The First Book of Moses (Genesis)
Translated by James Martin
General Introduction to the Five Books of Moses

§1. Prolegomena on the Old Testament and Its Leading Divisions

The Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament contain the divine revelations which prepared the way for the redemption of fallen man by Christ. The revelation of God commenced with the creation of the heaven and the earth, when the triune God called into existence a world teeming with organized and living creatures, whose life and movements proclaimed the glory of their Creator; whilst, in the person of man, who was formed in the image of God, they were created to participate in the blessedness of the divine life. But when the human race, having yielded in its progenitors to the temptation of the wicked one, and forsaken the path appointed by its Creator, had fallen a prey to sin and death, and involved the whole terrestrial creation in the effects of its fall; the mercy of God commenced the work of restoration and redemption, which had been planned in the counsel of the triune love before the foundation of the world. Hence, from the very beginning, God not only manifested His eternal power and godhead in the creation, preservation, and government of the world and its inhabitants, but also revealed through His Spirit His purpose and desire for the well-being of man. This manifestation of the personal God upon and in the world assumed, in consequence of the fall, the form of a plan of salvation, rising above the general providence and government of the world, and filling the order of nature with higher powers of spiritual life, in order that the evil, which had entered through sin into the nature of man and passed from man into the whole world, might be overcome and exterminated, the world be transformed into a kingdom of God in which all creatures should follow His holy will, and humanity glorified into the likeness of God by the complete transfiguration of its nature. These manifestations of divine grace, which made the history of the world “a development of humanity into a kingdom of God under the educational and judicial superintendence of the living God,” culminated in the incarnation of God in Christ to reconcile the world unto Himself.

This act of unfathomable love divides the whole course of the world’s history into two periods — the times of preparation, and the times of accomplishment and completion. The former extend from the fall of Adam to the coming of Christ, and have their culminating point in the economy of the first covenant. The latter commence with the appearance of the Son of God on earth in human form and human nature, and will last till His return in glory, when He will change the kingdom of grace into the kingdom of glory through the last judgment and the creation of a new heaven and new earth out of the elements of the old world, “the heavens and the earth which are now.” The course of the universe will then be completed and closed, and time exalted into eternity (1Co. 15:23-28; Rev. 20 and 21).

If we examine the revelations of the first covenant, as they have been handed down to us in the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament, we can distinguish three stages of progressive development: preparation for the kingdom of God in its Old Testament form; its establishment through the mediatorial office of Moses; and its development and extension through the prophets. In all these periods God revealed Himself and His salvation to the human race by words and deeds. As the Gospel of the New Covenant is not limited to the truths and moral precepts taught by Christ and His apostles, but the fact of the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, and the work of redemption completed by the God-man through deeds and sufferings, death and resurrection, constitute the quintessence of the Christian religion; so also the divine revelations of the Old Covenant are not restricted to the truths proclaimed byMoses, and by the patriarchs before him and prophets after him, as to the real nature of God, His relation to the world, and the divine destiny of man, but consist even more of the historical events by which the personal and living God manifested Himself to men in His infinite love, in acts of judgment and righteousness, of mercy and grace, that He might lead them back to Himself as the only source of life. Hence all the acts of God in history, by which the rising tides of iniquity have been stemmed, and piety and morality promoted, including not only the judgments of God which have fallen upon the earth and its inhabitants, but the calling of individuals to be the upholders of His salvation and the miraculous guidance afforded them, are to be regarded as essential elements of the religion of the Old Testament, quite as much as the verbal revelations, by which God made known His will and saving counsel through precepts and promises to holy men, sometimes by means of higher and supernatural light within them, at other times, and still more frequently, through supernatural dreams, and visions, and theophanies in which the outward senses apprehended the sounds and words of human language. Revealed religion has not only been introduced into the world by the special interposition of God, but is essentially a history of what God has done to establish His kingdom upon the earth; in other words, to restore a real personal fellowship between God whose omnipresence fills the world, and man who was created in His image, in order that God might renew and sanctify humanity by filling it with His Spirit, and raise it to the glory of living and moving in His fulness of life.

The way was opened for the establishment of this kingdom in its Old Testament form by the call of Abraham, and his election to be the father of that nation, with which the Lord was about to make a covenant of grace as the source of blessing to all the families of the earth. The first stage in the sacred history commences with the departure of Abraham, in obedience to the call of God, from his native country and his father’s house, and reaches to the time when the posterity promised to the patriarch had expanded in Egypt into the twelve tribes of Israel. The divine revelations during this period consisted of promises, which laid the foundation for the whole future development of the kingdom of God on earth, and of that special guidance, by which God proved Himself, in accordance with these promises, to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The second stage commences with the call of Moses and the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, and embraces the establishment of the Old Testament kingdom of God, not only through the covenant which God made at Sinai with the people of Israel, whom He had redeemed with mighty deeds out of Egypt, but also through the national constitution, which He gave in the Mosaic law to the people whom He had chosen as His inheritance, and which regulated the conditions of their covenant relation. In this constitution the eternal trust and essential characteristics of the real, spiritual kingdom are set forth in earthly forms and popular institutions, and are so far incorporated in them, that the visible forms shadow forth spiritual truths, and contain the germs of that spiritual and glorified kingdom in which God will be all in all. In consequence of the design of this kingdom being merely to prepare and typify the full revelation of God in His kingdom, its predominant character was that of law, in order that, whilst producing a deep and clear insight into human sinfulness and divine holiness, it might excite an earnest craving for deliverance from sin and death, and for the blessedness of living in the peace of God. But the laws and institutions of this kingdom not only impressed upon the people the importance of consecrating their whole life to the Lord God, they also opened up to them the way of holiness and access to the grace of God, whence power might be derived to walk in righteousness before God, through the institution of a sanctuary which the Lord of heaven and earth filled with His gracious presence, and of a sacrificial altar which Israel might approach, and there in the blood of the sacrifice receive the forgiveness of its sins and rejoice in the gracious fellowship of its God.

The third stage in the Old Testament history embraces the progressive development of the kingdom of God established upon Sinai, from the death of Moses, the lawgiver, till the extinction of prophecy at the close of the Babylonian captivity. During this lengthened period God revealed Himself as the covenant God and the monarch in His kingdom, partly by the special protection which He afforded to His people, so long as they were faithful to Him, or when they returned to Him after a time of apostasy and sought His aid, either by raising up warlike heroes to combat the powers of the world, or by miraculous displays of His own omnipotence, and partly by the mission of prophets endowed with the might of His own Spirit, who kept His law and testimony before the minds of the people, denounced judgment upon an apostate race, and foretold to the righteous the Messiah’s salvation, attesting their divine mission, wherever it was necessary, by the performance of miraculous deeds. In the first centuries after Moses there was a predominance of the direct acts of God to establish His kingdom in Canaan, and exalt it to power and distinction in comparison with the nations round about. But after it had attained its highest earthly power, and when the separation of the ten tribes from the house of David had been followed by the apostasy of the nation from the Lord, and the kingdom of God was hurrying rapidly to destruction, God increased the number of prophets, and thus prepared the way by the word of prophecy for the full revelation of His salvation in the establishment of a new covenant.

