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things related of the Delphic oracle, fixed a tube in his bed chamber in such a manner, that, when persons called him at the garden gate, next to his lodgings, though they spoke no louder than ordinary, he heard them as distinctly, as if they were in the room, and returned as audible
This tube he afterwards wrought so artificially into a figure in his museum, that the statue would open its mouth, move its eyes, and apparently speak; when he supposed that the heathen priests by a similar artifice made the superstitious people believe that the idol returned answers to their questions. But the oracle of the God of Israel was totally different from the pagan divinations. It could not therefore originate from the same source, nor be the mere imitation or offspring of heathen superstition.
For frst, none of the pagan communities regarded as their political sovereigns those deities, whose oracles they consulted. For the most part these deities were not owned as the tutelar gods even of those particular cities, in which their oracles were stationed. This remark
applies to the famous oracles of Apollo at Delphi, and of Jupiter Hammon in Libya. But the oracle of Jehovah among the Hebrews was part of a very peculiar and sublime policy, constituting him their supreme Lawgiver and Magistrate, and was of course the appointed and suitable organ of his will on evey great political occasion. A plan of civil policy so novel and grand could not be borrowed from the heathens, whose ideas and customs were opposite to it ; but was evidently designed to counteract their favorite and pernicious idolatries.
We add secondly, that the theocracy of the Hebrews if far more antient than any of the pagan
oracles. A de
istical writer* of the last century has insinuated, that “ while the Jews were in Egypt, they had been much surprised and dazzled with the infallible declarations and decisions of Jupiter Hammon," and from this source took the first hint of a future oracle among themselves. But unluckily for this suggestion, the fact is, that Jupiter Hammon was not born till above four hundred ter the Jews went out of Egypt. The true chronology of Egypt, as restored by the great Sir Isaac Newton, places Hammon, king of that country, about one thousand and thirty four years before the Christian era, that is, about four hundred and fifty years after the law of Moses. This illustrious writer gives us the first rise of heathen oracles in the following words. fore Christ one thousand and two Sesac reigned in Egypt; he erected temples and oracles to his father in Thebes, Ammonia, and Ethiopia, and thereby caused his father to be worshipped as a god in these countries. This was the original of the worship of Jupiter Ammon, and the first mention of oracles I meet with in profane history. The Greeks in their oracles imitated the Egyptians; for the oracle of Dodona was the oldest in Greece, and was set up by an Egyptian woman, after the example of the oracle at Thebes." To derive therefore the Hebrew oracle from the Egyptian, discovers an ignorant or wilful misrepresentation of chronological facts.
We observe thirdly, that the design of the Jewish oracle, and the manner, in which it uttered its decrees, precluded every appearance of imposture or superstition. The design or use of this oracle was very limited. It was not intended to issue any new laws, nor to repeal or change any former statutes, nor to decide private matters,
Dr. Morgan, author of the “ Moral Philosopher."
or common judiciary causes; for a complete and unalterable code of laws was already established, and provision made for their due application in every ordinary case. The oracle was therefore instituted for the sole purpose of determining judicial and public questions of extraordinary moment and difficulty. As such an establishment suited the Jewish theocracy, so it was an instance of great condescention and goodness in God, the political King of that nation, and an inestimable privilege to his loyal subjects, as it insured to them his unerring and gracious direction. Thus, while they had an assembly of the people, who gave their free and general consent to public measures ; while they enjoyed a wise senate, to examine, prepare, and mature those measures, and to check
popular rashness; while they had an executive Judge, to convene and preside in those bodies, to carry their resolutions into effect, and to command the armies of the nation; they were also favored with a standing oracle, by which on great occasions they were to ask the counsel, and obtain the royal assent of their divine Sovereign. This operated as a final check upon any hasty or wrong measures, which the people, senate, or judge might in difficult cases be led to adopt. It was also an excellent mean of keeping alive in that nation a sense of their constant dependence on, and duty to God, as their immediate Director and Patron ; of making them feel that their safety and prosperity must result from a close adherance to his counsels and commands. Thus it directly promoted the pious and beneficent object of their constitution. But it may be asked, might not this business of consulting the oracle be abused ? Might not the High Priest, who alone was authorized to consult it, fabricate or report such answers, as suited his own policy? Might
he not in this way artfully draw to himself and his own order the power and revenues of the state? We reply, there were two different modes, in which Jehovah deck.r. ed his will by the oracles ; each of which was completely guarded against the abuses just mentioned. In the first place God sometimes uttered his voice from the Shechinah or cloud of glory immediately, without being consulted by any one.
In this manner he gave the law on Mount Sinai; his voice was heard by the whole Hebrew nation; and it was attended with such awful solemnity, as not only silenced all suspicion of priestcraft or political fraud, but imparted such credit and authority to Moses, that all the people requested that thenceforward he might be employed as the medium of divine communications. Thus the Hebrew constitution and laws were in the first instance enacted and published in a manner, and amid a scene of miracles, which convinced the whole nation of their divine original. But though the first establishment of their polity wore the evident marks of iinmediate divine agency, and excluded the possibility of human fraud; yet as future public exigences would require special direction from the oracle, the business of consulting it in such cases was entrusted to the high priest ; who was odrered to “ put in his breast plate the urim and thummim, that they might be on his heart, when he went in before the Lord.” It is not essential to determine what the urim and thummim were. It is sufficient to know they were something in the breastplate, which was part of the appropriate dress of the high priest. “Their names, which signify light and perfection, denoted the clearness and fulness, which the oracular responses always carried in them. These answers were not like the heathen oracles, enigmatical and ambiguous, but always plain and
luminous ; nor did they ever fall short of perfection, either of fulness in the answer, or of certainty in the truth of it.” It is remarkable that all the answers of this oracle, recorded in scripture, are clear, explicit, and direct. It also merits our notice, that the high priest could neither consult, nor give answers, whenever he pleased. He could not ask counsel of the oracle on private subjects, nor in a private manner. · The law directed that the judge or chief magistrate should propose the questions to the priest, and be with him, when he consulted the oracle. The account, which the Talmudists give of this matter, seems to be founded in truth.
“ The High priest stood with his face toward the ark, or presented himself with his breastplate before the veil, exactly over against the mercy seat, where the divine presence rested; while the person, who consulted the oracle, stood behind him, and said, shall I do this thing, or shall I not do it? And when he thus presented himself in due manner, God answered him in the same manner as he did Moses, that is, by an audible voice from the mercy seat. For this reason the holy of holies, where the mercy seat stood, is so often styled the oracle ; because from thence Jehovah
forth answers to those, who asked his direction.” Josephus tells us that any person, who thought fit, might be present, when the oracle was consulted, in order to remove all suspicion of imposture, and to give satisfaction to strangers, as well as to Jews. That the answers were given by an audible voice is evident from many plain passages of scripture. Thus when the ten commandments were given, we are told, that God spake all these words, saying. In the after laws the common phrase is, the Lord spake, saying. In another place we are told that when Moses was gone into the tabernacle