Prolegomena to the History of Israel
Julius Wellhausen

Part 1 out of 13

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Title: Prolegomena to the History of Israel

Author: Julius Wellhausen

Release Date: December, 2003 [EBook #4732]
[Most recently updated February 17, 2003]

Edition: 11

Language: English

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to the






with a preface by

P R E F A C E.

The work which forms the greater part of the present volume first
appeared in 1878 under the title "History of Israel. By J.
Wellhausen. In two volumes. Volume I." The book produced a great
impression throughout Europe, and its main thesis, that "the Mosaic
history is not the starting-point for the history of ancient
Israel, but for the history of Judaism," was felt to be so
powerfully maintained that many of the leading Hebrew teachers of
Germany who had till then stood aloof from the so-called "Grafian
hypothesis"--the doctrine, that is, that the Levitical Law and
connected parts of the Pentateuch were not written till after the
fall of the kingdom of Judah, and that the Pentateuch in its
present compass was not publicly accepted as authoritative till
the reformation of Ezra--declared themselves convinced by
Wellhausen's arguments. Before 1878 the Grafian hypothesis was
neglected or treated as a paradox in most German universities,
although some individual scholars of great name were known to have
reached by independent inquiry similar views to those for which
Graf was the recognised sponsor, and although in Holland the
writings of Professor Kuenen, who has been aptly termed Graf's
goel, had shown in an admirable and conclusive manner that the
objections usually taken to Graf's arguments did not touch the
substance of the thesis for which he contended.
Since 1878, partly through the growing influence of Kuenen, but
mainly through the impression produced by Wellhausen's book, all
this has been changed. Almost every younger scholar of mark is on
the side of Vatke and Reuss, Lagarde and Graf, Kuenen and
Wellhausen, and the renewed interest in Old Testament study which
is making itself felt throughout all the schools of Europe must be
traced almost entirely to the stimulus derived from a new view of
the history of the Law which sets all Old Testament problems in a
new light.

Our author, who since 1878 had been largely engaged in the study
of other parts of Semitic antiquity, has not yet given to the world
his promised second volume. But the first volume was a complete
book in itself; the plan was to reserve the whole narrative of the
history of Israel for vol.ii., so that vol.i. was entirely
occupied in laying the critical foundations on which alone a real
history of the Hebrew nation could be built. Accordingly, the
second edition of the History, vol.i., appeared in 1883 (Berlin,
Reimer), under the new title of "Prolegomena to the History of
Israel." In this form it is professedly, as it really was before,
a complete and self-contained work; and this is the form of which
a translation, carefully revised by the author, is now offered to
the public.

All English readers interested in the Old Testament will certainly
be grateful to the translators and publishers for a volume which in
its German garb has already produced so profound an impression on
the scholarship of Europe; and even in this country the author's
name is too well known to make it necessary to introduce him at
length to a new public. But the title of the book has a somewhat
unfamiliar sound to English ears, and may be apt to suggest a
series of dry and learned dissertations meant only for Hebrew
scholars. It is worth while therefore to point out in a few words
that this would be quite a false impression; that the matters with
which Professor Wellhausen deals are such as no intelligent student
of the Old Testament can afford to neglect; and that the present
volume gives the English reader, for the first time, an
opportunity to form his own judgment on questions which are within
the scope of any one who reads the English Bible carefully and is
able to think clearly, and without prejudice, about its contents.
The history of Israel is part of the history of the faith by
which we live, the New Testament cannot be rightly understood
without understanding the Old, and the main reason why so many
parts of the Old Testament are practically a sealed book even to
thoughtful people is simply that they have not the historical key
to the interpretation of that wonderful literature.

The Old Testament does not furnish a history of Israel, though it
supplies the materials from which such a history can be
constructed. For example, the narrative of Kings gives but the
merest outline of the events that preceded the fall of Samaria; to
understand the inner history of thc time we must fill up this
outline with the aid of the prophets Amos and Hosea. But the more
the Old Testament has been studied, the more plain has it become
that for many parts of the history something more is needed than
merely to read each part of the narrative books in connection with
the other books that illustrate the same period. The Historical
Books and the Pentateuch are themselves very composite structures,
in which old narratives occur imbedded in later compilations, and
groups of old laws are overlaid by ordinances of comparatively
recent date. Now, to take one point only, but that the most
important, it must plainly make a vast difference to our whole
view of the providential course of Israel's history if it appear
that instead of the whole Pentateuchal law having been given to
Israel before the tribes crossed the Jordan, that law really grew
up little by little from its Mosaic germ, and did not attain its
present form till the Israelites were the captives or the subjects
of a foreign power. This is what the new school of Pentateuch
criticism undertakes to prove, and it does so in a way that should
interest every one. For in the course of the argument it appears
that the plain natural sense of the old history has constantly
been distorted by the false presuppositions with which we have
been accustomed to approach it--that having a false idea of the
legal and religious culture of the Hebrews when they first entered
Canaan, we continually miss the point of the most interesting
parts of the subsequent story, and above all fail to understand the
great work accomplished by the prophets in destroying Old Israel
and preparing the way first for Judaism and then for the Gospel.
These surely are inquiries which no conscientious student of the
Bible can afford to ignore.

The process of disentangling the twisted skein of tradition is
necessarily a very delicate and complicated one, and involves
certain operations for which special scholarship is indispensable.
Historical criticism is a comparatively modern science, and in its
application to this, as to other histories, it has made many false
and uncertain steps. But in this, as in other sciences, when the
truth has been reached it can generally be presented in a
comparatively simple form, and the main positions can be justified
even to the general reader by methods much less complicated, and
much more lucid, than those originally followed by the
investigators themselves. The modern view as to the age of the
Pentateuchal law, which is the key to the right understanding of
the History of Israel, has been reached by a mass of
investigations and discussions of which no satisfactory general
account has ever been laid before the English reader. Indeed, even
on the Continent, where the subject has been much more studied than
among us, Professor Wellhausen's book was the first complete and
sustained argument which took up the question in all its
historical bearings.

More recently Professor Kuenen of Leyden, whose discussions of
the more complicated questions of Pentateuch analysis are perhaps
the finest things that modern criticism can show, has brought out
the second edition of the first volume of his Onderzoek, and when
this appears in English, as it is soon to do, our Hebrew students
will have in their hands an admirable manual of what I may call
the anatomy of the Pentateuch, in which they can follow from
chapter to chapter the process by which the Pentateuch grew to its
present form. But for the mass of Bible-readers such detailed
analysis will always be too difficult. What every one can
understand and ought to try to master, is the broad historical
aspect of the matter. And this the present volume sets forth in a
way that must be full of interest to every one who has tasted the
intense pleasure of following institutions and ideas in their
growth, and who has faith enough to see the hand of God as clearly
in a long providential development as in a sudden miracle.

The reader will find that every part of the "Prolegomena" is
instinct with historical interest, and contributes something to a
vivid realisation of what Old Israel really was, and why it has
so great a part in the history of spiritual faith. In the first
essay of the Prolegomena a complete picture is given of the
history of the ordinances of worship in Israel, and the
sacrifices, the feasts, the priesthood, are all set in a fresh
light. The second essay, the history of what the Israelites
themselves believed and recorded about their past, will perhaps to
some readers seem less inviting, and may perhaps best be read
after perusal of the article, reprinted from the "Encyclopaedia
Britannica", which stands at the close of the volume and affords a
general view of the course of the history of Israel, as our author
constructs it on the basis of the researches in his Prolegomena.
The essay on Israel and Judaism with which the Prolegomena close,
may in like manner be profitably compared with sect. II of the
appended sketch--a section which is not taken directly from the
"Encyclopaedia", but translated from the German edition of the
article "Israel", where the subject is expanded by the author.
Here the reader will learn how close are the bonds that connect
the critical study of the Old Testament with the deepest and
unchanging problems of living faith.



Pages 237 [chapter IV . 3] to 425 [end] of the "Prolegomena"
and section II of "Israel" are translated by Mr. Menzies;
for the rest of the volume Mr. Black is responsible.
Both desire to express their indebtedness to Professor Robertson Smith
for many valuable suggestions made as the sheets were passing
through the press.




1. Is the Law the starting-point for the history of ancient
Israel or for that of Judaism ? The latter possibility
is not precluded a priori by the history of the Canon. Reasons
for considering it. De Wette, George, Vatke, Reuss, Graf

2. The three strata of the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy, Priestly
Code, Jehovist

3. The question is as to the Priestly Code and its historical
position. Method of the investigation



I.I.1. The historical and prophetical books show no trace in Hebrew
antiquity of a sanctuary of exclusive legitimacy

I.I.2. Polemic of the prophets against the sanctuaries.
Fall of Samaria. Reformation of Josiah

I.I.3. Influence of the Babylonian exile

I.II.1. The Jehovist (JE) sanctions a multiplicity of altars

I.II.2. Deuteronomy (D) demands local unity of worship

I.II.3. The Priestly Code (RQ) presupposes that unity, and transfers
it, by means of the Tabernacle, to primitive times

I.III.1. The tabernacle, as a central sanctuary and dwelling
for the ark, can nowhere be found in the historical tradition

I.III.2. Noldeke's view untenable


II.I.1. The ritual is according to RQ the main subject of the Mosaic
legislation, according to JE it is pre-Mosaic usage;
in RQ the point is How, according to JE and D To Whom,
it is offered

II.I.2. The historical books agree with JE; the prophets down to
Ezekiel contradict RQ

II.II.1. Material innovations in RQ. Preliminary remarks on the
notion, contents, mode of offering, and propitiatory effects of

II.II.2. Material and ideal refinement of the offerings in RQ

II.II.3. The sacrificial meal gives way to holocausts

II.II.4. Development of the trespass-offering.

II.III.1. The centralisation of worship at Jerusalem destroyed
the connection of sacrifice with the natural occasions of life,
so that it lost its original character


III.I.1. In JE and D there is a rotation of three festivals. Easter
and Pentecost mark the beginning and the end of the corn-harvest,
and the autumn feast the vintage and the bringing home the corn
from the threshing-floor. With the feast of unleavened bread
(Massoth) is conjoined, especially in D, the feast of the
sacrifice of the male firstborn of cattle (Pesah).

III.I.2. The feasts based on the offering of firstlings of the field and
of the herd. Significance of the land and of agriculture for religion

III.II.1. In the historical and prophetical books, the autumn feast
only is distinctly attested, and it is the most important in JE
and D also: of the others there are only faint traces .