Thus did the works of God go hand in hand with His revelation in the words of promise, of law, and of prophecy, in the economy of the Old Covenant, not merely as preparing the way for the introduction of the salvation announced in the law and in prophecy, but as essential factors of the plan of God for the redemption of man, as acts which regulated and determined the whole course of the world, and contained in the germ the consummation of all things;— the law, as a “schoolmaster to bring to Christ,” by training Israel to welcome the Saviour; and prophecy, as proclaiming His advent with growing clearness, and even shedding upon the dark and deadly shades of a world at enmity against God, the first rays of the dawn of that coming day of salvation, in which the Sun of Righteousness would rise upon the nations with healing beneath His wings.

As the revelation of the first covenant may be thus divided into three progressive stages, so the documents containing this revelation, the sacred books of the Old Testament, have also been divided into three classes — the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa of holy writings. But although this triple classification of the Old Testament canon has reference not merely to three stages of canonization, but also to three degrees of divine inspiration, the three parts of the Old Testament do not answer to the three historical stages in the development of the first covenant. The only division sustained by the historical facts is that of Law and Prophets. These two contain all that was objective in the Old Testament revelation, and so distributed that the Thorah, as the five books of Moses are designated even in the Scriptures themselves, contains the groundwork of the Old Covenant, or that revelation of God in words and deeds which laid the foundation of the kingdom of God in its Old Testament form, and also those revelations of the primitive ages and the early history of Israel which prepared the way for this kingdom; whilst the Prophets, on the other hand, contain the revelations which helped to preserve and develop the Israelitish kingdom of God, from the death of Moses till its ultimate dissolution. The Prophets are also subdivided into two classes. The first of these embraces the so-called earlier prophets (prophetae priores), i.e., the prophetical books of history (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and the Kings), which contain the revelation of God as fulfilled in the historical guidance of Israel by judges, kings, high priests, and prophets; the second, the later prophets (prophetae posteriores), i.e., the prophetical books of prediction (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets), which contain the progressive testimony to the counsel of God, delivered in connection with the acts of God during the period of the gradual decay of the Old Testament kingdom. The former, or historical books, are placed among the Prophets in the Old Testament canon, not merely because they narrate the acts of prophets in Israel, but still more, because they exhibit the development of the Israelitish kingdom of God from a prophet’s point of view, and, in connection with the historical development of the nation and kingdom, set forth the progressive development of the revelation of God. The predictions of the later prophets, which were not composed till some centuries after the division of the kingdom, were placed in the same class with these, as being “the national records, which contained the pledge of the heavenly King, that the fall of His people and kingdom in the world had not taken place in opposition to His will, but expressly in accordance with it, and that He had not therefore given up His people and kingdom, but at some future time, when its inward condition allowed, would restore it again in new and more exalted power and glory” (Auberlen).

The other writings of the Old Covenant are all grouped together in the third part of the Old Testament canon under the title of γραφεῖα, Scripta, or Hagiographa, as being also composed under the influence of the Holy Ghost. The Hagiographa differ from the prophetical books both of history and prediction in their peculiarly subjective character, and the individuality of their representations of the facts and truths of divine revelation; a feature common to all the writings in this class, notwithstanding their diversities in form and subject-matter. They include, (1) the poetical books: Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, — which bear witness of the spiritual fruits already brought to maturity in the faith, the thinking, and the life of the righteous by the revealed religion of the Old Covenant;— (2) the book of Daniel, who lived and laboured at the Chaldean and Persian court, with its rich store of divinely inspired dreams and vision, prophetic of the future history of the kingdom of God;— (3) the historical books of Ruth, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, which depict the history of the government of David and his dynasty, with special reference to the relation in which the kings stood to the Levitical worship in the temple, and the fate of the remnant of the covenant nation, which was preserved in the downfall of the kingdom of Judah, from the time of its captivity until its return from Babylon, and its re-establishment in Jerusalem and Judah.

§2. Title, Contents, and Plan of the Books of Moses

The five books of Moses ( Πεντάτευχος sc., ΒίβλοςPentateuchus sc., liber, the book in five parts) are called in the Old Testament Sepher hattorah, the Law-book (Deu. 31:26; Jos. 1: 8, etc.), or, more concisely still, Hattorah,   νόμοςthe Law (Neh. 8: 2, 7, 13, etc.), — a name descriptive both of the contents of the work and of its importance in relation to the economy of the Old Covenant. The wordתֹּורָה , a Hiphil noun fromהֹורָה demonstrare, docere, denotes instruction. The Thorah is the book of instruction, which Jehovah gave through Moses to the people of Israel, and is therefore called Torath Jehovah (2Ch. 17: 9; 34:14; Neh. 9: 3) and Torath Mosheh (Jos. 8:31; 2Ki. 14: 6; Neh. 8: 1), or Sepher Mosheh, the book of Moses (2Ch. 25: 4; 35:12; Ezr. 6:18; Neh. 13: 1). Its contents are a divine revelation in words and deeds, or rather the fundamental revelation, through which Jehovah selected Israel to be His people, and gave to them their rule of life (νομός), or theocratical constitution as a people and kingdom.

The entire work, though divided into five parts, forms both in plan and execution one complete and carefully constructed whole, commencing with the creation, and reaching to the death of Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant. The foundation for the divine revelation was really laid in and along with the creation of the world. The world which God created is the scene of a history embracing both God and man, the site for the kingdom of God in its earthly and temporal form. All that the first book contains with reference to the early history of the human race, from Adam to the patriarchs of Israel, stands in a more or less immediate relation to the kingdom of God in Israel, of which the other books describe the actual establishment. The second depicts the inauguration of this kingdom at Sinai. Of the third and fourth, the former narrates the spiritual, the latter the political, organization of the kingdom by facts and legal precepts. The fifth recapitulates the whole in a hortatory strain, embracing both history and legislation, and impresses it upon the hearts of the people, for the purpose of arousing true fidelity to the covenant, and securing its lasting duration. The economy of the Old Covenant having been thus established, the revelation of the law closes with the death of its mediator.

The division of the work into five books was, therefore, the most simple and natural that could be adopted, according to the contents and plan which we have thus generally described. The three middle books contain the history of the establishment of the Old Testament kingdom; the first sketches the preliminary history, by which the way was prepared for its introduction; and the fifth recapitulates and confirms it. This fivefold division was not made by some later editor, but is founded in the entire plan of the law, and is therefore to be regarded as original. For even the three central books, which contain a continuous history of the establishment of the theocracy, are divided into three by the fact, that the middle portion, the third book of the Pentateuch, is separated from the other two, not only by its contents, but also by its introduction, Gen. 1: 1, and its concluding formula, Gen. 27:34.

