The Making of a Nation - The Beginnings of Israel's History
by Charles Foster Kent and Jeremiah Whipple Jenks
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Not merely the Hebrews, but practically all ancient nations ascribe the origin of their laws either to a deity or to some great ancestral hero. As already noted, the code of Hammurabi is represented as having been given to him directly by the god Shamash. In the early days of Greek history, the laws of Solon and Draco were formulated. In India we find the laws of Manu, in China the teachings of Confucius, and so on throughout all of the great nations. In some instances, doubtless, many of the laws were actually formulated under the direction of the person to whom they are ascribed; but in many others, as perhaps in the case of the Mosaic code, there was some great judge or king under whose direction certain principles were laid down and simple laws or precedents established, and as a result all later developments were ascribed to him.

In modern times, when legislative bodies are found in limited monarchies as well as in republics, the methods of legislation are necessarily different. Although chosen bodies of men come together to legislate for the benefit of society, as represented by the state, there is still a normal tendency for the ruling class to feel that it is to a great extent the state, and it does not forget its own needs. This class legislation was doubtless existent to a certain extent even when the laws, supposed to be of divine origin, were formulated by prophets and priests, for the real public character of the laws was dependent primarily upon the unselfish beliefs, social and religious, of the writers, whether kings or priests. No one is able to free himself entirely from the influence of class prejudice.

Like the legislatures the courts even are also the product of their times, though naturally conservative. No law can long exactly fit changing conditions. The judge must adapt a law made by one generation to the needs of the next. In so doing he bends it to suit his times, and to further the welfare of his state.

If aeroplanes carrying goods from Pennsylvania to New York over the State of New Jersey let them fall and damage the property of a resident of New Jersey, can our courts invoke the Interstate Commerce Law made before aeroplanes were invented?

And yet there has been throughout the individual history of each nation a gradual improvement in the living conditions of the masses of people, even in the tribal state. As it proved more profitable to preserve a worker than to kill him, captives in war were not slain, but enslaved. As society became more settled, the custom of personally avenging one's wrong by slaying an enemy was modified. Cities of refuge were established, where innocent victims might escape the avengers. All down through the ages there has been a growing tendency to adapt the punishment to the crime, to temper justice with mercy, to realize that the aim of all law is not vengeance or punishment, but the promotion of the best interests of society through the wise administration of justice.



Among savages, as has been said, there is no formulation of law. There is the instinct of the individual to preserve his own life, and there are rules that must be followed if the people are to survive. As has been truly said: "The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear of suffering injustice." The instinct of preservation and sheer necessity compel the people almost unconsciously to follow the rules of their leader.

In most patriarchal societies the fear of the god of the tribe, the overpowering influence of custom and the unswerving directness of the punishment of the man who violates it tend to prevent the development of individuality and of independent thinking; and the normal attitude of practically every person is to obey the customs and the laws, although often those laws leave to the individual a range of action not found in later civilized states. But as the sense of right and justice and the desire to promote the public welfare grow, individualism grows also. Each individual, thrown upon his own resources, learns to think and question and judge. In democratic states he learns to take upon himself the responsibility for his acts, and at length the view becomes prevalent that law exists for the benefit of society. The individual, in judging himself and his attitude toward society, feels that the law must be obeyed because obedience promotes the public welfare. Even when he believes that a law is unwise, or even unjust, he hesitates to violate it, not only because he might be punished therefor, but primarily because it has become wrong, according to his conscience, to violate a law that has been adopted by the representatives of his fellow citizens as just and beneficial. Thus the individual, in later even more than in earlier times, obeys the laws not merely from selfish, but from social and religious motives.

Questions for Further Consideration.

Can you name any modern laws that you think have been framed in the interests of a special social class?

Do you think that the people of to-day are recreant in their respect for or adherence to law?

What do you consider to be the value of such institutions as those at West Point and Annapolis in their influence on the enforcement of law and discipline?

When we speak of "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people," whom exactly do we mean by "people"? Does the word have the same meaning in each of these phrases?

Is it ever right to violate a law of the land? Some people contend that an individual ought to break a human law, provided that it is contrary to divine law. What is divine law? Who decides? Shall the individual decide, or is that the duty of the community? Or of the clergy? Was it right for the Abolitionists to violate the provisions of the fugitive slave law? Were this handful of men, able and conscientious as they were, as likely to be right regarding the welfare of society as the large majority of citizens whose representatives had enacted the fugitive slave law? If a person believes our tariff laws to be unjust, is it right for him to smuggle goods?

Under what circumstances, if any, is it one's duty to disobey a law of the state? Would the fact that an individual believed it his duty to violate the law justify a judge in declining to punish him? Thoreau declined to pay a tax that he believed unjust and accepted his punishment, declaring that if he paid the penalty he might thus arouse public sentiment and secure the repeal of the law. Was John Brown justified in attempting illegally to free slaves by force of arms?

In Great Britain the House of Lords—one of the law-making bodies—is also the highest court of appeal, although the judicial business is mostly done by law lords specially appointed for that purpose. Ought the same men to make and interpret the law? Why?

Subjects for Further Study.

(1) Origin and Growth of Hebrew Law. Hastings, Dict. of Bible, III, 64-67; Ency. Bib., III, 2714-8; Kent, Israel's Laws and Legal Precedents, IV, 8-15.

(2) Growth of Primitive Law. Maine, Ancient Law, 109-165; Wilson, The State, 1-29.

(3) Judicial Decisions as a Factor in the Development of Modern Law. Prin. of Politics, Chap. VI, Ransom, Majority Rule and the Judiciary.




Parallel Readings.

_Hist. Bible_ I, 194-198. _Prin. of Politics_, Chap. II. Lowell, _Essay on "Democracy."

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image. Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.—Ex. 20:3-17.

If ye know my commandments, happy are ye if ye do them.—Jesus.

Wherewithal shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the High God? . . . He hath showed thee, Oh man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?—Micah 6:6, 8.

Most religions are meant to be straight lines connecting two points—God and man. But Christianity has three points—God, man, and his brother—with two lines to make a right angle.—Maltbie D. Babcock.

So many prayers, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind, When just the art of being kind Is all the sad world needs. —Eva Wheeler Wilcox.



The decalogues of Exodus 20-23 clearly represent the earliest canon of the Old Testament. These are intended to define clearly the obligations of the nation to Jehovah, and to place these obligations before the people so definitely that they would be understood and met. As the term "decalogue," that is "ten words," indicates, the Biblical decalogue originally contained ten brief sententious commands, easily memorized even by children. Each of the decalogues is divided into two groups of five laws or pentads. This division of five and ten was without reasonable doubt intended to aid the memory by associating each law with a finger or thumb of the two hands. Exodus 20-23 and its parallels in Deuteronomy contain ten decalogues, that is a decalogue of decalogues, suggesting that originally a decalogue was associated with each of the fingers and thumbs of the two hands even as were the individual words or commands. This system of mnemonics was useful in teaching a child nation. It is still useful to-day. It is important to impress upon the child in this concrete way certain of the fundamental obligations to God and man. The form of the ten commandments in part explains the commanding place which they still hold in religious education throughout Christendom.

