteronomy 3:23-27 .
The faculties of this illustrious legislator, both of mind and body, were not impaired at the age of a hundred and twenty years, when he died. "His eye was not dim, nor his natural strength abated," Deuteronomy 34:7 : and the noblest of all his compositions was his Song, or the Divine Ode, which Bishop Lowth elegantly styles, Cycnea Oratio, "the Dying Swan's Oration." His death took place after the Lord had shown him, from the top of Pisgah, a distant view of the promised land, throughout its whole extent. "He then buried his body in a valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Moab; but no man knoweth his sepulchre unto this day," observes the sacred historian, who annexed the circumstances of his death to the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 34:6 . From an obscure passage in the New Testament, in which Michael the archangel is said to have contended with the devil about the body of Moses, Judges 1:9 , some have thought that he was buried by the ministry of angels, near the scene of the idolatry of the Israelites; but that the spot was purposely concealed, lest his tomb might also be converted into an object of idolatrous worship among the Israelites, like the brazen serpent. Beth-peor lay in the lot of the Reubenites, Joshua 13:20 . But on so obscure a passage nothing can be built. The "body of Moses," may figuratively mean the Jewish church; or the whole may be an allusion to a received tradition which, without affirming or denying its truth, might be made the basis of a moral lesson.
Josephus, who frequently attempts to embellish the simple narrative of Holy Writ, represents Moses as attended to the top of Pisgah by Joshua, his successor, Eleazar, the high priest, and the whole senate; and that, after he had dismissed the senate, while he was conversing with Joshua and Eleazar, and embracing them, a cloud suddenly came over and enveloped him; and he vanished from their sight, and he was taken away to a certain valley. "In the sacred books," says he, "it is written, that he died; fearing to say that on account of his transcendent virtue, he had departed to the Deity." The Jewish historian has here, perhaps, imitated the account of our Lord's ascension, furnished by the evangelist, Luke 24:50; Acts 1:9; wishing to raise Moses to a level with Christ. The preeminence of Moses's character is briefly described by the sacred historian, Samuel or Ezra: "And there arose not a prophet since, in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face; in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and all his servants, and all his land; and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel," Deuteronomy 34:10-12 .
So marked and hallowed is the character of this, the most eminent of mere men, that it has often been successfully made the basis of an irresistible argument for the truth of his divine mission. Thus Cellerier observes, Every imposture has an object in view, and an aim more or less selfish. Men practice deceit for money, for pleasure, or for glory. If, by a strange combination, the love of mankind ever entered into the mind of an impostor, doubtless, even then, he has contrived to reconcile, at least, his own selfish interests with those of the human race. If men deceive others, for the sake of causing their own opinions or their own party to triumph, they may sometimes, perhaps, forget their own interests during the struggle, but they again remember them when the victory is achieved. It is a general rule, that no impostor forgets himself long. But Moses forgot himself, and forgot himself to the last. Yet there is no middle supposition. If Moses was not a divinely inspired messenger, he was an impostor in the strongest sense of the term. It is not, as in the case of Numa, a slight and single fraud, designed to secure some good end, that we have to charge him with, but a series of deceits, many of which were gross; a profound dishonest, perfidious, sanguinary dissimulation, continued for the space of forty years. If Moses was not a divinely commissioned prophet, he was not the saviour of the people, but their tyrant and their murderer. Still, we repeat, this barbarous impostor always forgot himself; and his disinterestedness, as regarded himself personally, his family, and his tribe, is one of the most extraordinary features in his administration. As to himself personally: He is destined to die in the wilderness; he is never to taste the tranquillity, the plenty, and the delight, the possession of which he promises to his countrymen; he shares with them only their fatigues and privations; he has more anxieties than they, on their account, in their acts of disobedience, and in their perpetual murmurings. As to his family: He does not nominate his sons as his successors; he places them, without any privileges or distinctions, among the obscure sons of Levi; they are not even admitted into the sacerdotal authority. Unlike all other fathers, Moses withdraws them from public view, and deprives them of the means of obtaining glory and favour. Samuel and Eli assign a part of their paternal authority to their sons, and permit them even to abuse it; but the sons of Moses, in the wilderness, are only the simple servants of the tabernacle; like all the other sons of Kohath, if they even dare to raise the veil which covers the sacred furniture, the burden, of which they carry, death is denounced against them. Where can we find more complete disinterestedness than in Moses? Is not his the character of an upright man, who has the general good, not his own interests, at heart; of a man who submissively acquiesces in the commands of God, without resistance and without demur? When we consider these several things; when we reflect on all the ministry of Moses, on his life, on his death, on his character, on his abilities, and his success; we are powerfully convinced that he was the messenger of God. If we consider him only as an able legislator, as a Lycurgus, as a Numa, his actions are inexplicable: we find not in him the affections, the interests, the views which usually belong to the human heart. The simplicity, the harmony, the verity of his natural character are gone; they give place to an incoherent union of ardour and imposture; of daring and of timidity, of incapacity and genius, of cruelty and sensibility. No! Moses was inspired by God: he received from God the law which he left his countrymen.