§3. Origin and Date of the Books of Moses.

The five books of Moses occupy the first place in the canon of the Old Testament, not merely on account of their peculiar character as the foundation and norm of all the rest, but also because of their actual date, as being the oldest writings in the canon, and the groundwork of the whole of the Old Testament literature; all the historical, prophetic, and poetical works of the Israelites subsequent to the Mosaic era pointing back to the law of Moses as their primary source and type, and assuming the existence not merely of the law itself, but also of a book of the law, of precisely the character and form of the five books of Moses. In all the other historical books of the Old Testament not a single trace is to be found of any progressive expansion of, or subsequent additions to, the statutes and laws of Israel; for the account contained in 2Ki. 22 and 2Ch. 34. of the discovery of the book of the law, i.e., of the copy placed by the side of the ark, cannot be construed, without a wilful perversion of the words, into a historical proof, that the Pentateuch or the book of Deuteronomy was composed at that time, or that it was then brought to light for the first time.[1]

On the contrary, we find that, from the time of Joshua to the age of Ezra and Nehemiah, the law of Moses and his book of the law were the only valid and unalterable code by which the national life was regulated, either in its civil or its religious institutions. Numerous cases undoubtedly occur, in which different commands contained in the law were broken, and particular ordinances were neglected; but even in the anarchical and troubled times of the Judges, public worship was performed in the tabernacle at Shiloh by priests of the tribe of Levi according to the directions of the Thorah, and the devout made their periodical pilgrimages to the house of God at the appointed feasts to worship and sacrifice before Jehovah at Shiloh (Jud. 18:31, cf. Jos. 18: 1; 1Sa. 1: 1-4: 4). On the establishment of the monarchy (1Sa. 8-10), the course adopted was in complete accordance with the laws contained in Deut. 17:14ff. The priesthood and the place of worship were reorganized by David and Solomon in perfect harmony with the law of Moses. Jehoshaphat made provision for the instruction of the people in the book of the law, and reformed the jurisdiction of the land according to its precepts (2Ch. 17: 7ff., 19: 4ff.). Hezekiah and Josiah not only abolished the idolatry introduced by their predecessors, as Asa had done, but restored the worship of Jehovah, and kept the Passover as a national feast, according to the regulations of the Mosaic law (2Ch. 29-31; 2Ki. 23; and 2Ch. 34 and 35). Even in the kingdom of the ten tribes, which separated from the Davidic kingdom, the law of Moses retained its force not merely in questions of civil law, but also in connection with the religious life of the devout, in spite of the worship established by Jeroboam in opposition to the law, as we may clearly see from the labours of Elijah and Elisha, of Hosea and Amos, within that kingdom. Moreover, all the historical books are richly stored with unmistakeable allusions and references to the law, which furnish a stronger proof than the actual mention of the book of the law, how deeply the Thorah of Moses had penetrated into the religious, civil, and political life of Israel. (For proofs, see my Introduction to the Old Test. § 34, i.)

In precisely the same way prophecy derived its authority and influence throughout from the law of Moses; for all the prophets, from the first to the last, invariably kept the precepts and prohibitions of the law before the minds of the people. They judged, reproved, and punished the conduct, the sins, the crimes of the people according to its rules; they resumed and expanded its threats and promises, proclaiming their certain fulfilment; and finally, they employed the historical events of the books of Moses for the purpose of reproof or consolation, frequently citing the very words of the Thorah, especially the threats and promises of Lev. 26 and Deut. 28, to give force and emphasis to their warnings, exhortations, and prophecies. And, lastly, the poetry, that flourished under David and Solomon, had also its roots in the law, which not only scans, illumines, and consecrates all the emotions and changes of a righteous life in the Psalms, and all the relations of civil life in the Proverbs, but makes itself heard in various ways in the book of Job and the Song of Solomon, and is even commended in Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 12:13) as the sum and substance of true wisdom.

Again, the internal character of the book is in perfect harmony with this indisputable fact, that the Thorah, as Delitzsch says, “is as certainly presupposed by the whole of the post-Mosaic history and literature, as the root is by the tree.” For it cannot be shown to bear any traces of post-Mosaic times and circumstances; on the contrary, it has the evident stamp of Mosaic origin both in substance and in style. All that has been adduced in proof of the contrary by the so-called modern criticism is founded either upon misunderstanding and misinterpretation, or upon a misapprehension of the peculiarities of the Semitic style of historical writing, or lastly upon doctrinal prejudices, in other words, upon a repudiation of all the supernatural characteristics of divine revelation, whether in the form of miracle or prophecy. The evidence of this will be given in the Commentary itself, in the exposition of the passages which have been supposed to contain either allusions to historical circumstances and institutions of a later age, or contradictions and repetitions that are irreconcilable with the Mosaic origin of the work. The Thorah “answers all the expectations which a study of the personal character of Moses could lead us justly to form of any work composed by him. He was one of those masterspirits, in whose life the rich maturity of one historical period is associated with the creative commencement of another, in whom a long past culminates, and a far-reaching future strikes its roots. In him the patriarchal age terminated, and the period of the law began; consequently we expect to find him, as a sacred historian, linking the existing revelation with its patriarchal and primitive antecedents. As the mediator of the law, he was a prophet, and, indeed, the greatest of all prophets: we expect from him, therefore, an incomparable, prophetic insight into the ways of God in both past and future. He was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; a work from his hand, therefore, would show, in various intelligent allusions to Egyptian customs, laws, and incidents, the well-educated native of that land” (Delitzsch). In all these respects, not only does the Thorah satisfy in a general manner the demands which a modest and unprejudiced criticism makes upon a work of Moses; but on a closer investigation of its contents, it presents so many marks of the Mosaic age and Mosaic spirit, that it is a priori probable that Moses was its author. How admirably, for example, was the way prepared for the revelation of God at Sinai, by the revelations recorded in Genesis of the primitive and patriarchal times! The same God who, when making a covenant with Abram, revealed Himself to him in a vision as JEHOVAH who had brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 15: 7), and who afterwards, in His character of ESHADDAI, i.e., the omnipotent God, maintained the covenant which He had made with him (Gen. 17: 1ff.), giving him in Isaac the heir of the promise, and leading and preserving both Isaac and Jacob in their way, appeared to Moses at Horeb, to manifest Himself to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the full significance of His name JEHOVAH, by redeeming the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, and by accepting them as the people of His possession (Exo. 6: 2ff.). How magnificent are the prophetic revelations contained in the Thorah, embracing the whole future history of the kingdom of God till its glorious consummation at the end of the world! Apart from such promises as Gen. 12: 1-3, Ex. 19: 5, 6, and others, which point to the goal and termination of the ways of God from the very commencement of His work of salvation; not only does Moses in the ode sung at the Red Sea behold his people brought safely to Canaan, and Jehovah enthroned as the everlasting King in the sanctuary established by Himself (Exo. 15:13, 17, 18), but from Sinai and in the plains of Moab he surveys the future history of his people, and the land to which they are about to march, and sees the whole so clearly in the light of the revelation received in the law, as to foretell to a people just delivered from the power of the heathen, that they will again be scattered among the heathen for their apostasy from the Lord, and the beautiful land, which they are about for the first time to take possession of, be once more laid waste (Lev. 26; Deut. 28- 30, but especially 28). And with such exactness does he foretell this, that all the other prophets, in their predictions of the captivity, base their prophecies upon the words of Moses, simply extending the latter in the light thrown upon them by the historical circumstances of their own times.[2]