The Biblical accounts of the two decalogues in Exodus 20 and 34 vary in details. The early Judean prophetic narrative in Exodus 34 states that these commands were inscribed by Moses himself on two stone tablets. In the later versions of the story Jehovah inscribes them with his own fingers on the two tablets which he gave to Moses. That the older decalogue was written on two tablets and set up in the temple of Solomon is exceedingly probable, for by the days of the United Kingdom the Hebrews were beginning to become acquainted with the art of writing and therefore could read the laws in written form. The recently discovered code of Hammurabi, which comes from the twentieth century B.C., was inscribed in parallel columns on a stone monument. In the epilogue to this wonderful code the king states: "By the order of Shamash, the judge supreme of heaven and earth, that judgment may shine in the land, I set up a bas-relief to preserve my likeness in the great temple that I love, to commemorate my name forever in gratitude. The oppressed who has a suit to prosecute may come before my image, that of a righteous king, and read my inscription and understand my precious words and let my stele elucidate his case. Let him see the law he seeks, and may he draw in his breath and say: 'This Hammurabi was to his people like the father that begot them!'" Thus this devout king of ancient Babylonia graphically defines the motive which, at a later period, led Israel's spiritual leaders to set before the people those principles which made for the welfare both of the nation and of the individual. Each was keenly conscious that the laws which brought social and spiritual health to mankind emanated from the divine power that was guiding the destinies of men.

Hebrew tradition has described in a great variety of narratives the way in which God made known his will to the people. The scene in each case was Mount Sinai, which the ancient Hebrews as well as the Kenites regarded as Jehovah's abode. In the early Judean version, as some writers classify the accounts, Moses alone ascends the mountain, while the people are forbidden to approach. In the Northern Israelite version, the people approach, but being terrified by the thunder and lightnings they request Moses to receive for them the divine message. This later version implies that a raging thunder storm shrouded the sacred mountain, while the early Judean and late priestly narratives apparently suggest an active volcano.

The element common to all these accounts is that under the direction of their prophetic leader, Moses, a solemn covenant was established between the nation and Jehovah, and that the obligations of the people were defined in the decalogue with its ten short commands. The problem is, however, complicated by the presence of two decalogues, one now preserved in Exodus 34 and the other, the familiar ten commandments of Exodus 20. Both agree in emphasizing as primary the nation's obligation to be loyal to Jehovah. The decalogue in Exodus 34, however, goes on to describe in succeeding laws the ways in which the nation may show its loyalty. This was through the observation of certain ceremonial customs and especially the great annual feasts. Did most ancient peoples show their loyalty to the gods by their lives and deeds or by the ceremonies of the ritual and the offerings which they brought to the altars? The first great prophet Amos declared that Jehovah hated and despised feasts and ceremonies unless accompanied by deeds of justice and mercy.

The decalogue in Exodus 34 may well represent the original commands which Moses laid upon the nation, but the higher moral sense of later editors has truly recognized the superiority of the ethical commands of the familiar decalogue in Exodus 20 and given it the commanding place which it richly deserves. (For a probable literary history of this decalogue see Hist. Bible I, 194-5.) The two decalogues of Exodus 20 and 34 are not duplicates the one of the other, but rather supplement each other. The one defines the obligation of the nation, the other of the individual. The Hebrews long continued to retain in their homes the family images inherited from their Semitic ancestors. Not until the days of Amos and Isaiah did the prophets begin to protest against the calves or bulls and the cherubim in the sanctuaries of Northern Israel, and even in the temple at Jerusalem. Hence the second command, "Thou shalt not make for thyself any graven image," some believe comes from a period centuries later than Moses. Possibly, as in Exodus 34:17, it originally read "molten image" and referred to foreign idols. If so, it may come in this older form from Moses. The tenth command which places the emphasis on the motive rather than the act also suggests a maturer age; but with these possible exceptions there is good reason for believing that the spirit and teaching of Moses are embodied in this noble decalogue.

In what respects does the version in Deuteronomy 5 differ from that in Exodus 20? (Hist. Bible I, 195.) Which is probably the older version? What later explanations and exhortations have been added to the original ten words in Exodus 20? In Deuteronomy 5? What was the object of these additions? Are they of real value? Is it profitable to teach them to children to-day?



Into what two groups do the ten words in Exodus 20 fall? And what is the theme of each? Is there a real difference between the command of Exodus 34, "Thou shalt worship no other gods" and that of Exodus 20, "Thou shall have no other gods before me"? Did the Hebrews as a matter of fact tolerate the worship of other gods in their midst centuries after the days of Moses? May the Hebrews have originally interpreted the command of Exodus 20 as a demand that Jehovah be given the first place in the worship and faith of Israel? How did later prophets like Elijah and Isaiah interpret it? (See I Kings 18:21 and Is. 6:1-8; 8:13.) The older command in Exodus 34, "Thou shall make thee no molten gods," was probably intended to guard the Israelites from imitating the religious customs of their heathen neighbors, such as the Egyptians and the Moabites. The command to make no graven image was, it seems, directed not against the public idols but against the private images. These were usually made of wood and were cherished in many a Hebrew family, as for example, that of Jacob (cf. the story of his flight from Laban, Gen. 31) or of David (I Sam. 19). The spirit of the law is truly interpreted by the later priestly commentator who places completely under the ban all attempts visibly to represent the Deity. Is the spirit of this command disregarded by the modern Greek church? In certain parts of the Roman Catholic world? In any phases of Protestant worship?

How is the third command interpreted to-day? The exact meaning of the original Hebrew is not entirely clear. It may be interpreted literally: "Thou shall not invoke the name of Jehovah, thy God, in vain." The interpretation turns on the meaning of the phrase, in vain. This admits of four different translations: (1) Purposelessly, and therefore needlessly or irreverently; (2) for destruction, as when a man calls down a curse upon another; (3) for nothing, that is in swearing to what is not true; and (4) in the practice of sorcery or witchcraft, for this word was frequently used by the Hebrews as a scornful designation of heathen abominations. Is it possible that the original command was intended to guard against each of these evils? If so, it broadens and deepens its modern application. Its fundamental idea is evidently reverence and sincerity.

Why did the Hebrew law-givers place these three laws, which emphasize absolute loyalty to Jehovah, at the beginning of the decalogue? What do we mean to-day by loyalty to God? Loyalty to Jehovah was not only the corner stone of Israel's religion but also of the Hebrew state. During the wilderness period and far down into later periods it was the chief and at times practically the only bond that bound together the individual members of the tribe and nation. Disloyalty to Jehovah was treason, and even the mild code found in the book of Deuteronomy directs that apostasy be punished by public stoning. Loyalty to God or at least to the individual sense of right to-day as in the past is the first essential of effective citizenship. Which is the more essential for the welfare of the state, the manual, the mental or the religious training of its citizens? Where is the chief emphasis placed to-day? Is this right?



The institution of the Sabbath in different countries apparently has a long and complex history. Many explanations have been given of its origin, aside from the direct divine command. The simplest and most satisfactory is probably that it was originally connected with the worship of the moon. There are many indications in Hebrew history that the early ancestors of the Israelites were moon worshippers. To-day as in the distant past the inhabitants of the deserts from whence came the forefathers of the Hebrews make their journeys under the clear, cool light of the moon, avoiding the hot, piercing rays of the mid-day sun. The moon with its marvelous transformations is unquestionably the most striking and awe-inspiring object in the heavens. It is not strange, therefore, that many primitive peoples and especially the nomadic desert dwellers worshipped it as the supreme embodiment of beauty and power.

In China feast days once a month were doubtless connected with the phases of the moon. Among the American Indians time was reckoned by numbers of moons. The custom of observing as sacred the four days, which marked the transition from one quarter of the moon to another, was also widespread. In the Hebrew religion the feast of the New Moon was closely identified with that of the Sabbath. The Hebrew month was also the lunar month of approximately twenty-eight days. The new moon, therefore, marked the beginning of the month and each succeeding Sabbath a new phase of the moon. The fourth commandment seems, therefore, like the others to have a basis in nature, and also, as we shall note, a social reason. Would a commandment be truly divine if it did not have a natural and reasonable basis? By the ancients rest from labor was regarded as one of the essential elements in the sacred day. The prophet Amos denounced the merchants of Northern Israel because they were constantly saying,

When shall the new moon pass that we may sell grain, And the Sabbath that we may open the corn?

