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wilt, indeed, deliver this people (the Canaanites) into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their Cities. And
the Lord hearkened unto the Voice of Israel; and de“ livered up the Canaanites: and they utterly destroyed “ them and their Cities*.” Sometimes again, the vow was made by Particulars; by such whose power or situation best qualified them for the execution of this primary COMMAND: and to these, and for this sole purpose, was this strangely mistaken Text directed.
NOYE DEVOTED, WHICH SHALL BE DEVOTED OF MEN,” (or, as it is explained in the immediately preceding verse, -no devoted thing, which a man shall devote unto the Lord)-“ shall be redeemed, but shall “ be surely put to deatht.” These Vows were called the SANCTIFYING or DEVOTING men or things. In which, indeed, the Language of Religion is employed; and very naturally, for the reason given above. "But tó prevent the abusive interpretation of such Vows, in the manner of our PHILOSOPHERS, by suffering more of Religion than the mere language to enter into the idea of them, the People are forbidden to extend their vows to what God himself had sanctified, such as the first-fruits.
Only the firstling of the beasts, which (says Moses) should be the Lord's
firstling, no man shall sanctify it f. But if man was, for this reason, not to sanctify the firstfruits of beasts, much more was he restrained from sanctifying the first-fruits of Man; since the first-fruits of Man were not to be put to death (like those whom human Vows had devoted), but to be redeemed.
In a word, the men here devoted by men, and not to be redeemed, were no SACRIFICES AT ALL, as the firstfruits of the Children of Israel WERE, and, therefore, to be redeemed; but enemies taken in battle, to whom no quarter had been given; and whose lives, by the Law of Arms, were at the disposal of the Conqueror. M. Voltaire's ignorance of the Law of Moses, which occasions him to mistake a M!LITARY EXECUTION for a RELIGIOUS SACRIFICE, might have been well excused, had he forborne to abuse what he did not understand. But to know his Virgil no better is a disgrace indeed. * Numb, xxi. 2, 3. + Levit. xxvii, 29.
1 Ver. 26.
Quis ILLAUDATI nescit Busiridis aras?” says
the great Poet, in plain detestation of human Sacrifices. Yet in the funeral Rites of Pallas, directed by the Hero of the Poem, (the Módel of Religious Piety and civil wisdom) the captives taken in war are slain at the lighted Pile, without the least mark of the Poet's censure or disapprobation. “ Vinxerat, et post terga manus quos mitteret umbris
Inferias, cæso sparsuros sanguine flammam.” For their lives were forfeited by the Law of Arms, and only taken with a little more ceremony than is, at present, in use : the military execution being often performed at Tombs and Altars: for in the Pagan World Superstition had occasioned a confused mixture of things, sacred and profane. But in the Jewish Republic, where the Church and State were incorporated, this commixture made no other confusion than what arises from the mistakes of Men, ignorant of the nature of that Sacred Economy.Their God was their King; and their government in consequence was Theocratical. So that every act of Stąte was in a certain sense, though not in the common one, an act of Religion. Obedience to the Law was inforced by a Vow; and slaughter in and after Battle, a DEYOTEMENT to the Lord of Hosts; in support of the civil command to exterminate the Canaanites.
But besides the singular Form of the Jewish Republic, which brought in the use of this language, the very genius of the People, modelled, indeed, on a theocratic administration, disposed them to improve that mode of speech; so that matters merely civil and domestic are conveyed to us in the style of Religion.
Thus highly coloured, both in the Camp, and in the Temple of the Lord of Hosts, was the language of the Jewish People. Which gave a pretence to the detestable Spinosa, to insinuate, that the whole of the Mosaic Religion consisted only in a Sacred PHRASEOLOGY. Though what he insinuates proves only, yet proves fully, that the DEVOTEMENT in question was a civil
, not a sacrificial Rite. “ Judæi (says he) nunquam causarum mediarum “ sive particularium faciunt mentionem, nec eas curant,
sed Religionis ac pietatis, sive ut vulgo dici solet, devo
“ tionis causa, ad Deum semper recurrunt. Si enim,
ex. gr. pecuniain mercatura lucrati sunt, eam a Deo “ oblatam aiunt; şi aliquid, ut fit, cupiunt, dicunt, “ Deum eorum cor disposuisse; si aliquid etiam cogitant, “ Deum id iis dixisse aiunt," &c.*
Having now examined the pretended PRECEPT or Command; and shewn that it has no relation to HUMAN SACRIFICE, but to quite another thing; we proceed to the EXAMPLE, the case of JEPHTHAH: for, on the Law of human Sacrifices (says the Poct Voltaire) it was, that Jephthah, who sacrificed his Daughter, founded his oath of Devotement.-As this EXAMPLE hath given more alarmi to the Friends of Religion than it deserves, and drawnı them into forced and unnatural constructions of his rash and foolish Vow, it may be proper to consider the Man and his Manners, fairly and at large.
