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(cf. § 480).

§ 501. But it would be a grave misrepresentation of
Hebrew history to claim that the changes in the forms and
modes of life of the people just described were a real
degeneration and deterioration. Religiously, no doubt,
the effect of the absorption of the Canaanites was inju-
rious. But the temptation to follow the gods of the land
was present in any case (cf. Josh. xxiv. 19 f.) ; and both
piety and moral strength were advanced in the struggle
maintained by those who were true to the religion of
Jehovah. From the political point of view, the changes
were simply unavoidable and in the order of evolution.
We have seen (§ 483 ff.) how life in towns or large vil-


lages was begun and fostered, and the character of city
institutions formed. It must not be forgotten that life in
fortified, or at least protected, towns was absolutely neces-
sary for the principal ends of settled life in Canaan, whether
agricultural, commercial, or industrial. For the sheltering
and guarding of farm property, including cattle, the prin-
cipal asset of the farmer, the night patrols of unwalled
villages afforded no adequate protection in a well-inhab-
ited country of mixed population. Accordingly, we find
that the landowners, in the later period of the Judges and
thereafter, dwelt in towns, as also did the regular farm
labourers (Ruth ii. 4 ; Jud. xix. 16 ; cf. 1 Sam. x. 26). The
same thing is, of course, true of other employers of labour
and their possessions. While life in large cities was un-
known (§ 477), the city ^ was still the normal residence in
the times that followed the transition period. As a I'ule,
each man was regarded as belonging to one city or another,
and so enrolled as a citizen and taxpayer.

§ 502. The breaking-up of the tribal system, which was
involved in the establishment of city life and usages, was
therefore in important respects a step in advance, and
was a necessary preliminary to that form of government
which alone could save Israel both from destruction at the
hands of outsiders and from strife and political atrophy
within. Add to this that the administration of justice,
according to the principle of propinquity and approximate

1 The city, that is, in the larger sense of the term (as described in § 34
and 38), inckiding the dependent, unwalled hamlets and pasture grounds.
Through various causes tending to concentration of the population, par-
ticularly the vicissitudes of war and the danger of attacks from bands of
robbers, the villages were as rapidly as possible enclosed within walls,
with fortress and tower ; that is, they became cities. The number of these,
even in the semi-pastoral kingdom of Judah, was very great, as we learn
from Siuacherib's report of their capture (§ 686 ; cf. 2 K. xviii. 13). Large
estates without elaborate defences, such as that of Nabal (1 Sam. xxv.),
were protected by the retainers from ordinary dangers. Cities often owed
their origin in any stage of the history of the land to the advantages of
sites by fountains or groves, defensible heights, etc. Some, as Samaria,
were built directly by the rulers of the time. See Nowack, HA. I. p. 148 f .


numerical grouping, foreshadowed in Exodus xviii. (§ 455),
was immensely advanced by aggregation of small communi-
ties apart from the associations of tribal life and government.
The elders of the city and its judges at the gates took the
place of the family or tribal chiefs. With the adjustment
of causes arising out of local business and local interests,
the only solid foundation possible was laid for the division
of the country into larger administrative and judicial dis-
tricts. The way was prepared, moreover, for the dominion
of a sole ruler over a people slowly habituated to the
restraints of a legal authority founded upon inherent prin-
ciples of justice (Deut. xvi. 18; xix. 15 if.; xxv. 1 ff.),
and not upon the imperfect and partial prescriptions of
patriarchal government, with its preferential rights of the
family and the clan. The reader will find it instructive
to note that while the " Book of the Covenant " (§ 474)
deals with the entire portion of this long transitional
period, the book of Deuteronomy has to do with the com-
pleted results of the process, corresponding, as we have
seen, to government in cities (Deut. vi. 10; xiii. 12 ff . ;
xix. 1 ff. ; xxi. 2 ff. ; xxviii. 3, 16).

