« السابقةمتابعة »
vered to be delinquents. By such a dreadful example of punishment the Israelites seemed to be awakened to a sense of their crime, and were filled with apprehension concerning the judgments which might still be inflicted upon them. In these circumstances Moses interceded so powerfully on their behalf, that the divine being was pleased so far to pardon their offence, as to renew his promise of conducting them to the land of Canaan; but said, that their conduct should not be wholly forgotten, but would be considered in his future dispensations with respect to them. This promise, however, was to be so far conditional, that before they could claim it they were to observe a solemn and public act of humiliation, and produce the fruits of sincere contrition and repentance. After the day of humiliation was passed, Moses was directed to ascend Mount Sinai again, with two tables of stone which he had been ordered to prepare for the purpose of having the decalogue written or engraved on them. Here he continued another #. days, during which he received further instructions relative to the system of policy and religion which he was to establish, and was favoured with a new and extraordinary manifestation of the divine presence, to support and console him under the labours of his arduous office. What the appearance was which he now saw, and which is called “the glory of God,” we are not informed ; but the effect of it was such a glorious lustre on the countenance of Moses himself, that when he descended from the mount with the two tables of commandments, Aaron and the elders of the people were deterred by the dazzling brightness from approaching him, till he covered his face with a veil. To the same expedient he was obliged to have recourse for some time afterwards, whenever they met to converse with him. The next act of Moses was to call an assembly of the people, in which he announced God’s renewal of his covenant with them; enjoined the strict observance of the sabbath; declared the command which he had received to erect a tabernacle of the most costly materials, for the residence of the symbols of the divine presence; and invited them to liberality in their voluntary offerings for the construction of this undertaking. On this occasion there appears to have been a generous emulation in all the people to contribute their most valuable effects and ornaments towards this work; the most skilful artists in all branches of curious workmanship were em
ployed ; and they proceeded with such zeal and diligence, that the tabernacle, and all its rich furniture and costly apparatus, were completed and set up in less than six months. Moses now proceeded to consecrate the building with solemn ceremonies, and afterwards anointed Aaron high-priest, and his sons his assistants, who offered up all kinds of sacrifices upon the new altar, and thus commenced, in the year 1490 B.C., that pompous worship of the Deity which was adapted to the present state of the minds of the Israelites, who were incapable of being affected with a purer and more spiritual one. As an indication that God approved of what had been done, the cloud, which was the symbol of the divine presence, descended upon the tabernacle, where it appeared as a pillar of fire in the night, and by its movements directed the journeyings of the people through the wilderness. Not long after this, an awful instance of the punishment of disobedience was displayed in the case of persons, who were nearly allied to Moses himself: for his two nephews, Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, were struck dead by fire from heaven, for presuming to burn incense in the tabernacle with other fire than that on the altar, contrary to the divine command. To shew his impartiality in the treatment of offenders of whatever rank, Moses commanded that their bodies should be immediately carried out of the camp, and buried without any funeral pomp, and he prohibited the family ...}. from practising any of the rites of mourning on that melancholy occasion. At length, after the camp had remained nearly twelve months in the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai, the Israelites recommenced their marches through the wilderness under the guidance of the miraculous cloud. However, they had not proceeded more than three days, before strong symptoms of discontent were discovered among them, the pretended cause of which is not mentioned in the sacred writings. But whatever it might be, it was highly #: to the divine being, who caused many of them to be destroyed by anextraordinary fire, which broke out in different parts of the camp, and which ceased as miraculously as it had begun, at the intercession of Moses. From this early proof of their rebellious temper after the wonders which had been wrought among them, Moses became sensible that the weight of government waslikely to prove so heavy, that he should require more assistance in sustaining it than he could derive from the aid of the magistrates whom he had appointed by advice of Jethro. He, therefore, earnestly requested the divine direction in this matter; when God was pleased to command him to choose seventy of the elders of Israel, who were most considerable for wisdom and integrity, and to erect them into a supreme court, promising to bestow on them a portion of the same spirit which he had communicated to him, that they might bear their share of the burden with him. This court Moses established without delay ; and he found the advantage at the very next encampment of the Israelites at a small distance from the Red Sea. A mixed multitude which had followed them from Egypt began now to murmur at being confined to live upon manna, and to regret the abundance and deliciousness of the fish, fruits, and vegetables which they enjoyed in that country. The dissatisfaction which they expressed soon spread through the whole camp; and the people assembled in crowds around the tent of Moses, demanding, in a tumultuous manner, that he should provide them flesh to eat, instead of the manna, which was uow become loathsome to them. Upon this Moses summoned the seventy elders" to the door of the tabernacle, where some striking manifestation of