III.II.2. But the nature of the festivals is the same as in JE and D

III.III.1. In RQ the feasts have lost their reference to harvest
and the first fruits; and this essentially changes their

III.III.2. The metamorphosis was due to the centralisation of worship,
and may he traced down through Deuteronomy and Ezekiel to RQ,

III.III.3. To the three festivals RQ adds the great day of atonement,
which arose out of the fast-days of the exile

III.IV.1. The Sabbath, which is connected with the new moon, was
originally a lunar festival
Exaggeration of the Sabbath rest in the Priestly Code

III.IV.2. Sabbatical year, and year of Jubilee


IV.I.1. According to Ezek. xliv., only the Levites of Jerusalem,
the sons of Zadok, are to continue priests in the new
Jerusalem; the other Levites are to be degraded to their servants
and denuded of their priestly rights. According to RQ
the Levites never possessed the priestly right, but only
the sons of Aaron

IV.I.2. These answer to the sons of Zadok

IV.II.1. In the earliest period of the history of Israel there is no
distinction between clergy and laity. Every one may
slaughter and sacrifice; there are professional priests only at the
great sanctuaries. Priestly families at Sihiloh and Dan.

No setting apart of what is holy

IV.II.2. Royal temples of the kings; priests at them as royal officials

IV.II.3. Importance of the North-Israelite priesthood in the time of the

IV.II.4. The family of Zadok at Jerusalem

IV.III.1. In the oldest part of JE there are no priests; no Aaron
by the side of Moses

IV.III.2. In D the Levites are priests. They occur in that character,
not to speak of Judges xviii. seq., only in the literature
of the exile. Their descent from Moses or Aaron. The spiritual
and the secular tribe of Levi. Difficulty of bringing them together

IV.III.3. Consolidation of the spiritual tribe in RQ; separation of
priests and Levites. Further development of the clergy after the
exile. The high priest as head of the theocracy


V.I.1. The sacrificial dues raised in RQ

V.I.2. The firstlings were turned into contributions to the priests,
and doubled in amount

V.II.1. Levitical towns

V.II.2. The historical situation underlying the priestly pretensions
in RQ



VI.I.1. David becomes Saul's successor without any exertion, all
Israel being already on his side, namely, the priests and Levites

Distortion of the original story of the bringing of the ark
to Jerusalem. Omission of unedifying incidents in David's life

VI.I.2. Preparation for the building of the temple. Delight of the
narrator in numbers and names. Inconsistency with 1Kings i, ii.

Picture of David in Chronicles

VI.I.3. Solomon's sacrifice at the tabernacle at Gibeah. Building
of the temple. Retouching of the original narrative

VI.II.1. Estimate of the relation between Judah and Israel; the
Israelites do not belong to the temple, nor, consequently,
to the theocracy

VI.II.2. Levitical idealising of Judah. View taken of those acts of
rulers in the temple-worship which the books of Kings condemn or
approve. Inconsistencies with the narrative of the sources;
importation of priests and Levites.

VI.II.3. Divine pragmatism of the sacred history, and its results

VI.II.4. The books of Kings obviously present throughout

VI.III.1. The genealogical registers of I Chron.i-ix The ten tribes

VI.III.2. Judah and Levi

VI.III.3. Chronicles had no other sources for the period before the exile
than the historical books preserved to us in the Canon.
The diversity of historical view is due to the influence of the law,
especially the Priestly Code. The Midrash


VII.I.1. The formula on which the book of Judges is constructed
in point of chronology and of religion

VII.I.2. Its relation to the stem of the tradition. Judg. xix.-xxi.

VI.II.3. Occasional additions to the original narratives

VII.I.4. Difference of religious attitude in the latter

VII.II.1. Chronological and religious formulas in the books of Samuel

VII.II.2. The stories of the rise of the monarchy and the elevation
of Saul entirely recast

VII.II.3. Saul's relation to Samuel

VII.II.4. The narrative of David's youth
The view taken of Samuel may be regarded as a measure of the growth
of the tradition Saul and David

VII.III.1. The last religious chronological revision of the books of
Kings. Similar in kind to that of Judges and Samuel
Its standpoint Judaean and Deuteronomistic

VII.III.2. Its relation to the materials received from tradition

VII.III.3. Differences of sentiment in the sources

VII.III.4. In Chronicles the history of ancient Israel is recast
in accordance with the ideas of the Priestly Code; in the
older historical books it is judged according to the standard of


VIII.I.1. Genesis i. and Genesis ii. iii.

VIII.I.2. Genesis iv.-xi.

VIII.I.3. The primitive world-history in JE and in Q

VIII.II.1. The history of the patriarchs in JE

VIII.II.2. The history of the patriarchs in Q

VIII.II.3. Periods, numbers, covenants, sacrifices in the patriarchal
age in Q

VIII.III.1. The Mosaic history in JE and in Q

VII.III.2. Comparison of the various narratives

VII.III.3. Conclusion .



IX.I.1. The veto of critical analysis

IX.I.2. The historical presuppositions of Deuteronomy

IX.I.3. The Deuteronomistic revision does not extend over the Priestly

IX.II.1. The final revision of the Hexateuch proceeds from the
Priestly Code, as we see from Leviticus xvii. seq.

IX.II.2. Examination of Leviticus xxvi.

IX.II.3. R cannnot be separated from RQ

IX.III<.1.> The language of the Priestly Code


X.I.1. No written law in ancient Israel. The Decalogue

X.I.2. The Torah of Jehovah in the mouth of priests and prophets

X.I.3. View of revelation in Jeremiah, Zechariah, and the writer
of Isa. xl.-lxvi.

X.II.1. Deuteronomy was the first law in our sense of the word.
It obtains authority during the exile. End of prophecy

X.II.2. The reforming legislation supplemented by that of the
restoration. The usages of worship codified and systematised by
Ezekiel and his successors. The Priestly Code--its introduction
by Ezra

X.II.3. The Torah the basis of the Canon. Extension of the notion
originally attached to the Torah to the other books


XI.I.1. Freshness and naturalness of early Israelite history

XI.I.2. Rise of the state. Relation of Religion and of the Deity
to the life of state and nation.

XI.I.3. The Messianic theocracy of the older prophets is built
up on the foundations afforded by the actual community
of their time

XI.I.4. The idea of the covenant

XI.II.1. Foundation of the theocratic constitution under the foreign

XI.II.2. The law and the prophets.


I S R A E L.

1. The beginnings of the nation

2. The settlement in Palestine.

3. The foundation of the kingdom, and the first three kings

4. From Jeroboam I. to Jeroboam II.

5. God, the world, and the life of men in Old Israel

6. The fall of Samaria

7. The deliverance of Judah

8. The prophetic reformation .

9. Jeremiah and the destruction of Jerusalem .

10. The captivity and the restoration

11. Judaism and Christianity

12. The Hellenistic period

13. The Hasmonaeans

14. Herod and the Romans

15. The Rabbins

16. The Jewish Dispersion


In the following pages it is proposed to discuss the place in
history of the "law of Moses;" more precisely, the question to be
considered is whether that law is the starting-point for the
history of ancient Israel, or not rather for that of Judaism, ie.,
of the religious communion which survived the destruction of the
nation by the Assyrians and Chaldaeans.

I. It is an opinion very extensively held that the great mass of
the books of the Old Testament not only relate to the pre-exilic
period, but date from it. According to this view, they are
remnants of the literature of ancient Israel which the Jews rescued
as a heritage from the past, and on which they continued to
subsist in the decay of independent intellectual life. In
dogmatic theology Judaism is a mere empty chasm over which one
springs from the Old Testament to the New; and even where this
estimate is modified, the belief still prevails in a general way
that the Judaism which received the books of Scripture into the
canon had, as a rule, nothing to do with their production. But the
exceptions to this principle which are conceded as regards the
second and third divisions of the Hebrew canon cannot be called so
very slight. Of the Hagiograpba, by far the larger portion is
demonstrably post-exilic, and no part demonstrably older than
the exile. Daniel comes as far down as the Maccabaean wars, and
Esther is perhaps even later. Of the prophetical literature a very
appreciable fraction is later than the fall of the Hebrew kingdom;
and the associated historical books (the "earlier prophets" of the
Hebrew canon) date, in the form in which we now possess them, from
a period subsequent to the death of Jeconiah, who must have
survived the year 560 B.C. for some time. Making all allowance
for the older sources utilised, and to a large extent transcribed
word for word, in Judges, Samuel, and Kings, we find that apart
from the Pentateuch the preexilic portion of the Old Testament
amounts in bulk to little more than the half of the entire volume.
All the rest belongs to the later period, and it includes not
merely the feeble after-growths of a failing vegetation, but also
productions of the vigour and originality of Isa. xl.lxvi. and

We come then to the Law. Here, as for most parts of the Old
Testament, we have no express information as to the author and date
of composition, and to get even approximately at the truth we are
shut up to the use of such data as can be derived from an analysis
of the contents, taken in conjunction with what we may happen to
know from other sources as to the course of Israel's history. But
the habit has been to assume that the historical period to be
considered in this connection ends with the Babylonian exile as
certainly as it begins with the exodus from Egypt. At first sight
this assumption seems to be justified by the history of the
canon; it was the Law that first became canonical through the
influence of Ezra and Nehemiah; the Prophets became so
considerably later, and the Hagiographa last of all. Now it is
not unnatural, from the chronological order in which these writings
were received into the canon, to proceed to an inference as to
their approximate relative age, and so not only to place the
Prophets before the Hagiographa, but also the five books of Moses
before the Prophets. If the Prophets are for the most part older
than the exile, how much more so the Law! But however trustworthy
such a mode of comparison may be when applied to the middle as
contrasted with the latest portion of the canon, it is not at all
to be relied on when the first part is contrasted with the other
two. The very idea of canonicity was originally associated with
the Torah, and was only afterwards extended to the other books,
which slowly and by a gradual process acquired a certain measure
of the validity given to the Torah by a single public and formal
act, through which it was introduced at once as the Magna Charta of
the Jewish communion (Nehemiah viii.-x.) In their case the canonical--
that is, legal--character was not intrinsic, but was only
subsequently acquired; there must therefore have been some
interval, and there may have been a very long one, between the
date of their origin and that of their receiving public sanction.
To the Law, on the other hand, the canonical character is much more
essential, and serious difficulties beset the assumption that the
Law of Moses came into existence at a period long before the exile,
aml did not attain the force of law until many centuries
afterwards, and in totally different circumstances from those
under which it had arisen. At least the fact that a collection
claiming public recognition as an ecclesiastical book should have
attained such recognition earlier than other writings which make no
such claim is no proof of superior antiquity.