How richly stored, again, are all five books with delicate and casual allusions to Egypt, its historical events, its manners, customs, and natural history! Hengstenberg has accumulated a great mass of proofs, in his “Egypt and the Books of Moses,” of the most accurate acquaintance on the part of the author of the Thorah, with Egypt and its institutions. To select only a few — and those such as are apparently trivial, and introduced quite incidentally into either the history or the laws, but which are as characteristic as they are conclusive, — we would mention the thoroughly Egyptian custom of men carrying baskets upon their heads, in the dream of Pharaoh’s chief baker (Gen. 40:16); the shaving of the beard (Gen. 41:14); prophesying with the cup (Gen. 44: 5); the custom of embalming dead bodies and placing them in sarcophagi (Gen. 50: 2, 3, and 26); the basket made of the papyrus and covered with asphalt and pitch (Exo. 2: 3), the prohibition against lying with cattle (Exo. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; 20:15, 16), and against other unnatural crimes which were common in Egypt; the remark that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt (Num. 13:22); the allusion in Num. 11: 5 to the ordinary and favourite food of Egypt; the Egyptian mode of watering (Deu. 11:10, 11); the reference to the Egyptian mode of whipping (Deu. 25: 2, 3); the express mention of the eruptions and diseases of Egypt (Deu. 7:15; 28:27, 35, 60), and many other things, especially in the account of the plagues, which tally so closely with the natural history of that country (Exo. 7: 8-10:23).

In its general form, too, the Thorah answers the expectations which we are warranted in entertaining of a work of Moses. In such a work we should expect to find “the unity of a magnificent plan, comparative indifference to the mere details, but a comprehensive and spirited grasp of the whole and of salient points; depth and elevation combined with the greatest simplicity. In the magnificent unity of plan, we shall detect the mighty leader and ruler of a people numbering tens of thousands; in the childlike simplicity, the shepherd of Midian, who fed the sheep of Jethro far away from the varied scenes of Egypt in the fertile clefts of the mountains of Sinai” (Delitzsch). The unity of the magnificent plan of the Thorah we have already shown in its most general outlines, and shall point out still more minutely in our commentary upon the separate books. The childlike naiveté of the shepherd of Midian is seen most distinctly in those figures and similes drawn from the immediate contemplation of nature, which we find in the more rhetorical portions of the work. To this class belong such poetical expressions as “covering the eye of the earth” (Exo. 10: 5, 15; Num. 22: 5, 11); such similes as these: “as a nursing father beareth the suckling” (Num. 11:12); “as a man doth bear his son” (Deu. 1:31); “as the ox licketh up the grass of the field” (Num. 22: 4); “as sheep which have no shepherd” (Num. 27:17); “as bees do” (Deu. 1:44); “as the eagle flieth” (Deu. 28:49);— and again the figurative expressions “borne on eagles’ wings” (Exo. 19: 4, cf. Deut. 32:11); “devouring fire” (Exo. 24:17; Deut. 4:24; 9: 3); “head and tail” (Deu. 28:13, 44); “a root that beareth gall and wormwood” (Deu. 29:18); “wet to dry” (Deu. 29:19), and many others.

To this we may add the antiquated character of the style, which is common to all five books, and distinguishes them essentially from all the other writings of the Old Testament. This appears sometimes in the use of words, of forms, or of phrases, which subsequently disappeared from the spoken language, and which either do not occur again, or are only used here and there by the writers of the time of the captivity and afterwards, and then are taken from the Pentateuch itself; at other times, in the fact that words and phrases are employed in the books of Moses in simple prose, which were afterwards restricted to poetry alone; or else have entirely changed their meaning. For example, the pronounהוּא and the noun  נַעַרare used in the Pentateuch for both genders, whereas the forms  הִיאand נַעֲרָה were afterwards employed for the feminine; whilst the former of these occurs only eleven times in the Pentateuch, the latter only once. The demonstrative pronoun is speltהָאֵל , afterwards חָאֵלֶּ; the infinitive construct of the verbs ל״ה is often written  הֹor וֹ without ת, as עֲשֹׂו Gen. 31:38,  עֲשֹׂהוּExo. 18:18,  רְאֹהGen. 48:11; the third person plural of verbs is still for the most part the full formוּן , not merely in the imperfect, but also here and there in the perfect, whereas afterwards it was softened into וּ. Such words, too, as  אָבִיבan ear of corn; אַמְתַּחַת a sack;  בָּתַרdissecuit hostias;  בֶּתֶרa piece; גֹּוזָל a young bird; זֶבֶד a present;  זָבַדto present; חֶרְמֵשׁ a sickle;  טֶנֶאa basket;  הַיְקוּם an existing, living thing; מַסְוֶה a veil, covering; עֵקֶרa sprout (applied to men); שְׁאֵר  a blood-relation; such forms as זָכוּר for זָכָר mas,  כֶּשֶׂבfor כֶּבֶשׂ  a lamb; phrases like נֶפֱסַף אֶל־עַמָּיו, “gathered to his people;” and many others which I have given in my Introduction, — you seek in vain in the other writings of the Old Testament, whilst the words and phrases, which are used there instead, are not found in the books of Moses.

