Charles Foster Kent.

The Making of a Nation The Beginnings of Israel's History online

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Cain's punishment was banishment rather than imprisonment. What
was the fate that Cain specially feared? Cain and Abel in the
original story, some writers believe, represented tribes (see
_Hist. Bible_, I, 44). Among nomadic peoples in the early East, as
to-day, the punishment of murder was left to the family or tribe of
the murdered man. Was this just or effective? The same crude
method of avenging wrongs is found in the vendetta of Italy and the
family feuds in certain sparsely settled regions in the United
States. The survival of this institution is to-day one of the
greatest obstacles to civilization in those regions. Why?

In most criminal legislation the chief emphasis is placed on
punishment. For example, thieves are punished with imprisonment.
Why? A radical change in public opinion is now taking place. The
prevailing method of dealing with crimes advocated by penologists
to-day is the protection of society if possible by the reform of
the criminal. Does this method protect society effectually? Why
is it that criminals generally prefer a definite term in prison
rather than an indefinite sentence with the possibility of release
in less than half the time? Which method of treatment is best in
the end for the wrong-doer?

It is important to distinguish clearly between the private and the
official attitude toward the criminal. As individuals, who cannot
know the motives, we should heed the maxim of Jesus: "Judge not!"
As public officials whose duty it is to protect society, we are
under obligation to deal firmly and effectively with the criminal.
What would probably have been the result had Cain confessed his
crime? God was far more lenient even with the unrepentant Cain
than were his fellow men. Did God, however, remit Cain's sentence?
Cain said, "I shall become a fugitive and a wanderer on the face of
the earth." Was this sense of being an outcast the most painful
element in Cain's punishment? All crime thus in a sense brings its
own punishment. If in placing upon Cain a tribal mark, thereby
protecting him from being killed, God apparently aimed to give him
an opportunity to reform, the clear implication is that the divine
love and care still follow him. That love and that care never
cease toward even the most depraved. Compare Jesus' attitude
toward the criminal, as illustrated in his ministry and especially
in his dealing with the woman taken in adultery. His forgiveness
of the woman's sin did not cancel the social results, but gave her
a new basis for right living in the future. She realized that some
one believed in her. Is this one of the most important influences
to-day in assisting weak men and in redeeming criminals? Henry
Drummond when asked the secret of his success with men said, "I
love men."


V.

HOW TO DEAL WITH CRIMINALS.

The purpose of criminal legislation and administration is clearly
the protection of society. The criminals are punished, not for the
mere sake of the punishment or for vengeance, but to deter them
from further crime or to serve as a warning to others. Only on
this account can punishment be justified.

To prove an effective warning the punishment for crime should be
certain, prompt and just. For these reasons effective police,
upright judges and fair methods of procedure are absolutely
essential. Efforts should be made not to influence the courts by
public opinion, and the pernicious prejudgment of cases by popular
newspapers should be discountenanced.

The surest method of stopping a criminal's dangerous activity is to
reform him; to give him a new and absorbing interest. Experience
at our best reformatories shows that with the indeterminate
sentence a very large majority of young criminals can be
transformed into safe and useful citizens. This method is both
cheaper and more effective than direct punishment for fixed terms.


VI.

THE PREVENTION OF CRIME.

The best method of dealing with crime is that of prevention. The
work of protecting society against crime should begin with arousing
parents to the sense of their responsibilities and by training them
thoroughly in the duties of parenthood. Philanthropic agencies,
the church, the schools, the State, may do much both by training
character and by removing temptation. The maintenance of good
economic conditions, provision for wholesome amusements, improved
sanitation, all tend to remove pernicious influences and strengthen
the power of resistance to temptation. The public press and the
theatre, which are at times exceedingly harmful agencies, may be
and should be transformed into active moral forces. In furthering
all these reform measures and preventive movements each individual
has a personal responsibility, and, as an active citizen, he may
render most important service. The home, the school, the church
and the State, all touch the individual on every side and create
and together control the influences that make or unmake character.


_Questions for Further Consideration_.