We cannot, then, peremptorily refuse to regard it as possible
that what was the law of Judaism may also have been its product;
and there are urgent reasons for taking the suggestion into very
careful consideration. It may not be out of place here to refer
to personal experience. In my early student days I was attracted
by the stories of Saul and David, Ahab and Elijah; the discourses
of Amos and Isaiah laid strong hold on me, and I read myself well
into the prophetic and historical books of the Old Testament.
Thanks to such aids as were accessible to me, I even considered
that I understood them tolerably, but at the same time was troubled
with a bad conscience, as if I were beginning with the roof instead
of the foundation; for I had no thorough acquaintance with the
Law, of which I was accustomed to be told that it was the basis and
postulate of the whole literature. At last I took courage and made
my way through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and even through
Knobel's Commentary to these books. But it was in vain that I
looked for the light which was to be shed from this source on the
historical and prophetical books. On the contrary, my enjoyment
of the latter was marred by the Law; it did not bring them any
nearer me, but intruded itself uneasily, like a ghost that makes a
noise indeed, but is not visible and really effects nothing. Even
where there were points of contact between it and them, differences
also made themselves felt, and I found it impossible to give a
candid decision in favour of the priority of the Law. Dimly I
began to perceive that throughout there was between them all the
difference that separates two wholly distinct worlds. Yet, so far
from attaining clear conceptions, I only fell into deeper
confusion, which was worse confounded by the explanations of Ewald
in the second volume of history of Israel. At last, in the course
of a casual visit in Gottingen in the summer of 1867, I learned
through Ritschl that Karl Heinrich Graf placed the law later than
the Prophets, and, almost without knowing his reasons for the
hypothesis, I was prepared to accept it; I readily acknowledged
to myself thc possibility of understanding Hebrew antiquity
without the book of the Torah.

The hypothesis usually associated with Graf's name is really not
his, but-that of his teacher, Eduard Reuss. It would be still
more correct to call it after Leopold Gcorge and Wiihelm Vatke,
who, independent alike of Reuss and of each other, were the first
to give it literary currency. All three, again, are disciples of
Martin Lebrecht de Wette, the epochmaking pioneer of historical
criticism in this field./1/

1. M. W. L. de Wette, Beitraege zur Einleitung in das A. T.
(Bd. I. Kritischer Versuch ueber die Glaubwuerdigkeit der Buecher
der Chronik; Bd. II. Kritik der Mosaischen Geschichte, Halle, 1806-07);
J. F. L. George, Die alterer Juedischen Feste mit einer Kritik der
Gesetzgebung des Pentateuch (Berlin, 1835; preface dated 12th
October); W. Vatke, Die biblische Theologie wissenschaftlich
dargestellt (Berlin, 1835; preface dated 18th October;
publication did not get beyond first part of the first volume);
K. H. Graf, Die geschichtlicher Buecher des Alten Testaments
(Leipsic, 1866). That Graf as well as J. Orth (Nouv. Rev. de
Theol., iii. 84 sqq., iv. 350 sqq., Paris, 1859-60) owed the
impulse to his critical labours to his Strassburg master was not
unknown; but how great must have been the share of Reuss in the
hypothesis of Graf has only been revealed in 1879, by the
publication of certain theses which he had formulated as early as
1833, but had hesitated to lay in print before the general
theological public. These are as follows:-- "1. L'element
historique du Pentateuque peut et doit etre examine a part et ne
pas etre confondu avec l'element legal. 2. L'un et l'autre ont pu
exister sans redaction ecrite. La mention, chez d'anciens
ecrivains, de certaines traditions patriarcales ou mosaiques, ne
prouve pas l'existence du Pentateuque, et une nation peut avoir un
droit coutumier sans code ecrit. Les traditions nationales des
Israelites remontent plus haut que les lois du Pentateuque et la
redaction des premieres est anterieure a celle des secondes.
4. L'interet principal de l'historien doit porter sur la date des
lois, parce que sur ce terrain il a plus de chance d'arriver a des
resultats certains. II faut en consequence proceder a
l'interrogatoire des temoins. 5. L'histoire racontee, dans les
livres des Juges et de Samuel, et meme en partie celle comprise
dans les livres des Rois, est en contradiction avec des lois dites
mosaiques; donc celles-ci etaient inconnues a l'epoque de la
redaction de ces livres, a plus forte raison elles n'ont pas existe
dans les temps qui y vent decrits. 6. Les prophetes du 8e et du
7e siecle ne savent rien du code mosaique. 7. Jeremie est le
premier prophete qui connaisse une loi ecrite et ses citations
rapportent au Deuteronome. 8. Le Deuteronome (iv.45-xxviii.68)
est le livre que les pretres pretendaient avoir trouve dans le
temple du temps du roi Josias. Ce code est la partie la plus
ancienne de la legislation (redigee) comprise dans le Pentateuque.
9. L'histoire des Israelites, en tant qu'il s'agit du
developpement national determine par des lois ecrites, se divisera
en deux periodes, avant et apres Josias. 10. Ezechiel est
anterieur a la redaction du code rituel et des lois qui ont
definitivement organise la hierarchie. 11. Le livre du Josue
n'est pas, tant s'en faut, la partie la plus recente de l'ouvrage
entier. 12. Le redacteur du Pentateuque se distingue clairement
de l'ancien prophete Moyse." --L'Histoire Sainte et la Loi, Paris,
1879, pp. 23, 24.


He indeed did not himself succeed in reaching a sure position,
but he was the first clearly to perceive and point out how
disconnected are the alleged starting-point of Israel's history
and that history itself. The religious community set up on so
broad a basis in the wilderness, with its sacred centre and uniform
organisation, disappears and leaves no trace as soon as Israel
settles in a land of its own, and becomes, in any proper sense, a
nation. The period of the Judges presents itself to us as a
confused chaos, out of which order and coherence are gradually
evolved under the pressure of external circumstances, but perfectly
naturally and without the faintest reminiscence of a sacred
unifying constitution that had formerly existed. Hebrew antiquity
shows absolutely no tendencies towards a hierocracy; power is
wielded solely by the heads of families and of tribes, and by
the kings, who exercise control over religious worship also, and
appoint and depose its priests. The influence possessed by the
latter is purely moral; the Torah of God is not a document in
their hands which guarantees their own position, but merely an
instruction for others in their mouths; like the word of the
prophets, it has divine authority but not political sanction, and
has validity only in so far as it is voluntarily accepted. And
as for the literature which has come down to us from the period of
the Kings, it would puzzle the very best intentions to beat up so
many as two or three unambiguous allusions to the Law, and these
cannot be held to prove anything when one considers, by way of
contrast, what Homer was to the Greeks.

To complete the marvel, in post-exile Judaism the Mosaism which
until then had been only latent suddenly emerges into prominence
everywhere. We now find the Book regarded as the foundation of all
higher life, and the Jews, to borrow the phrase of the Koran, are
"the people of the Book;" we have the sanctuary with its priests
and Levites occupying the central position, and the people as a
congregation encamped around it; the cultus, with its
burnt-offerings and sin-offerings, its purifications and its
abstinences, its feasts and Sabbaths, strictly observed as
prescribed by the Law, is now the principal business of life.
When we take the community of the second temple and compare it
with the ancient people of Israel, we are at once able to realise
how far removed was thc latter from so-called Mosaism. The Jews
themselves were thoroughly conscious of the distance. The
revision of the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, undertaken
towards the end of the Babylonian exile, a revision much more
thorough than is commonly assumed, condemns as heretical the whole
age of the Kings. At a later date, as the past became more
invested with a certain nimbus of sanctity, men preferred to clothe
it with the characters of legitimacy rather than sit in judgment
upon it. The Book of Chronicles shows in what manner it was
necessary to deal with the history of bygone times when it was
assumed that the Mosaic hierocracy was their fundamental

2. The foregoing remarks are designed merely to make it plain
that the problem we have set before us is not an imaginary one,
but actual and urgent. They are intended to introduce it; but to
solve it is by no means so easy. The question what is the
historical place of the Law does not even admit of being put in
these simple terms. For the Law, If by that word we understand
the entire Pentateuch, is no literary unity, and no simple
historical quantity./1/

1. Compare the article "Pentateuch" in the Ninth edition
of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. xviii.

Since the days of Peyrerius and Spinoza, criticism has acknowledged
the complex character of that remarkable literary production,
and from Jean Astruc onwards has laboured, not without success,
at disentangling its original elements. At present there are
a number of results that can be regarded as settled. The following
are some of them. The five Books of Moses and the Book of Joshua
constitute one whole, the conquest of the Promised Land rather than
the death of Moses forming the true conclusion of the patriarchal
history, the exodus, and the wandering in the wilderness.
From a literary point of view, accordingly, it is more accurate
to speak of the Hexateuch than of the Pentateuch. Out of this whole,
the Book of Deuteronomy, as essentially an independent law-book,
admits of being separated most easily. Of what remains,
the parts most easily distinguished belong to the so-called
"main stock" ("Grundschrift"), formerly also called the Elohistic
document, on account of the use it makes of the divine name Elohim
up to the time of Moses, and designated by Ewald, with reference
to the regularly recurring superscriptions in Genesis, as the Book of
Origins. It is distinguished by its liking for number, and
measure, and formula generally, by its stiff pedantic style, by
its constant use of certain phrases and turns of expression which
do not occur elsewhere in the older Hebrew; its characteristics
are more strongly marked than those of any of the others, and
make it accordingly the easiest to recognise with certainty. Its
basis is the Book of Leviticus and thc allied portions of the
adjoining books,-- Exodus xxv.-xl., with the exception of chaps.
xxxii.-xxxiv., and Num.i.-x., xv.-xix., xxv.-xxxvi., with trifling
exceptions. It thus contains legislation chiefly, and, in point of
fact, relates substantially to the worship of the tabernacle and
cognate matters. It is historical only in form; the history
serves merely as a framework on which to arrange thc legislative
material, or as a mask to disguise it. For the most part, the
thread of the narrative is extremely thin, and often serves
merely to carry out the chronology, which is kept up without a
hiatus from the Creation to the Exodus; it becomes fuller only on
the occasions in which other interests come into play, as, for
example, in Genesis, with regard to the three preludes to the
Mosaic covenant which are connected with the names of Adam, Noah,
and Abraham respectively. When this fundamental document is also
separated out as well as Deuteronomy, there remains the Jehovistic
history-book, which, in contrast with the two others, is
essentially of a narrative character, and sets forth with full
sympathy and enjoyment the materials handed down by tradition.
The story of the patriarchs, which belongs to this document almost
entirely, is what best marks its character; that story is not
here dealt with merely as a summary introduction to something of
greater importance which is to follow, but as a subject of primary
importance, deserving the fullest treatment possible. Legislative
elements have been taken into it only at one point, where they
fit into the historical connection, namely, when the giving of the
Law at Sinai is spoken of (Exodusxx.-xxiii., xxxiv.)

