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Another difficulty is started thus: “ The people, we are told, were supplied with manna. But there was no miraculous provision of food for the herds and flocks. They were left to gather sustenance as they could in the inhospitable wilderness. We will,” he says, “now go on to consider the possibility of such a multitude of cattle finding any means of support for forty years under these circumstances;” and then we find a number of arguments to prove the incredibility of the story. The statement of flocks and herds being led forth by the people rests on the same basis of authority as the account of the manna. Did not Jesus Christ expressly say to the Jews, “your fathers did eat mannu in the wilderness and are dead ?" Was that true or false? If false, what are we to say of the Divine mission, leaving out altogether the Divine nature, of our Lord and Master? If true, if the Israelites did eat manna in the wilderness, then on what ground are we to disbelieve that flocks and herds were taken by the tribes, and were supported by Divine Providence in some way or other, while that Providence miraculously fed the people themselves ? The story of the manna and that of the flocks and herds rest originally on the same authority. But why, after all, might not large flocks and herds scattered about, be sustained in a region which, according to the best judges, such as Canon Stanley, was most likely much less barren than at present ?
The strong language about the forbidding scenery and desolation of the desert, it has been shown, does not militate against this; and, in point of fact, we know that in Moses' time the wilderness did afford pasture land; for “ Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back side of the desert.” In all probability, “ Moses and the leaders, with a considerable company, would travel by one path, great companies, pursuing the same main track, would travel by others. The people would doubtless distribute themselves under their leaders, and find water and shelter as they could around the central camp.'
“ In the sixth chapter, on the extent of the camp compared with the priest's duties and the daily necessities of the people,” we are told that the “refuse of the sacrifices would bave to be carried by the priest himself, Aaron, Eleazar, or Ithamar-there were no others—a distance of three-quarters of a mile” on his own, or six miles on what he supposes to be Scott's computation; and then Dr. Colenso pictures to himself “the priest having himself to carry, on his back, on foot, from St. Paul's to the outskirts of the metropolis, . . . even the whole bullock” (pp. 39, 40). First of all, the six miles must be reduced to one and a half; and then wby Aaron could not help his sons, or his sons help Aaron, has to be shown. As there is nothing in Lev. iv. 11, 12, to indicate that it was necessary that the priest should be on foot, or that
* “The Soul's Exodus and Pilgrimage." By J. B. Brown.
the bullock should be on his back ; but as there is in Num. vii. 1–9, the mention of six covered wagons expressly presented for the use of the sanctuary on the day it was set up, we want to know again why the more obvious should give way to a preposterous assumption! Again : as a scholar, he is aware of a Hiphil conjugation in Hebrew, and ought to have known that the word “carry" means “shall cause to carry.” There were thousands of Levites expressly appointed to do the heavy work of the sanctuary (Num. iii. 9; iv. 15); and by them the priest could cause to be carried, not one, but a hundred bullocks-not a mile and a half, which was the distance to be traversed, but the six miles he assumes on a mistake of Scott's meaning. " The last straw breaks a camel's back" is an Arabian saying; but before we can let Dr. Colenso break the priest's back by putting a bullock upon it, we want a few mistakes corrected, and ask where were the Levites—if is was to be done on foot and where the wagons, if Levites might not help those whom they were appointed to assist ?*
The 21st chapter is written to perplex the laity of the Church of England (Pref. p. 35) with the question, “How did these three priests manage at the celebration of the passover ?” (p. 131.) We say the laity, because the clergy, unless they are as ill-informed as the Bishop, would not require a moment's consideration to show the fallacy of his inferences. Ingenuity less perverse would have gone to Ex. xii. 21, 22, to learn that the heads of families slew the paschal lamb and sprinkled its blood on the door-posts of houses in Egypt and of their substitutes in the desert. But Dr. Colenso goes to the age, circumstances, and practices of Hezekiah and Josiah for what we must call his precedents! In the time of these kings it appears from 2 Chron. xxx. 16; xxxv. 11, " that the people killed the passover, but the priests sprinkled the blood from their hands, and the Levites flayed them" (p. 131). If from this passage it is allowable to learn what the priests did seven centuries before, it is equally allowable to learn how Levites helped the priest; and then, what becomes of the preceding chapter (p. 122–130), in which “multifarious” and impossible duties are fastened upon three priests unaided by the Levites ? If we turn to 2 Chron. xxx. 13—18, we find that the reason why the priests and Levites did the part assigned by the law of Moses (Ex. xii. 21, 22; Num. ix. 2—12) to the heads of families, was the exceptional state in which the people then were, and yet this exceptional case is selected to prove the rule. The expression “they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written” (2 Chron. xxx. 5), and which Dr. Colenso quotes (p. 131), shows how preposterous is his way of dealing with the subject. For
“the rites” and “ ceremonies" and “ordinances of the passover" written? In Num. ix. 1-14, certain provisions are
* See “Christ or Colenso," by Micaiah Hill; a very good little book on the subject.
