The Making of a Nation
Charles Foster Kent and Jeremiah Whipple Jenks
Part 2 out of 3
law, chiefly intent upon observing the simple ceremonial
institutions revealed to him in that primitive age. With him the
later priests associated the origin of the distinctive rite of
circumcision. In Genesis 14 Abraham is pictured as a valiant
warrior who espoused the cause of the weak and won a great victory
over the united armies of the Eastern kings. Like a knight of
olden times, he restored the captured spoil to the city that had
been robbed and gave a liberal portion, to the priest king
Melchizedek, who appears to have been regarded in later Jewish
tradition as the forerunner of the Jerusalem priesthood. In the
still later Jewish traditions, of which many have been preserved,
he is pictured sometimes as an invincible warrior, before whom even
the great city of Damascus fell, sometimes as an ardent foe of
idolatry, the incarnation of the spirit of later Judaism, or else
he is thought of as having been borne to heaven on a fiery chariot,
where he receives to his bosom the faithful of his race. Thus each
succeeding generation or group of writers made Abraham, as the
traditional father of their race, the embodiment of their highest
The Abraham of the early prophetic narratives, however, is a
remarkably consistent character. He exemplifies that which is
noblest in Israel's early ideals. How is Abraham's faith
illustrated in the prophetic stories considered in the preceding
paragraph? His unselfishness and generosity? His courtly
hospitality? Was his politeness to strangers simply due to his
training and the traditions of the desert or was it the expression
of his natural impulses? Was Abraham's devoted interest in the
future of his descendants a noble quality? How are his devotion
and obedience to God illustrated? In the light of this study
describe the Abraham of the prophetic narratives. Is it a perfect
character that is thus portrayed? Is it the product of a primitive
state of society or of a high civilization?
THE TENDENCY TO IDEALIZE NATIONAL HEROES.
Is Shakespeare right in his statement that "The evil that men do
lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones"? Why
do men as a rule idealize the dead? Does the primitive tendency to
ancestor worship in part explain this? Is the tendency to idealize
the men of the past beneficial in its effect upon the race? What
would be the effect if all the iniquity of the past were
remembered? The tendency to idealize national heroes is by no
means confined to the Hebrews. Greek, Roman and English history
abounds in illustrations. Cite some of the more striking. Why are
they often thought of as descendants of the gods? Compare the
popular conception of the first president of the United States and
his character as portrayed in Ford's "The Real George Washington."
The portraits of national heroes, even though they are idealized,
exert a powerful and wholesome influence upon the nations who honor
their memory. The noblest ideals in each succeeding generation are
often thus concretely embodied in the character of some national
hero. Compare the great heroes of Greek mythology with the early
heroes of the Old Testament. Do these differences correspond to
the distinctive characteristics of the Greeks and the Hebrews? Are
these differences due to the peculiar genius of each race or in
part to the influence exerted by the ideals thus concretely
presented upon each succeeding generation? Is it probable that in
the character of Abraham the traditional father of the Hebrew race
was idealized? Is it possible that teachers of Israel, consciously
or unconsciously, fostered this tendency that they might in this
concrete and effective way impress their great teachings upon their
race? If so, does it decrease or enhance the value and authority
of these stories?
THE REASONS FOB MIGRATION.
In the early history of most countries there comes a pressure of
population upon the productive powers of the land. As numbers
increase in the hunting stage game becomes scarce and more hunting
grounds are needed. Tribes migrate from season to season, as did
the American Indians, and eventually some members of the tribe are
likely to go forth to seek new homes. Later in the pastoral stage
of society, as the wealth of flocks and herds increases, more
pasturage is needed and similar results follow. Even after
agriculture is well established and commerce is well begun, as in
Ancient Greece, colonies have a like origin. In the England of the
nineteenth century Malthus and his followers taught the tendency of
population to outgrow the means of subsistence--a tendency overcome
only by restraints on the growth of population, or by new
inventions that enable new sources of supply to be secured or that
render the old ones more efficient. Emigration and pioneering are
thus a normal outgrowth of a progressive growing people in any
stage of civilization. What does the statement about Abraham's
wealth in cattle and silver and gold show regarding the country
from which he came and the probable cause of God's direction for
Immigrants and pioneers are usually the self-reliant and
courageous, who dare to endure hardships and incur risks to secure
for their country and posterity the benefits of new lands and
broader opportunity. The trials of new and untried experiences and
often of dire peril strengthen the character already strong, so
that the pioneers in all lands and ages have been heroes whose
exploits recounted in song and story have stirred the hearts and
molded the faith of their descendants through many generations. In
the light of later history what was the profound religious
significance to his race and to the world, of the migration
represented by Abraham? The Biblical narrative does not state the
exact way in which Jehovah spoke to Abraham. Is it possible and
probable that God spoke to men in that early day as he speaks to
them now, through their experiences and inner consciousness? In
what sense was Abraham a pioneer?
Was it for Abraham's material interest to migrate to Canaan?
THE PERMANENT VALUE AND INFLUENCE OF THE ABRAHAM NARRATIVES.
Scholars will probably never absolutely agree regarding many
problems connected with Abraham. Some have gone so far as to
question whether he was an historical character or not. Is the
question of fundamental importance? Other writers declare it
probable that a tribal sheik by the name of Abraham led one of the
many nomad tribes that somewhere about the middle of the second
millenium B.C. moved westward into the territory of Palestine. It
is probable that popular tradition has preserved certain facts
regarding his life and character. It is equally clear that the
different groups of Israel's teachers have each interpreted his
character and work in keeping with their distinctive ideals. Each
individual narrative has an independent unity and the connection
between the different accounts is far from close. Some of them aim
to explain the derivation of popular names, as for example,
Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael, the sanctity of certain sacred places,
as for example, Beersheba, the origin of important institutions, as
for example, circumcision and the substitution of animal for human
sacrifice, and the explanation of striking physical phenomena, as
for example the desolate shores of the Dead Sea.
Some of these accounts, like the table of nations in Genesis 10,
preserve the memory of the relationship between Israel and its
neighbors. They preserve also the characteristic popular record of
the early migrations which brought these peoples to Palestine,
where they crystalized into the different nations that figure in
the drama of Israel's history. The permanent and universal value
of these stories lies, however, in the great moral principles which
they vividly and effectively illustrate. The prophetic portrait of
Abraham was an inspiring example to hold up before a race. The
characteristics of Abraham can be traced in the ideals and
character of the Israelites. They were unquestionably an important
force in developing the prophet nation. He was, therefore,
pre-eminently a spiritual pioneer. How far do these stories, and
especially the accounts of the covenant between Jehovah and
Abraham, embody the national and spiritual aspirations of the race?
Are the Abraham stories of practical inspiration to the present
generation? What qualities in his character are essential to the
all-around man of any age? How far would the Abraham of the
prophetic stories succeed, were he living in America to-day? Would
he be appreciated by a majority of our citizens? Are spiritual
pioneers of the type of Abraham absolutely needed in every nation
and generation if the human race is to progress?
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Are God's purposes often contrary to man's desires? Ever to man's
What qualities must every true pioneer possess?
What is the ultimate basis of all true politeness?
Who are some of the great pioneers of early American history? What
were their chief contributions to their nation?
Is your own conscientious conception of your duty to be considered
as God's command to you? Does he give any other command?
Does a high stage of civilization ennoble character or tend to
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) Abraham in Late Jewish Tradition. Hastings, _Dict. Bib_. I,
16, 17, Ginsberg, _The Legends of the Jews_, I, pp. 185-308.
(2) The Geological History of the Dead Sea Valley. Hastings,
_Dict. Bib_. I, 575-7; _Encyc. Bib_. I, 1042-6; Kent, _Bib. Geog.
and Hist_., 45-54; Smith, _Hist. Geography_, 499-516.
(3) The Original Meaning of Sacrifice. _St. O. T_., IV, 238;
Hastings, _Dict. Bib_. IV, 329-31; _Encyc. Bib_. IV, 4216-26;
Smith, _Relig. of the Semites_, 213-43, 252-440; Gordon, _Early
Traditions of Genesis_, 212-16.
(4) A Comparison of the Motives that Inspired the Migrations of the
Ancestors of the Hebrews and our Pilgrim Fathers. Cheyney,
_European Background of American History_; Andrews, _Colonial
THE POWER OF AMBITION.
JACOB, THE PERSISTENT.--Gen. 28, 10-33, 20.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 101-21.
Hastings, _Dict. Bible_ II, 526-535.
_Prin. of Politics_ Ch. II.
Now as the boys grew Esau became a skilful hunter, but Jacob was a
quiet man, a dweller in tents. And Isaac loved Esau--for he had a
taste for game--and Rebekah loved Jacob.
Once when Jacob was preparing a stew, Esau came in from the field,
and he was faint; therefore Esau said to Jacob, Let me eat quickly,
I pray, some of that red food, for I am faint. (Therefore his name
was called Edom, Red.) But Jacob said, Sell me first of all your
birthright. And Esau replied, Alas! I am nearly dead, therefore of
what use is this birthright to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me
first; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then
Jacob gave Esau bread and stewed lentils, and when he had eaten and
drank, he rose up and went his way. Thus Esau despised his
Charles Darwin when asked for the secret of his success said, "It's
dogged as does it."
Oh well for him whose will is strong!
He suffers, but he will not suffer long;
He suffers, but he cannot suffer wrong:
For him nor moves the loud world's random mock,
Nor all Calamity's hugest waves confound,
Who seems a promontory of rock,
That, compasst round with turbulent sound
In middle ocean meets the surging shock,
Tempest-buffetted but citadel-crowned.
Life is comic or pitiful, as soon as the high ends of being fade
out of sight and man becomes near-sighted and can only attend to
what addresses the senses--_Emerson_.