Scholars long rested satisfied with this twofold division of the
non-Deuteronomic Hexateuch, until Hupfeld demonstrated in certain
parts of Genesis, which until then had been assigned partly to the
"main stock" and partly to the Jehovist, the existence of a third
continuous source, the work of the so-called younger Elohist. The
choice of this name was due to the circumstance that in this
document also Elohim is the ordinary name of the Deity, as it is
in the "main stock" up to Exodus vi.; the epithet "younger,"
however, is better left out, as it involves an unproved assumption,
and besides, is no longer required for distinction's sake, now that
the "main stock" is no longer referred to under so unsuitable a
name as that of Elohist. Hupfeld further assumed that all the
three sources continued to exist separately until some one at a
later date brought them together simultaneously into a single
whole. But this is a view that cannot be maintained: not merely
is the Elohist in his matter and in his manner of looking at things
most closely akin to the Jehovist; his document has come down to
us as Noldeke was thc first to perceive, only in extracts embodied
in the Jehovist narrative./1/

Hermann Hupfeld, Die Quellen der Genesis u. die Art ihrer Zusammersetzung,
Berlin, 1853; Theodor Noldeke, Die s. g. Grundschrift des Pentateuch,
in Untersuchungen zur Kritik des Alten Testaments, Kiel, 1869.

Thus, notwithstanding Hupfeld's discovery, the old division
into two great sections continues to hold good, and there is every
reason for adhering to this primary distinction as the basis of
further historical research, in spite of the fact, which is coming
to be more and more clearly perceived, that not only the
Jehovistic document, but the "main stock" as well, are complex
products, and that alongside of them occur hybrid or posthumous
elements which do not admit of being simply referred to either the
one or the other formation. /2/

2. J. Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs, in Jahrb. f.
Deutsche Theologie, 1876, pp. 392-450, 531-602; 1877, pp. 407-479.
I do not insist on all the details, but, as regards the way in which
the literary process which resulted in the formation of the Pentateuch
is to be looked at in general, I believe I had indicated the proper
line of investigation. Hitherto the only important corrections
I have received have been those of Kuenen in his Contributions
to the Criticism of the Pentateuch and Joshua, published in the Leyden
Theologisch Tijdschrift; but these are altogether welcome,
inasmuch as they only free my own fundamental view from some
relics of the old leaven of a mechanical separation of sources
which had continued to adhere to it. For what Kuenen points out
is, that certain elements assigned by me to the Elohist are not
fragments of a once independent whole, but interpolated and
parasitic additions. What effect this demonstration may have on
the judgment we form of the Elohist himself is as yet uncertain.
In the following pages the Jehovistic history-book is denoted by
the symbol JE, its Jehovistic part by J, and the Elohistic by E;
the "main stock" pure and simple, which is distinguished by its
systematising history and is seen unalloyed in Genesis, is called
the Book of the Four Covenants and is symbolised by Q; for the
"main stock" as a whole (as modified by an editorial process) the
title of Priestly Code and the symbol RQ (Q and Revisers) are

Now the Law, whose historical position we have to determine,
is the so-called "main stack," which, both by its contents
and by its origin, is entitled to be called the Priestly
Code, and will accordingly be so designated. The Priestly Code
preponderates over the rest of the legislation in force, as well as
in bulk; in all matters of primary importance it is the normal
and final authority. It was according to the mode furnished by it
that the Jews under Ezra ordered their sacred community, and upon it
are formed our conceptions of the Mosaic theocracy, with the
tabernacle at its centre, the high priest at its head, the priests
and Levites as its organs, the legitimate cultus as its regular
function. It is precisely this Law, so called par exceIlence,
that creates the difficulties out of which our problem rises, and
it is only in connection with it that the great difference of
opinion exists as to date. With regard to the Jehovistic document,
all are happily agreed that, substantially at all events, in
language, horizon, and other features, it dates from the golden age
of Hebrew literature, to which the finest parts of Judges, Samuel,
and Kings, and the oldest extant prophetical writings also
belong,--the period of the kings and prophets which preceded the
dissolution of the two Israelite kingdoms by the Assyrians.
About the origin of Deuteronomy there is still less dispute; in
all circles where appreciation of scientific results can be looked
for at all, it is recognised that it was composed in the same age
as that in which it was discovered, and that it was made the rule
of Josiah's reformation, which took place about a generation before
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans. It is only in
the case of the Priestly Code that opinions differ widely; for it
tries hard to imitate the costume of the Mosaic period, and, with
whatever success, to disguise its own. This is not nearly so much
the case with Deuteronomy, which, in fact, allows the real
situation (that of the period during which, Samaria having been
destroyed, only the kingdom of Judah continued to subsist) to
reveal itself very plainly through that which is assumed (xii.8,
xix.8). And the Jehovist does not even pretend to being a Mosaic
law of any kind; it aims at being a simple book of history; the
distance between the present and the past spoken of is not
concealed in the very least. It is here that all the marks are
found which attracted the attention of Abenezra and afterwards of
Spinoza, such as Gen. xii. 6 ("And the Canaanite was then in the
land"), Gen.xxxvi.31 ("These are the kings who reigned in Edom
before the children of Israel had a king"), Num. xii.6, 7, Deut.
xxxiv.10 ("There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto
Moses"). The Priestly Code, on the other hand, guards itself
against all reference to later times and settled life in Canaan,
which both in the Jehovistic Book of the Covenant (Exodus
xxi.-xxiii.) and in Deuteronomy are the express basis of the
legislation: it keeps itself carefully and strictly within the
limits of the situation in the wilderness, for which in all
seriousness it seeks to give the law. It has actually been
successful, with its movable tabernacle, its wandering camp, and
other archaic details, in so concealing the true date of its
composition that its many serious inconsistencies with what we
know, from other sources, of Hebrew antiquity previous to the
exile, are only taken as proving that it lies far beyond all known
history, and on account of its enormous antiquity can hardly be
brought into any connection with it. It is the Priestly Code,
then, that presents us with our problem.

3. The instinct was a sound one which led criticism for the time
being to turn aside from the historical problem which had
originally presented itself to De Wette, and afterwards had been
more distinctly apprehended by George and Vatke, in order, in the
first instance, to come to some sort of clear understanding as to
the composition of the Pentateuch. But a mistake was committed
when it was supposed that by a separation of the sources (in which
operation attention was quite properly directed chiefly to
Genesis) that great historical question had been incidentally
answered. The fact was, that it had been merely put to sleep, and
Graf has the credit of having, after a considerable interval,
awakened it again. In doing so, indeed, he in turn laboured under
the disadvantage of not knowing what success had been achieved in
separating the sources, and thereby he became involved in a
desperate and utterly untenable assumption. This assumption,
however, had no necessary connection with his own hypothesis, and
at once fell to the ground when the level to which Hupfeld brought
the criticism of the text had been reached. Graf originally
followed the older view, espoused by Tuch in particular, that in
Genesis the Priestly Code, with its so obtrusively bare skeleton,
is the "main stock," and that it is the Jehovist who supplements,
and is therefore of course the later. But since, on the other
hand, he regarded the ritual legislature of the middle books as
much more recent than the work of the Jehovist, he was compelled to
tear it asunder as best he could from its introduction in Genesis,
and to separate the two halves of the Priestly Code by half a
millennium. But Hupfeld had long before made it quite clear that
the Jehovist is no mere supplementer, but the author of a perfectly
independent work, and that the passages, such as Gen. xx.-xxii.,
usually cited as examples of the way in which the Jehovist worked
over the "main stock," really proceed from quite another
source,--the Elohist. Thus the stumbling-block of Graf had already
been taken out of the way, and his path had been made clear by an
unlooked-for ally. Following Kuenen's suggestion, he did not
hesitate to take the helping-hand extended to him; he gave up his
violent division of the Priestly Code, and then had no difficulty
in deducing from the results which he had obtained with respect to
the main legal portion similar consequences with regard to the
narrative part in Genesis. /1/

1. K. H. Graf, Die s. g. Grundschrift des Pentateucks, in Merx's
Archiv (1869), pp. 466-477. As early as 1866 he had already expressed
himself in a letter to Kuenen November 12) as follows:-- "Vous me
faites pressentir une solution de cette enigme...c'est que les
parties elohistiques de la Genese seraient posterieures aux parties
jehovistiques." Compare Kuenen, Theol. Tijdschrift (1870), p.412.
Graf had also in this respect followed Reuss, who (ut supra,
p. 24) says of himself: "Le cote faible de ma critique a ete que,
a l'egard de tout ce qui ne rentrait pas dans les points enumeres
ci-dessus, je restais dans l'orniere tracee par mes devanciers,
admettant sans plus ample examen que le Pentateuque etait
l'ouvrage de l'HISTORIEN elohiste, complete par l'HISTORIEN
jehoviste, et ne me rendant pas compte de la maniere dont l'element
legal, dont je m'etais occupe exclusivement, serait venu se
joindre a l'element historique.

The foundations were now laid; it is Kuenen who has since done most
for the further development of the hypothesis./2/

2. A. Kuenen, Die Godsdienst van Israel, Haarlem, 1869-70 (Eng. transl.
Religion of Israel, 1874-5), and De priesterlijke Bestanddeelen
van Pentateuch en Josua, in Theol. Tijdschr.(1870), pp. 391-426.

