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Earliest Account of Time.
The ASIATIC Hiftory to the Time of
CHAP. VII. SECT. II.
The religion, government, laws, customs, learning, art, and commerce, of the Jews.
HE inftitution of the Jewish religion and common- The Jew. wealth is, by Mofes, attributed wholly to God; ifh gofor which reafon, Jofephus makes no fcruple to vernment diftinguish the latter from all the other governments in the world, by the name of theocracy 2, of a go- theocracy.
vernment under the immediate command and direction of GOD and indeed, though this theocracy has often varied under Mofes, Joshua, the judges, kings, and high-priests, and the divine authority differently interpofed during those revolutions, yet GOD was ftill looked upon as the fupreme monarch of the Ifraelites. We fhall fee, in the fequel of
a Cont. Apion. lib. ii.
their history, that he was the fole director of every momentous transaction under Mofes, and the dictator of the main body of his laws. Joshua, though not honoured fo far as to receive the divine commands from the mouth of God, yet confulted him by the urim, upon all emergencies. The judges were valiant and wife men, whom God made choice of to govern the people, and to deliver them, from time to time, from those thraldoms which their frequent rebellions brought upon them. Accordingly, when Gideon had delivered them from the Midianites, and the people offered the government to him, and his pofterity, he modeftly replied, that neither he, nor his fons, but the LORD GOD, should rule over them. When, in process of time, their defire for a king was grown to fuch a height, that all Samuel's expoftulations could not divert them from it, though he told them, that, by fo doing, they rejected the LORD from ruling over them; GOD was pleafed to nominate Saul, and, after him, David, to the regal dignity, and to make it hereditary in the posterity of the latter, referving to himself, nevertheless, the power of altering the fucceffion from the eldeft to a younger branch, whenever he thought fit; as he actually did in his immediate fucceffor Solomon. Nay, we may fay, that God himself, foreseeing that they would be for a kingly government, did referve to himself the choice, and prefcribed fome wholfome laws for the conduct of those who should enjoy the regal power; and if, at any time, either the kings or the people refufed to be directed. by him, or difobeyed the laws which he had given them, they never failed of fome fevere punishment, to remind them of their dependence, and to recall them to their duty. The kings of Ifrael, indeed, after their revolt from those of Judah, did reign more arbitrarily; but their endeavours to fhake off the yoke of GOD proved a fource of endless evils to the rebellious tribes; till, at length, when neither his prophets exhortations and threatenings, nor his fevere judgments, could bring them to obedience, he intirely caft them off, and condemned them to an endless captivity. Thus not only the kingdom of Judah, but even that of Ifrael, corrupt and idolatrous as it was, continued ftill under a theocracy, until its diffolution. This is what will more evidently appear by the fequel of this hiftory.
As for their laws, the greatest part of them were given to Mofes on mount Sinai, and the reft at different times,
↳ Judg. viii. 22, 23.
Vide Deut. xvii. 14, & feq.
and as occafion required; as we fall fee in the fequel. Whether, therefore, we look upon them as the firft body of laws that ever was compiled, whilft other nations had not so much as a name for a law, as Jofephus & has endeavoured to prove against his learned antagonist, from the writings of Homer, the moft antient writer, in which the word nomos [law] is not fo much as once mentioned; or whether we fuppofe, with others, that the Egyptians, and other nations, had already laws of their own, and that Mofes was permitted by GoD to model and improve his own by them, by altering or retaining what he liked or difliked, of which more in its proper place; it is plain, that the greateft part of them were dictated by GOD himself; and that the reft received, if not the laft perfection, at least their fanction Receive and approbation from him. And indeed, if we confider, their that they extended to all duties, cafes, and exigencies, whe-fanction ther moral, political, or ceremonial; that the moral were from to be of eternal obligation; that the political were to laft GOD. as long as the Jewish polity; that great part of the cere monial were typical of, and confequently to endure, at leaft, till the coming of the MESSIAH; if we confider further, that the priests and rulers were to be no more than the bare guardians of them, and that they were forbid, under pain of death, and of the divine curfe, to add, diminifh, or alter, the least part of them; it will be scarce credible, that Mofes would have given them such a firm and durable fanction, and backed it with the divine authority, had any but God been the author or confirmer of them.
HOWEVER, our defign is not to dwell here upon the difplay of their excellency above thofe of all other nations, much lefs to confute all the empty cavils that have been raised against them. That has been already done by Josephus, Philo, Maimonides, Mofes Gerundenfis, and many others among the Jews, but by a greater number of learned divines, both of our own and other churches; to whose province it belongs more particularly f. We might indeed, conveniently enough, have followed their diftinction of them into moral, political, and ceremonial, and fo have given the following body of them under thofe three heads; efpecially as fuch a diftinction is generally thought to be hinted at by the three different terms which Mofes makes ufe of, laws or precepts, judgments, and ftatutes &: but, if
a Cont. Apion. ibid. SPENCER de leg. ritual. Jud. paff. LE CLERC, & al. Vide inter al. GROT. SELDEN, PUFF. CUMBERLAND, GASTREL, L'ABBADIE, CUNAUM, BASNAG. BASNAG, republ. Heb. 1. i. c. 18.
we confider, that Mofes makes ufe of fome other terms likewise to exprefs them by, fuch as ordinances, teftimonies, and fome others, in a very undeterminate sense; that he calls the fame laws fometimes by one, and sometimes by another of these names; and, laftly, that this diftinction will not hold with refpect to very many of those laws, which are partly moral, and partly ceremonial and political, and fo vice verfâ; we fhall have little ground to think, that the Jewish lawgiver defigned to intimate any fuch diftinction by those terms. Thus the law concerning the feventh day, or day of reft, is partly ceremonial and typical, and partly moral and political, as it was defigned as well for the ease and reft of the labourers, fervants, and flaves, as for that of their masters. To this we may add here, that thefe laws did likewife differ with respect to their obfervance and obligation. Some of them, fuch as, the making the tabernacle, altar, fetting up the bleffings and curfes on mount Ebal and Gerizzim, were to be observed but once for all; others were to laft no longer than the time of the MESSIAH, and others to the end of the world. When therefore they are commanded to observe all the laws and ordinances of Mofes, fome of which were of no force out of the land of Palestine, the Jews, in those cafes, understand the precept not of an actual obfervance, but of a conftant remembrance, and readiness to obey them, whenever they fhall become in force again k.
INDEED, as we are writing the hiftory of the Jews, it might perhaps be thought more proper, that we should give the body of their laws in the fame order and method in which they themselves have collected and digefted them out of the five books of Mofes, which they call, by way of excellency, Ha-thorah, the law (A); but the truth is,
* Confer Exod. xx. 9, 10. cum Deut. v. 14. MUNST. præf. in Genef.
(A) This n, Thorah, or law, they divide, as we do, into five books, which they call by the first words of each: thus, they call Genefis mw Bereshith, that is, in the beginning; Exodus they call ninuba Ellehemoth, These are the names; Leviticus Vajikra, And be called; Numbers, Vajdab
eadevarim, Thefe are the words.