Who rises every time he falls
Will sometime rise to stay.
THE TWO BROTHERS, JACOB AND ESAU.
South of the Dead Sea, bounded by the rocky desert on the east and
the hot barren Arabah on the west, extends the wild picturesque
range of Mount Seir. It is a land of lofty heights and deep,
almost inaccessible valleys, the home of the hunter and the nomad.
From a few copious springs there issue clear, refreshing brooks,
which run rippling through the deep ravines, but soon lose
themselves in their hot, gravelly beds. A few miles further on
they emerge and again disappear, as they approach the borders of
the hot, thirsty wilderness that surrounds Mount Seir on every
side. Here in early times lived the Edomites, a nomadic people who
established themselves in this borderland of Palestine long before
the Hebrews gained a permanent foothold in the land of Canaan. The
name, Edom, is found in an inscription of a king of the eighth
In the Biblical narrative, Esau evidently is the traditional
ancestor of the Edomites, even as Jacob figures as the father of
the twelve tribes. One of the aims of these narratives, it seems
to many scholars, is to explain why the Israelites, the younger
people, who settled latest in Palestine, ultimately possessed the
land and conquered the Edomites.
The portraits of Esau and Jacob are remarkably true to the
characteristics of these two rival nations. They are also faithful
to human nature as we find it to-day. Of these two brothers which,
on the whole, is the more attractive? Which resembles his father
and which his mother? (Read the accounts of their lives, Gen.
24-27.) What noble virtues does Esau possess? What was his great
fault? Reckless men or drifters with generous impulses but with no
definite purpose, of whom gypsies and hoboes are extreme types, are
found in every age and society. Why is it that men of the type of
Esau so often in time become criminals?
THE MAN WITH A WRONG AMBITION.
The modern tendency to idealize the character of Jacob, simply
because he was one of the famous patriarchs, is both unfortunate
and misleading. Although he vividly typifies certain
characteristics of his race, the Jacob of these early prophetic
accounts is portrayed with absolute fidelity and realism. His
faults are revealed even more clearly than his virtues. The
dominant motive in his life is ambition, but it is a thoroughly
selfish ambition. In the light of the stories, state in your own
words what was the exact nature of Jacob's ambition. How did it
differ from that of Abraham? What methods did he use to achieve
his ambition? Were these methods justifiable? What is your view
of the statement, "The end justifies the means"? Try to define
exactly the method of determining justifiable means. May Jacob's
action be excused because he was acting under the direction of his
Does a man with a selfish ambition always injure others? Does he
in the end injure himself most of all? How? Every type of
selfishness is directly opposed to a man's highest self-interest.
Jesus continually had this large truth in mind when he declared,
"He that findeth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his
life for my sake shall find it." Jesus himself illustrated this
principle. Cite other illustrations from history. From your own
observation or experience.
Was Jacob, even with his wrong ambition, a stronger and more
promising character than his brother Esau? Why?
Would you rather have your son a boy of strong character with
vicious tendency or a weakling with harmless, virtuous inclinations?
JACOB'S TRAINING IN THE SCHOOL OF EXPERIENCE.
Jacob's experiences as a fugitive well illustrate the homely
proverb, "The way of the transgressor is hard." He who deceived
and cheated his brother soon became the victim of deception and
fraud. Most painful of all was the ever-haunting sense of fear
because of the consequences of his wrong acts that followed him
even in his life as an exile and, like a spectre, confronted him as
he returned again to the scenes of his boyhood. These painful
experiences were probably essential to the development of Jacob's
character. Are there any other ways in which men of this type can
be led to appreciate that their ambitions are wrong? Was Laban any
more unjust or tricky in his dealing with Jacob than Jacob had been
with Esau, or than Jacob was with Laban? Note the grim humor
running through these stories. They are the type of stories that
would be especially appreciated when told by shepherds beside the
The most significant point in these stories is that they declare
that Jehovah's care and guidance followed the selfish deceiver even
as he fled the consequences of his own misdeeds. Why should that
divine care shield him from the consequences of his misdeeds? Do
we find such instances to-day? How do you explain them? What is
the meaning of the story of Jacob's vision at Bethel? What
promising elements did Jehovah find in Jacob's character? What
practical lessons did Jacob learn during his sojourn in Aram?
Was Jacob really a hypocrite, or did he in fact fail to see any
inconsistency between, his trickery and meanness and his worship of
Jehovah? A man may be sincere in his religious worship on Sunday
and yet cheat a neighbor on Monday. Analyze carefully the nature
of his religion.
THE INVINCIBLE POWER OP AMBITION AND PERSEVERANCE.
History and modern life abound in illustrations of what can be
accomplished by the combination of ambition and perseverance.
Cyrus, the king of a little upland province, through a remarkable
series of victories became the undisputed master of south-western
Asia and laid the foundations of the great Persian Empire. Julius
Caesar, who transformed Rome from a republic into an empire, and
Napoleon the Corsican, are the classic illustrations of the power
of great ambition and dauntless persistency. Far nobler is that
quiet, courageous perseverance which led Livingston through the
trackless swamps and forests of Africa and blazed the way for the
conquest of the dark continent. Equally significant is that noble
ambition, coupled with heroic perseverance, that has enabled
settlement workers to bring light to the darkest parts of our great
Ambition without persistency is but a dream or hope. Observe
Jacob's persistency in the Biblical stories. Does persistency,
which has always been a marked characteristic of the Hebrew race,
largely explain the achievements of the Jews throughout the world?
Note the apparently scientific knowledge regarding breeding of
lambs by Jacob in his dealings with Laban. Is it a fact recognized
by science to-day? If he knew this and Laban did not, can you
justify his acts? Can you justify the act of the director of a
corporation who uses his prior knowledge of the business of his
corporation to make profit from buying or selling its stocks? Who
loses? Is he a trustee for their interests?
What is the meaning of the strange story of Jacob's midnight
struggle with the angel? (_Hist. Bible_ I, 119-20.) What lessons
did Jacob learn from this struggle? Would you call Jacob a truly
religious man, according to his light and training, or were his
religious professions only hypocritical? May he have been sincere,
but have had a wrong conception of religion? What is hypocrisy?
Did Jacob's faith in Jehovah, in the end prove the strongest force
in his life? Is there any trace in his later years, of the selfish
ambition which earlier dominated him? What are his chief interests
in the latter part of his life? Did he become the strong and noble
character that he might have been had he from the first been guided
by a worthy ambition? Were the misfortunes that came to him in his
old age due largely to his own faults reappearing in the characters
of his sons?
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF AMBITION.
In the ultimate analysis it is the man's motive which determines
his character as well as his acts.
"As he thinketh within himself, so is he."--_Prov. 23:7_.
"Man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah on
the heart."--_I Sam_. 16:7.
With many men the strongest motive is the desire to surpass others.
It not only leads them to perform certain acts, but in so doing
shapes their habits; and character is largely the result of man's
habitual way of acting. Jacob grew up narrow and crafty because of
the selfish, dwarfing nature of his ambition, At first his ambition
was of a low type, that of the child which desires to acquire
possessions and power simply for himself. In the child this
impulse is perfectly natural. In the normally developed
individual, during the years of early adolescence (the years of 14
to 16) the social and altruistic impulses begin to develop and to
take the place of those which are purely egoistic or selfish. When
the fully developed man fails, as did Jacob, to leave behind
childish things and retains the ambitions and impulses of the
child, his condition is pitiable.
Men of this type of ambition often achieve great things from the
economic or political point of view. Economically they are of
greater value to society than the drifter. Sometimes, however,
they bring ruin and disaster to society, as well as to themselves.
Despots like Herod the Great and Napoleon, corrupt political
bosses, who play into the hands of certain classes at the expense
of the general public, and men who employ grafting methods in
business or politics, belong to this class.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF RIGHT AMBITIONS.
The desire to spare one's energies is natural to man. To gain
wealth with the least expenditure of energy is said to be the chief
economic motive. Most men are by nature lazy. This law of inertia
applies not only in the physical world, but also in the
intellectual, moral and spiritual fields. The great majority of
men follow the line of least resistance. In politics and morals
they accept the standards of their associates. Unconsciously they
join the great army of the drifters, or followers, who preserve the
traditions of the past, but contribute little to the future
progress of the race. To deliver man from the control of his
natural inertia he must be touched by some strong compelling power.
Ambition is one great force that enables most men to overcome this
inertia. The influences, therefore, which kindle ambition are
among the most important which enter the life of man.
In the Orient the mother stands in especially close relation to the
son. How far was Jacob's desire to surpass his brother inspired by
his mother? Many of the world's greatest leaders trace the impulse
which has led them to achieve directly to their parents and
especially to their mothers. The mother of Charles and John Wesley
is but one of the many mothers to whom the human race owes an
inestimable debt. Of all the heritages which parents can leave
their children none is greater than a worthy ambition. Sometimes
it is the personality of a great teacher which inspires the
youthful ambition and directs it in lines of worthy achievement.
How much of England's greatness may be traced to the quiet
influence of Arnold of Rugby! Consider the unparalleled influence
of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle--all primarily teachers.
The true pastor with the spirit of a prophet is often able to guide
those with whom he comes into intimate contact to great fields of
service. In encouraging Sophia Smith to found Smith College that
quiet New England pastor, the Reverend John M. Greene, won a high
place among those in America who first appreciated the importance
of education of woman. Equally great opportunities may lie before
every pastor and teacher and citizen. Frequently it is the contact
through literature or in life with men or women who have done
heroic deeds or have won success in the face of great obstacles
that kindles the youthful ambition and stirs the latent motives
which in turn develop strong and noble characters. Therein lies
the perennial value of the Biblical narratives.
