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for the event narrated doubtless originates ætiologically from the material object, and not vice versa.
Ancient songs, of which one collection is actually cited by title in Num. xxi. 14, contributed their full share to the scanty recollections of this period, strange fabrics being often woven out of passages whose poetic allusions had lost their original application in the lapse of time. That cited from the “ Book of the Wars of Yahweh ” celebrates the conquest of the city of Beer in Moab, (Jud. ix. 21 ; cf. Beer-elim, Is. XV. 8), with punning play upon the name (Beer=" Well"; Beer-elim, “Well of the Princes"). “That is the well," says the historian, “ of which • Yahweh said, Gather the people together and I will give them water.” The poet doubtless gave account of the mustering of the people by the princes with their rods of office (Gen. xlix. 10) to the attack and conquest of the city, and, after the triumph, the exulting song of the victors.
“ Spring up, O Well ; spring up and flow
The Well, which the princes digged,
It is not impossible that the story of the cleft rock at Meribah which has found a place in all the narratives, (though in J no trace of the rod appears) received its form (in E) through the influence of this punning song. “The satiric poets ” (cf. Is. xiv. 4 for an example of the “ proverb ”–R. V.“ parable "-of exultation over a defeated foe) are again drawn upon to corroborate and embellish the historian's report of the conquest of the territory of Reuben, Israel's first permanent foothold, and of certain geographical relations involved. Again the poem appears to have referred originally to later events, and is so employed in Jer. xlviii. 45f. Doubtless, however, the story it is connected with is by no means devoid of historical foundation. A much larger contribution from poetic sources is the Oracle of Balaam, the splendid lyric which forms the real nucleus of the Story of the Wandering. Although the poem itself manifestly contemplates the bloom of national life under the reign of David, and must emanate originally from that period, the historical setting which the poet adopts consists of the tradition (which should be fairly reliable) of Israel's relations with Moab immediately before the crossing of Jordan to the Conquest.
We are thus brought to that which constitutes the essentially valuable material in this ancient collection of traditions of the 40 years' wandering, the later reminiscences of Israel's relation with the kindred peoples and of the attacks upon Canaanite territory. There can be no doubt that we are treading here upon comparatively firm ground of actual historical recollection. The story of the unsuccessful attempt from Kadesh toward the north was not invented ; nor is the connection of Hebron with the expedition of Caleb which attaches to it (cf. Num. xiv. uff., with Jos. xiv. 6–15) valueless. The story of repulse and defeat by "the Amalekite," or "the king of Arad," though attaching to a name (Hormah) which may have long preceded the event, is not likely to be the fruit of imagination only. We may feel sure, further, that the national recollection is not at fault when, after this first repulse on the south, it represents an indefinite period (40 years) of nomadic life in the desert with headquarters in the rich oasis of Kadesh and the neighboring wells. Even tradition has nothing to tell of this long period of depression, approaching no doubt even dissolution ; but we may again be sure it is right in representing the next attack to have been made from the east, after a prolonged march around the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. This flank movement moreover must have been effected peacefully, by consent, if not solicitation of Edom and Moab. There is no good reason to doubt that an Amorite occupation of the territory between Moab and Ammon had really taken place, according to the story of E, xxi. 26, and it may well be that this was the occasion which led Israel to break up for good and all their connections with Kadesh, and strike one blow for their kindred of Edom and Moab, and two for themselves, against the Amorite beyond Jordan. E takes great pains to exhibit the careful respect shown by Israel on this march for the territory of Edom, Moab and Ammon. We must, however, at least question whether this respect was carried to ch an extent as to le them off the regular route of travel through the midst of Edom and Moab, clear out into the desert of Kedemoth as E represents. But it is far from improbable that after the victory over the Amorite and establishment of Israel in the territory of Reuben (the firstborn of Israel, i. e. first to come to settled life) Moab (and “ Midian in the field of Moab?”) began to exhibit feelings of jealousy and hostility towards a poor relation whose welcome was already worn out when his services were no longer needed. The setting of the poem of Balaam's oracle may therefore be derived from genuine tradition. The settlement of Reuben (and Gad? cf. Dt. xxxiii. 2of.) may also well belong to the national recollection, though we cannot of course accept the idea presented by Num. xxxii, in its present form, that Moses assumed to distribute the territory tribe by tribe, and that only the women and children of the transjordanic tribes remained in the newly conquered country, until the conquest of Palestine proper was accomplished. Reuben secured a foothold here, no doubt, as first comer. The merit of loyalty with which the national tradition credits the two tribes, Gad and Reuben (cf. Dt. xxxiii. 20f.) was amply deserved, if, after having secured a “restingplace" for themselves, they did not lose interest in the fortunes of the brother tribes, but, when occasion led these across the Jordan, made common cause with them, as indeed was necessary in order that Israel's meagre force (Dt. vii. 7) might make any impression against the formidable fortresses of central Palestine.
