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touching, tragic vow is that of Jephthah. He prom-
ises God that if he will give him victory over the
Ammonites, he will offer to him as a burnt offering
whatever comes out of his house on his return. But it
is his daughter, whom he first meets ; therefore, at the
end of two months, he fulfils upon her the vow that he
has uttered. 2 Saul makes the people promise under
oath not to eat anything until evening, until he has
been avenged upon his enemies; and Jonathan, who
does not keep this vow because he knows nothing of it,
only escapes being put to death by the intercession of
the people for him with the king, his father:^ so sacred
and irrevocable were vows and oaths considered. Absa-
lom claims to have made the following vow during his
sojourn in Geshur: "If Jehovah will bring me back to
Jerusalem, I will serve him,"* — evidently by offering
to him sacrifices.

Although vows were customary among the Israelites
of antiquity, the law pays little attention to them. The
oldest legislation of the Pentateuch says nothing at all
about them. Deuteronomy, presupposing the custom
of making vows to Jehovah, declares that one is per-

1 Gen. xxviii. 20-22 ; xxxi. 13. 2 j^d. xi. 30-40.

« 1 Sam. xiv. 24 ff., 36 ft. * 2 Sam. xv. 7 f.


fectly free in the matter; that it is not a sin not to make
vows, but that those made must be fulfilled, and that as
soon as possible. ^ This declaration shows that the
Deuteronomist knew nothing of a divine law requiring
vows, otherwise he would not have said that it was not a
sin not to make them. As for document C, it confines
itself to giving rules that must be observed in fulfilling
vows.^ Most of the other passages of the Old Testa-
ment bearing on this subject prove that vows played
an important part in Israelitish piety, and that fidelity
required their exact fulfilment.^

The foregoing discussion shows that vows were a
means of rendering God favorable, and especially of
securing his help at critical junctures, in the presence
of great danger. The fulfilment of the vow after
some deliverance or blessing, naturally became an ex-
pression of gratitude toward God.

6. The Anathema. — A peculiar vow, to which refer-
ence is made in document A and elsewhere, consisted
in anathematizing persons or things, placing them
under ban, or devoting them to destruction. Thus the
Canaanitish peoples Avere placed under ban by command
of Jehovah, because these peoples were idolaters.* The
Israelites, also, who became idolaters, or enticed their
brethren thereto, were devoted to extermination.^ Any

1 Deut. xxiii. 21-23 ; comp. Eccl. v. 3-6.

2 Lev. vii. 16 ; xxii. 18 ; xxvii. 1 ff. ; Num. xv. 3 ; xxx. 3 ff,

3 Isa, xix. 21 ; Nah. i. 15 ; Jon. i. 16 ; ii. 9 ; Job xxii. 27 ; Prov. xx.
25 ; Ps. xxii. 25 ; 1. 14 ; Ivi. 12 ; Ixi. 8 ; Ixv. 1 ; Ixvi. 13 ; Ixxvi. 11 ;
cxvi. 14, 18.

4 Josh. ii. 10 ; vi. 17-21 ; viii. 26 ; x. 28-42 ; xi. 10-22 ; Jud. i. 17 ;
1 Sam. XV. 2-33 ; Deut. ii. 34 ; iii. 6 ; vii. 1 ff. ; xx. 16-18.

s Ex. xxii. 20 \ Deut. xiii.


one who appropriated an object anathematized was him-
self placed under ban,^ as was Achan.^

The people Israel could, of their own accord, place
under ban men and things. This was done in the case
of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead,^ and the cities be-
longing to the king of Arad.* But every individual
Israelite could also place certain objects or men under

Thus it appears that, in general, anathema consisted
in sacrificing something or some one to the divine wrath
by extermination, and that the anathema was pronounced
upon what displeased Jehovah. He who, of his own
motion, placed something under ban, did so to please
God by satisfying his anger. The anathema is, how-
ever, Lev. xxvii. 28, treated in a manner not very
different from other vows by which things are devoted
to the service of Jehovah.^

7. The Nazirate. — Samson is the first nazirite men-
tioned in history. He was consecrated to God from
his mother's womb by command of the angel of Jeho-
vah."^ While she was pregnant with him, she was not
allowed to drink wine or strong drink, or eat anything
impure.^ As for him, he could never shave his head.^
The same obligation is assumed for Samuel, who was
also a nazirite. ^^ Amos reproaches the Israelites, be-
cause, among other instances of unfaithfulness, they
made the nazirites drink wine, which nazirites accord-
ing to him were raised up by God like the prophets."

