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Bishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix online

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married seven or eight years before the events mentioned in
this chapter, and that the words, s"^rT- r^-jz denote the period
of their occurrence, rather than any precise date, according to
a use of that expression whereof Dr. Colenso will see numerous
examples in any Hebrew Concordance. In this case it is quite
possible that Hezron and Hamul might have been born before
the "going down into Egypt." This shows the utter ground-
lessness of the objection, though doubtless the true explanation
of it is that which is o-iven above.



28 COLENSO^S EXAMINATIOiV OF

with the statements concerning Judah's age, which Dr.
Colenso has taken such pains to bring into notice for
the sake of impugning the veracity of the inspired
writer. Bo not the Psalmist^s words (Ps. vii. 14-17)
occur to you in this instance? — Moreover, in this
same discussion, our " examiner '^ has done us further
service by means of an inconsistency which, indeed, is
elsewhere obtruded, and which shows beyond any ques-
tion that some influence, for which I cannot find any
other word but an infatuation, was ruling him in the
composition of his volume. " Here," he says, " I gladly
pay a tribute of respect to the ability and candour with
which Kurtz generally writes. For instance,^^ he adds
in a note, " I do not remember to have met anywhere
in Kurtz with a sweeping charge of dishonest concealment
of the truth (they are his own italics) made against
his opponents generally, as in the following passage of
Hengstenberg.'^ Now this language immediately fol-
lows his own assertion: "Nothing, indeed, has more
tended to convince my own mind of the hollowness of
the cause which he (Kurtz) advocates, than the efforts
made by himself and Hengstenberg, in this and other
instances (as we shall see hereafter), to force the text
of Scripture to say what it plainly does not say, in order,"
&c. (pp. 24, 25). As again he elsewhere (pp.29, 113)
tells us, " It is painful to observe the shifts to which
so eminent an author has recourse ; '^ and he speaks of
"the contrivances xQ^oxitdi to (by Kurtz), to the utter
sacrifice of all historical truth and consistency."



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 29

There is nothing in the ^^ following/^ or in any other,
"passage from Hengstenberg ■'^ that at all resembles
such accusations of dishonest concealment as are brought
forward in these complaints. And were it not for the
vestment in which Dr. Colenso can still clothe himself,
and for the service which we shall see his book may
be made to render to the cause unto which he has
been consecrated, its inconsistency and its bitterness
would justify us in closing its pages at the end of this
second chapter, and refusing to hear another word which
he has to say upon its subject.

His position, however, and our purpose in examin-
ing this volume, being what they are — we will go with
him to the end of it. Supposing, then, that this line
concerning Hezron and Hamul will not convince us
that we are under an illusion in regarding the above
account of the Hebrew migration into Egypt as '^a
true narrative of actual historical matters of fact," — of
one thing the Bishop is quite certain, viz. that, at all
events, " not more than seventy persons " went there
in Jacobus company. Among the views which he
" freely admits were new to himself, till within a com-
paratively recent period,^' this one, that a large caravan
of settlers accompanied the patriarch in his movement
from his ancestral territory, is not included. He still
holds fast by the old supposition, — which, indeed, has
quite unaccountably been accepted by most commen-
tators — that only Jacob's immediate relatives went with
him. Unto this view Dr. Colenso (chap, xix) tenaciously



30

adheres, for the sake of introducing an after-difficulty.
But, assuming its truth, there is another and still more
serious difficulty flowing from it, of which he makes no
mention. And it is this : What, in that case, became
of the remainder of the tribe ? Even after we have
taken into account the secession of Esau and his fol-
lowers, it appears certain that the patriarchal encamp-
ment must have grown by this time into dimensions as
large as those of the Jehalin tribe, which now holds
the same position, and the sheikh of which is under
an engagement to furnish one thousand armed men
for the Pasha^s service in any extraordinary emerg-
ency. Then, to this his ancestral " household," as
it is called, the retainers of Jacob, of his sons, were
added. For, though Dr. Colenso " does not see any
signs in Gen. xxxii, xxxiii., of Jacob having any
such a body of servants," ^ every other person who
has even cursorily read those chapters, must have
immediately and plainly seen that a very considerable
" body" was thus accompanying him. Indeed, such

