Imagens das páginas

render the injunctions more impressive, the Israelites were commanded, after the conquest of the promised land, solemnly to pronounce the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal, and thus, as it were, to confirm their own reward and their own punishment (Levit. xxvi.; Deut. xxviii.).


[LEVIT. X.] It will be remembered that we interrupted our narrative, in order to insert a sketch of the moral, religious, and social legislation of the Hebrews; we now resume it to follow the events recorded in the Pentateuch.

It has been related how Aaron was installed in the priestly office to which his descendants were to be heirs for ever. But although they were thus suddenly elevated to a post of great distinction, they were not declared holy and sinless; they were by their lives to prove that they were worthy to minister in the Tabernacle of the Lord. But Aaron's two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, showed too soon that their minds were not prepared for the high privileges conferred upon them: they were wanting in reverence and faithful obedience. At an irregular time, they brought strange fire,' that is, fire not taken from the brazen altar in the Court of the Tabernacle, and burnt incense to the Lord. The offence was followed by instantaneous retribution ; fire descended from heaven, and killed the two self-willed men. On this occasion the peculiar sanctity of the Hebrew priesthood was strikingly revealed. Aaron was naturally overwhelmed with grief by the awful disaster; but Moses approached him with the words: This is it that the Lord spoke, saying, I will be sanctified through those that are near Me, and before

all the people I will be glorified.' Aaron felt the truth and significance of the rebuke, and he was silent. But Moses pursued his object still further; for he said to his bereaved brother Aaron, and his two surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar: Do not let your heads be disheveled, nor rend your clothes, lest you die, and lest God be wroth upon all the congregation; and you shall not go out from the doors of the Tabernacle, lest you die; for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.' The ministers of God were to subdue their human and natural sympathies, in order to live for His service alone, in perfect unworldliness and holiness.


[NUMB. I. sqq.] The Israelites had been journeying for a year in the wilderness, when Moses was commanded by the Lord to number them. Each man who had arrived at the age

of twenty, and who was therefore able to serve as a soldier, was to be included in the census, with the exception, however, of the tribe of Levi, which was exempt from military and civil burdens. The Israelites numbered 603,550 men capable of bearing arms; among them the tribe of Judah was prominent in strength, counting above 74,000 men. The whole host, including men, women, and children, must therefore have consisted of about two millions and a half of souls.

When the people encamped, whether for a shorter or a longer time, the tribes were uniformly arranged in the same prescribed order. In the centre stood the Tabernacle, guarded and protected by the Levites and priests, who surrounded it. On its eastern side encamped Judah, and with him Issachar and Zebulon; to the west Ephraim,

together with Benjamin and Manasseh ; to the north Dan, with Asher and Naphtali ; and to the south Reuben, with Gad and Simeon.

Above the Tabernacle hung a cloud of smoke by day, and a cloud of fire by night. When the Israelites were to move onward, the cloud went before them; and when they were to pitch their tents, the cloud rested.

As the Ark was lifted up to precede the advancing army, Moses exclaimed: Rise up, O Lord, and let Thy enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee;' and when the Ark rested, he said : Restore, O Lord, the myriads of the hosts of Israel.'

In order to arouse the attention of the vast multitude, whether upon the march or during the encampment, Moses was commanded to use two silver trumpets; their loud and significant blast would be a summons for the people and "a memorial' before God; it was to be a signal for the whole community or the chiefs to assemble before the Tabernacle, or to prepare for departure from the encampment; it led the warriors to battle, and proclaimed the holy festivals, the days of gladness and thanksgiving, of solemnity and humiliation.

In the second month of the second year, the cloud rose above the Tabernacle and summoned the Israelites to leave their resting-place at Sinai, and to resume their march. They proceeded in a north-easterly direction. The Tabernacle, carefully protected, was carried and watched by the Levites; the Ark of the Covenant was borne in front of the congregation; and the vast host of men, women, and children toiled on, their tents slung on poles, their camels heavily laden, their flocks and herds driven before them. After

After a three days' journey they arrived in the wilderness of Paran, where the cloud of the Lord rested.


[NUMB. XI.] Discontent and impatience arose among the people. Forgetting their promise of trust and obedience, they murmured bitterly against Moses.

God in His anger sent fire upon them from heaven, causing terror and destruction. Hence the place was called Taberah, that is, Conflagration.

The Hebrews had now subsisted upon manna so long that it became distasteful to them; they began to yearn for flesh and other food to which they had before been accustomed: “We remember the fish, they said murmuringly, which we ate in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: but now our soul is languishing ; there is nothing at all, besides this manna, before our eyes.' Moses heard this outcry with sorrow and displeasure; he felt that the burden of guiding and controlling so vast and so mutinous a host was more than he could bear; how could he satisfy their wild clamour for flesh ? He cried to God and entreated His help. The Lord listened to his prayer. He commanded him to select seventy of the elders, upon whom He would bestow a part of that Divine spirit which distinguished Moses himself; and He promised that the people should have the flesh they were coveting, but it should come to them as a bitter punishment: “You shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but even a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils, and it is loathsome to you : because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, Why did we come forth out of Egypt ?'

Here an episode happened which exhibits the character

the camp

of Moses in all its purity and greatness. The seventy men selected and endowed with the Divine spirit uttered prophecies: ‘But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad ; and the spirit rested upon them (they were of those who were written down, but they had not gone out into the Tabernacle), and they prophesied in

. And there ran a young man and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad prophesy in the camp. And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of Moses from his youth, answered and said, My Lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said to him, Dost thou strive for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His spirit upon them!' As the Israelites had been declared to be a people of priests, so Moses desired to make them a people of prophets, and to let them share his own spiritual privileges.

Now a strong wind rose and blew flocks of quails into the camp. They came in such multitudes that they covered the ground two cubits high for a space of a day's journey round the camp. The people gathered eagerly, and ate to their full satisfaction. While they were still enjoying that longed-for food, they were smitten by a fearful plague which caused death and desolation in the camp; hence the place received the name Kivroth-huttaavah, that is, Graves of Greediness.


[Numb. XII.)

After this terrible punishment, the Israelites journeyed on again in a north-easterly direction, and rested shortly afterwards in Hazeroth. Besides Zipporah, the daughter of the wise old Midianite priest Jethro, Moses had mar

« AnteriorContinuar »