The defenders of the prevailing opinion maintained their ground as well
as they could, but from long possession had got somewhat settled
on their lees. They raised against the assailants a series of
objections, all of which, however, laboured more or less under the
disadvantage that they rested upon the foundation which had
already been shattered. Passages were quoted from Amos and Hosea
as implying an acquaintance with the Priestly Code, but they were
not such as could make any impression on those who were already
persuaded that the latter was the more recent. Again it was
asserted, and almost with violence, that the Priestly Code could
not be later than Deuteronomy, and that the Deuteronomist actually
had it before him. But the evidences of this proved extremely
problematical, while, on the other hand, the dependence of
Deuteronomy, as a whole, on the Jehovist came out with the utmost
clearness. Appeal was made to the latest redaction of the entire
Hexateuch, a redaction which was assumed to be Deuteronomistic;
but this yielded the result that the deuteronomistic redaction
could nowhere be traced in any of the parts belonging to the
Priestly Code. Even the history of the language itself was
forced to render service against Graf: it had already been too
much the custom to deal with that as if it were soft wax. To say
all in a word, the arguments which were brought into play as a
rule derived all their force from a moral conviction that the
ritual legislation must be old, and could not possibly have been
committed to writing for the first time within the period of
Judaism; that it was not operative before then, that it did not
even admit of being carried into effect in the conditions that
prevailed previous to the exile, could not shake the conviction--
all the firmer because it did not rest on argument--that at least
it existed previously.

The firemen never came near the spot where the conflagration
raged; for it is only within the region of religious antiquities
and dominant religious ideas,--the region which Vatke in his
Biblische Theologie had occupied in its full breadth, and where the
real battle first kindled--that the controversy can be brought to a
definite issue. In making the following attempt in this direction,
I start from the comparison of the three constituents of the
Pentateuch,--the Priestly Code, Deuteronomy, and the work of the
Jehovist. The contents of the first two are, of course,
legislation, as we have seen; those of the third are narrative;
but, as the Decalogue (Exodus xx.), the Law of the two Tables
(Exodus xxxiv.), and the Book of the Covenant (Exodus xxi.-xxiii.)
show, the legislative element is not wholly absent from the
Jehovist, and much less is the historical absent from the Priestly
Code or Deuteronomy. Further, each writer's legal standpoint is
mirrored in his account of the history, and conversely; thus there
is no lack either of indirect or of direct points of comparison.
Now it is admitted that the three constituent elements are
separated from each other by wide intervals; the question then
arises, In what order? Deuteronomy stands in a relation of
comparative nearness both to the Jehovist and to the Priestly
Code; the distance between the last two is by far the
greatest,--so great that on this ground alone Ewald as early as
the year 183I (Stud. u. Krit., p. 604) declared it impossible
that the one could have been written to supplement the other.
Combining this observation with the undisputed priority of the
Jehovist over Deuteronomy, it will follow that the Priestly Code
stands last in the series. But such a consideration, although, so
far as I know, proceeding upon admitted data, has no value as long
as it confines itself to such mere generalities. It is necessary
to trace the succession of the three elements in detail, and at
once to test and to fix each by reference to an independent
standard, namely, the inner development of the history of Israel
so far as that is known to us by trustworthy testimonies, from
independent sources.

The literary and historical investigation on which we thus enter
is both wide and difficult. It falls into three parts. In the
first, which lays the foundations, the data relating to sacred
archaeology are brought together and arranged in such a way as to
show that in the Pentateuch the elements follow upon one another
and from one another precisely as the steps of the development
demonstrably do in the history. Almost involuntarily this
argument has taken the shape of a sort of history of the
ordinances of worship. Rude and colourless that history must be
confessed to be,--a fault due to the materials, which hardly allow
us to do more than mark the contrast between pre-exilic and
post-exilic, and, in a secondary measure, that between
Deuteronomic and pre-Deuteronomic. At the same time there is this
advantage arising out of the breadth of the periods treated: they
cannot fail to distinguish themselves from each other in a tangible
manner; it must be possible in the case of historical, and even of
legal works, to recognise whether they were written before or
after the exile. The second part, in many respects dependent on
the first, traces the influence of the successively prevailing
ideas and tendencies upon the shaping of historical tradition, and
follows the various phases in which that was conceived and set
forth. It contains, so to speak, a history of tradition. The
third part sums up the critical results of the preceding two, with
some further determining considerations, and concludes with a more
general survey.

The assumptions I make will find an ever-recurring justification
in the course of the investigation; the two principal are, that
the work of the Jehovist, so far as the nucleus of it is concerned,
belongs to the course of the Assyrian period, and that Deuteronomy
belongs to its close. Moreover, however strongly I am convinced
that the latter is to be dated in accordance with 2Kings xxii., I
do not, like Graf, so use this position as to make it the fulcrum
for my lever. Deuteronomy is the starting-point, not in the
sense that without it it would be impossible to accomplish
anything, but only because, when its position has been
historically ascertained, we cannot decline to go on, but must
demand that the position of the Priestly Code should also be fixed
by reference to history. My inquiry proceeds on a broader basis
than that of Graf, and comes nearer to that of Vatke, from whom
indeed I gratefully acknowledge myself to have learnt best and


" Legem non habentes natura faciunt legis opera."--Romans ii.

[ "(When Gentiles) who do not have the law, do instinctively
what the law requires...." Romans 2:14 NRSV ]


As we learn from the New Testament, the Jews and the Samaritans in
the days of Jesus were not agreed on the question which was the
proper place of worship, but that there could be only one was
taken to be as certain as the unity of God Himself. The Jews
maintained that place to be the temple at Jerusalem, and when it
was destroyed they ceased to sacrifice. But this oneness of the
sanctuary in Israel was not originally recognised either in fact
or in law; it was a slow growth of time. With the help of the Old
Testament we are still quite able to trace the process. In doing
so, it is possible to distinguish several stages of development.
We shall accordingly proceed to inquire whether the three
constituent parts of the Pentateuch give tokens of any
relationship to one or other of these; whether and how they fall
in with the course of the historical development which we are able
to follow by the aid of the historical and prophetic books from
the period of the Judges onwards.

I.I.1. For the earliest period of the history of Israel, all
that precedes the building of the temple, not a trace can be found
of any sanctuary of exclusive legitimacy. In the Books of Judges
and Samuel hardly a place is mentioned at which we have not at
least casual mention of an altar and of sacrifice. In great
measure this multiplicity of sanctuaries was part of the heritage
taken over from the Canaanites by the Hebrews; as they
appropriated the towns and the culture generally of the previous
inhabitants, so also did they take possession of their sacred
piaces. The system of high places (Bamoth), with all the
apparatus thereto belonging, is certainly Canaanite originally
(Deut. xii.2, 30; Num. xxxiii.52; Exodus xxxiv.12 seq.), but
afterwards is of quite general occurrence among the Hebrews. At
Shechem and Gibeon the transition takes place almost in the full
light of history; some other old-Israelite places of worship,
certain of which are afterwards represented as Levitical towns,
betray their origin by their names at least, e.g., Bethshemesh or
Ir Heres (Sun-town), and Ashtaroth Karnaim (the two-horned
Astarte). In the popular recollection, also, the memory of the
fact that many of the most prominent sacrificial seats were
already in existence at the date of the immigration continues to
survive. Shechem, Bethel, Beersheba, figure in Genesis as
instituted by the patriarchs; other equally important holy
sites, not so. The reason for the distinction can only lie in a
consciousness of the more recent origin of the latter; those of
the one class had been found by the people when they came, those
of the other category they had themselves established. For of
course, if the Hebrews did not hesitate to appropriate to
themselves the old holy places of the country, neither did they
feel any difficulty in instituting new ones. In Gilgal and
Shiloh, in the fixed camps where, in the first instance, they had
found a permanent foothold in Palestine proper, there forthwith
arose important centres of worship; so likewise in other places of
political importance, even in such as only temporarily come into
prominence, as Ophrah, Ramah, and Nob near Gibeah. And, apart from
the greater cities with their more or less regular religious
service, it is perfectly permissible to erect an altar extempore,
and offer sacrifice wherever an occasion presents itself. When,
after the battle of Michmash, the people, tired and hungry, fell
upon the cattle they had taken, and began to devour the flesh with
the blood (that is, without pouring out the blood on the altar),
Saul caused a great stone to be erected, and ordered that every
man should slaughter his ox or his sheep there. This was the
first altar which Saul erected to Jehovah, adds the narrator,
certainly not as a reproach, nor even to signalise his conduct as
anything surprising or exceptional. The instance is all the more
instructive, because it shows how the prohibition to eat flesh
without rendering the blood back to God at a time when the people
did not live crowded together within a quite limited area
necessarily presupposed liberty to sacrifice anywhere--or to
slaughter anywhere; for originally the two words are absolutely

It need not be said that the sacrificial seats (even when the
improvised ones are left out of account) were not all alike in the
regard in which they were held, or in the frequency with which
they were resorted to. Besides purely local ones, there were
others to which pilgrimages were made from far and near. Towards
the close of the period of the judges, Shiloh appears to have
acquired an importance that perhaps extended even beyond the limits
of the tribe of Joseph. By a later age the temple there was even
regarded as the prototype of the temple of Solomon, that is, as the
one legitimate place of worship to which Jehovah had made a grant
of all the burnt-offerings of the children of Israel (Jer. vii.12;
1Samuel ii. 27-36). But, in point-of fact, if a prosperous man of
Ephraim or Benjamin made a pilgrimage to the joyful festival at
Shiloh at the turn of the year, the reason for his doing so was not
that he could have had no opportunity at his home in Ramah or
Gibeah for eating and drinking before the Lord. Any strict
centralisation is for that period inconceivable, alike in the
religious as in every other sphere. This is seen even in the
circumstance that the destruction of the temple of Shiloh, the
priesthood of which we find officiating at Nob a little later, did
not exercise the smallest modifying influence upon the character
and position of the cultus; Shiloh disappears quietly from the
scene, and is not mentioned again until we learn from Jeremiah that
at least from the time when Solomon's temple was founded its temple
lay in ruins.

For the period during which the temple of Jerusalem was not yet in
existence, even the latest redaction of the historical books (which
perhaps does not everywhere proceed from the same hand, but all
dates from the same period--that of the Babylonian exile--and has
its origin in the same spirit) leaves untouched the multiplicity
of altars and of holy places. No king after Solomon is left
uncensured for having tolerated the high places, but Samuel is
permitted in his proper person to preside over a sacrificial feast
at the Bamah of his native town, and Solomon at the beginning of
his reign to institute a similar one at the great Bamah of Gibeon,
without being blamed. The offensive name is again and again
employed in the most innocent manner in 1Samuel ix., x., and the
later editors allow it to pass unchallenged. The principle which
guides this apparently unequal distribution of censure becomes
clear from 1Kings iii. 2: "The people sacrificed upon the high
places, for as yet no house to the name of Jehovah had been
built." Not until the house had been built to the name of
Jehovah--such is the idea--did the law come into force which
forbade having other places of worship besides./1/

1. Compare 1Kings viii. 16. According to Deut. xii.10 seq.,
the local unity of worship becomes law from the time when
the Israelites have found rest (menuha). Comparing 2Samuel vii.11
and 1Kings v. 18 (A.V., v.4), we find that "menuha" first came in
with David and Solomon. The period of the judges must at that time
have been regarded as much shorter than appears in the present chronology.