^ " . . . . Thy servant Jacob saith thus, . . I have oxen and
asses, flocks and men- servants, and ivomen-servahts. . . . Then
Jacob divided the people that was with him into two hands. . . .
He sent a present for Esau his brother; two hundred she-
goats, twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes, twenty rams, thirty
camels, forty kine, ten bulls, twenty she-asses, and ten foals.
And he delivered them into the hand of his servants.'' (Gen,
xxxii. 5, 7, 13-16.) Similar intimations as to the extent of his
"company" are given in chap, xxxiii. — Yet Dr. Colenso
(p. 114) says, " There is no sign in Gen. xxxii, xxxiii, to w^hich
Kurtz refers, of Jacob having any such a body of servants."



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 31

was the nature of the country over whicli these
chapters represent the patriarch as then moving, he
was there so close to the rocky fastnesses which were
held at that time by the terrible Rephaim — that,
except under the protection of a considerable escort,
this route would have been impracticable. Many
hundreds at least of armed men must have acknowledged
his authority, and have been, therefore, added to the
patriarchal encampment, when, on the death of his
father, Jacob entered there on his inheritance. And, I
ask, if all these men did not accompany him into Egypt,
what became of them? Moreover, what, upon that
supposition, is meant by the statement, that " Joseph
said unto his brethren, and to his father's house, I will
go up, and show Pharaoh, and say unto him. My
brethren, and my father's house, who were in the land
of Canaan, are come unto me?^^ And why are the
'^ seventy souls that were in Egypt '' spoken of as
being — not Hebrew, but — "of the house of Jacob,
and coming out of his loins ?^^^ Since our "exa-
miner of the Pentateuch" does not even allude to
these difficulties, which beset him on his own hypo-
thesis — we will hold to our assurance, that we were
not under any illusion in believing that we saw a great
multitude, under the guidance of the aged chieftain
and his sons, going down, along the already beaten
route, to their new settlements in Egypt, elated with
the prospects which they saw were there opening before
them.

^ Scripture Lands, p. 30, and Kote.



32



And now_, if we will fix our attention steadfastly
on the features of their new settlement^ and use the
historical information which has been elsewhere given
concerning the period when they arrived in it^ we can
imagine their condition and their employments during
their stay in Egypt^ and while the training was going
forward which it was meant to give them. There they
were^ then, pasturing their flocks, or farming the ground
which gave them such rich products, with such slender,
inconsiderable toil, resisting the forays of the maraud-
ing tribes who hovered on then- limits, and everywhere
trafficking with their new compatriots for the luxuries
which were so readily exchanged for the animal wealth
in their possession. In this manner the retainers
and dependants of the seventy would be employed,
while they themselves — Joseph's brethren and their
sons — had means of frequent intercourse with the
higher classes who were their brother's associates in
the country. The barges sailing up and down the
canals, and the branches of the river bordering upon
their villages, bore them towards Zoan, and Heliopolis,
and Memphis. In those cities they were in intercourse
— on terms of high consideration — with the upper ranks,
the members of the higher castes, the rulers and leaders
of the people. Nor would such occasions of inter-
course cease with Joseph's death. His sons inherited
his social rank, and many of his distinctions. Through
Ephraim and Manasseh, the people still had the ad-
vantage of those opportunities of instruction, and of
civilised advancement, that were needful for the purposes



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 33

of their settlement in Egypt. So that, in our con-
ception of the state of the Hebrew people during the
centuries of their Egyptian life, we must not only think
of them as clustered together in village communities
on the green spaces along the banks of the river, or
as tending their flocks on the desert pastures that lie
adjacent to the widely stretching plains of Goshen ;
but as also occupying quarters in the great cities of
the lower kingdom, in Memphis and On, in Pelusium
and Zoan.^

In this manner they passed the two centuries, or
thereabouts, of their occupation of the country. For
this, doubtless, was the true period of the Hebrew
settlement in Egypt, — as Dr. Colenso has sufficiently
proved, in opposition to Kurtz and Kalisch, though he
does not fail to let us know that his purpose in in-
sisting so strenuously on this (shorter) period is the
maintenance of some of his objections. We accept
it, however; and now remark that somewhere about
the middle of it, there was a change in the ruling
dynasty of the kingdom, which is significantly indicated
by the sacred writer^s mention of a " new " (not
"another") king, "who knew not Joseph." The
ancient and mighty race, which had been driven south-
wards, and hitherto kept within the provinces of the
Upper Nile, had at length succeeded in expelling their
invaders, and in recovering their supremacy over the

^ Scripture Lands, &c., pp. 29-31.