In its earlier ceremonial interpretation, to abstain from all labor on the Sabbath was clearly regarded as a primary obligation. Like fasting, it is probably regarded as an offering due to Jehovah. The word "holy" in the Hebrew means set apart, distinct. The Sabbath, therefore, was to differ from the other days of the week. The great ethical prophets of the Assyrian period were the first completely to divest this ancient institution of its heathen significance and give it a deeper religious, and therefore social and humanitarian interpretation. They gave it its true and eternal content, declaring that God decreed that all who labor should have their needed rest. The prophet who added the noble interpretation in Deuteronomy 5:14, 15, declares that it was not only that old and young, master and slave, might rest, but also that even the toiling ox and ass and the resident alien might have the relaxation which their tired bodies required. Thus these inspired prophets traced the ultimate basis of the institution of the Sabbath to God's providence for the innate needs of man. They recognized that it was essential for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the individual and, therefore, for the welfare of the State. That the Hebrews might not forget this obligation, the prophets appealed to the memory of the days when the Israelites themselves were slaves in the land of Egypt and the thought of how Jehovah delivered them from their slavery.

Tuan Fang, the great Manchu viceroy who only recently met martyrdom at the hands of his warring countrymen, said when visiting America a few years ago, "I think that when I return to China I will introduce Sunday in my province." When asked whether he would make it the seventh day, he replied, "Yes, for I think that the seventh day is far better than the tenth. Furthermore, for the convenience and economy of all, I will make it correspond to the Christian Sunday. From my study of the conditions in America and of the needs in China I am convinced that the Sabbath is a most valuable and essential institution."

Later Judaism revived the earlier heathen content of the Sabbath, and lost sight of its deeper political, social and humanitarian significance. Unfortunately the Christian church and above all our Puritan fathers followed the guidance of the later priests rather than of the early prophets. Jesus with his clear insight into human hearts and needs, and with his glowing love for men, repudiated the harsh, mechanical interpretation of the Sabbath current in his day and reasserted the teachings of the great prophets that preceded him; "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Does the social and humanitarian interpretation of the Sabbath obscure or deepen its religious significance? Does the great body of the Christian church to-day accept the interpretation of the prophets and of Jesus, or that of early heathenism and later Judaism? Does the interpretation of the prophets and of Jesus furnish a basis on which all classes in the state can unite in appreciating and in jealously guarding the Sabbath? Does the acceptance of one or the other of these interpretations fundamentally affect our actual observance of the Sabbath? Our motives and our spirit? Our attitude toward our fellow men?



It is generally recognized by scientists that the place of animals in the scale of being is dependent upon the length of their period of infancy. The lower forms of animal life are mature almost as soon as they are born. Minnows never come under the care of their genitors, but are independent as soon as they are hatched. The young of the less developed quadrupeds are soon weaned and forgotten by their parents. The longer the young remain in the care of their parents the higher the form of the animal. The great difference between men and most of the higher animals is thought by many to be dependent upon the length of childhood, and the consequent care and attention given by the parents. Even among human beings it is scarcely too much to say that the longer the time of education and training under proper supervision lasts, the more successful finally at the end of life the man will be. When one considers that Aristotle, who is perhaps generally accepted as the world's greatest thinker, associated with his great teacher, Plato, twenty years, until he was thirty-eight years of age and produced nearly all his important works only after that time, we may see one example of the profound importance of training. The care of parents for their children throughout all of their early years would naturally imply loyalty of children to the parents as a mark of gratitude for the time and affection expended upon them.

In one of his characteristic poems, filled with wise suggestion, Lowell speaks of obedience as that "great tap root" of the state and civilization. The habit of obedience is one of the finest characteristics in family life, and obedience to parents normally becomes obedience to law in the citizen, one of the surest bonds of society and one of the most necessary conditions of social progress.

This fact was so fully recognized in the patriarchal stage of society that the head of the family within the tribe had the power even of life and death over the members of his household. In practically all early societies we find this authority of the parent and the obedience of the child insisted upon as fundamental. In the Orient, even to the present day, this respect of children for their parents is closely bound up with their religion and their civilization. The first wish of every man is that be may have a son to sacrifice to his memory after he has gone. And not only in China, but in many other states we find ancestral worship springing from this relation of father and son.

The primitive Hebrew laws (Ex. 21:15, 17) made death the penalty for a child who struck or cursed his parents. In many countries parricide is considered the worse type of murder. The very old Sumerian law of ancient Babylon punished with slavery the son who repudiated his father. In the fifth commandment no penalty is named for disrespect toward one's parents. The religious sanction only is implied, though the penalty of death was inflicted by the law of the tribe.

In society to-day our aim in education is to develop individuality and for a country with a democratic form of government this type of education should be encouraged. Disobedience or disrespect ho parents has no longer a legal penalty, although the children may be compelled by law to support their parents. But gratitude toward parents and a normal affectionate family life are practically essential to social welfare. Aside from its civic aspect, there is nothing in society more beautiful than the right relationship between parents and children. Jesus, who represented the kingdom of God as a household, found that the best analogy for the relationship of men to God and the best descriptions of the divine nature are based upon this relationship.



The second five commandments of the decalogue deal with the obligations of man to man. These commands still find a central place in modern society as the best guarantees of social stability, security and peace. All of the crimes with which they deal, except that of covetousness, were punished, in Hebrew custom and law, by definite penalties. In many instances these penalties were still more severe among other early peoples.

As soon as society emerges from the savage state, the crime of adultery is always forbidden. Nothing else stirs the worst of human passions as does sexual jealousy. Even to-day probably no other cause is more productive of murder and suicide. In early societies, like that of the Israelites, to this normal human feeling of personal wrong was added that of the loss of property, for wives or concubines were considered as property. Hence the penalty for adultery among the Hebrews, as with many ancient and many modern peoples, was death.

As soon as society develops from the savage into the pastoral stage, private property is recognized in the flocks and herds. In the development of society additional types of property rights appear under various forms of ownership, until it is not too much to say that modern society is based largely upon property rights. The evils associated with property are many, but as yet, at any rate, the rights of property are a benefit to the state, provided those rights are exercised under proper legal supervision. It should be recognized, however, that the command, "Thou shall not steal," may well have various meanings, dependent upon the laws of property. Our law restricts the right of legacy, the sale or even the possession of poisons and often of dangerous weapons. Similarly the degree of ownership of other goods is often limited.

The ninth command, not to bear false witness against one's neighbor, is often interpreted as simply a violation of one's oath in court, or when appended to formal legal papers. But in most modern countries the command is also interpreted so as to include lying. If this crime is defined in its broadest sense, as lack of truth and trustworthiness, it is in many ways the greatest sin man can commit against society. Practically all modern economic and social relations are based upon the security of contracts and upon the readiness of business men and citizens to keep their word. It may be well questioned whether the crime of murder is as dangerous to society as the habit of deception, for the temptation of murder is rare as compared with that of deception; while the evil is often less far-reaching in its consequence and less despicable.

In the last command, that directed against covetousness, the law-giver goes beyond the external act to the motive and spirit in the mind of the individual. If this command is kept in spirit, the others are practically unnecessary. This command is like in kind to that of Jesus in the New Testament, where all the commandments are summed up into one: "Love one another."



The various books that make up our Bible were each written to meet the needs of the people of its day; but inasmuch as the prophets and law-givers from the days of Moses to those of Jesus touched upon the most vital questions of human life and society, these principles are most of them universal and applicable to all tribes and nations and races and peoples.