JEPHTHant, a Bastard son of Gilead, by an Harlot, being cast out from a share of his Paternal Inheritance, by the legitimate Issue, took refuge in a strange land. What effects this expulsion must have on his religious Sentiments, we may learn from the case of DAVID; who thus expostulates with Saul, on his exile--" If (says he)
they be your Counsellors, who have advised you to “this unjust usage of me, --cursèd be they before the “ Lord; for they have driven me out this day from
abiding in the Inheritance of the Lord, saying, go,
SERVE OTHER Godst.” Now, if David, so learned and zealous in the Law, was exposed at least to this inevitable temptation, by his exile in a foreign land, what must we think of Jephthah in similar circumstances? who had nothing of David's knowledge of the Law, and consequently none of his zeal for its support. In this foreign Land, Jephthah associated bimself to a dissolute Band of Outlaws, who lived upon rapine and violence: not (it is confessed) the most discreditable profession, in those early ages of barbarous manners. Amongst these men, he soon got to be the leader, and a distinguished Chief in all their lawless expeclitions. So that his fame for military atchievements filled all the Regions round about.
* Tract. Theol. C. I. This was said by Spinosa in order to decry the MIRACLES recorded in Scripture. But with the usual luck of every attempt of the 'same kind. For were this very exaggerated account a true one, a stronger proof, of the reality and frequency of Miracles, could hardly be conceived in the nature of things. Since no People but such who had lived under a real THEOCRACY, could have contracted a turn of mind productive of so singular a Phraseology. t Judges xi. I 1 Sam. xxvi. 19.
At this time, the Israelites in punishment for one of their defections from their God and King, were labouring under the oppression of the idolatrous Borderers. And the Amorites making an excursion into Gilead; the Israelites of this place, as most immediately concerned, sought to provide for theinselves, as well as for their brethren (now become repentant), some Leader of superior power and distinguished capacity. And the Reputation of their Kinsman, Jephthah, made them first apply to him.
But Jephthah, with the frank roughness of a soldier of fortune, naturally upbraided them, on this occasion, with their former neglect and injustice, in permitting his father's, house so cruelly to cast him out, to want and misery; and now, as meanly, without redressing his injuries, to fly to him in their distress.
They reply, they were now come to make him that amends, by their choice of him for Ilead over all the In. , habitants of Gilead.
Jephthah accepts this satisfaction: and an Act is made of their proceedings according to the religious customs of those times.
All this while, the Republic, the THEOCRACY itself, seems to have been little thought of, by this future Judge
Israel. Indeed the honour of so sacred a station had small charms for our licentious Outlaw.
However, in consequence of the reconciliation, and in pursuance of the Choice which the Gilcudites had made of him, for their Head and Leader, he enters on his office. And now, perhaps, for the first time, he observed, towards his enemies, all the punctilios of the Law of Arms.
He sent to know of the Children of Ammon, why they cominitted hostilities against his countrymen. Tliey answered, that the Israelites had unjustly dispossessed them of their Lands; and that they were now assembled in arms to recover the inheritance of their Fathers. To this, the Bastard of Gilead, like an able Advocate, as well as a determined Chieftain, replied, That when Israel, under
the conduct of Moses, had left Egypt, to take possession
of the Land, promised to their Forefathers, and now al
given to them by their God, they had craved leave of the tury
intermediate People, and particularly of the Children of Ammon, for a free passage through their Country, according to the Law of Nations, which being denied unto them, they forced their way; and when hostilely opposed, and their enemies overcome in battle, they took possession, as, by the Laws of War, they might do, of the Lands of the Conquered. So far was well; and suitable to the dignity of a Judge of Israel.
But, by what follows, it appears that our famous Adventurer was, as yet, more than half a Pagan; for thus en he proceeds—So now the Lord God of Israel hath dis
possessed the Amorites from before his People Israel; l'and shouldest thou possess it? Wilt NOT THOU POSSESS
THAT WHICH CHEMOSH, THY GOD, GIVETH THEE TO
POSSESS? So whomsoever the LORD, OUR GOD, shall min drive out from before us, them will we possess This it was said, on the Gentile principle of local futelary Deities,
in all the grossness of that notion; not yet refined and rationalized by our Adventurer, on the ideas of the Law.. But when he resumes the civil argument, he again reasons better; and very solidly pleads the general law of PRESCRIPTION, in defence of his People-While Israel (says he) dwelt in Heshbon and her Touns, and in Aroer,
and her Towns, and in all the Cities that be along, T by the Coasts of Arnon, THREE HUNDRED YEARS;
Why therefore did ye not recover them WITHIN THAT in TIMET? But the force of this Argument making no im
pression, the negotiation ended in an appeal to arms. 1, Jephth:ih leads out his Troops against Ammon. And, in ads the Forefront, without doubt, were those faithful Bands, it which he had collected and disciplined in the Land of Tob.
The first step he takes to invite Success, was the pis making an absurd Pagan Vow, that, if he returned with *** Victory, he would sacrifice, for a burnt-offering to God, a whatsoever came first out of the doors of his house I to
welcorne his return. He came back a Conqueror; and 5 his Daughter, impatient to celebrate his Triumph, being bi the first who met him, was, for his Oath's sake, (though * Judges xi, 23, 24.
| Ver. 26.