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after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, the tabernacle was, by God's immediate command, set up, and all its rich furniture disposed in the proper places that had been appointed. But no sooner was this done, than the pillar of the cloud (which is called the Glory of the Lord) covered the whole, so that Moses himself, for some time, was not able to enter it.
The Almighty, at length, promising Moses to enter the tabernacle, gave him instructions (which he communicated to the people) in what manner (according to this new institution) he was to be worshipped by sacrifices and oblations; what festivals were to be observed, and how celebrated; what meats were forvidden; what the instances of uncleanness were; and what the degrees of consanguinity prohibited in marriage.
The creatures appointed to be offered in sacrifice were of five sorts, namely, oxen, lambs, goats, doves, and young pigeons, all of which were to be males and without blemish. The person who presented the offering was to do it at the altar, laying his two hands on the head of the creature, and then cutting its throat. The blood was to be received in a basin, and with it the priest was to sprinkle the vessels and corners of the altar, throwing the principal part at the foot of it. The victim was to be flayed, cut in pieces, and laid on the altar, where, either the whole, or some part of it (according to the several sorts of sacrifice), was to be burnt. Libations were likewise added to the sacrifices. All the wine, or flour, offered with the victims, was called effusion, or pouring out. There was to be also a separate offering of fine flour and oil, baked on an iron, or in a pan, and sprinkled with oil and frankincense.
The sacrifices were of four sorts, namely,
1. The burnt-offering, every part of which was to be consumed by fire on the altar, after washing the feet and entrails.
2. The peace-offering, of which only the inward fat or tallow was to be burnt on the altar, made up with the liver and kidneys, and the tails of the lambs. The breast and the right shoulder belonged to the priests, the rest to him who offered the sacrifice. 3. The sacrifice of sin, committed either wilfully or ignorantly. In this the priest was to take some of the blood of the victim, dip his finger in it, and sprinkle seven times toward the veil of the sanctuary. The same parts of the victim were to be burnt on the altar in this as in the former sacrifice; the rest, if the sacrifice was offered for the sin of the high-priest, or for the people, was to be carried without the camp to be burnt there, with the skin, the head, the feet, and the bowels. If it was for a private person, the victim was to be divided, one half to the priest, and the other to him who offered the sacrifice.
4. The sacrifice of oblation was to consist either of fine flour, or incense, or cakes of fine flour and oil baked, or the first-fruits of new corn. With the things offered were always to be oil, salt, wine, and frankincense, the latter of which was to be thrown into the fire. Of the other things offered the priest was to take the whole, one part of which he was to burn, and the other to convert to his own use.
With respect to their festivals, the first and grand one to be observed was the Sabbath, which they were to keep in the strictest manner, dedicating it wholly to rest, and not doing any kind of business whatever.
The passover was likewise to be observed with great solemnity. It was to begin on the fourteenth day of the March moon; and for the seven days it lasted they were to eat only bread unleavened. The first day after the passover they were to offer new ears of corn; and on the fifteenth day was to be held another feast, called the harvest festival, on which they were to offer in thanksgiving two loaves mode of new wheat, as the first-fruits of the harvest. The first day of the seventh month (which was the first of the civil year) was also to be held as a very solema festival, in remembrance of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. On the tenth of the same month was to be kept the feast of expiation, on which day the priests were to go into the sanctuary, and offer two goats, one of which was to be there givea up as a solemn sacrifice for sin; but the other was to be carried, not only out of the tabernacle, but without the camp, also, and was therefore to be called the scape-goat. On the fifteenth of the same month was to begin the feast of tabernacles, which was to last eight days, being kept as a memorial that the Israelites had been accustomed to live in tents. The whole time was to be spent in mirth, and each day the people were to walk round the altar with boughs in their hands.
With respect to animal food they were to be very careful in making a proper dis. tinction between beasts that were clean, and those that were otherwise, it being lawful for them to eat the first, but not the last. Two qualifications were required for reckoning a beast clean, which were, that it should have a cloven foot, and that it should chew the cud; so that it was unlawful for them to eat swine's flesh, or rabbits and hares, the former not chewing the cud, and the latter not having cloven feet. All birds of prey were forbidden; and it was unlawful for them to eat blood, or the flesh of beasts strangled.
Among the laws relative to uncleauness, leprosy was to be reckoned the greatest, of the nature and quality of which the priest was to judge, and to dispose of the party as he should think proper. Some uncleannesses were to be removed by washing their garments and bodies, and others by offering up sacrifices.
The laws relating to matrimony were principally these. They were forbidden to marry strange women. One man might have several wives; but the persons with whom it was not allowed to contract matrimony were, the father, mother, mother-in-law, sister by the father or mother's side, son's or daughter's daughter, father's wife's daughter, father or mother's sister, uncle, daughter-in-law, brother's wife, wife's sister or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter. It was, however, not only lawful, but a command enjoined, that the brother should marry the brother's widow, provided he died without issue.
Moses, having communicated these, and some other ordinances, to the people, proceeded next, agreeably to the divine command, to constitute his brother Aaron highpriest, and to fix the order of priesthood in his son and their posterity. In the execution of this ceremony Moses robed them, anointed their heads with oil, and made them offer sacrifices for sin. The function of the priests in general, was, to offer sacrifice to the Lord, but the high-priest's was of a particular nature. He was to go once a year, on the day of expiation, into the sanctuary, clad in his priestly garments, there to burn incense before the ark, and sprinkle the blood of the offering seven times with his finger. All the tribe of Levi were appointed to assist the priests in the services of the tabernacle; and to the whole were appointed particular allowances for their subsistence. But if any, either of the priests or Levites, had any bodily imperfection, they were to be excluded from the function, but, at the same time, permitted to enjoy the rights and privileges of their birth. The obligations they lay under were these: they were not to drink any wine, or any other intoxicating liquors, when they were to officiate in the tabernacle: they were not to marry a woman who had been divorced or prostituted; and lastly, they were not to attend funerals, unless those of their own fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, or maiden sisters.