the special presence of God drew the attention of the whole camp, and he communicated to the elders such a share of his spirit, that they all began to prophesy, or to enteron the duties of their new office with a degree of authority, vigour, and influence, adapted. to the crisis. At the same time Moses was directed to inform the people that, since they demanded flesh, they should be provided with such food, till they should nauseate it as much as they now did the manna. Accordingly, a strong wind brought such astonishing flocks, of quails, that they covered the whole camp, and surrounding country for several miles, and, being tired by their long flight, were caught by the people in quantities sufficient not only for an immediate supply, but to be cured for future use. The first care of the murmurers was to glut themselves with this tempting food; but in the midst of their feasting they were smitten with the pestilence or plague, which carried off great numbers of them as a punishment for their seditious and discontented conduct. . The next occasion on which the divine. power was exerted in support of the authority of Moses, was owing to an unexpected dispute in his own family, Miriam as well as Aaron appearing to have cast unworthy re
flections upon his wife, and to have aimed at : possessing an equal if not superior share of power than himself in affairs of government. As a token of the divine displeasure at their conduct, Miriam, who seems to have been the most faulty of the two, was stricken with a sudden leprosy ; which had a proper effect upon them both, and led them. submissively to apply to their brother for his intercession with God on her behalf, in consequence of which she was cured of that disorder. In the fourth month of the second yearafter their leaving Egypt, the Israelites encamped in the wilderness of Paran, when Moses was commanded to send twelve proper men, one out of each tribe, to view the whole land of Canaan, to examine the strength of its cities and inhabitants, the fertility of the soil and its productions. After an absence of forty days these messengers returned to the camp, and delivered their report to Moses and Aaron, in the presence of the elders and of all, the people. They began by extolling the richness of the country, and shewed specimens of the fine fruits which it produced, particularly a bunch of grapes of extraordinary size, which had been suspended on one of their staves, and carried on the shoulders of two of them by turns, to prevent the fruit from being bruised. As soon, however, as they observed that their account had inspired the people with: an eager desire of becoming the possessors. of such a rich inheritance, by a speedy conquest, ten of the envoys altered their tone, and maintained that such an undertaking was im-. practicable, on account of the strength of the fortified cities, and the bravery and gigantic. stature of the inhabitants. Joshua and Caleb, on the contrary, who were the remaining two: of the deputation, adhered steadily to a favourable report; and the latter endeavoured: to dissipate the apprehensions which he perceived that the representations of the cowardly ten had created in the minds of the people, by proving their ability for such a glorious enterprize. But his efforts were in vain, and the people wholly despaired of overcoming the obstacles which opposed the conquest of Canaan. Before the following morning their murmurings grew to such a height, that they talked of returning again into Egypt, as preferable to embarking in such a dangerous warfare, and even began to consult about choosing: a leader to conduct them to the land of their former servitude. But when they were uponthe point of breaking out into open insurreco
tion, they were deterred by some threatening appearances in the cloud which then covered the tabernacle ; and their fears of the Canaanites were converted into apprehensions of some terrible judgment which might be immediately inflicted on them, as a punishment of their pusillanimity and rebellious spirit. On this occasion Moses was commissioned to announce a divine decree, that, as a mark of God's displeasure on account of their infidelity and ingratitude, not one of their number, who were above the age of twenty years, excepting Joshua and Caleb, should ever enter into the promised land; but that they should wander from place to place during forty years, till they all perished in the wilderness. As an earn-st of the fulfilment of this decree, ten messengers, by whose false report they were instigated to this rebellion, were all destroyed by a sudden death. This severe sentence excited so much alarm and shame in the cowardly multitude, that they presented themselves ready armed on the following morning before Moses, and declared their determination to proceed immediately to the conquest of the country. It was in vain that he endeavoured to divert them from so rash an enterprize, by representing that they could not now expect success, since by their late behaviour they had forfeited the divine assistance and protection. Determined to try their fortune, they marched against the Amalekites and Canaanites, who surprised them in the passes of their mountains, and drove them back with great slaughter to the camp. During the remaining years which the Israelites spent in the wilderness, they were prepared for encountering these warlike nations by their expeditions against the Amorites and Midianites: and they were trained to order and obedience, by the severe punishment which speed.ily followed their acts of rebellion and wickedness. Of the numerous instances of their correction which occurred under the administration of Moses, we shall notice a few of the principal before we relate the concluding actions of his life. About the year 1471 B.C. the rebellion of Korah broke out. He was one of the chiefs of the tribe of Levi, and had drawn a considerable party into his interest, among whom were Dathan and Abiram, heads of the tribe of Reuben. They took offence at the great distinction of the family of Aaron above the rest of the Levites, and united in a plot for supplanting it. . When it was ripe for being carried into execution, Korah appearWOL. VII.
