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serve the gods of the Moabites, as the God of Israel is
served in the land of Canaan.*

The existence of foreign gods is also doubtless pre-
supposed in the old passages that forbid the worship of
these gods, like Ex. xx. 2 f ., and in those that assert that
Jehovah is greater than they, like Ex. xv. 11.^ In the
old documents the expressions that designate Jehovah
as a peculiar God, especially the name " God of the
Hebrews," ^ also seem to imply the thought that he is a
purely national God.'''

Schultz says, and justly, that on account of the potent
realism of antiquity, the first impression could not have
been that the foreign gods were only products of the
imagination ; that it is entirely natural that the gods of
the gentile world should at first be placed side by side
with the God of Israel. He adds, that it must never be
forgotten that the religion of the Old Testament is
purely practical ; that it is not intended first of all to
give instruction concerning the celestial world, but to
waken the conviction that salvation is to be found only
in the God of the covenant and in the covenant with

1 1 Sam. xvii. 46. 2 2 Kings v. 17. ^ Baudissin, I. p. 46.

* Ruth i. 15 ff. ; ii. 12. ^ Baudissin, I. pp. 66 ff., 79.

6 See especially Ex. iii. 18 ; vii. 16.

7 Baudissin, I. pp. 156 f. ; [Schultz, Theology, I. pp. 178 f.].


him; that its first task is to teach, not that there can-
not be any other deities besides the God of Israel, but
that Israel must have none besides him.^

If the ancient Israelites had not yet attained to abso-
lute monotheism, they had just as little conception of
the idea of the perfect spirituality of God. They repre-
sented him to themselves, on the contrary, under the
form of man. According to the biblical narratives, God
visits Abraham with two companions ; he accepts the
hospitality that the patriarch offers him ; he converses
with him and Sarah, then goes away toward Sodom, ac-
companied by his host, to whom, on the way, he makes
known his purpose to destroy the guilty cities. ^ He
forms man out of the dust of the ground, as any artist
would do; he breathes into his nostrils the breath of life ;
he plants a garden in Eden ; he takes a rib of the man to
make the woman, and carefully closes up the flesh in
place of it ; he rests from the work of creation when he
has finished it.^ After the fall he appears in the garden
of Eden ; he walks through it; he calls Adam and Eve ;
he informs them of the penalties that will overtake
them ; then he makes them garments of skin and clothes
them.* He closes the door of the ark upon Noah.^ He
smells the pleasant odor of the burnt-offering that the
latter offers him.^ He engages in a hand-to-hand con-
flict, like a man, with Jacob.^ He attacks Moses in the
night, and attempts to kill him;^ he speaks to him as
one person speaks to another ; ^ he buries him after his

1 Theology, I. pp. 181 f. ; comp. Baudissin, I. pp. 156, 175.

2 Gen. xviii. f. s Qen. ii. 7 f.; 21 1, 3. * Gen. iii. 8-20.

6 Gen. vii. 16. ^ Gen. viii. 21. '^ Gen. xxxii. 24 ff.

8 Ex. iv. 24. 9 Ex. xxxiii, 11 ; Num. xii. 8.


death ; ^ he j)ronounces the ten words of the decalogue,^
and engraves them on tables of stone.^ He raises his
hand to take an oath.^ It is only necessary to read a
few pages of the prophets or the Psalms to be convinced
that God is regarded as possessing all the members and
functions of the human body. He is even said to hiss,^
to cry,^ to laugh,*" to sleep and awake.^

It is clear that in the prophets and the Psalms these
expressions belong to the poetic style. But originally,
and even at a later date in the mouth of the people, they
were not merely rhetorical; they corresponded to the
imperfect ideas that were current respecting the Deity.
When the narratives of the Pentateuch, from which we
have taken the examples above cited, were composed,
they were certainly taken in their literal signification.
We think that even at the time when the original nar-
rators borrowed them from popular tradition to stereo-
type them in writing, they w^ere still generally taken in
this sense.

