Sivut kuvina

the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men” (vers. 27, 28). Moses, we see, was no weak sentimentalist ; he did not shrink from measures of extreme severity, when severity was requisite. It was an awful thing to have to put to a sudden and violent death three thousand men—his own countrymen-utterly unprepared, in the very high tide of gaiety and excitement, and in the commission of deadly sin, worshipping an idol with lascivious songs and dances ; but may it not have been a wise act, and an act of mercy? God had threatened to let loose his anger upon the guilty people (ver. 10), an anger that would have entirely “consumed” them, perhaps in a moment of time. . Moses turns his wrath aside by punishing with death three thousand of the guiltiest. He sacrifices 3,000 lives; he saves nigh upon 600,000. He turns away the wrath of God, who accepts the punishment inflicted as sufficient, at any rate for the time being, and reserves the action of His retri. butive justice for some distant day of visitation (vers. 34, 35).

When the execution is over, when the swords are wiped and returned to their scabbards, when the slain are buried and the traces of their slaughter removed, Moses earnestly wrestles with God in prayer on behalf of his people. He had prevented their immediate destruction, but he requires more he would fain have them fully and freely forgiven. It is in this crisis that he performs the sublime act of self-renunciation and self-devotion, which must always remain one of the most glorious acts of which humanity has shown itself capable, and must be held as entitling him to a high place—may we not say the highest place? -among the heroic characters of the world. He had already, before he descended from Sinai, declined the proffered honour of being put in the place of Abraham, made the absolute progenitor of all God's people ; he had put the offer from him V without a moment's hesitation, and had induced the Almighty to change his purpose (vers. 9–14); he now went further-he offered himself for his people ! “ This people," he said, “have 'sinned a great sin-they have made them a god of gold. Yet now, if Thou wilt (freely) forgive their sin, well and good ; but it not, blot me, I pray Thee,out of Thy book which Thou hast written" (vers. 31, 32). “ The book of the living” is that book (as Keil notes) which “contains the list of the righteous, and ensures to those whose names are written therein life before God, first in

the earthly kingdom of God, and then eternal life also. Thus Moses declared his willingness—nay, his wish-that God would visit on him the guilt of his people, both in this world and the next; so that He would thereupon forgive them. “ Infinite things were to be hoped for from God's love; infinite things were to be dreaded from His anger. Moses was willing to die ; to be cut off from covenant hope and privilege ; to rindergo whatever awful doom subjection to God's wrath might imply; if only thereby his people could be saved. It was a stupendous proposal to make ; an extraordinary act of selfdevotion ; a wondrous exponent of his patriotic love for his people ; a not less wondrous recognition of what was due to the justice of God ere sin could be forgiven-a glimpse even, struck

out from the passionate yearning of his own heart, of the actual + method of redemption. A type of Christ has been seen in the

youthful Isaac ascending the hill to be offered on the altar by Abraham his father. A much nearer type is Moses, 'setting his face' (Luke ix. 51) to ascend the Mount, and bearing in his heart this sublime purpose of devoting himself for the sins of the nation."

Though the offer of Moses could not be accepted, since “no (mere) man can deliver his brother, nor make agreement unto God for him” (Ps. xlix. 7), yet great benefits flowed from it, both to himself and to the people. The people were not cast off; they were not deserted; the Angel of God's Presence still continued with them, and went with them throughout their wanderings, and sustained them along the weary way, and ultimately “ gave them rest” (Exod. xxxiii. 14) in the Promised Land. Moses' spiritual life entered into a new stage. He was drawn nearer to God by the effort which he had made; and God in consequence drew nearer to him. The self-devotion of Moses is followed closely by the establishment of the first “ Tabernacle of the Congregation” (ver. 7) beyond the camp, and in this Tabernacle, which only he and his personal attendant, Joshua, are privileged to enter, Moses is admitted to continual communion with God of a closer kind than even that which he had enjoyed upon Mount Sinai. When he needs to consult God, or to commune with Him, he has only to “go out unto the tabernacle ;" as he enters it, the pillar of the cloud quits its previous position, whatever that might be, and “ descends and • The Rev. J. Orr, in “The Pulpit Commentary," Exodus, pp. 693, 694.


stands at the door of the Tabernacle," and remains there while he is within it. Within, God “talks with Moses” (ver. 9), “speaks to him face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (ver. 11). It is impossible to conceive communion more close, more purifying, more elevating than this, which Moses was permitted to enjoy for nearly forty years, from the first erection of the Tabernacle to the day of his death.

