Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for the honour of God, procured for him not only the divine approbation, but a perpetual settlement of the priesthood in himself and his posterity.

These disorders being quieted, and the offenders punished, the next business was to take vengeance of the Midianites, * who had debauched the Israelites with their idolatry and fornications. In ordert to which Moses commanded a detachment of twelve thousand select men, a thousand out of every tribe, to go against the Midianites ; among

whom went the zealous Phineas, who carried with him the holy instruments, or trumpets, to animate the people. This was indeed but a small army to invade so great and powerful a people. But God, who put them upon this expedition, went along with them, and blessed them with such wonderful success, that they slew five kings and all their men; among whom was the wicked prophet Balaam, * who though he had before escaped the sword of the angel, yet now fell a sacrifice to the injured people of God. They burned all the cities and castles, took all the women and children prisoners, and seized on their cattle, flocks, and goods: after which, laden with the spoils of their enemies, they return in tri. umph to the Israelitish' camp. In their way home they are met by Noses, and Eleazar the high-priest, and all the princes; who congratulate their success. But Moses, seeing the Midianitish women among the captives, was much offended with the officers of the army for saving them ; for these, said he, by the counsel of Balaam, caused the Israelites to sin against the Lord in the business of Peor, and provoked him to send a plague upon the congregation of Israel. And thereupon he commanded them to kill every male among the children, and every married woman, and to save none alive but the virgin females. After which they were to abide se. ven days without the camp, and both soldiers and spoils pass through the ceremonies of a legal purification; which when they had performed, God directed Moses to take an account of the whole prey, and dividing it into two equal parts, to give one to the soldiers who had taken it, and the other to the rest of the people that stayed at home. Out of the soldiers' portion, he levied the five hundredth part, both of persons and beasts; which he paid as a tribute to Elcazar, the priest, for a heaveoffering of the Lord; and out of the other portion, which belonged to the people, one part out of fifty of both persons and beasts was given to the Levites. Then the officers of the army; out of the other parts of the booty which they had taken, as jewels of goid, bracelets, rings, car-rings and tables, brought their expiatory offering to atone for their transgression in saving the Midianitish

* Midianites. Under this name the Moabites were also comprehended.

op In order. In Numb. xxv. 16. God commanded Moses to vex the Midianites for betraying Israel, and to smite them. But the execution of this order is interrupted by some things, of which, as they are not strictly historical, we shall here give a short account. After the plague, the Lord commanded that the people, that is, the males, should again be numbered. In which the same method was appoint. ed to be taken that was used in the former numbering, Numb. i. For the other tribes, being numbered with respect to war, andto their possessing the land, were reco koned from twenty years old: but the Levites being exempted from war, and excluded from possessions, were numbered from a month old. The account of this is recorded at large in Numb. xxvi. by which it appears, that of all who were first num. bered by Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness of Sinai, Numb. i. there was not then a man left alive, besides Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. So that in less than forty years, six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty grown men (for so many were numbered, ch. 1. beside the tribe of Levi) died in the Wilderness. And yet now at this second numbering there were found six hundred and one thou. sand, seven hundred and thirty men of twenty years old and upwards, besides Levites.

The next thing is an enumeration of divers laws and ordinances; some of which were more general, as relating to the daily burnt-offerings, and other offerings upon particular festivals. Some were more particular, as private vows of virgins, wives, widows, and divorced persons, and the settling of inheritances in the female line. Of which, see from Numb. xxviii. to xxx.

* Balaam. By this it seems he was not got home; and it may be, with rea. son, conjectured, that he was devising much the same mischief against the Hebrews, while he was among the Midianites, as when he was among the Moabites; and therefore he justly fell by the sword of Israel,

women, and their gratulatory offering of thanksgiving for so great a victory. The greatness of which may be gathered from the number of their prisoners and cattle ; the virgin females were thirty-two thousand; all the rest of the people, men women and children were put to the sword. The spoil, in cattle and flocks, consisted of six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep, seventy-two thousand oxen, and sixty-one thousand asses, beside rich goods and ornaments; and to render this victory the more brilliant and memorable, it was obtained without the loss of a single man on the part of Israel, as appears from the report of the officers on a muster* made after the battle.

