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the election of judges, and administration of justice (xvi. 18 20.); - a prohibition against planting groves or setting up idols
near the altar of God. (xvi. 21, 22.). Sect. 3. A repetition and exposition of the judicial law (xvii—xxvi.);
- a command to put idolaters to death, regulations for determining difficult controversies, and concerning the election and qualifications of a king (xvii.) ; – the maintenance of the priests
a and Levites (xviii. 1–8.); - cautions against following the abominations of the Gentile nations, especially divination (xviii. 9-14.); - a prediction relative to the great prophet that should arise (xviii. 15-19.); — criteria for distinguishing false prophets from true ones (xvii. 20—22.) ; – laws relative to the cities of refuge (xix. 1-10.), the treatment of murderers (xix. 11–13.), and the evidence of witnesses (xix. 15—21.); – laws concerning war and the treatment of the Canaanites (xx.); the expiation of uncertain murder, marriage with captives, rights of the first-born, punishment of a disobedient son, &c. (xxi.); - regulations concerning things lost or strayed, the dis
tinguishing of the sexes by their apparel, punishment of adultery, &c. (xxii.); — who may or may not enter into the con. gregation – prohibition against all uncleanness — regulations concerning usury, vows, and trespasses (xxiii.) ; – of divorces, the privileges of newly married men, pledges, man-stealing, wages, the execution of justice, and gleanings (xxiv.) ; – concerning law-suits and punishments, weights and measures, &c. (xxv.) ; – ceremonies to be observed in offering first-fruits (xxvi. 1-15.); - the covenant between God and the Israelites. (xxvi.
16–19.) Part III. The confirmation of the law; for which purpose the law
was to be written on stones, and set up on mount Ebal (xxvii.);prophetic promises to the obedient, and curses against the disobedient (xxviii.);' - an exhortation to obedience from a review of their past mercies, and to dedicate themselves and their posterity to God (xxix.); - promises of pardon to the repentant (xxx. 1–14.);
good and evil set before them. (xxx. 15–20.) Part IV. The personal history of Moses, until his death, containing, Sect. 1. His appointment of Joshua to be his successor (xxxi. 1
-8.); and his delivery of a copy of the law to the priests, to be deposited in the ark, and publicly read every seventh year (xxxi. 9–14.); - a solemn charge given to Joshua, &c. (xxxi.
15—27.) Sect. 2. The people convened to hear the prophetical and histo
rical ode of Moses (xxxi. 28–30.), which occupies nearly the
whole of chapter xxxii. Sect. 3. His prophetic blessing of the twelve tribes, and their pe
culiar felicity and privilege in having Jehovah for their God and
protector. (xxxiii.) Sect. 4. The death and burial of Moses. (xxxiv.)
V. “The book of Deuteronomy and the epistle to the Hebrews contain the best comment on the nature, design, and use of the law:
1 On the prophecies contained in this chapter, see Bishop Neuton, vol. i. diss. vij
the former may be considered as an evangelical commentary on the four preceding books, in which the spiritual reference and signification of the different parts of the law are given, and given in such a manner as none could give, who had not a clear discovery of the glory which was to be revealed. It may be safely asserted that very few parts of the Old Testament Scriptures can be read with greater profit by the genuine Christian than the book of Deuteronomy.” 1
The prophetic ode of Moses is one of the noblest compositions in the sacred volume; it contains a justification on the part of God against the Israelites, and an explanation of the nature and design of the divine judgments. The exordium, Bishop Lowth remarks, is singularly magnificent: the plan and conduct of the poem is just and natural, and well accommodated to the subject, for it is almost in the order of an historical narration. It embraces a variety of subjects and sentiments ; it displays the truth and justice of God, his paternal love, and his unfailing tenderness to his chosen people; and, on the other hand, their ungrateful and contumacious spirit.—The ardour of the divine indignation, and the heavy denunciations of vengeance, are afterwards expressed in a remarkable personification, which is not to be paralleled from all the choicest treasures of the muses. The fervour of wrath is however tempered with the mildest beams of lenity and mercy, and ends at last in promises and consolation. The subject and style of this poem bear so exact a resemblance to the prophetic as well as to the lyric compositions of the Hebrews, that it unites all the force, energy, and boldness of the latter, with the exquisite variety and grandeur of the former.?
I Dr. A. Clarke, Pref. to Deut. p. ii. in vol. i. of his Commentary. 2 Bishop Lowth's Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, Lect. 28. at the beginning. VOL. IV.
ON THE HISTORICAL BOOKS.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE HISTORICAL BOOKS. This division of the sacred writings comprises twelve books, viz. from Joshua to Esther inclusive : the first seven of these books are, by the Jews, called the former prophets, probably because they treat of the more antient periods of Jewish history, and because they are most justly supposed to be written by prophetical men. The events recorded in these books occupy a period of almost one thousand years, which commences at the death of Moses, and terminates with the great national reform effected by Nehemiah, after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity.
