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The prayers prescribed on Sopheric authority had
no hard and fast form, but the line of thought which
they were to contain was, in general, laid down. The


form of prayer used in the Temple became the
model of the services in all prayer-houses, or houses
of gathering (Beth-ha-Keneseth). Divine service
was performed at early morning in a court of the
Temple, and commenced with one or more specially
selected psalms of praise and thanksgiving. At the
conclusion of the psalms, the whole congregation
exclaimed: "Praise be to the God of Israel, who
alone doeth wonders, and praised be the glory of
His name for ever and ever, and may His glory fill
the whole earth "; upon which followed a prayer of
thanksgiving for the light of the sun, which God had
given to the whole world, and for the light of the
Law, which He had given to Israel. This was sue-


ceeded by the reading of several portions from the
Torah, the Ten Commandments and the Schema :
" Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,"
to which the whole congregation responded : " Blessed
be the name of the glory of His kingdom for ever
and ever." The principal prayer, the Tephillah, was
composed of six short parts : a thanksgiving that
God had chosen the children of Israel as His ser-
vants ; an acknowledgment of the Divine Power, as
shown in nature, by the life-giving rain, and as
manifested in man, by the future resurrection of the
dead; an acknowledgment of the holiness of God;
a supplication for the accomplishment of all prayers
and for the acceptance of sacrifice; a thanksgiving for
the preservation of life, and finally a prayer for peace,
following the blessing of the priest. In the afternoon
and evening, the congregation assembled again for
prayer, but the service was short, as the Psalms and
chapters of the Law were omitted.

On the Sabbath and festive days, the morning
service was not -materially different, except that a
particular prayer was interpolated, in which special
mention was made of the sanctity of the day, and a
longer portion from the Torah was read at its close.
In time a portion from the prophets, especially a


chapter^ bearing upon the character of the day, was
read. The opposition in which the Judaeans stood
to the Samaritans prompted this reading from the
prophets. For the Samaritans who denied the sanc-
tity of the Temple and of Jerusalem, rejected the
prophetical writings, because they contained con-
stant allusions to the holy city and the chosen sanc-
tuary. So much the more necessary did it ap-
pear to the upholders of Judaism to publish these
writings. In consequence of this regulation, the
words of the prophets who had but rarely been
listened to while they lived, were now read in every
Judaean house of prayer, and though they were
but partially understood by the greater number of
the congregation, nevertheless they became mighty
levers to arouse the enthusiasm of the nation. As
these readings ended the morning service, they were
called " the conclusion" (Haphtarah). It thus became
necessary to make an authoritative collection of the
prophetic writings, and to decide which of the books
were to be excluded, and which adopted. This
choice was probably made by the legislative body of
the Sopheric age. The collection embraced the four
historical books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings,
which were called the Earlier Prophets ; then came
three books, great in interest, bearing the names of
the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel ; and lastly
the twelve minor prophets, Hosea, Amos, Joel, Oba-
diah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi, these twelve, in
conjunction with the three greater, being styled the
Later Prophets. These works were all recognised
as Holy Writ, but were placed next to the Torah, as
of secondary degree of holiness.

In this way the divine service of the Sopheric age
was constructed; it was simple and edifying; it con-
tained nothing superfluous, disturbing or wearying,
and it embodied the thought and spirit of those time-
honoured treasures, the writings of the prophets and


the psalmists. It contained only one foreign element,
the belief in the resurrection of the dead on the last
day. With this exception, everything was taken from
the pure spring of the earliest teachings.

The inhabitants of the country towns introduced
in their own congregations an exact copy of the
divine service as it was conducted in Jerusalem.
They needed no urging to this by mandatory enact-
ments. Thus in each town, houses of prayer (Syna-
gogues, Moade-El) were established, in which was
introduced the order of prayer which is the ground-
work of the divine service of the present day. Be-
sides the prayers, sacrifices were offered up accord-
ing to the letter of the Law. These two forms of
divine service were blended into one; they com-
pleted and helped one another. The spiritual service
adapted itself to the sacrificial ceremonies; three
times during the day, whilst the priests were offering
up their sacrifices, the congregations assembled in
the prayer-houses, whereas on the Sabbath and on
festivals, when special sacrifices were offered up in the
Temple (Korbati Mussaph), the congregation assem-
bled four times for prayer (Tephillath Mussaph).
But even the sacrificial service could not shut out the
living word ; it had to grow, as it were, more spiritual,
and it became customary to sing the Psalms at inter-
vals between the offerings, because of the great
influence which this sublime poetry possessed.