made for exceptional cases ; but the laws of the passover are in Ex. xi., and it is to these passages we must go to see how it was to be kept“ in such sort as it was written,” and not to 2 Chron. xxx. and XXXV., where we see that it was not observed as strictly as prescribed.” *
It is curious to find a person objecting to the Books of Moses, and yet taking no exception to the miracles. “Nor are the difficulties to which I am now referring (says Dr. Colenso) of the same kind as those which arise from considering the accounts of the creation and the deluge (though these of themselves are very formidable); or the stupendous character of certain miracles, as that of the sun and moon standing still, or the waters of the river Jordan standing in heaps as solid walls; while the stream, as we may suppose, was still running; or the ass speaking with human voice; or the miracles wrought by the magicians of Egypt, such as the conversion of a rod into a snake, and the latter being endowed with life.” Though it does not seem that the writer believes these things, he does not base his objections to the Pentateuch on the ground of its containing the record of these wonders. He seems to be fascinated by the arithmetical difficulties, and stands like a charmstruck serpent gazing with fiery eyes on the dazzling figures. One moral objection is adduced. He cites Ex. xxi. 4: “If his master have given him a wife, and she bave born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself;" the wife and children in such a case being placed under the protection of such other words as these : “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money” (Ex. xxi. 20, 21). “I shall never forget,” Dr. Colenso adds, “ the revulsion of feeling with which a very intelligent Christian native, with whose help I was translating these words into the Zulu tongue, first heard them as words said to be uttered by the same great and gracious Being whom I was teaching bim to trust in and adore.”
In the first place, as a modern Rabbi remarks, the commandment does not refer to murder with malice prepense, but to accidental manslaughter; and that still if the slave died under his master's hand, it is to be avenged (for this is the true translation of the original, he shall be punished). In the second place, no doubt the provision is startling, and to refer to the slave as his master's “money or property, is not in harmony with the notions of right and wrong taught in the New Testament; but it is to be remembered neither Moses nor God is to be made responsible for slavery, out of which this statute grew. Slavery existed before the Mosaic law. So far from being created, it was mitigated and softened by it. So far as it was allowed, it was, like polygamy and divorce, allowed (to use our Lord's words) because of the hardness of the people's hearts. Here a value is set upon a slave's life, such as there is no reason to believe was recognised in Egypt. What is harsh belongs to others, not to Moses; what is mild to Moses, not to others. All the dishonour of slavery pertains to the age of the world in which he lived; all the credit of mitigating slavery belongs to the law Moses was inspired to enact.
* “ Christ or Colenso."