And whilst the contents and form of the Thorah bear witness that it belongs to the Mosaic age, there are express statements to the effect that it was written by Moses himself. Even in the central books, certain events and laws are said to have been written down. After the defeat of the Amalekites, for example, Moses received orders from God to write the command to exterminate Amalek, for a memorial, in the book (i.e., a book appointed for a record of the acts of the Lord in Israel: Ex. 17:14). According to Ex. 24: 3, 4, 7, Moses wrote the  words of the covenant (Exo. 20: 2-17) and the laws of Israel (Exo. 21-23) in the book of the covenant, and read them to the people. Again, in Ex. 34:27, Moses is commanded to write the words of the renewed covenant, which he no doubt did. And lastly, it is stated in Num. 33: 2, that he wrote on account of the different encampments of the Israelites in the desert, according to the commandment of God. It is true that these statements furnish no direct evidence of the Mosaic authorship of the whole Thorah; but from the fact that the covenant of Sinai was to be concluded, and actually was concluded, on the basis of a written record of the laws and privileges of the covenant, it may be inferred with tolerable certainty, that Moses committed all those laws to writing, which were to serve the people as an inviolable rule of conduct towards God. And from the record, which God commanded to be made, of the two historical events already mentioned, it follows unquestionably, that it was the intention of God, that all the more important manifestations of the covenant fidelity of Jehovah should be handed down in writing, in order that the people in all time to come might study and lay them to heart, and their fidelity be thus preserved towards their covenant God. That Moses recognised this divine intention, and for the purpose of upholding the work already accomplished through his mediatorial office, committed to writing not merely the whole of the law, but the entire work of the Lord in and for Israel, — in other words, that he wrote out the whole Thorah in the form in which it has come down to us, and handed over the work to the nation before his departure from this life, that it might be preserved and obeyed, — is distinctly stated at the conclusion of the Thorah, in Deut. 31: 9, 24. When he had delivered his last address to the people, and appointed Joshua to lead them into their promised inheritance, “he wrote this Thorah, and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi, and unto all the elders of Israel” (Deu. 31: 9), with a command that it was to be read to the people very seven years at the feast of Tabernacles, when they came to appear before the Lord at the sanctuary. Thereupon, it is stated (vv. 24ff.) that “it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, to the very close, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of Jehovah your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee,” etc. This double testimony to the Mosaic authorship of the Thorah is confirmed still further by the command in Deut. 17:18, that the king to be afterwards chosen should cause a copy of this law to be written in a book by the Levitical priests, and should read therein all the days of his life, and by the repeated allusions to “the words of this law, which are written in this book,” or “in the book of the law” (Deu. 28:58, 61; 29:21; 30:10; 31:26); for the former command that the latter allusions are not intelligible on any other supposition, than that Moses was engaged in writing the book of the law, and intended to hand it over to the nation in a complete form previous to his death; though it may not have been finished when the command itself was written down and the words in question were uttered, but, as Deut. 31: 9 and 24 distinctly affirm, may have been completed after his address to the people, a short time before his death, by the arrangement and revision of the earlier portions, and the addition of the fifth and closing book.

The validity of this evidence must not be restricted, however, to the fifth book of the Thorah, viz., Deuteronomy, alone; it extends to all five books, that is to say, to the whole connected work. For it cannot be exegetically proved from Deuteronomy, that the expression, “this law,” in every passage of the book from Deut. 1: 5 to 31:24 relates to the so-called Deuterosis of the law, i.e., to the fifth book alone, or that Deuteronomy was written before the other four books, the contents of which it invariably presupposes. Nor can it be historically proved that the command respecting the copy of the law to be made for the future king, and the regulations for the reading of the law at the feast of Tabernacles, were understood by the Jews as referring to Deuteronomy only. Josephus says nothing about any such limitation, but speaks, on the contrary, of the reading of the law generally ( ἀρχιερεὺς... ἀναγινωσκέτω τοὺς νόμους πᾶσι,  Ant. 4: 8, 12). The Rabbins, too, understand the words “this law,” in Deut. 31: 9 and 24, as relating to the whole Thorah from Gen. 1 to Deut. 34, and only differ in opinion as to the question whether Moses wrote the whole work at once after his last address, or whether he composed the earlier books gradually, after the different events and the publication of the law, and then completed the whole by writing Deuteronomy and appending it to the four books in existence already.[3]

Still less can this evidence be set aside or rendered doubtful by the objection, offered by Vaihinger, that “Moses cannot have related his own death and burial (Deu. 34); and yet the account of these forms an essential part of the work as we possess it now, and in language and style bears a close resemblance to Num. 27:12-23.” The words in Gen. 31:24, “When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the end,” are a sufficient proof of themselves that the account of his death was added by a different hand, without its needing to be distinctly stated.[4]

The argument, moreover, retains all its force, even if not only Gen. 34, the blessing of Moses in Gen. 33, whose title proves it to be an appendix to the Thorah, and the song in Gen. 32, are included in the supplement added by a different hand, but if the supplement commences at Gen. 31:24, or, as Delitzsch supposes, at Gen. 31: 9. For even in the latter case, the precepts of Moses on the reading of the Thorah at the feast of Tabernacles of the year of release, and on the preservation of the copy by the side of the ark, would have been inserted in the original prepared byMoses himself before it was deposited in the place appointed; and the work of Moses would have been concluded, after his death, with the notice of his death and burial. The supplement itself was undoubtedly added, not merely by a contemporary, but by a man who was intimately associated with Moses, and occupied a prominent position in the Israelitish community, so that his testimony ranks with that of Moses.

Other objections to the Mosaic authorship we shall notice, so far as they need any special refutation, in our commentary upon the passages in question. At the close of our exposition of the whole five books, we will review the modern hypotheses, which regard the work as the resultant of frequent revisions.