From the building of the temple of Solomon, which is also treated
as a leading epoch in chronology, a new period in the history of worship
is accordingly dated,--and to a certain extent with justice.
The monarchy in Israel owed its origin to the need which, under severe
external pressure, had come to be felt for bringing together
into the oneness of a people and a kingdom the hitherto
very loosely connected tribes and families of the Hebrews;
it had an avowedly centralising tendency, which very naturally
laid hold of the cultus as an appropriate means for the attainment
of the political end. Gideon even, the first who came near
a regal position, erected a costly sanctuary in his city, Ophrah.
David caused the ark of Jehovah to be fetched into his fortress
on Mount Sion, and attached value to the circumstance
of having for its priest the representative of the old family
which had formerly kept it at Shiloh. Solomon's temple also was
designed to increase the attractiveness of the city of his
residence. It is indubitable that in this way political
centralisation gave an impulse to a greater centralisation of
worship also, and the tendency towards the latter continued to
operate after the separation of the two kingdoms,--in Israel not
quite in the same manner as in Judah. Royal priests, great
national temples, festal gatherings of the whole people, sacrifices
on an enormous scale, these were the traits by which the cultus,
previously (as it would seem) very simple, now showed the impress
of a new time. One other fact is significant: the domestic feasts
and sacrifices of single families, which in David's time must still
have been general, gradually declined and lost their importance as
social circles widened and life became more public.

But this way of regarding the influence of the monarchy upon the
history of the worship is not that of the author of the Books of
Kings. He views the temple of Solomon as a work undertaken
exclusively in the interests of pure worship, and as differing
entirely in origin from the sacred buildings of the kings of
Israel, with which accordingly it is not compared, but contrasted
as the genuine is contrasted with the spurious. It is in its
nature unique, and from the outset had the design of setting aside
all other holy places,--a religious design independent of and
unconnected with politics. The view, however, is unhistorical; it
carries back to the original date of the temple, and imports into
the purpose of its foundation the significance which it had
acquired in Judah shortly before the exile. In reality the
temple was not at the outset all that it afterwards became. Its
influence was due to its own weight, and not to a monopoly
conferred by Solomon. We nowhere learn that that king, like a
forerunner of Josiah, in order to favour his new sanctuary sought
to abolish all the others; there is not the faintest historical
trace of any such sudden and violent interference with the
previously existing arrangements of worship. Never once did
Solomon's successors, confined though they were to the little
territory of Judah, and therefore in a position in which the
experiment might perhaps have been practicable, make the attempt
(which certainly would have been in their interest) to concentrate
all public worship within their own temple, though in other
directions we find them exercising a very arbitrary control over
affairs of religion. The high places were not removed; this is
what is regularly told us in the case of them all. For Israel
properly so called, Jerusalem was at no time, properly speaking,
the place which Jehovah had chosen; least of all was it so after
the division of the kingdom.

The Ephraimites flocked in troops through the entire length of the
southern kingdom as pilgrims to Beersheba, and, in common with the
men of Judah, to Gilgal on the frontier. Jerusalem they left
unvisited. In their own land they served Jehovah at Bethel and
Dan, at Shechem and Samaria, at Penuel and Mizpah, and at many
other places. Every town had its Bamah, in the earlier times
generally on an open site at the top of the hill on the slopes of
which the houses were. Elijah, that great zealot for purity of
worship, was so far from being offended by the high places and the
multiplicity of altars to Jehovah that their destruction brought
bitterness to his soul as the height of wickedness, and with his
own hand he rebuilt the altar that had fallen into ruins on Mount
Carmel. And that the improvised offering on extraordinary
occasions had also not fallen into disuse is shown by the case of
Elisha, who, when his call came as he was following the plough,
hewed his oxen to pieces on the spot and sacrificed. In this
respect matters after the building of Solomon's temple continued to
be just as they had been before. If people and judges or kings
alike, priests and prophets, men like Samuel and Elijah, sacrificed
without hesitation whenever occasion and opportunity presented
themselves, it is manifest that during the whole of that period
nobody had the faintest suspicion that such conduct was heretical
and forbidden. If a theophany made known to Joshua the sanctity
of Gilgal, gave occasion to Gideon and Manoah to rear altars at
their homes, drew the attention of David to the threshing-floor of
Araunah, Jehovah Himself was regarded as the proper founder of all
these sanctuaries,--and this not merely at the period of the
Judges, but more indubitably still at that of the narrator of
these legends. He rewarded Solomon's first sacrifice on the great
Bamah at Gibeon with a gracious revelation, and cannot, therefore,
have been displeased by it. After all this, it is absurd to speak
of any want of legality in what was then the ordinary practice;
throughout the whole of the earlier period of the history of
Israel, the restriction of worship to a single selected place was
unknown to any one even as a pious desire. Men believed themselves
indeed to be nearer God at Bethel or at Jerusalem than at any
indifferent place, but of such gates of heaven there were several;
and after all, the ruling idea was that which finds its
most distinct expression in 2Kings v.17,--that Palestine as a whole
was Jehovah's house, His ground and territory. Not outside of
Jerusalem, but outside of Canaan had one to sojourn far from His
presence, under the dominion and (cujus regio ejus religio) in the
service of strange gods. The sanctity of the land did not depend
on that of the temple; the reverse was the case. /1/

1. Gen. iv.14, 16: when Cain is driven out of the land (Canaan),
he is driven from the presence of Jehovah (Jonah i.3, 10).
Gen. xlvi.4: Jacob is not to hesitate about going down into Egypt,
for Jehovah will, by a special act of grace, change His dwelling-place
along with him. Exodus xv.17: "Thou broughtest thy people to the mountain
of thine inheritance, to the place which thou hadst prepared for
thyself to dwell in," the explanation which follows, "to the
sanctuary which thy hand had established," is out of place, for
the mountain of the inheritance can only be the mountainous land
of Palestine. 1Samuel xxvi.19: David, driven by Saul into foreign
parts, is thereby violently sundered from his family share in
the inheritance of Jehovah, and compelled to serve other gods.
Hos. viii.1: one like an eagle comes against the house of
Jehovah, i.e., the Assyrian comes against Jehovah's land. Hos.
ix.15: "I will drive them out of mine house," i.e., the Israelites
out of their land. Most distinct is the language of Hos. ix.3-5:
"They shall not continue to dwell in Jehovah's land; Ephraim must
back to Egypt, and must eat that which is unclean in Assyria. They
shall not any more offer wine-offerings to Jehovah, or set forth
offerings [read with Kuenen Y(RKW for Y(RBW ] before Him; their
bread is as the bread of mourners; whosoever eats of it is
polluted, for their bread shall be only for the staying of hunger,
and shall not be brought into the house of Jehovah. What indeed
will ye do in the time of the solemn assembly and in the day of
the feast of Jehovah? "Compare Jer. xvi.13; Ezek. iv.13; Mal.
ii.11; 2Kings xvii.25 seq. It is also possible that the "great
indignation" of 2Kings iii.27 is regarded less as Jehovah's than as
that of Chemosh, in whose land the army of Israel is at the time.

I.I.2. A change in this respect first begins to be prepared at that
important epoch of the religious history of Israel which is marked
by the fall of Samaria and the rise of the prophets connected
therewith. Amos and Hosea presuppose a condition of matters just
such as has been described: everywhere--in the towns, on the
mountains, under green trees--a multitude of sanctuaries and
altars, at which Jehovah is served in good faith, not with the
purpose of provoking Him, but in order to gain His favour. The
language held by these men was one hitherto unheard of when they
declared that Gilgal, and Bethel, and Beersheba, Jehovah's
favourite seats, were an abomination to Him; that the gifts and
offerings with which He was honoured there kindled His wrath
instead of appeasing it; that Israel was destined to be buried
under the ruins of His temples, where protection and refuge were
sought (Amos ix.). What did they mean ? It would be to
misunderstand the prophets to suppose that they took offence at
the holy places-- which Amos still calls Bamoth (vii.9), and that
too not in scorn, but with the deepest pathos--in and by
themselves, on account of their being more than one, or not being
the right ones. Their zeal is directed, not against the places,
but against the cultus there carried on, and, in fact not merely
against its false character as containing all manner of abuses, but
almost more against itself, against the false value attached to it.
The common idea was that just as Moab showed itself to be the
people of Chemosh because it brought to Chemosh its offerings and
gifts, so Israel proved itself Jehovah's people by dedicating its
worship to Him, and was such all the more surely as its worship
was zealous and splendid; in times of danger and need, when His
help was peculiarly required, the zeal of the worshippers was
doubled and trebled. It is against this that the prophets raise
their protest while they demand quite other performances as a
living manifestation of the relation of Israel to Jehovah. This
was the reason of their so great hostility to the cultus, and the
source of their antipathy to the great sanctuaries, where
superstitious zeal outdid itself; it was this that provoked their
wrath against the multiplicity of the altars which flourished so
luxuriantly on the soil of a false confidence. That the holy
places should be abolished, but the cultus itself remain as before
the main concern of religion, only limited to a single locality
was by no means their wish; but at the same time, in point of
fact, it came about as an incidental result of their teaching that
the high place in Jerusalem ultimately abolished all the other
Bamoth. External circumstances, it must be added, contributed most
essentially towards the result.

As long as the northern kingdom stood, it was there that the main
current of lsraelite life manifested itself; a glance into the
Books of Kings or into that of Amos is enough to make this clear.
In Jerusalem, indeed, the days of David and of Solomon remained
unforgotten; yearning memories went back to them, and great
pretensions were based upon them, but with these the actual state
of matters only faintly corresponded. When Samaria fell, Israel
shrivelled up to the narrow dimensions of Judah, which alone
survived as the people of Jehovah. Thereby the field was left
clear for Jerusalem. The royal city had always had a weighty
preponderance over the little kingdom, and within it, again, the
town had yielded in importance to the temple. From the few
narratives we have relating to Judah one almost gathers an
impression as if it had no other concern besides those of the
temple; the kings in particular appear to have regarded the
charge of their palace sanctuary as the chief of all their

1. Nearly all the Judaean narratives in the Books of Kings relate
to the temple and the measures taken by the ruling princes with
reference to this their sanctuary.

