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usual, gave Venu serpents,
separate themselves from the congregation, who were to be con- A.M. 2514. sumed in a moment. The former, as at other times, interceded, and B.C. 1490. the three ringleaders of the faction were placed apart; when, at the voice of Moses, the earth opened and swallowed them up, their families and property, with their associate delinquents. Surprising as it may appear, this awful judgment failed to produce a proper impression upon the infatuated multitude; for, on the very next day, there was an universal murmur against Moses and Aaron, when the God of Israel again descended in the magnificence of his displeasure. Fourteen thousand seven hundred were consumed by a plague, which was only arrested in its fatal progress by Aaron, at the command of his brother, standing up between the living and the dead, to offer incense, and make an atonement for the people.
On arriving at Mount Hor, Moses had the melancholy task of A.M. 2553. accompanying Aaron in his ascent to its summit, where the latter B.C. 1451. died; immediately after which, he invested his son Eleazar with his Aaron's sacerdotal garments, at the express command of God. This loss death. was commemorated in a general mourning of thirty days.
Soon afterwards, at an encampment on the borders of Edom, the Visitation of people became extremely discouraged; and, as usual, gave vent to Sergefying their feelings in impious speeches against Moses and against God. This produced the tremendous visitation of fiery flying serpents, through the effects of whose envenomed bite multitudes perished. The people once more humbled themselves; and, upon their application to Moses, he besought the Lord, by whom he was directed to make a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole: “and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” It has been supposed, that in this emblem there was at once a significant punishment of the idolatry of the times, and a striking typical representation of the Saviour of the world, and the redemption which he accomplished for the human race. Had it pleased God, says Mr. Bryant, to have explained his meaning to his prophet upon the spot, I presume, that in express terms, it would have amounted to this : “You have been devoted to serpent- Serpent worship; and I punish you by these very reptiles which you have worst idly adored. You have esteemed the serpent the emblem of health, life, and divine wisdom; and under this symbol, you have looked up to an unknown power, styled Thoth and Agathodæmon, the benign genius. For these things you suffer. But I will show you a more just and salutary emblem, by which health and life, as well as divine wisdom, are signified. It is a type of the true Agathodemon, that human divinity, the physician of the soul, by whom these blessings are one day to accrue. Behold that serpent upon a perch or cross; whoever looks up to him shall be saved from the present venom of the serpent, as well as from primeval infection. This is an emblem of that benign power, that good genius, by whom the world will be cured of every inherent evil."
A.M. 2553. After occupying various stations, upon their arrival at Mount B.C. 1451. Pisgah, ambassadors were sent to Sihon, king of the Amorites, to
negotiate for a passage through his border; but instead of consent
ing, he collected a numerous army, and attacked the Israelites; Defeat of who, under the direction of Moses, vanquished the enemy and took
immediate possession of all his territories. A similar result soon Og.
afterwards followed the hostility of Og, king of Bashan.