Since God was represented under the human form, it
was natural to put him into a certain place. According
to the whole Old Testament, God dwells in heaven,
whence he observes what happens on the earth, and
whence he descends to do what he does among men.
Later, the ideas on this subject were comparatively
enlightened ; but in ancient times, as several stories
prove, the current conception was rather gross. Thus
Jehovah comes down to see the city and the tower of

1 Deut. xxxiv. 6. 2 Ex, xx. 1 ff. ^ ex. xxxii. 16 ; xxxiv. 1.

* Ex. vi. 8 ; Num. xiv. 30 ; Deut. xxxii. 40.

6 Isa. V. 26 ; vii. 18. e jga. xlii. 13 f. ; Jer. xxv. 30.

7 Ps. ii. 4 ; lix. 8. 8 pg. xliv. 23 ; Ixxviii. 65.


Babel, that the children of men are building ; he says,
'' Come, let us go down and confound their speech." ^
In view of the corruption of the inhabitants of Sodom
and Gomorrah, he says : " I will go down and see if
they have acted altogether according to the report that
hath come to me, and if it is not so, I shall know it." ^
He appears to Moses and declares to him that he has
come down to deliver his people from the hand of the
Egyptians, and to bring them into the land of Canaan.^
When the law is promulgated, he comes down upon
Mount Sinai.* And these are not the only instances of
this kind.^

We know that, according to the whole Old Testa-
ment, Jehovah is regarded as dwelling in the midst of
his people, and more especially in the sanctuary. This
was only another way of localizing him. This idea,
which was later spiritualized, was in ancient times cer-
tainly very grossly conceived. According to a passage
of the song of Deborah already cited, Sinai was origi-
nally considered the peculiar abode of the God of Israel ;
the same opinion recurs in other passages, especially
in the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus, where we see
Moses and his companions ascending Sinai to draw near
to Jehovah.

Other imperfections, the imperfect affections and sen-
timents of the human soul, were attributed to God.
He is seized with jealousy on seeing men exalting them-
selves above their ordinary condition, and he feels him-
self obliged to oppose their proud designs, in order to

1 Gen. xi. 5, 7. 2 Gen. xviii. 21. 3 Ex. iii. 8.

* Ex. xix. 9, 11, 18, 20 ; comp. xxxiv. 5.

5 Num. xi. 17, 25 ; xii. 5 ; xxii. 9, 20 ; xxiii. 3 f ., 16.


maintain the separation that exists between him and
them.i He is obliged to put Abraham to the proof, in
order to learn that he is faithful to him.^ In all the
books of the Old Testament there are references to
oaths of God, to repentance on his part, to his jealousy,
to his anger, to his vengeance. But moral imperfections,
even more shocking, were attributed to him. It is related
that he incited Moses and the Israelites to cheat and rob
the Eg3q3tians, and that he assisted them in this at-
tempt.^ Nowhere in antiquity was there any obligation
felt toward strangers, least of all toward enemies. Je-
hovah, therefore, inasmuch as he was regarded as
exclusively or especially the national God of Israel, had,
it was thought, no actual obligations toward the enemies
of Israel.

Certain primitive usages show us that as the ancient
Israelites did not regard God as a pure spirit, neither
did they know how to worship him in spirit. We shall
see farther on how important was the part played by
external observances in Israel, and particularly by the
sacred ark, whose presence was identified with that of
Jehovah himself. There were other objects of worship
with reference to which superstitious ideas were current.

The teraphim, which we find even in the family of the
patriarchs,^ reappear in the house of David ^ and else-
where, and the worshippers of Jehovah ascribed to tliem
great value, as well as to other sacred statues and
images, among which must be reckoned the ephod,

1 Gen. iii. 22 ; xi. 6 f .

2 Gen. xxii. 1 ff., 12 ; comp. Ex. xv. 25 ; xx. 20.

3 Ex. iii. 18, 22 ; xi. 2 f. ; xii. 35 f.

4 Gen. xxxi. 19, .30 ff. ^ i Sam. xix. 13, 16.


mentioned in the same connection and placed upon the
same level.^ The worship of the brazen serpent was
also long continued in Israel, and finally condemned as
idolatry ; ^ it was the same with the calves prepared in
honor of Jehovah. This is the way in which these last
are represented, Ex. xxxii. 4 f. Jeroboam also doubt-
less set up the two calves at Bethel and Dan in honor
of Jehovah, although it was later regarded only as an
act of idolatry.^

