The Origin and Permanent Value of the Old Testament Part 8

First Pentad: Injuries by Animals, xxi. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32.

Second Pentad: Injuries to Animals, xxi. 33-34, 35, 36; xxii. 1,4.

_Fourth Decalogue: Responsibility for Property._

First Pentad: In General, xxii. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Second Pentad: In Cattle, xxii. 10-11, 13, 14, l5a, I5b.

_Fifth Decalogue: Social Purity._

First Pentad: Adultery, Deut. xxii. 13-19, 20-21, 22, 23-24, 25-27.

Second Pentad: Fornication and Apostasy, Ex. xxii. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.

[Sidenote: _Their date_]

Many of these laws anticipate the settled agricultural conditions of Palestine. Society, however, is very simple. The decalogue and peatad form also points clearly to an early period, when the laws were transmitted orally. Many of the laws probably came from the days of the wilderness wandering, and therefore go back to the age of Moses, in some cases much earlier, as is shown by close analogies with the code of Hammurabi. Although in their present written form these oral _Judgments_ bear the marks of the Northern Israelitish prophetic writers who have preserved them, the majority, if not all, may with confidence be assigned to the days of David and Solomon.

[Sidenote: _The early humane and ceremonial laws_]

The remaining verses of Exodus xx. 23 to xxiii. 19, contain, groups of humane and ceremonial laws. In the process of transmission they have been somewhat disarranged, but, with the aid of the fuller duplicate versions in Deuteronomy, four complete decalogues can be restored and part of a fifth. The following analysis will suggest their general character and contents:


_First Decalogue: Kindness._

First Pentad: Towards Men, Ex. xxii. 2la, 22-23, 25a, 25b, 26-27.

Second Pentad; Towards Animals, Ex, xxiii. 4 [Deut. xxii. 1], Deut.

xxii. 2, 3; Ex. xxiii. 5

[Deut. xxii. 4], Deut. xxii. 6-7.

_Second Decalogue: Justice_.

First Pentad: Among Equals, Ex. xxiii. 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3.

Second Pentad: On the Part of those in Authority, xxiii, 6, 7a, 7b, 7c, 8.

_Third Decalogue: Duties to God._

First Pentad: Worship, Ex. xx. 23a, 23b, 24, 25, 26.

Second Pentad: Loyalty, Ex. xxii. 28, 29a, 29b, 30, 31.

_Fourth Decalogue: Sacred Seasons._

First Pentad: Command to Observe them, xxiii. 10-11, 12, l5a, 16a, 16b.

Second Pentad: Method of Observing them, xxiii, 17, 18a, 18b, 19a, 19b.

[Sidenote: _Period represented by the primitive codes_]

Here the primitive ceremonial decalogue has been expanded into the third and fourth group given above. Like the _Judgments_, these decalogues bear testimony to their northern origin, and probably they also have had much the same history, although their relation to the primitive decalogue and the fact that they are prefixed and added to the solid group of _Judgments_, would seem to indicate that they were somewhat later. These two collections, together with their older prototype, the ancient decalogue, represent the growth of Israel's laws during the four centuries beginning with Moses and extending to about 800 B. C. To distinguish them from later collections they may be designated as the _Primitive Codes_.

[Sidenote: _The need for new laws_]

The eighth and seventh centuries before Christ which brought to the Hebrews great crises and revolutionary changes in both their political and religious life, witnessed the epoch-making work of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. This remarkable group of prophets proclaimed so many new principles that a fundamental revision and expansion of Israel's primitive codes became necessary in order to adapt the latter to the new needs of the age. The reactionary reign of Manasseh had also brought out plainly the contrast between the older heathen cults, still cherished by the people, and the exalted ideals of the true prophets. If the prophetic teachings were to become operative in the life of the nation, it was also seen that they must be expressed in concrete legal enactments, which could be universally understood and definitely enforced.

[Sidenote: _Application of prophetic principles in the life of the people_]

Accordingly, a group of prophets, disciples of the older masters, and inspired by the spirit of reform, devoted themselves to this all-important task. The results of their work are represented by the prophetic law-book of Deuteronomy. Through its pages glow the new ethical teachings of the prophets of the Assyrian period. The elements of Hosea's doctrine, love to God and love to men and kindness to the needy and oppressed, in their new setting and application, make it one of the evangels of the Old Testament. Its lofty standards of justice and social responsibility reflect the impassioned addresses of Amos and Hosea. Since the new laws, as a whole, represented the practical application of the messages of the prophets to life, they were justly and appropriately placed in the mouth of Moses, the real and traditional head of the nation and of the prophetic order.

[Sidenote: _Relation to the older laws_]

A comparison of this prophetic law-book with the older primitive laws shows that the latter were made the basis of the new codes, since most of them, in revised form, are also found in Deuteronomy. The prophetic lawmakers, however, in the same spirit that actuated Jesus in his attitude toward the ancient law, freely modified, supplemented, and in some cases substituted for the primitive enactments, laws that more perfectly embodied the later revelation.