The Israelites thus taking possession of the country on this side Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, observing it to be a fertile soil, and good pasturage, requested leave of Moses to settle in that country, on condition that they should march with the other tribes to conquer the land in which they were to settle, that they would not return till the other tribes were in possession, and that they would claim no part of the lands that were beyond Jordan. Moses, at first, thought they intended to venture no further, but wished to sit down in a country already gained, and to forsake their brethren, the rest of the tribes: upon which he severely blamed them for attempting, by so base a proposal, to discourage the rest of the Israelites. But when he understood their real design, and upon condition that they should perform their promise, he granted their request.

Aftert this, Moses gives a particular recital of the se. veral stations and removals, which the children of Israel made from Rameses in Egypt, to the river Jordan in Ca

Then he describes the bounds of the promised land, and gives the names of the persons appointed to divide it among the tribes of Israel. And afterwards

naan.

Muster. See Numb. xxxi. 49.

After. The Matter of this paragraph is contained in Numb. ch. xxxj. xxxiv, XXXV.

order is given, that the children of Israel should assign to the Levites forty-eight cities, with suburbs annexed, in which they might live among the tribes, and of which number six were appointed to be cities of refuge to which the man-slayer might flee, who had happened to kill a man unintentionally. But provision was made, that he, who should be duly convicted of wilful murder, should be put to death : and in capital cases it was provided, that none should be convicted of such crimes by the evidence of one single witness. A law was also made, that every daughter, who should possess an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, should be married to one of the tribe of her father, that so the children of Israel might enjoy every one the inheritance of his father; and the inheritance not be transferred to another tribe. This was grounded upon a law before* made, which empowered daughters to inherit lands, where the heirs male should be deficient; and was the case of Zelophehad's daughters, who, upon obtaining this act, were required to marry within the family of their father'st tribe.

By this time, the forty years allotted for their journey were nearly expired. Moses therefore, considering that the present generation of the Israelites, now ready to pass over Jordan to take possession of the promised land, were either born since the law was given at Mount Sinai, or were, at that time too young to understand and remember it, thought proper to make a solemn and public repe-, tition thereof.

A little before his death, therefore, he assembled the people of Israel, on the first day of the eleventh month, in the fortieth year from their departure out of Egypt, (the people being yet in the plains of Moab, by Jordan,

Before. See Numb. xxvii. 1, 2, &c.

+ Father's. Upon this they are said, Numb. xxxvi. 11. to be married to their father's brother's sons. That is, as it is explained in v. 12. They were married into the families, or 10 some that were of tlte families, of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. Which takes off the force of their argument, who from hence would infer the lawfulness of marriages between first cousins.

and near Jericho) he repeated to them briefly all* that had befallen their fathers since they left Egypt: The gracious dealings of God with them; their unruliness, disobedience, and rebellions, which had so often provoked the Lord to punish them, and brought not only upon them, but by their means upon himself also, that griev. ous sentence, That they should not enter into the good land. Which account he often repeats, that these might take warning by the miscarriages of their forefathers. Then he repeated the Decalogue, t and divers other laws and precepts formerly given, though not with. out some variations, with the addition of some new laws on various subjects, and explanations of the old, exhorting them to a strict observation of them, promising they should soon enter the land of Canaan, and commanding them to destroy all the idols of the inhabitants of the country, and to extirpate the people. He encouraged them to be faithful to God, assuring them that if they kept his commandments they should have blessings heaped upon them ; and threatening them with all manner of calamities, if they departed from them. He renewed the covenant with the people in the name of the Lord; commanded them with a loud voice to proclaim on the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, beyond Jordan, blessings to those who kept the Covenant, and curses to all those who broke it, and to erect an altar in the land of Canaan, on which they should write the terms and conditions of their covenant with God. These things, with rehearsals sometimes of their fathers', and their own, prevarications,f Moses not only delivered to the people by word of mouth, but wrote them in a book ; which he committed to the custody and care of the Levites, with direction from the Lord, that they should put it into the side of the ark, to be kept there for a witness against Israel, if they should rebel. Besides this, Moses, by the

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »