George Smith Drew.

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

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ages, but break out from time to time as the history proceeds,
running witnesses, as it were, to the accuracy, not of one
solitary detail, but of a series of details, extending through the
lives of different individuals relating to different events, and
dating at different points of time. For I have travelled through
the writings of Moses, beginning from the history of Abraham,
when a sojourner in the land of Canaan, and ending with a
transaction which happened on the borders of that land, when
his descendants, now numerous ' as the stars of heaven,' were
about to enter and take possession . . and (everywhere) I have
found consistency without design. . . .

"... I have found it in the death of ISTadab and Abihu, as
compared with the rem.arkable law which follows touching the
use of wine, and in the removal of their corpses by the sons of
Uzziel, as compared with the defilement of certain in the camp
about the same time by the dead body of a man. " I have found
it in the gushing of water from the rock at Rephidim, as com-
pared with the attack of the Amalekites which followed ; in
the state of the crops in Judea at the Passover, as compared
with that of the crops in Egypt at the time of the plague of
hail ; in the proportion of oxen and waggons assigned to the
several families of the Levites, as compared with the different
services they had respectively to discharge. I have found it in
the order of march observed in one particular case, when the
Israelites broke up from Mount Sinai, as compared with the
general directions given in other places for pitching the tents
and sounding the alarms. I have found it in the peculiar
propriety of the grouping of the conspirators against Moses
and Aaron, as compared with their relative situations in the



camp — consisting, as they do, of such a family of the Levites
and such a tribe of the Israelites as dwelt on the same side of
the Tabernacle, and therefore had especial facilities for clan-
destine intercourse. 1 have found it in an inference from the
direct narrative, that the families of the conspirators did not
perish alike, as compared with a subsequent most casual asser-
tion, that though the households of Dathan and Abiram were
destroyed, the children of Korah died not. I have found it in
the desire expressed conjointly by the tribe of Reuben and the
tribe of Gad to have lands allotted them together on the east
side of Jordan, as compared with their contiguous position in
the camp during their long and trying march through the
wilderness. I have found it in the uniformity with which
Moses implies a free communication to have subsisted amongst
the scattered inhabitants of the East ; in the unexpected disco-
vei-y of Balaam amongst the dead of the Midianites, though
he had departed from Moab apparently to return to his own
country, as compared with the united embassy that was sent
to invite him. And, finally, I have found it in the extraordinary
diminution of the tribe of Simeon, as compared with the
occasion of the death of Zimri, a chief of that tribe, the only
individual whom Moses thinks it necessary to name, and the
victim by which the plague is appeased.

" These indications of truth in the Mosaic writings (to
which, as 1 have said, others of the same kind might doubtless
be added), may be sometimes more, sometimes less, strong ;
still they must be acknowledged, I think, on a general review,
and when taken in the aggregate, to amount to evidence of great
cumulative weight But though the argument of coin-
cidence without design is the only one with which I proposed
to deal, 1 may be allowed, in closing my remarks on the Books
of Moses, to make brief mention of a few other points in favour
of their veracity, which have naturally presented themselves to
my mind w^hilst I have been engaged in investigating that
argument ; — several of these also bespeaking undesignedness in
the narrative, more or less, and so far allied to my main pro-
position. For example, —


" 1st. There is a minuteness in the details of the Mosaic
writings which argues their truth ; for it often argues the eye-
witness, as in the adventures of the wilderness ; and often
seems intended to supply directions to the artificer, as in the
construction of the Tabernacle.

" 2d. There are touches of nature in the narrative which
argue its truth ; for it is not easy to regard them otherwise
than as strokes from the life— as where ' the mixed multitude,'
whether half- casts or Egyptians, are the first to sigh for the
cucumbers and melons of Egypt, and to spread discontent
through the camp ; as the miserable exculpation of himself
which" Aaron attempts, with all the cowardice of conscious
guilt: 'I cast into the fire, and there came out this calf;' the
fire, to be sure, being in the fault.

" 3d. There are certain little mconveniences, represented as
turning up unexpectedly, that argue truth in the story ; for
they are just such accidents as are characteristic of the working
of a new system, and untried machinery. What is to be done
with the man found gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day?
Could an impostor have devised such a trifle ?— How the inhe-
ritance of the daughters of Zelophehad is to be disposed of,
there being no heir-male? Either of them inconsiderable
matters in themselves, but both giving occasion to very im-
portant laws ; the one touching life, and the other property.

" 4th. There is a smpUcity in the manner of Moses, when
telling his tale, which argues its truth. No parade of language,
no pomp of circumstance, even in his miracles— a modesty
and dignity throughout all. Let us but compare him, in any
trying scene, with Josephus : his description, for instance, of
the passage through the Red Sea, of the murmuring of the
Israelites, and the supply of quails and manna, with the same
as given by the Jewish historian, or rhetorician, we might
rather say— and the force of the observation will be felt.

"5th. There is a candour in the treatment of his subject by
Moses, which argues his truth ; as when he tells of his own
want of eloquence, which unfitted him for a leader; his own
want of faith which prevented him from entering the promised


land ; the idolatry of Aaron his brother ; the profaneness of
Nadab and Abihu, his nephews ; the disaffection and punish-
ment of Miriam, his sister; the relationship which Amram,
his father, bore to Jochebed, his mother, which became after-
wards one of the prohibited degrees in the marriage tables of
the Levitical law. . . .

" Then the situation in which the Jews actually found
themselves placed, as a matter of fact, is no slight argument for
the truth of the Mosaic accounts ; reminded as they were by
certain memorials observed from year to year, of the great
events of their early history, just as they are recorded in the
writings of Moses — memorials, universally recognised both in
their object and in their authority. . . .

" Then the heroic devotion with which the Israelites con-
tinued to regard the law, even long after they had ceased to
cultivate the better part of it. . . .

" Lastly, the very onerous nature of the law, so studiously
meddling with all the occupations of life, great and small. This
yoke would scarcely have been endured, without the strongest
assurance on the part of those who were galled by it, of the
authority by which it was imposed. For it met them with
some restraint or other at every turn. Would they plough ?
Then it must not be with an ox and an ass. Would they sow ?
Then must not the seed be mixed. Would they reap ? Then
must they not reap clean. Would they make bread ? Then
they must set apart dough enough for the consecrated loaf.
Did they find a bird's nest ? Then must they let the old bird
fly away. Did they hunt? Then must they shed the blood of
their game, and cover it with dust. Did they plant a fruit
tree? For three years was the fruit to be uncircumcised.
Did they shave their beards ? They were not to cut the
corners. Did they weave a garment ? Then must it be only
with threads prescribed. Did they build a house ? They
must put rails and battlements on the roof. Did they buy an
estate ? At the year of Jubilee back it must go to its owner.
This last, in itself and alone, a provision which must have made
itself felt in the whole structure of the Jewish commonwealth.


and have sensibly affected the character of the people ; every
transfer of land throughout the country having to be regulated
in its price according to the remoteness or proximity of the
year of release; and the desire of accumulating a species of
property usually considered the most inviting of any, counter-
acted and thwarted at every turn. All these (and how many
more of the same kind might be named) are enactments which
it must have required extraordinary influence in the lawgiver
to enjoin, and extraordinary reverence for his powers to

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Online LibraryGeorge Smith DrewBishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix → online text (page 9 of 12)