It is impossible to treat the author of this book as a Christian. I do not say this as forming any judgment of his personal state in any way; I speak of the public profession of a religion he belongs to—Christianity, as contrasted with heathenism, Mahometanism, Judaism, or Buddhism. Dr. Colenso states that “our belief in the living God remains as sure as ever, though not the Pentateuch only, but the whole Bible, were removed. It is written on our hearts by God’s own finger as surely as by the hand of the apostle in the Bible, that ‘God is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.’ It is written there also as plainly as in the Bible, that ‘God is not mocked, that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,’ and that ‘he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.’” (Pages 53, 54.) That is, with the Bible, or without the Bible, Dr. C. believes in the existence of God and His rewarding them that seek Him, and in natural conscience. In other words (as far as his book goes, which he puts forth as a manifesto), he is a profound Deist. Even with the Bible he only believes so much as his heart and conscience recognize, and that the latter is to be preferred to the Bible as the means of knowing God: “that He Himself, the living God, our Father and Friend, is nearer and closer to us than any book can be; that His voice within the heart may be heard continually by the obedient child that listens for it, and that shall be our teacher and guide in the path of duty, which is the path of life, when all other helpers—even the words of the best of books—may fail us.” (Page 54.)
Now it is clear that neither believing that God is, nor natural conscience, is believing in the special facts of Christianity— the incarnation, atonement, resurrection, redemption, being born again, the exaltation of a Man to God’s right hand, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In a word, no special truth or fact of Christianity is “written on our hearts by God’s own finger,” or can be possessed by mere natural conscience or belief in God. All intervention of God is left out. But it is in this, and the statement of what led to its necessity, that revealed religion consists. There is a conscience in every man: the word of God acts on it. I do not doubt that there is an instinctive knowledge of a God and of judgment. This is all Dr. C. owns, with or without the Bible. Revealed religion is a series of divine and marvellous facts and truths, unfolding an intervention of God in grace with sinful man. He sets this aside; his relationship with God is not founded on it. He prefers, as teaching, what he has without it; that is, he wholly and professedly sets aside Christianity. He goes farther; he recognizes “the voice of God’s Spirit… not in the Bible only, but out of the Bible; not to us Christians only, but to our fellow-men of all climes and countries, ages and religions, the same gracious Teacher is revealing, in different measures, according to His own good pleasure, the hidden things of God.” (Page 222.)
Dr. C. has, in substance, solemnly declared that this is not so (see Article 18 of the Thirty-nine Articles); yet I suppose this is no matter with rationalists. But his statement amounts to this:—Christians and heathens have all their particular religions; but, besides and within all this, all have a communication in their own hearts of the hidden things of God. The knowledge of God is not in the religion; for heathens and Christians have it more or less, whatever their religion, in their hearts. He confirms this by quotations from Cicero, Sikhs, and Hindoos. Cicero’s statement (I suppose Dr. C. did not find it out) is merely asserting natural conscience, with the addition of a denial of the foundation-fact of revelation that man is a sinner driven out from God. “Whoever will not obey this law,” says Cicero, “will be flying from himself, and having treated with contempt his human nature, will, in that very fact, pay the greatest penalty, even if he shall have escaped other punishments, as they are commonly considered.” Now this makes human nature the measure of good, as indeed Cicero everywhere does. And just see the result, which neither Dr. C. nor Lactantius, from whom he quotes, seem to have noticed. This law, or right reason, “to the good never commands or forbids in vain, never influences the wicked either by commanding or forbidding.” Could grace be more fully denied? Could the effect of law or conscience be more entirely mis-stated? There are good or wicked already— God knows how; and this law, or right reason, changes nothing—always succeeds with one, and leaves the other where he is. This is, we are told, “a voice almost divine.” “The same divine Teacher revealed also to the Sikh Gooroos (teachers) such great truths as these.” (Page 233.)
He then quotes statements of the unity of God, but what is Pantheism, that is, that God is in everything; statements which recognize Mahomets, Brahmas, Vishnus, Sivas—of course not Christ: and that is a revelation of God for Dr. C.! He then quotes from Hindoo writings “the following words, which were written by one who had no Pentateuch nor Bible to teach him, but who surely learned such living truths as these by the direct teaching of the Spirit of God.” (Page 224.) In these words God is celebrated, and there is a good deal of moralizing, such as may be found anywhere, but in which we find, “He that partaketh of but one grain of the love of God shall be released from the sinfulness of all his doubts and actions” —a comfortable quietus. “I take for my spiritual food the water and the leaf of Ram.” “God dwelleth in the mind, and none other but God.”
Dr. Colenso admires what is the avowed doctrine of these same teachers, without finding out that it is the grossest folly of Pantheism. “God is the gift of charity, God is the offering, God is the fire of the altar, by God the sacrifice is performed,, and God is to be obtained by him who makes God alone the object of his work.” Everything being but a development or expansion of God, we are too, and of course, so far as we realize God in it, become God in a superior degree. But all is God; and it is true of all things, man among the rest. This last sentence, as Dr. C. approvingly quotes, was by “one who had experienced somewhat of what Job had experienced.” (Page 223.) All this is but extracting Deism from Christianity and heathenism alike, and making conscience the judge of what is to be received from each; only, unfortunately, Dr. C.’s conscience accepts the very grossest Pantheism, without so much as finding it out.
But there is more than that. This book does not believe as much of Christ as Mahomet did. Dr. C. openly professes to know much better than Christ upon the subject of the divine authority of revelation. Mahomet held Christ to be a prophet, and that He will judge the world. On the last point the book does not declare itself, if it be not an intimation borrowed from Cicero. Here is Dr. C.’s estimate of Christ’s authority in what He declared: “We are expressly told in Luke 2:52 that Jesus increased in wisdom as well as in stature. It is not supposed that in His human nature He was acquainted more than any educated Jew of the age with the mysteries of all modern sciences, nor, with St. Luke’s expression before us, can it be seriously maintained that, as an infant or young child, He possessed a knowledge surpassing that of the most pious and learned adults of his nation upon the subject of the authority and age of the different portions of the Pentateuch. At what period, then, of His life upon earth is it to be supposed that He had granted to Him, as the Son of man, supernaturally, full and accurate information on these points, so that He should be expected to speak about the Pentateuch in any other terms than any other devout Jew of that day would have employed? Why should it be thought that He would speak with certain divine knowledge on this matter more than upon any other matters of ordinary science or history?” (Page 32.) That is, when Christ, the blessed One, spoke of the authority of the word of God—spoke authoritatively of the scriptures and of Moses—He merely followed the ignorance and prejudice of the pious rabbis of His nation.
Dr. C. has more knowledge, and is freed from the prejudices, and in consequence can tell us positively that Christ was wrong! He has found out that it is impossible that such things as are found in the Pentateuch could come from our loving Father. This, if we are to believe Dr. C, Christ had not moral discernment enough to find out, and took for granted all was right, so as to believe that what Moses wrote came from God. Now Christ says, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen,” for He was of and in heaven; and the question is (not how He learned what He knew, but), when He taught positively, did He teach perfectly, or only under the influence of national prejudice? Dr. C. quotes the following passages of Christ’s words:— “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me; but if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” But it seems this appeal was all beside the mark, for Moses never wrote it at all. Hence, of course, they were not called upon to believe Christ’s words either. “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush.” This too was quite a mistake. “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”
But all this solemn appeal of Christ to Moses, as of equal authority and weight with His own words and resurrection, as a proof of truth, is a mistake, the prejudice of pious rabbis of His nation! Dr. C. is freed from them, and can prove he knows much better than Christ did. And this man is what is called “Bishop of Natal”! I may be asked, “Has he not declared his belief in all the canonical scriptures, and bound himself in this office to require it of those he ordains?” He has. What then does he do with his conscience? He tells us that too: it is governed by the Court of Arches. It is a mercy for upright men that modern rationalists so plainly shew themselves morally. I do not think I ever read anything so morally base as the reasons for signing the articles in the “Essays and Reviews.” Old infidels broke with Christianity: it was sad enough; but modern ones keep their places, and only give up their faith.