If, as we saw at the beginning of this paragraph, one
may say that the first commandment of the decalogue
may be Mosaic, we now see, at the end of it, that
one may seriously doubt whether the second, which
absolutely forbids the worship of images, can be so
ancient. For even a David had sacred images in his
house, and used them in consulting Jehovah, which
would be inexplicable if, in his day, the second com-
mandment was a fundamental law of the religion of


In the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, document A re-
lates how Jehovah made a covenant with Abraham, the
father of the faithful. Farther on it tells how the cove-
nant between Jehovah and the people Israel was
solemnly confirmed through the mediation of Moses at
Sinai.* The detailed explanation of this important

1 Jud. xvii. 5 ; xviii. 14 ff., 30. ; viii. 27 ; Hos. iii. 4 ; comp. Zecli.
X. 2 ; 2 Kings xxiii. 24.

2 Num. xxi. 5 ff. ; 2 Kings xviii. 4.

3 1 Kings xii. 28 ff. ; 2 Kings x. 29 ; xvii. 16 ; comp. Hos. viii. 5 f.;
X. 5. * Ex. xix. -xxiv.


point, taken from one of the sources, is followed by a
second and briefer one, derived from another source.^

It should be noticed that we have here very old por-
tions of document A, based perhaps on written docu-
ments still older, at all events on ancient traditions. The
idea of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel is of
very ancient date. It is certainly as old as Moses, the
founder of the Israelitish theocracy, since there is no
later epoch to be found at which it could have arisen. ^
In the book of Judges, and those of Samuel, even in the
oldest passages that they contain, like the song of Debo-
rah, Jehovah is everywhere regarded as the God of
Israel, and Israel as the people of Jehovah. This idea
is found, from the start, as a fundamental feature of the
teaching of the prophets. It appears on every page
of the Old Testament. We must, then, even in this
period, show in what the covenant of Jehovah Avith
Israel consists, and what are its essential characteristics.

On the part of Jehovah, the covenant with Israel is
simply a gratuitous favor, a free and spontaneous act.
It is Jehovah who takes the initiative in it, and not
Israel. According even to document A, God caused the
children of Israel to be told at the time when he made
a covenant with them, that, while the whole earth be-
longed to him, he took them from among all the peoples
of the earth that he might make them his peculiar peo-
ple.^ But the gratuitousness of this favor is even more
strongly emphasized in Deuteronomy.*

1 Ex. xxxiv. 10-28.

2 Reuss, Gesch., § 69 ; Vatke, pp. 184 ff., 238; [Kuenen, Beligion of
Israel, I. pp. 292 f.].

3 Ex. xix. 5. 4 iv. 37 f. : vii. 6-viii. 8, 17 f. ; x. 14 f.


The relations established between Jehovah and his
people as the result of this covenant are described in
various ways. First of all, this people thus becomes the
people of Jehovah, his property,^ his inheritance,^ over
which he wishes to rule as master, as king.^ Oehler
justly remarks that when Jehovah, in making a cove-
nant with Israel, requires that they be a holy people
and a kingdom of priests, this implies the thought that
the people Israel must be separated from all the other
peoples, and that they must be consecrated to him, be-
long to him.* There are passages of document A and
of others that express this thought with great pre-
cision,^ a thought which is the essence of the term
sanctity when it is applied to men and things in the
Old Testament.^ Mention should also be made of the
fact that Israel was prohibited from making covenants
with the other peoples."

The relation between Jehovah and Israel, by virtue of
their covenant, is secondly regarded as that between
a father and his children. Jehovah is the father of the
people, inasmuch as he has conquered, formed, created
them, or will do so to them in the future.^ Jehovah is

1 Jud. V. 11 ; Ex. XV. 16 ; xix. 5 f . ; vi. 7 ; Num. xvi. 41 ; Deut, vii.
6 ; xiv. 2 ; xxvi. 18.

2 Ex. xxxiv. 9 ; 1 Sam, x. 1 ; 2 Sam. xiv. 16 ; xx. 19 ; xxi. 3 ; Mic.
vii. 14, 18 ; Deut. xxxii. 9 ; iv. 20 ; ix. 26, 29, etc.