In this way the increased importance of Judah after the fall of Samaria
accrued in the first instance to the benefit of the capital
and its sanctuary, especially as what Judah gained by the fall
of her rival was not so much political strength as an increase
of religious self-consciousness. If the great house of God
upon Mount Zion had always overtopped the other shrines in Judah,
it now stood without any equal in all Israel. But it was the prophets
who led the way in determining the inferences to be drawn from the change
in the face of things. Hitherto they had principally had their eyes
upon the northern kingdom, its threatened collapse, and the
wickedness of its inhabitants, and thus had poured out their wrath
more particularly upon the places of worship there. Judah they
judged more favourably, both on personal and on substantial
grounds, and they hoped for its preservation, not concealing their
sympathies for Jerusalem (Amos i.2). Under the impression produced
by their discourses accordingly, the fall of Samaria was
interpreted as a judgment of God against the sinful kingdom and in
favour of the fallen house of David, and the destruction of the
sanctuaries of Israel was accepted as an unmistakable declaration
on Jehovah's part against His older seats on behalf of His
favourite dwelling on Zion. Finally, the fact that twenty years
afterwards Jerusalem made her triumphant escape from the danger
which had proved fatal to her haughty rival, that at the critical
moment the Assyrians under Sennacherib were suddenly constrained
to withdraw from her, raised to the highest pitch the veneration
in which the temple was held. In this connection special emphasis
is usually laid-- and with justice--upon the prophetical activity
of Isaiah, whose confidence in the firm foundation of Zion
continued unmoved, even when the rock began to shake in an alarming
way. Only it must not be forgotten that the significance of
Jerusalem to Isaiah did not arise from the temple of Solomon, but
from the fact that it was the city of David and the focus of his
kingdom, the central point, not of the cultus, but of the
sovereignty of Jehovah over His people. The holy mount was to
him the entire city as a political unity, with its citizens,
councillors, and judges (xi.9); his faith in the sure foundation
on which Zion rested was nothing more than a faith in the living
presence of Jehovah in the camp of Israel. But the contemporaries
of the prophet interpreted otherwise his words and the events which
had occurred. In their view Jehovah dwelt on Zion because His
house was there; it was the temple that had been shown by history
to be His true seat, and its inviolability was accordingly the
pledge of the indestructibility of the nation. This belief was
quite general in Jeremiah's time, as is seen in the extremely
vivid picture of the seventh chapter of his book; but even as
early as the time of Micah, in the first third of the seventh
century, the temple must have been reckoned a house of God of an
altogether peculiar order, so as to make it a paradox to put it on
a level with the Bamoth of Judah, and a thing unheard of to believe
in its destruction.

At the same time, notwithstanding the high and universal reverence
in which the temple was held, the other sanctuaries still
continued, in the first instance, to subsist alongside of it.
King Hezekiah indeed is said to have even then made an attempt
to abolish them, but the attempt, having passed away without leaving
any trace, is of a doubtful nature. It is certain that the
prophet Isaiah did not labour for the removal of the Bamoth. In
one of his latest discourses his anticipation for that time of
righteousness and the fear of God which is to dawn after the
Assyrian crisis is: "Then shall ye defile the silver covering of
your graven images and the golden plating of your molten images--ye
shall cast them away as a thing polluted; Begone! shall ye say
unto them" (xxx.22). If he thus hopes for a purification from
superstitious accretions of the places where Jehovah is worshipped,
it is clear that he is not thinking of their total abolition. Not
until about a century after the destruction of Samaria did men
venture to draw the practical conclusion from the belief in the
unique character of the temple at Jerusalem. That this was not
done from a mere desire to be logical, but with a view to further
reforms, need not be said. With the tone of repudiation in which
the earlier prophets, in the zeal of their opposition, had
occasionally spoken of practices of worship at large, there was
nothing to be achieved; the thing to be aimed at was not
abolition, but reformation, and the end it was believed would be
helped by concentration of all ritual in the capital. Prophets
and priests appear to have made common cause in the prosecution of
the work. It was the high priest Hilkiah who in the first instance
called attention to the discovered book which was to be made the
basis of action; the prophetess Huldah confirmed its divine
contents; the priests and prophets were a prominent element in the
assembly at which the new law was promulgated and sworn to. Now
an intimate fellowship between these two leading classes appears to
be characteristic of the whole course of the religious movement in
Judah, and to have been necessarily connected with the lines on
which that movement advanced; /1/

1. While Hosea, the man of northern Israel, frequently assails
the clergy of his home, and lays upon them the chief share of the
blame for the depraved and blinded condition of the people, Isaiah
even in his fiercest declamation against the superstitious worship
of the multitude, has not a word to say against the priests, with
whose chief, Uriah, on the contrary, he stands in a relation of
great intimacy. But it is from the Book of Jeremiah, the best
mirror of the contemporary relations in Judah, that the close
connection between priests and prophets can be gathered most
particularly. To a certain extent they shared the possession of
the sanctuary between them. (Compare Lam. ii.20.)

we shall be justified therefore in assuming that the display
of harmony between them on this occasion was not got up merely
for the purposes of scenic effect, but that the change
in the national cultus now proposed was really the common suggestion
of prophets and priests. In point of fact, such a change was equally
in accordance with the interests of the temple and with those
of the prophetic party of reform. To the last named the restriction
of the sacrificial worship must have in itself seemed an advantage;
to it in later times the complete abolition of sacrifice was mainly due,
and something of the later effect doubtless lay in the original
intention. Then, too, the Jehovah of Hebron was only too easily
regarded as distinct from the Jehovah of Bethshemesh or of Bethel,
and so a strictly monarchical conception of God naturally led to
the conclusion that the place of His dwelling and of His worship
could also only be one. All writers of the Chaldaean period
associate monotheism in the closest way with unity of worship
(Jer. ii.28, xi.13). And the choice of the locality could
present no difficulty; the central point of the kingdom had of
necessity also to become the central point of the worship. Even
Jerusalem and the house of Jehovah there might need some cleansing,
but it was clearly entitled to a preference over the obscure
local altars. It was the seat of all higher culture, Iying under
the prophets' eyes, much more readily accessible to light and
air, reform and control. It is also possible, moreover, that the
Canaanite origin of most of the Bamoth, which is not unknown, for
example, to Deuteronomy, may have helped to discredit them, while,
on the other hand, the founding of Jerusalem belonged to the
proudest memories of Israelite history, and the Ark, which had been
the origin of the temple there, had a certain right to be
considered the one genuine Mosaic sanctuary. /1/

1. Luther in his address to the princes of Germany counsels
in the twentieth place that the field chapels and churches be destroyed,
as devices of the devil used by him to strengthen covetousness,
to set up a false and spurious faith, to weaken parochial churches,
to increase taverns and fornication, to squander money and labour
to no purpose, and merely to lead the poor people about by the nose.
(Niemeyer's Reprint, p. 54 )

In the eighteenth year of Josiah, 601 B.C., the first heavy blow fell
upon the local sacrificial places. How vigorously the king set to
work, how new were the measures taken, and how deeply they cut,
can be learned from the narrative of 2Kings xxiii. Yet what a
vitality did the green trees upon the high mountains still
continue to show! Even now they were but polled, not uprooted.
After Josiah's death we again see Bamoth appearing on all hands,
not merely in the country, but even in the capital itself.
Jeremiah has to lament that there are as many altars as towns in
Judah. All that had been attained by the reforming party was
that they could now appeal to a written law that had been solemnly
sworn to by the whole people, standing ever an immovable witness
to the rights of God. But to bring it again into force and to
carry it out was no easy matter, and would certainly have been
impossible to the unaided efforts of the prophets--a Jeremiah or an

I.3 Had the people of Judah remained in peaceful possession of their
land, the reformation of Josiah would hardly have penetrated to
the masses; the threads uniting the present with the past were too
strong. To induce the people to regard as idolatrous and heretical
centres of iniquity the Bamoth, with which from ancestral times
the holiest memories were associated, and some of which, like
Hebron and Beersheba, had been set up by Abraham and Isaac in
person, required a complete breaking-off of the natural tradition
of life, a total severance of all connection with inherited
conditions. This was accomplished by means of the Babylonian
exile, which violently tore the nation away from its native soil,
and kept it apart for half a century,--a breach of historical
continuity than which it is almost impossible to conceive a
greater. The new generation had no natural, but only an
artificial relation to the times of old; the firmly rooted
growths of the old soil, regarded as thorns by the pious, were
extirpated, and the freshly ploughed fallows ready for a new
sowing. It is, of course, far from being the case that the whole
people at that time underwent a general conversion in the sense of
the prophets. Perhaps the majority totally gave up the past, but
just on that account became lost among the heathen, and never
subsequently came into notice. Only the pious ones, who with
trembling followed Jehovah's word, were left as a remnant; they
alone had the strength to maintain the Jewish individuality amid
the medley of nationalities into which they had been thrown.
From the exile there returned, not the nation, but a religious
sect,--those, namely, who had given themselves up body and soul to
the reformation ideas. It is no wonder that to these people, who,
besides, on their return, all settled in the immediate
neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the thought never once occurred of
restoring the local cults. It cost them no struggle to allow the
destroyed Bamoth to continue Iying in ruins; the principle had
become part of their very being, that the one God had also but one
place of worship, and thenceforward for all time coming this was
regarded as a thing of course.


Such was the actual historical course of the centralisation of
the cultus, and such the three stadia which can be distinguished.
The question now presents itself, whether it is possible to detect
a correspondence between the phases of the actual course of events
and those of the legislation relating to this subject. All three
portions of the legislation contain ordinances on the subject of
sacrificial places and offerings. It may be taken for granted
that in some way or other these have their roots in history, and
do not merely hang in the air, quite away from or above the solid
ground of actuality.