To Moses we owe that important portion of Holy Scripture, the Pentateuch, which brings us acquainted with the creation of the world, the entrance of sin and death, the first promises of redemption, the flood, the peopling of the postdiluvian earth, and the origin of nations, the call of Abraham, and the giving of the law. We have, indeed, in it the early history of religion, and a key to all the subsequent dispensations of God to man. The genuineness and authenticity of these most venerable and important books have been established by various writers; but the following remarks upon the veracity of the writings of Moses have the merit of compressing much argument into few words:—
1. There is a minuteness in the details of the Mosaic writings, which bespeaks their truth; for it often bespeaks the eye-witness, as in the adventures of the wilderness; and often seems intended to supply directions to the artificer, as in the construction of the tabernacle.
2. There are touches of nature in the narrative which bespeak its truth, for it is not easy to regard them otherwise than as strokes from the life; as where "the mixed multitude," whether half-castes or Egyptians, are the first to sigh for the cucumbers and melons of Egypt, and to spread discontent through the camp, Numbers 11:4; as the miserable exculpation of himself, which Aaron attempts, with all the cowardice of conscious guilt, "I cast into the fire, and there came out this calf:" the fire, to be sure, being in the fault, Exodus 32:24 .
3. There are certain little inconveniences represented as turning up unexpectedly, that bespeak truth in the story; for they are just such accidents as are characteristic of the working of a new system and untried machinery. What is to be done with the man who is found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day? Numbers 15:32 . (Could an impostor have devised such a trifle?) How is the inheritance of the daughters of Zelophehad to be disposed of, there being no heir male? Numbers 36:2 . Either of them inconsiderable matters in themselves, but both giving occasion to very important laws; the one touching life, and the other property.
4. There is a simplicity in the manner of Moses, when telling his tale, which bespeaks its truth: no parade of language, no pomp of circumstance even in his miracles, a modesty and dignity throughout all. Let us but compare him in any trying scene with Josephus; his description, for instance, of the passage through the Red Sea, Exodus 14, of the murmuring of the Israelites and the supply of quails and manna, with the same as given by the Jewish historian, or rhetorician we might rather say, and the force of the observation will be felt.
5. There is a candour in the treatment of his subject by Moses, which bespeaks his truth; as when he tells of his own want of eloquence, which unfitted him for a leader, Exodus 4:10; his own want of faith, which prevented him from entering the promised land, Numbers 20:12; the idolatry of Aaron his brother, Exodus 32:21; the profaneness of Nadab and Abihu, his nephews, Leviticus 10; the disaffection and punishment of Miriam, his sister, Numbers 12:1 .
6. There is a disinterestedness in his conduct, which bespeaks him to be a man of truth; for though he had sons, he apparently takes no measures during his life to give them offices of trust or profit; and at his death he appoints as his successor one who had no claims upon him, either of alliance, of clanship, or of blood.
7. There are certain prophetical passages in the writings of Moses, which bespeak their truth; as, several respecting the future Messiah, and the very sublime and literal one respecting the final fall of Jerusalem, Deuteronomy 28.
8. There is a simple key supplied by these writings, to the meaning of many ancient traditions current among the Heathens, though greatly disguised, which is another circumstance that bespeaks their truth: as, the golden age; the garden of the Hesperides; the fruit tree in the midst of the garden which the dragon guarded; the destruction of mankind by a flood, all except two persons, and those righteous persons,
Innocuos ambos, cultores numinis ambos; [Both innocent, both worshippers of Deity;]
the rainbow, "which Jupiter set in the cloud, a sign to men;" the seventh day a sacred day; with many others, all conspiring to establish the reality of the facts which Moses relates, because tending to show that vestiges of the like present themselves in the traditional history of the world at large.
9. The concurrence which is found between the writings of Moses and those of the New Testament bespeaks their truth: the latter constantly appealing to them, being indeed but the completion of the system which the others are the first to put forth. Nor is this an illogical argument; for, though the credibility of the New Testament itself may certainly be reasoned out from the truth of the Pentateuch once established, it is still very far from depending on that circumstance exclusively, or even principally. The New Testament demands acceptance on its own merits, on merits distinct from those on which the books of Moses rest, therefore (so far as it does so) it may fairly give its suffrage for their veracity, valcat quantum valet: [it may avail as far as it goes;] and surely it is a very improbable thing, that two dispensations, separated by an interval of some fifteen hundred years, each exhibiting prophecies of its own, since fulfilled; each asserting miracles of its own, on strong evidence of its own; that two dispensations, with such individual claims to be believed, should also be found to stand in the closest relation to one another, and yet both turn out impostures after all.