ed at the head of the conspirators, and openly upbraided Moses and Aaron with unjust ambition, in engrossing all authority in civil and religious concerns, to the exclusion of the rest of the congregation, whom he affirmcd to have equal claims to it with themselves. For this seditious address Moses severely rebuked Korah and his party, reproaching them for their ingratitude and arrogance in not being contented with the privileges which God had conferred on their tribe, and aspiring to the high-priesthood, which he had been pleased to reserve for Aaron and his posterity. He then challenged them to appear on the following morning at the door of the tabernacle, having each of them a censer in his hand; when he promised that God would declare himself openly in favour of those whom he designed for that high office. Afterwards he sent privately for Dathan and Abiram, with the design of endeavouring to reclaim them from a party into which he supposed them to have been incautiously seduced; but instead of coming to him, they returned an insolent answer, charging him with having decoyed the whole nation out of the fertile land of Egypt into the wilderness, for the sole purpose of reducing them under his own tyranny. Against the injustice of this accusation Moses made a solemn appeal to the divine being, and early next morning went with Aaron towards the tabernacle. Hither Korah soon afterwards repaired, at the head of two hundred and fifty Levites, each of them carrying a copper censer with incense, and followed by a prodigious multitude, who came either to be spectators of the scene which was to take place, or to support the cause of the conspirators. Upon this Moses and Aaron were commanded to separate themselves from the rebellious crew, lest they should perish in the destruction that was ready to fall upon them; but upon the intercession of the former, he was permitted to warn the people to quit Korah and his company, and they followed him to the quarters of the Reubenites, where Dathan and Abiram with their families were standing at their tent-doors. Moses now addressed himself to the assembly around him, and said, that if those rebels should die a common death, he would give them leave to look upon him as an impostor; but that if the earth should immediately open in a miraculous manner, and swallow them up alive, he trusted that the divine authority by which he acted would be no longer questioned. Scarcely had he spoken to 1. o.
this purport, when the earth clave asunder under the feet of the conspirators, and buried them alive, with all their families and substance; and at the same time Korah and his company, who stood with their censers before the court of the tabernacle, were all destroyed by a supernatural fire. Terrifying as these events were, they had not the effect of crushing the spirit of insurrection which the rebellious chiefs had excited; for so soon as on the following morning, their numerous partizans had the audacity to advance in a tumultuous manner against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of having murdered the people of the Lord, as they called their seditious leaders. Upon this, the two brothers hastened to the tabernacle, where threatening appearances in the cloud suspended for some time the fury of the insurgents. . . Here Moses, who foresaw that some terrible judgment was ready to be inflicted on the guilty people, commanded his brother to take his censer, and to cndeavour by the prescribed rites to appease the divine displeasure; but though Aaron made all possible haste to obey him, a dreadful plague had already begun its ravages, and raged so furiously, that it had destroyed fourteen thousand and seven hundred men, before its progress was stayed on his standing with his censer. between the living and the dead. In the year 1453 B.C., while the Israelites were encamped at Kadesh in the desert of Zin, they discovered a fresh disposition to rebellion,
on account of the want of water ; and Moses.
was commanded by God to furnish them with a supply out of the rock, as he had done formcriy at Mount Horeb. On this occasion, his conduct and that of Aaron were so displeasing to God, that they were excluded from entering the promised land, and condemned to die in the wilderness; but owing either to the brevity or imperfection of the narrative, the circumstances in which their fault principally consisted do not sufficiently appear. From Kadesh the camp was removed to the foot of Mount Hor, on the frontier of the land of Edom. Here, in obedience to the divine command, Moses took Aaron, and Eleazer his son, to the top of the mountain, and in the view of all the people stripped Aaron of his priestly robes, and put them on his son, investing him by that ceremony with the office of highpriest; which was no sooner done than Aaron died, and was buried on that mountain with such privacy, that the place of his interment could never afterwards be discovered.