There was, however, one very prominent feature
connected with the Temple and the sacrifices, which
was opposed to the essentially spiritual tendency of
the prophetic and psalmistic poetry. It was that
which related to the laws concerning purity and im-
purity. The law of the Torah had certainly given
very precise regulations on these matters ; an unclean
person could not bring offerings, or approach the
sanctuary, or even taste consecrated food. There were
many degrees of uncleanness, and the Law prescribed
how unclean persons might be purified. The last


act of purification always consisted in bathing in
fresh running water. These laws would never have
attained such far-reaching importance, involving every
station in life, had it not been for the sojourn of the
Judseans, during so many centuries, among the Per-
sians, whose much more stringent purification laws
were rigorously observed. The statutes concerning
uncleanness, according to the Iranian Avesta of the
Persians, whose priests were the Magi, were extremely
strict, and the means adopted for purification revolt-
ing. Dwelling among the Magi, the Judaeans absorbed
much from them. The striking resemblance of many
of their laws and customs to their own could not
escape their observation, and they yielded to Magian

The fundamental conception of the Deity, as of one
incorporeal perfect God, was so firmly implanted in
the heart of every Judaean, that no one would allow
himself to be influenced by the conception of the
Persian god of light, Ahura-Mazda (Ormuzd), how-
ever spiritual that conception might be. Their seers,
full of penetration, speedily divined the error of the
Iranian doctrine of acknowledging two great rival
powers, the god of light and goodness, and the god
of darkness and sin, Angro-Mainyus (Ahriman).
They contrasted that doctrine with their own belief,
that the God of Israel created light and darkness,
good and evil. They denied that the world and
mankind are being perpetually drawn in divergent
directions by two rival powers, but are destined to
live in peace and unity. The spiritual leaders of
the Judseans in the Sopheric age expressed this belief
in one of the morning prayers: "God is the Creator
of light and of darkness, He has created peace and
has made everything." But although the Judaeans re-
sisted any alteration in their conception of the Deity,
still they could not prevent many of the ideas and cus-
toms of the Persians from gaining ground among the
nation. They imagined that they were adding to the


glory of God if, in imitation of the Iranians, they sur-
rounded Him with myriads of obedient servants. The
"messengers of God," whom we read of in the Bible
as executors of His will, became, after the pattern of
Persian beliefs, heavenly creatures, endowed with
peculiar characteristics and special individuality.
The people pictured to themselves the divine
throne, surrounded by a countless throng of heavenly
beings, or angels, awaiting a sign to do the bidding
of God. " Thousand times thousands served Him,
and myriad times myriads stood before Him." Like
the Persians, the Judaeans called the angels " the holy
watchers" (Irin-Kadishin). The angels received spe-
cial names : Michael, Gabriel, the strong, Raphael,
the healer, Uriel or Suriel, Matatoron, and others.

As fancy had changed the Yazatas into angels, and
given them a Hebrew character and Hebrew names, so
also were the bad spirits, or Daevas, introduced among
the Judaeans. Satan was a copy of Angro-Mainyus,
but he was not placed in juxtaposition to the God of
Israel, for this would have been a denial of the funda-
mental doctrine of the Judaeans. He, the Holy One,
high and mighty and all-powerful, could not be
limited, or in any way interfered with by one of His
own creatures. Still the first step had been taken,
and, in the course of time, Satan grew to be as
strong and powerful as his Iranian prototype, and was
endowed with a kingdom of darkness of his own,
where he reigned as the supreme power of evil.
Once created in the image of Angro-Mainyus, Satan
had to be surrounded with a host of attendant demons
or evil spirits (Shedim, Mazikim, Malache Chabalah).
One demon, as an adaptation of the Iranian Daeva
names, was called Ashmodai; another, by the name
of Samael, was at the head of a troop of persecuting
spirits. The angel of death (Malach-ham Maveth),
lying in ambush, ready to seize upon men's lives, was
endowed with a thousand eyes. These creatures of
the imagination soon took firm hold of the Jewish


soul, and with them many usages resembling those
of the Magi invaded the Jewish religion ; and espe-
cially the laws of purification became more and
more rigorous.