1 Josh. vi. 18 ; Deut. vii. 26 ; comp. xiii. 17. ^ josh. vii.

8 Jud. xxi. 10 f. * Num. xxi. 1-3. ^ Lev. xxvii. 28 f.

6 See Dillmann, i.l. "^ Jud. xiii. 2-5. « j^d. xiii. 4, 7, 14.

9 Jud. xiii. 5 ; xvi. 17, 19 ff., 22 ff. lo 1 Sam. i. 11.- " ii. 11 f.


Samuel was at once a nazirite and a prophet. The
early legal documents take no account of the naz irate.
Document C is the only one that speaks of it: Num.
vi. presupposes the existence of this institution, and
regulates it according to the principles of Levitism.
Although Samson and Samuel were nazirites for life,
it has reference only to the temporary nazirate. Is this
an innovation ? What seems one is the regulation that
we find, vv. 6 ff., according to which the nazirite is
defiled by contact with a corpse; for Samson often
came into contact with dead bodies,^ without ceasing
to be a nazirite; and Samuel, in spite of his vows,
hewed in pieces King Agag, and that before Jehovah. ^
Beyond these passages the canonical books of the Old
Testament do not mention the nazirate. There are
references to it, 1 Mace. iii. 49 and Acts xxi. 23 f., in
the sense of document C. John the Baptist, on the
other hand, was a nazirite, all his life, like Samson and

The leading idea connected with the nazirate is that
of special consecration to Jehovah. This follows even
from the term nazir^ which is used to designate the
nazirite, and which, like qadhosh, holy, implies the idea
of separation from the common or profane world and of
consecration to God. Samson is called nazir of God,^
which Segond and Reuss correctly render consecrated to
God. Document C says that the nazirite shall be
consecrated (^qadhosh) to Jehovah,^ just as it says Qf
the priest.^

Starting from this leading idea of the nazirate, the

1 See especially Jud. xiv. 19. ^ i gam. xv. 33. 3 Luke i. 15.

* Jud. xiii. 5, 7 ; xvi. 17. ^ Num. vi. 8. ^ Lev. xxi. 7.


details concerning it become explicable. The mother
of Samson, while she was pregnant, was not permitted
to eat anything impure or drink wine, and the nazirites
themselves were forbidden to drink wine or come into
contact with a dead body. These same regulations
apply, at least in part, to the priests. The object is
to keep them in a healthy condition, as required by their
special consecration to Jehovah. They evidently have
the same object when applied to the nazirites.

Strict abstinence from wine among the latter, how-
ever, seems to have had its real origin in the nomadic
life of the ancient Hebrews, and is best explained as a
relic of the customs of that sort of life, in harmony with
what Jeremiah tells us of the Rechabites.^ They, in
obedience to the command of one of their ancestors,
not only abstained from wine, but also renounced the
principal advantages of civilization. Customs hal-
lowed by time, indeed, readily pass for sacred; they
become a part of one's religion; it would be thought
wrong to replace them by new usages. Among other
peoples also, abstinence from wine was regarded as nec-
essary to the enjoyment of unusual health.^

The most original feature is that which forbids the
nazirite to shave his head. He must preserve his hair
inviolate. This is called the consecration of God;^ it
is, as it were, the sign characteristic of it. The ex-
planation of this feature is probably to be sought in the
general idea that everything that men touch and form or

1 Jer. XXXV. 2 ff.

2 Bibel-Lexikon, IV. p. 289 ; Handworterbuch, p. 1060 ; [Schultz, I.
pp. 161 f. ; W. R. Smith, Prophets^ pp. 84, 388 f. ; Bible Commentary,
on Num. vi. 4]. ^ Num. vi. 7.