It is evident, from an examination of the historical books, that they are collections from the authentic records of the Jewish nation : and it should seem, that though the substance of the several histories was written under divine direction, when the events were fresh in memory, and by persons who were evidently contemporary with the transactions which they have narrated, yet that under the same direction they were disposed in the form, in which they have been transmitted to us, by some other person, long afterwards, and probably all by the the same hand, and about the same time. Nothing indeed is more certain than that very ample memoirs or records of the Hebrew republie were written from the first commencement of the theocracy, to which the authors of these books very frequently refer. Such a practice is necessary in a well constituted state ; we have evidence from the sacred writings that it antiently obtained among the heathen nations (compare Esther ii. 23. and vi. 1.): and there is evident proof that it likewise prevailed among the Israelites from the very beginning of their polity. (See Exod. xvii. 14.) Hence it is that we find the book of Jasher referred to in Josh. x. 13. and 2 Sam. i. 18. and that we also find such frequent references to the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Judah in the books of Samuel and Kings, and also to the books of Gad, Nathan, and Iddo. This conjecture is further strengthened by the two following circumstances, namely, first, that the days when the transactions took place are sometimes spoken of as being long since past,and secondly, that things are so frequently mentioned as remaining to this day, (as stones, names of places, rights and possessions, customs and usages ;)6 which clauses
1 On the Jewish Divisions of the Canon of Scripture, see Vol. II. p. 142.
2 Thus, in 1 Sam. ix. 9., “ he that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer."
3 See Josh. iv, 9. vii. 26. viii. 29. x. 27. 1 Sam. vi. 18.
were subsequently added to the history by the inspired collectors, in order to confirm, and illustrate it, to those of their own age. The learned commentator Henry, to whom we are indebted for these hints, thinks it not unlikely that the historical books, to the end of Kings, were compiled by the prophet Jeremiah, a short time before the captivity: he founds this opinion upon 1 Sam. xxvii. 6. where it is said of Ziglag, that it “pertaineth to the kings of Judah to this day;" which form of expression, he very justly remarks, commenced after the time of Solomon, and consequently terminated at the time of the captivity. The remaining five books, from 1 Chronicles to Esther, he thinks it still more probable, were compiled by Ezra the scribe, sometime after the captivity ; to whom uninterrupted testimony ascribes the completion of the sacred canon.
But, although we cannot determine with certainty the authors of the historical books, " yet we may rest assured that the Jews, who had already received inspired books from the hands of Moses, would not have admitted any others as of equal authority, if they had not been fully convinced that the writers were supernaturally assisted. Next to the testimony of Christ and his apostles, which corroborates all our reasoning respecting the inspiration of the Old Testament, (and, when distinct arguments for any particular book cannot be found, supplies their place,) we must depend, in the case before us, upon the testimony of the Jews. And although the testimony of a nation is far from being, in every instance, a sufficient reason for believing its sacred books to be possessed of that divine authority which is ascribed to them; yet the testimony of the Jews has a peculiar title to be credited, from the circumstances in which it was delivered. It is the testimony of a people, who, having already in their possession genuine inspired books, were the better able to judge of others which advanced a claim to inspiration : and who, we have reason to think, far from being credulous with respect to such a claim, or disposed precipitately to recognise it, proceeded with deliberation and care in examining all pretensions of this nature, and rejected them when not supported by satisfactory evidence. They had been forewarned that false prophets should arise, and deliver their own fancies in the name of the Lord : and, while they were thus put upon their guard, they were furnished with rules to assist them in distinguishing a true from a pretended revelation. (Deut. xviii. 15—22.) We have a proof that the antient Jews exercised a spirit of discrimination in this matter, at a period indeed later than that to which we reser, in their conduct with respect to the apocryphal books : for, although they were written by men of their own nation, and assumed the names of the most eminent personages, - Solomon, Daniel, Ezra, and Baruch, - yet they rejected them as human compositions, and left the infallible church to mistake them for divine. The testimony, then, of the Jews, who without a dissenting voice have asserted the inspiration of the historical books, authorises us to receive them as a part of the oracles of God, which were committed to their care."
1 Dick's Essay on the Inspiration of the Scriptures, pp. 184. 186.
The historical books are of very great importance for the right understanding of some other parts of the Old Testament : those portions, in particular, which treat on the life and reign of David, furnish a very instructive key to many of his psalms : and the prophetical books derive much light from these histories. But the attention of the sacred writers was not wholly confined to the Jewish people : they have given us many valuable, though incidental, notices concerning the state of the surrounding nations, and the value of these no
; tices is very materially enhanced by the consideration, that, until the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the two latest Jewish historians, little or no dependence can be placed upon the relations of heathen writers. But these books are to be considered not merely as a history of the Jewish church : they also clearly illustrate the proceedings of God towards the children of men, and form a perpetual comment on the declaration of the royal sage, that " Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. xiv. 34.) While they exhibit a mournful but impartial view of the depravity of the human heart, and thus prove that “man is very far gone from original righteousness;" they at the same time show “the faithfulness of God to his promises, the certain destruction of his enemies, and his willingness to extend mercy to the returning penitent. They manifest also the excellency of true religion, and its tendency to promote happiness in this life, as well as in that which is to come: and they furnish us with many prophetical declarations, the striking fulfilment of which is every way calculated to strengthen our faith in the word of God."
ON THE BOOK OF JOSHUA. 1. Author and genuineness of this book. - II. Argument. - III.
Scope. - IV. Synopsis of its contents. -- V. Observations on the
book of Jasher mentioned in Josh. x. 13. 1. THE book of Joshua, which in all the copies of the Old Testament immediately follows the Pentateuch, is thus denominated, because it contains a narration of the achievements of Joshua the son of Nun, who had been the minister of Moses, and succeeded him in the command of the children of Israel ; but by whom this book was written is a question concerning which learned men are by no means agreed. From the absence of Chaldee words, and others of a later date, some are of opinion, not only that the book is of very great antiquity, but also that it was composed by Joshua himself. Of this opinion were several of the fathers, and the talmudical writers, and among the moderns, Gerhard, Diodati, Huet, Bishops Patrick and
1 Herodotus and Thucydides, the two most antient profane historians extant, were contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah, and could not write with any certainty of events much before their own time. Bishop Stillingfleet has admirably proved the obscurity, defects, and uncertainty of all antient profane history, in the first book of his Origines Sacræ, pp. 1–65. 8th edit. folio.