For many men that which arouses their ambitions is the call of a
great opportunity or responsibility. Note the change in General
Grant's life with the outbreak of the Civil War. The unambitious
tanner becomes the untiring, rigid, unconquerable soldier.
Striking illustrations of this fact are many men, whose character,
as well as conduct after they have been called to positions of
political or judicial trust, is in marked contrast to their
previous record. A corrupt lawyer has sometimes become an upright
judge. The pride of office, the traditions of the bench have
sustained him. It is the privilege and duty of each man, by
thoughtful deliberation and study to shape and develop his own
individual ambitions that they may conform to the highest ideals
and thus guide him to the noblest and most worthy achievement. Of
what value to a man is biography in forming his ambitions? Mention
some biographies that you consider of the greatest help. In what
ways are the life and teachings of Jesus of practical service in
developing the ambitions of a man to-day?
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Is it possible for a man without ambition to develop or to achieve
anything really significant?
In your judgment, what percentage of the men in your community
really think out and carefully plan their lives? What proportion
drift or take the way shown them by others?
Some people consider mental or moral inertia the chief force that
sustains the corrupt political boss. Is this true?
What proportion of the voters in your voting district actually
study and appreciate the issues in each election?
What proportion of church members drift into their church
membership, and what proportion join only after a careful study of
the relative merits of the different churches?
What are the chief ambitions that stir men to action?
What was Jesus' ambition? Paul's? Florence Nightingale's?
Abraham Lincoln's? Peter Cooper's? Garibaldi's? Dwight L.
Moody's? Was there a common element in the ambition of each of
these leaders of men?
Is the realization of the ambition to serve one's fellow-men
limited to those who possess unique powers or opportunities?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Law of Inheritance among the Early Semites. Hastings,
_Diet. Bib_. II, 470-473; Kent, _Student's O. T_., III; Johns,
_Bab. and Assyr. Laws, Contracts and Letters_, 161-167.
(2) The Arameans. Hastings, _Dict. Bible_ I, 138-139; _Encyc.
Bib_. I, 276-280; Peters, _Early Heb. Story_, 45-47, 115-116;
133-134; Maspero, _Struggle of the Nations_, 126.
(3) The Psychological Connection between Ambition, Habits,
Character and Public Life. _Prin. of Politics_ Ch. II and III.
James, _Talks to Teachers_ Ch. II.
A SUCCESSFUL MAN OF AFFAIRS.
JOSEPH'S ACHIEVEMENTS.--Gen. 37, 39-48, 50.
_Hist. Bible_, I, 121-150.
Hastings' _Dict. Bible_, II, 770-772.
Emerson, _Essay on Character_.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his other children, because
he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic
with sleeves. And when his brothers saw that their father loved
him more than all his other sons, they hated him, and could not
speak to him.
But Jehovah was with Joseph so that he became a prosperous man, and
was in the house of his master the Egyptian. When his master saw
that Jehovah was with him, and that Jehovah caused everything that
he did to prosper in his hands, Joseph found favor in his eyes, as
he ministered to him, so that he made him overseer of his house,
and all that he had he put in his charge.
And Jehovah was with Joseph and showed kindness to him, and gave
him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison, so that the
keeper of the prison gave to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who
were in the prison, and for whatever they did he was responsible.
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have appointed you over all the
land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his
finger and put it upon Joseph's finger, and clothed him in garments
of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck, and made him
ride in the second chariot which he had. Then they cried before
him, Bow the knee! Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh also said to Joseph, I am Pharaoh, but without your consent
shall no man lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and
lose his own soul?--_Matt. 16:36_.
Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear
Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are
underlings.--_Shakespeare_ (Julius Caesar, Act. I, Sc. 2, L. 139).
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand
as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of Heaven we
must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it; but we
must sail and not drift, nor lie at anchor.--_O. W. Holmes_.
He that respects himself is safe from others;
He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
It is more important to make a life than to make a
living.--_Ex-Governor Russell of Massachusetts_.
THE QUALITIES ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESS.
The late Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) advised a young man who
desired to enter business to select the firm with which he wished
to be associated, then ask that they give him work, without
mentioning the subject of compensation. Having secured this
opportunity to demonstrate his ability and willingness to work,
recognition would come in due time. This advice received the
approval of many prominent business men. It concretely illustrates
the fact that the first essential of success is the willingness to
serve. It also emphasizes the necessity of being ready to do the
work in accordance with the employer's wishes. Ultimate success
also requires knowledge and trained ability. These, however, come
through apprenticeship and a faithful improvement of opportunities.
The Hebrew sages, with true insight, emphasized the importance of
knowledge; but they taught also that wisdom, which is not only
knowledge, but the power to apply it practically in the various
relations of life, was far more important.
What other qualities are essential to the highest success? Is it
very important that a man should have the right moral standards?
How do a man's habits affect his efficiency?
Is it only the genius who is able to attain the highest success
to-day in business and professional life? Do you accept George
Eliot's definition of genius as "the capacity for unlimited work"?
To what extent does a man's faith in God and in his fellow men
determine his ability to win success? How far are they essential
to the attainment of the highest type of success?
THE LIMITATIONS AND TEMPTATIONS OF JOSEPH'S EARLY LIFE.
The Hebrew sage who uttered the prayer:
Remove far from me falsehood and lies;
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is needful for me.
voiced a great economic as well as moral principle. The men who
are handicapped to-day in the race for success are either those who
are born in homes of extreme poverty or of extreme wealth where
they are unnaturally barred or shielded from the real problems and
tasks of life. Which is probably the greater handicap? To which
class did Joseph belong?
In what ways did his father show his favoritism towards Joseph?
The Hebrew word rendered in the older translations, "coat of many
colors," means literally, "long-sleeved tunic." This garment, like
those worn by wealthy Chinese when in native costume, distinguished
the rich or the nobility, who were not under the necessity of
engaging in manual labor.
The dreams which Joseph told to his brothers reveal his high
estimate of his own importance and were probably suggested by his
father's attitude toward him. They were indeed a revelation of the
ambitions already stirring in the young boy's mind. But Joseph
required closer contact with real life in order to transform his
ambitions into actual achievements.
Joseph gave his brothers cause for hatred toward him, but their
action in selling him to the Ishmaelites was by no means
justifiable. Nevertheless it brought to Joseph the experiences and
opportunities absolutely essential to the attainment of his
ultimate success. Often what seem man's greatest misfortunes are
in reality the door that opens to the new and larger opportunities.
In what two ways may a man meet misfortune?
THE CALL OF A GREAT OPPORTUNITY.
Egypt, with its marvelous natural resources, its peculiar climate,
its irrigation, which usually guarantees good crops, and its
versatile people, has always been pre-eminently the land of
opportunity. Especially was this true during the reigns of the
powerful despots of the eighteenth dynasty, when the relations
between Egypt and Palestine were exceedingly close. Thus, for
example, according to contemporary records, during the reign of the
great reformer king, Amenhotep IV, several Semites rose to
positions of great authority. A certain Dudu (David) was one of
the most trusted officials of this king. He is addressed by one of
the Egyptian governors as "My lord, my father." Another Semite
named Yanhamu not only had control of the storehouses of grain in
the eastern part of the Nile Delta, but also directed the Egyptian
rule of Palestine. The local governors of Palestine refer to him
in terms which suggest that his authority was almost equal to that
of Pharaoh himself. This was perhaps the Joseph of the Biblical
Is there any evidence that Joseph complained because of the
injustice of his brothers? By loyal attention to his duties he
made himself indispensable to his Egyptian master. A great
temptation came to him in the new home. What influences led him to
resist this temptation? Analyze his probable motives in detail.
The great injustice which he suffered and the seeming misfortune
proved in turn a new door of opportunity, but this would not have
been the case had not Joseph forgotten his own personal wrongs and
given himself to the service of his fellow-prisoners. Was the
prosperity which generally attended Joseph a miraculous gift or the
natural consequences of his courageous, helpful spirit and his
skill in making the best of every situation?
In modern life as in the ancient story, the place usually seeks the
man who is fitted to fill it. The ever recurring complaint of
employers is the scarcity of good men, especially of men able to
exercise discretion in positions of responsibility. Was it
Joseph's skill in interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, or his wise
counsel in suggesting methods of providing for the people during
famine that gave him his position of high trust and authority? Was
the policy which made Pharaoh practical owner of all the land first
instituted by Joseph, or was it already in force in Egypt? (_Hist.
Bible_, I, 133.) In the thought of the prophetic narrative, was
Joseph's fiscal system regarded as evidence of his loyalty to his
master rather than of disloyalty to the interests of the people?
Was the system suited to that stage and kind of civilization? Can
this be cited by Socialists to-day as a valid argument in favor of
public ownership of all land? If not, why not?
Three principles, illustrated by Joseph's life, are true to all
time: (1) The only successful way to forget one's own burdens is to
help bear another's; (2) God makes all things work together for
good to those that love him; (3) he alone who improves the small
opportunities will not miss the great chances of life.
THE TEMPTATIONS OF SUCCESS.
Modern life, and especially that in America to-day, is full of
illustrations of the overwhelming temptations which come to the man
who has had great success. Many a man has enjoyed the confidence
and respect of his associates until his abilities have won for him
large wealth with which apparently comes at times a misleading
sense of immunity from the ordinary moral obligations. The result
has been that the sterling virtues which have enabled him to win
success have been quickly undermined and his public and private
acts have become the theme of the public press. Instead of being
an honor he has become a disgrace to his nation.
Joseph's sudden rise to power surpassed anything told in the
Arabian Nights' Tales, and yet he remained the same simple,
unaffected man, more thoughtful for another's interests than for
his own. The supreme test came in his contact with his brothers,
who had insulted and cruelly wronged him. They were completely at
his mercy and he had abundant reason for ignoring the obligations
of kinship. Did Joseph hide his cup in Benjamin's sack and later
hold him as a hostage in order to punish his brothers or to test
their honor and fidelity? Was this action wise? Did the brothers
stand the test?