What was the effect of Cain's anger upon his own life?

Gladstone said, "I do not have time to hate anybody."

In what way do anger and hatred hamper one's greatest usefulness?
Do you believe in the modern theories regarding the effect of
jealousy and hatred upon the body?

Is capital punishment at times a necessity?

What is the most effective argument which can be used to restore
honor and manhood to a criminal?

Is there any particular agency at work in your community to assist
men who have committed crimes?

Is the chief object of punishment to avenge the wrong, to punish
the criminal, to deter others from committing similar crimes, or to
reclaim the wrong-doer?


_Subjects for Further Study_.

(1) The Effect of the Semitic Law of Blood-revenge upon (_a_) the
criminal, (_b_) society and (_c_) possible criminals. Kent,
_Israel's Laws and Legal Precedents_, 91, 114-116; Smith, _Religion
of the Semites_, 72, 420.

(2) Mrs. Ballington Booth's Work for Released Prisoners. _After
Prison - What_?

(3) The Practical Effects of the Indeterminate Sentence. Reports
of the Prison Reform Association.

(4) Influence of Contract Prison Labor. American Magazine, 1912,
Jan., Feb., Mar., April.




STUDY IV

THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.

THE STORY OF THE GREAT FLOOD. - Gen. 6-8.

_Parallel Readings_.

Hist. Bible I, 52-65.
Darwin, _Origin of Species_; Wallace, _Darwinism_; 3. William Dawson,
_Modern Ideas of Evolution_; Article _Evolution_ in leading
encyclopedias.

When Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every purpose in the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually, it was a source of regret that he had made man on the
earth and it grieved him to his heart. Therefore Jehovah said, I
will destroy from the face of the ground man whom I have created,
for I regret that I have made mankind.

Then Jehovah said to Noah, enter thou and all thy house into the
ark; for thee I have found righteous before me in this generation.

And Noah did according to all that Jehovah commanded him.

Then Jehovah destroyed everything that existed upon the face of the
ground, both man and animals, and creeping things, and birds of the
heavens, so that they were destroyed from the earth; and Noah only
was left and they who were with him in the ark. - Gen. 6:5-8; 7:1,
5, 23 (_Hist. Bible_).

And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing with God;
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a
rewarder of them that seek after him. By faith Noah, being warned
of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear,
prepared an ark to the saving of his house, through which he
condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is
according to faith. - _Heb. 11:6, 7_.

Rare is the man who can look back over his life and not confess, at
least to himself, that the things which have made him most a man
are the very things from which he tried with all his soul to escape.

If we would attain happiness,
We must first attain helpfulness.

But stay! no age was e'er degenerate
Unless men held it at too cheap a rate,
For in our likeness still we shape our fate.
- _Lowell_.


I.

THE TWO BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS OF THE FLOOD.

Careful readers of Genesis 6-9 have long recognized certain
difficulties in interpreting the narrative as it now stands. Thus,
for example, in 6:20 Noah is commanded to take into the ark two of
every kind of beast and bird; but in 7:2, 3 he is commanded to take
in seven of all the clean beasts and birds. According to 7:4, 12
the flood came as the result of a forty days' rain; but according
to 7:11 it was because the fountains of the great deep were broken
up and the windows of heaven were opened. Again, according to
7:17, the flood continued on the earth forty days; while according
to 7:24 its duration was a hundred and fifty days.

These fundamental variations and the presence of duplicate versions
of the same incidents point, some writers think, to two originally
distinct accounts of the flood which have been closely woven
together by the final editor of the book of Genesis. When these
two accounts are disentangled, they are each practically complete
and apparently represent variant versions of the same flood story.
(See _Hist. Bible_, I, 53-56, for these two parallel accounts.) The
one, known as the prophetic version, was written, these writers
believe, about 650 B.C. It has the flowing, vivid, picturesque,
literary style and the point of view of the prophetic teacher. In
this account the number seven prevails. Seven of each clean beast
and bird are taken into the ark to provide food for Noah and his
family. Seven days the waters rose, and at intervals of seven days
he sent out a raven and a dove. The flood from its beginning to
the time when Noah disembarked continued sixty-eight days. At the
end, when he had determined by sending out birds that the waters
had subsided, he went forth from the ark and reared an altar and
offered sacrifice to Jehovah of every clean beast and bird.