use belongs to the domain of the profane, and that every-
thing that is destined for a sacred end must, as far as
possible, be pure, unaltered by the hand of man. Indeed,
he who gathers grapes for the first time from a newly
planted vine, profaiies it, as Deut. xx. 6 and xxviii.
30 says in the original. In building an altar conse-
crated to Jehovah, rough stones must be used, because
man would profane them by using a chisel on them.i
The sacred victims must never have borne the yoke or
been used for ordinary labor. ^

The hair plays a particularly important part in the
naz irate, but this fact accords with a custom found
among other peoples of antiquity. ^

8. Fasting. — Fasting is a religious exercise an-
ciently, and even in our own day, very widely practised
among the peoples of the Orient, where abstinence from
food produces less inconvenience than in our coun-
tries. The Israelites also always had the custom of
fasting. Fasting often accompanied prayer or the
offering of sacrifices; there were united with it other
signs of humility, contrition, affliction: the subject
mourned, wept, clothed himself in sackcloth, sat on the
ground, rent his garments, plucked out his hair; re-
course was had to fasting, especially in times of mis-
fortune and sorrow, in cases of public or private
'Calamity,* to secure divine assistance in the presence

1 Ex. XX. 25.

2 Num. xix. 2 ; Deut. xv. 19 ; xxi. 3 ; 1 Sam. vi. 7.

3 Bibel-Lexikon, IV. p. 290 ; Handw'orterhuch, p. 1061 ; [Ewald,
Antiquities^ p. 86].

* Jud. XX. 26 ; 1 Sam. i. 7 ; xx. 34 ; xxxi. 13 ; 2 Sam. i. 11 f. ; xii.
16 f., 22 f. ; Joel i. 14 ; ii. 12, 15 ; Neh. i. 4 ; Esth. iv. 1-3; Ps. xxxv.
13 ; Ixix. 10 f. ; cix. 24.


of danger and to avert a misfortune,^ to express feelings
of repentance, and to obtain pardon for sins.^ In some
exceptional cases fasting is represented as the means
employed by men of God that they may enjoy the
presence of Jehovah and obtain revelations from
him. 3

The earlier legal portions of the Pentateuch pay no
attention to fasting. But document C gives some rules
touching the fast that a married woman vows to per-
form.^ It also prescribes that the day of atonement be
a day of fasting,^ so that here especially this practice
appears as the expression of the humiliation of a sinful
people before a holy God, and as the means of appeas-
ing God and obtaining his forgiveness. The Jews
celebrated four other fast-days a year, in memory of the
principal events that foreshadowed and consummated
the capture and overthrow of Jerusalem.^

The prophets felt the necessity of opposing the abuses,
to which fasting as a purely external act gave rise, and
of showing that such a fast could neither please God
nor secure his blessings ; they required of the people
feelings and actions corresponding to this religious act.'^
But in the midst of Judaism these abuses only con-
tinued to develop. Fasting was practised more fre-

1 1 Sam. xiv. 24 ; 1 Kings xxi. 27-29 ; 2 Chron. xx. 3 f, ; Ezra viii.
21, 23 ; Esth. iv. 15 f.

2 Deut. ix. 18 ; 1 Sam. vii. 6 ; Jon. iii. 5, 7 ; 1 Kings xxi. 9, 12 ;
Ezra ix. 3-5 ; x. 6 ; Neh. ix. 1 f . ; Dan. ix. 3 ff.

3 Ex. xxxiv. 28 ; Deut. ix. 9 ; Dan. x. 1 ff., 11 ff. ; comp. Matt. iv. 2.
* Num. XXX. 14, 16.

5 Lev. xvi. 29, 31 ; xxiii. 27, 29, 32 ; Num. xxix. 7.

6 Zech. viii 19 ; vii. .3-5 ; comp. Jer. xli. 1 ff. ; Hi. 4, 6 f., 12 f.
^ Isa. Iviii. 3-7 ; Zech. vii. 5-10 ; viii. 16-19 ; Joel ii. 12 f.


quently, and the fasts became longer ; it appeared more
and more as a meritorious act.^

The preceding discussion has shown what was the
idea and the religious value of fasting. Like sacri^
fices, prayer, vows, it was a means of winning the
divine favor. But it was also a sign of repentance
and humiliation, a means of averting imminent mis-
fortunes, a symbol of mourning and affliction, a practice
seemly in imploring the forgiveness of God.