§ 503. " In those days there was no king in Israel : every
man did that which was right in his own eyes " (Jud. xvii.
6 ; xxi. 25 ; cf. xviii. 1 ; xix. 1 ; and § 50). The expression
might naturally be interpreted as im]^l3dng a condition of
anarchy pure and simple. It really alludes to the personal
independence of the Hebrew freeman without even the theo-
retical restraints of the monarchy. Perhaps a clearer view
of some aspects of social and civic life may be gained from
a glance at the home and estate of a representative Hebrew
of the later period of the time of the Judges.

§ 504. The subject of our study is a well-to-do landed
proprietor of Central Palestine. His home lies within the
city walls, and the city is the sphere of his social life.
Here also dwell his retainers, except those immediately
occupied with the care of the cattle in pasture or of the
fruit trees, for whom he has erected booths in which they


pass the night and are armed against marauders. This
householder is a devout Israelite and begins the day's
work with family, or rather household, devotions. His
means have permitted him to engage the services of a
Levite as domestic priest, who naturally also officiates in a
like capacity for the family group, of which the present
household is the dominant centre (cf. Jud. xviii. 19).
He has resorted occasionally to the central sanctuary at
Shiloh, but has lately found little satisfaction in its cere-
monies and sacrifices, mixed as they have been with social
festivities and indulgences unfavourable to domestic moral-
ity.^ It is well, he thinks, not to repair thither again till a
time of reformation comes. It is not long since the sons of
Eli guided the religion of Israel and administered its law,
and through them both religion and justice were outraged
and profaned. But this evil does not interfere with the
religious service of this loyal Israelite. Whether or not the
3^early feasts are duly honoured in Shiloh, a still stronger
obligation than they impose rests upon him to observe the
stated gatherings of his clan at harvest or at vintage time
or at sheep shearing ; and in these reunions religious offer-
ings hold the primary place.

§ 505. But such sacrifices are, so to speak, only an
intensive and extensiA^e manifestation of the sentiment of
devotion which claims an habitual expression in the daily
worship of the home. No table is spread, no food par-
taken in common, without the priestly blessing (1 Sam.
ix. 13) and the presentation of a portion to Jehovah. All

1 Comp. Keble, The Christian Year, Eighth Sunday after Trinity,
stanzas 5 and 6:

" Thou knowest how hard to hurry by,
Where on the lonely woodland road
Beneath the moonlight sky
The festal warblings flowed ;
" Where maidens to the Queen of Heaven
Wove the gay dance round oak or palm,
Or breathed their vows at even
In hymns as soft as balm."


that is eaten or drunk is the produce of Jehovah's hxnd.
To him the grateful tenant makes that sort of acknow-
ledgment which is at once most expressive and most
obvious. But our typical Hebrew is swayed by rever-
ence as Avell as gratitude. This sentiment also has a
manifestation of the most practical kind. Prayer to him
is intensely real ; it is an ascertainment of the will of the
Deity, and that with regard to ordinar}- affairs of life.
"Inquiring of God" is asking counsel about a journey or
about a business engagement, just as by a clan or tribe a
decision is sought in the same fashion about a projected
migration or a warlike expedition.

§ 506. The method and the conception are, no doubt,
somewhat rude and materialistic. The priest gives coun-
sel for Jeho^'ah by means of teraphim and the epliod.
But some sj-mbol, some material intervention, is invari-
ably associated with formal Old Testament worship.
And when the tabernacle with the Ark and the cherubim
is not accessible, these traditional images are, at least, a
stay and support to the primitive faith of the trustful
Israelite. He has, however, but little prophetic teach-
ing, and to him and his contemporaries is denied the
spiritualizing influence of the united worshiji of "the
multitude tliat keep holyday." It is better that he
should worship Jehovah b}- ephod and teraphim than that
he should follow a common fashion of his tribesmen and
adopt the rites of the Baalim, while acknowledging the
supremacy of Jehovah. For now the old order has
changed. The Canaanite is no longer the natural
enemy of the Israelite. The category of Hebrew is held
to cover the descendants of both races. Nor can it well
be otherwise. They are indistinguishable in outward
appearance. They speak the same language ; adopt the
same God or gods ; meet on equal terms in the markets
or the courts of justice.