3 Deut. xxxiii. 5 ; Jud. viii. 23 ; 1 Sam. viii. 5-7 ; Mic. ii. 13 ; iv. 7 ;
Isa. vi. 5 ; xxxiii, 22, etc. * § 82.

s Ex. xix. 4-6 ; xxii. 31 ; Lev. xx. 24-26 ; Deut. vii. 6 ; xiv. 2 ;
xxvi. 18 f.

6 Baudissin, II. pp. 40 ff., 61 ff. ; [W. R. Smith, Prophets, pp.224ff.].

"^ Ex. xxiii. 32 ; xxxiv, 11 f. ; Deut. vii. 1 ff.

8 Deut. xxxii. 6 ; Jer. iii. 4, 19 ; xxxi. 9 ; Isa. Ixiii. 16 ; Ixiv. 8 ;
Mai. i. 6 : ii. 10.


often said to have borne his people, to have formed
and created them.^ This he did when he brought
Israel, his son, from bondage in Egypt,^ then after this
painful delivery, when he nourished and reared him.^
By bearing and forming his people, Jehovah acquired
a right to them as a father acquires one to a son, a
favorite, a first-born son.*

In a third series of passages, the relation existing
between Jehovah and Israel is compared with the con-
jugal tie, Jehovah being the husband, and Israel the
wife — unfortunately very often an unfaithful wife, whom
the husband may accuse of unfaithfulness, adultery,
prostitution, and whom he has the right to divorce.^ In
numerous passages, idolatry, the worship of foreign
gods, consisting in giving one's self to these gods
and being unfaithful to Jehovah, is treated as prosti-

Finally, there are passages in which the Israelites are
individually called the servants of Jehovah," and others
in which Israel is collectively regarded as the servant
of the God, who chose them for his peculiar people.^
Jehovah is also generally addressed as the Lord.

The various relations established between Jehovah

1 Deut. xxxii. 18 ; Hos. viii. 14 ; Isa. xliii. 1, 7, 15, 21 ; etc.

2 Ex. iv. 22 f . ; Hos. xi. 1 ; comp. xii. 9 ; xiii. 4.

3 Hos. xi. 3 ; Isa. i. 2 ; xlvi. 3 ; Deut. i. 31 ; viii. 5.
* Ex. iv. 22 ; Jer. xxxi. 9, 20 ; comp. Hos. i. 10.

5 Hos. i.-iii. ; Jer. ii. 20 ; iii. 1, 8, 20 ; Ezek. xvi. ; xxiii. ; Isa. liv.
5 f. ; Ixii. 5.

6 Ex. xxxiv. 15 f. ; Jud. ii. 17 ; Hos. iv. 15 ; v. 3 f. ; vi. 10 ; ix. 1 ;
Jer. ii. 23-25 ; iii. 8 ff. ; xiii. 27 ; etc.

7 Deut. xxxii. 36, 43 ; Lev. xxv. 42, 55 ; 1 Kings viii. 32, 36 ; etc.

8 Jer. XXX. 10 ; xlvi. 27 f . ; Eze. xxviii. 25 ; xxxvii. 25 ; Isa. xli.
8 f. ; xiii. 19 ; xliii. 10 ; etc.


and Israel imply, on the part of God, authority, inas-
much as he is king, father, husband, and lord of Israel ;
they imply also his love and faithfulness. The condi-
tion of Israel, as people, son, wife, and servant of Jeho-
vah, on the other hand, implies respectful, docile,
humble obedience, as well as gratitude, love, and faith-
fulness. These respective rights and duties of Jehovah
and his people are expressed in a great variety of forms,
which will be considered hereafter.

While we are discussing the essential characteristics
of the old covenant, we must further remark that this
covenant concerns the people Israel as a people. The
individual is almost completely overshadowed by the
nation. Nothing is more foreign to the general tone of
the Old Testament than our modern individualism.
One became a member of the old covenant, not by per-
sonal adherence, but by birth, by descent from the
fathers, and by circumcision.

This prime sacrament of the old covenant, being
bestowed only upon male children, evidently implies
a superiority of men over women ; the true Israel is
composed of the stronger sex. Heads of families played
the leading part. That a family should be Israelite, it
was only essential that its head should be such; its
other members were of only secondary importance in
all respects, and therefore also in matters of religion.