10. Above all, there is a comparative purity in the theology and morality of the Pentateuch, which argues not only its truth, but its high original; for how else are we to account for a system like that of Moses, in such an age and among such a people; that the doctrine of the unity, the self-existence, the providence, the perfections of the great God of heaven and earth, should thus have blazed forth (how far more brightly than even in the vaunted schools of Athens at its most refined era!) from the midst of a nation, of themselves ever plunging into gross and grovelling idolatry; and that principles of social duty, of benevolence, and of self-restraint, extending even to the thoughts of the heart, should have been the produce of an age which the very provisions of the Levitical law itself show to have been full of savage and licentious abominations? Exodus 3:14; Exodus 20:3-17; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 30:6 . Such are some of the internal evidences for the veracity of the books of Moses.
11. Then the situation in which the Jews actually found themselves placed, as a matter of fact, is no slight argument for the truth of the Mosaic accounts; reminded, as they were, by certain memorials observed from year to year, of the great events of their early history, just as they are recorded in the writings of Moses, memorials universally recognized both in their object and in their authority. The passover, for instance, celebrated by all, no man doubting its meaning, no man in all Israel assigning to it any other origin than one, viz. that of being a contemporary monument of a miracle displayed in favour of the people of Israel; by right of which credentials, and no other, it summoned from all quarters of the world, at great cost, and inconvenience, and danger, the dispersed Jews, none disputing the obligation to obey the summons.
12. Then the heroic devotion with which the Israelites continued to regard the law, even long after they had ceased to cultivate the better part of it, even when that very law only served to condemn its worshippers, so that they would offer themselves up by thousands, with their children and wives, as martyrs to the honour of their temple, in which no image, even of an emperor, who could scourge them with scorpions for their disobedience, should be suffered to stand, and they live: so that rather than violate the sanctity of the Sabbath day, the bravest men in arms would lay down their lives as tamely as sheep, and allow themselves to be burned in the holes where they had taken refuge from their cruel and cowardly pursuers. All this points to their law, as having been at first promulgated under circumstances too awful to be forgotten even after the lapse of ages.
13. Then again, the extraordinary degree of national pride with which the Jews boasted themselves to be God's peculiar people, as if no nation ever was or ever could be so nigh to him; a feeling which the early teachers of Christianity found an insuperable obstacle to the progress of the Gospel among them, and which actually did effect its ultimate rejection, this may well seem to be founded upon a strong traditional sense of uncommon tokens of the Almighty's regard for them above all other nations of the earth, which they had heard with their ears, or their fathers had declared unto them, even the noble works that he had done in the old time before them.
14. Then again, the constant craving after "a sign," which beset them in the latter days of their history, as a lively certificate of the prophet; and not after a sign only, but after such a one as they would themselves prescribe:
"What sign showest thou, that we may see, and believe? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert," John 6:31 . This desire, so frequently expressed, and with which they are so frequently reproached, looks like the relic of an appetite engendered in other times, when they had enjoyed the privilege of more intimate communion with God; it seems the wake, as it were, of miracles departed.
15. Lastly, the very onerous nature of the law; so studiously meddling with all the occupations of life, great and small;—this yoke would scarcely have been endured, without the strongest assurance, on the part of those who were galled by it, of the authority by which it was imposed. For it met them with some restraint or other at every turn. Would they plough? then it must not be with an ox and an ass. Would they sow? then must not the seed be mixed. Would they reap? then must they not reap clean. Would they make bread? then must they set apart dough enough for the consecrated loaf. Did they find a bird's nest? then must they let the old bird fly away. Did they hunt? then they must shed the blood of their game, and cover it with dust. Did they plant a fruit tree? for three years was the fruit to be uncircumcised. Did they shave their beards? they were not to cut the corners. Did they weave a garment? then must it be only with threads prescribed. Did they build a house? they must put rails and battlements on the roof. Did they buy an estate? at the year of jubilee, back it must go to its owner. All these (and how many more of the same kind might be named!) are enactments which it must have required extraordinary influence in the lawgiver, to enjoin, and extraordinary reverence for his powers to perpetuate.
Still, after all, says Mr. Blunt, unbelievers may start difficulties,—this I dispute not; difficulties, too, which we may not always be able to answer, though I think we may be always able to neutralize them. It may be a part of our trial, that such difficulties should exist and be encountered; for there can be no reason why temptations should not be provided for the natural pride of our understanding, as well as for the natural lusts of our flesh. To many, indeed, they would be the more formidable of the two, perhaps to the angels who kept not their first estate they proved so. With such facts, however, before me, as these which I have submitted to my readers, I can come to no conclusion but one,—that when we read the writings of Moses, we read no cunningly devised fables, but solemn and safe records of great and marvellous events, which court examination, and sustain it; records of such apparent veracity and faithfulness, that I can understand our Lord to have spoken almost without a figure, when he said, that he who believed not Moses, neither would he be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Moses'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​m/moses.html. 1831-2.