§4. Historical Character of the Books of Moses

Acknowledgment of the historical credibility of the facts recorded in the books of Moses requires a previous admission of the reality of a supernatural revelation from God. The widespread naturalism of modern theologians, which deduces the origin and development of the religious ideas and truths of the Old Testament from the nature of the human mind, must of necessity remit all that is said in the Pentateuch about direct or supernatural manifestations or acts of God, to the region of fictitious sagas and myths, and refuse to admit the historical truth and reality of miracles and prophecies. But such an opinion must be condemned as neither springing form the truth nor leading to the truth, on the simple ground that it is directly at variance with what Christ and His apostles have taught in the New Testament with reference to the Old, and also as leading either to an unspiritual Deism or to a comfortless Pantheism, which ignores the working of God on the one hand, and the inmost nature of the human mind on the other. Of the reality of the divine revelations, accompanied by miracles and prophecies, the Christian, i.e., the believing Christian, has already a pledge in the miracle of regeneration and the working of the Holy Spirit within his own heart. He who has experienced in himself this spiritual miracle of divine grace, will also recognise as historical facts the natural miracles, by which the true and living God established His kingdom of grace in Israel, wherever the testimony of eye-witnesses ensures their credibility. Now we have this testimony in the case of all the events of Moses’ own time, from his call downwards, or rather from his birth till his death; that is to say, of all the events which are narrated in the last four books of Moses. The legal code contained in these books is now acknowledged by the most naturalistic opponents of biblical revelation to have proceeded fromMoses, so far as its most essential elements are concerned; and this is in itself a simple confession that the Mosaic age is not a dark and mythical one, but falls within the clear light of history. The events of such an age might, indeed, by possibility be transmuted into legends in the course of centuries; but only in cases where they had been handed down from generation to generation by simple word of mouth. Now this cannot apply to the events of the Mosaic age; for even the opponents of the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch admit, that the art of writing had been learned by the Israelites from the Egyptians long before that time, and that not merely separate laws, but also memorable events, were committed to writing. To this we must add, that the historical events of the books of Moses contain no traces of legendary transmutation, or mythical adornment of the actual facts. Cases of discrepancy, which some critics have adduced as containing proofs of this, have been pronounced by others of the same theological school to be quite unfounded. Thus Bertheau says, with regard to the supposed contradictions in the different laws: “It always appears to me rash, to assume that there are contradictions in the laws, and to adduce these as evidence that the contradictory passages must belong to different periods. The state of the case is really this: even if the Pentateuch did gradually receive the form in which it has come down to us, whoever made additions must have known what the existing contents were, and would therefore not only admit nothing that was contradictory, but would erase anything contradictory that might have found its way in before. The liberty to make additions does not appear to me to be either greater, or more involved in difficulties, than that to make particular erasures.” And on the supposed discrepancies in the historical accounts, C. v. Lengerke himself says: “The discrepancies which some critics have discovered in the historical portions of Deuteronomy, as compared with the earlier books, have really no existence.” Throughout, in fact, the pretended contradictions have for the most part been introduced into the biblical text by the critics themselves, and have so little to sustain them in the narrative itself, that on closer research they resolve themselves into mere appearance, and the differences can for the most part be easily explained. — The result is just the same in the case of the repetitions of the same historical events, which have been regarded as legendary reduplications of things that occurred but once. There are only two miraculous occurrences mentioned in the Mosaic era which are said to have been repeated; only two cases, therefore, in which it is possible to place the repetition to the account of legendary fiction: viz., the feeding with quails, and bringing of water from a rock. But both of these are of such a character that the appearance of identity vanishes entirely before the distinctness of the historical accounts, and the differences in the attendant circumstances. The first feeding with quails took place in the desert of Sin, before the arrival of the Israelites at Sinai, in the second month of the first year; the second occurred after their departure from Sinai, in the second month of the second year, at the so-called graves of lust. The latter was sent as a judgment or plague, which brought the murmurers into the graves of their lust; the former merely supplied the deficiency of animal food. The water was brought from the rock the first time in Rephidim, during the first year of their journey, at a spot which was called in consequence Massah and Meribah; the second time, at Kadesh, in the fortieth year, — and on this occasion Moses and Aaron sinned so grievously that they were not allowed to enter Canaan.

It is apparently different with the historical contents of the book of Genesis. If Genesis was written byMoses, even between the history of the patriarchs and the time of Moses there is an interval of four or five centuries, in which the tradition might possibly have been corrupted or obscured. But to infer the reality from the bare possibility would be a very unscientific proceeding, and at variance with the simplest rules of logic. Now, if we look at the history which has been handed down to us in the book of Genesis from the primitive times of the human race and the patriarchal days of Israel, the traditions from the primitive times are restricted to a few simple incidents naturally described, and to genealogies which exhibit the development of the earliest families, and the origin of the different nations, in the plainest possible style. These transmitted accounts have such a genuine historical stamp, that no well-founded question can be raised concerning their credibility; but, on the contrary, all thorough historical research into the origin of different nations only tends to their confirmation. This also applies to the patriarchal history, in which, with the exception of the divine manifestations, nothing whatever occurs that could in the most remote degree call to mind the myths and fables of the heathen nations, as to the lives and deeds of their heroes and progenitors. There are three separate accounts, indeed, in the lives of Abraham and Isaac of an abduction of their wives; and modern critics can see nothing more in these, than three different mythical embellishments of one single event. But on a close and unprejudiced examination of the three accounts, the attendant circumstances in all three cases are so peculiar, and correspond so exactly to the respective positions, that the appearance of a legendary multiplication vanishes, and all three events must rest upon a good historical foundation. “As the history of the world, and of the plan of salvation, abounds not only in repetitions of wonderful events, but also in wonderful repetitions, critics had need act modestly, lest in excess of wisdom they become foolish and ridiculous” (Delitzsch). Again, we find that in the guidance of the human race, from the earliest ages downwards, more especially in the lives of the three patriarchs, God prepared the way by revelations for the covenant which He made at Sinai with the people of Israel. But in these preparations we can discover no sign of any legendary and unhistorical transference of later circumstances and institutions, either Mosaic or post-Mosaic, to the patriarchal age; and they are sufficiently justified by the facts themselves, since the Mosaic economy cannot possibly have been brought into the world, like a deus ex machina, without the slightest previous preparation. The natural simplicity of the patriarchal life, which shines out in every narrative, is another thing that produces on every unprejudiced reader the impression of a genuine historical tradition. This tradition, therefore, even though for the most part transmitted from generation to generation by word of mouth alone, has every title to credibility, since it was perpetuated within the patriarchal family, “in which, according to divine command (Gen. 18:19), the manifestations of God in the lives of the fathers were handed down as an heirloom, and that with all the greater ease, in proportion to the longevity of the patriarchs, the simplicity of their life, and the closeness of their seclusion from foreign and discordant influences. Such a tradition would undoubtedly be guarded with the greatest care. It was the foundation of the very existence of the chosen family, the bond of its unity, the mirror of its duties, the pledge of its future history, and therefore its dearest inheritance” (Delitzsch). But we are by no means to suppose that all the accounts and incidents in the book of Genesis were dependent upon oral tradition; on the contrary, there is much which was simply copied from written documents handed down from the earliest times. Not only the ancient genealogies, which may be distinguished at once from the historical narratives by their antique style, with its repetitions of almost stereotyped formularies, and by the peculiar forms of the names which they contain, but certain historical sections — such, for example, as the account of the war in Gen. 14, with its superabundance of genuine and exact accounts of a primitive age, both historical and geographical, and its old words, which had disappeared from the living language before the time of Moses, as well as many others — were unquestionably copied byMoses from ancient documents. (See Hävernick’s Introduction.)

To all this must be added the fact, that the historical contents, not of Genesis only, but of all the five books of Moses, are pervaded and sustained by the spirit of true religion. This spirit has impressed a seal of truth upon the historical writings of the Old Testament, which distinguishes them from all merely human historical compositions, and may be recognised in the fact, that to all who yield themselves up to the influence of the Spirit which lives and moves in them, it points the way to the knowledge of that salvation which God Himself has revealed.