[Sidenote: _Promulgation and date of the prophetic codes_]

The nature of the reforms instituted by Josiah, according to II Kings xxii., clearly prove that the laws which inspired them were those of Deuteronomy, and that this was the law-book discovered in the temple by Hilkiah the priest and publicly read and promulgated by the king in 621 B.C. Originally it was probably prepared by the prophetic reformers as a basis for their work; but it incorporates not only most of the primitive codes, but also many other ancient laws and groups of laws, some doubtless coming from the earliest periods of Israel's history. It also appears to have been further supplemented after the reformation of Josiah. In general it represents the second great stage in Old Testament law, as it rapidly developed between 800 and 600 B.C. under the inspiring preaching of the remarkable prophets of the Assyrian period.

[Sidenote: _Their historical and permanent value_]

These laws represent, in many ways, the high-water mark of Old Testament legislation. Every effort is made to eliminate that which experience had proved to be imperfect in the older laws and customs. The chief aim is to protect the rights of the wronged and dependent. The appeal throughout is not to the fear of punishment--in a large number of laws no penalty is suggested--but to the individual conscience. Not merely formal worship is demanded, but a love to God so personal that it dominates the individual heart and soul and finds expression through energies completely devoted to his service. These laws required strict justice, but more than that, mercy and practical charity toward the weak and needy and afflicted. Even the toiling ox and the helpless mother-bird and her young are not beyond the kin of these wonderful laws. Under their benign influence the divine principles of the prophets began to mould directly the character and life of the Israelitish race.

The man who lives in accord with their spirit and injunctions to-day finds himself on the straight and narrow way, hallowed by the feet of the Master.



[Sidenote: _Influences in the exile that produced written ceremonial laws_]

The Babylonian exile gave a great opportunity and incentive to the further development of written law. While the temple stood, the ceremonial rites and customs received constant illustration, and were transmitted directly from father to son in the priestly families. Hence, there was little need of writing them down. But when most of the priests were carried captive to Babylonia, as in 597 B.C., and ten years later the temple was laid in ruins and all sacrifice and ceremonial worship suddenly ceased, written records at once became indispensable, if the customs and rules of Israel's ritual were to be preserved. The integrity and future of the scattered Israelitish race also largely depended upon keeping alive their distinctive traditions. Torn from their altars, the exiled priests not only had a strong incentive, but likewise the leisure, to write. The ritualistic zeal of their Babylonian masters doubtless further inspired them. The result was, that during the Babylonian exile and the following century most of the ceremonial laws in the Old Testament appear to have been first committed to writing.

[Sidenote: _Ezekiel's Code_]

Even Ezekiel, the prophet of the early exile, yielded to the influence of his early priestly training and the needs of the situation. In 572 he issued the unique code found in chapters xl.-xlviii. of his prophecy. It provides for the rebuilding of the temple, and defines the duties of its different officials and the form of ritual that is to be observed. The whole is intended primarily to emphasize, through the arrangement of the sanctuary and the forms of the ceremonial, the transcendent holiness of Jehovah. Ezekiel also proclaims, through this elaborate program for the restored community, the certainty that the exiles would be allowed to return and rebuild the temple. He evidently reproduces many of the proportions and regulations of the first temple, but, with the same freedom that characterizes the authors of the Deuteronomic codes, he unhesitatingly sets aside earlier usages where something better has been revealed.

[Sidenote: _Genesis and character of the Holiness Code_]

Ezekiel's code was never fully adopted by the later Jews, for much of it was symbolic rather than practical; but it powerfully influenced subsequent lawmakers, and was indicative of the dominant tendency of the day. Even before he issued his code, some like-minded priest had collected and arranged an important group of laws, which appear to have been familiar to Ezekiel himself. They are found in Leviticus xvii.-xxvi., and have felicitously been designated as the _Holiness Code_, because they constantly emphasize the holiness of Jehovah and the necessity of the people's being holy in thought and act. In chapters xvii.-xix. most of the original laws are still arranged in the decalogue and pentad form. This strong evidence that they had been transmitted by word of mouth from a much earlier period is supported by their contents.

They resemble and supplement the primitive laws of Exodus xx. 23 to xxiii. 19. Many of them probably came from the early periods of Israelitish history. Most of the laws, like those of the prophetic codes in Deuteronomy, are ethical and humane rather than ceremonial. The code, as a whole, is a remarkable combination of prophetic and priestly teaching. It marks the transition from the age of the prophets, represented by Deuteronomy, to that of the priests and ritual, represented by the priestly codes proper. Like every important early collection of laws, It also has been much supplemented by later editors; the original Holiness Code, however, may be given a date soon after the first captivity in 597 B.C.

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