In reference to the question of the numbers of the Israelitish people, the most satisfactory solution of the difficulty is, we consider, one which suggested itself to us some time ago, and has just been ably set forth and largely illustrated by Dr. Forbes. It is, that an error has crept into the text through the addition of what would be equivalent to a modern cipher. The details are given below.*
* “The discovery of the precise mode in which the mistake in transcribing the original numerals has arisen, may, or may not elude the researches of future inquirers; but that the error, in whatever way originated, consists in what is equivalent in our present notation to adding a cipher to all the larger numbers, results, I think, from the following considerations :
I. In both the first and second census, detailed in Numbers iï, and xxvi., the numbers invariably end with a cipher, both of each tribe and of the sum total. Thus,
40,500 &c. “II. The number of the first-born (22,273), if given correctly, which we conclude it to be, as it does not end with a cipher, but with a 3, imperatively calls for this correction, since the proportion of the first-born to the population, as they stand in the text at present, involves the absurdity that every family on an average consisted of 42 sons! Take the tenth part of these, and the average number of sons in each family (4.2) is reduced to reasonable proportions. III. The number of male Levites, from a month old and upward,' is stated to be 22,000 (Numbers iii. 39); a number secured from error in transcription by its being brought into close connexion with the number of the first-born, 22,273 (verse 26), for whom they were substituted. This number, accordingly, tallies correctly with the numbers of the other tribes when reduced by striking off the cipher, while it is utterly at variance with them as they stand in the present text. Thus, supposing the males able to go forth to war' to form one-third of the whole males, the 22,000 male Lerites would be 380 fewer than the males of the tribe of Judah (22,380), and 3,190 more than those of Dan (18,810). At this rate, which it will be observed is considerably higher than that usually assumed, the total number of Israelites, male and female (including 44,000 Levites), would amount only to 406,130, which is 37,744 less than the population of Liverpool, and about half the scanty population of Palestine at the present day, where panthers and other wild beasts abound. If it be asked, how could an error of such magnitude have crept in? it is not difficult to find an answer. If the Hebrews, like other oriental nations, anciently employed letters to express numbers, as is generally supposed,
Without pledging our periodical to this theory, we would just say that the reduction of the numbers, as thus suggested, would materially diminish the difficulty of conceiving how the multitude could depart out of Egypt in order ; how they could march through the Red Sea in the time specified; how they could encamp in the wilderness, and find pasture for their flocks; how they could provide tents and carry them; how lambs could be found for the passover; how the priests could perform their duties for so great a multitude, and the like. If instead of two millions of people, according to Dr. Colenso's assumption, which he exaggerates into a population equal to that of all London, there were but one-tenth of that number, the difficulty on the score of the unwieldy mass of the Israelites, is, to say the very least, diminished to a great extent. Dr. Colenso is for ever adverting to his two millions, thus indicating that the main stress of his argument lies there. But if it can be fairly shown that the two millions are capable of being reduced to one-tenth of that number, we should like to know how he would proceed in maintaining the incredibility of the Mosaic narrative. *
That there are some difficulties in the Pentateuch-which Dr. Colenso, like a man who is striving to make out a case, magnifies as much as
the units and tens up to a hundred would all but exhaust their 22 letters, and every additional decimal place would be expressed, most probably, by small marks attached to the letters. How readily might a misunderstanding of these, by the copyists who first transcribed them into words at full length, as they are at present found in the text, have originated the error!”
In the “ Athæneum" for December 27, it is observed
“The author of Time and Faith,' comparing corresponding passages of the Old Testament, points out that • Solomon's 40,000 stalls of horses, 1 Kings iv. 26, are but 4,000 in 2 Chron. ix. 25; the 7,000 chariots of the Ammonites destroyed by David, 1 Chron. xix. 18, only 700 in 2 Sam. X. 18; the 50,070 men of Bethshemesh, destroyed for looking into the ark, 1 Sam. vi. 19, are in the Syriac version only 5,070.' He adds, . These examples are sufficient to prove that the numbers, or characters by which numbers were expressed in the text of the original Hebrew, were either very imperfectly understood by the translators from whom we have obtained our existing versions, or that ancient copyists were often as careless as modern accountants in inserting ciphers out of their proper place, and mistaking one figure for another. The principle of these objections, if we were to adopt it as a rule, would reduce the 600,000 men-at-arms who left Rameses to 60,000, and the army of Jehoshaphat from 1,160,000 to 116,000.'”Vol. I. p. 184.
A paper by Mr. Porter appears in the next number of the Athenæum, in which, without demolishing Dr. Forbes' theory, his method is to prove it altogether unnecessary, by accounting for the increase and support of two millions of people.
* In the second part of Dr. Colenso's work, which we have just obtained, this method of meeting his argument is answered by saying that “most of the difficulties will remain really as formidable.” But he does not attempt to prove