But this was not all. While his continual growth in grace, and in the wisdom and knowledge of God was thus provided for, a further momentary privilege was granted him transcending any ever previously imparted to any of the sons of men. Hungering more and more after the sight of God, as he was drawn more and more close to him, Moses desired and prayed to see the unveiled glory of Jehovah (ver. 18). The request could not be granted in its fulness. “ Thou canst not see my face," he was told, “for there shall no man seg my face and live” (ver. 20). But all was granted that was possible. He was bidden to ascend Sinai alone; the flocks and the herds were to be removed to a distance from the mount (Exod. xxxiv. 3) ; he was to take his place on a well-known or prominent rock (Exod. xxxiii. 21); and there, covered by the Divine band and sheltered in a clift of the rock, he was to wait while the Divine Glory passed him by. The scene evidently transcends human language and human thought. It has to be described by tropes. and figures. God, having first proclaimed His name, as “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, and yet visiting iniquity," and in no case "clearing the guilty

“ (Exod. xxxiv. 6–7), passed Moses by in such sort that “His face" was not seen, but only “His back parts” (Exod. xxxiii. 23)—some reflex image of His glory, that is to say, some radiance left by it, but the utmost that man could see and yet live, more (probably) than either Isaiah (vi. 1) or Ezekiel (i. 26) saw-some near approach to that “beatific vision” which shall constitute to the saints in bliss the satisfaction of all their cravings, the perfect contentation of all their desires.

Moses after Sinai is not as Moses before Sinai – he is spiritualized-he lives in a different world. Not that he is as yet sinless. Human imperfection clings to him, as it must to all who have not passed within the veil. But he is henceforth the Prophet rather than the Ruler, “very meek” and wanting


in self-assertion (Numb. xii. 3), free from all jealousy (Numb. xi. 29), mild, forgiving (Numb. xii. 13), chiefly employed in com municating God's will to the people. He must have passed much of his time in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, in close communion with the Almighty, receiving from Him that complex legislation, which, according to the Rabbis, contained 248 positive and 365 negative precepts, and which occupies almost the whole of two Books of Scripture—Leviticus and Numbers. A distance was placed between him and his countrymen by the strange glory which shone from his face, and the veil which he ordinarily wore to shroud it from them -- he became to them something mysterious, something awfulthey watched his movements with a timid and subdued curiosity (Exod. xxiii. 8-10)—he must have seemed to them inore than mortal, half human, half Divine. And, correspondent to this external manifestation of increased likeness to God, was an inward purification and elevation of character, a passage “from strength to strength,” “from glory to glory," which, though Moses himself was perhaps unconscious of it, as he was at first of the light that streamed from his face (Exod. xxxiv. 29), is yet very apparent to the careful student of the later Books of the Pentateuch.

[ocr errors]



Hebrew Art more advanced than might have appeared probable --Possible

derivation of some of it from Chaldea-Artificers needed by nomadic tribes-Advances which Hebrew Art would naturally have made in Egypt-Egyptian and Hebrew Metallurgy-Carpentry—Textile industry-Embroidery—Tanning and dyeing of leather-Gem-cutting and gem-engraving-Confection of spices and unguents-General Egyptian character of Hebrew Art in Moses' time-ExceptionsHebrew eclecticism.

AMONG the instructions given to Moses on Mount Sinai was a long series (Exod. xxv.-xxx.), which had reference to the externals of worship, and involved the exercise of various arts and industries, belonging to a somewhat advanced civilization -a civilization which has seemed to many out of harmony with the circumstances of the people, just escaped from slavery, and from employment in agriculture, building, brick-making, and other servile labours. It is therefore important to consider what opportunities the Hebrews had had of attaining proficiency in the arts and industries in question, and what it may reasonably be concluded that their civilization in these respects was at the time of the exodus. The subject is also one proper to be discussed in any account of the “Life and Times of Moses," which could not be complete without some consideration of it.

First, then, it is to be remembered, that the Chaldeans, or Babylonians, at the time when the family of Abraham left them and proceeded northwards, were in possession of many valuable arts, and of a civilization that had advanced considerably beyond the first rudiments. The Babylonians of a tiine long anterior

« EdellinenJatka »