9. Purification and Levitical Purity. — Religious
purifications are a custom among many peoples ancient
as well as modern. ^ We find them also among the
HebrcAvs. Even the early documents teach us that,
before approaching Jehovah, the body had to be cleansed
by ablutions and the garments changed or washed ;3
that persons defiled by any impurity could not partici-
pate in religious solemnities or touch sacred things ; ^
that lepers were unclean and obliged to remain outside
the Israelitish camp;^ that cohabitation between man
and woman rendered them both unclean ; ^ that a dis-
tinction was to be made between clean and unclean
animals ; ^ that it was forbidden to eat flesh torn in the
fields,^ a kid cooked in its mother's milk^ or blood. 1*^
Still other passages show that the Israelites considered

1 Esth. iv. 16 ; Judith iv. 8 ff. ; viii. 5 f. ; Tob. xii. 8 ; 2 Mace. xiii.
12 ; Matt. vi. 16 ; ix. 14 ; Luke ii. 37 ; xviii. 12.

2 Bihel-Lexikon, V. pp. 65, 69.

3 Gen. XXXV. 2 ; Ex. xix. 10 ff. ; Josh. iii. 5 ; 1 Sam. xvi. 5.
* 1 Sam. XX. 26 ; xxi. 5 f.

5 Num. xii. 9-15.

6 Ex. xix. 15 ; 1 Sam. xxi. 5 ; 2 Sam. xi. 4.

T Gen. vii. 2, 8 ; viii. 20. s Ex. xxii. 31.

9 Ex. xxiii. 19 ; xxxiv. 26. lo i Sam. xiv. 32-^4.


it an important duty to abstain from all unclean food.^
Deuteronomy gives some regulations on this subject.
It contains a list of clean and unclean animals. ^ It
also forbids the eating of animals torn in the field ^ as
well as blood.* It commands that the criminal con-
demned to the gallows be buried on the day of the exe-
cution, that he may not defile the land.^ It would
exclude from the camp every one who has had a noctur-
nal emission, and remove from sight human excre-

It is, however, only document C that presents a com-
plete system of regulations for cases of uncleanness. It
represents as dating from the time of Noah the prohibi-
tion against eating blood, and alleges as the reason for
it that the blood is the soul of all flesh. ^ It repeats this
prohibition several times in the legal portion, adding
to it that against eating fat.^ It devotes, besides, a
whole series of chapters to cases of uncleanness. It
teaches that uncleanness results from eating unclean
animals, or touching the dead body of an animal ; ^ that
a woman becomes unclean in childbirth, ^^ and lepers by
virtue of their disease ; ^^ that gonorrhea, whether pro-
duced by diseased or other conditions, in man, and
menstruation, natural or unnatural, in woman, produce
a state of uncleanness. ^^ Further, the same document
declares that any one who is brought into contact with
a human corpse is equally unclean. ^^

1 Hos. ix. 3 ; Zech. ix. 7 ; Ezek. iv. 14 ; xxxiii. 25 ; Isa. Ixv. 4 ;
Ixvi. 17 ; Dan. i. 8-16 ; 2 Mace. vii.

2 xiv. 3-20. 3 xiv. 21. 4 xii. 16, 23-25 ; xv. 23.
fi xxi. 23. 6 xxiii. 9-14. ''' Gen. ix. 4.

8 Lev. iii. 17 ; vii. 22-27 ; xvii. 10-14 ; xix. 26. 9 Lev. xi.

10 Lev. xii. " Lev. xiii. f. 12 Lev. xv. i3 Num. xix. 11-22,


As to the purifications that must be undertaken in
case of uncleanness, they are very various. In certain
cases, one remained unclean until evening, but no
special purification was required ;i uncleanness doubt-
less ceased with the day on which it was contracted.
In other cases one had to bathe or wash one's garments,
or both, or even shave off all one's hair.^ In still other
cases a more complicated and important process of puri-
fication became necessary: a woman after childbirth
could only be purified by sacrifices ; ^ a leper must offer
sacrifices in addition to performing the cleansing cere-
monies prescribed ; * it was the same with a man healed
of gonorrhea and a woman cured of a menstrual flux ; ^
finally, one who had been defiled by contact with a
corpse was obliged to be purified by means of the water
of purification, whose preparation and use are described.
Num. xix.