The other and more detailed account is apparently the sequel of the
late priestly narratives found in Genesis 1 and 5. The style is
that of a legal writer - formal, exact and repetitious. In this
account only two of each kind of beast and bird are taken into the
ark. The flood lasts for over a year and is universal, covering
even the tops of the highest mountains. No animals are sacrificed,
for according to the priestly writer this custom was first
instituted by Moses. When the flood subsides, however, a covenant
is concluded and is sealed by the rainbow in accordance with which
man's commission to rule over all other living things is renewed
and divine permission is given to each to eat of the flesh of
animals, provided only that men carefully abstain from eating the
blood. This later account is dated by this group of modern
Biblical scholars about 400 B.C.


II.

THE CORRESPONDING BABYLONIAN FLOOD STORIES.

Closely parallel to these two variant Biblical accounts of the
flood are the two Babylonian versions, which have fortunately been
almost wholly recovered. The older Babylonian account is found in
the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic, which comes from the
library of Asshurbanipal. This great conqueror lived
contemporaneously with Manasseh during whose reign Assyrian
influence was paramount in the kingdom of Judah. In his quest for
healing and immortality Gilgamesh reached the abode of the
Babylonian hero of the flood. In response to Gilgamesh's question
as to how he, a mortal, attained immortality the Babylonian Noah
recounts the story of the flood. It was brought about by the
Babylonian gods in order to destroy the city of Shurippak, situated
on the banks of the Euphrates. The god Ea gave the warning to his
worshipper, the hero of the flood, and commanded him:

Construct a house, build a ship,
Leave goods, look after life,
Forsake possessions, and save life,
Cause all kinds of living things to go up into the ship.
The ship which thou shalt build, -
Exact shall be its dimensions:
Its breadth shall equal its length;
On the great deep launch it.
I understood and said to Ea, my lord:
"Behold, my lord, what thou hast commanded,
I have reverently received and will carry out."

A detailed account then follows of the building of the ark. Its
dimensions were one hundred and twenty cubits in each direction.
It was built in six stories, each of which was divided into nine
parts. Plentiful provisions were next carried on board and a great
feast was held to commemorate the completion of the ark. After
carrying on board his treasures of silver and gold he adds:

All the living creatures of all kinds I loaded on it.
I brought on board my family and household;
Cattle of the field, beasts of the field, the craftsmen,
All of them I brought on board.

In the evening at the command of the god Shamash the rains began to
descend. Then the Babylonian Noah entered the ship and closed the
door and entrusted the great house with its contents to the
captain. The description of the tempest that follows is
exceedingly vivid and picturesque.

When the first light of dawn shone forth,
There rose from the horizon a dark cloud, within which Adad thundered,
Nabu and Marduk marched at the front,
The heralds passed over mountains and land;
Nergal tore out the ship's mast,
Ninib advanced, following up the attack,
The spirits of earth raised torches,
With their sheen they lighted up the world.
Adad's tempest reached to heaven,
And all light was changed to darkness.
So great was the havoc wrought by the storm that
The gods bowed down, sat there weeping,
Close pressed together were their lips.

For six days and nights the storm raged, but on the seventh day it
subsided and the flood began to abate. Of the race of mortals,
however, every voice was hushed. At last the ship approached the
mountain Nisir which lay on the northern horizon, as viewed from
the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Here the ship grounded. Then,

When the seventh day arrived,
I sent forth a dove and let it loose,
The dove went forth, but came back;
Because it found no resting-place, it returned:
Then I sent forth a swallow, but it came back;
Because it found no resting-place, it returned.
Then I sent forth a raven and let it loose,
The raven went forth and saw that the waters had decreased;
It fed, it waded, it croaked, but did not return.
Then I sent forth everything in all directions, and offered a sacrifice,
I made an offering of incense on the highest peak of the mountain,
Seven and seven bowls I placed there,
And over them I poured out calamus, cedar wood and fragrant herbs.
The gods inhaled the odor,
The gods inhaled the sweet odor,
The gods gathered like flies above the sacrifice.

