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entirely novel construction, for which Egypt afforded no prece. dent. The seven-branched candlestick was wholly unlike any known Egyptian lamp-stand. The table of shew-bread, and the pot of manna, have no Egyptian prototypes. The goats’-hair, and badger-skin (or sealskin) coverings of the Tabernacle have nothing parallel to them in Egypt. The cherubic forms were less Egyptian than Assyrian or Babylonian ; the overlaying of wood with plates of gold instead of merely gilding was Babylonian; the use of the pomegranate ornament was Assyrian; the use of goats’-hair Syrian or Arabian. Hebrew art was thus, even in Moses' time, to a considerable extent eclecticma characteristic which clung to it, and which is especially marked under Solomon.



Dimculties of the situation - Disorganization - Judges appointed by the

advice of Jethro-Perversity of the Israelites—Their constant murmurings --Moses but little helped by his subordinates-Conduct of Aaron and Miriam-Relations of Moses with Joshua and with Phinehas The true support of Moses, the Theocracy-Its nature-Mildness and unselfishness of Moses.


THE task of Moses, as sole ruler of the large tribe which he had led out of Egypt, must have been one of enormous difficulty. He had-according to the existing text-to provide for the welfare of above two millions of souls. Even if we regard the numbers of the text as corrupted, and reduce each of them by a figure, so as to substitute for the grand total of two millions and a half the comparatively moderate one of a quarter of a million, still we must regard the difficulties of the situation as extreme, and indeed as not much diminished. It was the quality, rather than the multitude of his subjects, that constituted the weight of his burden. Recently a horde of serfs, the greater part of them ignorant, uneducated, debased by their long servitude, without national spirit, without lofty aspirations, slaves mostly of their carnal appetites, fickle, childish, impulsive, they were as intractable a race, one as difficult to direct and govern, as was ever committed to the charge of an individual. They had, it must be remembered, next to no institutions. “Elders” indeed there were, heads of families, or head-men of villages, who had been allowed by the Pharaohs to exercise a certain amount of authority over their

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fellow-countrymen. But the organization had been of the loosest kind, the authority vague and indefinite, its source problematical, its extent uncertain. And the circumstances of the time had been such as to weaken if not destroy it. Slaves, in the first burst of their emancipation, are apt to throw oft restraints, to disown subjection to any kind of authority, and to regard it as the first of their newly-gained privileges, that they are entitled to do what is right in their own eyes. If the authority of the head-men had been still acknowledged at the moment of the exodus, in the gathering and on the march, while there was still something to be feared from Pharaoh and his host, yet after the passage of the Red Sea it would have been likely to fall into abeyance. Danger had disappeared; the open desert invited to freedom; the simplicity and regularity of the daily life seemed to render control unnecessary. When Jethro visited his brother-in-law at Rephidim, after the defeat of the Amalekites, he found the Israelites a disorganized mass, and the sole authority over them that of Moses, who was accepted as Leader, Ruler, Guide, and Judge, and was without any recognized assistants.

In this condition of affairs Jethro recognized very great inconvenience. Moses, he saw, was wearing himself out by undertaking more than any single man could perform satisfactorily (Exod. xviii. 18). He superintended the whole machinery of government. He judged causes all day long, and yet could not keep pace with the number of causes that were always arising. He was becoming exhausted, and still was not fully contenting the people. Jethro suggested to him a division of labour. He set before him the Arabian system of “rulers and judges, of elders or sheikhs, that still forms the constitution of the Arabs of the peninsula ; Þi and “Moses hearkened to the voice of his brother-in-law, and did all that he had said" (ver. 24). The plan suggested was, that Moses should “choose out of all Israel able men, and make them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (ver. 25). Causes were to be judged in the first instance by the “ rulers of tens,” from whom there was to be an appeal to the “rulers of fifties," from them to the “rulers of hundreds,” and then finally to the “rulers of thousands.” Difficult caụses, which the “rulers of thousands *

• Stanley, “Lectures on the Jewish Church," vol. i. p. 144

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felt themselves incompetent to decide, were to be reserved for the judgment of Moses. Moses adopted the advice, and “out of this simple arrangement sprang the gradations that we trace long afterwards in the history of the Hebrew commonwealth.” 1 Moses seems to have given the nomination to the people, but to have reserved the right of appointment for himself (Deut. i. 13-15). The organization thus established was at once civil and military. The officers appointed judged causes, and also exercised a general superintendence, being “elders” in their civil, and “captains” in their military, capacity. The arrangement, on the whole, was suitable, and gave satisfaction, thus removing one of the many difficulties which beset the path of Moses as a ruler at this period.

But the chief difficulties were untouched by it. They arose from the temper of the people, from their childishness, their excitability, tiieir want of balance, and their want of any real earnest faith in God. Every difficulty struck them as insurmountable ; every trial caused them to despair, and to wish that they had never quitted Egypt. So it was in the cul-de-sac by the Red Sea, when they reproached Moses with having carried them forth out of the country, and declared that it would have been better for them to have continued to serve the Egyptians (Exod. xiv. 11-12). So it was again in the wilderness of Sin, when they first began to feel a difficulty with respect to foud. “Would to God," they said, “ that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, when we did eat bread to the full ; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Exod. xvi. 3). So it was once more at Rephidim, when for the first time there was no water. The people murmured against Moses and said, Wherefore is this, that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst ? ” (Exod. xvii. 3). Again, at Sinai, Moses has left them but for a few short weeks, when the despairing cry arises: “Up, make us a god, which shall go before us ; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him ” (Exod. xxxii. 1). They have not fed on the manna for much more than a year, when a disgust takes them at the uniformity of their diet, and its want of solidity; so they “wept, and said, Who shall give us flesh to

* Stanley, "Lectures on the Jewish Church," vol. i. p. 144.

eat ? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numb. xi. 4-6). Later, when the spies came back from searching the land, and gave an evil report, “all the congregation lifted up their voice and cried, and the people wept that night, and all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron ; and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt ! or, Would God we had died in this wilderness! and wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey ? Were it not better for us to return to Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make us a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numb. xiv. 1-4). It is needless to pursue the history. The whole history of Israel in the wilderness is one of murmurings and rebellious, whereby they repeatedly provoked God so that He would have destroyed them, if Moses had not interceded on their behalf. Never was a civil ruler more tried by the perversity of his subjects than Moses during the forty years' wanderings in the desert.

And in his troubles he had little human help. Jethro indeed gave him wise counsel and did him right good service at Rephidim (Exod. xviii. 14-23); and Hobab, probably Jethro's brother, was “as eyes” to him in the later wanderings, giving him all needful topographical information, and perhaps notifying the approach of Amalekites or other marauders (Numb. X. 29–32). But of his own people there was none that lent him any valuable aid. Aaron in the wilderness shrinks back into that subordinate position from which he only emerged for a time in consequence of Moses' undue diffidence. For leadership he shows no capacity, and when entrusted with it, he at once falls into a grievous sin, and nearly causes the destruction of the whole people through want of faith and want of a strong firm will (Exod. xxxii. 1-6, 21-24). He failed to restrain his two elder sons, Nadab and Abihu, when they sinned against God by "offering strange fire” (Lev. X. 1-3). He failed to restrain Moses at the water of Meribah (Numb. xx. 10-13). When Moses married a second time, and offended his sister thereby, since she lost the first place among the women of the tribe, Aaron not only did


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