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sonal fault, but the betrayal of an official trust-malfeasance of office. "Like priest like people" is the proverbial statement of a law of social development that is not sufficiently recognized.
The office of prophet was largely that of criticism, of innovation and reform, while that of the priest was conservative and educational. The former is always more interesting, but the latter is, in the long run, more important.
This contrast of the prophetic and priestly offices is admirably stated by Dr. Andrew Harper. “The modern tendency in Old Testament study is to depreciate the priest and to exalt the prophet, just as in ecclesiastical life we tend to make much of those who are, or who give themselves out to be, religious reformers and thinkers, and to make little of the ordinary parish ministry. But the good done by the latter is, and must be, for each individual generation more than that done by the former. No one can estimate too highly the conserving and elevating effect of a faithful, high-minded minister. Often without genius either intellectual or religious, without much speculative power, with so firm a hold of the old truth, which has been their own guiding star, that they cannot readily see the good in anything new, such men, when faithful to the light they have, are the stable, restful, immediately effective element in all church life. The priests and Levites were the entirely indispensable element in the religious life of the nation. They gave the daily bread of religion to the people. They embodied the principles which came to them from prophetic inspiration in ceremonies and institutions; they treasured up whatever had been gained, and kept the people nurtured in it and admonished by it."
THE PUBLICATION OF THE LAW
The Statutes and Judgments which are recorded in this book, and taken as the text of its discourses, are not to be thought
of as a code of laws, devised by Moses out of his own heart, and ordained by his authority.
They were, doubtless, for the most part, customs and usages that had sprung up at various times, and were already well established in the life of the people. Some of them, no doubt, had originated during their sojourn in the wilderness, called forth by the circumstances of that time; but most of them were probably very ancient, and had been preserved by tradition from before the time of Abraham, and observed, so far as circumstances had permitted, through the whole period of their sojourn in Egypt. The work of Moses was chiefly that of revision, of sifting and mending of these ancient laws so that they should express and define the conduct required by the fuller knowledge of God, and the new circumstances into which they were about to come. Laws and social customs are always very conservative. They change by slow degrees, and are the work of evolution rather than revolution.
Moreover, in the earlier stages of a nation's life, laws are much less definite than when the social order has become more fixed and settled. The strict interpretation of the letter of the statute is characteristic of a late stage of society. In the earlier stages more is left to the discretion of the judges, and their aim was faithfulness to the principles rather than strict conformity to the words of a statute.
But it is obviously necessary that the people be informed of the laws they are to observe and obey. They must somehow be published.
As the nation was about to enter the promised land, and settle there, they would of necessity face new conditions and live in very different circumstances from those of their wandering life in the wilderness. It was therefore specially important that the laws adapted to these new conditions should be made familiar. This necessity did not escape the notice of the great law-giver, and he devised the means to meet it. These
means were of four kinds.
1. First, there was to be a great popular meeting to ratify the constitution the fundamental principles, according to which they were to govern themselves. They are not required to ratify the statutes and ordinances in detail, for these would always be subject to revision as change of conditions should require, but they should bind themselves by a solemn oath to abide forever by the principles of justice and purity and loyalty to God. It is a great dramatic ritual to be observed after they had entered into possesion of the promised land, and before they had scattered abroad to their allotted homes. The whole congregation was to gather in the valley of Shechem, where Abraham had pitched his tent under the oaks of Moreh, and had erected his first altar to God in the land which he was to receive as an inheritance after four hundred years. Here they were to divide into two great companies. Six tribes were to ascend Mt. Ebal on the one side of the valley and the other six tribes were to ascend Mt. Gerizim on the other side of the valley. Then the Levites on Mt. Gerizim were to proclaim with a loud voice the terms of blessing which God had promised, and the whole congregation should respond, Amen. Then those upon Mt. Ebal should in like manner proclaim the curses that were ordained against those who should be guilty of the sins specified in the proclamation, and again the people should respond, Amen. It was a most impressive ceremony, and well designed to fix in every heart the dread solemnity of their covenant with God, their King.
These blessings and curses are the text on which Moses bases the discourse of Chapter XXVIII. A forceful sermon, which glows with fervent zeal; first setting forth with finest eloquence the blessings which would come to them if they were faithful; then in burning words he pictures the terrible punishments that would surely follow their unfaithfulness. It is the most fearsome picture ever drawn of the consequences that follow
any want of conformity unto, or transgression of the laws of God.
2. The second method of publishing the law was the great stone-and-plaster pillar that they were to erect after they had crossed over Jordan, and on which the law was to be inscribed as a permanent record.
3. Moses also wrote this law and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them saying, “At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and children and the stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn and fear the Lord your God.” This was the third means of publishing and perpetrating the knowledge of the law.
4. The fourth and most important means of making known the law was by the constant repetition of it, especially to the children of each generation, and the daily, familiar quotation of it on all occasions. "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house and on thy gates." Ch. vi:6-9.
In connection with this provision for the teaching of the law to the children and associating it with their daily life, Moses gives a solemn warning against the dangers of prosperity. He anticipates the tendency, so strong in all of us, to forget God when we have no present sense of need. He gives this warn
ing therefore, "When the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which He sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob to give thee,
when thou hast eaten and be full, then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
The strong emphasis put upon the command to make the law familiar to each coming generation is one of the striking features of this book, and is significant of much; one thing may be especially noted, that is the absolute confidence of Moses in the everlasting validity of these laws. He was not afraid to have their sweet reasonableness tested by familiarity and practical experience.
THE SONG OF MOSES
Considered merely as a poem this song is one of the great liter ary masterpieces. It is constructed according to the rules of Hebrew classic poetry, and has in high degree the peculiar appeal to our sense of aesthetic excellence. Each verse contains two clauses which express the same thought in slightly varied forms. This is the peculiar feature of all Hebrew poetry; and, where these parallel expressions are skillfully drawn it is a most effective means of artistic emphasis. The effects produced by this reduplication of each thought are various. Sometimes the thought is merely emphasized by the re-echoing of it in a varied form, as vs. 10.
“He compassed him about, He cared for Him;
Sometimes the second line expands or expounds the first, as
“Of the Rock that begat thee thou hast been unmindful; Thou hast forgotten God that gave thee birth,"