D



34 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

lower country_, including the territory in which the
Israelites were settled. This in consequence had be-
come relatively much smaller^ now that it was included
in an empire which stretched five hundred miles
beyond the boundaries of their former kingdom.
Their numbers^ however,, had largely multiplied.
Doubtless many of them, unfaithful to their sacred
trust, had been absorbed into the Egyptian population.
But those who held to their old faith and parentage,
and were still regarded as a distinct class in the com-
munity, must have now become so numerous as to
form a considerable part of the population, which was
henceforth governed as one kingdom. Their position
in the country gave them the command of the Medi-
terranean coast, and they were the keepers of the
wilderness frontier. Moreover, their physical cha-
racteristics, in comparison with the slender and low-
statured natives of the country, the large amount
of wealth in their possession, their strong ancestral
claims to high consideration, and, again, their alliance
with the expelled invaders, and with the Edomite
community in the neighbouring peninsula — must
have made them the source of continual anxiety,
even to the powerful monarchs who now ruled the
destinies of Egypt, Our historian tells us, in the most
natural style, of the jealousy and alarm which was thus
occasioned; of the cautious acts of oppression which
were consequently adopted towards them ; and of the
indi2:nant resentment which this awakened in the



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 35

minds of some of their chiefs and leaders. But all
these details are familiar_, and need not be enumerated,
for we must now pass to the second of the four parts
into which our examination is divided.

II. Here we have to consider Dr. Colenso's diffi-
culties in connexion with the Exodus, and with the
journeyings through the wilderness. And with re-
spect to the first of these two subjects, it will be
convenient again to gather into our view the facts, as
the sacred historian relates them.

He tells us, then, that, in consequence of the
oppression which the new dynasty practised on the
Hebrews — and which must first have taken efi'ect on
the masses of what may be called the town population
around and below Memphis towards the sea, and then,
more distressingly, on the hitherto uncontrolled roamers
on the borders of the wilderness — the leaders of the
people, those whose high rank and station among them
would still be recognised by their oppressors, were led to
demand their emancipation. We are quite prepared to
hear that it was vehemently opposed. For it involved
the withdrawal of a considerable amount of wealth from
the country ; it would break up many households with
which the Hebrews had formed alliances ; and, more-
over, the departure of such a large part of the popu-
lation would deprive the Egyptians of much effective
labour, which left them free for the defence of their
country, and for the conduct of the military ex-



36 COLENSO^S EXAMINATION OF

peditions which we know they were carrying forward at
this time. Accordingly, with a denial of the authority
of the Name in which the demand was made, the
Egyptian king refused to grant it. " Who/^ he said,
" is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel
go ? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go.^^
We are then told of the means which were employed
to manifest the identity of Him Whom Pharaoh thus
denied with the Ruler of the heavens and the earth.
The grand series and order of the miracles which in-
troduced the Exodus is related; and I think if we
observe their mutual connexion, and their relation to
the system of things amidst which they were witnessed,
we may discern an "internal evidence,'"* which well
deserves our notice at this point, of the truth of this
part of the history. For, observe, those miraculous
interpositions were not mere random acts of power,
manifesting, now and then, and without any method,
an occasional interference on the part of superhuman
agents. The mighty deeds by which Moses attested
his Divine legation, rose gradually one above the other,
and showed their Divine origin by embracing the entire
sphere of Egyptian life. The material order which
had served as the framework of the Church's visible
existence was made articulate with the great message
whose proclamation was one of the purposes for which
it had been instituted : all natural agencies were em-
ployed to testify against the cruel oppression to which
the Hebrews were subjected. The water, the soil, the