At the intercession of Ea, the Babylonian Noah and his wife were
granted immortality and permitted "to dwell in the distance at the
confluence of the streams."

A later version of the same Babylonian flood story is quoted by
Eusebius from the writings of the Chaldean priest Berossus who
lived about the fourth century B.C. According to this version the
god Kronos appeared in a dream to Xisuthros, the hero, who, like
Noah in the priestly account, was the last of the ten ancient
Babylonian kings. At the command of the god he built a great ship
fifteen stadia long and two in width. Into this he took not only
his family and provisions, but quadrupeds and birds of all kinds.
When the flood began to recede, he sent out a bird, which quickly
returned. After a few days he sent forth another bird, which
returned with mud on its feet. When the third bird failed to
return, he took off the cover of the ship and found that it had
stranded on a mountain of Armenia. The mountain in the Biblical
account is identified with Mount Ararat. Disembarking, the
Babylonian Noah kissed the earth and, after building an altar,
offered a sacrifice to the gods.

Thus the variations between the older and later Babylonian accounts
of the flood correspond in general to those that have been already
noted in the Biblical versions. Which Biblical account does the
earliest Babylonian narrative resemble most closely? In what
details do they agree? Are these coincidences merely accidental or
do they point possibly to a common tradition? How far do the later
Biblical and Babylonian accounts agree? What is the significance
of these points of agreement?


III.

HISTORY OF THE BIBLICAL FLOOD STORIES.

On the basis of the preceding comparisons some writers attempt to
trace tentatively the history of the flood tradition current among
the peoples of southwestern Asia. A fragment of the Babylonian
flood story, coming from at least as early as 2000 B.C., has
recently been discovered. The probability is that the tradition
goes back to the earliest beginnings of Babylonian history. The
setting of the Biblical accounts of the flood is also the
Tigris-Euphrates valley rather than Palestine. The description of
the construction of the ark in Genesis 6:14-16 is not only closely
parallel to that found in the Babylonian account, but the
method - the smearing of the ark within and without with bitumen - is
peculiar to the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Many scholars believe,
therefore, that Babylonia was the original home of the Biblical
flood story.

Its exact origin, however, is not so certain. Many of its details
were doubtless suggested by the annual floods and fogs which
inundate that famous valley and recall the primeval chaos so
vividly pictured in the corresponding Babylonian story of the
creation. It may have been based on the remembrances of a great
local inundation, possibly due to the subsidence of great areas of
land. In the earliest Hebrew records there is no trace of this
tradition, although it may have been known to the Aramean ancestors
of the Hebrews. The literary evidence, however, suggests that it
was first brought to Palestine by the Assyrians. During the
reactionary reign of Manasseh, Assyrian customs and Baylonian
ideas, which these conquerors had inherited, inundated Judah. Even
in the temple at Jerusalem the Babylonians' gods, the host of
heaven, were worshipped by certain of the Hebrews. The few
literary inscriptions which come from this period, those found in
the mound at Gezer, are written in the Assyrian script and contain
the names of Assyrian officials.

Later when the Jewish exiles were carried to Babylonia, they
naturally came into contact again with the Babylonian account of
the flood, but in its later form, as the comparisons already
instituted clearly indicate. It is thus possible, these scholars
believe, to trace, in outline at least, the literary history of the
Semitic flood story in its various transformations through a period
of nearly two thousand years.


IV.

AIM OF THE BIBLICAL WRITERS IN RECOUNTING THE FLOOD STORY.