Contents, Design, and Plan of the Book of Genesis

The first book of Moses, which has the superscription בראשׁית  in the original, Γένεσις Κόσμου in the Cod. Alex. of the LXX, and is called liber creationis by the Rabbins, has received the name of Genesis from its entire contents. Commencing with the creation of the heaven and the earth, and concluding with the death of the patriarchs Jacob and Joseph, this book supplies us with information with regard not only to the first beginnings and earlier stages of the world and of the human race, but also to those of the divine institutions which laid the foundation for the kingdom of God. Genesis commences with the creation of the world, because the heavens and the earth form the appointed sphere, so far as time and space are concerned, for the kingdom of God; because God, according to His eternal counsel, appointed the world to be the scene both for the revelation of His invisible essence, and also for the operations of His eternal love within and among His creatures; and because in the beginning He created the world to be and to become the kingdom of God. The creation of the heaven and the earth, therefore, receives as its centre, paradise; and in paradise, man, created in the image of God, is the head and crown of all created beings. The history of the world and of the kingdom of God begins with him. His fall from God brought death and corruption into the whole creation (Gen. 3:17ff.; Rom. 8:19ff.); his redemption from the fall will be completed in and with the glorification of the heavens and the earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21: 1). By sin, men have departed and separated themselves from God; but God, in His infinite mercy, has not cut himself off from men, His creatures. Not only did He announce redemption along with punishment immediately after the fall, but from that time forward He continued to reveal Himself to them, that He might draw them back to Himself, and lead them from the path of destruction to the way of salvation. And through these operations of God upon the world in theophanies, or revelations by word and deed, the historical development of the human race became a history of the plan of salvation. The book of Genesis narrates that history in broad, deep, comprehensive sketches, from its first beginning to the time of the patriarchs, whom God chose from among the nations of the earth to be the bearers of salvation for the entire world. This long space of 2300 years (from Adam to the flood, 1656; to the entrance of Abram into Canaan, 365; to Joseph’s death, 285; in all, 2306 years) is divisible into two periods. The first period embraces the development of the human race from its first creation and fall to its dispersion over the earth, and the division of the one race into many nations, with different languages (Gen. 2: 4-11:26); and is divided by the flood into two distinct ages, which we may call the primeval age and the preparatory age. All that is related of the primeval age, from Adam to Noah, is the history of the fall; the mode of life, and longevity of the two families which descended from the two sons of Adam; and the universal spread of sinful corruption in consequence of the intermarriage of these two families, who differed so essentially in their relation to God (Gen. 2: 4-6: 8). The primeval history closes with the flood, in which the old world perished (Gen. 6: 9-8:19). Of the preparatory age, from Noah to Terah the father of Abraham, we have an account of the covenant which God made with Noah, and of Noah’s blessing and curse; the genealogies of the families and tribes which descended from his three sons; an account of the confusion of tongues, and the dispersion of the people; and the genealogical table from Shem to Terah (Gen. 8:20-11:26).

The second period consists of the patriarchal era. From this we have an elaborate description of the lives of the three patriarchs of Israel, the family chosen to be the people of God, from the call of Abraham to the death of Joseph (Gen. 11:27-50). Thus the history of humanity is gathered up into the history of the one family, which received the promise, that God would multiply it into a great people, or rather into a multitude of peoples, would make it a blessing to all the families of the earth, and would give it the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.

This general survey will suffice to bring out the design of the book of Genesis, viz., to relate the early history of the Old Testament kingdom of God. By a simple and unvarnished description of the development of the world under the guidance and discipline of God, it shows how God, as the preserver and governor of the world, dealt with the human race which He had created in His own image, and how, notwithstanding their fall and through the misery which ensued, He prepared the way for the fulfillment of His original design, and the establishment of the kingdom which should bring salvation to the world. Whilst by virtue of the blessing bestowed in their creation, the human race was increasing from a single pair to families and nations, and peopling the earth; God stemmed the evil, which sin had introduced, by words and deeds, by the announcement of His will in commandments, promises, and threats, and by the infliction of punishments and judgments upon the despisers of His mercy. Side by side with the law of expansion from the unity of a family to the plurality of nations, there was carried on from the very first a law of separation between the ungodly and those that feared God, for the purpose of preparing and preserving a holy seed for the rescue and salvation of the whole human race. This double law is the organic principle which lies at the root of all the separations, connections, and dispositions which constitute the history of the book of Genesis. In accordance with the law of reproduction, which prevails in the preservation and increase of the human race, the genealogies show the historical bounds within which the persons and events that marked the various epochs are confined; whilst the law of selection determines the arrangement and subdivision of such historical materials as are employed.

So far as the plan of the book is concerned, the historical contents are divided into ten groups, with the uniform heading, “These are the generations” (with the exception of Gen. 5: 1: “This is the book of the generations”); the account of the creation forming the substratum of the whole. These groups consist of the Tholedoth: 1. of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2: 4-4:26); 2. Of Adam (Gen. 5: 1-6: 8); 3. of Noah (Gen. 6: 9-9:29); 4. of Noah’s sons (Gen. 10: 1-11: 9); 5. of Shem (Gen. 11:10-26); 6. of Terah (Gen. 11:27-25:11); 7. Of Ishmael (Gen. 25:12-18); 8. of Isaac (Gen. 25:19-35:29); 9. of Esau (26); and 10. of Jacob (37-50). There are five groups in the first period, and five in the second. Although, therefore, the two periods differ considerably with regard to their scope and contents, in their historical importance to the book of Genesis they are upon a par; and the number ten stamps upon the entire book, or rather upon the early history of Israel recorded in the book, the character of completeness. This arrangement flowed quite naturally from the contents and purport of the book. The two periods, of which the early history of the kingdom of God in Israel consists, evidently constitute two great divisions, so far as their internal character is concerned. All that is related of the first period, from Adam to Terah, is obviously connected, no doubt, with the establishment of the kingdom of God in Israel, but only in a remote degree. The account of paradise exhibits the primary relation of man to God and his position in the world. In the fall, the necessity is shown for the interposition of God to rescue the fallen. In the promise which followed the curse of transgression, the first glimpse of redemption is seen. The division of the descendants of Adam into a God-fearing and an ungodly race exhibits the relation of the whole human race to God. The flood prefigures the judgment of God upon the ungodly; and the preservation and blessing of Noah, the protection of the godly from destruction. And lastly, in the genealogy and division of the different nations on the one hand, and the genealogical table of Shem on the other, the selection of one nation is anticipated to be the recipient and custodian of the divine revelation. The special preparations for the training of this nation commence with the call of Abraham, and consist of the care bestowed upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their posterity, and of the promises which they received. The leading events in the first period, and the prominent individuals in the second, also furnished, in a simple and natural way, the requisite points of view for grouping the historical materials of each under a fivefold division. The proof of this will be found in the exposition. Within the different groups themselves the arrangement adopted is this: the materials are arranged and distributed according to the law of divine selection; the families which branched off from the main line are noticed first of all; and when they have been removed from the general scope of the history, the course of the main line is more elaborately described, and the history itself is carried forward. According to this plan, which is strictly adhered to, the history of Cain and his family precedes that of Seth and his posterity; the genealogy of Japhet and Ham stands before that of Shem; the history of Ishmael and Esau, before that of Isaac and Jacob; and the death of Terah, before the call and migration of Abraham to Canaan. In this regularity of composition, according to a settled plan, the book of Genesis may clearly be seen to be the careful production of one single author, who looked at the historical development of the human race in the light of divine revelation, and thus exhibited it as a complete and well arranged introduction to the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God.