Individualism, however, finds partial satisfaction in
the conditions and obligations that every Israelite must
fulfil in order to partake in the benefits of the covenant,
in the privileges granted by Jehovah to his people.
These conditions and obligations, which the people
Israel had to agree faithfully to fulfil, when Jehovah


made a covenant with tliem,^ we shall have to discuss
more in detail in various parts of our work.

The above discussion shows that the covenant be-
tween Jehovah and Israel has justly been called a syn-
allagmatic contract, implying reciprocal obligations
between the two contracting parties, faithfulness on the
part of God, who chose his people out of sheer grace, as
well as on the part of the people graciously chosen.
Hence the essentially moral basis of the old covenant,
and its superiority over all the other religions of an-
tiquity. This covenant, also, in spite of its particu-
larism, and all the imperfections that it contained, was
capable of remarkable development, and of final comple-
tion in the new covenant established by the gospel.


If we wish to describe the ethical ideal that was
formed in our period, we have only to allow ourselves
to be guided by the oldest legislation. But we may
also take into account the great figures, more or less
idealized, of the patriarchal and the following epochs,
as they are represented in the oldest documents ; for
they bear the visible stamp of ancient Israelitish
morals ; are, as it were, the reflex of them.

The most perfect portrait of the patriarchal epoch is
that of Abraham. It is evident that to this father of
the people Israel, with whom God made the first special
covenant, were attributed all the virtues of a true Israelite.
Abraham, it is said, observed all the commands of God,^

1 Ex. xix. 5-8 ; xxiv. 3, 7. 2 Gen. xxvi. 5.


commanded his house to keep the way of Jehovah, to
practise justice.^ He is a perfect model of confidence
in God and obedience to him.^ In his relations with
his equals he shows a spirit of peace, charity, and disin-
terestedness.^ He gives proof of courage when he is
called upon to succor a brother ; ^ he practises hospital-
ity toward strangers;^ he shows compassion for the
inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah when they are
threatened with destruction.^

Next to Abraham, David is the most ideal figure of
the Old Testament, the model for kings after God's
own heart, the type of the Messiah, of the perfect
king of the glorious era of the last days. Even as a
young man, he seems animated by the most complete
confidence in God." He is submissive to Jehovah and
filled with a genuine spirit of prayer.^ He shows him-
self repentant after his faults^ and grateful for the
favors of God.^^ He is imbued with a tender and faith-
ful friendship for Jonathan. ^^ He gives proof of gen-
erosity toward Saul, his enemy, and of reverence for
the anointed of Jehovah.i^ It is with the profoundest
sorrow that he hears of the death of his rebellious son,!^
or sees the people punished on his account.^'^ He inspires
his soldiers with the spirit of justice. ^^

1 Gen. xviii. 19. ^ Gen. xii. 1 ff. ; xv. 6 ; xxii. 1 ff.

3 Gen. xiii. 7-9 ; comp. xiv. 21-24.

* Gen. xiv. 13 ff. ^ Gen. xviii. 2 ff. ; comp. xix. 1 ff.

6 Gen. xviii. 23 ff. '^1 Sam. xvii. 34 ff., 45 ff.

8 2 Sam. vii. ; xv. 25 f. ; xvi. 11 ; xxiv. 14.

9 2 Sam. xii. 1-23 ; xxiv. 10 ff., 17. lo 2 Sam. xxii.

11 1 Sam. xviii. 3 ; xx. 8, 16, 42 ; xxiii. 16-18 ; 2 Sam. i. 26.

12 1 Sam. xxiv. ; xxvi. ^^ 2 Sam. xix. 1 ff.

1* 2 Sam. xxiv. 17, ^^ 1 Sam. xxx. 21-25.


