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ened bread seven days, and, on the seventh day, observ-
ing a special festival in honor of Jehovah.^ It also
enjoins that every male Israelite present himself before
God with sacrifices, among which that of the passover
occupies the first rank.^ If Ex. xxiii. 19 and xxxiv. 26
are to be closely connected with the verses preceding,
if these passages mean that at the feast of the passover
the first-fruits of the land must be brought to the sanc-
tuary, as appears from Lev. xxiii. 9 ff., this is a new
proof of the agricultural character of this feast.

Deuteronom}' agrees with these injunctions in their
essential features ; but it gives them greater precision,
ordaining that large and small cattle be offered in the
evening, from the beginning of the feast, in sacrifice
to Jehovah, and that the flesh be cooked and eaten; it
insists, and this is peculiar to it, that the sacrifice of the
passover can be offered and eaten only at the place where

^ Ex. xxiii. 18 ; xxxiv. 25.

2 Ex. xii. 1 ; xiii. 4 ; xxiii. 15 ; xxxiv. 18 ; Deut. xvi. 1.

3 Dillmann, i.l. 4 Ex. xiii. 3-10,
5 Ex. xii. 27 ; xxxiv. 33-25 ; xxiii. 15, 17 f .


the lawful sanctuary is located. ^ This code must have
introduced certain innovations. Under its influence,
in fact, King Josiah caused the passover to be kept
as it had never before been celebrated. ^ According to
Professor Reuss the passover had hitherto been the
spring festival and then only took a theocratic charac-
ter.2 But since even document A gives the feast this
character in a number of passages, we cannot admit
such a view. It must, moreover, be observed that the
deliverance from slavery in Egypt, even in old docu-
ments, such as the song of deliverance, Ex. xv., and the
decalogue, appears as the chief of the benefits bestowed
by Jehovah upon Israel. It is, therefore, inadmissible
to suppose that they waited until the time of Josiah to
celebrate this blessing; it must have been celebrated
from early times, and that in the spring, in the month
of ears, together with the feast of unleavened bread, as
document A says in several places. The important
modifications that the strict centralization of worship
necessarily occasioned in the celebration of the passover
under Josiah sufficiently explain the statement of the
second book of Kings, to which reference has just been
made, and on which Professor Reuss bases his view.

Inquiring now into the real significance of this feast,
we must take account of its twofold character. The
feast of unleavened bread, considered as a feast in-
augurating the harvest, in which the first-fruits of the
land are offered to God, has the same significance as
analogous festivals among the other peoples. Offerings

1 Deut. xvi. 1-8. 2 2 Kings xxiii. 21-23.

2 See Reuss on this passage ; Histoire Sainte, I. pp. 164 1, and
fleschichte, § 289 ; [Wellhausen, p. 93].


were presented to the divinity at the beginning of the
harvest, to express this thought, that the first-fruits of
the year should be consecrated to the giver of all things,
and that man can properly enjoy his blessings only
when this has been done.^

As for the feast of passover, it is a commemoration
of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the foun-
dation of the Israelitish nation, as well as of their cov-
enant with Jehovah; for, according to the Old Testa-
ment, Israel forms a nation and becomes the people of
Jehovah first from this moment. In order to awaken
and maintain the feeling of gratitude toAvard God,
fathers must at each feast remind their sons of this
great and memorable token of Jehovah's goodness. ^

h. The Feast of the Harvest is also called the feast of
weeks, because just seven weeks are to be counted after
the feast of the passover in fixing its date.^ According
to Lev. xxiii. 10, the first-fruits of the harvest to be
offered at the passover can only be the first-fruits of the
barley harvest.* It is the first-fruits of the wheat har-
vest,^ which comes later, that belong to the feast of
weeks. For this harvest, therefore, the feast of weeks
is the feast of first-fruits.^

This feast is reckoned among the pilgrim feasts at
which every male Israelite must present himself before
Jehovah.''' It is closely related to the agricultural feast
of unleavened bread, as clearly appears from Lev. xxiii.
It is the feast of the close of the harvest, as the feast of

