Page images
PDF
EPUB

of his narratives, and compare with these the general spirit of the document, it does not seem an improbable supposition in view of the known structure of other Semitic histories, that these ancient national lyrics were all derived from the same anthology, in short that the Book of Jashar-Israel underlies the history of J throughout its whole extent, and that it suggested to its author the form of his history of Israel, J impressing upon it its religious character.

The only other written source quoted by J is a brief code, summing up in “ Ten Words ” the religious duties of the lay Israelite. J calls it “ The Words of the Covenant," and declares them to have been written by Moses on tables of stones” on Sinai. Curiously we have fragments of the same code in a somewhat later, but substantially identical form, in E; here it is called “ The Book of the Covenant" and is said to have been written by Moses at Horeb, though the material employed is not stated.* Neither writer professes to have personal knowledge of this autograph of Moses (or of God) and though their words would seem to indicate the existence of written copies of this primitive code, the very diversity of their versions proves that they did not have recourse to the same original.

E seems to have had at command a collection of national lyrics to some extent parallel to J's. In this case we learn more from the title, but much less from the single extract cited from the anthology by name. The Book of the Wars of Yahweh shows by its title that it possessed the same patriotic character we have attributed to the Book of Jashar, and was very likely the collection which in Ephraim had come to take the place of the former, as better agreeing with northern ideas. Its title also shows that the practice of E in the elohistic parts of Exodus and the later books in regard to the divine name,

* In my judgment these ritual Ten Words must have occupied in El—see below—the position now given by E? to the later ethical “Ten Words” of Ex. XX. ; in other words Ex. xxiv. 12–14 applied originally to them, so that El agreed with J as to the vexed question, What was written on the two tables of was not that of all his sources, if of any, and confirms our view that it is more of a redactional than of a spontaneous character. As to the contents of this work we have certain knowledge regarding only the single extract Num. xxi. 14f., as to the border of Moab; but the proximity of the ensuing extract in vv. 27-30 has led nearly all critics to infer that the song of the “ taunting poets” over the ruin of Moab was drawn from the same source, if not the same poem. This further description in vs. 27 of the class of poems to which the ensuing extract belongs is a further indication of at least one group in the collection. It contained the songs of exultation over fallen enemies, which the spirit of the times regarded as worthy fruits of poetic genius. A magnificent example is the ode of exultation over the fallen king of Babylon in Is. xiv., where the term “ taunting poem " (mashal) is translated by the Revisers “parable " (vs. 4). Another eminent example of this class which could not be omitted from any collection, least of all from a book of the Wars of Yahweh, is the Song of “Miriam the prophetess," Ex. xv. 2of. ; and here we doubtless have not merely one of the poems contained in each anthology, but probably the first selection of E's collection (cf. vs. 3 ?); at least this was necessarily the first of the “ wars of Yahweh."

stone.

It requires but a very reasonable supposition to include in this collection the story of “Yahweh's war with Amalek" in the poetic citation Ex, xvii. 16; for this also the present historian found “written in a book,” which it would be natural to identify with the “ Book of the Wars of Yahweh.” Its sequel, then, in I Sam. xv., where the same poetic structure is plainly visible in vv. 22f., must also have formed part of the collection ; nor will the reference to Agag in J's version of the Blessing of Balaam Num. xxiv. 7 appear any longer strange, when we reflect that E’s parallel to this poem, which from its wide divergence cannot possibly have been taken from J's anthology, would naturally come from that same Book of the Wars of Yahweh from which he drew the extracts of the preceding chapter. It may seem to us a little hard to bring Balaam's oracle under the title "the Wars of Yahweh"; but to E the episode belongs in this category, for in Jos. xxiv. 9 he writes : “Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab arose and fought against Israel ; and he sent and called Balaam,” etc.

It is thus not impossible to obtain a reasonably trustworthy idea of the character and contents of each of the primitive anthologies. E's more limited, and perhaps later collection probably did not go much back of the Exodus, but must have been similar in character and content to the Book of Jashar, sometimes in verbal agreement (cf. Ex, xv. I with vs. 21). As with J, the anthology doubtless suggested much of the form and character of the prose history based upon it.

The most important prose source of the preëxilic writers is E's Book of Judgments, whose character has been widely discussed in special treatises by Rothstein, Baentzsch and others.* If, as we conjecture, it was incorporated by E in Moses' farewell discourse, and was the law of which he declares that Moses commanded the elders of Israel, after its formal promulgation and enactment by the people on mount Ebal, to inscribe it on stone stelae there, it corresponds to the traditional Roman Laws of the Twelve Tables, a charter of popular rights publicly recorded. Its inestimable value to the historian of ancient Israel is self-evident, though its character shows it to have grown up after Israel had become settled in a fixed agricultural civilization. The religious standpoint (xxii. 20) seems to presuppose the work of Elijah and Jehu. It does not require a great effort to imagine Jehu himself erecting the stelae in question.