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 37

atmospliere, the sky of Egypt, the insect and animal,
and the human, life that dwelt in it — were all used in
confirmation of the Divine testimony which this suffer-
ing people had heen called to bear, concerning the
benignant character of God, and their fellowship in
Him. And thus we are prepared for the spectacle
which an attentive consideration of the nature of the
position of the Hebrews in the country will enable
us to realise with some distinctness, when we next
read of the sudden gathering of the people from all
parts of their thickly peopled territory to the place
of one of their encampments on the outskirts of the
desert. In their boats on the canals, and in hastily
formed caravans along the roads ; some on camels and
asses, others among the wealthier classes in their
chariots — we see them crowding towards their place of
rendezvous, whole villages and large quarters of the
cities of the Delta being utterly deserted, as the gather-
ing company made its way to one of those wide spaces
which open out amidst the hills that lie on the western
side of the Egyptian sea.

Thus far the narrative agrees perfectly with the
known circumstances of Egyptian history in the period
to which it is referred. As again it comes in an orderly
and natural sequel, after the account already given of
the hopes that had been impressed on the people, and
of the trust that was committed to their maintenance.
Moreover, those who have carefully explored the region
in which all these occurrences transpired, affirm that



38

it accurately accords with the writer's statements,
and perfectly satisfies all the conditions required by
them. Yet, here again our examiner assures us they
cannot be accepted " as true narratives of actual
historical matters of fact:" in thus thinking of the
circumstances of the Exodus, we are once more under
an illusion.

For, first, the writer represents the people as in
this manner " going forth D^ppn, i.e., ^armed,^ or in
' battle array,' as the word appears to mean in all the
other passages where it occurs. . . . But it is incon-
ceivable that these down-trodden, oppressed people
should have been allowed by Pharaoh to possess arms.
If such a mighty host had had arms in their hands,
would they not have risen long ago for their liberty, or
at all events would there have been no danger of rising ?
Besides, the warriors formed a distinct caste in Egypt,
as Herodotus tells us, &c.," pp. 48, 49. — Here is one of
the proofs of the untrustworthiness of the " story,^'
which we have been just reviewing. Most strange it
is, however, that — accepting the correctness of Dr.
Colenso's version of the word, which our translation
renders " harnessed,'' and reading it as equivalent to
"equipped, or arrayed for battle" — we can only per-
ceive, in our historian's statement that it was thus the
Israelites went out of Egypt, an indication of his
truthfulness. We remember that for upwards of two
centuries, large numbers of the Israelites had occupied,
on an exposed frontier, a position which demanded the



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 39

bravery and resources of a warlike people to defend it.
No others could have occupied that border territory :
only strong and valiant men could have there held their
ground against the marauders of the wilderness. (You
will find in 1 Chron. vii. 21, 22, an account of one of
the conflicts to which their position subjected them.)
And, therefore, when we read that they not only went up
in ^' battle array/^ but that arms were in the possession
of large numbers of them- — and no more than this is
stated by the writer or implied : Dr. Colenso's assertion
that all the adult males are represented as being armed,
is one of his usual inaccuracies — we meet with an as-
sertion which is actually required by the previous tenor
of the narrative. Our examiner^s difficulty in this
instance betrays the unreal and imperfect character of
his acquaintance with the record on which he is com-
menting. And this is further shown by his description
of the people as being universally " down-trodden and
oppressed.^^ For my own part, I get quite another
impression concerning them from Pharaoh's words :
'^ Behold, the people of the children of Israel aie more,
and mightier than we/' as well as from the fact that he
was forced to " deal wisely'^ with them ; in other words,
that he was obliged to employ stratagem in order to
effect their subjugation. The writer nowhere gives us
any reason to conclude that they had been universally
reduced into the condition of bondsmen. Some of them
were evidently in possession of high rank, and others,
not less plainly, had acquired considerable wealth; and



40 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

for both these reasons their leaders would obtain
exeraption from the labour which was rendered by the
lower classes of the people. The whole tenor of the
" story " is utterly inconsistent with that view of the
condition of the Israelites which is implied in Dr.
Colenso's argument throughout this chapter. Nor can
Herodotus give him any help in establishing his point,
since this writer represents the state of things which
obtained in Egypt at least one thousand years later than
the times which now concern us. All we know of the
period, whether from the "story/^ or from other sources,
makes it certain that large numbers of the Hebrew
people possessed arms, and were accustomed to their
use ; so that again in this instance the '' difficulty,"
when it is fairly looked at, takes the form of an
evidence and an authentication.

