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61. NEW CENSUS AND ALLOTMENT OF THE
[NUMBERS XXV. XXVI. XXXII.] A census of the men above twenty years was instituted in the plains of Moab, and gave the number of 601,730. • But among these there was not a man of those whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.'
Large districts in the east of the Jordan consisted chiefly of pasture lands most valuable for shepherd tribes. When the Israelites had conquered from Sihon and Og extensive tracts of such land, together with walled cities and deep wells, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and a great portion of the Manassites, who were particularly rich in cattle, desired to settle there permanently. They made their request to Moses and to the High-priest Eleazar. But Moses replied severely : “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall
sit here?' Then he bade them remember how the cowardice of the scouts that had been sent from Kadesh to Eshcol had called down the Lord's anger, who declared that the whole generation should perish in the wilderness without entering the Promised Land. The men, however, had no intention to desert their brethren ; after building sheepfolds for their cattle, and houses for their children, they wished to go with the Hebrew army over the Jordan, and to assist in the conquest of the land; and not before that conquest was completed would they return to their eastern possessions. Moses expressed himself satisfied with this declaration and pledge, and assigned to Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh, the beautiful provinces which they claimed.
62. DEATH AND CHARACTER OF MOSES.
[DEUT. I. 899.]
The nation of wanderers lay encamped in the districts of Moab, with the rugged mountain fastnesses rising around them, with the distant prospect of plains and fields, where herds of cattle were grazing, near the oaks of Bashan and the fenced cities which now belonged to them and their children.
The prophet stood at the door of the Tabernacle, encompassed by the glory of God. The people, all gathered about their tents, were awaiting his word. They were resting from their victory over the Midianites, and prepared to cross the Jordan for the occupation of Canaan. They had swept the enemies from their path, and had now no fear of the mighty children of Anak. In the desert, a new generation of sturdy warriors had sprung up, who had never felt the bondage, and had never seen the wealth and luxury, of Egypt. But Moses, no more than his brother Aaron, was permitted to enter the Promised Land: he was to die on its very borders. He had once doubted the word of the Lord at the rock of Meribah, and in spite of his habitual faith and obedience, he was to suffer a bitter punishment. He neither murmured nor repined: he had fulfilled his appointed task, he left the rest to the Lord. He was 120 years old, but his eye was not dim, and his strength had not abated. He was still a general ready to lead forth his people to battle, and a judge administering justice to all. Filled with the spirit of God, he assembled the children of Israel in their encampment at the foot of Mount Pisgah, and in solemn and touching words recalled to them the incidents of their miraculous deliverance, from their flight out of
Egypt down to the recent warfare with the powerful desert tribes. Intending the address as his farewell to the people on the very eve of their triumph, he interwove with it a repetition of the Ten Commandments and of many of the important laws, together with impressive appeals to faith and piety. He bade the people remember that it was through the Lord alone that they had been delivered out of Egypt; He had chosen them to hand down the revealed truth from generation to generation, and to diffuse it throughout the earth. They were to possess Canaan not on account of their own righteousness, for they had ever been sinful and disobedient, but by the grace and mercy of God. But they must preserve their faith pure and undefiled, abhorring and keeping aloof from every form and manner of idolatry. All images found in the land of Canaan were to be destroyed, all groves and temples dedicated to false gods to be hewn down, all idolatrous nations exterminated. Should any one of the children of Israel turn to idolatry, no pity was to be shown to him : he should be stoned to death by the congregation; for Moses knew too well the weakness and inconsistency of the people.
Then followed a powerful exhortation to obedience. It seemed as if the great prophet had divined the days of peril and tribulation which the Israelites later called down
upon themselves; as if it were given to him to see into the distant future fraught with sorrow and suffering. In forcible and soul-stirring words, he tried to impress his hearers with the great principles of the new creed proclaimed by him: “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him. But if they should forsake their God, if they should follow in the evil ways of other nations, then dire punishment would assuredly follow : The Lord shall scatter you among the nations, you shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead
you. Yet even in this gloom and misery, they should not be without hope: 'If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.'
From the mountain heights, Moses looked towards the Promised Land, which was so soon to be in the hands of the Israelites. Can we listen unmoved to his minute description of it? “The Lord thy God brings thee into a goodly land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates, a land of oil, olive, and honey, a land wherein thou shalt eat without scarceness; thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. For the land whither thou goest is not as the land of Egypt from whence you came out, where thou didst sow thy seed and water it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs : but the land whither you go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven.'
The religious and civil precepts dwelt upon by Moses in his long discourse are mainly those previously enjoined, but they include also a new law, that concerning the future election of a king. He foresaw that the Israelites, so prone to follow the example of surrounding nations, would doubtless wish for a supreme ruler or monarch, and he desired to guide their choice for their national welfare. He shall be one,' he said, whom the Lord shall choose, one from among thy brethren shalt thou make king over thee; thou mayest not set a stranger over thee who is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, in order to multiply horses; for the Lord has said to you, You shall henceforth no return that way. Nor shall he take many wives, that
his heart may not turn away; nor shall he amass silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this Law out of the book which is before the priests the Levites.'
Pursuing his appeal, Moses set before the people the blessing and prosperity they would enjoy if they were obedient to the Divine injunctions. For this commandment,' so ran the words of Moses, which I command thee this day, is not hidden from thee, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh to thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.' And on the other hand, Moses unfolded an awful picture of the disasters and calamities that would befall them if they disobeyed the Lord—how they would be persecuted and besieged and driven to unheard-of misery, perish by war, and famine, and pestilence ; and how they would finally be captured and scattered, and led as bondmen into a distant land by fierce and merciless foes : “. . . Thou shalt serve thy enemies whom the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things; and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until He has destroyed thee. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies ; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young.
Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sickness.' . .