As to the real significance of these customs and regu-
lations, there is great difference of opinion among schol-
ars.^ The Old Testament, however, gives precise
information on this subject. It is because Jehovah is
holy that his people must be holy and therefore free
from all defilement: this is the teaching of the three
principal documents of the Pentateuch. ^ It is because
the holy God dwells in the midst of his people, that

1 Lev. xi. 24, 27, 31, 39 ; xiv. 46 ; xv. 10, 19, 23 ; Num. xix. 21 f.

2 Lev. xi. 25, 28, 40 ; xiii. 6, 34 ; xiv. 18 f., 47 ; xv. 5 ff., 16, 18, 21 f.,
27 ; xvii. 15 ; xxii. 4-7 ; Num. xix. 19, 21 ; xxxi. 24 ; Deut. xxiii. 10 f.

3 Lev. xii. 6-8. * Lev. xiv. 2 ff.

5 Lev. XV. 14 f., 29 f.

6 Dillmann, Exodus u. Leviticus, pp. 476 ff,, 483 ; [Schaff-Herzog,
Encyclopcedia, art. Purification'].

7 Ex. xxii. 31 ; Deut. xiv. 21 ; Lev. xi. 44 ; xx. 25 f.


there must be no defilement in them ; ^ for it would
communicate itself to the sanctuary, the dwelling of
Jehovah, and would have to be punished with death. ^
For this reason also the unclean must remain outside
the camp. 3

In order to understand the thought that inspired
these laws, it must not be forgotten that the ancients
did not, like us, distinguish between moral and exter-
nal impurity or imperfection. This is the reason why
the Israelites regarded them both as equally repugnant
to the holiness of Jehovah. The priests, also, and the
victims offered in sacrifice had to be without physical
blemish,^ and those who performed duties at the sanc-
tuary, on the occasion of their consecration and before
fulfilling their office, were obliged to take a full or
partial bath, wash their garments, and even shave their
bodies.^ One who thoroughly appreciates this point
of view will understand how there could be such a thing
as leprosy in garments or houses requiring purifying
ceremonies;^ why the regulation, Deut. xxiii. 12 f.,
to which we have already referred, was made ; and why
it was necessary to be in a state of cleanness to touch
sacred things, objects consecrated to Jehovah.^ Thus
also, in the main, are explained the provisions that pre-
vented contact between Jehovah and anything defiled

1 Deut. xxiii. 14 ; Num. v. 3. 2 j^ev. xv. 31 ; Num. xix. 13.

3 Lev. xiii. 46 ; xiv. 3, 8 ; Num. v. 2-4 ; xii. 14 f, ; xxxi. 19 f. ;
Deut. xxiii. 10 f .

4 Lev. xxi. 17 ft. ; xxii. 19 ff.

6 Ex. xxix. 4; xxx. 19-21 ; xL 12, 31 f. ; Lev. viii. 6 ; xvi. 4, 24 ;
Num. viii. 7, 21.

6 Lev. xiii. 47 ff. ; xiv. 33 ff.

' Lev. vii. 19 f. ; xii. 4 ; xxii. 2 ff. ; Num. ix. 6 ff. ; xviii. 11, 13.


or profane. Be it remembered, moreover, that Jehovah
was the King of Israel. Just as respect for a king dic-
tates that one should not present one's self before him
except in a perfectly cleanly condition, so likewise it
behooved one not to appear before this divine sovereign
or live in his presence, defiled by any sort of unclean-
ness. Finally, everything that produces repugnance
in man was evidently regarded as producing the same
effect upon God.

It is more difficult to say why the law condemns only
certain forms of external uncleanness, why it represents
one animal as clean or unclean and not another; for the
Old Testament gives no explanation on this subject.
A part of these regulations, however, are easy to ex-
plain. Thus many forms of disease and defilement,
such as leprosy and death, inspire in man dread or dis-
gust : he feels a strong antipathy toward them. This
is equally true of certain animals. Purifying rites, in
warm countries, and abstinence from certain foods have,
besides, an evident utility. Guided by experience on
the one hand and tradition on the other, the Israelites
naturally and necessarily accustomed themselves to the
practices of which we have spoken, and to which the
legislators did not until later give the religious and
theocratic character shown to have been impressed upon
them.i It is, indeed, certain that we are here brought
face to face with customs whose origin is lost in the
gloom of antiquity, customs for the most part common
to a majority of ancient peoples.