Moses now led forward the people to an encampment in the plains of Moab, where they continued till they crossed over Jordan. Balak, the king of the country, invited Balaam to come and denounce curses upon these multitudinous strangers; but the magician having, contrary to the requisition of his sovereign, blessed them, Balak endeavoured, at the instigation of Balaam, to corrupt them by sending women into the camp to allure them to idolatry and fornication. This impious stratagem so far succeeded, that 23,000 who had conformed to the worship of Baal-peor were put to death, besides 1,000 others consigned to execution by the judges. The Midianites having adopted similar measures, Moses was commanded to make war against them; and Phineas, the grandson of Aaron, who had nobly resisted the prevalent iniquity, being appointed to head the expedi
tion, overthrew the foe with 12,000 men. Moses
The fortieth year of Israel's predestined residence in the wilderwarned of ness, was now hastening to its termination, when Moses was
apprised, that he would not be permitted to enter the promised Num. xx. 7– land, in consequence of an act of disobedience of which he had for
merly been guilty ; but that he should enjoy the satisfaction of surveying it from the summit of Nebo, and then expire. His eminent prudence, and his resigned piety, were remarkably conspicuous on this occasion. Having first entreated the appointment of a successor to his office of leader of the children of Israel, who should faithfully discharge the high duties of such a situation, he was commanded solemnly to designate Joshua to the work; a man whose extraordinary qualifications enabled him honourably to perform it. Moses then proceeded to order a variety of regulations with regard to civil and ecclesiastical affairs ; particularly stating the limits of the land they were to subdue, and the divine will respecting its distribution: then assembling the people about him, he recapitulated the principal events that had occurred since the time of their departure out of Egypt, and exhorted them to fidelity, plainly declaring the fatal consequences of rebellion, and the felicities which would certainly accrue from obedience. Afterwards he caused the nation to assemble and ratify the covenant of Horeb; and presenting a copy of the law to the priests and elders, enjoined the solemn reading of it every seventh year to the whole assembled nation. His charge to Joshua is most pathetic and affectionate, assuring him of the presence of his God in going to take possession of Canaan, and the divine determination never to leave or forsake
129 them. The substance of his different addresses being compressed A.M. 2553. into a song of exquisite beauty and finish, it was first read, and B.C. 1451. then delivered to his successor to be learned by the people and their descendants. At length he summoned them together once more, to receive his final benediction, which was not only pronounced with great solemnity, but blended with several predictions relating to each tribe distinctly. He had no sooner uttered it, than he ascended Mount Nebo alone, and from its highest point, distinguished by the name of Pisgah, he contemplated the promised inheritance, and departed to that “recompence of the reward,” which he had so Death. often and so long anticipated. This occurred in the year before Christ, 1451, when Moses had attained the age of 120, and when none of his faculties were impaired: “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” His sepulchre is said to have been in the valley of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but the precise spot was miraculously concealed, probably for the purpose of preventing an idolatrous veneration of it. The children of Israel held a general mourning on account of their illustrious chief for thirty days.
To these authentic particulars of the life of Moses, which we have deduced from the volume of inspiration, the Jewish Rabbins have, as usual, made a variety of whimsical additions, which it is quite needless to quote; but the accounts of Josephus, and other historians, must not be wholly discarded as fabulous. This author and Eusebius, affirm that he acted as a general in the wars of Egypt, and obtained many splendid victories. Philo states, that at his birth, he was distinguished by a more than ordinary beauty of countenance, which seems confirmed by the testimony of the Acts, where he is said to have been “exceeding fair :” and Josephus represents his aspect and figure as so engaging at an early age that people would leave their occupations to gaze at him.
The meekness of his spirit is repeatedly mentioned in scripture ; Personal and it was combined with what are very uncommon associates, character. fortitude and zeal. With what boldness did he censure the disobedience of the people ; and with what a fearless and peremptory tone did he frequently address them, though wholly exposed to the mercy of an incensed multitude ! Still more than this, there was a portion, and no ordinary portion of that vehement enthusiasm, which is an essential ingredient in the constitution of every great character; for, discontented and rebellious as the people were, so devoted was their leader to their interests, that on one occasion, he declared that he would submit to death and the loss of the promised Ex. xxxii. 32. blessings, if he could obtain a pardon for the Israelites. This feeling betrayed itself in almost every remarkable action of his life, and led him to become the intrepid opposer of sin, and the no less intrepid and powerful intercessor with God for the transgressors; on the one hand, checking, by his holy heroism, the progress of rebellion, which must have proved ruinous in its consequences; and
Num. xi. 29.