It was also at that time that a new doctrine of retri-
bution was developed in Judaism. According to the
Iranian doctrine, the universe was divided into two
great kingdoms ; that of light and that of darkness ;
the pure, or worshippers of Ahura-Mazda, were ad-
mitted into the region of light (Paradise), and the
wicked, the followers of Angro-Mainyus, into the king-
dom of darkness (Hell). After death, the soul re-
mained during three days near the body it had ten-
anted; then, according to its life upon earth, it was
taken by the Yazatas to Paradise, or was drawn down
by the Daevas into Hell. This idea of retribution
after death was adopted by the Judseans. The Gar-
den of Eden (Gan-Eden), where the story of the
Creation placed the first human beings whilst they
lived in a state of innocence, was transformed into
Paradise, and the Valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom), in
which, since the days of Ahaz, sacrifices of children
had been offered up, gave the name to the newly-
created Hell. In what way could such new beliefs
have crept into the Judaean faith? That is as little
capable of demonstration as is the way in which the
pores of the skin become impregnated with a disease
that has poisoned the atmosphere. However, these
views about angels and Satan with his attendant
spirits, about Paradise and Hell, never obtained the
dignity of fixed dogmas which it would be mortal
sin to doubt, but on the contrary, during that time,
and in all future time, their adoption or repudiation was
left to the discretion of the individual. Only one
belief emanating from the Iranian religion, that of
the resurrection of the dead, became part of the
spiritual life of the Judaeans, until it grew at last
to be a binding dogma. The Magi had taught
and insisted upon this doctrine. They believed


that the re-awakening of the dead would take place
at a future day, when Ahura-Mazda will have con-
quered and destroyed his rival, when the god of
darkness will have to give up the bodies of the
4 ' pure men " which he has stolen. The Judaism of
the Sopheric age adopted this hopeful and inspiriting
doctrine all the more readily, as allusions to it existed
in the Judaic writings. The prophets had constantly
made references to the day of the last judgment, and
the scribes, inferring that the resurrection of the dead
was meant, made it an article of faith amongst their
people, and in the daily prayer, praise was rendered
to God for awakening the dead to life.

At a later day, when the Judsean nation was
struggling with death, a seer, comforting the suf-
ferers, said:

" Many of those who are sleeping in dust will awake, some to
eternal life, and some to disgrace and everlasting abhorrence."
(DANIEL xii. 2.)

In this manner a peculiar doctrine of retaliation,
with a brilliant picture of the future, or of the next
world (Olam ha-Ba), was evolved. A magical world
unfolded itself to the eye, intoxicating the believer.
He saw the time come when all discords of life
would change into harmony, when all disappoint-
ments would vanish, when the pious, the faithful,
and the just, who had suffered so much upon earth,
would rise from their graves and enter on eternal
life in innocence and purity. Even the sinners who
had erred only from frivolity and weakness would
be purified by penitence in Hell, and would enjoy the
pleasures of eternal life. But how was this resurrec-
tion to take place, and how was this beautiful new
world to be organised? Imagination could not find
an answer to such a question. Fervent faith and
enthusiastic hope do not indulge in subtle inquiries;
they are contented with giving the pious the com-
forting assurance that a just recompense is in store


for them, in a future life, and thus assuaging the sor-
rows of an unhappy earthly existence. Although Ju-
daism received the essence of this teaching from
without, yet the power of enriching it, and of endow-
ing it with the faculty of working immeasurable good
came from within. The foreign origin of this belief
becoming finally obliterated, it was considered as an
original Judsean doctrine. Only the Samaritans ob-
jected, for a considerable time, to the belief in the
resurrection and to the idea of a future life.