Necessarily there are many variations in the specific methods by which these commands are to be carried out. The honor and reverence due everywhere to mother and father may well have different applications, depending upon the type of civilization, the customs of living and the type of home life that exist in the different countries. The injunction to keep the Sabbath may well be carried out with the same spirit in various ways. What constitutes theft depends upon the law of the separate state and upon the rights of property granted by that law, but everywhere the primary obligations of the individual to God, to society and to his fellow men remain substantially the same. As he develops a more tender conscience, a more just and kindly attitude toward his fellows, a greater reverence toward his Creator, the spirit with which be keeps these commandments is becoming continually more urgent, whatever may be the specific way in which they may be carried out for the benefit of his fellow men and of society.

Questions for Further Consideration.

Does idol worship exist in any part of the civilized world to-day? If so, where and in what forms?

Are those addicted to profanity necessarily and intentionally irreverent? What is the origin of this habit? How may it be eradicated? What are some of the best methods by which children may be guarded against it?

Do you think it is right for the state to become responsible for the religious education of its citizens?

What is the fundamental difference between the so-called "Continental Sabbath" and that observed by Jesus?

In what way may Sunday be made a day of greater profit and significance to the working man?

What attitude should one take regarding so-called "white" or "society lies"? Under what circumstances, if any, is it right to lie?

Subjects for Further Study.

(1) The Decalogues in Exodus 20-23. Hist. Bible II, 209-24.

(2) Jesus' Version of the Ancient Prophetic Decalogue. See Matt. 5:17, 18; 6:19-21; 12:1-12, 31, 32; 15:3-5; 22: 36-39.

(3) Compare the Moral Ideals of the Decalogue with those of the Present-Day Socialists. Cross, The Essentials of Socialism; Walling, Socialism as It Is; Spargo, Elements of Socialism.




Parallel Readings.

Hist. Bible I, 204-29. Edward Jenks, Hist. of Politics, Chap, III.

Then as they journeyed from the mountain of Jehovah the ark of Jehovah went before them, to seek out a halting place for them. And whenever the ark started, Moses would say,

Arise, O Jehovah, And let thine enemies be scattered, And let those who hate thee flee before thee.

And when it rested, he would say,

Return, O Jehovah, to the ten thousand of thousands of Israel.—Num. 10:33, 35, 36.

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, hovereth over her young, taketh them, beareth them upon her wings, so the Lord his God did lead him and there was no strange God with him.—Deut. 32: 11.

Before man made us citizens, great Nature made us men—Lowell.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet Till earth and sky stand presently at God's great judgment seat; But there is neither East, nor West, border nor breed nor birth When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth. —Rudyard Kipling.

The measure of the success of our lives can only lie in the stature of our manhood, in the growth in unworldliness and in the moral elevation of our inner self.—Henry Drummond.



The accounts regarding the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness lack the unity which characterizes the records of the earlier and later periods. They simply give occasional pictures of the life of the Hebrew fugitives. They must be interpreted in the light of the peculiar background of the wilderness and of the nomadic life which flourishes there to-day as it did in the past. The Hebrews on escaping from Egypt entered the South Country, which extends seventy miles from the rocky hills of Judah southward until it merges into the barren desert. During the later Roman period the northern and northwestern portions of this territory were partially reclaimed by agriculturalists; but in early periods, as to-day, it was pre-eminently the home of wandering, nomadic tribes. This wild, treeless region is divided by rocky ranges running from east to west. Parallel to these are deep, hot and for the most part waterless valleys. In the springtime these valleys are covered by a sparse vegetation; from a few perennial springs flow waters that irrigate the immediately surrounding land; but they soon lose themselves in the thirsty desert. During the summer the vegetation disappears almost entirely, and the struggle for subsistence becomes intense. The nature of the country makes it necessary for its inhabitants constantly to journey from one pasture land and spring to another.

The home of the Hebrews at this time, like that of the modern Arabs, was the tent. The stories that have come down from this period suggest the experiences through which they passed. The constant insistent problem in this region was and is how to secure adequate supplies of food and water. During the greater part of the year the chief food of the people is the milk and curds supplied by their herds. At times, however, these fail to meet the needs even of the modern Bedouin inhabitants of this South Country. They then gather the gum that exudes from the tamarisk tree or the lichens from the rocks. From these they make a coarse flour and bread which keeps them alive until the winter rains again bring their supply of water and pasturage. Some scholars hold that this coarse food was the manna of the Biblical accounts. They argue that later generations, familiar with the barrenness of the wilderness and believing that the Hebrews at this time numbered many thousands, naturally concluded and reported that their ancestors were miraculously fed. At certain periods, also, the meagre fare of the desert dweller is supplemented by the quails which he is able to capture and these are a welcome relief to his monotonous diet. About the perennial springs, which gush forth from the barren rock, there also grew up stories of a miraculous provision for the needs of Jehovah's people; for all springs and especially those in the desert were regarded by the ancients as miracles. Even in more fertile lands the Greeks reared beside such springs temples to the god, whom they thought of as thus signally revealing himself. In the deeper sense each of these early Hebrew stories is historical, for they all record the fundamental thought and belief that through this strenuous, painful period, even as in later crises in their history, Jehovah was guiding his people and giving them not only food and water, but also that training in the school of danger and privation which was essential for their highest development.

Even more insistent than the constant struggle for food and water were the dangers that came from the hostile tribes which already occupied this much-contested territory. For the possession of the springs and pasture lands they fought with the energy and craft that characterize the Bedouin tribes to-day. Hence, to the Hebrews, fresh from the fertile fields of Egypt, their life in the wilderness represented constant hardship, privation, suffering and danger.



The wilderness left a stamp upon Hebrew character and life that may be traced even to-day in the later descendants of that race. It tightened their muscles and gave them that physical virility which has enabled them to survive even amidst the most unfavorable conditions. It taught them how to subsist on the most meagre food supply and to thrive where the citizen of a more prosperous land would inevitably starve.

It is probable that in their early nomadic experiences the Hebrews acquired those migratory habits which, intensified by unwonted vicissitudes, have carried them to almost every civilized land. In the wilderness they also learned the art of nomadic warfare which, to win victories, depended not so much upon open attack as upon strategy. The common dangers of the wilderness life tightened the racial and religious bonds that held them together. Only by the closest union could they resist the perils that beset them. Upon the complete devotion of each man to the interest of the tribe hung his fate, as well as that of the community as a whole. Hence arose that devotion to race, that readiness to avenge every wrong and to protect each individual, even if it cost the life-blood of the tribe, which is illustrated in many of the stories that come from this early period. How far has this racial characteristic survived?

In a community thus closely bound together the morality of each individual was guarded with a jealousy unknown in more settled prosperous communities. Thus, for example, adultery from the first appears to have been punished by public stoning. How far has this characteristic survived to the glory of the Jewish race?

The tribal organization also cherished the freedom of each individual. His voice was heard in its council and his rights were carefully protected. The free atmosphere of the desert tolerated no despotism, and the sheik was the servant of all. These fundamental conceptions of government persisted even when, under the influence of a new agricultural environment, the Hebrews established the kingship and monarchy. It was the struggle between these inherited democratic ideals and those of the neighbors who were ruled by despots, that ultimately disrupted the Hebrew kingdom and called forth those great champions of liberty and social justice, the prophets of the Assyrian period. It was this same democratic atmosphere that made possible the work of those prophets, who openly denounced the crimes of king and people. How far have the Jews throughout all their history allied themselves with democratic movements?



The pressure of constant danger intensified the sense of dependence upon a power outside and above themselves. It led them to look constantly to Jehovah as their sole guide and deliverer. A continued attitude crystallized into a habit. Hence, throughout their troubled career the Hebrews have been conscious of the presence of God and have found in him their defender and personal friend as has no other people in human history.