Under the rubric of cleanness must be placed a series

1 De Wette, Archeologie, § 188 ; Bihel-Lexikon, V. pp. 354 ff. ;
[Ewald, Antiquities, pp, 144 f.].


of other directions that are found mostly in Lev. xviii.-
XX. The regulations contained in this passage have
properly been called the laws of holiness. They, more
than all the rest of the code, assert that their object is
to make of the people Israel a holy people, free from
all defilement.^

To be a people holy and clean, it is necessary to
avoid especially marriages between near relatives, incest,
and sexual relations contrary to nature. ^ Transgressors
against these regulations are threatened with the sever-
est penalties. 2 It is the same with those who commit
other acts of unchastity.^ The best illustration how
carefully the people of God must avoid all uncleanness
of this sort, is the fact that a man sprung from an un-
lawful union cannot enter the congregation of Jehovah
even to the tenth generation.^

It is perhaps to prevent acts of uncleanness of this
nature that women are forbidden to wear men's cloth-
ing, and vice versa.^ This prohibition may, however,
at the same time have been aimed at idolatrous prac-
tices.'' But it is more probable that it was inspired by
the same motive as other laws to which we must here
refer. Thus it is forbidden to mate beasts of two differ-
ent species, to sow the same field with two kinds of
seed, to wear garments woven of two sorts of yarn, to
plough with an ox and an ass harnessed together.^ These

1 Lev. xviii. 24 ff. ; xix. 2 ; xx. 7, 26.

2 Lev. xviii. 6 ff. ; Deut. xxii. 30 ; xxvii. 20-23.

3 Lev. xviii. 24 ff. ; xx. 10 ff. ; Ex. xxii. 19.

4 Lev. xix. 29 ; Deut. xxii. 20-29 ; Num. v. 11-31 ; comp. xxv. 1-9.
^ Deut. xxiii. 2. ^ Deut. xxii. 5.

■^ De Wette, Archeologie, § 190 ; [Ewald, Antiquities, p. 163].
8 Lev. xix. 19 ; Deut. xxii. 9-11.


directions seem to be based on the idea that all that
comes from the hand of God is good and clean; that
therefore, the character given to a creature must not
be changed, and that such a change would be a profa-
nation. ^

1 Dillmaun on Lev. xix. 19 ; [Ewald, Antiquities, pp. 160 f.].



We have now come to the prophetic period par excel-
lence. Prophetism in this period plays a leading part,
as it did not in the preceding ; it is the dominant power
in the midst of the people Israel. It appears also in all
its purity, freed from the traditional usages encountered
among the other peoples of antiquity, which also exer-
cised a powerful influence upon the early prophets of
Israel. These latter still practised the art of divination,
and their activity was not unmixed with an exaltati-on
more or less unhealthy; the prophets of our period, on
the other hand, are preachers, speaking under the influ-
ence of divine inspiration, — without, however, losing
their self-consciousness, — and allowing themselves to be
guided by political events, of which they are attentive
observers. Another difference to be noted is, that the
early prophets often employed carnal and violent means
in support of the cause of Jehovah. Thus Samuel him-
self hewed Agag, king of the Amalekites, in pieces
before Jehovah,^ because Saul had not executed, with
respect to him, the stern orders that he had received.
Elisha likewise slaughtered all the prophets of Baal.^
The numerous passages of the Old Testament, more-

1 1 Sam. XV. 33. " 1 Kings xviii. 40.



over, which enjoin the complete extermination of the
Canaanitish peoples, and mostly belong to the oldest
literature, are the faithful expression of the spirit that
animated primitive prophetism. The means that later
prophetism uses in opposing idolatry, on the contrary,
is persuasion, speech. Finally, the early prophets often
played a political part; they did not hesitate to over-
throw the dynasties that favored idolatry or did not
vigorously enough support Jehovism, to replace them by
new ones.^ The prophets of our period are also inter-
ested in public affairs, but they seldom employ other
than spiritual means to attain the end that they seek.

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