An unbiassed critical judgment will scarcely be able to reject the narratives of this primitive Story of the Wilderness Wandering, legendary in form though they be, as historically worthless. On the contrary, the further the process of disentanglement of the earlier sources proceeds, the more certain does it become that we have here at bottom the material out of which trustworthy history is made.
As to the priestly element in Numbers it is so exclusively occupied with interests concerning the Levitical ritual that it scarcely calls for our further attention. Aside from its prescriptions in regard to various sacrifices and ceremonies it utilizes the history only as a basis for its ideal classification of the tribes and their inheritances, and sketches in summary outline, and from an artificial and ideal standpoint, a brief parallel to the cardinal events of the story of JE. One event, however, only lightly touched by JE, the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram (E) combined by Rje with a somewhat similar narrative of J concerning the priestly ambitions of a certain Korah, P has developed at great length in order to set forth in historical form his conception of the true dignity of the Aaronic priest. What was the original location, or ætiological occasion, if any, of the story as given in JE does not appear. J's version may perhaps have had something to do with priestly prerogative. Upon the basis of a brief story in JE as to Israel's idolatrous conduct at Shittim, P also develops quite a story, whose outcome is the establishment of the priestly succession in the house of Phinehas. What the historical, or other, basis for the story in JE may have been, it is not possible to say ; but both J and E seem to have had a part in it.
With Num. xxvii, 12-23, which, however, belongs after, not before, the story of the allotment of an inheritance to Gad and Reuben, P’'s story of the Exodus obviously draws to a close. The census preparatory to the distribution of inheritances has been taken. All the directions are given for this distribution beyond Jordan and whatever else could fall to the part of Moses to arrange for. These directions themselves are intermingled with various novellae, laws pertaining to the ritual, and a repulsive midrash on an expedition by Joshua against Midian, ch. xxxi. In xxvii. 12ff. Moses is at his last hour; he has received the command to go up into this mountain of Abarim," and, when he has viewed the land, to die there as Aaron had died on mount Hor. To his request for leave to appoint a successor Yahweh accedes, and Moses gives Joshua a charge in the presence of all the congregation. The final hour has come ; but, like the patriarchs of Genesis whose abnormally long lease of life, according to P, would not suffer them to die for years, or even centuries, after the narrative of JE has them stretched upon their deathbeds in articulo mortis, Moses remains, so far as P2 is concerned, in a condition of suspended animation until the entire legislation of Deuteronomy has been introduced. Then at last, in Dt. xxxii. 48ff., the direction of Num. xxvii. 12ff. is resumed, and, after the Blessing of Dt. xxxiii., in Dt. xxxiv. 5, 7-9 he actually breathes his last.
The long period of silence covering Israel's stay at Kadesh affords a natural separation of the Story of the Wilderness Wandering, and the book of Numbers thus easily divides itself into two sections, $ V. including chh. x. 11-XX. 13, relating the events From Sinai to Kadesh ; § VI. including chh. XX. 14xxxvi. 13 describing the journey, From Kadesh to the Jordan.
§ V. Num. X. 11.—XX. 13.
FROM SINAI TO KADESH, In § V., as before, we confine ourselves to the Tradition of the Exodus, excluding the irrelevant legislative sections principally derived from P, chh. xv. and xviii. 8-32 ; xix.
According to P2 Israel journeyed in the prescribed order from Sinai and pitched in the wilderness of Paran ; x, 1f. Here Moses appoints twelve spies who explore in 40 days the entire land of Palestine up to Hamath, the extreme limit of the Solomonic domain ; but return with an evil report of the land ; xiii. 1-16, 17 a, 21, 25, 26 a, 32. The people are rebellious; but Joshua and Caleb protest that the land is good ; the people, however, are mutinous, until the appearance of the Shekinah; xiv. if., 5–7, 10. Yahweh then pronounces the sentence of 40 years' wandering, till all the congregation save Joshua and Caleb shall have died ; vv. 26–30, 34-38. (Certain laws follow in ch, xv. quite disconnected from the narrative). Korah and 250 followers aspire to the priesthood but are swallowed up alive by the earth ; xvi. 2–7, 15a and parts of 16-18, 19–24, 27a, and traces in vv. 31ff. On the morrow the people murmur against Moses and Aaron, and are smitten with a plague, which destroys 14,700 ; vv. 41-50. The rods of the princes are laid up before the Testimony, and Aaron's rod buds; ch. xvii. Institution of the Levites as assistants of the priests ;