No class was regarded by the Egyptians with greater scorn and
contempt than the shepherds to whom they entrusted their flocks,
because the task of herding sheep was regarded as too menial for an
Egyptian. The public recognition of his shepherd kinsmen,
therefore, revealed in Joseph the noblest and most courageous
Why is such loyalty a primary obligation? Is it to-day regarded by
all thoughtful men as one of the clearest evidences of a strong
character? Can you give any modern illustrations, perhaps among
your acquaintances? What is a snob? Did Joseph leave undone any
act which loyalty to his kinsmen could prompt? Is Joseph's
character as portrayed by the prophetic account practically
perfect? Of the three characters, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, which
offers more practical suggestions to the man of to-day? Which has
exerted the most powerful influence upon the ideals and conduct of
the human race?
THE STANDARDS OF REAL SUCCESS.
It is natural and inevitable that the various social classes of
each succeeding generation should define their standards of success
concretely, that is, by the lives and achievements of those who
have done great things. In certain social groups the world's
champion prize fighter is the beau ideal of success. Among the
Camorrists of Italy that ideal is the successful blackmailer. In
many sections of our great cities the powerful ward boss, whatever
be his methods, is regarded as the embodiment of success. Too
often in America to-day, both in the public press and in the public
mind, the multi-millionaire is regarded as the pre-eminently
successful man. Although the power to amass wealth is evidence of
marked ability, the homage paid to it is one of the most sinister
tendencies in American life. Ordinarily it means that the
ambitions and achievements of a Jacob, rather than those of a
Joseph, are set before the youth as the supreme goal for which to
strive. A most hopeful element in the present situation is that
many of the world's wealthiest men are proclaiming their sense of
responsibility to society in ways both practical and impressive.
Far more significant than their actual gifts is this public
declaration that each man is indeed his brother's keeper, and that
no man has a right to use his wealth simply for his own pleasure.
Leonidas and his fearless patriotic followers at Thermopylae left
an impress upon Greek life and character that did not fade for
centuries. The spirit of Robert Bruce still lingers among the
crags and heather-clad hills of Scotland. The patriotic devotion
of Garibaldi has imparted a new character to the Italian race. Two
hundred million of the world's inhabitants still bear the imprint
of the fiery faith and fanaticism of Mahomet.
America is rich in its memories of the achievements of such as
Washington, Lincoln, Morse, Beecher and Emerson. What characters
in all history seem to you the best examples of real success? What
men and women in the present generation? How can the great
majority of the boys and girls and the men and women of to-day be
led to accept those higher ideals of success which are the
lodestones drawing on the race to higher achievement?
THE METHODS OF SUCCESS.
The story is told of the late President Garfield that in the heat
of a political campaign one of his lieutenants suggested that he
adopt an exceedingly questionable policy. When Mr. Garfield
objected, his lieutenant replied, "No one will know it." "But I
shall know," was the quick reply.
--"To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
--_Hamlet, Act I, Sc. 3_.
Wealth and power are worthy goals for which to strive. One of the
first duties of a political party is to capture the offices, for
without them in its power it cannot carry out the principles for
which it stands. The possession of wealth represents vast
possibilities for service. Thousands of tragic experiments have
demonstrated, however, the fallacy of the seductive doctrine that
the end justifies the means. The tragedy that overshadows many of
the seemingly most successful men of to-day is the memory of the
iniquitous methods whereby they have acquired wealth or mounted to
power. Lavish philanthropy and the beneficent use of power can
never wholly blot out from the public mind or from the mind of the
successful man the memory of certain questionable acts that at the
time seemed essential to the realization of a great policy.
A keen, well-informed student of modern economic conditions has
asserted that no man can succeed in business life today and remain
true to the teachings of Jesus. Is this true? Is it true in
professional life? Is it true in politics? One of our most
prominent statesmen has said that he would have found it impossible
to succeed and maintain his independence if he had been compelled
to earn his living. He would have been compelled either to yield
to the boss or quit politics. Who are some of the men in public
life who are gaining success and yet maintaining Christian
principles? If the ultimate ideal of real success is service, is
there any other way in which men may obtain success? Is this true
of every department of human effort? Does this principle make it
possible for every man, however limited his ability and
opportunities, to attain real success?
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
How would you define genius? Edison called it 2% of inspiration
and 98% of perspiration. (But see James, _Talks to Teachers_.)
Is the chief difference between the successful and the unsuccessful
man the ability to recognize and seize opportunities?
Would Joseph's policy in dealing with Pharaoh's subjects meet with
public approval to-day?
Could Joseph have succeeded as well in a republic?
Does Joseph's land policy justify the single tax? Or serfdom such
as Joseph countenanced?
What place does loyalty to humble friends and kinsmen take in the
making of great and noble characters?
Would you say that the ultimate standard of all real success is
Would it be wise for the state to enforce service for the public
good by a heavy, progressive inheritance tax?
What justification is there for such a modification of Joseph's
land policy, as the single tax? (See George, _Progress and
Poverty_; Seligman, _Essays on Taxation_, 64-94.)
Do you think that a man earning his own living can expect to-day to
succeed in politics and maintain his self-respect as an independent
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Origin and Literary Form of the Joseph Narratives. Kent,
_Student's O. T_. I, 126-127; Hastings, _Dict. Bible_ II, 767-769;
Smith, _O. T. History_, 54-55.
(2) Contemporary Parallels to the Joseph of the Biblical
Narratives. Hastings' _Dict. Bible_ II, 772-775.
(3) Compare and Contrast the Achievements of Joseph, Bismarck and
THE TRAINING OF A STATESMAN.
MOSES IN EGYPT AND THE WILDERNESS.--EX. 1:1; 7:5.
Goodnow, F. J., _Comparative Administrative Law_.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 151-69.
And he went out on the following day and saw two men of the Hebrews
striving together; and he said to the one who was doing the wrong,
Why do you smite your fellow-workman? But he replied, Who made you
a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you
killed the Egyptian? Then Moses was afraid and said, Surely the
thing is known. When, therefore, Pharaoh heard this thing, he
sought to him Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh
and took up his abode in the land of Midian.
And Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people
that are in Egypt, and have heard their cry of anguish, because of
their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to
deliver them out of the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them
up out of that land to a land, beautiful and broad, to a land
flowing with milk and honey; Go and gather the elders of Israel
together and say to them, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, hath appeared to me, saying, I have
surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt,
and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt
to a land flowing with milk and honey. And they shall hearken to
thy voice; and thou shalt come, together with the elders of Israel,
to the king of Egypt, and ye shall say to him, "Jehovah, the God of
the Hebrews, hath appeared to us; and now let us go, we pray thee,
three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to
Jehovah our God."--_Hist. Bible_.
Hold on; hold fast: hold out--patience is genius.
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us
dare to do our duty as we understand it.--_Lincoln_.
THE EGYPTIAN BACKGROUND OF THE BONDAGE.
The one contemporary reference to Israel thus far found in the
Egyptian inscriptions comes from the reign of Merneptah the son of
Ramses II. It implies that at the time at least part of the
Hebrews were in the land of Palestine:
Plundered is Canaan with every evil;
Askalon is carried into captivity,
Gezer is taken;
Yenoam is annihilated,
Israel is desolated, her seed is not,
Palestine has become a widow for Egypt.
All lands are united, they are pacified.
Every one who is turbulent has been found by King Merneptah.
The testimony of the oldest Biblical narratives regarding the
sojourn of the Hebrews in Egypt is, also, in perfect accord with
the picture which the contemporary Egyptian inscriptions give of
the period. Furthermore, the Egyptian historians never
distinguished the different races in their midst, but rather
designated the foreign serf class by a common name. The absence of
detailed reference to the Hebrews is therefore perfectly natural.
It seems probable that not all but only part of the tribes which
ultimately coalesced into the Hebrew nation found their way to
Egypt. The stories regarding Joseph, the traditional father of
Ephraim and Manasseh, imply that these strong central tribes,
possibly together with the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah,
were the chief actors in this opening scene in Israel's history.
The Biblical narratives apparently disagree regarding the duration
of the sojourn in Egypt. The reference in Gen. 15:16, which, some
writers think, comes from the northern Israelite group of stories,
implies that it was a period of between one hundred and one hundred
and fifty years. The same duration is suggested by the priestly
writer in Numbers 26:57-59. The later traditions tend to extend
the period. If, as seems probable, the Hebrews first found their
way to Egypt during the reign of Amenhotep IV, who reigned between
1375 and 1358 B.C., the older Hebrew chronology would make Ramses
II, who reigned between 1292 and 1225, the Pharaoh of the
oppression. Of all the Pharaohs of this period in Egypt's history
the great builder and organizer Ramses II corresponds most closely
to the Biblical description. He it was who filled Egypt from one
end to the other with vast temples and other buildings which could
have been reared only through the services of a huge army of serfs.