The practical question which at once suggests itself is, What place
or right has this ancient Semitic tradition, if such it is, among
the Biblical narratives? At best the historical data which it
preserves are exceedingly small and of doubtful value. Is it
possible that the prophetic and priestly historians found these
stories on the lips of the people and sought in this heroic way to
divest them of their polytheistic form and, in certain respects,
immoral implications? A minute comparison of the Babylonian and
Biblical accounts indicates that this may perhaps be precisely what
has been done; but the majestic, just God of the Biblical
narratives is far removed from the capricious, intriguing gods of
the Babylonian tradition, who hang like flies over the battlements
of heaven, stupefied with terror because of the destruction which
they had wrought.

Each of the Biblical narrators seems to be seeking also by means of
these illustrations to teach certain universal moral and religious
truths. In this respect the two variant Biblical narratives are in
perfect agreement. The destruction of mankind came not as the fiat
of an arbitrary Deity, but because of the purpose which God had
before him in the work of creation, and because that purpose was
good. Men by their sins and wilful failure to observe his benign
laws were thwarting that purpose. Hence in accord with the just
laws of the universe their destruction was unavoidable, and it came
even as effect follows cause. On the other hand, these ancient
teachers taught with inimitable skill that God would not destroy
that which was worthy of preservation.

In each of the accounts the character of Noah stands in striking
contrast with those of his contemporaries. The story as told is
not merely an illustration of the truth that righteousness brings
its just reward, but of the profounder principle that it is the
morally fit who survive. In both of the versions Noah in a very
true sense represents the beginning of a new creation: he is the
traditional father of a better race. To him are given the promises
which God was eager to realize in the life of humanity. In the
poetic fancy of the ancient East even the resplendent rainbow,
which proclaimed the return of the sun after the storm, was truly
interpreted as evidence of God's fatherly love and care for his
children. In the light of these profound religious teachings may
any one reasonably question the right of these stories to a place
in the Bible? Did not Jesus himself frequently use illustrations
drawn from earlier history or from nature to make clear his
teachings? Is it not evidence of superlative teaching skill to use
that which is familiar and, therefore, of interest to those taught,
in order to inculcate the deeper moral and religious truths of life?


V.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST IN THE NATURAL WORLD.

It is interesting and illuminating to note how the ancient Hebrew
prophets in their religious teaching forecast the discoveries and
scientific methods of our day. This was because they had grasped
universal principles.

Since the memorable evening in July, 1858, in which the views of
Darwin and Wallace on the principles of variation and selection in
the natural world were sent to the Linnaean Society in London, the
leading scientists have laid great stress upon the doctrine of the
survival of the "fittest" as the true explanation of progress in
the natural world. It was apparently made clear by Darwin, and
supported by sufficient evidence, that "any being, if it vary
however slightly, in any manner profitable to itself, under the
complex and somewhat varying conditions of life, will have a better
chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected."

This principle, since that day, has been thoroughly worked out in
practically all the important fields of both the plant and animal
world. Moreover, the doctrine of evolution, dependent upon this
principle, has exerted so great an influence upon the process of
investigation and thinking in all fields of activity that the
resulting change in method has amounted to a revolution. The
principle is applied not only in the field of biology, but also in
the realm of astronomy, where we study the evolution of worlds, and
in psychology, history, social science, where we speak of the
development of human traits and of the growth of economic,
political and social institutions.

It is necessary to remember in applying such a brief statement of a
principle, that the words are used in a highly technical sense.
The word "fittest" by no means need imply the best from the point
of view of beauty or strength or usefulness in nature; nor does it
necessarily mean, in reference to society, best from the point of
view of morals or a higher civilization. Rather the "fittest"
means the being best adapted to the conditions under which it is
living, or to its environment. As a matter of fact, it is the
general opinion that in practically all fields this principle works
toward progress in the highest and best sense; but it is always a
matter for specific study as well as of great scientific interest
and importance, to determine where and how the variation and the
corresponding selection tend to promote the morally good.
Especially is this true in the study of society, where we should
endeavor to see whether or not the "fittest" means also the highest
from the moral and religious point of view.

The story of the flood gives us a most interesting example of the
way in which the ancient Hebrews looked upon such a process of


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