The next encampment of the Israelites was at Zalmonah, where, tired by the length of their journey, and impatient for more substantial bread than that made of manna, they began to murmur, not only against Moses but against the Divine Being himself, for protracting their stay in the wilderness. But this evidence of their rebellious disposition met with a speedy and severe punishment: for it provoked God to. send among them immense numbers of poisonous serpelts, the bite of which proved mortal to vast multitudes of the seditious crew. This chastisement awoke them to a sense of their guilt, which they acknowledged before Moses with professions of sincere repentance, entreating him to intercede with God for their deliverance from that dreadful evil. In answer. to his prayers, he received a divine command to cast a brazen serpent, of the same figure with those that infested them, and to elevate it on a high pole, with a promise that. as many as were bitten by those reptiles. should receive a miraculous cure by looking upon it. The plague having been by this means removed, the Israelites resumed their marches towards Canaan, and being forbidden to commit hostilites against the Moabites and Ammonites, they successively conquered the territories of the kings of the Amorites and of Basan, who endeavoured to obstruct their progress, and encamped in a peaceful manner near the territories of Balak king of Moab. That prince, however, looked upon them with a jealous eye, and entered into a secret alliance with the Midianites and Ammonites, for the purpose of opposing them; but before he declared himself their enemy, he determined to follow the advice of Balaam, and attempt the seduction of them to idolatry with the aid of some of the most beautiful women in the country. With this view he ordered his subjects to celebrate a grand feast to Baal-Peor, and to invite the Israelites to it. At the festivals of this idol the most shameful kinds of debauchery were practised; and the Israelites who atttended on the present occasion had not the virtue to withstand the fascinating allurements of the females to whom they were introduced, but were seduced by them at first to drunkenness, afterwards to lewdness, and then to join in the rites of idolatrous worship. With these deluders they became so. enamoured, that they did not scruple to bring numbers of them into their camp ; by which means the infection soon spread widely among the people. For this defection God punished. them with a pestilence, which carried off twenty-three thousand of the offenders; and he commanded Moses to erect a special court of judicature, consisting of the heads of all the families, by whose sentence a thousand more were condemned and executed. Soon after this signal display of the divine judgment on rebellion and idolatry, Mioses was ordered to take an account of all the children of Israel who were able to bear arms, that is from twenty years of age and upwards, and found them to amount to six hundred one thousand and seven hundred and thirty, besides the Levites; in which list none of those were to be found who were above twenty years of age at the time of the rebellion occasioned by the false report of the ten cowardly messengers, excepting Joshua and Caleb, all the rest having perished in the wilderness, according to the sentence pronounced against them by God himself. As the time was now approaching when the Israelites were to enter the promised land, Moses was also directed to prepare for his own death on Mount Nebo, whence he was to take a view of that country which his conduct in the desert of Zin had debarred him from entering. This notice of his death he could not but receive with joy, as a passport to a haven of repose after a life of incessant trouble and fatigue; and, finding his end so near, he diligently employed his few remaining days in settling the affairs of the public in the best order in his power. His first care was, to have Joshua confirmed his successor, in the most public and solemn manner; to which end he brought him forwards in the sight of the whole congregation, laid his hands upon him, and having presented him to Eleazer the high-priest, and given him all necessary directions, caused him to be proclaimed head and general of all Israel. He also appointed the limits of the land which they were to conquer, and the distribution of it by lot according to God's command; and added various other directions and regulations, relative to civil and ecclesiastical matters. Afterwards he assembled the people around him, and recapitulated to them, in a long and pathetic speech, all that had taken place since their departure from Egypt to that time. In a subsequent assembly, he caused the whole nation solemnly to ratify the covenant which their fathers had made with God in Horeb; and concluded with calling heaven and earth to witness the truth of what they had heard from him, the reasonableness of those laws which God had given them, and
ites was to summon them once more, to receive his farewell, and prophetic blessing upon the people in general and upon each tribe in particular; which in many respects agrees with that of Jacob, and is distinguished by a beauty and sublimity of expression that appear to have acquired additional force from the prospect of his departure and their approaching prosperity. No sooner had he delivered his last blessing, than he went up alone to Mount Nebo, in the sight of all Israel, and from Pisgah its highest eminence had a prospect of all those regions which God had promised to the posterity of Abraham. Immediately afterwards Moses died, at the age of 120, in the year 1451 B.C. when his mental faculties were in perfect order, and neither his eyesight nor his natural vigour were in the least impaired; and he was buried, most probably by Joshua and Eleazer, but with so much privacy, that the place of his interment, like that of Aaron's, has never since been discovered. That Moses was an eminently great and wise man, will readily be allowed even by those who may be inclined to dispute his claims to supernatural communications with the Deity. In proof of his genuine and ardent patriotism, an appeal may be made to the whole history of his life, and particularly to his disinterested behaviour on the approach of death, when he overlooked his own family, and nominated Joshua his successor, whose experience and valour peculiarly qualified him for such a post at a period when the great struggle was about to commence with the warlike nations of Canaan. He is commended as the meekest of men, and he certainly must have possessed no common share of meekness, and of magnanimity, to bear as he did for forty years the trying provocations which he received while governing and instructing a most obstinate and rebellious people. His zeal for the honour of the one living and true God forms a conspiT. K 2.