Robert Moon.

The Pentateuch and book of Joshua considered with reference to the objections of the Bishop of Natal online

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The following criticism having been in the main prepared,
and to a considerable extent printed, before the second part
of Dr. Colenso's work appeared, contains no reference to the
contents of the latter.

Lincoln's Inn, 23rd Feb., Ifi63.



I. Introduction . 1 — 4

II. The Family of Judah 5— If)

— Addendum respecting the Family of Judah .... 17 — 19

III. The Size of the Court of the Tabernacle compared with the

Number of the Congregation. Moses and Joshua addressing

all Israel 20 — 25

IV. The Extent of the Camp compared with the Priest's Duties and

the Daily Necessities of the People 26—30

V. The Number of the People at the first muster compared with

the Poll-tax raised six months previously . . . .31—34

VI. The Israelites armed ' 35—38

VII. The Institution of the Passover 39—47

VIII. The March out of Egypt. The Sheep and Cattle of the IsraeUtes

in the Desert 48-67

IX. The Number of the Israelites compared with the Extent of the

Land of Canaan ......... 68 — 74

X The Numbers of the Firstborns compared with the Number of

male Adults 75-77

XI. The Sojourning of the Israelites in Egypt. The Exodus in the
fourth Generation. The Number of the Israelites at the Time

of the Exodus 78-101

XII. The Danites and Levites at the Time of the Exodus . . 102— ,120

XIII. The Number of the Priests at the Exodus compared with their

Duties and the Provision made for them . . . .121 — 124
XIV. The Priests and their Duties at the Celebration of the Pass-
over 125—128

XV. The War on Midian. Conclusion 129—152



In his Preface and Introductory Chapter Dr. Colenso raises
a variety of points, the satisfactory discussion of which would
occupy more time and space than the discussion of the main
body of his work.

I shall, therefore, not allow myself to be tempted by the
remark of his " simple-minded but intelligent native," (quoted
Pi'eface, p. vii,) or by Dr. Colenso's own speculations respect-
ing the geology of Auvergne, to discuss, upon the present
occasion, the question of the Universal Deluge : nor shall I
stop to point out how it may happen that one who recognizes
in the relation of the sun standing still, a stupendous miracle,
may suspend his judgment as to the manner in which that
miracle was performed '.

1 I cannot forbear adverting, how-
ever, to Dr. Colenso 'a mode of dealing
with a suggestion of Archdeacon Pratt's,
to the effect that the miracle of " the
sun standing still," may have consisted
in a temporary suspension of the earth's
rotation. Without participating in the
sentiment, I can understand why some
persons hesitate to believe that, for
man's sake, the eternal God would
perform so stupendous a miracle as

that of destroying the velocity of rota-
tion of this solid globe, and subse-
quently re-impressing it. But I am
wholly unable to understand the argu-
ment that God would not do this be-
cause the doing of it would imply also
the destruction and subsequent renewal
of the velocity of the sea, of the air,
and of the living creatures and move-
able things abovo, upon, or under the
surface of the earth : and might imply


Neither sliall I do more than advert to the extremely naive
manner in which Dr. Oolenso informs us that "for his own
part," he is " very far indeed from judging the clerical
authors of Essays and Reviews for remaining, as they still
do, as ministers within "" the pale of the Church of England :
nor shall I discuss how far the pain of separating from that
Church is a valid reason for the remaining in it of one, who
has apparently had no pain, but rather a great deal of
pl-easure, in renouncing and attacking the declaration of faith
on the strength of which he was admitted one of her ministers.

I do not deem it necessary on the present occasion to
discuss how far it is true " that our Church . . . requires us
[her appointed Ministers] to protest against" what ?ce believe
to be " perversion of the Truth," but which she has declared
to be " the truth :" nor to show that a partial surrender of
freedom of action and utterance is the necessary condition of
entrance into the ministry, not merely of the Church of
England, but of every Ecclesiastical body whatever : nor shall

also the introduction of some compen-
sation for the temporary loss of cen-
trifugal force.