1 Dillmann on Lev. xxiii. 10 and 14.

2 Ex. xii. 26 f. ; xiii. 8 f.

3 Ex. xxiii. 16 ; xxxiv. 22 ; Deut. xvi. 9 f. ; Lev. xxiii. 15 f.

4 Dillmann on Lev. xxiii. 10. ^ Ex. xxxiv. 22.

6 Ex. xxiii. 16. ' Ex. xxiii. 17 ; xxxiv. 23 ; Deut. xvi. 16.


unleavened bread is the feast of the commencement.^
It lasts only one day.^

Touching this feast, Deuteronomy is content with
saying that the offerings must be voluntary and propor-
tionate to the blessings that each has received from
God ; ^ that it must be a joyful feast, celebrated at the
sanctuary by the whole family, including the servants,
to whom must be added the Levites, the strangers, the
orphans, and the widows who are in Israel ; * that such
kindness must be displayed because Israel were slaves
in Egypt, and Jehovah delivered them.^

This feast, like that of unleavened bread, is evi-
dently a feast of thanksgiving; it is intended to ex-
press gratitude toward God for the harvest. Among the
early Israelites it always had a purely agricultural char-
acter. It was not until a later date that the Jews,
wishing to give it a theocratic character, made it com-
memorative of the promulgation of the law.

c. The Feast of Tabernacles is the third pilgrim feast.
Document A, however, does not give it the name feast
of tabernacles, as does Deuteronomy.^ It speaks simply
of the feast of the harvest, which is to be celebrated at
the end of the year, when the Israelites gather from the
fields the fruits of their labor. ^ To this feast, as a
feast of tabernacles, allusion is evidently made, Hos.
xii. 9, where feast-days are mentioned on which it is
customary to live in tents. The feast of Jehovah, spoken
of, Jud. xxi. 19 ff., which was celebrated every year at

1 Bihel-Lexikon, II. p. 269 ; IV. p. 512 ; Handworterbuch, p. 433 ;

[ Wellhausen, pp. 85 f.] . 2 Lev. xxiii. 21 ; Num. xxviii. 26.

3 xvi. 10. ^ xvi. 11. ° xvi. 12 ; comp. v. 15 ; xv. 15.

6 Deut. xvi. 13 ff. '^ Ex. xxiii. 16 ; xxxiv. 22.


Shiloh, and at which the young girls engaged in danc-
ing, is also probably the feast of tabernacles.

Even in early times this feast was celebrated seven
days in the seventh month, and it was called simply the
feast because it was the feast par excellence.^ Thus it
appears, also, Zech. xiv. 16-19, and Ezek. xlv. 25. Jero-
boam transferred it to the following month for the king-
dom of the ten tribes, ^ probably because, in the north of
Palestine, the vintage and the harvest of the autumnal
fruits occurred later than in the South.

According to Deuteronomy this feast must be cele-
brated in honor of Jehovah, at his sanctuary, at the time
when the products of the threshing-floor and the wine-
press are gathered ; it must be a joyful festival, in which
everybody, including the Levites and the poor, are to
take part ; the offerings to Jehovah are to be proportion-
ate to the blessings that each has received. ^ The sig-
nificance of this feast is very clear. Celebrated at the
beginning of autumn, when the vintage occurred, and
the latest products of the soil and the latest fruits of
the trees were gathered, it was the general and prin-
cipal feast of the harvests of the entire year, a feast
essentially agricultural, a feast of joy and gratitude
toward God, the author of nature and the dispenser of
temporal blessings. The custom of celebrating this
feast under booths of leafy branches was certainly, in
the beginning, intimately related to its rural character.

1 1 Kings viii. 2, 65. 2 1 Kings xii. 32 f. ^ pgut. xvi. 13-17.


IV. Religious Rites.

1. Circumcision, — Circumcision, the initial rite of
the old covenant, 1 is not an exclusively Israelitish
custom ; it is found among many peoples, ancient and
modern. 2 According to document A this sacred cus-
tom existed in the family of Israel from remote antiquity.
In the days of Moses and Joshua a stone knife was used
for the purpose,^ which seems to indicate that it origi-
nated as early as the stone age.* The oldest historical
books teach us that the Israelites, when they wished
to cast upon their enemies, and particularly the Philis-
tines, a stinging reproach, called them the uncircum-
cised.^ Document C, which is generally very theoreti-
cal, manifests the same tendency with reference to
circumcision. Not content with representing this as
an old and sacred custom, it makes it a divine ordi-
nance, dating from Abraham; it represents it as the
perpetual sign of the covenant with God; it says that
every one who is uncircumcised must be exterminated
from the midst of the Hebrews, that even slaves must
be circumcised, and that all male children are to be on
the eighth day after their birth. ^ It teaches also that
in exceptional cases circumcision might be performed
at any age,''' and that a stranger could not partake of
the passover without being circumcised.^