[1] Kaihinger seeks to give probability to Ewald’s idea of the progressive growth of the Mosaic legislation, and also of the Pentateuch, during a period of nine or ten centuries, by the following argument: — “We observe in the law-books of the ancient Parsees, in the Zendavesta, and in the historical writings of India and Arabia, that it was a custom in the East to supplement the earlier works, and after a lapse of time to reconstruct them, so that whilst the root remained, the old stock was pruned and supplanted by a new one. Later editors constantly brought new streams to the old, until eventually the circle of legends and histories was closed, refined, and transfigured. Now, as the Israelites belonged to the same great family as the rest of the Oriental nations (sic! so that the Parsees and Hindoos are Semitic!), and had almost everything in common with them so far as dress, manners, and customs were concerned, there is ground for the supposition, that their literature followed the same course” (Herzog’s Cycl.). But to this we reply, that the literature of a nation is not an outward thing to be put on and worn like a dress, or adopted like some particular custom or habit, until something more convenient of acceptable induces a change; and that there is a considerable difference between Polytheism and heathen mythology on the one hand, and Monotheism and revealed religion on the other, which forbids us to determine the origin of the religious writings of the Israelites by the standard of the Indian Veda and Purana, or the different portions of the Zendavesta.

[2] Yet we never find in these words of Moses, or in the Pentateuch generally, the name Jehovah Sabaoth, which was unknown in the Mosaic age, but was current as early as the time of Samuel and David, and so favourite a name with all the prophets.

[3] Cf. Hävernick’s Introduction, and the opinions of the Rabbins on Deut. 31: 9 and 24 in Meyer’s adnotatt. ad Seder Olam. But as Delitzsch still maintains that Deut. 31: 9ff. merely proves that the book of Deuteronomy was written byMoses, and observes in support of this, that at the time of the second temple it was an undoubted custom to read that book alone at the feast of Tabernacles in the year of release, as is evident from Sota, c. 7, and a passage of Sifri (one of the earliest Midrashim of the school of Rab, born c. 165, d. 247), quoted by Rashi on Sota 41, we will give a literal translation of the two passages for the benefit of those who may not possess the books themselves, that they may judge for themselves what ground there is for this opinion. The passage from the Sota is headed, sectio regis quomodo, i.e., sectio a Rege praelegenda, quibus ritibus recitata est, and runs thus: — “Transacta festivitatis tabernaculorum prima die, completo jam septimo anno et octavo ineunte, parabant Regi suggestum ligneum in Atrio, huic insidebat juxta illud: a fine septem annorum, etc. (Deu. 31:10). Tum Aedituus (more correctly, diaconus Synagogae) sumto libro legis tradidit eum Primaria coetus (synagogae), hic porrigebat eum Antistiti, Antistes Summo Sacerdoti, Summus Sacerdos denique exhibebat ipsum regi. Rex autem stans eum accipiebat, verum praelegens consedit.” Then follows a Haggada on a reading of King Agrippa’s, and it proceeds: —“Praelegit vero (rex) ab initio Deuteronomii usque ad illa: Audi Israel (c. 4, 4), quae et ipse praelegit. Tum subjecit (ex. c. 11, 13): Eritque si serio auscultaveritis, etc. Dehinc (ex. c. 14, 22): Fideliter decimato, etc. Postea (ex. c. 26, 22): Cum absolveritis dare omnes decimas, etc. Deinde sectionem de Rege (quae habetur, c. 17, 14ff.). Denique benedictiones et exsecrationes (ex. cc. 27 et 28) usque dum totam illam sectionem finiret.” But how can a mere tradition of the Talmud like this, respecting the formalities with which the king was to read certain sections of the Thorah on the second day of the feast of Tabernacles, be adduced as a proof that in the year of release the book of Deuteronomy alone, or certain extracts from it, were read to the assembled people? Even if this rule was connected with the Mosaic command in Deut. 31:10, or derived from it, it does not follow in the remotest degree, that either by ancient or modern Judaism the public reading of the Thorah appointed byMoses was restricted to this one reading of the king’s. And even if the precept in the Talmud was so understood or interpreted by certain Rabbins, the other passage quoted by Delitzsch from Sifri in support of his opinion, proves that this was not the prevailing view of the Jewish synagogue, or of modern Judaism. The passage runs thus: “He (the king) shall write אֶת מִשְׁנֶה הַתֹּרָה הַזֹּאת . He shall so this himself, for he is not to use his ancestor’s copy. Mishneh in itself means nothing more than Thorah Mishneh (Deuteronomy). How do I know that the other words of the Thorah were to be written also? This is evident from the Scriptures, which add, ‘to do all the words of this law.’ But if this be the case, why is it called Mishneh Thorah? Because there would be a transformation of the law. Others say that on the day of assembly Deuteronomy alone was read.” From this passage of the ancient Midrash we learn, indeed, that many of the Rabbins were of opinion, that at the feast of Tabernacles in the sabbatical year, the book of Deuteronomy only was to be read, but that the author himself was of a different opinion; and, notwithstanding the fact that he thought the expressionMishneh Thorah must be understood as applying to the Deuterosis of the law, still maintained that the law, of which the king was to have a copy taken, was not only Deuteronomy, but the whole of the Pentateuch, and that he endeavoured to establish this opinion by a strange but truly rabbinical interpretation of the word Mishneh as denoting a transformation of the law.

[4] The weakness of the argument against the Mosaic authorship of the Thorah, founded upon the account of the death and burial of Moses, may be seen from the analogous case cited by Hengstenberg in his Dissertations on the Pentateuch. In the last book of the Commentarii de statu religionis et republicae Carolo V. Caesare, by J. Sleidanus, the account of Charles having abdicated and sailed to Spain is followed, without any break, by the words: “Octobris die ultimo Joannes Sleidanus, J. U. L., vir et propter eximias animi dotes et singularem doctrinam omni laude dignus, Argentorati e vita decedit, atque ibidem honorifice sepelitur.” This account of the death and burial of Sleidan is given in every edition of his Commentarii, containing the 26th book, which the author added to the 25 books of the first edition of April 1555, for the purpose of bringing down the life of Charles V. to his abdication in September 1556. Even in the very first edition, Argentorati 1558, it is added without a break, and inserted in the table of contents as an integral part of the book, without the least intimation that it is by a different hand. “No doubt the writer thought that it was quite unnecessary to distinguish himself from the author of the work, as everybody would know that a man could not possibly write an account of his own death and burial.” Yet any one who should appeal to this as a proof that Sleidan was not the author of the Commentarii, would make himself ridiculous in the eyes of every student of history.