The difficulty which appears to Dr.
Colenso so " fatal," viz. that about the
moon, is entirely without foundation.
The hypothesis of the destruction of
the earth's rotation is introduced to ac-
count for the expression, that the sun
stood still, by the fact of his seeming
to do so. It is not necessary for this
purpose to assume that the earth's
velocity of translation was destroyed ;
but if the case were otherwise, while
the destruction of the velocity of rota-
tion would account for the relation of
the sun's standing still, that of the
moon staying would be left to be taken

I may observe, too, that the sugges-
tion that the sun, earth, and moon did
not really stand still, although a con-
viction to that effect was impressed on

the minds of thousands of men, and
was corroborated by effects which
could be ordinarily accounted for on
no other supjiosition than the truth of
that conviction, is not such an expla-
nation of the alleged miracle as any
neologian would propose : neither is it
an explaining away of a miracle, as it
is clear that nothing but a supernatural
exercise of divine power could have
operated such a result.

What Dr. Colenso says of Arch-
deacon Pratt's "lending the weight of
his high position," &c. to the support
of a view which every natural philo-
sopher [and therefore a fortiori one of
Archdeacon Pratt's " mathematical cele-
brity "] will know to be untenable,
would amount to a scandalous personal
imputation, if it could be regarded as
any thing more than a mere rhetorical


I comment on the strange views of what constitutes religion,
or the singular want of precision evinced by a writer, who
speaks of " freedom of thought and utterance,"" as " the verj-
essence of our Protestant religion."

I do not care to enter into the question of how far Dr.
Colenso''s work is drawn from the German Rationalists,
though it will appear in the course of the following criticism,
that such of the considerations he brings forward as possess
any weight are wholly devoid of novelty, and derive no
additional force from Dr. Oolenso's mode of handling them.

Neither shall I discuss the state of belief at the present
time of the "intelligent Laity in England," nor how far a
more genera' cultivation of the Hebrew tongue would have
led to an earher discovery of the errors in the Mosaic
narrative pointed out in Dr. Colenso's work ; in which the
whole number of Hebrew words commented upon amounts to
about eight, of which two are the Hebrew equivalents for the
pronouns ' this ' and ' that,' and all of which, so far as any
advancement of his argument is concerned, might have been
omitted altogether.

I do not propose to discuss the subjects of the Creation or
the Fall, or how far " the fear of transgressing the bounds
which the Scripture statements are supposed to have set to "
scientific speculations has heretofore operated, or does now
operate as a restraint upon scientific inquiry ; or the bearing
on the question of the inspiration or truthfulness of the
Mosaic Scriptures of our Lord's quotations of those Scrip-
tures contained in the New Testament.

Neither shall I discuss the theoretical truisms, but practfcal
fallacies, with regard to the pursuit of truth and the solving of
difficulties extracted by Dr. Colenso from the writings of
Archbishop Whately, Dr. Moberly, and others.

The question which I propose to consider in the following

pages, is that which forms the main scope of Dr. Colenso's

work, namely. Whether it is ti'ue that "the conviction of the

unhistorical character of the so-called Mosaic narrative''

B 2


is "forced upon us, by the considerations of the many
absolute {mpossibilities involved in it, when treated as simple
matters of fact, and without taking account of any argument
which throws discredit on the story merely by reason of the
miracles or supernatural appearances recorded in it, or
particular laws, speeches, and actions ascribed in it to the
Divine Being?" Whether it is true that if we "consider
w^ell the statements made in the books [of the Pentateuch]
themselves, — about matters which they profess to narrate as
facts of common history, — we shall find them to contain a
series of manifest contradictions and inconsistencies, which
leave us no alternative but to conclude that main portions of
the story of the Exodus, though based, probably, on some real
historical foundation, yet are certainly not to be regarded as
historically true?" (Oolenso, p. 11.)



(Colenso, pp. 1 7—20.)

The first of the " absolute impossibilities" which Dr. Colenso
supposes to be involved in the Mosaic narrative, occurs in the
Mosaic account of the family of Judah, from which account he
deduces the following propositions : —

1 . That Judah was forty- two years old when he went down
with Jacob into Egypt.

2. That in the course of these forty-two years of Judah's

(i.) He grew up, married a wife — " ' at that time,"' ver. 1,
that is, after Joseph's being sold into Egypt, when he
was seventeen years old, Gen. xxxvii. 2, and when, conse-
quently, he was at least twenty yeaxs old, — and" had ^"sepa-
rately three sons by her."

