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The five first books of the Old Testament have, by the concurrent voice of the Christian world, been considered as the writings of Moses. In consequence of this opinion, we find his name is prefixed, in our version, to all the books of the Pentateuch. This title however has been prefixed by the translators, without any authority from the Hebrew, and being of human authority, furnishes no evidence that Moses was the writer. On this subject, you will attend to the following facts.
In Genesis 13, 19, we read that “ Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron." In chapter 35, 27, we read that Jacob came to Isaac his father, to Mamre, to the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.” But in Joshua 14, we have an account that Joshua, on Caleb's application, gave him Hebron for an inheritance, and that the name of Hebron before was Kirjath Arba, [the city of Arba] who was a great man among the Anakims. 15, and chapter 15, 13. The same fact is mentioned in Judges, 1, 10. “ And Judah went against the Canaanites, that dwelt in Hebron—now the name of Hebron before was Kirjath Arba." These authorities seem to be decisive, that the name of this place was changed at the conquest of it by Caleb, several years after the death of Moses. The question then occurs, if Moses wrote the book of Genesis, how he could have called this place by a name which was not given to it, till after his death.
In Genesis 14 we have an account of Abrarn's pursuing the Assyrian Kings to recover his brother Lot,who had been taken by them and he pursued them to Dan. See also Deut. 34, 1. But the name of this place, before its conquest by the Danites, was Laish or Leshem, and it was not conquered till after the death of Moses. We have an account of its conquest, in Joshua, 19, 47; but more particularly in Judges 18, where we read the story of Micah. It is here expressly stated that the Danites called the city Dan, after the name
of their father, but that the name of the city was Laish at the first. How could Moses call this city Dan when it appears it did not receive the name till more than forty years after his death?
In Genesis 36, 31, we read, “These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” Now the children of Israel had no king before Saul, who was three hundred and fifty years after Moses : and how could Moses mention this fact?
We learn from several passages of Scripture, that Moses wrote the Book of the Law, or as it is called also, the Book of the Covenant-he wrote also an account of the journeys of the Israelites. Numbers, 33, 2.
The Book of the Law was written at Mount Sinai, where the law was promulgated; for we are informed, Ex. 24, 7, that Moses took the Book of the Covenant, and read it in the audience of the people.” That the Book of the Law and the Book of the Covenant was the same book, is certain from 2 Kings 22, 8, 11, and 23, 2. This reading from the Book of the Covenant, was within two years from the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. This fact is related, Exodus 24; but in Exodus 16, verse 35, we read, that “ the children of Israel did eat Manna forty years, until they came to the land inhabited; they did eat Manna, until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan.” The evidence from this passage is decisive that the book of Exodus was not written till the expiration of the forty years, and not till the Israelites had arrived at the place where Moses died. It therefore could not have been a part of the Book of the Covenant, from which Moses thirty-eight years before, instructed the people at Mount Sinai.
In Numbers 33, 38, it is said, that Aaron died in the fortieth year after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. This book then could not have been a part of the book of the law, written at Mount Sinai, but must have
been written after the journeying of the Israelites through the wilderness.
Notwithstanding these facts, we find this and the other books of the Pentateuch constantly ascribed to Moses, as the writer. Commentators tell us that the facts, subsequent to the death of Moses, might have been inserted by Ezra or some other person. But as we know nothing respecting such interpolations, we have no right to suppose them. If the original writer wrote by divine direction, the writings must have been correct, and we are not at liberty to conjecture that any other person may have been authorized to make additions to them.
There are strong reasons for believing that the books of the Pentateuch were written by different hands. One of these reasons is, that the same facts are related in two different books. Such is the account of the erection of the Tabernacle Ex. 40, 2, 17-Numbers 7, 1, and more particularly Numbers 9, 15. The cominand for this purpose was given at Mount Sinai, in the second year after the departure from Egypt-yet in this very account in Numbers, it is said, that when the cloud tarried long on the tabernacle, the Israelites abode in their tents - but when it was taken up they journeyed. “Whether two days, a month or a year that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle - the children of Israel abode in their tents." This passage then must have been written not only after the tabernacle was erected, but after the Israelites had journeyed through the Wilderness. It is not very probable that two accounts of the same transaction would have been written by the same person.
In Numbers Chap. 20, and Chap. 33, 39, we have an account of Aaron's death on Mount Hor. In Deut 10, 6, it is said that Aaron died at Moserah.
It appears by the account of the several journeys of the Israelites, Numbers Chap. 33, from verse 30 to 37, that Mosera, or Moseroth was distant from Mount Hor, by seven journeys,
or encampments. Now it is by no means probable that the same person should have written two different accounts of this event.
The passage in Deuteronomy seems not to be connected with the other events related in that chapter, but if there has been an interpolation, it is not of modern date. This passage is in the version of the Seventy, made before the Christian Era. It is also in the Syrian and Arabic versions, but is not in the Samaritan.
In our version, the passage is as follows. 66 And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the children of Jaakan to Mosera : there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his stead. From thence they journeyed to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters." Deut. 10, 6, 7.
In the Samaritan copy, the whole passage is as follows. "The children of Israel departed from Maseroth and encamped among the children of Jaakan. Thence they journeyed, and encamped in Gadgad. Thence they journeyed and encamped in Jethabatha, a land of rivers of water. Thence they journeyed and encamped in Abarne. [Ebronah, Num. 33, 34.] Journeying thence, they encamped in Asion-Gaber. Journeying thence, they encamped in the desart of Sin, which is Kadesh. Journeying thence they encamped in Mount Hor. There Aaron died and there he was buried, and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his stead."
This account coincides nearly with that in Numbers Chapter, 33.
These facts and some others which might be mentioned must embarrass you, as they have other inquirers. Infidels have made use of them to discredit revelation-but, in my apprehension, they gain nothing by proving that Moses was not the author of the several Books of the Pentateuch; nor do believers gain any thing by establishing the fact. There are many of the books of the Old Testament, the writers of
which are wholly unknown; yet this circumstance does not in my opinion, weaken their authority, as a part of the divine oracles.
From the best lights I have been able to obtain on this subject, the facts appear to be these. Moses wrote the Book of the Law, and a journal of the marches of the Israelites through the wilderness, Deut. 31, 9—Numb. 33, 2. He delivered the book of the law to the priests for safe keeping, and commanded that once in seven years, at the feast of Tabernacles, this book should be read before all Israel This book Moses commanded the Levites to place by the side of the ark. Deut. 31, 26-and the future Kings were to take a copy of it for their instruction. Deut. 17, 18.
During the long and idolatrous reign of Manasseh, this book was lost, and the national religion neglected. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, his Grandson, this book was found, by Hilkiah the High Priest, at the repairing of the temple, and delivered to Shaphan, the scribe, who read it himself and afterwards before the king. By the astonishment manifested at hearing the contents of the book, it is to be inferred that almost all knowledge of the law was lost. Indeed it could hardly be otherwise, for it was seventy five years from the commencement of Manasseh's reign, to the finding of the lost book. The King immediately assembled the Elders, Priests, Levites, and the people, and read in their ears all the words of the Book of the Covenant--2 Kings 22, 23. . -2 Chron). 34.
If this copy of the Book of the Law was the original, written by Moses, which is very probable, it must then have been more than eight hundred years old. But this book probably contained only the positive laws and precepts which Moses was directed to prescribe to the Israelites, We have not the least reason to suppose, for we have no Scriptural authority for the supposition, that this book contained the History of the Creation and of Abraham's family, or the journeys of the Israelites. The supposition is not only unauthorized, but con