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partially considered, whether God does not here affirm that he himself is the author of this invention. When a work is declared in the Scriptures to be “the work of God,” to have been wrought by the “finger of God,” the idea conveyed is that it is the peculiar work of God, and altogether above the power of man. When it is said that Israel is “ the sheep of God's hand,” the meaning is that they belong to God and to no other.
When the Saviour says that he cast out devils by the finger of God, we understand him as declaring that he performs a work to which no other power is adequate but the power of God. When the magicians of Egypt exclaimed of the miracles of Moses,“ this is the finger of God," they acknowledged his divine mission. And so the Psalmist, when he says, “ when I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers,” expresses the idea that no other could create the heavens but God. On the same principle, idols are the invention of men, and are called the work of men's hands, and which their own fingers have made. Is it not then a fair exegetical inference, that, when the law is declared to have been written by the finger of God, the legitimate import of the phrase is, that it was so peculiarly his work that the original invention is due to him ?
I remarked, with two exceptions writing is not even apparently mentioned in the Scriptures before the giving of the law. One of these occurs just before the giving of the law, and refers to a future rehearsal in the ears of Joshua of what Moses should subsequently commit to writing for the instruction and encouragement of his successor; and by no means proves that the art of writing was known to Moses before the time when the law was written. Especially is this remark deserving of consideration, when it is recollected that it is no uncommon thing for the Scriptures to notice future events by this sort of anticipation. The other apparent exception will be found no exception at all. It is recorded in the twentyfourth chapter of Exodus. “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord :—and he took the book of the covenant and read in the audience of the people.” It is said, that as God did not call Moses up into the mount and give him the written tables until after this period, Moses must have had the art of writing before the tables were written. But the question is, when were the tables written ? Moses had been up to the mount with God before the period here referred to. His first ascent is noticed as far back as the nineteenth chapter. He had ascended a second time, as related in the same chapter. And as is related in the latter part of the same chapter, he had ascended a third time. Not until he came down after the fourth ascent, is he represented as writing the civil and judicial statutes and reading them to the people. Now had not God prepared the two tables of the moral law before Moses wrote and read.to the people their judicial code ? He had not committed them to Moses till after this, but when he did commit them, it was a commitment of tables, as we have already seen, previously prepared ; how long before no man can tell. But it cannot be shown that it was after Moses wrote and read the judicial statutes.
It is also objected to this position, that Job must have lived previous to the time of Moses, and that as he distinctly refers to ancient writing by books and sculpture, there must have been a written language before the giving of the law. When it shall be made to appear that the book of Job was written at an earlier period than the time of Moses, it will be time
enough to give weight to this objection. The age in which Job lived, and in which the book of Job was written is unknown. If the most distinguished critics may be relied upon, this book was posterior to the time of Moses, or Moses himself was its author. Dr. Warburton judges it to have been written about the close of the Babylonish captivity. Dr. John Mason Good, Dr. Winder and Dr. Grey, with great strength of argument, attribute it to Moses. Gregory Nazianzen, Spanheim, and Adam Clarke attribute it to Solomon. Several distinguished writers have supposed that the silence of the author of this book respecting the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus from Egypt, the passage of the Red Sea, and the promulgation of the law, prove that it was written prior to these events, and during the age of the early patriarchs. But is it to be supposed that every book in the sacred canon which does not refer to these events, was written prior to these events themselves ? Two things are indispensable to the conclusiveness of this argument, neither of which is known. The first is, that upon the supposition, that the author of the book of Job, or Job himself had lived subsequently to these events, he was acquainted with them ; the second is, that upon the supposition that he was acquainted with them, they must necessarily, or even probably have been noticed in this book. Nor does the longevity of Job necessarily place him in an age previous to the giving of the law. That he did not live in so early an age as that of the longeval patriarchs is evident from two considerations; in the first place, the reference of Bildad to the longevity of that age, as a peculiarity that distinguished it from his own, as appears from Job viii, 8, 9: and in the second place, there is no evidence that the age of Job himself was such as to justify the remark, that he “ was old and full of days," unless he lived long after the early patriarchs. The writer of the passage, “man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble ; he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not,” cannot well be supposed to have lived at a period when the life of man was prolonged from six hundred to a thousand years. The reference to the flood as a very ancient event is inconsistent with the supposition that Job lived anywhere near the period of those who · walked in the “old way” and were “cut down out of time.” The reference to the law of land-marks and pledges rather indicates also that the hero of this book lived after the time of Moses.
It has also been said that there is ground for a presumption that the art of writing was known before the time of Moses, in the fact that there were officers called shoterim among the Israelites; and that this word primarily and properly means writers. The passage referred to, is Exodus the fifth chapter and sixth verse.
66 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the task-masters and the officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick.” Our translators translate the Hebrew word “ officers,” and most certainly the scope and sense of the passage would be violated by translating it “ writers.” Adam Clarke
that the shoterim “were an inferior sort of officers, who attended on superior officers or magistrates to execute their orders."
Patrick-and Rosenmüller, who give at length the reasons for this opinion. And Mr. Poole gives the same translation, affirming with Rosenmüller, that the secondary meaning of the word is scribes.
It appears therefore in a high degree probable that
the art of writing was imparted to Moses at the giving of the law. The hypothesis is certainly attended with fewer difficulties than any other which I have met with. The two tables we are informed were written by the finger of God; and after these were broken, they were re-written by the same unerring hand. And what additional, what overwhelming evidence would it offer to the Jewish people of the divine origin of the moral law, when these tables were presented to them, inscribed with mysterious and living characters! If Moses himself was unacquainted with the art of writing before he ascended the mount, the possibility of collusion or deceit was precluded, and the most stubborn minds must have yielded implicit confidence in the divine legation of their lawgiver. We find that notwithstanding the solemnity of that memorable scene, a portion of the people gave themselves up to idolatry, even while Moses was yet communing with God upon
the mount. After his descent with the two tables in his hands, as the final witness and seal of his errand, for a long time we hear no more of doubts, no more following after idols; and is it unreasonable to suppose that the obstinancy of an incredulous people was at last vanquished by the two tables of testimony ? If you ask, why there were no demonstrations of surprise on the part of the Jewish lawgiver upon the revelation of this art, or on the part of the people at its introduction among them; I reply, there may have been, though they are not recorded. And even if there were not, we need not wonder at this, when we recollect that Moses was with God forty days in the mount, and especially when we reflect upon the prodigies which nature every where displayed around the people, when Sinai sent up its