(ii.) The eldest of these sons grew up, married, and died.
The second grew to maturity, married his brother's widow,
and died. The third grew to maturity, declined to marry
his brother's widow, who afterwards conceived by Judah
himself, and bore him twin sons, Pharez and Zarah.

(iii.) One of the twins grows to maturity, and has two
sons born to him before Jacob went down into Egypt.


The first of the above propositions Dr. Colenso endeavours
to estabhsh as follows : —

'"Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before
Pharaoh," Gen. xH. 46, and from that time nine years elapsed
(seven of plenty, and two of famine) before Jacob came down
to Egypt. At that time, therefore, Joseph was thirty-nine
years old. But Judah was about three years older than
Joseph : for Judah was born in the fourth year of Jacob's
double marriage. Gen. xxix. 3o, and Joseph in the seventh.
Gen. XXX. 24 — 26, Gen. xxxi. 41 , thence Judah was forty-two
years old, when Jacob went down to Egypt."

" The above," that is, the statement embodied in the fore-
going propositions. Dr. Colenso very justly concludes is
" certainly incredible." Let us now see how far the Mosaic
narrative is answerable for the statement in question.

I. Before the writings of an author can be convicted of
involving absolute impossibilities, it must obviously be shown
with regard to the passages relied upon for the purpose, not
merely that they will bear the interpretation placed upon
them, but that they are absolutely incapable of bearing any

For instance, the charge above made by Dr. Colenso
against the Mosaic account of the family of Judah rests to a
large extent upon the assumption, that the words "at that time,"
which occur in Gen. xxxviii. 1, refer to the period at which
Joseph was sold into Egj-pt ; therefore, if it can be shown
that these words are capable of being referred to a consider-
ably earlier period of time, the argument founded on that
assumption must faU to the ground.

Is it absolutely impossible, or certainly incredible, or even
at all unlikely, that a writer, living at the distance of several
ages from the events which he describes, should use the above
words in the connexion in which they occur as referring to
the epoch of Joseph and his brethren generally, and not to the
particular epoch at which Joseph was sold into Egypt ?


Let US consider the general frame of the narrative. The
thirty-seventh chapter ends with the words,

" And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar,
an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard."

The thirty-ninth chapter begins thus : " And Joseph was
brought down into Egypt ; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh,
captain of the guard, an Egj^tian, bought him of the hands
of the Ishmaelites, who brought him down thither f by which
careful recapitulation of the circumstances detailed in the
concluding part of the thirty-seventh chapter, the writer testi-
fies his anxiety, that the interposition between these two
passages of the thirty-eighth chapter relating to the family of
Judah should not have the effect of breaking the current of
the story about Joseph.

JSIoreover, the thirty-eigJith chapter is occupied with an
account of the depravity of Judah and the impiety of his sons.
The thirty-ninth chapter relates an example of purity in
Joseph which has been a proverb throughout all subsequent
ages ; and the source of tliat purity, viz. reverence for the
Divine will, is distinctly stated, — " How can I do this great
wickedness, and sin against God f

Can there be a doubt that the relation about Judah in the
thirty-eighth chapter has been introduced into the narrative
about Joseph for the purpose of enhancing the effect of the
latter by contrasting the purity and piety of Joseph, with the
iujpurity and impiety of his relatives and contemporaries I —
the phrase " at that time." being adopted in order to mark a
break in the sequence of time, not to signify its continu-
ance \

' The second chapter of St. Mattliew
closes with the words referring to the
reputed father of our Lord : — " And he
came and dwelt in a city called Naza-
reth : that it might be fulfilled which
was spoken by the prophets, He shall
be called a Nazaiene." The third chap-

preaching in the wilderness of Judaea."
What would be thought of a critic
who attempted to argue that the phrase
"in those days" must be referred to
the period of the return from Egypt :
and that as the Baptist's preaching did
not occur until many years afterwards,

ter commences with the words, " In , the Gospel of St. Matthew must be
those days came John the Baptist, rejected as unlristorical .'