This account of the Israelites going out " armed,^^
is, however, only one of the indications which betray
the " unhistorical ''^ character of the narrative. We
are told that it may be further seen in the statement
that "in one single day (they are Dr. Colenso's
italics) the whole immense population of Israel was
instructed to keep the Passover, and actually did keep
it. . . . It is true," he adds, " that the story, as it now
stands, with the directions about taking' the lamb
on the tenth day and 'keeping' it till the fourteenth,
is perplexing and contradictory." But to what is it
" contradictory," and to whom can it be perplexing ?
The only contradiction which need perplex any straight-




THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 41

forward reader of this portion of the narrative, is that
which he will find between Dr. Colenso^s representation
of the " story/^ and the statements actually contained
in it. For it is evident that the directions concerning
the Passover had been received by Moses, and had by
him been delivered to the people, some time before it
was actually celebrated on the night of their departure.
There is only one word C^-aU) i^ the 12th verse, which,
as Dr. Colenso notices, appears to oppose this view.
But the express requirement (in verses 3 and 6) that
the lamb should be kept four days before it was killed,
shows that this word is here used prospectively. In-
stead of "one single day,^^ at least four must have
been actually passed in the celebration of the service.
And so, in a commentary on the passage which most
" examiners of the Pentateuch '^ would have consulted,
Josephus understood it, for he expressly says {Antiq,
II. 14) : " But when God had signified that with one
more plague He would compel the Egyptians to let the
Hebrews go. He commanded Moses to tell the people
that they should have a sacrifice ready, and that they
should prepare themselves on the tenth day of the
month against the fourteenth. . . . Accordingly, he
having made them ready for their departure . . . when
the fourteenth day was come, they offered the sacrifice
and purified their houses, &c."

Here, again, instead of " contradictions and impos-
sibilities," we can see in the narrative nothing but the
natural order and consistency, which show its truth-



43 COLENSO^S EXAMINATION OF

fulness. And the same thing may be affirmed of'the
next difficulty, which, you will observe, Dr. Colenso has
brought forward in this same chapter where we find
his comments on this Passover. It was suggested to
him by the statement (Exod. iii. 22 ; xi. 2 ; xii. 35)
" that every woman was to borrow of her neighbour, and
of her that sojourned in her house, jewels of silver, and
jewels of gold, and raiment. ^^ He tells us, pp. 56, 59,
that " the supposition of their borrowing in this way,
even if they lived in a city, involves prodigious diffi-
culties ; and that these would be enormously increased ^^
if they were scattered over any extent of country.
Here you will be pleased to remark that Dr. Colenso
does not advance the old difficulty which has been
dwelt on so often as to the nature of this " borrowing.^''
The arguments brought forward by Hengstenberg, and
strongly confirmed by Kurtz, have probably convinced
him that the word bs;^; means in this, as in other places,
"to ask," or '^to demand ;" and that when it is said that
in consequence of their request, or their demand, being
granted, they "spoiled (^^-^3^.) the Egyptians," the
author "meant to lay stress upon the fact that con-
straint had been exerted by them, and that Israel
marched away, ' laden with, as it were, the booty of
their powerful foes, as a sign of the victory which they,
in their weakness, had gained through the ^ omni-
potence of God.'" It is not then the "demand"
itself, but the hurried manner in which it was made
(p. 57), and because, " when suddenly summoned to



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 43

depart they hastened, at a moment^s notice, to ^ borrow '
in all directions from the Egyptians'^ — which con-
stitutes the difficulty in this instance. But here
again, the difficulty is one which our examiner has
himself created. There is no sign of any such haste and
hurry in the narrative. One of the three passages which
relate to the proceeding in question (Exod. xi. 2),
appears to have escaped Dr. Colenso's notice ; and


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Online LibraryGeorge Smith DrewBishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix → online text (page 3 of 12)