During this long period of nearly two hundred
years, while the Judcean community established
itself, and Judaism developed by the enlargement of
its own doctrines and the adoption of foreign ele-
ments from the death of Nehemiah to the destruc-
tion of the Persian kingdom we do not find a
single personage mentioned who assisted in that
great work, which was to outlive and defy the
storms of ages. Was it from excess of modesty
that the spiritual leaders of the people, with whom
the new order of things had originated, veiled
themselves in obscurity, in order to eliminate from
their work every vestige of individualism? Or
is it the ingratitude of posterity that has effaced
these names? Or, again, were the members of
the Great Council not sufficiently gifted or re-
markable to merit any particular distinction, and was
the community indebted for its vigour, and Judaism
for its growth and development, entirely to the zeal
of a whole community, in which every individual will
was completely absorbed ? Whatever was the cause,
the astonishing fact remains, that of these long stretches
of time but few details have become known to us.
Either no annals were kept of the events of those
years, or they have been lost. It is true there were
no very remarkable events to describe, the activity
of the Judaean community being entirely restricted
to its inward life ; there was nothing which might
have appeared of sufficient importance to be chron-


icled for posterity. There was indeed but little for
the historian to write about: a stranger might per-
haps have been struck by the changes which were
gradually unfolding themselves, but to those who
lived and worked in the community, what was there
of a peculiar or extraordinary nature which might
deserve to be perpetuated in history?

The Judaean people occupied themselves almost
entirely with peaceful avocations ; they understood
but little of the use of arms ; perhaps not even
enough to preserve their own territories against the
attacks of their neighbours. The prophet Ezekiel
had described what the condition of the Jews would
be after their return from captivity:

" In the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is turned
away from the sword and is gathered out of many people against the
mountains of Israel." (ZEK. xxxviii. 8.)

A peaceful, quiet existence naturally withdraws
itself from curious observation. In the wars which
were often raging on their borders, the Judsean
people certainly took no part. Under Artaxerxes II.,
surnamed Mnemon (404-362), and under Artaxerxes
III., surnamed Ochus (36 1-338), leaders of the discon-
tented Egyptians, some of whom called themselves
kings, endeavoured to free their country from the
Persian yoke, and to restore it to its former inde-
pendence. In order to be enabled to offer effectual
resistance to the armies collected for the purpose of
putting down these insurrections, the ephemeral
kings of Egypt joined the Persian satraps of Phoenicia,
to whom Judsea had also been allotted. Persian
troops often passed along the Judaean coasts of the
Mediterranean towards Egypt, or Egyptians towards
Phoenicia, and Greek mercenaries, hired by either
power, marched to and fro, and all this warlike
array could be constantly observed by the Judseans
from their mountain-tops. They did not always
remain mere passive spectators ; for, though they


were not compelled to join the armies, they were
certainly not exempt from various charges and trib-
utes. The relations between the Judseans and
the Persians was at the same time somewhat dis-
turbed. The latter, influenced by foreign example,
began to practise idolatry. The goddess of love,
who, under the different names of Beltis, Mylitta,
or Aphrodite, was constantly brought under the
notice of the Persians, exercised a fascinating power
over them. The victories they had achieved and the
riches they had acquired, inclined them to sensual
pleasures, and they were easily enthralled by the
goddess, and induced to serve and worship her. As
soon as they had adopted this new deity, they gave
her a Persian name, Anahita, Anaitis, and included
her in their mythology. Artaxerxes II. sanctioned
her worship, and had images of her placed every-
where in his great kingdom, in the three principal
cities, Babylon, Susa, and Ecbatana, as well as in
Damascus, Sardes, and in all the towns of Persia and
Bactria. Through this innovation the Persian re-
ligion sustained a double injury. A strange deity
was admitted, and image-worship introduced. Thus
the spiritual link which had bound the Persians to the
followers of Judaism their common abhorrence of
idolatry was broken. No longer was "pure incense "
offered to the incorporeal God of the Judaeans. Having
compelled his own people to bow down to this newly
adopted goddess of love, Artaxerxes tried, as it
appears, to force her worship upon the Judseans ;
the latter were cruelly treated, in order to make
them renounce their religion, but they chose the
severest punishments, and even death itself, rather
than abjure the faith of their fathers. It is related that
after his war with the Egyptians and their king
Tachos (36 1-360), Artaxerxes banished many Judseans
from their country, and sent them to Hyrkania, on
the shores of the Caspian Sea. If this account may
be considered historical, the banishment of the Ju-


