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MOSAICAL NOTIONS OF GOD.
THE FOUR LAST BOOKS OF THE PENTATEUCH.
The representations of God in the fifth book of the Pentateuch are very superior to those in the second, third, and fourth books. We shall, therefore, first examine the more properly Mosaical notions found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and reserve the consideration of the book of Deuteronomy for a separate section.
Exodus Leviticus Numbers.
Representations of God. Throughout these books God is described as the nationalGod of the Israelites, and only twice it is said that this national-God is the Creator of heaven and earth ;* and even here he seems introduced as such, only with a view of enforcing the sanctity of the Sabbath. He is the God whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped; the God who favoured and protected the forefathers of the Israelites; the God of the patriarchs; the God of their descendants; the God of the Hebrews.
“ Moreover Jehovah said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."
Exod. iii. 6. His name is Jehovah, the unchangeable God. When Pharaoh inquires “Who is Jehovah ?" Moses answers The God of the Hebrews."
“ And Pharaoh said, Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go. And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath
* Exod. xx. 11, xxxi. 17.
met us, let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the
“And Jehovah said unto Moses, Thou shalt say unto him,
“I will be hallowed among the children of Israel : I am Jehovah which hallow you, that brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am Jehovah.”- Lev. xxii. 32, 33.
“ Remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am Jehovah your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God, I am Jehovah your
God.” - Numb. xv. 40, 41. The existence of other gods besides Jehovah is not denied. It is not said, “ There is but one God, Jehovah is his name," but
“I am Jehovah thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.'—Exod. xx. 1, 2. Jehovah is greater and more powerful than all other gods: he has no equal.
· Who is like unto thee, Jehovah, among the gods ? Who is like unto thee?'—Exod. xv. 11. When Moses relates the wonderful works of Jehovah to Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro says
'“ Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly, he was above them all.”
Exod. xviii. 11. How is it possible that, from such representations of God, the Israelites, Pharaoh, or the Egyptians, could have formed any
other notion of him than that he was the national-God of the Hebrews ? At that time every nation had its own peculiar god; and each nation believed its own god to be the most powerful among the gods. It is in the natural order in which ideas are developed, that the god who was first worshipped as a family-God should now be regarded as a national-God, when the descendants of the family had multiplied and become a great nation.
That this God was supposed to have a human form is evident, for he writes the ten commandments on two tables of stone with his own finger.
“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.'—Exod. xxxi. 18.
“And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables." — Exod. xxxii. 16. Jehovah descends on earth, and speaks to his people.
“ Jehovah spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." - Exod. xxxiii. 11.
“ Jehovah descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of Jehovah.”—Exod. xxxiv. 5.
• Thou Jehovah art seen face to face."— Numb. xiv. 14. Jehovah gives Moses the most minute instructions respecting the building of the tabernacle: particularises each nail and plank, the various curtains and coverings, their several colours; and also each holy utensil. He describes the office of the priests, and the dress they shall wear when they approach his presence. He arranges the exact size, form, and position of the altar; and determines the sacrifices, both vegetable and animal, which are to be offered thereon.
Jehovah, like a human potentate, reflects and considers how he shall act in certain difficult positions. He also proves the people, that he may know how to act towards them. He says to the children of Israel
“ Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.”—Exod. xxxiii. 5. In the account given of the visions in which Jehovah appears to Moses, the descriptions of God are very human, very anthropomorphous. But the imperfection of Moses' representations is one proof of their genuineness.
Attributes of God.
Jehovah is a partial God: He is not represented as the father of all people, regarding all with equal love, but as the peculiar protector of the Hebrews; yet he does not shower his mercies upon
Israel for their own sake, nor as a reward for their moral conduct, but for the sake of the covenant which he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“ Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity : because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am Jehovah their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that
I might be their God: I am Jehovah.--Lev. xxvi. 42-45. Jehovah is extremely desirous of the admiration of the surrounding nations : He is anxious that they shall take notice of the powerful assistance he affords to his people, and that all the earth shall be filled with his glory. Therefore, when greatly enraged, he is prevailed upon by Moses to turn from his fierce anger, by being reminded that the heathen will say, that Jehovah is not able to fulfil his promises to Israel.
“ Moses besought Jehovah his God, and said, Jehovah, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand ? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth ? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people."-Exod. xxxii. 11, 12.
“ And Jehovah said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me ? and how long will it be ere they believe me for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. And Moses said unto Jehovah, Then the Egyptians shall hear it (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them); and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land : for they have heard that thou Jehovah art among this people, that thou Jehovah art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them by day-time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because Jehovah was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore hath he slain them in the wilderness.
And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Jehovah be great,
Numb. xiv, 11-22. Jehovah is exceedingly wrathful and revengeful, even against his own people Israel.
“ And Jehovah said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiffnecked people: now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them : and I will make of thee a great nation.”
Exod. xxxii. 9, 10. “ And Jehovah said unto Moses, take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before Jehovah against the sun, that the fierce anger of Jehovah may be turned away from Israel.”
Numb. xxv. 4. When Jehovah is greatly displeased with the whole congregation, and in his anger threatens “ to consume them as in a moment,” when“ wrath is gone out from Jehovah, and the plague is begun,” his indignation is turned away from Israel, and the plague is stayed, by the offering of incense by the high priest.
“ Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them : for there is wrath gone out from Jehovah; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation ; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people : and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.”—Numb. xvi. 46-48. Israel joins himself unto Baalpeor (that is, forsakes the worship of Jehovah, and worships the god Baal), and the anger of Jehovah is kindled against Israel. The priest, Phinehas, is zealous for the cause of Jehovah, and kills an Israelite, who had been publicly guilty of adultery. By this act, after that twenty-four thousand had died, the plague is stayed, and “ Jehovah's wrath is turned away from the child