The excavations of the Egypt Exploration fund have identified the
Biblical Pithom with certain ruins in the Wady Tumilat near the
eastern terminus of the modern railroad from Cairo to the Suez
Canal. This probably lay in the eastern boundary of the Biblical
land of Goshen, which seems to have included the Wady Tumilat and
to have extended westward to the Nile delta. Here were found
several inscriptions bearing the Egyptian name of the city P-Atum,
house of the god Atum. The excavations also laid bare a great
square brick wall with the ruins of store chambers inside. These
rectangular chambers were of various sizes and were surrounded by
walls two or three yards in thickness. Contemporary inscriptions
indicate that they were filled with grain from the top and were
probably used for the storing of supplies to be used by the armies
of Ramses II in their Asiatic campaigns. This city was founded by
Ramses II, who during the first twenty years of his reign,
developed and colonized the territory east of the Nile delta
including the Biblical land of Goshen. A contemporary inscription
also states that he founded near Pithum the house of Ramses, a city
with a royal residence and temples. Thus the inferences in the
first chapter of Exodus regarding the historical background are in
perfect accord with the facts now known from other sources
regarding the reign of Ramses II. In transforming the land of
Goshen into a cultivated, agricultural region the nomadic Hebrews
were naturally put to task work by the strong-handed ruler of
Egypt. That the Hebrews were restive under this tyranny was
natural, inevitable. Apparently their rebellious attitude also
increased the burden which was placed upon them. The memory of the
crushing Hyksos invasion, which meant the rule of Egypt by nomadic
invaders from Asia, was still fresh in the minds of the Egyptians.
They both looked down upon and feared the nomad immigrants on their
eastern border. In the light of these facts it is possible to
understand the motives which influenced Ramses II cruelly to
oppress the Hebrews. He endeavored, by forced labor and rigorous
peonage, not only to avail himself of their needed services, but
also to crush their spirit and by force to hold in subjection the
alarmingly large serf class which was found at this time in the
land of Egypt. Was any other procedure to be expected from a
despotic ruler of that land and day?
THE MAKING OF A LOYAL PATRIOT.
The story of Moses' birth and early childhood is one of the most
interesting chapters in Biblical history. It is full of human and
dramatic interest. The great crisis in Moses' early manhood came
when he woke to a realization of his kinship with the despised and
oppressed serfs and an appreciation of the cruel injustice of which
they were the helpless victims. Was Moses justified in resisting
the Egyptian taskmaster? Are numbers essential to the rightness of
a cause? What right had Ramses II to demand forced labor from the
immigrants within his border? Was he justified in his method of
exacting tribute? Is peonage always disastrous not only to its
victims but also to the government imposing it?
Did Moses show himself a coward in fleeing from the land of Egypt?
Naturally he went to the land of Midian. The wilderness to the
east of Egypt had for centuries been the place of refuge for
Egyptian fugitives. From about 2000 B.C. there comes the Egyptian
story of Sinuhit, an Egyptian prince, who, to save his life, fled
eastward past the "Wall of the Princes" which guarded the
northeastern frontier of Egypt. On the borders of the wilderness
he found certain Bedouin herdsmen who received him hospitably.
These "sand wanderers" sent him on from tribe to tribe until he
reached the land of Kedem, east of the Dead Sea, where he remained
for a year and a half. Later he found his way to the court of one
of the local kings in central Palestine where he married and became
in time a prosperous local prince.
THE SCHOOL OF THE WILDERNESS.
The story of Moses is in many ways closely parallel to that of
Sinuhit. Among the Midianite tribes living to the south and
southeast of Palestine he found refuge and generous hospitality.
The priest of the sub-tribe of the Kenites received him into his
home and gave him his daughter in marriage. Note the
characteristic Oriental idea of marriage. Here Moses learned the
lessons that were essential for his training as the leader and
deliverer of his people.
The Kenites figure in later Hebrew history as worshippers of
Jehovah and are frequently associated with the Israelites. After
the capture of Jericho certain of them went up with the southern
tribes to conquer southern Palestine. (Judg. 1:16.) It was Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite (Judg. 5:24), who rendered the Hebrews
a signal service by slaying Sisera, the fleeing king of the
Canaanites, after the memorable battle beside the River Kishon.
Many modern scholars draw the conclusion from the Biblical
narrative that it was from the Kenites that Moses first learned of
Yahweh (or, as the distinctive name of Israel's God was translated
by later Jewish scribes, Jehovah). Furthermore it is suggested
that gratitude to the new God, who delivered the Israelites from
their bondage, was the reason why they proved on the whole so loyal
to Jehovah. This conclusion is possible and in many ways
attractive, but it is beset with serious difficulties. We know, in
ancient history, of no other example of a people suddenly changing
their religion. When there have been such sudden and wholesale
conversions in later times they have been either under the
compulsion of the sword, as in the history of Islam, or under the
influence of a far higher religion, as when Christianity has been
carried to heathen peoples on a low stage of civilization. Do the
earliest Hebrew traditions imply that the ancestors of the
Israelites were worshippers of Jehovah? Is it not probable that
Moses fled to the nomadic Midianites not only because they were
kinsmen but because they were also worshippers of Jehovah?
In any case Moses' life in Midian tended to intensify his faith in
Jehovah. The title of his father-in-law implies that this priest
ministered at some wilderness sanctuary. In the light of the
subsequent Biblical narrative was this possibly at the sacred
spring of Kadesh or on the top of the holy mountain Horeb
(elsewhere called Sinai) where Kenites and Hebrews believed that
Jehovah dwelt, or at least manifested himself? Moses, in the home
of the Midian priest, was brought into direct and constant contact
with the Jehovah worship. The cruel fate of his people and the
painful experience in Egypt that had driven him into the wilderness
prepared his mind to receive this training. His quest was for a
just and strong God, able to deliver the oppressed. The wilderness
with its lurking foes and the ever-present dread of hunger and
thirst, deepened his sense of need and of dependence upon a power
able to guide the destinies of men. The peasants of the vast
Antolian plain in central Asia Minor still call every life-giving
spring, "God hath given." The constant necessity of meeting the
dangers of the wilderness and of defending the flocks entrusted to
Moses' care developed his courage and power of leadership and
action. What other great leaders of Israel were trained in this
same school? What was the effect of their wilderness life upon the
early New England pioneers?
MOSES' CALL TO PUBLIC SERVICE.
The solitude of the wilderness gave Moses ample opportunity for
profound reflection. His previous experiences made such reflection
natural, indeed inevitable. Borne by the caravans over the great
highway from the land of the Nile or from desert tribe to tribe
came occasional reports of the cruel injustice to which his kinsmen
in Egypt were subjected. In these reports he recognized the divine
call to duty. When perhaps at last the report came that the mighty
despot Ramses II was dead, Moses like his later successor Isaiah
(Is. 6) saw that the moment had come for decision and action.
It looks to many scholars as if three originally distinct versions
of Moses' call have been welded together in the narrative of Exodus
3, 4 and 6. Each differs in regard to detail (Hist. Bible I,
161-5). According to the early Judean prophetic account Jehovah
spoke audibly to Moses from the flaming thorn bush. In the
Northern Israelite version the moment of decision came to him as he
stood with his flock on the sacred mountain Horeb. Like Isaiah in
his memorable vision of Jehovah's presence, the inner consciousness
of God and the compelling sense of duty led him to cry out: "Here
am I." Likewise in the late priestly story God's presence and
character were so deeply impressed upon him that he seemed to bear
an audible voice, according to the view of those who accept this
interpretation, even though the later priests believed and taught
that God was a spirit, not like man clothed in flesh and blood.
Thus the different groups of Hebrew narratives in their
characteristic way record the essential facts in Moses' call to
public service. Each has preserved certain important elements in
that call, and the late editor has done well to combine them. Even
as Isaiah caught his supreme vision of Jehovah and of duty in the
temple, so to Moses the prophetic call probably came on the lofty
heights of the mountain in which he, in common with the Kenites,
believed God dwelt. The wilderness with its flaming bush spoke to
him God's message. Recent writers have felt and forcibly
interpreted the fascination and the message of the desert and
plain, none more vividly than the Welsh writer Rhoscomyl in
describing the experience of one of his rough, self-reliant cowboy
"Two days ago he was riding back, alone, in the afternoon, from an
unsuccessful search after strayed horses, and suddenly, all in the
lifting of a hoof, the weird prairie had gleamed into eerie life,
had dropped the veil and spoken to him; while the breeze stopped,
and the sun stood still for a flash in waiting for his answer. And
he, his heart in a grip of ice, the frozen flesh a-crawl with
terror upon his loosened bones, white-lipped and wide-eyed with
frantic fear, uttered a yell of horror as he dashed the spurs into
his panic-stricken horse, in a mad endeavor to escape from the
Awful Presence that filled all earth and sky from edge to edge of
"Then almost in the same flash, the unearthly light died out of the
dim prairie, the veil swept across into place again; and he managed
to check his wild flight, and look about him. His empty lips were
gibbering without a sound escaping them, and his very heart
shivered with cold, for all the brassy heat of the day. But the
breeze was wandering on again; under the great sun the prairie
spread dim to the southwest, and tawny to the northeast; only
between his own loose knees the horse trembled in every limb, and
mumbled the bit with dry mouth. All was as before in earth and
sky, apparently, but not in his own self. It was as if his spirit
stood apart from him, putting questions which he could not answer,
and demanding judgment upon problems which he dare not reason out.
"Then he remembered what this thing was which had happened. The
prairie had spoken to him, as sooner or later it spoke to most men
that rode it. It was a something well known amongst them, but
known without words, and as by a subtle instinct, for no man who
had experienced it ever spoke willingly about it afterwards. Only
the man would be changed; some began to be more reckless, as if a
dumb blasphemy rankled hidden in their breasts. Others, coming
with greater strength perhaps to the ordeal, became quieter,
looking squarely at any danger as they face it, but continuing
ahead as though quietly confident that nothing happened save as the
The motive power in all of Moses' later work was that transforming,
vivid sense of Jehovah's presence that came to him on the barren
Also fundamental to his call was the recognition of the crying need
of his disorganized, oppressed kinsmen in Egypt. This appealed to
all the instincts begotten by his shepherd training; for they were
a shepherdless flock in the midst of wolves. Through the ages the
inhabitants of the parched, stony wilderness had looked with hungry
eyes upon the tree-clad hills and green fields of Palestine. The
early traditions of his ancestors also glorified this paradise of
the wilderness wanderer and led Moses to look to it as the haven of
refuge to which he might lead his helpless kinsmen. Vividly and
concretely the ancient narrative tells of the struggle in the mind
of Moses between his own diffidence and consciousness of his
limitations on the one side and on the other his sense of duty and
the realization of Jehovah's power to accomplish what seemed to man
miraculous. Was Moses' inner experience like that of the other
great Hebrew prophets? Who? Like that of Jesus? Does every man
who undertakes a great service for humanity to-day pass through a
somewhat similar struggle? How about Grant on leaving his home at
Galena, Illinois? Lincoln at the great crisis of his life?
