Page images

despise all rhetorical rules even such as do not depend on the varying tastes of men, but on fixed and universal principles. They want necessaries, they abound in superfluities." P.IX: "Great regard to the order of time and events is not to be found among the Hebrews. Thus what is said of the division of the nations, Gen. x. ought to have been put after ch. 11: 9. In ch. 11: 3, 4, 8 there are transpositions in the narrative, as also in ch. 24: 23, etc. . . . A degrading of an object by a low figure ought to be avoided. Hence it is not proper to say, 'The Lord is a man of war,'' God has aroused like one sleeping, etc.'"+ These censures do not, as Clericus pretends, apply only to the accidental form of the biblical phraseology, but to the form in its connection with the sense, and they show how unacquainted he was with this last, and how cold it left him.


After Clericus came J. D. Michaelis, whose Commentaries on the Laws of Moses are here especially to be considered, although his Anmerkungen für Ungelehrte' (Annotations for the Unlearned) must also be noticed. His influence was even greater than that of his predecessor. The commentation of the latter was pretty generally regarded as that of a mere philologian, who was admitted as authority only in matters of his own department. Theological commentation looked down upon him, and continued its own way undisturbed; although it was incapable of bringing forth any thing important, and was thus unable to neutralize the influence of what was theological in Clericus's expositions. The commentation of J. D. Michaelis on the contrary succeeded in obtaining almost universal author

plurima in canticis eorum legantur graviter et ornate dicta; sed unde magis videas, quid facere potuissent, si studium quantum apud alias gentes adlatum est, adhibuissent, quam ad eloquentiae laudem pervenisse intelligas."



"Omnes Rhetorum canones, etiam eos, qui non ex variante hominum arbitrio pendent, sed certa et omnibus gentibus communi ratione nituntur, spernunt. . . . Necessariis carent et superfluis abundant." "Ordinis temporis et rerum magna ratio ab Hebraeis non habeSic, quae de divisione gentium habentur, Gen. c. 10, debent v. 9. c. 11. postponi. Cap. 11: 3, 4, 8 sunt quoque narrationis inversiones, ut et c. 24: 23, etc. . . . Fugienda est omnis turpitudo earum rerum, ad quas eorum animos, qui audiunt trahet similitudo. Per hanc canonem, dicere non licuisset, deum esse virum bellicosum, deum excitari quasi dormientem, etc."

Professor at Halle and Göttingen. Died 1791.

ity so that his exegetical results may be considered as universally adopted at the time when the crisis came. Whatever raised itself against it was only laughed at, and that in part justly, as it showed all the weakness and helplessness of old age. It may be safely asserted that Michaelis, by removing the foundations on which the genuineness of the sacred books rest, did it more injury than those who afterward directly attacked it. He overthrew the substance, and then contended in vain against those who tried their strength upon the empty shell. His scope in the exposition of the Pentateuch is throughout an apologetic one. He aims, in opposition to the attacks of the English deists and of the French atheists, to show the excellence of the Mosaic law. But as he had no eye for its true excellence, he strips Moses of the praise which really belongs to him, and gives him another which he never sought, and which rather makes suspicious than establishes his character as an inspired lawgiver. "I will make bold to say," says he in the beginning of his Commentaries, Part I. § 1, "that in the books of Moses are to be found some entirely unexpected and splendid instances of legislative wisdom." To point out these instances is the great object of his work. Moses appears, if the results of this work are considered established, a man much like the Sir Knight Michaelis. That such a man should have had the aid of miracles and prophecies, is very improbable. Others who, though Moses be granted all the merit which Michaelis allows him, stood much higher as lawgivers than he, had no such aid. But since Michaelis's time, there has been as much zeal to strip him of the imaginary merit of political cunning, as to refuse to restore that which really belongs to him. Remarkable in this respect is Eichhorn's critique upon Michaelis, in the Bibliothek für biblische Literatur, Th. 3. S. 847: " In the industrious search after political plans and schemes, secret designs and projects are too unceremoniously ascribed to the lawgiver which he never thought of, or subtle political principles are made to connect laws which have a much looser connection. It is well that even Michaelis has perhaps with too full a hand, given too much we can now take away the easier. The poor tent of Moses with its furniture is now before us; if any of this furniture is still too splendid, it can easily be exchanged for something of inferior quality.' Michaelis's political principles had not grown on christian soil: he had borrowed them from the ungodly politics of the age. French writers had been his