daeans must surely have been a mode of persecution
inflicted upon them on account of their fidelity to
their laws and their God ; for it is hardly to be sup-
posed that they took part in the revolt against
Persia, which was then spreading from Egypt to
Phoenicia. In Jerusalem there was much suffering
at that time, caused by one of those abject creatures,
who, owing to the growing degeneracy of the Persian
Court and increasing weakness of the kingdom,
raised themselves from the dust, and ruled both the
countries and the throne. This was the eunuch
Bao-oas (Bag-oses), who under Artaxerxes III. became

o \ o / *

so powerful that he was able to set aside the king,
and fill the throne according to his own pleasure.
Before attaining this supreme position, Bagoas had
been the commander of the troops stationed in
Syria and Phoenicia, and he had taken advantage of
the opportunities thus offered him to acquire great
riches. He received bribes from Joshua, the ambi-
tious son of the high-priest, who hoped thus to secure
that post for himself. Joshua had an elder brother,
Johanan, and both were sons of Joiada, one of
whose relations, having connected himself with San-
ballat, had been banished from Jerusalem by Nehe-
miah, and subsequently had introduced the rival wor-
ship on Mount Gerizim. After the death of Joiada, the
younger son, trusting in the countenance of Bagoas,
came forward to seize the high-priest's diadem.
The elder brother was enraged at this presumption,
and a struggle, which ended in bloodshed, took place
between the two in the Temple itself. Johanan slew
Bagoas' s protege in the Sanctuary. A sad omen for
the future ! Upon hearing what had occurred at
Jerusalem, the eunuch instantly proceeded thither,
not to avenge the death of Joshua, but, under the
pretext of meting out well-deserved punishment, to
extort money for himself. For each lamb that was
offered at the daily services in the Temple, the people
were ordered to pay 50 drachms as expiatory money,


and this sum was to be paid every morning before the
sacrifice was performed. Bagoas also violated the law
which forbade any layman's entering the Sanctuary,
and when the priest, in accordance with the prohibi-
tory decree, tried to prevent his entrance into the
Temple, he asked, mockingly, if he was not so pure
as the son of the high-priest, who had been mur-
dered there ?

The people paid the expiatory money for seven
years, when, for some reason, they were freed from
their burden. The disfavour into which the Judsean
nation had fallen with the last Persian king was
turned to account by their malevolent neighbours,
the Samaritans, in order to injure them to their
utmost power. They appear to have regained by
force or cunning the border districts of Ramathaim,
Apherema and Lydda, which they had formerly been
obliged to quit. The Judaeans were now reduced to
a struggle for mere existence. Few and brief had
been the glimpses of light which had brightened the
annals of the Judaean communily during the last two
hundred years ! This light had illumined the first en-
thusiastic days of the return from captivity during the
reign of Darius, who showered favours upon them, and
during the time of Nehemiah's presence and zealous
activity at Jerusalem. With these exceptions, their
lot had been oppression, poverty and pitiable helpless-
ness. They appear to us in their sadness and misery
to be ever asking with tearful, uplifted eyes, "Whence
shall help come to us ?" and traces of this helplessness
and misery are visible in the \vritings that have come
down from that period. While the exile lasted, the
grief and the longing, which kept the captives in
constant and breathless expectation, had brought
forth the fairest blossoms of prophecy and poetry ;
but as soon as the excitement ceased, and hope be-
came a reality, the mental and poetical activity
began to sink. The later prophetical utterances, if
beauty of form be considered, cannot bear com-


parison with those of the Captivity. The poetry of
the Psalms became weak and full of repetitions, or
else borrowed the bloom of older productions. The
graceful idyl of the book of Ruth forms an exception
in the literature of this period. Historical writings
were, from causes easy to explain, completely neg-
lected. Ezra and Nehemiah had given only a

Online LibraryHeinrich GraetzHistory of the Jews (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 46)