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established the commonwealth. Nor would the critic, who should propose to expound the words of Moses, in these connexions, on the basis of their literal import, find it possible to carry out such an interpretation ; so numerous are the instances of the use of language, to which, literally taken, nothing can be found to correspond, in the more recent fortunes of the Jewish race.*
Moses now proceeds to make the last arrangements for devolving his trust, so far as that trust was still to be continued, on his already designated successor. He tells the people, that, being by age disabled for such usefulness as the times required, and having reached the furthest point to which he was to be permitted to advance, he has no more to do than to commit them to the divine guidance, and to that of their new leader, with the assurance, that, if true to themselves, they would be divinely strengthened for the conquest, which was to give them the land of the patriarchs for their secure home, and for the scene, if they would have it so, of their future glorious history.t To their leader he repeated a solemn charge in their presence, exhorting him to that courage which became his station ;and committed the Law, which he had written, to the custody of the “priests” and “elders,” with the command to perpetuate a universal knowledge of its contents among the people, by causing it to be publicly read in their hearing, on the recurrence of every sabbatical year, when they should be convened at the Feast of Tabernacles;- a season, which, by its exciting associations, would secure to the truths of their religion, the requisitions of their law, and the wonders of their history, a strong impression on their minds.*
* E. g. Deut. xxviii. 22, 23, 24, 27, 35, 61 ; xxix. 23.
t xxxi. 1-6. — “I am an hundred and twenty years old” (2); compare p. 507, note. — “Joshua, he shall go before thee, as the Lord hath said ” (3); compare Numb. xxvii. 18.
| Deut. xxxi. 7, 8.
Once more; it was fit that before the venerable minister of God's high purposes laid down his charge, there
* Deut. xxxi. 9-13; compare xvii. 18. The reader will remark, that I do not, by a petitio principi, represent the book of Deuteronomy as declaring Moses to be the author of the Pentateuch, because it relates him to have written “ this Law” (xxxi. 9; compare 24, 26). In these writings, as in our common use, the word law means either a single provision (as Gen. xlvii. 26), or a collection of provisions relating to some one subject or more (Lev. xi. 46), or a complete code (Psalm i. 2); and which meaning is in a given case intended, is to be ascertained from the context. Being persuaded, for reasons set forth at large in this volume, that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, I conclude that collection to be “the law” here intended; inasmuch as all reasons, which led him to compose it, would influence him equally to take special care for its preservation and publication, and all reasons, which would impel him to make provision for the safe keeping and publication of a part, (whatever part that might be, to which xxxi. 9 should be understood to refer,) would call still more strongly for the same provision in respect to the whole volume. It is true, that some of the early regulations were afterwards modified or repealed. But the record of them did not therefore become obsolete and useless. Considered simply as belonging to the history of the legislation, they had their great and permanent value and importance. But, besides, they were interwoven into a history of the divine dealings with the nation, which was as essential to be known, as any regulations. As to the original compendious law in Exodus (xx.- xxiii.), it is remarkable, (what, however, I have nowhere seen remarked,) that no one of its provisions was afterwards repealed, though in a very few instances (e. g. Ex. xxi. 4, 7,) they subsequently received a greater extension. If any part of the Law could advantageously be spared from the periodical public reading, every one would say that it was the book of Leviticus, as pertaining especially to that ritual which was the charge of the priesthood ; yet how fit was it, that, by being compelled to exhibit this portion of the code, at such intervals, that the same generation would hear it repeatedly, they should be called upon to give satisfaction to the people, that they had not interpolated it, and that they executed their functions agreeably to its provisions. The view, proposed by some commentators, that the book of Deuteronomy was “the Law” intended in xxxi. 9–13, appears to me to have been taken up without proper consideration of the structure and contents of that book, which, taken by itself, presents nothing like a system. I cannot attach any importance to the objection, that the Law, in its larger acceptation, was of too great bulk to be conveniently read in eight days. Certainly, it cannot be pretended that there was any deficiency of
should be given in the people's view (most of whom had not witnessed his first acts of power) an attestation to the authority, under which the work, now about to be finished, had proceeded, similar to what had been from time to time employed, when his commission was first received.* Attended by Joshua, he repaired, by the Divine summons, to the Tabernacle; and there, while a supernatural manifestation betokened the Divine presence to the people's view, and gave the visible sanction of the Divine authority to the provision made for their future government, Joshua received his charge respecting the execution of the high trust he was undertaking,t and to both was dictated a warning to be communicated to the people, respecting the inevitable consequences of future disobedience, which, as coming directly from their Divine benefactor, and under such solemn circumstances, was suited to have all the effect on their minds, which could be exerted by remonstrance in any form.f Departing from the Tabernacle, Moses resumed the “book of the Law" to make in it the further important record of the admonition which he had now received, § and returning it to the Levites to be deposited in the most sacred place of the nation, “by the side of the ark of the covenant,” || he convened
time; of course, there would be a succession of readers; and there is no reason to presume that the audience of any one hour would be precisely that of the next.
* Ex. xxxiii. 9; Numb. xi. 25; xii. 5. + Deut. xxxi. 14, 15, 23.