1 Lev. xii. 3 ; Gen. xvii. 10 ff., 23 ff. ; xxi. 4.

2 Bibel-Lexikon, I. pp. 405 f. ; [Smith, Dictionary^ art. Circum-
cision]. 3 Gen. xxxiv. 14 ff. ; Ex. iv. 24-26 ; Josh. v. 2-8.

4 Dillmann on Ex. iv. 25.

5 Jud. xiv. 3 ; xv. 18 ; 1 Sam. xiv. 6 ; xvii. 26, 36 ; xxxi. 4 ; 2 Sam.
i. 20. 6 Gen. xvii. 10-14 ; xxi. 4 ; Lev. xii. 3.

' Gen. xvii. 23-27 ; comp. xxxiv. 24. ^ Ex. xii. 44, 48.


What is the real significance of this sacrament?
There are various opinions on the subject. It is certain
that circumcision is an act of consecration to Jehovah. ^
Thereby every male Israelite is incorporated with the
chosen people and obtains the privileges that are con-
nected with the covenant with Jehovah. Some modern
theologians, starting from Ex. iv. 24-26, profess to see
in it, above all, a bloody sacrifice, performed at the very
source of life, by which the life of every Israelite is,
from his youth, consecrated to God ; and they maintain
that circumcision is only secondarily and as a conse-
quence of this significance, the sign of the covenant
with Jehovah. 2 Others combat the idea that circum-
cision is a sacrifice ; they see in it an act of purification
and therefore of consecration to God.^ Steiner adopts
a combination of both views,* which are really mutually

It is certain that, according to the old passage Ex.
iv. 24-26, " circumcision is a sacramental act, in which
the blood of the child redeems the life of the father, a
symbolic sort of sacrifice which insures divine favor, "^
and that, by this act, the circumcised child is at the
same time consecrated to God.^ But in a number of
other passages — of a later date, it is true — circumcision
is also the symbol of purity or purification. There are
references to circumcised hearts, i.e. regenerate, pure,
obedient hearts ; and to uncircumcised hearts, i.e. hearts
that are impure and rebellious toward God.'^ An inat-

1 Keuss, Gesch., § 71 ; [Ewald, Antiquities, pp. 92 f.].

2 Dillmann on Ex. iv. 26 and Lev. xii. 3.

3 Handworterbuch, p. 170 ; Oeliler, § 88.

* Bibel-Lexikon, I. pp. 408 f. ^ Reuss, i.l. ^ Dillmann, i.l.

' Lev. xxvi. 41 ; Deut. x. 16 ; xxx. 6 ; Jer. iv. 4 ; ix. 26 ; Ezek. xliv. 7.


tentive ear, one that will not hear the word of Jehovah,
is an uncircumcised ear.^ The first-fruits of trees are
considered uncircumcised, i.e. as impure, and not to be
eaten. 2

Inasmuch as circumcision was an act of consecra-
tion to Jehovah, it was necessarily an act of purification
and sanctification, since nothing could be consecrated
without being purified and sanctified. Israel must be
a holy people, and one could become part of this people
only by circumcision: the idea of sanctification was
therefore inseparable from this ceremony. Dillmann
maintains that if circumcision had been an act of purifi-
cation, there must have been an analogous purification
for the female child. ^ But this argument is weak.
The Israelitish woman played a very subordinate part
even in matters of religion. She belonged to the peo-
ple of God, by virtue of being the daughter, the wife,
or the slave of the head of a family ; she had no need
of being otherwise incorporated with it.^

2. Sacynfices. — The most important religious act,
the essential part of worship among almost all the peo-
ples of antiquity, and not less so among the Israelites,
is sacrifice. The custom of offering sacrifices seems to
be of as ancient a date as religion itself. It suggested
itself very naturally to the primitive man, with his
exceedingly infantile notions respecting the Deity. At
first the gods were supposed to have all the needs and
desires of men. To secure their favor, to appease
their wrath, or to manifest gratitude to them, presents
were brought and sacrifices offered to them. This