§ 507. If we follow the employments of this citizen of
old Palestine, we shall be struck with the contrast to the


listless monotony of the life of the present time in that
country. The earlier part of his busy clay is occupied
with the oversight of his household and property. Very
little goes on in his well-regulated establishment without
his personal attention or supervision. In following him
about his estate we notice with some surprise that he is
on terms of easy familiarity, devoid of condescension,
with his slaves, male and female. They are evidently
regarded and trusted as members of his ow^n family.
Some of them are of the Hebrew race from the close
neighbourhood. With one of the female slaves, the
daughter of a friend of his who has seen better days, his
eldest son has contracted an equal marriage. But the
most of the slaves are descendants of Canaanites. Their
lot, or at least the lot of their parents, was at first a hard
one. They had themselves been the proprietors of all
the land thereabout ; and, having resisted strenuously its
expropriation, their servitude was made proportionately
rigorous. The wars of the invasion, and even the sub-
sequent strifes and combats, are now, however, becoming
fast a mere matter of tradition, and the only difference
between the status of the two classes of servitors is rather
one of hereditary sentiment than of practical discrimina-
tion. Even that, too, is disappearing, with the unifying
influences of the time and countr}^, and of the dominant
religion. The present slave-holder, at any rate, makes
little distinction between the two classes among his ser-
vants. The majority of them are now reckoned as home-
born, since the more immediate ancestors of those of
remote Canaanitish descent were naturalized Hebrews.
To all he is inclined to extend the privilege of optional
release at the end of six years' service. All are admitted
alike to the religious privileges and rites of the household.
He is thus, perhaps consciously, playing an important part
in making Canaan more surely Jehovah's land, and in pre-
paring the way for the freedom and tolerance which men
have learned from the teaching of Israel (§ 546 ff.).


§ 508. Over each department of the work of his estate
a competent sLave is set. At early morning the master
goes the rounds to see how all are progressing. We
know how he talks to the reapers in harvest time. After
conferring with the chief of the band, he passes along
amongst the ranks and salutes the workers, using not the
ordinary salutation, "Peace be to you," but that which
reminds them all of their common supreme protector,
"Jehovah be with you." Their reply comes heartily and
promptly, "Jehovah bless thee" (Ruth ii. 4). Having
his home in a small city, where there are as yet no guilds
of tradesmen, except, perhaps, smiths and builders, most
of the needs of his household, for the uses and comforts of
life, have to be provided by the labour of his own family
of children and slaves. Hence he himself must be a
jack-of-all-trades, competent to superintend the making
of all sorts of tools for the farm, and furniture and uten-
sils for the house, the building of solid storehouses, or
the construction of reservoirs and drains.

§ 509. Hardly less important is the work assigned to
the women of the household — the preparing of food and
meals, including the daily grinding of the corn and the
drawing of the water, weaving, spinning, and the mak-
ing of ordinary garments, and the care of the living
apartments. Just as the house-master directs the work
of the male servants, so the more domestic duties of the
women are under the vigilant and, perhaps, more exact-
inof control of the mistress. She herself has servants
who, in a certain sense, are her own slaves, but all of
whom, like the wife and children themselves, are ulti-
mately the property of tlie head of the house. The part
played by the mistress, who is in the present case the
sole wife, is one of great responsibility as well as diffi-
culty, especially in connection with the delicate relations
and possible social complications of the Hebrew house-
hold. She has not as wide a range of authority or of
action in matters of outside business as her famous sister


of the southern border-hmd ( Prov. xxxi. ) ; but her
domestic influence is, on that account, perhaps all the
steadier and stronger.