The boldness of Dr. C.’s assertions, and the excessive carelessness of his statements and conclusions, are alike remarkable. He tells us that he does not believe in the deluge, because he does in geology. He has studied it in the Zulu country, and he now knows for certain (for Sir C. Lyell is infallible, if scripture and the Lord Christ be not) that a universal deluge could not possibly have taken place. Now Sir C. Lyell is unquestionably an able geologist, as well as the constant resort and refuge of infidels; but he has a system, and a system which geologists, less speculative and at the very least as able as he, entirely reject. Nor does he deny that the science is in its infancy. The ablest inquirers believe in a universal deluge; the latest researches tend to prove it. I say “tend,” because no certain conclusions can yet be made from geology as to dates. I do not hesitate to affirm (and I am supported by the ablest geologists), that geological dates and periods stand on the most uncertain and unsatisfactory footing. Sir C. Lyell’s system is utterly unsatisfactory—irreconcileable with the evident facts of the upheaval theory, which is generally admitted. Dr. C. assures us that a partial deluge is no better; so that in spite of universal tradition, scripture, the authority of Christ, who refers specifically to the deluge as true (Matthew 24:37-39), and much geological research, we are to have no deluge at all. I do not know that I should ever have noticed this point, as it is impossible to follow it out here, but as affording a proof of Dr. C.’s manner of reasoning. It was not partial, he says, because a flood that should cover Ararat must in due time sweep over the Puy de D6me, because water finds its own level!—that is to say, water 16,000 or 17,000 feet deep in a narrow locality must have been some 5,000 feet deep at thousands of miles distance, when it had spread that distance in every direction! And a man who reasons thus is to call in question the accuracy of scripture!
But Dr. C. assures us the scriptures never affirm their own infallibility. Abstractedly “infallibility” belongs to a person, not to what has been already said. But they affirm that they are inspired by God, and that they have His authority. The Lord says, “the scripture cannot be broken” —appeals to it, as we have seen, as of equal authority with His own words— refers to them as testifying of Him—expounds them after His resurrection in what they taught concerning Himself—declares all that they said must be fulfilled—opens His disciples’ understanding to understand them—declares that His rising from the dead would be useless to convince those by whom they were not believed. They are quoted by Him as absolutely conclusive authority. Facts here questioned, or borne with, because they may be “fairly disposed of,” are referred to by Christ as undoubted history. So the apostles write whole epistles, in which their entire teaching is based upon the truth and inspired authority of scripture. Paul speaks of the scriptures “foreseeing”; so completely does he identify them with God. “But what saith the scripture?” is conclusive; not only so, they declare them to be by inspiration. They are called “the oracles of God,” and the possession of them is counted to be the main privilege of God’s people; so the law is called “the living oracles.” Peter says, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” I dare say Dr. C. will call the authenticity of this in question. Take then the first epistle (though I am perfectly satisfied of the authenticity of the second): there he states that the prophets searched as men into their own prophecies, as given by the Spirit of Christ which was in them. Paul declares that “every scripture is given by inspiration of God,” the security of the saint in the perilous times of the last days; 2 Tim. 3:16. He calls the scriptures “prophetic scriptures,” scriptures of the prophets; Rom. 16:26. I have no doubt this refers to the New Testament; but, if it be the Old, it is saying they are inspired. So his own teaching he declares to be by “words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” The prophets were infamous impostors, if what they said were not the direct testimony of God Himself, for they say, “Thus saith the Lord.” As to Christ, it is said, “He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto htm].” Thus, as Son of man, what He spoke, He spoke—to refer to Dr. C.’s question— “supernaturally,” and His words were “the words of God.” I am aware that Dr. C. says that on such subjects He was no wiser than other pious Jews, and that he thinks himself wiser than Christ and the apostles on such; but does he expect every one to have the same opinion of him that he has of himself? Does he think that many even will respect the judgment of one called a bishop who persuades us that Christ was prejudiced, and he is not? Poor human nature!
Allow me to ask you, Dr. Colenso, do you believe in the resurrection? Do you believe in this stupendous exercise of divine power, so suited to man subject to death?—I mean the resurrection of Him who was “delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” Is it not something, this coming in of God to take out of death, and from among the dead, His own Son given for our sins? Do you find this without a revelation? Does Cicero furnish you with this, or do Sikh Gooroos, or Pantheistic Brahmins? They may say fine things about God and patience, and do the same things (as Paul says) as the rest: can they tell of the deliverance of sinful man? I can conceive no greater proof of imbecility and wilful ignorance of facts than to compare the revelation first of the whole history of man under God’s dealings with his responsibility, and then of atonement, and the intervention of God in deliverance, with the fine sayings of some heathen—one too who shews men to be incapable of knowing God, as Cicero does, or with the moralizing of Pantheists.
But I close. I am not writing a book on these things, but penning an ephemeral article on the poorest piece of infidelity I ever met with; and I turn to the objections to run over them rapidly. Let my reader only remember that the object of scripture is not to meet objections, or give history, but, on the part of God, what is divinely instructive to man; that, if the Old Testament gave the perfection of the New, it would prove it was not true, for the true light did not shine till Christ came; that meeting objections does not give the force of the positive proofs. It seems candid to quote Kurtz and Hengsten-berg (men who, however respectable, know little, as I judge, of the power of scripture). But in merely giving answers to objections all the positive proofs are of course left out. If no answer could be given to an objection, and yet there were positive proof of that against which the objection was brought, this would only prove the solution of the difficulty was not known. The positive proofs of the truth of scripture are such, that the denial of their being, as they are called, “the oracles of God,” is an evidence only of the moral darkness of the rejecter of them. It is quite true I cannot explain light to a blind man; but every one who sees knows he is blind.
Above all, let my reader remember that the Lord Himself treats the scriptures as absolutely inspired and authoritative, quotes them as we now have them, and declares that all written of Him must be fulfilled—that “not a jot or tittle can pass from the law till all be fulfilled,” the law which Dr. C. pronounces he could not attribute to God, save as he selects bits according to his own fancy, for he has of course a perfect judgment—a man who sees nothing in the minutiae of the law, which (while a yoke in the letter), as a shadow of good things to come, is full of the deepest instruction; let him remember that Dr. C. presents himself as wiser and better informed than Christ, and, if he have faith to do it, pray for one who can think so, and publish a book to tell the world he does.
Such views, they tell us, will unite all pious people in one mother church; and if such questions should disturb men’s minds (and a serious person would ponder and weigh them before doing so), he has only to remember that Dr. C. has such a sense of the petty importance of his own position, that he cannot have leisure (so he tells us) to ponder awhile before he gives forth, pretending to be wiser than Christ, opinions which contradict what Christ says.
The Family of Judah
The first objection is that in Genesis 46. Hezron and Hamul are stated to have gone down to Egypt, and consequently to have been born in Canaan; but that this is impossible if the ages of Judah and Joseph be considered. It is contended that Judah was forty-two when Jacob went down into Egypt, inasmuch as Joseph was thirty-nine. Genesis 30:24-26; ch. 31:41, are cited to prove that Joseph was born in the seventh, Judah in the fourth, year “of Jacob’s double marriage.” The impossibility of Hezron and Hamul’s going down to Egypt arises from this, that Judah was twenty when Joseph went down into Egypt, and that Hezron and Hamul, who rank in point of time with Judah’s great-grandchildren, though his own grandchildren by Tamar, could not have been born when he was forty-two, that is, twenty-two years afterwards. On the other hand, it is insisted that the narrative of Jacob’s going down makes sixty-six souls go with him, and there are not sixty-six without Hezron and Hamul.
