« НазадПродовжити »
order, and union throughout a peaceful land, the eyes of Joshua were closed, and the century which well may bear the name of Moses was ended. A new age of longer duration and more varied character succeeded, in which both the religion and the liberty of the Jews seem to have followed the same general course of culmination and decline that we have observed amongst other ancient nations. It is apparent without a word of explanation, that a people, thrown in, as it were, amongst the struggling and the idolatrous races of the ancient world, required some sort of separation from the rest, in order that the truth of which it was the casket should be unscathed by the burning sins to whose contact it was necessarily exposed. It is not so apparent, but equally true, that the isolation of heart which became a duty with the Jews, clenching against the stranger” and the bondman the hand that was opened wide to the brother, would impair at last the only superstructure possible to the laws of fear and justice. These, indeed, were too narrow foundations, compared with those that have since been laid, to be still further reduced by misconceptions of their design, and yet be able to bear the weight of years. Another consequence, stranger still, ensued; and the people, who began by excluding other nations from the pale of their own privileges and sympathies, went on to imitate the vices of life and the falsehoods of religion by which they chose, as it were, because they never sought to remove them, to be environed. The institutions that had recourse at first to exclusiveness for protection" were found, in after years, to have lost their hold upon the very nation to which they had been delivered. The conquest of Canaan was not completed without calamities. Defeats would happen as well as victories, and the cornfields, newly won, would be often wasted by the armies of the ejected or the neighbouring people. Separate tribes engaged in separate hostilities; and it more than once occurred, that one or two of them yielded, for a time, to the arms, or, what was worse, to the idolatries, of their enemies. The nation was largely reduced in numbers,” and greatly embittered, of course, in spirit; but the worst marks upon their character were those of which they were susceptible to an extreme degree, as a stubborn and passionate race themselves. War began to be sought for love of land or blood; and the wildest famaticism displaced the calmer, or at least the more dogged, faith in which their fathers, even if they wavered, had died. The glimpse of Boaz and his reapers” is a solitary picture of the labor and the simplicity that might yet survive in the midst of warfare. A truer representative, however, of the rude and dissolute habits of the generations following Joshua would be found in the hero Samson, whose exploits seem to have been unusual, only because of the gigantic strength by which they were achieved. He was one of the Deliverers, or Judges,” appointed from time to time to lead the nation or the tribe in battle, rather than to exercise the civil authority consistent with the second name they bore. Unless the judge, indeed, were also a priest, he had no power to interpret the law; and there are long intervals during which none appear at all, until some alarm of sedition or invasion required the appointment of a champion to do the work of deliverance. Throughout these rugged and perilous times, authority was generally in the hands of the elders, the princes, and especially the priests, according to the classifications previously enumerated. The people, or the chiefs among them, were of course relieved from much supervision by the departure of such a man as Joshua, much more by that of Moses; still it does not appear that any change in their rights or privileges politically” occurred, but rather, only, that those they had were oftener exercised. The judge was the popular chief. tain; yet the lesson taught in the laws was not forgotten, and obedience to the earthly ruler was still regarded as submission to Jehovah. An artful leader, it seems, might then have become the tyrant of the pious or the superstitious nation; but it is a proof of their free spirit, that, though often erring and often humbled in these years of warfare, they were not enslaved. An hour which Moses had foreseen arrived at last. Aware, apparently, that the people, or their posterity, whom he left behind, were too restless to persevere in the ways of their religion or the simple institutions of their government, he is reputed to have composed some ordinances concerning the future monarch, in order that the change thus long prepared might be too easy, at length, to shake the principles, or even the forms, on which the work of his hands and of his heart was founded. One “whom the Lord their God should choose” was then to be appointed king; and as the choice of the new ruler was made independent of the merely popular will, so, on the other hand, he was himself enjoined to keep the laws inviolate, and forbidden to “lift his heart above his brethren.”* The elders, as is well remembered, came to Samuel, the venerable priest and judge, who was at that time governing the nation with his sons. “Behold, thou art old,” said the elders, “and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” The old judge was displeased, perhaps regretting his own loss of authority, but more probably persuaded that the nation was rejecting the government of God in seeking an earthly sovereign. Foretelling with unavailing earnestness the sorrows that would be brought upon his race through its monarchs, Samuel was interrupted by the people, who were gathered round him:—“Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” Such were the demands on the one hand, in contradiction to the forebodings on the other; the fulfilment of both being still to be read in the election of Saul, and in his lurid reign, which seems like flame enkindled in a broken forest. Samuel was again employed to anoint a successor to the yet living, but unfaithful, monarch on whom his first choice had singularly fallen. The boy who kept his father's sheep grew up through battles and persecutions, while Saul declined in piety and in authority; and when David came to the throne, at last, it was as though the better spirit amongst his race had triumphed over the iniquities which lay in wait against its safety. The character of David hardly seems to be that of a single individual, so widely does it expand with graces, temptations, abilities, and errors. Its lighter and its darker lines describe, on one side, the failings to which the national character
50 See Levit., XXV.44 et seq.; slaves, more rarely proselytes. Cf. Deut., XV. 3, 7, 11, XXIII. 20. Exod., XII.49; 2 Chron. II. 17, 18. Numbers, XXXV. 15, will explain It was not, however, for want of what is meant by “stranger.” Our laws that the common charities of word would signify sojourner to the life were neglected towards those Jews, whose “strangers ” were of different blood and faith. See properly the heathen, but sometimes Deut., X. 18, 19, XIV. 28, 29.
5l “For wherein,” asked Moses, “shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight ! Is it not that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” Exod., XXXIII. 16.
52 From 600,000 “men of war.” under Moses to 400,000 under the Judges; the second census having been taken about fifty years after the first. Numbers, XXVI. Judges, XX. 2.
53 “Boaz came and said unto the 54 Judges, II. 16, III. 9. reapers, The Lord be with you! 55 See the account of the assemAnd they answered him, The Lord bly, Judges, XX.1-11. bless thee!” Ruth, II. 4.