§ 510. The public activity of this Israelite of the
time is no less noteworthy. Since the work on his
estate begins Avith daylight, it is still early in the day
when he leaves his fields and repairs to the city gate
to take his seat among the "elders." In these times of
unsettlement it is a heav}^ task that is laid upon the
civic officials. Disputes about trespass, about agree-
ments of sale or exchange, the boundaries of estates, the
title to property, loans and pledges, the ownership of
slaves, the disposal of legacies, the protection of widows
and orphans, and the choice of the goe'U keep coming up
in turn for settlement before this primitive and versatile
tribunal. The litigants from the city proper are aug-
mented by a constant influx of disputants from the coun-
try round about. In addition to such matters of inquiry
as arise out of the normal conditions of life in the district,
many others are liable to occur through the prevalence
of old tribal customs. A hearing of the court may, for
example, be interrupted at any moment by the clamour
of an avenger of blood, and the appeals of his victim
as he enters the city gates (Josh. xx. 4; Deut. xix. 12).
So the case in hand must be adjourned till this more
urgent matter is temporarily settled. The " elder " of
our sketch is also a " judge " (§ 487), a position as invid-
ious as it is honourable. Among a people with such a
rudimentary jurisprudence frequent appeals and references
are inevitable. The practical difficulties of his position,
great enough in themselves, are aggravated by the fact
that the local priests are willing, if not for a bribe, at
least for the credit of their office, to give an oracle that
does not agree with his unbiassed judgment. He often,
liowever, finds his account in postponing the final adjudi-
cation until liis friend, the great judge Samuel, within
whose jurisdiction he has the good fortune to live, comes

Ch. IV, § 510 HIN1)1{A^XES IN OFFICE 143

upon his city in his regular circuit. In the frequent
conversations between the two patriots as to the state
of public affairs in Israel generally, they alwa3-s end by
declaring in common that unless a "judge" of ampler
powers and of wider competency is soon appointed all
government will cease. They both live also to see the
establishment of the kiiiofdom.



§ 511. The dividing line between the new Israel and
the old (§ 467) was the much-wished-for and fondly
idealized institution of the monarchy. The reader is
fully aware that we cannot point to any single event or
movement as being the real occasion of the revolution.
In the history of the ancient Semitic world, while social
changes great or small in single communities went on
rapidly, political progress was very gradual (§ 557).
The nature and the occasions of the external events that
marked the establishment of the kingdom and its prog-
ress for the first three centuries have already been sum-
marized and briefly discussed (§ 195 ff., 371 ff.). Its
internal development within the same period, which we
have now to consider, will not require a lengthy exposi-
tion. Now that the fundamental social and political
institutions have been dealt with, it will appear that the
motives of the succeeding history lie more upon the sur-
face. They have in fact been to a large extent already
presented. What we have now to do is to tra^^e out two
leading lines of development during the kingly era.
These are the growth and regulation of the military
power, and changes in the administration of civil affairs.

§ 512. The development of the military power in
Israel was naturally dependent upon two motives, the
necessity of defensive and the disposition to offensive
action. After the settlement, Israel's permanent policy
was plainly marked out both by its position among the



surrounding nations and by the counsels of its wisest
leaders. It was simply to retain the territory which it
had succeeded in colonizing and to secure each tribe in
its possession. Aggression outside of these limits was
only warranted when waged for self-preservation. Yet
frequent wars with border nations were inevitable.
Unsuccessful wars put Israel upon the defensive until
the invaders were expelled. Successful wars were, as
a rule, followed by offensive action to prevent retalia-
tion on the part of a recuperated enemy. On the whole,
Israel engaged comparatively little in aggressive warfare.
Up to the end of the Judges a defensive attitude was the
only one possible. In the later times the rule was broken
chiefly by conflicts with Philistines and Edomites. Israel
was not distinctively a warlike people. A settled policy of
foreign conquest was seldom pursued except towards Edom,
whose territory was coveted for reasons already familiar
to us (§ 236, 254, 269). The era of David and that of
Jeroboam II and Uzziah were quite exceptional. But
this was due not so much to an unambitious and quies-
cent temper on the part of rulers or people as to the
circumstances of the nation already spoken of, and the
influence of the religious movements inaugurated by
the Prophets. The ploughshare and the pruning-hook
came more naturally to the hand of the Hebrews than
the sword and the spear. And yet, after all, there were
very few grown men among them in the formative periods
of their history who had not some training in the use
of arms. Domestic feuds, tribal quarrels, irruptions of
marauders, were frequent enough in the intervals be-
tween the invasions of the Philistines or Syrians until
the Assyrian came upon the land. Then, at last, peace
was forced on all the petty combatants of the west, but
their mutual antipathy became converted into a surly
antagonism towards their common oppressor. In the
insurrections that occasionally resulted thereafter the
Hebrews did rather more than their share, and thus