teachers. By ascribing now these principles without shame or reserve to Moses, he drew him down into a society where one would expect to find any body else sooner than a man of God. The assurance with which he does this, thinking that he is thereby doing a service to religion, must often excite a smile. The grossest thing of this kind is the assertion that Moses cherished the maxim, that the end sanctifies the means, and that so far, as sometimes to have used religion itself as a means to accomplish his purpose. He speaks on this point without the least reserve, in Part I. § 13: "In the legislative wisdom of Moses, I observe in general one stroke of policy, which is not commonly used in our days, and which perhaps is really no more capable of use. Many laws are made sacred by being placed in connection with virtue and religion, and having a religious signification or direction given to them, while their real causes and reasons are concealed. Such laws obtain thereby a degree of reverence, as the violation of them is regarded as a sin against virtue itself. . . . The few remains of the political wisdom of the Egyptians with which we are acquainted, show that they also often made use of this means. . . . When it could be done without deceit (!) Moses makes use of a similar policy.' In the course of the work a great number of cases are brought forward, in which Moses is made to act upon this principle. So, e. g. Part 3. § 145: "When the observance of a certain law was very important, aid was sought from vows and religion. Thus did Moses against idolatry, the prohibition of which was one of the fundamental maxims of his government; and the Roman people did the same for the safety of their tribunes. It is manifest at once that this piece of political wisdom must not be used too freely, etc." He makes religion to be used as a means even for the lowest and most trivial objects. In the religious import given to the prescribed cleanliness of the camp (Num. 5: 1-3, etc.) Moses was, according to Michaelis, “not in earnest his real object, which if it had been openly expressed, would not have been enough regarded, was, the prevention of foul smells.-Moses speaks as if he who seethed a kid in its mother's milk committed a sin against religion-the sagacious man designs nothing more by this than to induce the people to cook kids in olive-oil instead of butter, because they would taste better. Among the ostensible reasons for forbidding the eating of fat and blood was this, that they belonged to the altar, and were too holy to be eaten the real, concealed reason was, that

the eating of the fat parts and the use of fat in boiling, baking, and stewing, is injurious to a people subject to diseases of the skin, etc." See Part 4. § 171, 205, 206. This example of bad political maxims ascribed to Moses is indeed the grossest and most striking, but by no means the only one. There is another, running through the whole book, which is indeed more refined, but still, if established, calculated of itself to overthrow the belief of the divine mission of Moses, and thus that of the genuineness of the Pentateuch. Michaelis is at once an opposer of the divine right, and a defender of the unlimited power of government. Government is, according to him, a creature of the people-but then, as representative of the popular will, it is to have universal sway; while every divine right is limited by him and confined to a certain sphere. This doctrine, originating in modern ungodliness, he also ascribes to Moses, and that to such an extent that the principle is made absurd and ridiculous. The law giver inspects the chambers and the pots. He takes such tender care of his subjects that he orders them to cook, not with butter but with oil, because it will taste better. "This," remarks Michaelis, Part 4. § 205," will be called by many a German reader, delicatesse, over-done, delicatesse-but it might be of use to a people going to Palestine." Health is urged by the lawgiver upon his subjects by means truly heroic. Houses for example which are infected with leprosy, he commands, through concern for the health of the inhabitant, to be pulled down. For delicate nerves he shows the most tender care-the leprous person must not dwell in the camp, must cover his face, etc., lest he should excite one's disgust by his really hateful appearance, or, frighten him by an unexpected touch. Such tenderness of police would be cruelty even to those for whose sake at the expense of others it was enforced. Who would not have his disgust excited or suffer a little fright for once, rather than feel the hand of the police always on his neck?

Michaelis shows every where the most anxious dread of forsaking the ground which he holds in common with his opponents not because he fears they would not follow him to another, but because-and this is his strongest reason he himself feels nowhere else at home. Hence, in regard to every thing in the law which can be defended only by reasons felt by one of deep religious feeling, he prepared the way for an easy triumph to his opposers. For all the acuteness which he manifested VOL. XI. No. 30.


could not long conceal the weakness of the defence which he had made upon the ground of mere natural causes, and that the supernatural ground was not defensible, was now, after this concession of the very leader of supernaturalism, considered as established. Thus in part I. § 65, the sentiment that when God says, Ex. 34: 24, that during the absence of the Hebrews at their yearly feasts at Jerusalem, no one should desire their land, he pledges himself to reward fidelity on their part with fidelity on his, Michaelis sets aside by a remark too gross even for those who believe in a Providence as little as the Deists do. "Will we dare," says he, "to explain the words of Moses so as to make him promise a periodical miracle on the part of God, viz. that for three weeks in every year, all the enemies of the Israelites should be turned into blocks?" One might here almost conceive himself listening to the knight (lord) in 2 Kings vii.* Moses, in this passage, according to Michaelis, enjoins upon the people to trust in a principle of international law which he pretends was observed at that time, by which one nation respected the religious rites of the other, and suspended hostilities while a feast was celebrating. Thus he remarks in reference to the Sabbatical year, which, notwithstanding its religious exterior, had no other object according to him than to lead the people always to keep a provision of grain, "Can God have pledged himself to work such a periodical miracle (the double crop in the sixth year) which would have been, besides, entirely unnecessary if Moses had not made such a ruinous law?" What crude views of the common course of nature lie at the bottom of such remarks! How inconsistent, that he who is so impotent to see the hand of God in nature, will yet in part maintain its agency in history! Thus he denies the divine right of the Israelites to Palestine, and labors in vain, with all the art of a special pleader, to prove their human right to it. Of the essence of the theocracy he has no conception. That in which alone he finds it, viz. the decision by Urim and Thummim, the presence of the cloud, etc., belonged for the most part only to the Mosaic times, and appears, in its isolation, so singular, so ex abrupto, that it was immediately lost as soon as the mythical interpretation laid its hand upon it. The theocracy was "quoted in its main design only a name, a designation,

* "Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?"

« PreviousContinue »