The oral sources of J and E are folk-tales of various kinds, which might be classified as aetiologies, clan-stories (historical and ethnological) and historical tradition. We can indeed trace

* I regret exceedingly that the essay of Prof. Lewis B. Paton, of Hartford, Ct., in the “ Journal of Bibl. Lit.,” on The Original Form of the Book of the Covenant has reached me only in time for mention in this note. His conclusions are most interesting and his investigation worthy of study. But a separation of the Book of Judgments from the Book of the Covenant still seems to me necessary, if only to account for the extraordinary position of the civil “ judgments ” Ex. xxi.f. between the two halves of a religious code, Ex. xx. 2326; and xxii. 27-xxiii. 19.

the presence, though we cannot extricate the material, of a written source in J's admirable history of the reigns of Saul and David. But even this, on close inspection, reveals the marks of the popular story-teller sitting in the city-gate. If written in the form transmitted to J, its earliest form was oral. The earlier narratives are of course to a large degree legendary, sometimes a fragment of ancient song, sometimes the suggestive name of a locality Massah, Meribah, Kibroth-hattaavah, Kadesh, Hormah, Lehi, giving rise, by fanciful etymologies, to fantastic developments in the story. Again the local traditions of a particular revered object, “pillar," sacred tree, altar, or well, the Nehushtan of Jerusalem (II Kings xviii. 4) the local sanctuaries of Palestine, have contributed their full share. The tribal and clan-stories include such material as the genealogies of J, the Joseph-legend of E, the story of the stocks of Judah in Gen, xxxviii, and the Calebite tradition in Num, xiiif., Jos. xiv. 6-15; XV. 13-19; Jud. i, 10-15. But certainly one of the most important classes of primitive, quasi-historical tradition is that connected with the sacred feasts. Here the recital of the traditional history was made a part of the ritual (Ex. xii. 26 ; xiii. 14; Dt. xxvi. 5 ff.), and although the feasts are doubtless older than the historical events they are employed to commemorate, J even preserving a trace of this real relation in his story of the Exodus, where Israel demands release in order to celebrate the feast, still there can be no doubt that for ages the story of the Plagues of Egypt and the Deliverance from the House of Bondage has been told, and had been even in J's time, at the annual celebration of the Passover. Whether the story of the Law-giving at Sinai was likewise told at the Feast of Weeks it is not so easy to say.

The Feast of Ingathering naturally retained its original agricultural character.

With such materials we may imagine a priest of Solomon's temple of about the period of Jehoiada, and doubtless of similar character and standing, compiling the Judean History of the Covenant people of Yahweh, under the impulse of the great Yahwistic revolution. In like manner in Ephraim the same plan was followed somewhat later, with very similar materials, by an intense devotee of that great school of prophets which had inaugurated the movement. A man of the type of Hosea gives to us the very embodiment of the prophetic ideals of that period in this Ephraimite History of the Theocratic Succession. Two such monuments of the great religious movement preceding the age of written prophecy could not fail to become the nucleus of an increasing aggregate of “Mosaic" thought. In fact critics are almost unanimous in tracing in both J and E the marks of repeated editings of the original works.

The presence of a J2 in Genesis, who has materially raised the moral tone of Ji by his additions, was noted in the preceding volume. The most important addition is the grafting in from Assyro-Babylonian sources upon the ancient Hebrew stock of the great Flood-legend, with some accompanying geographic and ethnographic data of a learned character. In the intercession of Abram, Gen. xviii. 17-19, 23–33, its character appears as much more reverential toward Yahweh, and if Kuenen is right in attributing to it the story of Potiphar's wife, Gen. xxxix., its author would seem to have drawn, not only upon Assyrian, but also upon Egyptian literature for morally edifying material. The genealogy of the Horites, xxxvi. 1039, is perhaps part of the same enrichment ; xxvi. I, which refers to xii. 10-20 J?, yet pays no attention to the much nearer and more striking parallel ch, xx., indicates that it preceded the union of J and E. The phenomena lead Budde to regard this as a quasi-official revision emanating from the highest quarter, perhaps about the time of Ahaz, a date for which there is some internal confirmation.

That this revision extended to the later books is not only an a priori probability, but seems to be indicated by the text itself. A revising hand has certainly retouched the Plague narratives quite independently of harmonistic or Deuteronomic requirement. Further, in the intercessory interviews of Moses and Joshua in J, Ex. iv. 10-13 ; xxxii. 7-14 ; xxxiii. 12—xxxiv. 9; Num. xiv. 11-24; Jos. vii. 7-9; we have not only a very remark

« PreviousContinue »