their weapons were never allowed to rust from lack of

§ 513. The efficiency of a national militia depends
upon its ability not only to match the enemy upon the
field, but to protect non-combatants and the property of
the citizens. In the tribal state of any people there is
little fixed property to defend, and there is, in conse-
quence, no military profession. Every man is a warrior
upon occasion, just as he is a hunter or tent-maker.
When an attack or a repulse is undertaken, the whole of
the fighting force is called out at once, the women and
children and movable property being left in the rear or
in a place of concealment. A single decisive defeat may
mean the dispersion of the tribe. The survival of Israel
between Egypt and Canaan is a proof not simply of the in-
dividual courage of the tribesmen, but also of its advance
bej'ond rudimentary tribalism (cf. § 441 f., 458). With the
acquisition or control of property in land the conditions
change essentially. Just as the formation of a "state,"
in the true sense, is thus made possible, so a system of
national defence is rendered necessary. The militia
still embraces all the men of fighting age and capac-
ity, but both its training and its distribution are

§ 514. In the desert every warrior was slinger, archer,
and spearman. As citizens of Canaan the several r81es
were separated for service in the field, even though most
of the men of the spear might also be dexterous with the
sling and the bow. Special schooling with these imple-
ments of war followed as a matter of course (cf. Jud.
XX. 16). Swords, rarer yet not unknown in the nomadic
stage (Gen. xlviii. 22), became a regular arm; and soon
the full-ai-med warrior appeared at the head of his troop
with helmet and shield. At length heavy-armed infantry
could be counted on as a regular portion of the armies of
Israel, though the bulk of the levies were always provided
with merely the spear, the bow, or the sling.

Cii. V, § 515 GROWTH OF THE SYSTEM 147

§ 515. We have observed that up to the close of the
Judges Israel was in no true sense a state. It was not
united, not compact, not organized. Only with the
slowly establislied kingdom came the consciousness of
inward unity and of national power. The sense of
brotherhood and of comradeship, which had held them
together as invaders and colonists, was fast dying out,
till it was reawakened by the more urgent conviction of
impending common disaster at the hands of the Philis-
tines. With such a reviving patriotic sentiment went
hand in hand the evolution of a national defence. With
the sense of unity, promoted by the abandonment of the
tribal traditions, there gradually came an appreciation
of the value of the kingdom to all who were called by
the name of Israel. The invasions of the Philistines
and their virtual occupation of the centre and heart of
Israel, instead of quenching the newly enkindled hope,
only served to heighten and deepen it and make of it a
sacramental inspiration. Gilboa could not efface the
memory of Jabesh-Gilead. When the prestige of Saul's
early successes had been eclipsed by the gloom of his
mysterious and melancholy inactivity, his heroic son,
the magnanimous Jonathan, ruled the spirits of the
people by his kingliness of soul no less than by his
daring valour and his brilliant achievements on the
field. Jonathan with his shield-bearer at Michmash
typifies and personifies the spirit of Israel aroused from
its slumber. Then there came before the people the
more fascinating and commanding, tliough less pure and
noble, personality of David. His genius for war and
di[)lomacy found scope in commending his own Judaic
kingdom, estranged though it had been from the sympa-
thies of the most of Israel, to the deference and attach-
ment of the central and northern tribes. Even the
unscrupulous and worthless Absalom gained his tem-
porary sway over a rightly discontented people l)y quali-
ties which fitted well with popular notions of kingship.


Thus the personal qualities of the successive representa-
tives of royality united with the sense of national need
to establish faith in the monarchy and devotion to the
monarchs. And these were essential conditions of a per-
manent military system. The safety of the state rests
upon a standing defence. The stability of the kingdom
implies the sacredness and the security of the person of
the king. Hence the development of the military system
of the Hebrews.

§ 516. We may distinguish three periods or stages in
the growth of the armies of Israel. At first there was no
question of a standing army. The methods of the camp
were followed, though on a larger scale, in the early times
of the settlement. After the conquest was fairly com-
plete the troops which for years had encamped here and

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 39)