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Mosaism, and made the inspiration and guide of what was both a great religious revival and a great political reformation. To this codification, by an
unknown prophet of the seventh century, of Mosaic precepts and principles, additions were made subsequently by other writers. The whole constitutes the Book of Deuteronomy. How much of it is truly Mosaic, how much of it was contributed by the unknown author in the reign of Manasseh, how much is of even subsequent date, it is not possible now to determine with absolute accuracy, nor is it necessary. The value of the Book of Deuteronomy does not depend upon its Mosaic authorship. Its value depends upon the fact that it is the expression of the faithful few in a degenerate age to the fundamental principles of the founder of their church and their nation.
I must refer the reader to other books for the reasons which have led scholars to the conclusion respecting the nature of the Book of Deuteronomy here so briefly stated.1 Those reasons lie partly in the structure of the book itself. It consists in form of at least three distinct speeches, together with two poems, all of them put into the mouth of Moses. We must either suppose that Moses wrote these orations, or that they were taken down ver
1 The reader who desires a more thorough discussion of the character, contents, date, and authorship of the Book of Deuteronomy will find it in Professor George F. Moore's article on Deuteronomy in the Cyclopædia Biblica, and in Dr. Driver's Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy in the International Critical Commentary.
batim by some contemporaneous reporter and then miraculously preserved through the intervening ages; or else, as the modern scholar does, that this form was employed by a later prophet in accordance with the custom of his times, to give dramatic effect to teaching which he intended should embody the spirit of Mosaic prophecy in its application to a later age. It depends partly on the way in which the laws in the Book of Deuteronomy fit the reforms initiated by Josiah, which are declared by the historian to have been based upon a law-book found in the temple. It depends partly on the title of the book itself, which signifies the "second law," or "second giving of the law," a title which, derived apparently from the earliest ages, at least indicates that from the earliest ages the book was regarded as a second or supplementary edition of the Mosaic legislation.
It will be seen from this brief sketch that those are mistaken who suppose that the new criticism regards the Book of Deuteronomy as a pious fraud. This would, indeed, seem to me to be an impossible hypothesis. Pious frauds have been perpetrated by pious men, it is true, but always either in some selfish or in some ecclesiastical interest- that is, either for the benefit of the writer or for the advantage of some churchly organization. An ethical book founded upon fraud would be an anomaly in literature. The Book of Deuteronomy is not an ecclesiastical book; it is not written in the interest of the priesthood; it is essentially an
ethical book. Its ethical standards are noble, its tone throughout pure and practical. It is morally inconceivable that such a book should be inspired by dishonest motives; equally inconceivable that a great moral revolution, like that wrought in the reign of Josiah, should be inspired by a pious fraud; and the modern critic does not regard the Book of Deuteronomy as a fraud. Books written by one man in the name and phraseology of another are not uncommon in literature. Defoe's history of the plague of London is not a fraud because it purports to be written by one who had passed through the scenes of the plague, though it was not written for fifty years afterward; Plato's report of the dialogues of Socrates is not a fraud because no man can tell how much of the thought in the dialogues belongs to Socrates and how much to Plato. Seven centuries after Moses a prophet writes a book, in which he incorporates the current traditions respecting Mosaic laws; elaborates, modifies, interprets, and applies them to existing social conditions; couches them in the language of the great statesman; after a fashion of historians in all ages puts them dramatically in the statesman's mouth; and then, as if to prevent any reader from imagining that he intends these manuscripts to be taken as actual rescripts of the original law, describes them as a second law.1 To call this a fraud is to confound moral distinctions by treating a common literary method, pursued by writers in all 1 Deut. xvii. 18, Septuagint version.
ages of the world without obloquy, as though it were a literary forgery.1
It is in the Book of the Covenant and in the Book of Deuteronomy that we are chiefly to find the political institutions of the Hebrew people, though light is thrown upon those institutions by incidental references in their sacred history. Nor is it difficult to trace the institutions which grew up in the eight centuries that intervened between these two publications, back to the essential principles involved in the Book of the Covenant: the religious basis of the state, the ethical nature of law, and its sanction in the conscience of the people.
All Oriental nations were absolute despotisms. In the Hebraic commonwealth the three departments of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, were clearly discriminated. There were two representative assemblies: one the Jewish house of representatives, known as the Great Congregation, which reflected the popular will; the other a smaller body, the elders of the tribe or the nation, who acted as counselors of the executive, coöperated in making treaties, and exercised certain judicial functions. It was the Great Congregation that on the report of the twelve spies voted not to
1 "The truth that 'the law came by Moses,' that the foundation of this sacred jurisprudence was laid by this founder, that the germs of the late growth proceeded from him, is not subverted by finding that from one period to another there was a gradual expansion." George P. Fisher, D. D., Address before International Congregational Council, Boston, Sept., 1899.
undertake the subjugation of Canaan, inducted into office Josiah, ratified the selection of Saul as king, carried into effect the proposal of Solomon to establish the ark of the Lord at Jerusalem.1 It was the elders who made treaties, tried capital offenses, and enforced the execution of the laws. It was both judicial and executive. There was a judiciary who were apparently elected by the people themselves; who were forbidden to take fees from their suitors or to pay any regard to the social standing of those who had causes before them; and whose authority, it is clear from many instances in Jewish history, was far from being merely nominal.4 Executive authority was, after the time of Saul, vested in a king, but his powers were limited. The Jewish monarch was a constitutional monarch; no foreigner could receive the imperial crown, no cavalry could be organized by the king to harry the kingdom, no heavy taxation could be levied for the benefit of the king and his court; he could establish no harem, he was himself subject to the laws of the realm.5 That these restrictions on the authority of the king, though sometimes disregarded, were real, not merely formal, is evident from the fact that so unscrupulous a despot as Ahab was not able to accomplish so
1 Num. xiv. 1-5, 10; xxvii. 18-23; 1 Chron. xiii. 1–8; 1 Kings viii. 1-5; Num. xi. 16, 17; Josh. ix. 18-21; Jer. xxvi. 10-16. 2 Josh. ix. 18-21; Jer. xxvi. 10-16.
8 Exod. xviii. 19-26; Deut. i. 9-14.
4 Lev. xix. 15; xxiv. 22; Deut. i. 17; xvi. 19; Exod. xxii. 21. 5 Deut. xvii. 14-20.