1 Jer. vi. 10. 2 ^ev. xix. 23. ^ See on Lev. xii. 3.

* Handworterbuch, p. 168 ; Oehler, § 88.


means was considered more efficacious than simple

The practice of offering sacrifices certainly existed
among the Hebrews from times the most remote. Doc-
ument A represents it as dating from the first man.^
The same authority testifies to its existence in the days
of the patriarchs,^ as well as in those of Moses and
Joshua.^ The oldest of the other historical books give
evidence of its continued existence.* But it must be
observed that the legal portion of document A knows
nothing of either an institution or a regulation of sac-
rifices. Traditional usage seems originally to have
sufficed on this as on so many other points.

It clearl}^ follows from the passages cited, and many
others, that, in ancient times, the rite did not play the
part that it did afterwards; for it is nowhere dwelt
upon. The important thing was not the rite, Avhich, in
an age when primitive simplicity and freedom reigned,
was probably not strictly uniform.^ The important
thing" was that the sacrifices be offered to Jehovah and
not to other gods.^

Among all peoples sacrifices are essentially offerings,
gifts made to the divinity by his worshippers. It was
the same in Israel. This is expressed by the term

1 Gen. iv. 3 f. ; viii. 20.

2 Gen. XV. 9 ff. ; xxii. 2 ff., 13 ; xxxi. 54 ; xlvi. 1.

3 Ex. V. 3 ; X. 25 f . ; xviii. 12 ; xx. 24 ; xxii. 20 ; xxiv. 5 ; xxxii. 6 ;
xxxiv. 25 ; Num. xxv. 2 ; Josh. xxii. 23, 26-29.

* Jud. ii. 5 ; vi. 19-21, 25-28 ; xi. 31 ; xiii. 16, 19 ; xx. 26 ; xxi. 4 ;
1 Sam. i. 3, 21, 24 f. ; ii. 13 ff., 28 f. ; iii. 14 ; vii. 9 f. ; ix. 13 ; x. 8 ;
xi. 15 ; xiii. 9 f. ; xv. 15, 22; xvi. 2 ff. ; xx. 6, 29 ; xxvi. 19 ; etc.

5 Jud. vi. 19 f. ; xi. 30 f . ; xiii. 15, 19 ; 1 Sam. vi. 14 ; 2 Sam. vi. 13 ;
1 Kings viii. 30 ff. ; xix. 19-21. 6 Ex. xxii. 20.


minchah^ offering, which was originally applied to sacri-
fices in general, 1 and not to bloodless sacrifices alone, as
the later legislation would lead one to suppose. ^ Since
in document A it denotes especially bloodless sacrifices,
we find there and in Ezekiel another term for sacrifices
in general, viz. qorhan^ which also means offering,

Sacrifices have the same object as any other offering
made to Jehovah, — to obtain or retain his favors, or to
render thanks for favors obtained. But what distin-
guishes the sacrifice from other offerings is that it is
offered and partly or wholly burned on the altar, the
table of Jehovah, and that it is thought to serve as
food for God. In fact, only things that are edible are
offered to him, — and those the best both of fruits of
the earth and domestic, or, in biblical phraseology,
clean, animals.* Sacrifices are actually called the food
of God,^ and said to have an odor pleasant to him.^
Libations of wine were added ^ because man does not
usually eat without drinking. Since, also, perfumes
were esteemed and freely used on grand occasions,
they were burned on the altars of Jehovah,^ after the
fashion followed elsewhere.^

1 Gen. iv. 3-5 ; Num. xvi. 15 ; Jud. vi. 18 f. ; 1 Sam. ii. 17 ; xxvi.
19 ; Isa. i. 13 ; Mai. i. 10-13 ; ii. 12 f. ; iii. 3 f. 2 Lev. ii.

3 Lev. i. 2 ff. ; ii. 1 ff. ; iii. i ff. ; iv. 23, 28, 32 ; v. 11, etc. ; Ezek.
XX. 28 ; xl. ; xl. 43.

4 Gen. iv. 3 f . ; viii. 20 ; 1 Sam. xv. 15 ; Lev. xxii. 20 ff. ; Mai. i. 8, 14.
s Lev. iii. 11, 16 ; xxi. 6, 8, 17, 21 f. ; etc.