There is no ground for the objection at all. I do not insist on the uncertainty of the exact difference between the ages of Judah and Joseph, as what might be added, even if just, would hardly clear up the point; though, bringing it perhaps within the limits of possibility, it is sufficient to throw doubt on Dr. C.’s assertions. But Genesis 46 is simply to record the immediate descendants of Jacob who were associated with himself in Egypt to give his family. Thus Er and Onan are noticed; only, it is added, they died in Canaan. It is then added, “and the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.” This twelfth verse is distinctly genealogy, not that all went down into Egypt who are named in it; for Er and Onan are named because they are sons, while it is expressly stated they did not go down at all.10
In verse 12 the introduction of “were “is emphatic, and the phrase, I apprehend, clearly intended to be supplementary. It is not “Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zarah, and the sons of Pharez, Hezron and Hamul,” which would clearly have been the case if they had been goers down into Egypt. But the historian stops at Zarah, and adds supplementary information: Er and Onan were on the list of sons, but they did not go down—they died before—and Pharez’s sons were Hezron and Hamul. They are looked at as filling up the breach, but the latter half of the verse is (in contrast with going down) an explanation of the history of that family. As If he had said, These were Judah’s sons, but I must add this explanation to the statement: Er and Onan never got down, for they died, and Pharez had two sons, who are counted in to supply their place. For though the leading thought be the going down of the family into Egypt, yet in order to this he gives the whole family; and that this is so is evident, for he introduces Joseph’s sons, adding, that they were born in Egypt. Indeed I think it very questionable whether all Benjamin’s sons were born when he came into Egypt.
It was after Joseph’s birth that Jacob agreed with Laban to stay longer, and stayed six years. He then journeyed to Palestine, when Joseph must have been seven years old. He was sold into Egypt at seventeen. Hence Jacob had been only ten years in Canaan when Joseph went there. Jacob had settled first at Succoth, then near Shechem, and Dinah, who was probably nearly of Joseph’s age, was old enough to be ill-treated by Hamor before Benjamin was born. For Jacob went off to Bethel after the destruction of the men of Shechem, and after leaving Bethel Benjamin was born and Rachel died. He does not appear either in the history. Joseph is a boy, the son of Jacob’s old age. Benjamin could only have been two or three years old when Joseph went down; for if Dinah were seven or eight years old when she came to Canaan (say she was fifteen or sixteen when Hamor wronged her), seven or eight years had elapsed in Canaan before Benjamin was born, and two or three years more elapsed before Joseph went down. We must add twenty-two for the interval between Joseph’s and Jacob’s going down. Benjamin was thus at the utmost twenty-four or twenty-five. So he is called a “lad” (nahar) in chapter 43:3, and a “little one” (katan) in chapter 44:20, and (nahar) again in verse 31. This being so, and giving the fullest possible age of twenty-five, which, with the three terms, is very improbable, it is very little likely he had ten sons born to him. I doubt even whether Reuben’s sons were all born, as he says, “slay my two sons.”
On the whole, I think it is evident that this is a genealogical list without reference to the place of birth—the statement of the whole family, as a family, who went down. The manner of giving a genealogy complete, and a general fact which is not accurately true as to each individual in it, though it characterizes the subject of recital, we have other examples of. Thus, to go no farther than chapter 35, all Jacob’s sons are given, including Benjamin immediately after the account of Benjamin’s birth in Canaan; and it is added, “these are the sons of Jacob which were born to him in Padan-Aram.”
The exact genealogy was the important thing, and it is given accurately. The main fact which characterized the family was their birth away from the land of promise, in the country where Jacob served for a wife. It was no object to except Benjamin in the statement; it was to give the accurate history of his birth. I doubt not for a moment he is a special type of Christ in connection with Israel; the son of his mother’s affliction, but of his father’s right-hand. But it could be no mistake; for the writer, or compiler, or whatever he was, had given all the details of his birth immediately before, and speaks in the passage itself of Jacob’s being in that land. But, Benjamin being born, the time was come to give the whole family. The subjects are given with divine purpose, in view of after dealings of God which He foreknew, not as mere histories to amuse; and hence we get distinct subjects without arrangements of dates.
Dr. C. states that Judah’s misconduct was after Joseph’s going down to Egypt, because it is said, “at that time.” Now Judah’s genealogy and ways were all-important, because our Lord was to spring out of Judah. But after this history of Judah, which lasts some twenty years at any rate, the history of Joseph’s going down into Egypt is resumed where it left off. Judah’s history is introduced as a separate subject parenthetically. The last verse of chapter 37, and the first verse of chapter 39 are connected, and the history of Judah comes in between as a whole of twenty years by itself. “At that time” is only the general epoch, and the whole history is given together. This is exceedingly common in scripture. But as Joseph was a remarkable type of Christ, so Judah was His progenitor according to the flesh. And this Pharez and his son Hezron were so. I must add that the relative ages of Judah and Joseph are anything but clearly proved. The relative dates of Joseph’s birth and his going down into Egypt, and of each to other events, are far more distinctly given.
On the whole the purpose of the statement in Genesis 46 is clearly to give Jacob’s family; and hence some are noticed who did not go down to Egypt, and Hezron and Hamul are specially introduced into the verse, not with the list of sons but as associated with them. The saying, “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with three-score and ten persons, and now Jehovah thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude,” takes up the general fact to shew the marvellous increase. The same is the case in the New Testament, especially in Luke.
Dr. C. in fact admits the whole case, where he says, “wishing to sum up the seventy souls under one category, he uses (inaccurately, as he himself admits) the same expression, ‘came into Egypt.’” Now this settles the whole question. He gives a category of persons, that category being Jacob’s family, with the general fact of that family’s leaving Canaan and going into Egypt. But he introduces some who did not literally go down, though they were there. If this be so (and it is perfectly evident), Dr. C.’s argument is simply worth nothing at all. When he says, “all the souls which came into Egypt were three-score and ten,” we have the demonstration that some at least who were born in Egypt, provided they were of the family that came, are accounted as coming. The case of Hezron and Hamul is much clearer, because there is only an accessory statement in the genealogy, “and the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.” And we have no need to say again with Dr. C, “the description is of course literally incorrect, but the writer’s meaning is obvious enough,” for it is literally correct, and the meaning obvious too. But I may add Dr. C.’s own remark, which shews the utter wilfulness and equal absurdity of his objection: “He wishes to specify all those out of the sons of Jacob who were living at the time of the commencement of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, and from whom such a multitude had sprung at the time of the Exodus.” How soon Hezron and Hamul were born, we cannot say. They are brought into the list in connection with the loss of two of the sons of Judah, with whose history they were connected, one of them being ancestor of David and of the Christ.
The Size of the Tabernacle-court
The next objection is really almost too absurd to notice, but worthy of the futility of rationalist arguments. Dr. C. makes a computation of how far files of men, as many in number as could stand in front of the breadth of the tabernacle, would reach! Does he think the writer did not know, as well as Dr. C, that all the congregation could not have stood in the court? But he was not so morally dull as to think of k. Supposing the riot-act read to a crowd of a hundred thousand persons; and I say the riot-act was read to the multitude who stood before the magistrate, and I computed how far a hundred thousand men would reach, standing in a file directly before the magistrate; what would any one think of the sense of the person who made the remark? Or are the crowd not responsible because they cannot hear it? Away with such childish trifling. But the fact is, there is no ground for the remark at all. “Before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation “has a most important meaning in these ordinances. Within the tabernacle and holiest of all was the place of Jehovah’s communing directly with Moses; outside, yet in connection with the tabernacle, the place of meeting the people, of God’s going out, not in the revelation of Himself, but in communications from Himself to the people, and of the access of the people to Him.