I.II.1. The main Jehovistic law, the so-called Book of the Covenant,
contains (Exodus xx.24-26) the following ordinance: "An altar of
earth shalt thou make unto me, and thereon shalt thou sacrifice thy
burnt offerings and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep and thine
oxen; in place where I cause my name to be honoured will I come
unto and will bless thee. Or if thou wilt make me an altar of
stones, thou shalt not build it of hewn stones, for if thou hast
lifted up thy tool upon it thou hast polluted it. And thou shalt
not go up to mine altar by steps, that thy nakedness be not
discovered before it." Unquestionably it is not the altar of the
tabernacle, which was made of wood and plated over with brass, nor
that of Solomon's temple, which on its eastern side had a flight of
steps, /1/

1. The altar of the second temple had no steps, but a sloping ascent
to it, as also, according to the belief of the Jews, had that of the
tabernacle. The reason, moreover, for which in Exodus xx.26 steps
are forbidden, disappears when the priests are provided with
breeches (Exodus xxviii.42).

and had a passage right round it at half its height, that is here
described as the only true one. On the other hand, it is obvious
that a multiplicity of altars is not merely regarded as permissible,
but assumed as a matter of course. For no stress at all is laid
upon having always the same sacrificial seat, whether fixed or to be
moved about from place to place; earth and unhewn stones /2/ of the field

2. The plural "stones" is perhaps worthy of note. There were also
sacrificial places consisting of one great stone (1Samuel xiv.33,
vi.14, 15; 2Samuel xx.8; Judges vi.20, xiii.19, 20; 1Kings i.9); to the same
category also doubtless belongs originally the threshing-floor of
Araunah, 2Samuel xxiv.21; compare Ezra iii.3, [ (L MKWNTW ]. But
inasmuch as such single sacred stones easily came into a
mythological relation to the Deity, offence was taken at them, as
appears from Judges vi.22-24, where the rock altar, the stone under
the oak which was conceived of as the seat of the theophany, upon
which Gideon offers, and out of which the flame issues (vi.19-21),
is corrected into an altar upon the rock. The macceboth are
distinguished from the altar in Exodus xxiv.4, yet elsewhere
clearly put on the same plane with it (Gen. xxxiii.20), and
everywhere more or less identified with the Deity (Gen. xxviii.).

can be found everywhere, and such an altar falls to pieces just as
readily as it is built. A choice of two kinds of material is also
given, which surely implies that the lawgiver thought of more than
one altar; and not at the place, but at every place where He causes
His name to be honoured will Jehovah come to His worshippers and
bless them. Thus the law now under consideration is in harmony
with the custom and usage of the first historical period, has its
root therein, and gives sanction to it. Certainly the liberty to
sacrifice everywhere seems to be somewhat restricted by the added
clause, "in every place where I cause my name to be honoured."
But this means nothing more than that the spots where intercourse
between earth and heaven took place were not willingly regarded
as arbitrarily chosen, but, on the contrary, were considered as
having been somehow or other selected by the Deity Himself for
His service.

In perfect correspondence with the Jehovistic law is the
Jehovistic narrative of the Pentateuch, as, in particular, the
story of the patriarchs in J and E very clearly shows. At every
place where they take up their abode or make a passing stay, the
fathers of the nation, according to this authority, erect altars,
set up memorial stones, plant trees, dig wells. This does not take
place at indifferent and casual localities, but at Shechem and
Bethel in Ephraim, at Hebron and Beersheba in Judah, at Mizpah,
Mahanaim, and Penuel in Gilead; nowhere but at famous and
immemorially holy places of worship. It is on this that the
interest of such notifications depends; they are no mere
antiquarian facts, but full of the most living significance for the
present of the narrator. The altar built by Abraham at Shechem is
the altar on which sacrifice still continues to be made, and bears
"even unto this day" the name which the patriarch gave it. On the
spot where at Hebron he first entertained Jehovah, there down to
the present day the table has continued to be spread; even as
Isaac himself did, so do his sons still swear Amosos viii.14; Hos.
iv.15) by the sacred well of Beersheba, which he digged, and
sacrifice there upon the altar which he built, under the tamarisk
which he planted. The stone which Jacob consecrated at Bethel the
generation of the living continues to anoint, paying the tithes
which of old he vowed to the house of God there. This also is the
reason why the sacred localities are so well known to the
narrator, and are punctually and accurately recorded
notwithstanding the four hundred years of the Egyptian sojourn,
which otherwise would have made their identification a matter of
some little difficulty. The altar which Abraham built at Bethel
stands upon the hill to the east of the town, between Bethel on the
west and Ai on the east; others are determined by means of a tree
or a well, as that of Shechem or Beersheba. /1/

1. The correct explanation of this is found in Ewald, Gesch. d. V.
lsraels, i. 436 seq. (3d edit.). A. Bernstein (Ursprung der Sagen
von Abrabam, etc., Berlin, 1871) drags in politics in a repulsive way.
"He does not indeed actually enter Shechem and Bethel-- these are places
hostile to Judah--but in a genuine spirit of Jewish demonstration
he builds altars in their vicinity and calls on the name of
Jehovah" (p. 22). Rather, he builds the altars precisely on the
places where, as can be shown, they afterwards stood, and that was
not inside the towns. In Gen. xviii. also the oak of Mamre is
employed to fix not Abraham's residence, but the place of Jehovah's

But of course it was not intended to throw dishonour upon the
cultus of the present when its institution was ascribed to the
fathers of the nation. Rather, on the contrary, do these legends
glorify the origin of the sanctuaries to which they are attached,
and surround them with the nimbus of a venerable consecration. All
the more as the altars, as a rule, are not built by the patriarchs
according to their own private judgment wheresoever they please;
on the contrary, a theophany calls attention to, or at least
afterwards confirms, the holiness of the place. Jehovah appears at
Shechem to Abraham, who thereupon builds the altar "to Jehovah who
had appeared unto him;" he partakes of his hospitality under the
oak of Mamre, which is the origin of the sacrificial service there;
He shows him the place where he is to make an offering of his son,
and here the sanctuary continues to exist. On the first night of
Isaac's sleeping on the sacred soil of Beersheba (xxvi.24) he
receives a visit from the Numen there residing, and in consequence
rears his altar. Surprised by profane glances, Jehovah acts as a
destroyer, but Himself spontaneously points out to His favoured
ones the places where it is His pleasure to allow Himself to be
seen; and where men have seen Him and yet lived, there a sanctuary
marks the open way of access to Him. The substance of the
revelation is in these cases comparatively indifferent: "I am
God." What is of importance is the theophany in and for itself,
its occurrence on that particular place. It must not be regarded
as an isolated fact, but rather as the striking commencement of an
intercourse [ R)H PNY YHWH ] between God and man which is destined
to be continued at this spot, and also as the first and strongest
expression of the sanctity of the soil. This way of looking at
the thing appears most clearly and with incomparable charm in the
story of the ladder which Jacob saw at Bethel. "He dreamed, and
behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to
heaven, and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on
it. And he was afraid and said, How dreadful is this place! This
is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of
heaven." The ladder stands at the place not at this moment merely,
but continually, and, as it were, by nature. Bethel--so Jacob
perceives from this--is a place where heaven and earth meet, where
the angels ascend and descend, to carry on the communication
between earth and heaven ordained by God at this gate.

All this is only to be understood as a glorification of the
relations and arrangements of the cultus as we find them (say) in
the first centuries of the divided kingdom. All that seems
offensive and heathenish to a later age is here consecrated and
countenanced by Jehovah Himself and His favoured ones,-- the high
places, the memorial stones (maccceboth), the trees, the wells. /1/

1. But it is only the public cultus and that of certain leading
sanctuaries that is thus glorified; on the other hand, the domestic
worship of seraphim, to which the women are specially attached,
is already discountenanced (in E) by Jacob. Asherim are not
alluded to, molten images are rejected, particularly by E.
Here perhaps a correction of the ancient legend has already
taken place in JE.

An essential agreement prevails between the Jehovistic law
which sanctions the existing seats of worship and the Jehovistic
narrative; the latter is as regards its nucleus perhaps somewhat older.
Both obviously belong to the pre-prophetic period; a later revision
of the narrative in the prophetic sense has not altered the essential
character of its fundamental elements. It is inconceivable that
Amos or Hosea, or any like-minded person, could go with such
sympathising love and believing reverence into narratives which only
served to invest with a still brighter nimbus and higher respect
the existing religious worship, carried on by the people
on the high places of Isaac as their holiest occupation.

I.II.2. The Jehovistic Book of the Covenant lies indeed at the
foundation of Deuteronomy, but in one point they differ
materially, and that precisely the one which concerns us here.
As there, so here also, the legislation properly so called begins
(Deut. xii.) with an ordinance relating to the service of the
altar; but now we have Moses addressing the Israeites in the
following terms: "When ye come into the land of Canaan, ye shall
utterly destroy all the places of worship which ye find there,
and ye shall not worship Jehovah your God after the manner in which
the heathen serve theirs. Nay, but only unto the place which the
Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes for His
habitation shall ye seek, and thither shall ye bring your offerings
and gifts, and there shall ye eat before Him and rejoice. Here at
this day we do every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes, but
when ye have found fixed abodes, and rest from your enemies round
about, then shall the place which Jehovah shall choose for His
habitation in one of your tribes be the one place to which ye shall
bring your offerings and gifts. Take heed that ye offer not in
every place that ye see; ye may not eat your holy gifts in
every town, but only in the place which Jehovah shall choose."

The Law is never weary of again and again repeating its
injunction of local unity of worship. In doing so, it is in
conscious opposition to "the things that we do here this day," and
throughout has a polemical and reforming attitude towards existing
usage. It is rightly therefore assigned by historical criticism
to the period of the attacks made on the Bamoth by the reforming
party at Jerusalem. As the Book of the Covenant, and the whole
Jehovistic writing in genera], reflects the first pre-prophetic
period in the history of the cultus, so Deuteronomy is the legal
expression of the second period of struggle and transition. The
historical order is all the more certain because the literary
dependence of Deuteronomy on the Jehovistic laws and narratives
can be demonstrated independently, and is an admitted fact. From
this the step is easy to the belief that the work whose discovery
gave occasion to King Josiah to destroy the local sanctuaries was
this very Book of Deuteronomy, which originally must have had an
independent existence, and a shorter form than at present. This
alone, at least, of all the books of the Pentateuch, gives so
imperious an expression to the restriction of the sacrificial
worship to the one chosen place; here only does the demand make
itself so felt in its aggressive novelty and dominate the whole
tendency of the law-maker. The old material which he makes use
of is invariably shaped with a view to this, and on all hands he
follows the rule out to its logical consequences. To make its
fulfilment possible, he changes former arrangements, permitting
what had been forbidden, and prohibiting what had been allowed;
in almost every case this motive lies at the foundation of all his
other innovations. This is seen, for example, when he permits
slaying without sacrificing, and that too anywhere; when, in order
not to abolish the right of asylum (Exodus xxi.13, 14; 1Kings ii.
28) along with the altars, he appoints special cities of refuge for


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