6 Gen. viii. 21 ; Ex. xxix. 18, 25, 41 ; Lev. i. 9, 13, 17 ; ii. 2, 9,
12 ; etc. "^ Hos. ix. 4 ; Num. xv. 5 ff . ; xxviii. 7 ff.

8 Isa. i. 13 ; Jer. xxxiii. 18 ; xli. 5 ; 1 Kings iii. 3 ; ix. 25 ; xiii. 1 ;
Ex. XXX. 7 f., 34-38 ; Lev. ii. 1, 15 ; xvi. 12 f.

9 Dillmann on Ex. xxx. 34-38.


The original ground for sacrifices, then, is the thought
that the Deity takes nourishment; in fine, has human
needs. But with the progress of religious ideas in
Israel this custom took on a more enlightened charac-
ter; so that it could be preserved even when a purer
conception of the Deity became prevalent. He who
presented an offering to Jehovah made a sacrifice, re-
nounced some good in favor of God ; but he connected
with this act a religious thought, a feeling, a desire,
a vow: the offering was, so to speak, the vehicle for
them, the means of presenting them to God. It was a
thought, a feeling of adoration or thankfulness for bless-
ings received, or perhaps a prayer, a vow, that new
benefits might be obtained. Sacrifices thus also denoted
the covenant relations that Israel enjoyed with Jeho-
vah; were the means of maintaining this covenant, or
restoring it when it had been violated by any infidelity. ^

The Israelites, in imitation of the idolatrous peoples
about them, sometimes sacrificed their children to Baal
and Moloch. 2 In early times such sacrifices might also
be made to Jehovah, as is proven by the case of Jeph-
thah's daughter, offered as a burnt sacrifice by her
father.^ It was Jehovah before whom King Agag was
slain by Samuel,* and seven sons of Saul, devoted to
this purpose by David, were hanged.^ The story in
Genesis, representing God as interfering to prevent
Abraham from offering his son Isaac as a burnt sacri-
fice, was certainly intended to show that Jehovah does

1 De Wette, Archeologie, § 200 ; Dillmann, Exodus u. Leviticus,
pp. 376 f. ; [Ewald, Antiquities, pp. 23 ff.J.

2 Jer. vii. 31 ; xix. 5 ; xxxii. 35 ; Ezek, xvi. 20 f. ; 2 Kings xvi. 3 ;
xvii. 17 ; xxiii. 10 ; comp. Lev. xviii. 21 ; xx. 2 ff.

3 Jud. xi. 30 f., 34-39. ^ 1 Sam. xv. 33. & 2 Sam. xxi. 6.


not accept sacrifices of this sort. Such a lesson could
only be necessary if the early Hebrews sacrificed their
children to God, as was the practice among other
Semitic peoples.

It was first-born sons who were the favorite offerings,^
because they, like the first-born of the flocks and herds,
were believed to belong more especially to the Deity. ^

3. The Offering of the First-horn^ First-fruits^ a^id
Tithes. — As distinct and regular offerings the Israelites
had to give to Jehovah the first-born, the first-fruits of
the land, and tithes, as appears even from document
A. 3 From the time when human sacrifices were forbid-
den in Israel the first-born of men had to be redeemed.*

Offerings of the same kind were made among other
peoples. The reason is easily comprehended.' There
was a strong conviction that all blessings come from the
Deity, and that they could not lawfully be enjoyed until
after a part had been rendered to him as a token of grati-
tude. First-fruits were offered, because the claims of
the Deity take priority over those of men, because first-
fruits are generally the best that one has, and because,
as the earliest products, they represent all that follow.
Tithes were offered, because, according to a very widely
recognized symbolism, the number ten was regarded as
a perfect number, representing totality. In Israel,
moreover, Jehovah was considered the proprietor of the
soil and the king of the country, so that these offerings

1 Mic. vi. 7 ; Ezek. xx. 26.

2 Ex. xxii. 29 f. ; xxxiv. 19 f. ; Num. xviii. 15.

3 Gen. xiv. 20 ; xxviii. 22 ; Ex. xiii. 11-16 ; xxii. 29 f. ; xxiii. 19 ;
xxxiv. 19 f., 26.

* Ex. xiii. 13, 15 ; xxxiv. 20 ; Num. xviii. 15 f.