As later generations meditated on the perils of the wilderness through which their ancestors passed, they naturally felt that only under the immediate guidance of a divine power could they have escaped. They were familiar with the way in which the caravans travel through the desert: in front of the leader is borne aloft a brazier filled with coals. From this smouldering fire there arises by day a column of smoke that, in the clear air of the desert, can be easily seen afar by any who may straggle behind. At night these glowing coals seem like a pillar of fire, telling of the presence of their leader and protector. With the same vivid imagery, according to some interpreters, the later Hebrews pictured the march of their ancestors through the wilderness, and thereby symbolized the belief that Jehovah was then present and that through his prophet Moses he was personally guiding his people. How far have these Old Testament narratives been thus interpreted by modern western readers? Does it change their spiritual significance to seek to learn their origin and real literary character? Are there still to be found, often in humble walks of life, earnest Christians who have similar deep spiritual experiences and describe them with the same vivid imagery and concreteness? Is the value of our conception of God's presence and activity in human history deepened and strengthened or lessened by the thought that in the past, even as to-day, he accomplished his ends by natural rather than contra-natural methods? Are the faith and institutions of nations and individuals developed most through special revelations or through ordinary, constant, daily training and experience? Is it not true that to us all there come at times experiences akin to those that underlie these wonderful narratives?



Desert dwellers take little account of the lapse of time. It is not strange that the data regarding the duration of the sojourn in the wilderness are late and exceedingly vague. The number forty in the Bible is the concrete Hebrew equivalent of many. Ordinarily the forty years represent a generation. A period of about forty years accords well with the facts of contemporary Egyptian chronology. If the Hebrews fled from Egypt about 1200, during the period of anarchy following the breakdown of the nineteenth Egyptian dynasty, they could not have entered Palestine much before the middle of the twelfth century, for Ramses III of the Twentieth Dynasty succeeded in re-establishing and maintaining his authority in Southern Palestine until his death about 1167 B.C.

The account of the spies, preserved according to some writers in variant versions by each of the great groups of Hebrew narratives, indicates that the Hebrews attempted but failed to enter Canaan from the south. For tribesmen like the Israelites, chafing under their harsh environment and recalling the prosperity of the land of Egypt, Palestine with its green hills and fertile fields was an irresistible lodestone luring them on to the conquest. The reasons why they failed to enter Canaan from the south are suggested in the narrative of the spies and confirmed by a study of the historical geographical situation. The Canaanite cities of Southern Palestine were built largely with the view to protecting their inhabitants from the ever-lurking nomad invaders. On the other hand the Hebrews had none of the equipment needed to conquer walled cities. More than that the barren hills of the South Country did not furnish the base of supplies necessary to maintain a protracted siege. The early Hebrew narratives imply that certain nomadic tribes, as, for example, the Calebites, the Kenizzites and the Jerahmeelites, independently gained a foothold on the southern borders of Canaan and ultimately assimilated with the Hebrew tribe of Judah when the latter entered Palestine. The earliest Hebrew accounts, however, as well as the logic of the situation indicate that the great body of the Israelites, whose ancestors had been in the land of Egypt, entered Palestine from the east. Throughout all its history the east-Jordan land has witnessed the constant transition of Arab tribes from the nomadic life of the desert to the more settled civilization, of agricultural Palestine. Here on the eastern heights that overlook the Jordan valley and the land of Canaan the traveller still finds the Arab tents and flocks of the nomads beside the plowed fields of the village-dwellers. On the rolling plains of northern Moab and southern Gilead there are few commanding heights or natural fortresses. The important towns, like Dibon and Heshbon, lay on slightly rising hills. The character of the ruins to-day does not indicate that they were ever surrounded by formidable walls. Whether the Hebrews conquered them by open attack or by strategy, as in the case of the town of Ai, is not stated. It is certain, however, that here they first gained a permanent foothold in agricultural Palestine. From the conquered they here learned their initial lessons in the arts of agriculture and became acquainted with that more advanced Canaanite civilization which they later absorbed. Coming fresh from the desert, where only the fittest survived, their numbers rapidly increased in this quieter and more favorable environment. Soon to the constant pressure of the desert population on the east was added that of over-population, so that necessity, as well as ambition, impelled them to cross the Jordan to seek homes among the hills to the west.



The study of the beginnings of Israel's history in the light of its physical, social and economic environment reveals clearly the many powerful forces then at work. At the same time these do not alone explain Israel's later history and the uniqueness of its character and faith. These later facts plainly point back to a strong, commanding personality, who shaped the ideals and institutions of this early people and left upon them the imperishable imprint of his own unique individuality. Although the traditions regarding him have been transmitted for centuries from mouth to mouth, they portray the character and work of Moses with remarkable clarity and impressiveness. Moses was primarily a patriot. He was also a prophet-statesman, able to grasp and interpret the significance of the great crises in the life of his people and to suggest practical solutions. Moreover, he was able to inspire confidence, and to lead as well as direct. In the harsh environment of the wilderness he was able to adjust himself to most difficult conditions. In leading the Hebrew serfs from the land of Egypt, he became indeed the creator of the future Hebrew nation. In the wilderness be trained that child nation. As judge and counsellor, he taught concretely the broad principles which became the foundation of later Hebrew law.

As guardian of the oracle and priest of the desert sanctuary, Moses, like the later prophet of Islam, but with far greater spiritual power and deeper insight, taught his people not only the art of worship, but certain of the great essentials of religion. He it was who formulated in a positive faith the wholesome reaction, which he and his kinsmen felt against the gross polytheism of Egypt. The inspiration of all of Moses' work was his own personal faith. The first great vision of Jehovah's character and purpose that he had received in the land of Midian was doubtless often renewed amidst the same wild, impressive scenes. The exact nature of the deeper, more personal side of his character and faith must be inferred from the close analogies that may be drawn from the memoirs of Isaiah or Jeremiah. At the same time it is a mistake to infer that Moses' beliefs were as lofty as those of the later prophets who stood in the light of a larger experience. On the other hand, it is not just to disregard the fact that Moses, being a prophet, was far in advance of the primitive age in which he lived. Not only did Moses create the Hebrew nation and teach it its first lessons in practical politics and religion, but he it was who first instilled into his race commanding loyalty to the one God, Jehovah, and taught that religion was more than form: that it meant right thinking and doing. Thus Moses was the forerunner of Israel's later prophets, who broke away from the narrow heathen interpretation of religion and defined it in terms of life and service.



It is interesting and important to note that Israel's history was in most respects like that of other growing nations. In the beginning pastoral society and tribal government develop among savages primarily through the domestication of animals. The young of the animals slain in the hunt are kept first as pets: then, when as a result of the thriftless nature of the savages supplies at times become scarce, the pets are slain for food. As pets become more common and population increases, the advantage of breeding for use is apparent, and private property, in distinction from community possessions, appears. The growing herds naturally develop the need of regular service. To meet this need the institutions of permanent marriage and bondage arise and the wife or wives and the slaves perform the added work. With the custom of fixed marriage and the possibility of tracing ancestry through the father, comes in time ancestral government. The Hebrews seem to have had this type of government, even in the days of Abraham; and it lasted until the tribes broke up into clans and families, when they acquired permanent homes and became agriculturists in the land of Canaan.

Many of the characteristics of the tribe disappear almost entirely, as wandering nomads settle in a fixed abode, and the patriarchal rule changes to that of a royal or democratic government. Customs become fixed in formal statutes. Property in land becomes more important than that in herds. War becomes the business of a special army, instead of the frequent duty of all.

But in the tribe there is little competition. All work for the community, or for the family, rather than for individual interests. Each man is primarily responsible, not to the state, but to the head of his family or clan, who in turn answers for his family to the tribal chief.

Certain of these tribal institutions and ideals have left their indelible impress on modern society. The tribe was exclusive. All those not born into the tribe had no right, no welcome there, for their coming would tend to restrict the common pasturage. They would be a burden. Though the tent-dweller might be hospitable to a guest, an alien had no rights except on sufferance. If he were needy and were received, he usually became a serf or slave. And yet this exclusiveness is the germ of our patriotism, a noble trait that may ultimately, but not soon, be replaced by a cosmopolitan love for humanity.