A.M. 2553. on the other, arresting in mid-way the divine displeasure, already B.C. 1451. on its destructive march. It was long indeed before the flame of
enthusiasm appeared; but when once kindled, it blazed with a glorious and inextinguishable brightness. His affectionate regard for the people, whom he had guided through the wanderings of the desert, was in no degree diminished by the prospect of his own departure; for, after it was revealed to him, that he should not enter the promised land, he continued the same unwearied assiduity, in promoting the interests of the Israelites, as had distinguished his previous conduct. In all the great transactions of his eventful life, we perceive a singular wisdom in his proceedings: in the distribution of wealth and honour, he furnished the most decisive proofs of liberality and disinterestedness. His freedom from all the vices and littlenesses that are apt to adhere to eminent rank and exalted station, was strikingly manifest; particularly on one occasion, when the spirit of prophecy was diffused amongst the seventy elders, and
Joshua desired Moses to forbid Eldad and Medad, who were 29. reported to be prophesying in the camp:-“ Enviest thou,” said
he, “ for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them.” Over all these virtues was thrown the charm of piety-a piety not only genuine, but of so pre-eminent a nature as to qualify him for extraordinary intercourse with the Deity. Scripture testifies, that he conversed with God, “ face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend ;” and accordingly the Jews have always affirmed, that he enjoyed a much higher species of inspiration than any subsequent prophet. It was his exclusive privilege to address God at all times without the assistance of the High Priest, who consulted, by means of the Urim and Thummim; which, with the miracles he was enabled to perform, conferred upon him a decided pre-eminence and superiority
above every other human being. His character as a legislator, or must be referred to a future part of this account of his life. As a
writer, his peculiarities are modesty, simplicity of narration, diversity of style, and copiousness of information. In the Pentateuch he has furnished an account, luminous, concise, and accurate, of the earliest period of time, commencing with the creation itself, and closing with the arrival of the Israelites on the borders of the promised land; of which they were to take possession under the guidance of his illustrious successor in office. This narrative comprehends a period of more than two thousand two hundred and fifty years. Moses is also said to have composed many of the psalms; and the most anciently received opinion is, that he was the author of the book of Job. Many apocryphal works have been ascribed to him; the evident design of which was to raise them to distinction, by investing them with the splendour of his name.
The celebrity of Moses extended far beyond the limits of his nation; so that his history, in its main features, though distorted
Character as legislator and writer,
by many additions and misrepresentations, may be traced in the A.M. 2553. narratives of pagan antiquity. The Greeks, the Romans, the B.c. 1451. Chaldeans, the Egyptians, and others, not only admitted his veracity as a historian, and his superiority as a legislator, but enrolled him under different names among their gods, and preserved a no very obscure memorial of his actions in the fables of their mythology. The dispersion of the Jews into different countries at an early period, furnished them with the means of authentic information: and the love of the marvellous, which is so inherent in the human mind, induced them to construct entertaining, and ingeniously deceptive narratives, upon the narrow basis of historic reality. Among the most distinguished inventors of this kind, may be reckoned Manetho, an Egyptian, and priest of Heliopolis, who lived under Ptolemy Philadelphus, and whom Josephus quotes liberally in his first book against Appion ; distinguishing, however, what he derived from the records of the Egyptian temples, to which he was secretary, from what he relates of his own, or has collected from mere report.
II. PROOFS OF THE DIVINE MISSION OF MOSES. The most cursory perusal of the preceding biographical sketch, His divine must not only have prepared the reader for this division of the sub- mission. ject, but have suggested some of its most obvious demonstrations. They are not so recondite as to require a very profound and labori. ous investigation; though, unhappily, the passions and prepossessions of mankind render it necessary to bring forward, into more distinct prominence, what, to an unprejudiced mind, is already quite apparent. Omitting a variety of minute details, we shall endeavour to establish the argument by an induction only of the most important particulars.
1. There was an extreme improbability in the attempt of Moses His to release the nation of Israel from Egyptian servitude, an improbability which would have stamped it with the indelible disgrace of adventurousness, not to add, of folly—upon the supposition of his being undirected by a commission from heaven, and unsupported by supernatural assistance. Some part of his conduct in early life had, as we have seen, exposed him to the severity of the Egyptian law-he had no external means of recommending himself to the nation he proposed to emancipate, or to justify his pretensions to become their leader: but, without a friend or ally amongst them, he expected to gain their universal concurrence, to place themselves under the direction of his yet untried capacity. How was it probable, that an individual so circumstanced, should be able to collect and combine under his standard, so many hundred of thousands of people in a state of considerable dispersion? How could he hope to gain access to the court and the king, without either eloquence to attract, or retinue to overawe them? And yet, in defiance of every