On the eighth day after Aaron had been appointed to the office of high-priest, he offered his first burnt-offering for himself and the people. This was very acceptable to the Almighty, who was pleased to testify his approbation by sending fire upon the altar, which consumed the offering in the sight of the people, who, with loud shouts and acclamations, expressed their joy for so singular a circumstance, and prostrated themselves on the ground in humble adoration before the Divine Majesty.
The fire thus miraculously kindled was, by the divine command, to be kept perpetually burning, and no other to be used in all the oblations to be made to God. But Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron's sons, forgetful of their duty, took their censers, and putting common fire in them, laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord. For this flagrant violation of the divine command, the Almighty was so offended, that, as a just punishment, he immediately struck them dead with lightning. To strike a terror into the rest of the priestly order, and deter them from disobedience to the commands of God, Moses ordered the people to take their dead bodies from the sanctuary, and carry them out of the camp in the same condition they found them. He likewise charged Aaron and the rest of his sons, not to mourn for Nadab and Abihu, in shaving their heads, or rending their clothes; but that they should leave those marks of mourning to the rest of the people, from whom they ought to distinguish themselves in this, as well as in other points, in reverence to that holy anointing, whereby they had been consecrated to the Lord, and thereby separated from their brethren.
A short time after the melancholy circumstance last related, another awful proof was given of the danger of incurring the displeasure of the Almighty. This was exemplified in the case of one, whose mother's name was Shelomith, an Israelitish
woman of the tribe of Dan, but whose husband was an Egyptian, but supposed to have become a proselyte to the house of Israel. This young man quarreled with another, and a battle ensuing, Shelomith was worsted. Fired with resentment at being conquered, he in the height of his passion, cursed and blasphemed the name of the Lord; upon which being apprehended and brought before Moses, he ordered him into custody till he should know from the Lord what punishment to inflict on him for his transgression. Though the third command in the decalogue forbade the taking of God's name in vain, yet this blasphemous cursing being an offence of a higher nature, against which no positive law was yet provided, Moses had recourse to the Lord, who was pleased to tell him thus: "Bring forth," says he, "him that cursed without the camp, and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head,* and let all the congregation stone him."
In obedience to the divine command, Moses ordered the sentence to be immediately put in execution; and a law was thereon made, that whosoever should, from that time, blaspheme the name of the Lord, whether he was an Israelite, or a stranger, should be stoned to death.
WHILE the Israelites lay encamped in the wilderness of Sinai, the Almighty or dered Moses, assisted by Aaron, and the heads of the respective tribes, to make a 'general muster of the people, in order to ascertain the number of those who were able to carry arms. This was accordingly done, when the number of true born Is raelites appeared to be 603,550 men,† exclusive of the tribe of Levi. These were, by the express command of the Almighty, exempted, being designed for the peculiar service of the tabernacle, not only to take charge thereof, and of all the vessels belonging to it, but likewise to take it down upon every remove, to guard it safe on the way, and to put it up again at such places as should be appointed for encampment. 'The Israelites being thus mustered, Moses and Aaron, by the express cominand of God, appointed the manner of their encampment, which was not only to take place now, but to be continued ever after, as follows:
The whole body was divided into four grand camps, each consisting of three tribes, under one standard, and so placed as entirely to enclose the tabernacle.
The standard of the camp of Judah was first. It consisted of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, (the sons of Leah), and was pitched on the east side of the tabernacle, toward the rising of the sun.
On the south side was the standard of the camp of Reuben, under which were the tribes of Reuben and Simeon (the sons of Leah likewise), and of Gad, the son of Zilpah, Leah's maid.
On the west side was the standard of the camp of Ephraim, under which were the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.
On the north side was the standard of the camp of Dan, under which were the tribes of Dan and Naphtali (the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maid), and of Asher (the son of Zilpah).
Between the four great camps and the tabernacle were four lesser camps, consisting of the priests and Levites, under whose immediate care and protection the tabernacle was placed.
On the east side were encamped Moses and Aaron, with Aaron's sons, who had the charge of the sanctuary.
This way of laying hands on the heads of criminals may seem to arise from several causes. 1. That they were witnesses of the fact, and that the person condemned suffered justly; protesting, that if he were innocent they desired that his blood might fall on their own heads. 2. They put their hands on the head of the criminal in token of an expiatory sacrifice; for idolatry, blasphemy, and such grievous crimes, if they were not punished, they expected would attract a guilt, not only on the witness, but the whole nation, which by the death of the criminal, as by a victim, might be expiated. 3. That the criminal was the just
cause of his own death.
The ages of these men were, from twenty years old to fifty; and the act number in each tribe was as follows:
In the tribe of Reuben, 46,500; Simeon, 59,300; Gad, 45.650; Judah, 74,600: Issachar, 54,400; Zebulon, 57,400; Ephraim, 40,500; Manasseh, 32,200; Benjamin, 35,400; Dan, 62,700; Asher, 41,500; Naphtali, 53,400; total 602,550.