Allied to this is the personal bond, that obtains in the tribe, instead of the territorial unity of the modern state. A Frenchman is such because he is born in France; an Israelite is such because he is the son of Abraham and knows his people as his blood kinsmen.

This personal tie makes for peace and democracy. Building on this Jewish tribal trait, Jesus calls all men brethren because sons of a common Father. His Kingdom of God, likewise, is not territorial. Its citizens are bound together by the tribal bond of a common brotherhood and fatherhood. Thus the lessons, so deeply impressed in the childhood of the race, have a large and growing significance for the present and future.

Questions for Further Consideration.

What reasons may be given to prove that love for humanity is a virtue more useful to modern civilization than patriotism?

Does the movement for universal peace find any encouragement in the teachings ascribed to Moses?

On what grounds can the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites be defended? How did it differ from the taking of Tripoli by Italy? Or of Porto Rico by the United States?

In the light of the oldest records, was Moses' work in your judgment accomplished by natural or supernatural methods?

What were the chief characteristics of Moses? What place does he hold in history?

Is modern socialism in any way a revival of the principles underlying the old tribal organization? How far did Jesus in his idea of the Kingdom of God build on the old tribal idea?

Subjects/or Further Study.

(1) Characteristics of the Wilderness South of Palestine. Hastings, Dict. Bib. III, 505-6. Kent, Bib. Geog. and Hist., 42, 43.

(2) The Religion of Moses. Hastings, Dict. Bib., Extra Vol. 631-634; Marti, Old Testament Religion, 36-71.

(3) Compare the tribal organization and customs of the Israelites with those of the American Indian tribes of to-day. Publications of the Indian Association; publications of the Mohonk Conferences.




Parallel Readings.

Hist. Bible II,1-4.1. Prin. of Politics X.

That the leaders took the lead in Israel, That the people volunteered readily, Bless Jehovah!

Zebulun was a people who exposed themselves to deadly peril, And Naphtali on the heights of the open field. Kings came, they fought; They fought, the kings of Canaan, At Taanach by the Waters of Megiddo, They took no booty of silver. Prom heaven fought the stars, From their courses fought against Sisera, The river Kishon swept them away, That ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, march on with strength! When did the horse-hoofs resound With the galloping, galloping of their steeds? —Judg. 5, 9, 18-22 (Hist. Bible).

This was King Arthur's dreame. Him thought that there was comen into his lande many gryffons and serpents, and him thought that they brent and slew all the people in the land. And then him thought that he fought with them, and they did him passing great damage and wounded him full sore, but at the last he slewe them all.—Malory, Hist. of King Arthur; Mort d' Arthur.

Young gentlemen, have a resolute life purpose. Don't get mad and don't get scared.—Burleson.



In the light of the preceding studies, the motives that led the Hebrews to cross the Jordan become evident. As the Pilgrim Fathers, to secure a home where they might enjoy and develop their own type of belief and methods of civilization, braved the dimly known dangers of the sea and the wilderness, the Hebrews braved the contests that unquestionably lay before them. Between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea the Jordan is fordable at thirty points during certain parts of the year. The first of the two main fords in the lower Jordan is just below the point where the Wady Kelt enters the Jordan from the west and deposits its mass of mud and silt. The other ford is six miles further north below the point where the Wady Nimrin comes down from the highlands of Gilead. Here to-day the main highway connecting the east and the west-Jordan country crosses the river. This spot was probably the scene of the historic crossing at the beginning of Hebrew history.

Certain writers hold that variant accounts of the most important facts in early Hebrew history have here been preserved. Traces of three different versions of the crossing of the Jordan may still, in their judgment, be found in the third and fourth chapters of the book of Joshua. The latest and most familiar narrative represents the crossing as a superlative miracle and the waters of the rushing river as piled up like a wall on either side. The Northern Israelite version appears to have stated that the waters of the Jordan were dried up, implying that the Hebrews crossed during the late summer when the river was easily fordable. The earliest narrative, the Judean prophetic, states that "the waters rose up in a heap, a great way off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarathan, and those that went down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off" (Josh. 3:16b). From other references in the Old Testament it would appear that the city of Adam, which means red earth, is to-day represented by the ruins of Ed-Damieh, which stands near the famous Damieh ford at the point where the river Jabbok enters the Jordan.

It is interesting to note in this connection that a reliable Moslem historian states that in the year 1257 A.D. the retreating Moslems found it neccessary to repair the foundations of an important bridge which stood at this point. When the workmen arrived on the scene they were amazed to find the riverbed empty and were able by working rapidly to complete the repairs before the waters came rushing down. This remarkable phenomenon seemed to them to be due to the direct intervention of Allah; but the historian fortunately records the cause: it was a huge landslide a little further up the river which temporarily dammed its waters. The oldest Biblical account of the crossing of the Jordan may point to a like natural cause. If this be true, does it imply that Jehovah had no part in preparing the way for the future conquests of his people? Would a miracle, such as that recorded in the late-priestly tradition, be any stronger proof of God's presence and activity in human history than are the provisions which we to-day call natural?



Contemporary inscriptions and recent excavations make it possible to form a very definite conception of conditions in Canaan when the Hebrews crossed the Jordan. The dominant civilization was that of the Canaanites, the descendants of the Semitic invaders from the desert who entered Palestine centuries before the ancestors of the Hebrews. Naturally they settled first along the fertile coast plains that skirt the western Mediterranean. In later times these were known as the Phoenicians. As the population increased, the Canaanites pushed their outposts along the broad valleys that penetrated the uplands of Palestine. These valleys were especially fertile and attractive in the territory later known as Galilee and Samaria. The wide Plain of Esdraelon and its eastward extension, the Valley of Jezreel, cut straight across the central plateau of Palestine. The Plain of Esdraelon was the strongest centre of the Canaanite civilization. A few outposts were established in the Jordan valley, as for example, Laish, later known as Dan, at the foot of Mount Hermon, and Jericho, at the southern end of the Jordan valley. Only a few Canaanite villages were found along the more barren hills of Southern Canaan. There the peoples and civilization still retained the imprint of their desert origin.

Along the coast plains and across the great Plain of Esdraelon ran the main highways that connected the three earliest and most nourishing centres of the world's civilization: the Egyptian on the southwest, the Amorite on the north, probably between the southern Lebanons, and the Babylonian to the east and northeast. For centuries the Canaanites had absorbed the ideas, institutions, and culture of these stronger peoples. So fundamentally had the Babylonians impressed the Canaanites that practically all of the inscriptions coming from this early period are written in the Babylonian script. Even in writing to their Egyptian conqueror during the fourteenth century, the Canaanite kings of Palestine used this same Babylonian system of writing. The Amorite civilization had so strongly influenced the Canaanites that to-day it is difficult for the archaeologist to distinguish between the two. By certain of the Biblical writers the terms Canaanite and Amorite are used interchangeably. As early as 1600 B.C. Egypt, under the ambitious conquering kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, had overrun Palestine and for the next three or four centuries ruled it as a tributary province. The nearness of Egypt made its influence still more powerful, so that in nearly every mound and Canaanite ruin the excavator finds hundreds of reminders of the presence of the Egyptian civilization.

The Canaanites had long since left behind them the nomadic state and had developed a strong agricultural and commercial civilization. Their life centered about certain important cities like Megiddo on the southwestern side and Bethshean on the eastern side of the Plain of Esdraelon. Their cities were usually built on a low-lying hill in the midst of rich encircling plains. They were provided with thick mud walls, behind which the inhabitants felt secure from attack. Over each city ruled a petty king, whose authority, however, did not extend far beyond the surrounding fields that belonged to the inhabitants of the town. Generally these city states were independent. In many cases they were hostile to each other; and the long rule of Egypt had tended to intensify this hostility, for Egypt had depended upon this local jealousy to maintain its control. The diversified physical contour of Palestine likewise strengthened this tendency toward separation rather than unity.