THE EDUCATION OF PUBLIC OPINION.
Like every man who catches a vision of a great need and undertakes
to meet it, Moses had to educate public opinion. Whatever the form
of government may be, whether monarchy or democracy, it must
ultimately rest upon the will of the people, and the shaping of
that will is often a statesman's task. In a democracy the
expression of the people's will is readily determined at every
election, although in many cases, owing to the number of issues,
this result is not clearly seen.
In a despotism like Egypt there is no ready expression of a
people's will. However great their sufferings, they must endure
until they feel that the evils of revolt are less than the evils of
oppression. Then, by means of a revolution, they carry out their
will. In what ways did the Exodus resemble, in what ways differ
from a revolution? Compare Moses with Washington or Samuel Adams
as leader of a revolution. During the last few years in China
there has been great dissatisfaction on the part of many millions
of the people with the rule of the Manchu dynasty. It was,
nevertheless, for many years the people's will rather to endure the
evils of a corrupt government than to take the risk of war. At
length, however, after years of propaganda by skilful leaders war
appeared to them the lesser evil and their will was carried out by
force of arms. The government, in this direct way, was forced to
recognize the will of the people and to grant their requests.
A statesman considers not merely his own views regarding the best
methods of governing his country or of gaining special ends, but he
must carefully consider also what plans can in practice be carried
out. In all free governments only those policies can be put into
effect that meet the approval of the people; and one of the
greatest gifts of a statesman is the ability to ascertain, with few
mistakes, how far his proposed policies meet the public will and
how he can so put his plans before the people as to convince them
of their benefits.
In the later days of the Egyptian bondage the Israelites made
frequent complaint of the oppression of the Pharaohs, bemoaning
their fate as serfs, but for many years after their sufferings had
become severe they had not yet been roused to a determination to
throw off the yoke of the oppressor. Even when Moses first
attempted to rouse them to make a struggle for freedom, he could
not breathe into them his own bold spirit. What measures did Moses
take to incite the Israelites to action? What measures did he take
to convince Pharaoh of his duty toward the Israelites? Did he
present his case truthfully? Was he justified in the measures
At length, not from the acts of the Israelites, but from the
plagues that afflicted the Egyptians and the insistent demand of
Moses, coupled with the belief that the plagues were sent on
account of divine displeasure, as a punishment for unjust
oppression, the Hebrews were enabled to escape. What is the
contemporary Egyptian testimony regarding the plagues? (_Hist.
Bible_ I, 176-7.) Do the earliest Hebrew records imply that these
were miracles or natural calamities peculiar to the land of Egypt?
The statesmanship of Moses led him to seize the opportune time for
freeing his people from bondage. Only the influence of the
religious sentiments among his people and their belief in Jehovah
together with the religious awe felt by the Egyptian rulers,
enabled him to take advantage of the circumstances so that he could
rescue his people. In most countries religion is a powerful
influence often made use of by rulers, sometimes for good,
sometimes for ill, to direct the action of their subjects. The
Greek church in Russia has for many decades been, perhaps, the most
important weapon by which the Russian Czars have kept their people
in peaceful submission. If China loses her Mongolian provinces, it
will be because the religious leaders of Mongolia are controlling
their people. Can you give in the United States an example of a
people largely dominated by the religious motive which controls
most of the affairs of their every-day life? How far was the
religious motive responsible for the settlement and upbuilding of
the New England Colonies? How far and in what ways may a statesman
to-day appeal to the moral and religious feelings of the people in
order to promote national and international welfare?
THE TRAINING OF MODERN STATESMEN.
In training administrative officers in the leading countries of
Europe and in the United States, emphasis is laid upon a knowledge
of history, of constitutional, administrative and international
law, politics, economics, diplomacy and any other subjects that may
fall within the scope of action of the special official. When,
however, a law-maker or a high administrative official deals at
first hand with a great population, it is extremely important that
he be so experienced and so fitted by temperament that he may know
his people. He must see how far he can go without arousing too
much opposition. Even in promoting good measures, it is often
essential not to go too fast, if he is to succeed.
Every statesman of modern times, as well as those of bygone days,
must have the interests of the people genuinely at heart if he is
to be, in the best sense of the word, successful. What did Moses
seek for his people? Liberty? Prosperity? Religious freedom?
Confucius, the great Chinese sage, from his study of human nature
and of government five centuries before Christ, had learned that
the rule of justice in the state promoted prosperity. At length a
young ruler made him his prime minister. The result of his wise
and just measures was to bring into his country so large a number
of immigrants who preferred to live in a country where justice
reigned, that the prosperity aroused the envy and hostility of the
neighboring states. In consequence measures were taken to put an
end to this just rule, which was felt to be so detrimental to other
kings, unwilling to adopt the same just means. Finally the wise
Confucius was treacherously driven from his post, not, however,
until he had proved that the counsels of justice and religion were
those best suited to the welfare of the state. This is a common
experience in all lands and ages; but perhaps nowhere else has the
lesson been so frequently and so thoroughly taught as in the
history of the Hebrews, that the most essential factor in a
statesman's training is the acceptance of the principles of justice
and righteousness. In other words--"God is the most important
factor in human progress."
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Is it the duty of a government, in order to promote the welfare of
its people, to set aside at times the personal convenience, even
the personal welfare of individuals or of certain classes? If an
inheritance tax falls heavily upon the heirs of a rich man, ought
the state to collect it? On what grounds is a state justified in
withholding liberty from criminals? From children?
Many of our states compel citizens to work in repairing country
roads. Is this temporary peonage? How do you justify a state in
compelling citizens to risk their lives in war? In what
circumstances would a state be justified in compelling its citizens
to labor? Did circumstances justify Pharaoh? Why were he and his
Is it ever right, for an individual to raise his hand against a
recognized and established authority? Or, when there is an
established government, should an individual ever attempt to punish
crime or avenge personal wrong? Were our revolutionary forefathers
right in resisting the demands of King George? Are numbers
essential to the rightness of a cause?
In what ways does God to-day call men to do an important task? Do
you consider Lincoln a man raised up by God for a purpose and
called by him to service? If so, how did the call come? Was
Moses' call similar? Should a clergyman have a definite call to
his life-work? Should every man? Does every man have such a call,
if he but interprets rightly his experiences?
A working girl had seen the story of Moses at a moving picture
show. Afterwards she commented as follows: "Our walking delegate
is a regular Moses. He said to the factory boss, 'You let my
people go.'" In what respect is the labor struggle to-day similar
to that in Egypt under Moses?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Egyptian System of Education. Breasted, _Hist. of the
Ancient Egyptians_, 92-94, 395; _Hist. of Egypt_, 98-100; Maspero,
_Dawn of Civilization_, 288; Erman, _Life of the Ancient
(2) Origin of the Jehovah Religion. Budde, _Religion of Israel_,
1-38; Gordon, _Early Traditions of Gen_., 106-110; Hastings, _Dict.
of the Bible_, Extra Vol. 626-627.
(3) The Practical Training for Statesmanship of Augustus, Gladstone
and Lincoln. Plutarch, _Lives of the Emperors_; Morley, _Life of
Gladstone_; A. good Biographical Dictionary; Brown, _The Message
of the Modern Pulpit_.
(4) Compare the government of Egypt under Pharaoh with that in
China in the days of Confucius and with that of Greece in the days
of the siege of Troy. Homer, _Iliad and Odyssey; Life of
THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF LAW.
MOSES' WORK AS JUDGE AND PROPHET.--Ex. 18; 1-27; 33:5-11.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 198-203.
_Prin. of Politics_, Ch. VI.
Maine, _Ancient Law_.
Jehovah spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his
friend--Ex. 33: 11.
And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads
over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of
fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all
seasons: the hard cases they brought unto Moses, but every small
matter they judged themselves--Ex. 18:25, 26.
Love is the fulfilling of the law.--St. Paul.
Now this is the Law of the Jungle--as old and as true
as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf
that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth
forward and back--
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength
of the Wolf is the Pack.
Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and
the bump is "_Obey_!"
Nothing is that errs from law.--_Tennyson_.
In vain we call old notions fudge,
And bend conventions to our dealing,
The Ten Commandments will not budge,
And stealing still continues stealing.
If chosen men could never be alone,
In deep mid-silence, open-doored with God
No greatness ever had been dreamed or done.
These roots bear up Dominion: Knowledge, Will,--
These twain are strong, but stronger yet the third,--
Obedience,--'tis the great tap-root that still,
Knit round the rock of Duty, is not stirred,
Though Heaven-loosed tempests spend their utmost skill.
--_Lowell_ (_The Washers of the Shroud_).
THE NEEDS THAT GIVE RISE TO LAW.
Kipling's _Law of the Jungle_, in which he lays down the principles
by which the wolf pack secured united action in its hunting, names
the rules that apply almost universally to peoples in the savage
stage of society. According to the researches of the best
anthropologists, savages live in very loosely organized groups,
with no permanent ruler, no regular family law. Each separate
group has its totem, its general rules with reference to the
marriage relation, to hunting and fishing, to shelter and
protection. Practically there are no regular laws. The rules
fixed by custom deal primarily with the marriage relation and with
the securing of food and shelter. They are largely negative. If a
member of the group has met with a misfortune in a certain by-path
or from eating certain food or in other ways, by the action of the
leader of his group that path or that food becomes taboo, and from
that time on it is forbidden. The rules seem generally to be
largely the product of instinct or of experience, without any law
making, and they are enforced almost as instinctively by the common
consent of the people.