II. From the manner in which Dr. Colenso quotes Gen.
XXX. 24 — 26, and xxxi. 41, to prove that Joseph was born in
the seventh year of the double marriage of Jacob with Leah
and Rachel, it might be supposed that the year of Joseph's
birth was therein stated totidem verbis, instead of being, as the
fact is, a mere inference from the passages in question. In
Gen. xxxi. 38. 41, Jacob, having finally fled from Haran,
addresses Laban, who had pursued him to Mount Gilead, in
the following words : " This twenty years have I been with
thee ;'" " Thus have I been twenty years in thy house ; I
served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six
years for thy cattle ;" whence it has been inferred that Jacob
was in Haran twenty years, and no more ; and as it is clear
from the whole tenor of the narrative contained in Gen. xxx.
25—43, that Jacob had acquired no cattle or substance before
Joseph was born ', it follows that the six years of servitude
for the cattle must have taken place after Joseph's birth.
On the other hand, during the first seven years of Jacob's
residence in Haran he was unmarried ; so that if his entire
residence in that country did not extend beyond twenty years,
the birth of Joseph cannot be set later than the seventh year
after the double marriage— that is, the fourteenth year of
Jacob's residence in Haran '.

I shall now proceed to show, first, that if we dismiss from
our consideration the verses last quoted (chap. xxxi. 38. 41),
the assumption that Jacob was only twenty years in Haran is

* This appears from • the following
considerations: (1) There is no men-
tion of any hiring, after that for the
wives, until after Joseph's birth. (2) In
ver. 2(], Jacob demands of Laban the
wives for whom he had served, but
makes no mention of any substance he
had acquired. (.3) The expression in
ver. 30, " When shall I provide for
my own house ? " implies two things,
first, that up to that time Jacob had
made no provision for his house, and,

secondly, that he was not in the way of
making any. (4) The prosperity re-
lated in ver. 43, and in chap. xxxi. 16
— 18, is clearly stated to have resulted
from the hiring which occurred after
Joseph's birth.

3 This is the period at which the
birth of Joseph is fixed in Usher's
Chronology : no doubt, under the pres-
sure of the considerations stated in the
preceding note.


irreconcileable with the rest of the narrative. Secondly, that
the assumption that Jacob was considerably more than twenty
years in Haran is not irreconcileable with the expression of
Jacob to Laban in the verses last quoted. While discussing
these two propositions, I shall take occasion to point out
what are the real indications of the narrative, both with
respect to the date of Joseph's birth, and to the diflference
of age between him and Judah.

1. I observe in the first place, that if Jacob was only
twenty years in Haran, and if, as Dr. Colenso alleges, Joseph
was thirty-nine years old when Jacob went down into Egypt
(and Joseph cannot at that time have been very much more),
it will follow — since Jacob was one hundred and thirty years
old when he went into Egypt (Gen. xlvii. 28) — that Joseph
was born when Jacob was ninety-one years old ; that Jacob
had no child till six years before that time, i. e. when he was
eighty-five years old ; that Jacob did not come into Haran
till he was seventy-seven years old ; and that all the children
of Jacob but one (Benjamin), that is to say, eleven sons and
one daughter, were born in the space of about six years.

I observe further, that seven of the above children, that is
to say, six sons and one daughter, were born to Jacob suc-
cessively by one mother, Leah ; that, if Leah bare a son in
each successive year, her son Issachar must have been born
towards the end of the fifth year, and her son Zebulun
towards the end of the sixth year of the double marriage ;
and, consequently, that Issachar could have been only two
years, and Zebulun one year, older than Joseph, " the son
of" Jacob's " old age"" (Gen. xxxvii. 8) ; that Leah certainly
did not bear a son every year ; as we are told that after she
bare her fourth son Judah " she left bearing " (Gen. xxix.
35), — an expression that seems to imply the lapse of several
(perhaps of a considerable number of) years, between the
births of her fourth and fifth sons, and which would be very
inadequately represented by an interval of one year ; though
that interval would make Zebulun of the same age as Joseph,


and would throw the birth of Dinah beyond that of Joseph,
at the same time that the whole tenor of the narrative, here
as well as in the thirty-fourth and thirty-seventh chapters,
seems to indicate the contrary.

