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According to act of Congress, in the year 1841, by
In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District of
THE HEBREW THEOCRACY.
(INTRODUCTORY TO CHAPTERS XXI.-XXIII.)
The portion of the Book of Exodus comprised in chapters 21, 22, and 23, contains the record of what God spake to Moses, when he drew near to the thick darkness,' after the people had retired from their close vicinity to the sacred mount. The contents of these chapters relate for the most part to the judicial or political regulations which God was pleased to enact for his people, with the occasional intermixture of precepts pertaining to the system of worship. But in order to convey an adequate idea of this department of the Pentateuch, it will be proper to present to the reader a compendious view of the peculiar civil and ecclesiastical polity of the Hebrews, reserving to our subsequent notes, as occasion may require, a more detailed exhibition of its several distinguishing features.
The form of government which prevailed among the descendants of Abraham, prior to the time of Moses, was the patriarchal. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, governed their respective families in virtue of that paternal authority which was, in the early ages of the world, universally conceded to the fathers and heads of households. The families thus governed were the natural germs of tribes, every one of which obeyed its own prince (723 nasi), who was originally the first. born of the founder of the tribe, but in progress of time appears to have been elected. In proportion as the numbers of the tribes were augmented their heads or patriarchs became powerful chieftains, and under the title of princes, elders, and heads of tribes, answered very nearly to the sheikhs and emirs of the Bedouin Arabs and other nomade races of modern times spread over the regions of the East.
Such was the form of the primitive social organization of the chosen people. But after the deliverance from Egypt, when they were to be set apart, and destined to the great object of preserving and transmitting the true religion, God saw fit to bestow upon them a new civil and religious polity wisely adapted to the purposes which, as a nation, they were intended to subserve. Of these, one of the principal undoubtedly was, to keep alive the grand fundamental truth, that there is but one living and true God, and that he only is to be worshipped and adored, loved and obeyed. With a view to this a peculiar constitution was adopted, familiarly known as the Theocracy; according to which God became the temporal king and supreme civil magistrate of the nation. Not that it was possible for Jehovah to sink his character of Lord and Master of the universe in his capacity as civil ruler of the Hebrews. He was still, as Creator and Judge, the God of each individual Israelite, as he is the God of each individual Christian ; but he moreover sustained, both to every individual Israelite, and to the whole collective body of the Israelitish nation, the additional relation of temporal sove. reign. In this character he solemnly proffered himself to the people at Mount