All the court of the tabernacle of the congregation was held to have this character of “before the door of the tabernacle,” and all done there and communicated thence was done “before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” All brought up to the court was before the door. Thus, if all the people had been outside the court, and Moses had stood in the doorway of the court, they would have been “before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” It was the general expression for coming up to the court or entering it, though not going near the tabernacle where the door literally was. “The women,” we read, “assembled themselves in troops at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” They did not come, when the tabernacle was set up in order, in troops between the laver and the holy place. But we have the matter definitely stated. In Exodus 40:29 we find, “he put the altar of the burnt-offering by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation … and he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar.” Thus the altar of burnt-offering, the first thing met with on entering the court, was by the door of the tabernacle. Now this was the place where God was to meet the children of Israel, as contrasted with meeting Moses within the veil.
Exodus 29:42— “a continual burnt-offering … at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before Jehovah, where I will meet you to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel.” Thus Moses, standing under the hangings of the court and speaking to the crowd without, was speaking to them gathered before the door of the tabernacle. Had they been inside the court, he would have turned his back to them. So, when a person offered a burnt-offering, he offered it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before Jehovah: he killed the bullock before Jehovah, and the blood was sprinkled upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. They came up to Jehovah there, instead of offering it where they pleased, away from Him. And this was carefully secured by ordinance as a guard against idolatry. They had to bring all the beasts they slew up before Jehovah; Lev. 17:4. The gathering of the congregation to the door of the tabernacle was bringing them up to the court, so that Moses, standing there, might address them. And the place specifically pointed out for this was not at the door, but where the altar was, that is, next the entrance of the court where the people were to come up with their sacrifices, and Jehovah met with them.
Such objections as these are child’s play, proving only entire ignorance of God’s ways with Israel and of the purport of the ordinances, carelessness of research into them with the pretension (the common accompaniment of ignorance) to see clearer than others, and the desire to make difficulties in presence of all the divine light which is found in what is objected to. Dr. C. seeks to prove his candour and care by shewing that the elders of Israel were not all the congregation. He might have spared himself the trouble. And he has gone through sums of arithmetic to prove the size of the court! I really have not examined whether his multiplication is correct; I can suppose it.
Moses and Joshua Addressing all Israel
His next objection is as to how Moses and Joshua addressed all Israel; and he wisely informs us that the crying of the children, whose mothers must be supposed to have pushed to the first place, would hinder all but those close by from hearing. Was ever anything more childish? Supposing all did not hear, which may very well be believed, they were all put under the responsibility of what was addressed to them, of which those who were in earnest could easily put themselves in possession. Supposing the elders or heads of tribes were nearest, as is probable, they would have both informed and led the others according to what was said.
The Extent of the Camp
The next objection is to the possibility, with so few priests, of having the bullock for a sin-offering burned without the camp. Now I admit fully that the great object here is doctrinal, not historical. There is no history at all. What is ordained was only to be done in the case of the priest’s, or the whole congregation’s, sinning; it ought never to have happened, and it may never have happened. And from the way they went on (for they never circumcised their children, and certainly fell into idolatry, if the case did arise), they probably neglected the prescribed sacrifice. If it did happen once or twice, such a provision was no difficulty. That once or twice in forty years, or even in one year, such a toilsome ceremony should mark their sin was most appropriate. Nor do I doubt a moment that, though the priest was responsible, and must have had and seen it done, the Levites, or younger priests, might share the manual toil. And this is implied in the form of the Hebrew verb, which is the Hiphil, “to cause to go forth,” used, no doubt, consequently for “bringing forth,” but which may be by another as by oneself (as it is used for causing an evil report to come on some one).11 For the rest, a walk of a mile and a half, or three miles, for their common bodily wants was nothing out of the way for a people who had nothing to do except to tend their cattle, which would in itself have taken them there. To suppose they used fuel as in London is simple nonsense. And they chose places where wells were, and God clave the rock when there was no water. It is really absurd bringing forward such objections. Had Dr. C. been a soldier, or lived in the dirt I have had to live in, he would have known that a walk of a mile and a half out of a city for the necessities of life was a very natural thing.
The Numbering of Israel
The fifth objection is, first, that the shekel is called the shekel of the sanctuary before there was a sanctuary; and that the money of which the silver sockets, etc., were made was the redemption-money; and that the census which ascertained the number of the people on which the redemption-money was paid was six months afterwards, by which time the number must have increased. This has no foundation whatever. As to the remark, that it was called the shekel of the sanctuary before the sanctuary was set up, the book is a history, and gives the sum taken according to the value of the money known when it was written. They paid at the time what was known when the book was written as the shekel of the sanctuary— perhaps settled at the very time. As regards the numbering, it is clear the computation of the sum that was paid is made from the numbering itself, the result of which was known when the account of it was written. There is no continuing of the same number—Exodus 38:26; Numbers 1:46; it is the number itself. I do not know what is the ground for saying “six months.” The tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month, the numbering took place a month after.
The sockets, chapiters, and filaments may have been made just before. They may perfectly well have given each man his money, and the actual numbering been made six weeks afterwards to verify it, and that number be given as the ascertained one, even if some few had attained the age of twenty in the short interval. The command to give the half shekel is given in chapter 30. But this was by no means all the silver, for many had offered willingly, but it was typically important that it should be understood that that on which the tabernacle of witness was founded was redemption; and what separated the service of God from the world was redemption. Hence the sockets of the boards of the tabernacle, and the hooks and chapiters on which the hangings of the court were fixed were of this silver. The actual numbering took place when the tabernacle was set up to verify the number redeemed, which had its own importance. If some shekels more were given, it was of no consequence whatever to notice them, as the direction for their use was given already. Some few might have died who had given their half shekel, some few reached twenty; but the sum when numbered is taken as the sum applied to the service. We know that the population in the wilderness was as nearly stationary as possible.
The Israelites Dwelling in Tents, and Armed
The next difficulty is, how they got tents on leaving Egypt, and carried them. I might fairly say I do not know. Some may have been badly off for want of them, have made them on the journeying, and while staying at Sinai for a year. As to carrying them, nothing is said; they had asses doubtless, perhaps camels, as well as oxen. The history says nothing about it. To say they could not have them is absurd; very likely they were at first greatly in want of them. All this is to the last degree idle; it is not the object of the history to give these details. Dr. C. then takes a very difficult Hebrew word to prove that, if it means “armed,” there are difficulties in knowing how they got arms, or how they were afraid of Pharaoh if they had. It is really tedious to go through such absurdities. The word probably signifies that they went out “in array,” not as poor hunted runaways; for God took them out with a high hand. “By strength of hand Jehovah brought us out of Egypt.”
But it does not by any means follow, if their faith were not lively, that they would not be alarmed when attacked by trained soldiers. It is said in this same chapter (13), that God did not take them the short way lest the people should repent when they saw war, and return to Egypt. And they were so disposed. God suffered their faith to be tried for a moment, and they did repent when they saw war: only now it was but to make His deliverance the more conspicuous. Nor, where faith was not in exercise, was it very wonderful. Accustomed to be slaves, with all their women and children and cattle, the way of escape barred, no practice in war or even in any common military arrangements, they were in face of the most experienced warriors on earth with chariots and cavalry—themselves a great mixed multitude. When Dr. C. says “a body of six hundred thousand warriors,” he says what is false. They were not warriors. They were of an age fit for war, even if that were true of them; but they were poor brickmakers, though now roused by God’s intervention to leave the house of bondage.