were only a just tribute.^ Deuteronomy, especially in
the case of first-fruits, gives as a reason for offering
them, that Jehovah brought Israel forth from Egypt to
give them the good land of Canaan, flowing with milk
and honey. "^ The reason for offering the first-born, as
given in several passages, is the fact that Jehovah
spared the first-born of the Hebrews when he slew those
of the Egyptians ; it was to perpetuate the memory of
the deliverance from Egypt. ^

The earl}^ documents say nothing about the way in
which these offerings are to be consecrated to Jehovah.
It was doubtless done in the form of sacrifice, as is
indicated by Dent. xv. 21. According to this same
document the victims sacrificed furnished a joyful fam-
ily meal, eaten before Jehovah, i.e. at the sanctuary,
and shared by the Levites and the poor.^ We have
here the description of a traditional custom, wdiich Deu-
teronomy presupposes, rather than inaugurates; the
only new provision is that these religious feasts must be
celebrated exclusively at the lawful sanctuary.^ Touch-
ing tithes, it commands that every three years they be
given up to the Levites and the poor.^ Document C,
on the other hand, claims that these and many other
offerings fall to the priests alone." This is, moreover,
the general tendency of this document: it seeks to in-

1 Hnndicdrterbuch, pp. 396. 398 ; Dillmann on Lev. xxvii. 30-33 ;
[Schultz, II. pp. 10 f.].

2 Deut. xxvi. 2-10, 15. 3 Ex. xiii. 15 f. ; Num. iii. 13 ; viii. 17.
4 Deut. xii. 6 f., 11 f., 17 f. ; xiv. 22-27 ; xv. 19 f. ; xxvi. 11 ; comp.

Lev. xix. 24.

^ Riehm, Gesetzgehung Mosis, p. 44 ; Graf, Geschtl. Bucher des
A. r., p. 47 ; [Wellhausen, pp. 156 f.].

6 Deut. xiv. 28 f. ; xxvi. 12 f. "^ Num. xviii. 8-32.


crease the revenues of the priesthood, ^ as well as
attempts to modify one of the essential features of the
sacrifices, by making of these sacred acts, hitherto occa-
sions for joyful family repasts, purely ecclesiastical

4. Prayer. — The religious act most universally
practised, that to which man feels himself most natu-
rally inclined, is prayer. The whole Old Testament
gives proof that it was always in use among the Israel-
ites. It doubtless accompanied the offering of sacri-
fices.^ The law, however, contains no command on
the subject, perhaps because the universal practice of
prayer rendered any command of this kind superfluous,
or because it was believed impossible to regulate so
spontaneous an act of the soul. Deuteronomy gives
only the formula to be employed when the first-fruits
of the land and the tithes are offered,* and document C
prescribes the benediction that the priests are to pro-
nounce upon the people.^ This document also in cer-
tain cases enjoins the confession of sins.^

It is the Psalms that furnish the most examples of
prayers used among the Israelites. In them, as indeed
in many other passages of the Old Testament, appears
the full and complete assurance that all possible mate-
rial and spiritual blessings may be obtained by prayer,
and the belief that God can grant anything if it seems
to him good.

1 Graf, pp. 47 ff. ; Wellhausen, pp. 156 f. ; Reuss, Histoire Sainte,
I. pp. 170 f.

2 Wellhausen, pp. 69 ff., 76 ff.

2 Gen. xii. 8 ; xxvi. 25 ; 1 Sam. vii, 9 ; Job xlii. 8 ; 1 Chron. xxi. 26.
4 Deut. xxvi. 5-10, 13-15. s j^um. vi, 24-26.

6 Lev. xvi. 21 ; Num. v. 7.


5. Voivs. — Vows also are among the oldest religious
practices of the Israelites. A vow was more than a
prayer, more than a mere word ; it was an act, general^
a sacrifice, by which one sought to win or retain the
divine favor. Document A shows us Jacob on his flight
to Mesopotamia making the vow that, if Jehovah will
guard and bless him, he will take him for his God, rear
a sanctuary to him and pay him tithes. ^ But the most

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