I observe also, that whatever was the date at which Kachel
gave Bilhah to Jacob, we learn from that part of the narrative,
and also from the analogous relation respecting Sarah and
Hagar, that the expedient adopted by Sarah and Rachel
of each giving to her husband her handmaid, that she might
bear him children, was a. pis aller, and would never have been
adopted unless they themselves despaired of having children ;
and, having thus, in the instances of Sarah and Rachel, an
expHcit guide to the nature and objects of this singular
custom of a remote age, we are entitled to conclude, in
analogy to those instances, that Zilpah would not have been
given by Leah to Jacob until Leah herself despaired of having
children ; that is, until probably several years — at the least
one year— after the birth of Judah. On this view, it would
follow that Gad, Zilpah's first son, could not have been born
till towards the end of the sixth year of the double marriage,
and Asher, her second son, not till towards the end of the
seventh year ; that is, according to Dr. Colenso, not till the
time when Joseph, the son of Jacob's old age, was born.
But it is clear that Issachar and Zebulun were born suc-
cessively after fjrad and Asher, and Dinah after the two
former ; so that, if Joseph was the youngest of Jacob's
children except Benjamin, as the whole tenor of the narrative
indicates, he could hardly by possibility have been born until
two or three years after the expiration of the first seven
years of the marriage ; and therefore Jacob must have been
at least two or three and twenty years resident in Haran. Li
fact, if the narrative contained in the twenty-ninth and two
following chapters be carefully considered, apart from the
above-quoted expressions of Jacob to Laban, the allowance
of a twenty years' interval between the marriage of Jacob
and the birth of Joseph will appear much more suitable than


an interval of nine or ten ; at the same time that the allowance
of an interval of considerably more than twenty years would
be fully justified.

2. But if Joseph was not born till twenty years after
Jacob's marriage, Jacob must have been thirty-three years
in Haran ; and how is this to be reconciled with the ex-
pressions of Jacob in Gen. xxxi. 88. 41, where a residence
of twenty years only seems to be indicated ?

To this I answer, that even if Jacob resided thirty-three
years in Haran, he was Laban's hired servant during the first
fourteen, and the last six years of that period only. After the
expiration of the fourteen years' servitude for his wives,
Jacob would naturally remain in the encampment of Laban
as a son of the house, receiving no wages, and doing little or
no work, — living, in fact, so' far as was possible in that age
and country, a life of ease. That Laban would be satisfied
to have Jacob on such terms is evident from Gen. xxx. 27,
where Laban says, " I have learned by experience that the
Lord hath blessed me for thy sake." When Joseph was born,
the child of Jacob's old age and of his dearly loved wife
Rachel, the paternal feelings of Jacob seem to have been
suflficiently roused to the necessity of making provision for
his family (Gen. xxx. SO), either by securing the portion
of the paternal inheritance which was his due, or otherwise ;
and then he was induced to enter upon the six years' hiring,
which resulted so successfully for himself.

If these were the circumstances of the case, and I think,
that apart from Gen. xxxi. 38. 41, the narrative fully justifies
us in assuming that they were so, is it impossible or incredible
that Jacob, under the circumstances in which he was at that
time placed, should have expressed himself in the manner in
which he is related to have expressed himself in the verses
last quoted ?

It will be remembered, that when Laban pursued after
Jacob, the latter feared lest Laban should take by force his
daughters from him (Gen. xxxi. SJ) ; and it would be difficult


to account for Laban's strenuous pursuit, which was only
baffled at the last moment by the special interference of God,
unless we suppose Laban to have had some such object in
view. In fact, it is evident from Gen. xxxi. 42 (" Except the
God of my father . . . had been with me, surely thou hadst
sent me away empty ") that Jacob considered that if Laban
could have had his own way, he would have robbed him of the
whole fruit of his service. It is evident also that Jacob was
extremely indignant at the search of his stuff; regarding that
proceeding as an imputation upon his honesty ; considering,
in all probability, that the fruitless search for the gods was

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Online LibraryRobert MoonThe Pentateuch and book of Joshua considered with reference to the objections of the Bishop of Natal → online text (page 1 of 14)