The Institution of the Passover
The next objection, as to the Passover, is founded on misstatement and carelessness. Dr. C. insists that it was impossible to notify it, and have all ready in time. He tells us, the first notice of any such feast to be kept is given in this very chapter, where we find it written, verse 12, “I will pass through the land of Egypt this night.” Hence he argues it was impossible to have all Israel ready, and insists on this night, and on the use of the Hebrew word “hazeh.” But “zeh” has not this kind of exactitude always. At any rate the chapter shews distinctly the falseness of the conclusion Dr. C. has drawn from it. The directions had been given at the beginning of the month, and the lamb had to be kept up three days: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: on the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb… and ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month.”
Dr. C. says, this cannot mean that they had notice several days beforehand, because it says, “I will pass through the land of Egypt this night.” This is very bad indeed. Moses is told to notify to all the people, to take a lamb on the tenth, and to keep it to the fourteenth; and this we are told cannot mean that they got notice beforehand, because the chapter says “this night,” when it comes to killing and eating it! And what else can it mean? If the lamb was not kept up from the tenth to the fourteenth, the ordinance was not kept at all. All this objection does is to disclose the will of the objector. No doubt the momentous ordinance itself is what occupies the inspired writer; but the beginning of the chapter fully suffices to shew that the objection, drawn from want of time and notice, is as perverse as it is unfounded. The rest of the article does not deserve notice. In the first place kids would do, so that there was no danger of all the male lambs perishing. As to notice to start, they ate it, loins girded, and staff in hand, ready to go, and were prepared long before to be on the move, to sacrifice in the wilderness. Nor is there a word to shew there was any sudden notice, or that their move was caused by the urging of the Egyptians.
The March out of Egypt
Dr. C. thinks that his own confusion, in fright from a false alarm, proves that there must have been hopeless confusion in Israel. But they had for a length of time been demanding to move with all their flocks, and were now with loins girt and staff in hand, so that we cannot doubt a moment that all was prepared and arranged. There is no hint of an order to start communicated suddenly. The Egyptians were urgent on them to go. They had already borrowed jewels from the Egyptians in anticipation of going. The whole theory of Dr. C. is simply inattention to the scriptural account. Because that account dwells chiefly on the great facts which have a moral import, he concludes there were none else, even when they are positively stated, and makes statements moreover, and statements upon which all his argument depends, which are not in the passage or actually contradict it. I may add that I do not even admit that the six hundred thousand were only men in the prime of age; they were all above twenty—twenty and above—that were men, besides children. This would make a considerable difference in the numbers.
The Flocks and Herds in the Desert
As to how the herds were fed in the desert, it is certain they chose their encampment where there were springs. At Sinai God gave them water out of a rock. I may add that Dr. C. speaks of Mount Serbal as Sinai, which is more than doubtful, or confounds two opinions, applying statements as to one incorrectly to the other, ignorant that there was any difference; which, as to the character of the place of encampment, is important. Lipsius thought Serbal was Sinai, but more exact research has made it pretty clear it was not, and shewn where Israel encamped. The attempt to say, as Dr. C. says, that the wandering in the desert is not a necessary preliminary to all the history of Israel, is too barefaced—does too much violence to the common sense of every man who has read scripture—to call for an answer. Movements of whole nations in the deserts of Upper Asia have been frequent, when there was not the miraculous intervention of God to give water, which is stated in the history of Israel. Israel stayed mainly in the north of the desert on the borders of Mount Seir and the land of Canaan, where there were wells and pasture: though what is related in detail is what happened at Sinai at the beginning and at the close. When Dr. C. tells us that the scripture story says not a word about this long sojourn near Mount Seir and the Red Sea, he makes a blunder with his usual carelessness. The Israelites got through the desert of El Tyh12 (which is not the desert of Sinai, as Dr. C. says) by a rapid and short journey to the desert of Paran and Kadesh-Barnea, close to Canaan. There they were called on to go up the mountain of the Amorites, and take possession of the land. Instead of this they sent the spies, the Lord giving His sanction to it, but at their desire. Their faith failed, and they would not go up, and were condemned to wander the forty years, till the men, save Joshua and Caleb, died.
It was on their refusal to go up that they turned and went to the Red Sea (Num. 14:25); and then it was they compassed Mount Seir (Deut. 1:40), and were on the border of countries affording supplies. In one place where they had no water, they were given it again miraculously, went down finally outside the Wady Akaba to the Red Sea, returned to Mount Hor for Aaron’s death, and then at last down to the Red Sea again, going up the eastern side of the mountains of Seir to Moab and Jordan. The statement of Dr. C. is merely the result of carelessness in searching scripture. The detail of these long years we have not, but we have of a stay of a year in Sinai, where water was given miraculously, a short journey across El Tyh, Jehovah Himself leading them, their arrival at the borders of the land, and their journeying about Mount Seir and to the Red Sea, water being given them miraculously when it failed. Let me remark how beautifully, at the moment they were sent back from the land through their unbelief (Num. 14), God gives directions what to do in the land, shewing His promise and purpose as sure as His word and nature, in spite of man’s folly and failure; Num. 15.
The only account we have of the stations, between their reaching the borders of the land in the second year, and their reaching Jordan, is in Numbers 33; and the localities at which they stopped during this interval of time are unknown till we come to Moseroth. Thence their journey is clear to the Red Sea, back to Hor, back to the Red Sea, and round Seir to Edom. (Compare Num. 21; Deut. 10.) But we know that from Kadesh to Zered was thirty-eight years; so that they reached Kadesh in the second year before the end of it, probably a good while before, because the wars against the Amorites and Og were after Zered and before Jordan. Now they did not leave Sinai till the end of the second month of the second year. They abode in Kadesh many days, certainly more than forty; so that we are sure that the journey from Sinai to the borders of Canaan was very short indeed. They were there on the edge of cultivated land. God turned them back, but they never left the neighbourhood of Canaan,. Seir, and the Red Sea. And He who turned them back took care of them, giving them water at Meribah miraculously when needed.
Of all this Dr. C. is ignorant, telling us scripture says nothing about it, not having examined that which he is pretending to prove unhistorical. This is true that Jehovah gives us those parts of the journey in detail which have a moral bearing, and not how the cattle were provided for. But the book is all false if it be not historical. We have the name of each place where they stopped during the whole forty years. This must be history or forgery. I have noticed elsewhere that the statement in Deuteronomy 10 seems to contradict the list in Numbers, but becomes the strongest proof of the historical character of the book when closely examined; because we find, by careful comparison of facts and passages, that they traversed the same ground twice from Hor to the Red Sea, from the Red Sea to Hor, and then back to the Red Sea, and east of Edom. But men do not make these apparent contradictions, solved by collateral facts, and shewn to be unconsciously true, save in relating real history, which, as they know the facts, they have no need to combine and arrange.
The Numerous Israelites Compared with the Extent of Canaan
Dr. C. makes difficulties as to there being wild beasts in Canaan with so large a population. His objections are futile. What is the population of India? How dense is well known, yet tigers and wild beasts abound. Modern European populations are no rule at all, nor even Port Natal, because they settled more in Canaan in towns and villages. Counting in the Canaanites besides Israel is only another instance of Dr. C.’s carelessness, for the supposition made is their total immediate destruction. My own conviction is that the number of Israelites is greatly exaggerated. The six hundred thousand are all males, not children—all the grown men.