THE GROWTH OF CUSTOMARY LAW.
As this loosely associated group condenses into the tribe, all the
members of which regard themselves as descended from a common
ancestor, the organization becomes much more definite under a
patriarchal ruler. Soon through his activities these almost
instinctive habits, guided by rules, assume the nature of customs
that have a sanction, often of religion, practically always of
enforcement through the patriarch. No better illustration of the
crystallization of customs into laws can be found than that given
in Exodus 18:1-27 (_Hist. Bible_, I, 198-202). Moses sat all day
long as judge to decide cases for the people until his
practical-minded father-in-law, Jethro, seeing the waste of time
and energy of the ruler upon whom the welfare of the tribe
depended, proposed a wise plan. He advised that, instead of
rendering decisions regarding each individual case, Moses should
formulate the principles and leave their application to minor
judges appointed by himself as rulers over thousands and over
hundreds and fifties and tens. In modern days the law-making body
is distinct from the judicial. Is there any reason why the judge
should not be the maker of the law he interprets?
Doubtless many of the customs thus formulated by Moses had come
down through the preceding ages from the Babylonian and common
Semitic ancestors of the Hebrews. The most striking example of the
pre-Mosaic formulation of custom into law under the sanction of the
deity is found in the so-called code of Hammurabi, which comes from
about 1900 B.C. At the top of the stele which records these laws
this enlightened king depicted himself in a bas-relief as receiving
them from the sun god, Shamash. Hammurabi looked upon himself as a
shepherd chosen by the gods to care for his people. It was his
duty to see "that the great should not oppress the weak, to counsel
the widow and orphan, to render judgment and decide the decisions
of the land, and to succor the injured," in order that "by the
command of Shamash, the judge supreme of heaven and earth, justice
might shine in the land." Many of the principles laid down by him
are also found among the laws attributed to Moses which were
afterward codified in the early decalogues.
At times, though rarely among the Hebrews, we may study custom in
the making, as when in a new situation a ruler renders a decision
which henceforth becomes a law. Thus David, dividing the spoil
after his victory over the Amalekites, established a precedent that
henceforth had binding force upon his followers (I Sam. 30); but in
the majority of such cases the ruler, even when be establishes new
precedents, represents himself as simply interpreting ancient
As society becomes more and more complex and the interests of
individuals and classes in society clash, besides the judges we
find legislatures making new rules in the form of law. In the
earlier communities practically all law relates to the preservation
of life and of the tribe. Later, as the tribe enters the pastoral
state, private property is established and laws for its care are
made. Still later, with the development of a higher civilization
and with the individual conscience stimulating men to care for the
welfare not merely of their family, but of their nation,
legislation considers primarily the welfare of society. Yet, as
one of our great judges has lately explained, in practically all
stages of society, whenever the population becomes numerous and
business is so developed that we may recognize different classes in
a community, legislation has been primarily in the interests of a
ruling class, often at the expense of the other classes. This
principle is illustrated by certain of the later Jewish ceremonial
laws that brought to the priests a large income at the expense of
the people. Many laws in Europe and in the United States to-day
have been made clearly in the interests of certain classes in
society. Can you think of some?
THE AUTHORITY UNDERLYING ALL LAW.
Back of all laws and rules, as the fundamental consideration,
whether consciously expressed in laws or carried out instinctively,
lies the welfare of society. Among the wolves the pack that is
best disciplined by the strongest and most successful leader is the
one that survives. In the earlier savage groups the rules which
guided united action grew up as a result of successful experience
in securing food and warding off enemies. Among them the less
disciplined, the less intelligently directed groups perish.
Through his fear of the unknown, stimulated by the terrible
vindications of nature's laws, when poison and pestilence and
storms and floods do their deadly work, the savage feels the
presence of unknown forces that he calls gods, and he thus gives to
his rules of action the sanction of divinity. And as society
develops through the pastoral, agricultural and industrial stages
into the tribe and state, with the development of religion and the
growing sense of right and of responsibility to one's fellow men,
this religious sanction of the law still abides. In the earlier
days the sanction was due to fear of the vengeance of the gods. In
later society it is the sense of right and justice and love for
one's fellow men, springing from the firm belief in the divine
creation and direction of the universe and in God's care for men.
But as this sense of fear or right or justice or love, associated
with a Being felt to be divine, is not universal, inasmuch as many
members of society are found ready to act selfishly, taking the law
into their own hands, force is needed in all stages of society to
put the rules and laws into effect. With every law, as Austin
says, must go a penalty. But as society grows more and more humane
the sense of obligation of each individual for the welfare of his
fellows grows, until in the best society laws are made and obeyed
by most citizens, not from a sense of fear of punishment, but
mainly out of goodwill to others. A sense of justice prevails and
the sanction of law becomes not so much fear of the penalty
imposed, as the moral and religious sense of the individual and of
society. Why, for example, do you obey the law against stealing?
MOSES' RELATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT LAWS.
The Hebrew laws given in the Old Testament are generally known as
the laws of Moses, and the assumption of many readers in earlier
years has been that the different codes were practically formulated
by Moses himself. The subsequent study of the Old Testament long
ago suggested to many that this view may be mistaken. The oldest
records of his work and the fact that, as creator of the Hebrew
nation after the Exodus and as leader and prophet be rendered
important judicial decisions, have well justified the belief that
he was the real founder of what is called the Mosaic Law. As
stated in Exodus 18, he did actually formulate the principles by
which decisions were made by the rulers whom he appointed over
thousands and over hundreds, fifties and tens. He may have even
put into form the principles found in the earliest decalogues.
Moreover, as the Israelites in their later history were led to
formulate new rules of action, they based these upon the principles
of justice, religion and civil equality found in the earlier
decalogues. While the specific rules of living must have changed
materially, as the Israelites changed their habits of living from
those of wanderers in the wilderness to those adapted to their
early settlements in Canaan and afterward to the settled conditions
under the monarchy, they would still base their laws upon these
earlier principles. Hence it was not unnatural to ascribe the
origin of these laws to Moses, nor is it to-day inaccurate to speak
of them as the Mosaic code, even though they may have been put into
their present form at different periods remote from one another,
and by rulers, prophets and priests whose occupations and attitude
toward life were widely different. Back of practically all these
laws are the fundamental beliefs that the Israelites are the people
chosen of God, that to him they owe allegiance and that from him
they derive, in principle at least, the laws under which they live.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN LAW.
Not merely the Hebrews, but practically all ancient nations ascribe
the origin of their laws either to a deity or to some great
ancestral hero. As already noted, the code of Hammurabi is
represented as having been given to him directly by the god
Shamash. In the early days of Greek history, the laws of Solon and
Draco were formulated. In India we find the laws of Manu, in China
the teachings of Confucius, and so on throughout all of the great
nations. In some instances, doubtless, many of the laws were
actually formulated under the direction of the person to whom they
are ascribed; but in many others, as perhaps in the case of the
Mosaic code, there was some great judge or king under whose
direction certain principles were laid down and simple laws or
precedents established, and as a result all later developments were
ascribed to him.
In modern times, when legislative bodies are found in limited
monarchies as well as in republics, the methods of legislation are
necessarily different. Although chosen bodies of men come together
to legislate for the benefit of society, as represented by the
state, there is still a normal tendency for the ruling class to
feel that it is to a great extent the state, and it does not forget
its own needs. This class legislation was doubtless existent to a
certain extent even when the laws, supposed to be of divine origin,
were formulated by prophets and priests, for the real public
character of the laws was dependent primarily upon the unselfish
beliefs, social and religious, of the writers, whether kings or
priests. No one is able to free himself entirely from the
influence of class prejudice.
Like the legislatures the courts even are also the product of their
times, though naturally conservative. No law can long exactly fit
changing conditions. The judge must adapt a law made by one
generation to the needs of the next. In so doing he bends it to
suit his times, and to further the welfare of his state.
If aeroplanes carrying goods from Pennsylvania to New York over the
State of New Jersey let them fall and damage the property of a
resident of New Jersey, can our courts invoke the Interstate
Commerce Law made before aeroplanes were invented?
And yet there has been throughout the individual history of each
nation a gradual improvement in the living conditions of the masses
of people, even in the tribal state. As it proved more profitable
to preserve a worker than to kill him, captives in war were not
slain, but enslaved. As society became more settled, the custom of
personally avenging one's wrong by slaying an enemy was modified.
Cities of refuge were established, where innocent victims might
escape the avengers. All down through the ages there has been a
growing tendency to adapt the punishment to the crime, to temper
justice with mercy, to realize that the aim of all law is not
vengeance or punishment, but the promotion of the best interests of
society through the wise administration of justice.
THE ATTITUDE OP THE CITIZENS TOWARD THE LAW.
Among savages, as has been said, there is no formulation of law.
There is the instinct of the individual to preserve his own life,
and there are rules that must be followed if the people are to
survive. As has been truly said: "The love of justice is simply in
the majority of men the fear of suffering injustice." The instinct
of preservation and sheer necessity compel the people almost
unconsciously to follow the rules of their leader.