-“He gave Joshua, the son of Nun, a charge” (23). This is not a repetition of verse 7; but clearly, I think, God gave this charge; for the verse proceeds, “Thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them, and I will be with thee;" compare 14. The transposition which this interpretation supposes of the facts recorded in verses 22, 23, is by no means violent. Moses merely notes (22), that he fulfilled the direction which concerned himself (16, 19), before he proceeds to mention that which had been addressed (23) to Joshua. | xxxi. 16-21.
|| xxxi. 24 - 27.
the congregation once more to deliver to them the message with which he and Joshua had been intrusted ;* after which, adding a few earnest and persuasive words,t he withdrew to the retirement of the appointed mountain, to enjoy one distant view of the land where his people were now ripe for establishing their divinely instituted commonwealth, and then to rest in death from his long labors. I
* Deut. xxxi. 28, 29; xxxii. 44, 45.
† xxxii. 46, 47. | xxxii. 48–52. — It will be perceived, from the representation in the paragraph above, that I apply the words “this song " (xxxi. 19, 21, 22, xxxii. 44), not, as is commonly done, to xxxii. 1-43, but to xxxi. 16-18. That the word rendered “song " may with propriety be used of such a passage as that last named (compare Is. v. 1), I suppose no one would dispute ; and the whole context, in my view, dictates the conclusion, that it is so used. Upon this interpretation, God addresses to Moses a brief and solemn admonition for the people respecting their future course, an admonition obviously suitable in every point of view, in length, in substance, in tone, and in form, for its intended office, commanding him to “ teach it” to them, and “put it in their mouths”; which he presently proceeds to do (Deut. xxxi. 22, 28; xxxii. 44, 45), having first taken care (xxxi. 22 ; compare 24) to make it part of the written record. By the received exposition, the directions and statement concerning “ this song,” in xxxi. 19-22, are severed from the close connexion in which they stand with 16-18, and made to refer to another passage, which, of course, God is then represented as having in the first place himself delivered, and then commanded the children of Israel to learn; though its length appears to make it altogether unsuitable for the latter use, and (what is more to the purpose) its contents are not such as to correspond with the view of its being a message from the Deity. As to the latter point, it is not only that single expressions are clearly the language of a devout worshipper of Jehovah, and are incapable of being referred to Jehovah himself (e. g. xxxii. 3, 31), and that in parts (20-27, 37 – 42) the composition itself introduces the Lord as speaking, (a positive indication of the different source of the composition, which contains those episodes,) but its whole tone, ve ose, discursive, gorgeous, and expressive of human feelings, is so widely adverse to any easy conception of that Divine message (given under well defined circumstances) which the common exposition represents it to be, that I do not perceive how a careful reader can recognise any verisimilitude in that view.
This brings us to the question, Where does the record of Moses end? That it ends somewhere before the end of the book of Deuteronomy (as that book exists in our hands), I suppose no one who entertains the question, would now deny ; though there have been critics, who, in their zeal for
The writer, who has continued the record after the final entry in it by Moses' hand, has preserved for us some of his later words, probably as he understood them to have been remembered and reported by those
the integrity of the Pentateuch, have maintained that Moses wrote' prophetically, in the thirty-fourth chapter, of his death and burial. If his record closed before the end of the present book, how much before? It is a question which cannot be positively answered. I have little hesitation in ascribing the thirty-third chapter, as well as the thirty-fourth, to a later hand, not only because its contents appear to be represented as Moses' last words (which he who utters them can hardly be supposed himself to record), but for other reasons to be mentioned presently. These chapters being left out of the question, I am doubtful at which of two points to place the limit of Moses' writing. I find every reason for carrying it as far forward as the entry of the important transaction at the Tabernacle, which no person but himself and Joshua could record, from personal knowledge; that is, to the end of xxxi. 23. That in the act of delivering the volume to the Levites, he should himself make the record of the important fact of this delivery, and its reason (24 - 27), and that, before he resigned the book, he should add, in a few words, a statement of the command, which at the same time he was giving them, to convoke the people for his last public act, viz. the annunciation to them of the Divine message, which, in their view, he had just been receiving for that purpose (28, 29), appears to me in a high degree probable. I suppose then, either that his record terminated at that point, or else that he proceeded so much further, as to add, in xxxii. 44 - 52, an account of his performance of this duty, of the brief address with which he followed it, and of the summons, now to be obeyed, which called him away to the vision of Canaan, and to his death. Without pretending to decide any thing, still, in the fulness with which this last topic is set forth, in the tone of exultation for the people's prospects, and of compunction and melancholy for his own, in the allusion to the brother departed before him, and the expression of satisfaction, that, if Canaan is not to be reached by him, it is yet to be seen, I find that which inclines me to refer this record, also, to Moses' own hand.
In either case, I understand the passage xxxii. 1 - 43, with its inscription (xxxi. 30), to be a later addition. Still, it may have been a composition of Moses ;- no considerations I have presented imply any thing to the contrary, nor is any important argument to that effect brought to view by an examination of its language; it may have been, I say, an independent composition, not intended for the place where it stands, and having nothing to do with xxxi. 19, 21, 22. If it were so, we are aided to conjecture how it came to be interpolated where we find it. Some possessor of it, recognising it as Moses' work, imagining (perhaps) that, being so, it must originally have belonged to his larger work, the Pentateuch, and