The Firstborn Compared with the Adults
The whole of the reasoning in the next chapter to prove the firstborn more numerous than is stated seems to me an undoubted mistake. I cannot doubt that those only, and the same in Egypt, who were still members of their fathers* families, are counted. The captive in the dungeon, and Pharaoh himself, may have been firstborn, but it is not supposed as in question that they should die; it was the house. “There was not a house where there was not one dead.” In each family which was together the firstborn was taken. I do not believe that a firstborn father and his firstborn son were both taken or numbered. The firstborn children of child-bearing mothers were counted; the firstborn of existing families at the time of the numbering. It clearly, I apprehend, did not include old men and grandfathers whose fathers were dead, or even heads of families married out, but firstborn of living mothers whose families were with them. Hence they were counted from a month old; those below were yet unclean. Remark here that the question must have presented itself to the mind of the writer. It is a proof that it is historical, that an evident difficulty is left unsolved. A forger does not put an evident difficulty in his account. Here we have an apparent and evident difficulty. The number of grown men is in the previous chapter; no explanation given. Why? Because the writer is stating facts, not inventing a story, and therefore states the fact without noticing the difficulty.
For myself, I can only say, when I never thought of a question in it, I never took the statement as to Egypt or Israel to refer to other than families at home, unmarried members of households. Indeed, in this particular case, it may be questioned whether it was not those only born after the destruction of the firstborn Egyptians to whom the ordinance here referred to was given. God says He sanctified then to Himself all the firstborn. It would perhaps suppose an unusual number in their first year of liberation, which would be nothing extraordinary. However, on this I do not insist, as those under a month must be subtracted, who in this case might be numerous. “All the males “does not refer to all of all ages, but all the males as contrasted with females. Indeed in verse 43 it is rather implied that all were not: “and all the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upwards, of those that were numbered of them, were 22, 273.” But neither do I insist on this, as the Hebrew may, I apprehend, be taken as “in their numbering “the same as “in number.”
The Sojourning in Egypt, Exodus, and then Numbers
As to the question of the increase of population during the sojourn of Israel in Egypt, it has been discussed and re-discussed a hundred times; and it must require overweening self-confidence in Dr. C. to bring it forward, as he does, as an argumentum cruets. He says the doubts he has “raised will be confirmed into a certain conviction, by its appearing plainly from the data of the Pentateuch that there could not have been any such population itself to come out of Egypt.” (Page 148.) I suppose he must be ignorant of what has been said of it; if not, such language is simply overweening impertinence to men far better versed in such inquiries than himself. If the Israelites doubled in fifteen years, they would have been 1,146,880 in two hundred and fifteen years; in two hundred and thirty years, 2,293,760. But the statement of scripture is, that “the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty, and the land was filled with them”; and the new king said, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we “…and they persecuted them. Very probably they were all removed to Goshen, giving rise to Manetho’s story of Avaris. “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew”; so that their increase was not such as makes any difficulty. In England the increase in ten years was more than 23 per cent., where town and manufacturing habits largely impede; so that 35 per cent, in fifteen years is reached in the actual state of England. Thus doubling, in the circumstances of Israel, with extraordinary blessing in this respect was nothing incredible, though we have no proof of their numbers more than six hundred thousand males above twenty, and no proof that the majority of women were Egyptian or other strangers. If this fact be taken into account, the increase presents no kind of difficulty.
But the duration of the sojourn is a very obscure point; Josephus gives it both as two hundred and fifteen and as four hundred and thirty. The reader may see Fynes Clinton’s investigation of the point, if he have access to it. He reckons two hundred and fifteen years, taking the shorter or Hebrew chronology. Many able chronologists doubt of this, as Hales. At first sight Galatians 3:17 seems to decide the question, but when examined it does not, I think, necessarily do so. The apostle takes the time of promise as a general fact: “To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed.” Now the confirmation to the Seed does not come in for some forty years after the promise. It is of this confirmation the apostle speaks, if we take the letter of what he says. But his object was not the date, save as shewing the law coming long after the promise. He refers to Exodus 12:40, which was sufficient for him and is ambiguous. He may refer to patriarchal times as those of promise, and take the Egyptian state as four hundred and thirty years. The length of the sojourn in Egypt is an unsettled question.
As to the Chronicles, it is, I judge, a blunder of Dr. C.’s, which I should not think much of, were not his book solely founded on affected accuracy of detail. 1 Chronicles 8:20 presents difficulties. This is always hopeful ground for infidels. What is difficult to understand they can more easily turn to their own purpose, for others have not a positive answer ready. If we follow the statement simply, however, there is no great difficulty. The Chronicles, besides giving the history of Judah, not Israel, and especially of David’s family, gather up all the fragments possible of ancient history and genealogy for the return of Israel from Babylon. Take the passage thus— “The sons of Ephraim Shuthelah”: his genealogy is followed down to a second Shuthelah, and there stops. Then tile passage speaks of two other sons of Ephraim, Ezer, and Elead, who made a raid against Gath, and were killed; and then follows another son of Ephraim, which is quite natural, and his genealogy is given. His daughter Sherah is simply a descendant of his. Ammihud was fifth from Ephraim.
The Danites and Levites, etc.
The objection to the numbers of the Danites and Levites (that of the former being large, though Dan had only one son, which to an unpractised eye may seem to present the greatest difficulty) is founded on want of attention to the reckonings of scripture, as if in every case those mentioned are all. The very comparison with Chronicles which Dr. C. institutes ought to have taught him it was not so, for there are persons mentioned there who are not in Exodus. The genealogies are given, as far as needed, to make out the moral history according to God’s government of Israel, but no farther. Any number may be left out, even generations may, provided what is needed is given. Next, generations are taken by Dr. C. as if they were the same then as now. They lived one hundred and thirty, or one hundred and forty, years, and their families were often proportionate, and here God interfered expressly to multiply them. Thus, if we had not Genesis 25, all scripture would have led us to suppose that Ishmael and Isaac were all the sons Abraham had. Here we see he had six sons more when he was quite an old man, of whom nations sprung. Here for other purposes it was important to notice it. In other cases it was not. Next, the assumption that Israel remained only two hundred and fifteen years in Egypt is a questionable one.
The number of the generation following the twelve patriarchs is no way decided. To begin the computation one really ought to take, at any rate, one hundred and thirty-nine, not seventy; that is, take the females in. So the children of Dinah and Serah do not appear at all. The fact of a number of children in one generation says nothing as to the result. Benjamin had many; Reuben had many: neither were large tribes. Does Dr. C. suppose that a forger would have been insensible to this if he had been inventing? It is the strongest possible proof that the account is historical, drawn from facts, for no one would have laid himself open to the objection. There was no need whatever, but that the facts were so, to lend a handle to objectors. It was unnatural, if it were not true. Dr. C. states that Moses’ children were only two: I doubt it much. They were only two by Zipporah, but he had married also an Ethiopian woman. It did not concern the scripture history to say anything of children by her. We see from the genealogies that families were reckoned all under one head, if they were not numerous, so as to make a distinct family (1 Chron. 23:10, 11); or they might come in as two, when properly the head should have been but one, as Ephraim and Manasseh. If Joseph had had a dozen sons afterwards, they would not have formed distinct families; Gen. 48:6. They would have merged in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.13
All these considerations, which lie at the basis of the whole system, are ignored by Dr. C. We have an instance how much the names are taken merely to represent families, and how many may be left out, in the very case Dr. C. mentions; who, in his usual careless and superficial way, does not notice or perceive it, being simply bent on his own object. “The Amramites (he tells us), numbered as Levites in the fourth (Eliezer’s) generation, were, as above, only two, namely, the two sons of Moses—the sons of Aaron being reckoned as priests. Hence the rest of the Kohathites of this generation must have been made up of the descendants of Ishar and Uzziel.” (Pages 169, 170.) This is because Ishar and Uzziel are mentioned; Exod. 6:21, 22. But this is simply that there was some special reason for mentioning them. Kohath had another son, Hebron, who may have had, for aught we know, ten times as many. In a word those are noticed in the genealogies as to whom some special motive existed, others not.