This ethical ideal of the ancient Israelites is, how-
ever, far from perfect. The patriarchs use deception
toward the stranger, as if it were a lawful practice.^
Polygamy is not considered an evil,^ nor intemperance
in eating and drinking a vice.^ Great license in morals
is tolerated.* Barbarity is practised in war, and gener-
ally toward adversaries, as the case of David himself
proves.^ Suicide does not appear culpable.^

In spite of polygamy, which was freely practised,
marriage was regarded with profound respect,^ and
w^oman was greatly honored; it is only necessary to
recall the fact that from remote antiquity there were
prophetesses to be found in Israel.^ According to Gen.
xxiv. the relations between masters and servants were

We pass now to the oldest legal fragments ; namely,
Ex. XX. - xxiii. and xxxiv. 11-26. At the beginning of
the former is found the decalogue, reproduced, with
some variations, Deut. v. It must be very ancient, at
least in its original tenor. This may be approximately
reached by removing the portions that differ, in the two
recensions, and clearly appear to be later additions.
The decalogue by no means contains the whole of

1 Gen. xii. 12 ff. ; xx. 1 ff. ; xxvi. 7 ff. ; comp. xxvii. 6 ff.

2 Gen. xvi. ; xxii. 24 ; xxv. 6 ; xxvi. 34 ; xxviii. 9 ; xxix. f . ; xxxvi.
2, 12 ; Jud. viii. 30.

3 Gen. ix. 21, 24 ; xliii. 34 ; 2 Sam. xi. 13.

4 Gen. xxxviii. 15 ff. ; Jud. xvi. 1, 4 ; comp. xi. 1.

5 Jud. i. 6 ; iii. 20-22 ; iv. 17 ff. : v. 24 ff. ; viii. 16 f. ; ix. 5, 49 ;
xii. 6 ; xviii. 27 f. ; xxi. 10 f . ; 1 Sam. xxv. 10-13 ; xxxiv. 39 ; xxvii.
9 ff. ; 2 Sam. iii. 27 ; viii. 2 ; xii. 31 ; 1 Kings ii. 5 f., 8 f. ; xi. 15 f.

6 Jud. ix. 54 ; xvi. 29 ff. ; 1 Sam. xxxi. 4 ff. ; 2 Sam. xvii. 23.

7 Gen. xii. 16 ff. ; xx. 3 ff. ; xxvi. 10 f.

8 Jud. iv. 4 ; Ex. xv. 20 ; 2 Kings xxii. 14.


Christian ethics as certain modern catechisms would
have it. But even taken in its literal sense, it is a
wonderful production for the epoch to which it belongs.
Its precepts are often elsewhere reproduced in the Old
Testament, which clearly proves that we here have to
do with the fundamental laws of Israel.

Jehovah after having reminded his people that he is
their God, and that he delivered them from bondage in
Egypt, forbids them to worship other gods besides him.^
This is the prime law of the old covenant. The whole
Old Testament teaches that the greatest unfaithfulness
of which Israel could be guilty was the abandonment of
Jehovah, to become a devotee of idolatry. The deca-
logue forbids, in the second place, the making of images
to worship.^ The profanation of the sacred name of
Jehovah by taking a false oath, or any bad use of it
whatever, is next prohibited.-^ These three prohibitions
are followed by two positive commands : one ordains
that the Sabbath, the holiday par excellence^ be sancti-
fied, kept sacred, apart from other days, and not devoted
to manual labor ; ^ the other requires that fathers and
mothers be honored.^ The place assigned to this com-
mand, immediately after those touching duties to God,
shows its importance. The remainder of the decalogue
consists merely of a series of prohibitions. The first
forbids murder;^ life, from the Israelitish point of view,
being the most precious of blessings. Next to his life
man's greatest treasure is his wife.'^ This is the reason
why the prohibition of murder is followed by that of
adultery.^ Then comes the prohibition of theft, forbid-

1 Ex. XX. 2 f . - vv. 4 f . ^ v.l \ see Dillmann. * vv. 8 ff.
5 ^. 12. 6 ^. 13. 7 Comp. Gen. ii. 2.3 f. 8 Ex. xx. 14.


ding one to lay one's hand upon the property of a neigh-
bor.^ But one has no more right to do violence to the
life or property of one's neighbor by words than by acts.
Hence the prohibition of false testimony, in case of legal
proceedings.^ Finally, since bad words and actions
proceed from bad desires, these also are forbidden.^
For contrary to the supposition of many since Luther's
day, reference is here made to covetousness, and not
simply to external but indirect means of getting pos-

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