This type of political organization favored the growth of polytheism rather than the worship of one god. Each city had its local god or baal, which was worshipped at a high place either within the city or on some adjacent height, while in the larger cities elaborate altars and temples were reared to them. These local deities were regarded as the gods of fertility which gave to their worshippers ample harvests and numerous offspring both of the family and of the nock. The principle of generation occupied such a prominent place in the Canaanite cults that in time they became exceedingly immoral and debasing. To secure the favor of their gods the Canaanites brought rich sacrifices to their altars and observed certain great annual festivals with ceremonies very similar to those later adopted by the Hebrews.

While the Canaanites were on a much higher plane of material civilization than the Hebrews, they ultimately fell a prey to those hardy invaders of the desert: (1) Because they were incapable of strong united action, and (2) because their civilization was corrupt and enervating. Courage and real patriotism were almost unknown to them even as early as the seventeenth century B.C., when the Egyptian king Thutmose III invaded the land of Palestine. Their strong walls and their superior military equipment, however, made their immediate conquest by the Hebrews impossible. This explains why the earliest account of the initial conquest, now found in Judges 1, is chiefly devoted to recounting the strong Canaanite cities which the Hebrews failed to conquer.



In the light of our present knowledge of the Canaanite civilization it becomes evident why most of the early Hebrew conquests were in the south. The only large Canaanite city which they could conquer in the early days was Jericho. Recent excavations have also shown why later generations regarded its capture by the Hebrews as a miracle, although many modern interpreters hold that the early account does not imply that it was by supernatural means. Like most of the Canaanite cities, it was situated on a slightly rising eminence, close to the foothills that on the west rose abruptly to the central plateau of Canaan. Northward, eastward, and southward, extended for miles the level plain of the Jordan river, which plowed its way through its alluvial bed, six miles east of Jericho. Close by the site of the ancient city came the perennial waters of the Wady Kelt with which it was possible to irrigate its fields. Past the town ran the main highway from across the Jordan, along the northern side of the Wady Kelt, to join the great central highway that extended through the centre of Palestine. Jericho was, therefore, the key to the land of Canaan, and its capture was necessary if the Hebrews were to maintain their connection with their kinsmen east of the Jordan.

The ruins of the ancient Canaanite town rise between forty and fifty feet above the plain. It is an oblong mound containing altogether about twelve acres. The excavations have disclosed a large part of the encircling wall. It was a construction of excellent workmanship which still stands practically intact, testifying to the accuracy of the early Hebrew tradition. Its foundation is a wall of rubble sixteen feet high and six to eight feet thick, sloping inward. On the top of this foundation, which rested on the native rock, was built a supplemental wall of burnt brick six or seven feet in thickness and rising even now in its ruined condition on an average eight feet above the lower wall. Thus the original wall must have towered between twenty and thirty feet above the plain. At the northern end of the city stood the citadel, made of unburnt brick, three stories high. Even the stone staircase which led to the top is still intact.

According to these investigators the late tradition that these walls fell flat to the earth as the result of a miracle finds no confirmation in the ruins themselves. The older Hebrew account, however, in their judgment agrees perfectly with the evidence revealed by the spade of the excavator. In imagination it is easy to follow the perilous journey of the Hebrew spies and to appreciate the importance of the negotiations by which they secured the co-operation of Rahab and of the clan within Jericho which she represented. Later come the Hebrew hordes from across the Jordan bearing with them the ark which symbolized to them the presence of Jehovah, who had led them on to victory in many an early battle. Behind their impregnable walls the inhabitants of Jericho must have laughed scornfully at the desert host, that seemed utterly incapable of an effective attack or of a protracted siege. According to many modern interpreters the earliest Hebrew host marched silently about the Canaanite stronghold. At first the inhabitants of Jericho, accustomed to Arab strategy, undoubtedly held themselves ready for defence. When no attack came, their vigilance was gradually relaxed. At last on the seventh day, when conditions were favorable, at the preconcerted signal, a trumpet blast, the Hebrews rushed toward the walls, the gates were probably opened by their allies within the city, and Jericho was quickly captured. The method of attack recorded in the prophetic narrative was very similar to the strategy used a little later by the Hebrews in the capture of the smaller towns of Ai and Bethel. They are the methods still employed by the Bedouins in their attacks upon the outposts of Palestine.

The fierce nomadic instincts of these early Hebrew warriors are revealed by the fate which they visited upon Jericho and its inhabitants. The recent excavations confirm the Biblical testimony that for several centuries after its initial capture the ancient town was left a heap of ruins.

Its inhabitants were slain as a great sacrificial offering to Jehovah, whose true character as one who loves all mankind was first appreciated by the inspired prophets of a much later From the plain of Jericho two or three roads led up to the central plateau of Canaan. The main road along the Wady Kelt ran past the villages of Ai and Bethel. At most they were small towns and easily captured. Along this highway went the Hebrew tribes later known as the Ephraimites and Manassites. The other roads led through the wilderness southwestward to the heart of Judah. The frontier town of Bezek, mentioned in the ancient narrative of Judges, has not yet been identified. The name is perhaps but a scribal corruption of Bethlehem or of Bethzur further to the south. The other towns ultimately captured by the southern tribes were Hebron, with its copious water supply, Debir to the southwest, and Arad and Hormah which lay on the borders of the South Country. The capture of these six or seven outposts represents the first stage in the conquest and settlement of Palestine. It was significant because it meant that the people from the wilderness had gained a foothold in the land where they ultimately found their home. It inaugurated Israel's pioneer period. The Hebrews were no longer homeless wanderers in the desert, nor sojourners in a foreign land. At this point Israel's history as a nation properly begins, although the complete union of the tribes was not consummated until nearly a century later.



The impression conveyed by the later passages in the book of Joshua that the Hebrews within a period of seven years became complete masters of the land of Canaan is different from that made by the older records in Judges. These indicate that the process was gradual, extending through several generations. Except at two or three great crises, this conquest appears to have been peaceful rather than by the sword, a process of settlement and colonization rather than of capture. Today throughout many parts of Palestine one may still see, close to the cities, the black tents and the flocks of the Bedouin immigrants. In the days of the Hebrew settlement the Canaanites were largely confined to the fertile valleys. The uplands were still open to the men from the desert. Here the Hebrews pitched their tents and finally built their rude homes. In this more favorable environment their families and their flocks gradually increased until they began to encroach upon the territory already occupied by the older inhabitants. The resulting quarrels and differences were sometimes settled by the appeal to the sword; more frequently by alliances sealed by intermarriages. The early narrative in the ninth and tenth chapters of the book of Judges gives a vivid picture of the resulting condition: in the strong Canaanite city of Shechem, Hebrews and Canaanites had so far intermarried that Abimelech, a product of this intermarriage, succeeded his father Gideon as king of the first little Hebrew kingdom. At Shechem Hebrews and Canaanites also worshipped side by side in the common sanctuary, which was known as "the temple of Baal of the Covenant."

Under the pressure of the increased population certain of the Hebrew tribes migrated and seized new territory. Such a migration is vividly recorded in Judges 17 and 18. The little tribe of the Danites, finding the pressure of their kinsmen on the north and east and that of the Philistines on the west too strong, captured the Canaanite city of Laish at the foot of Mount Hermon and thus found a permanent home in the upper Jordan valley.

It was a cruel, barbarous age in which might was regarded as right. Thus, Ehud the Benjamite, who treacherously gained admittance to the presence of Eglon, secretly slew this Moabite oppressor of the Hebrews. This act instead of being condemned was regarded then and even by later generations as an example of courageous patriotism. Was his act justifiable? How would it be regarded in America to-day?