Dr. C. has not even found it out. All his calculation here is based, to say nothing of its general fallacy, upon his not noticing what was before his eyes in the text. But this fact, with a thousand other similar ones, involves a principle which makes the ground of all his calculations fundamentally false. Let the reader note this case, as it may clear his mind as to these statements of families. A genealogical succession is given, and only two sons out of four mentioned. One, it so happens, we can supply as far as it goes, because Moses and Aaron came from that stock; the absence of the other we cannot account for. In this case we are sure of it, because he is mentioned a few verses before. Now it is just as possible— very likely indeed—that Amram may have had a host of sons, besides Moses and Aaron, who are mentioned because of their importance. The names are given more to shew from whom people are descended who are known, than to tell all the descendants. All this Dr. C. has overlooked, and simply made mathematical calculations as if all were given. His whole system is false.
Dr. C.’s computations are merely neglect of all the principles of scriptural genealogies. Besides, I repeat, the numbers given are such as prove they are not fabricated; and the paucity of Levites, and the numbers of Dan, prove that the statements are drawn from history and facts (as the whole tenor of the statements bears on the face of them), and are such as no man on earth would have invented. Dr. C. says, It is incredible the Levite should not have increased more during the sojourn in the wilderness. The fact that Eliezer did not die proves nothing as to the Levites not coming under the judgment which fell on Israel for their murmurings when the spies returned. God was pleased to keep Israel at the same level in the wilderness. As to numbers that is clear. The Levites were no exception. God may have used providential means for this, as the privations of the wilderness, which affected the Levites as well as the rest. But there is no motive for thinking they were exempt from the judgment. But the truth is, the great change in relative numbers in the tribes shews all the reasoning as to the small increase of the Levites utterly valueless. Population may increase or decrease at such a rate, but that says nothing whatever for particular families. One increases, another becomes extinct. Thus Manasseh rose from 32,200 to 52,700. Ephraim had sunk from 40,500 to 32,500. Benjamin increased from 35,410 to 45,600. Dan was stationary, Asher had increased from 41,500 to 53,400. Judah had remained pretty stationary. Issachar largely increased. Simeon had fallen from 59,000 to 22,000. Thus the particular degree of the increase of the Levites, on which Dr. C. has bestowed so much labour, is of no import whatever. All Dr. C.’s remarks indicate a singular inattention to facts.
The Priests and their Duties
As regards the small number of priests making it impossible they could fulfil their services, unless in the case of the offering of birds, it is a mistake to think the priest had anything to do, save to receive the blood and arrange a burnt-offering on the altar. All the operations of slaying, flaying, cutting up, were done by the offerer. But let it be remembered we are speaking of history.
The doctrinal import (which is their real value) of the directions for the sacrifices is most precious, as these are known types of the sacrifice of Christ. No part of scripture is more important. This of course is lost on Dr. C.
Now as to history, we have no proof that a single offering was brought all the time they were in the wilderness. Burnt-offerings were always voluntary, and in the state of Israel, it is just as likely they never troubled their heads about it; for they sinned without compunction, and certainly had never circumcised their children, so that really they had no right to offer any sacrifice. That they did not offer a peace-offering is certain; for they murmured for meat, complaining of the manna, and got the quails in chastisement—at any rate on the second occasion. Save Miriam, we do not hear of any one having the leprosy. There is no evidence of any historical difficulty whatever, but the contrary. Indeed Amos 5:25 complains that they did not offer sacrifice to Jehovah, but took Moloch and Chium for their gods.
History, therefore, has nothing to do with the matter; the instruction as to priests and sacrifices is doctrinal, not historic. The details of Dr. C.’s reasonings are as trifling as usual. As scripture speaks often of doves in the wilderness, he assures us the psalmist was hardly thinking of the terrible deserts of Sinai—of which he knows nothing. Was ever more egregious trifling?
The Priests and their Duties at the Passover
As regards the Passover, Dr. C. says it was impossible the priests could suffice to kill the Passover, and sprinkle the blood. If, as it is evident they naturally would, they kept it as they had in Egypt, every house killed the lamb for itself. The whole difficulty is a soap-bubble, proving only Dr. C.’s will and foolishness. If Dr. C. had given himself the trouble of reading 2 Chronicles 30, which he quotes, he would have seen that the Levites (v. 17) killed the Passover, because many of the people had not sanctified themselves, and they did so only for those who were not clean. It rather appears that it was the blood of the burnt-offering which the priests sprinkled then. At any rate this, and Josiah’s Passover, when the priest did sprinkle the blood of the paschal lamb, were special exceptional cases, and there were plenty of priests and Levites attending in their places. As far as the New Testament goes, it would seem each prepared it for himself.
It is really disgraceful for a person in Dr. C.’s position, or for any one, to make a formal attack on a book he has professed to believe in on grounds so futile, and with a carelessness which proves no honest research for himself, but that his will was father to his thought. He has, at any rate, proved himself, logarithms and all, to be an equally incompetent and pretentious man. Probably those by whom, nine years ago, he assures us, he was not thought unworthy of the position which he holds supposed that, in declaring he believed in all the canonical scriptures, he said the truth. Just think of a man taking the battle of Waterloo (and on the side of the victorious army, well knowing, as every one does, it is in pursuit most are slain) as a test of the numbers of Asiatic armies—as to which a child who has read Rollin’s History of Greece or Persia knows the difference!
The War on Midian
Dr. C. complains of the destructive razzia against Midian. Midian had been the means of corrupting Israel, and leading them to idolatry, so as to lead to twenty-five thousand Israelites falling in the pestilence God sent; and that by the inexpressible wickedness of Balaam, who, when he could not curse Israel, recommended Balak to lead them into sin, and then God could not bless them. For this they were punished, and, as a settled nation there, destroyed. Dr. C. congratulates himself that he is not called on to believe it. But thus he must give up the entire Old Testament for his own notions; he must give up God’s judging the world. God sent Abraham’s seed down into Egypt because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. The whole history is a history of the judicial extermination of these races for their wickedness. It is a question, not of history, but of the whole ways and dealings of God in judgment. He will find it in the Psalms; he will find it in the Revelation. God presents Himself as a moral governor, and in this special case used human instruments to carry out His judgments, as He did afterwards against Israel, as He had warned them by the prophets. The whole establishment of Israel was founded on the principle rejected by Dr. C.; all God’s judgments are.
Dr. C. does not like to believe in judgment. Be it so. But that is no way of judging of history. As to God’s revelation of Himself, it is objected that the Old Testament character of God cannot be that of the true God. He did not reveal Himself in Judaism, He gave laws and promises; but He dwelt in thick darkness—was avowedly hid behind the veil. The way into the holiest was not made manifest. He was patient in goodness and grace, but the system was one of public moral government. The sins of the fathers could be visited on their children, as we see still in providential government. There was a code of national laws of which Christ could say, “Moses for the hardness of your hearts gave you this commandment.” In the national laws he did not set aside slavery. The law made nothing perfect. God took, as a people in the world, the people where they were; put checks on will; softened in many respects the manners of the age by His authority; and, what was an immense point, suffered nothing to be done without it—an immense point, because arbitrary will was arrested.