In most patriarchal societies the fear of the god of the tribe, the
overpowering influence of custom and the unswerving directness of
the punishment of the man who violates it tend to prevent the
development of individuality and of independent thinking; and the
normal attitude of practically every person is to obey the customs
and the laws, although often those laws leave to the individual a
range of action not found in later civilized states. But as the
sense of right and justice and the desire to promote the public
welfare grow, individualism grows also. Each individual, thrown
upon his own resources, learns to think and question and judge. In
democratic states he learns to take upon himself the responsibility
for his acts, and at length the view becomes prevalent that law
exists for the benefit of society. The individual, in judging
himself and his attitude toward society, feels that the law must be
obeyed because obedience promotes the public welfare. Even when he
believes that a law is unwise, or even unjust, he hesitates to
violate it, not only because he might be punished therefor, but
primarily because it has become wrong, according to his conscience,
to violate a law that has been adopted by the representatives of
his fellow citizens as just and beneficial. Thus the individual,
in later even more than in earlier times, obeys the laws not merely
from selfish, but from social and religious motives.
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Can you name any modern laws that you think have been framed in the
interests of a special social class?
Do you think that the people of to-day are recreant in their
respect for or adherence to law?
What do you consider to be the value of such institutions as those
at West Point and Annapolis in their influence on the enforcement
of law and discipline?
When we speak of "Government of the people, by the people, and for
the people," whom exactly do we mean by "people"? Does the word
have the same meaning in each of these phrases?
Is it ever right to violate a law of the land? Some people contend
that an individual ought to break a human law, provided that it is
contrary to divine law. What is divine law? Who decides? Shall
the individual decide, or is that the duty of the community? Or of
the clergy? Was it right for the Abolitionists to violate the
provisions of the fugitive slave law? Were this handful of men,
able and conscientious as they were, as likely to be right
regarding the welfare of society as the large majority of citizens
whose representatives had enacted the fugitive slave law? If a
person believes our tariff laws to be unjust, is it right for him
to smuggle goods?
Under what circumstances, if any, is it one's duty to disobey a law
of the state? Would the fact that an individual believed it his
duty to violate the law justify a judge in declining to punish him?
Thoreau declined to pay a tax that he believed unjust and accepted
his punishment, declaring that if he paid the penalty he might thus
arouse public sentiment and secure the repeal of the law. Was John
Brown justified in attempting illegally to free slaves by force of
In Great Britain the House of Lords--one of the law-making
bodies--is also the highest court of appeal, although the judicial
business is mostly done by law lords specially appointed for that
purpose. Ought the same men to make and interpret the law? Why?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) Origin and Growth of Hebrew Law. Hastings, _Dict. of Bible_,
III, 64-67; _Ency. Bib_., III, 2714-8; Kent, _Israel's Laws and
Legal Precedents_, IV, 8-15.
(2) Growth of Primitive Law. Maine, _Ancient Law_, 109-165;
Wilson, _The State_, 1-29.
(3) Judicial Decisions as a Factor in the Development of Modern
Law. _Prin. of Politics_, Chap. VI, Ransom, _Majority Rule and the
THE FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD CITIZENSHIP.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.--Ex. 20:1-17.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 194-198.
_Prin. of Politics_, Chap. II.
Lowell, _Essay on "Democracy."
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image.
Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.--_Ex. 20:3-17_.
If ye know my commandments, happy are ye if ye do them.--Jesus.
Wherewithal shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the
High God? . . . He hath showed thee, Oh man, what is good; and
what doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, and to love
kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?--Micah 6:6, 8.
Most religions are meant to be straight lines connecting two
points--God and man. But Christianity has three points--God, man,
and his brother--with two lines to make a right angle.--_Maltbie D.
So many prayers, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
When just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
--Eva Wheeler Wilcox.
THE HISTORY OF THE PROPHETIC DECALOGUE.
The decalogues of Exodus 20-23 clearly represent the earliest canon
of the Old Testament. These are intended to define clearly the
obligations of the nation to Jehovah, and to place these
obligations before the people so definitely that they would be
understood and met. As the term "decalogue," that is "ten words,"
indicates, the Biblical decalogue originally contained ten brief
sententious commands, easily memorized even by children. Each of
the decalogues is divided into two groups of five laws or pentads.
This division of five and ten was without reasonable doubt intended
to aid the memory by associating each law with a finger or thumb of
the two hands. Exodus 20-23 and its parallels in Deuteronomy
contain ten decalogues, that is a decalogue of decalogues,
suggesting that originally a decalogue was associated with each of
the fingers and thumbs of the two hands even as were the individual
words or commands. This system of mnemonics was useful in teaching
a child nation. It is still useful to-day. It is important to
impress upon the child in this concrete way certain of the
fundamental obligations to God and man. The form of the ten
commandments in part explains the commanding place which they still
hold in religious education throughout Christendom.
The Biblical accounts of the two decalogues in Exodus 20 and 34
vary in details. The early Judean prophetic narrative in Exodus 34
states that these commands were inscribed by Moses himself on two
stone tablets. In the later versions of the story Jehovah
inscribes them with his own fingers on the two tablets which he
gave to Moses. That the older decalogue was written on two tablets
and set up in the temple of Solomon is exceedingly probable, for by
the days of the United Kingdom the Hebrews were beginning to become
acquainted with the art of writing and therefore could read the
laws in written form. The recently discovered code of Hammurabi,
which comes from the twentieth century B.C., was inscribed in
parallel columns on a stone monument. In the epilogue to this
wonderful code the king states: "By the order of Shamash, the judge
supreme of heaven and earth, that judgment may shine in the land, I
set up a bas-relief to preserve my likeness in the great temple
that I love, to commemorate my name forever in gratitude. The
oppressed who has a suit to prosecute may come before my image,
that of a righteous king, and read my inscription and understand my
precious words and let my stele elucidate his case. Let him see
the law he seeks, and may he draw in his breath and say: 'This
Hammurabi was to his people like the father that begot them!'"
Thus this devout king of ancient Babylonia graphically defines the
motive which, at a later period, led Israel's spiritual leaders to
set before the people those principles which made for the welfare
both of the nation and of the individual. Each was keenly
conscious that the laws which brought social and spiritual health
to mankind emanated from the divine power that was guiding the
destinies of men.
Hebrew tradition has described in a great variety of narratives the
way in which God made known his will to the people. The scene in
each case was Mount Sinai, which the ancient Hebrews as well as the
Kenites regarded as Jehovah's abode. In the early Judean version,
as some writers classify the accounts, Moses alone ascends the
mountain, while the people are forbidden to approach. In the
Northern Israelite version, the people approach, but being
terrified by the thunder and lightnings they request Moses to
receive for them the divine message. This later version implies
that a raging thunder storm shrouded the sacred mountain, while the
early Judean and late priestly narratives apparently suggest an
The element common to all these accounts is that under the
direction of their prophetic leader, Moses, a solemn covenant was
established between the nation and Jehovah, and that the
obligations of the people were defined in the decalogue with its
ten short commands. The problem is, however, complicated by the
presence of two decalogues, one now preserved in Exodus 34 and the
other, the familiar ten commandments of Exodus 20. Both agree in
emphasizing as primary the nation's obligation to be loyal to
Jehovah. The decalogue in Exodus 34, however, goes on to describe
in succeeding laws the ways in which the nation may show its
loyalty. This was through the observation of certain ceremonial
customs and especially the great annual feasts. Did most ancient
peoples show their loyalty to the gods by their lives and deeds or
by the ceremonies of the ritual and the offerings which they
brought to the altars? The first great prophet Amos declared that
Jehovah hated and despised feasts and ceremonies unless accompanied
by deeds of justice and mercy.
The decalogue in Exodus 34 may well represent the original commands
which Moses laid upon the nation, but the higher moral sense of
later editors has truly recognized the superiority of the ethical
commands of the familiar decalogue in Exodus 20 and given it the
commanding place which it richly deserves. (For a probable
literary history of this decalogue see _Hist. Bible_ I, 194-5.)
The two decalogues of Exodus 20 and 34 are not duplicates the one
of the other, but rather supplement each other. The one defines
the obligation of the nation, the other of the individual. The
Hebrews long continued to retain in their homes the family images
inherited from their Semitic ancestors. Not until the days of Amos
and Isaiah did the prophets begin to protest against the calves or
bulls and the cherubim in the sanctuaries of Northern Israel, and
even in the temple at Jerusalem. Hence the second command, "Thou
shalt not make for thyself any graven image," some believe comes
from a period centuries later than Moses. Possibly, as in Exodus
34:17, it originally read "molten image" and referred to foreign
idols. If so, it may come in this older form from Moses. The
tenth command which places the emphasis on the motive rather than
the act also suggests a maturer age; but with these possible
exceptions there is good reason for believing that the spirit and
teaching of Moses are embodied in this noble decalogue.
In what respects does the version in Deuteronomy 5 differ from that
in Exodus 20? (_Hist. Bible_ I, 195.) Which is probably the older
version? What later explanations and exhortations have been added
to the original ten words in Exodus 20? In Deuteronomy 5? What
was the object of these additions? Are they of real value? Is it
profitable to teach them to children to-day?
OBLIGATIONS OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO GOD.
Into what two groups do the ten words in Exodus 20 fall? And what
is the theme of each? Is there a real difference between the
command of Exodus 34, "Thou shalt worship no other gods" and that
of Exodus 20, "Thou shall have no other gods before me"? Did the
Hebrews as a matter of fact tolerate the worship of other gods in
their midst centuries after the days of Moses? May the Hebrews
have originally interpreted the command of Exodus 20 as a demand
that Jehovah be given the first place in the worship and faith of
Israel? How did later prophets like Elijah and Isaiah interpret
it? (See I Kings 18:21 and Is. 6:1-8; 8:13.) The older command in
Exodus 34, "Thou shall make thee no molten gods," was probably
intended to guard the Israelites from imitating the religious
customs of their heathen neighbors, such as the Egyptians and the
Moabites. The command to make no graven image was, it seems,
directed not against the public idols but against the private
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