The growing numbers and strength of the Israelites at last alarmed the Canaanites. A certain leader by the name of Sisera formed a coalition of the strong Canaanite cities encircling the Plain of Esdraelon. The centre of this coalition was the powerful city of Megiddo, the ruins of which on the south-western side of the plain still remain to testify to the natural strength of this ancient stronghold. The policy of the Canaanites was to keep the different Hebrew clans apart and thus prevent united action. In the words of the ancient song:

In the days of Jael the highways were unused, And travellers walked by round-about paths. The rulers ceased in Israel; A shield was not seen in five cities Nor a spear among forty thousand.

The one who alone appears to have understood the crisis and to have been able to stir the Israelites to action was Deborah, the prophetess of the central tribe of Issachar. Israel's struggle for independence is graphically recorded in the ancient poem found in Judges 5. The later prose version of the incident, found in Judges 4, supplements the earlier poem. To a chief of a northern tribe of Napthali, a certain Barak, she turned as the natural leader in the struggle for independence. Together they sent out the summons to the different northern tribes. The southern tribes of Judah and Simeon were apparently ignored. The distant tribes of Asher, Dan and Reuben were engrossed in their local interests and failed to respond. The tribesmen who rallied forty thousand strong on the northern side of the Plain of Esdraelon represented the great central Hebrew clans. The ancient song, sung by the women as they met the returning warriors, makes it possible to reconstruct the battle scene. Through the broad valleys that lead into the Plain of Esdraelon from the north came the sinewy, unkempt, roughly clad and poorly equipped Hebrew tribesmen, each clan led by its local chief. They had "come up to the help of Jehovah against the mighty." Tribal patriotism, the memory of past grievances, the desire for plunder, and zeal for Jehovah the God who had led their forefathers through the wilderness into the land of Canaan, stirred their courage and fired them to deeds of valor. Well they chose their battlefield, out on the plain on the northern side of the muddy, sluggish river Kishon. On the slightly rising ground they faced the Canaanite warriors who came out across the plain from the city of Megiddo, six miles away. The Canaanites were armed with chariots and the best weapons that the early Semitic civilization could produce, but one thing they lacked,—courage, fired by religious zeal.

Again a striking natural phenomenon appears suddenly to have turned the tide of Israel's fortune. On the eve of battle a drenching thunderstorm seems to have swept across the alluvial plain transforming it into a morass and the sluggish Kishon into a rushing, unfordable river. In the words of the ancient triumphal ode:

From heaven fought the stars, From their courses fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away, The ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, march on with strength! Then did the horse-hoofs resound With the galloping, galloping of their steeds.

The Hebrew even brings out the sound of the sucking of the horses' hoofs in the soft mud. The storm not only gave to the Hebrews, who were on foot, a vast advantage, but it meant to them that Jehovah, whose chariot was the clouds, his weapons, the lightning, and who spoke through the thunders, was fighting in their behalf.

The victory was overwhelming. Sisera, the Canaanite leader, fled, but only to fall later, ignominiously slain by a woman. Henceforth the Canaanite cities of central Palestine were occupied by the Hebrews. The vanquished were either enslaved or absorbed in intermarriage. From them, however, the Hebrews learned skill in agriculture and received a heritage of art, ideas and customs that had been developed by the Canaanites for many centuries. How far was this heritage beneficial to the Hebrews? What temptations did it bring to them? Did it mark a step forward in their development? Were the early Hebrews a pure or a mixed race?

More important than the spoils and lands which fell to the Hebrews was the new demonstration of Jehovah's ability and willingness to deliver his people which they received in the battle beside Kishon. Throughout all of Israel's colonial period the chief force binding the scattered Hebrew tribes together was their faith in Jehovah. The victory greatly strengthened that faith and prepared the way for the closer union which was necessary before Israel could become a permanent force among the nations of the earth. The vision of what they had been able to achieve through united action never completely faded from the memory of the Hebrews. Their subsequent experiences also tended to revive this memory. Amidst the warring elements in Palestine a powerful nation was gradually taking form; in the school of hard experience it was learning the lessons that were fitting it for a large life.



The final stage in the evolution of Israel is recorded in the opening chapters of I Samuel and is best studied in detail in connection with the history of the nation at its zenith. We have studied the forces which made the nation. A brief summary will indicate the transition to the next period, that of the kingdom. The victory over the Canaanites gave the Hebrews possession of the land and left them free to coalesce into a united nation; but the centrifugal tribe spirit for a time proved the stronger. Under Gideon a beginning was made in kingdom making, but owing to the cruelty and inefficiency of his son Abimelech, the first Hebrew state lasted little more than a generation.

The compelling power that finally brought all the rival Hebrew tribes together under a common leader was the conquest of their territory by the warlike, ambitious Philistines. In inspiring the Benjamite chieftain Saul to deliver his countrymen in their hour of shame and peril, Samuel the prophet proved the true father of the Hebrew kingdom. Under the compulsion of common danger the Israelites not only followed Saul to victory, but also made him their king. From this time on Israel took its place among the nations of the earth.

During their formative period the Hebrews acquired many characteristics that they have retained throughout their history. From their early nomadic life they inherited physical strength, hardihood, adaptability even to the most unfavorable environment, courage, perseverance and that individual initiative and self-reliance which come from protracted struggles against seemingly insuperable odds. It was a harsh but thorough school in which the infant nation Israel was trained. Their life in the wilderness and in the period of settlement also developed an intense love for freedom and that democratic spirit that was the glory of Israel and the foundation of its political institutions.

People passing their time chiefly out of doors and enjoying the uplifting stimulus of an unfettered life in the open naturally acquire a feeling of awe and reverence for the God of nature that is often lacking in the city dweller. Especially is this true if, like the early Hebrews, the dwellers in the open feel that need of divine protection which is begotten by constant exposure to danger, hunger, hardship and hostile foes. The many crises and the signal deliverances that came to the Hebrews not only intensified their faith, but also gave them the consciousness that the God in whom they put their trust was both able and eager to deliver them. Prophets like Moses strengthened the popular sense of Jehovah's immediate presence and interpreted the significance of each event.

Israel's early faith was simple, like that of a little child. While its beliefs were crude, its trust was strong. It was this trust and loyalty that carried the child nation through its early crises and ultimately bound together the separate tribes into a united commonwealth. Thus Israel's early history illustrates the fundamental truth, that the most essential, the most powerful force in the making of a nation is a simple, practical, every-day religion.

Questions for Further Consideration.

Should the successful and easy crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites be ascribed to miracle or to their own promptness in seizing an opportunity unexpectedly offered?

In what ways did the religious zeal of the ancient Hebrews in battle differ from the fanatical zeal of the modern Moslem in fighting the Christians? Or the zeal of the Japanese before Port Arthur?

When, if ever, is assassination justifiable as a political expedient? Give your reasons.

Were the Hebrews justified in the methods employed in securing control of Palestine?

Is it right for a progressive nation to compel a backward nation to submit? Were the Americans on this ground justified in seizing the lands of the Indians?

What were the chief tenets in the early faith of the Hebrews?

How did Israel's faith affect its political development?

In what important ways was religion effective in making the English state? The American commonwealth?

Subjects for Further Study.

(1) The Structure and Literary History of the Book of Judges, McFadyen, Introd. to O. T. 76-83; Kent, Student's O. T. I, 26, 27.

(2) Conditions in Canaan at the Time of the Hebrew Settlement. Paton, Early Hist. of Syria and Pal., 157-60; Maspero, Struggle of the Nations, 111-208; Encyc. Bib. II, 2223-5.

(3) The Motives that Inspired the Leaders of the American Revolution. Fiske, Lodge, Bancroft or other writers on this period.


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