But all this was not bringing souls to God, nor revealing God as He is to souls. He is light and love. He has been revealed in Christ—a revelation Dr. C, it appears, is content to give up. He is so wise, so competent to know God and judge of what He ought to be, that he can give up all revelation of Him; and yet he is ignorant of the first principles of the revelation he is giving up, and publishes an empty book, if ever there was one, to prove it. He assumes (as his statements are conclusive) Moses and all the prophets are ignoramuses, Christ knows no better than the rabbis, but Dr. C. of course does. Christ attaches His sanction to the whole of the Old Testament, as having the authority of God. Now this does not merely affirm inspiration; it is the blessed Lord putting His seal to God’s having been justly represented there as thus revealed. Dr. C. thinks differently; he would not have such a God—is relieved in thinking it is not true. Christ felt no need of such relief. What shall we think of one who holds the nominal place of bishop of the Christian church, who counts himself the moral superior of the Lord? Who else will think so? Think of the vanity and character of the man who could! Did ever a man degrade himself to the same degree? For Christ did not see anything moral to make Him call in question its being a revelation of God; Dr. C. does. Christ could see that there were national laws given, as suited to the hardness of their hearts; that Dr. C. does not see. He is as ignorant of the relationship of the gospel to the law as a national code, as he is presumptuous and ill-founded in judging the law and slighting the gospel. For every man of sense the book will do good.
But I will complete the question of detail as to the Midianites. (Num. 31; compare chap. 21:1 and chap. 28:33-40.) The objection is, that time is not allowed for the destruction and other events before Moses addressed the people; Deut. 1:3. I have, as will be seen, no objection to the result at which Dr. C. arrives; but I will shew the levity of the proofs, and then the excessive carelessness of the author. There is no proof whatever of the time employed in the destruction of Arad’s cities. It is very probable the prisoners alluded to had been taken thirty-eight years before, when they would go up the mountain (Num. 14:44, 45); they may or may not. Israel, then defeated, now avenge themselves. Five days may have very easily done the work. Further, it appears to have been carried into effect during the mourning for Aaron, for they left Mount Hor afterwards; Num. 28:41. Next, we are told that there was a fortnight for the serpents and healing, and then a month of journeyings. This is the usual inattention to the facts. They moved on from one station to another, and murmured because of the way, and the serpents were sent while on the journey. They had made four encampments of this journey before the serpents were sent; this is certain by comparing Numbers 21:10 and chap. 33:41-43. Thus the three months and a half become perhaps a month and a half, or two months.
Sihon was defeated—it may have been in a day—and the country fell to Israel. They marched thence up north, and Og came out with all his people and was defeated. For all this there may have been a month, possibly more. Thus three months, at the outside, would have sufficed for what Dr. C. takes six months for. Let it be three and a half. This much is certain, that, in the point where Dr. C. is precise, the serpents and supposed subsequent journey, he is precisely wrong by not consulting the text. Dr. C. then, for the remaining facts, gives “March forward to the plains of Moab.” March forward from where? They were in Moab; the expeditions had started thence. But they were by Arnon, the border of Moab. They made then very short stages. They might have moved their headquarters, but they were in Moab, only they moved into the plain from Mount Abarim. Balak was alarmed, and sent for Balaam. This may have taken a week. We have thus some four months gone. Here Israel fell into sin with Moab, and thereupon Israel attacks the Midianites by divine command. My statements leave two months for this. I should be quite disposed to say with Dr. C. six weeks perhaps, and probably four, was ample, so as to allow a month more for the previous marches and wars. No one can pretend to say how much each took; there was time enough for all.
But this is not even necessary, though it sufficed to shew the arbitrariness, and even error, of Dr. C.’s calculations. More was spent in some parts; in others the text contradicts him. But what is curious enough is, that Dr. Colenso has made the passages he holds to be irreconcileable, so as to prove they are unhistoric, exactly coincide by his computation, and has not found it out! Moses’s address in Deuteronomy 1:3 is after defeating Sihon. and Og, as it is expressly stated, verse 4. Dr. C. says, “Thus, then, from the first day of the fifth month, in which Aaron died, to the completion of the conquest of Og, king of Bashan, we cannot reckon less together than six months … and are thus brought down to the first day of the eleventh month, the very day on which Moses is stated to have addressed the people in the plains of Moab, Deuteronomy 1:3.” Just so, accordingly, Deuteronomy 1:4 states that it was after he had slain Og that he made the address. Dr. C. has managed to make a blunder in his proofs, but has tumbled by mistake into proving exactly historic what he attacks, and this is to set aside the Bible by unquestionable facts!
On the quotations from Cicero and the Hindoo author celebrating Ram I have spoken, and add no more here. A more pretentious and futile attempt to set aside the revelation of God it never came to my lot to examine.
It may be well just to add that the quotation from “Types of Mankind,” which Dr. Colenso quotes, as he says, with entire sympathy, is from one of two works by Messrs. Gliddon and Nott, to prove that there are several races of mankind, as there are of animals, and following the analogy of the forms of these last, according to a theory of Agassiz; the object being to prove that the negroes are a distinct race, and formed and destined to be fit for slavery. I can hardly think, if he was so zealous with the Zulu for the honour of the true God as to condemn the Pentateuch, because it recognized slavery in Israel, that he can have read the book. It is very superficial, is wrong according to the best authorities as to America, particularly South America, and contradicts itself as to Africa; his only argument, to which he (Mr. Gliddon) constantly recurs, being the presence of negro figures on Egyptian monuments, of which, with Lipsius and others, he exaggerates the antiquity in a way which the monuments themselves clearly prove to be false, inasmuch as kings given as successive are proved by the monuments to be contemporary—as many as eight at a time. Mr. Gliddon was Consul-General of the United States in Egypt. I quite admit Dr. C. does not quote the book in what it says of negroes; but the argument which meets his entire sympathy is used to get rid of the “prejudice,” which believes with Paul that “God has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” in order to justify the reducing the blacks to slavery as a distinct race.
10 The computation in the passage is not very clear. If we count in Er and Onan, we have thirty-three sons and grandsons. If we leave them out, we must count Jacob among the souls of his own sons and daughters. However, I am disposed to include Dinah and Jacob, and leave out Er and Onan, and read thus: “These be the sons of Leah which she bare unto Jacob in Padan-Aram, with his daughter Dinah, all the souls of his sons and daughters; thirty and three.” As if he had said, This makes thirty and three. If not, we must count in Er and Onan, and make it mere genealogical computation of sons, and verse 26 would be general, the computation already given excluding Jacob, and Joseph and his sons.
11 Yatsa is to go forth, as Bo is to go in or to. And hence the causative is used for bringing forth; because one who does causes to go or come forth. But there is no ground at all for confining it to the personal act of the person causing it to come forth. Thus, not only in the case of an evil report, Hotze Dibba, cited in the text; Deuteronomy 16:23, bringing forth the tithe; Leviticus 24:14, bringing forth him that had cursed; Zechariah 4:7; Genesis 34:24, 25, bringing forth Tamar; Exodus 3:10, Moses is to bring forth Israel from Egypt, that is, cause them to come out. So Exodus 14:13, Hebrews 14. So in Ezra 1:8 we have, “those did Cyrus bring forth by the hand of Mithredath,” where he expressly uses another to have them brought out. In a word, there is no ground at all for Dr. C.’s remarks.
12 El Tyh is a modern name (the wandering) for the desert district lying north of Sinai.
13 As to Dan, if the absence of others of the tribe not yet formed hindered the application of the rule laid down in the case of Zelophehad’s daughters, the fact that he had only one son may have been removed in a few generations. Hushim may have had as many as Jair, who had thirty sons that rode on thirty asses’ colts.