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THE CHOSEN RACE.
III. If it is historically true that a Chosen Race once lived under the rule of the Deity as their temporal legislator and king, may we not reasonably expect, in that highly favoured people, a wisdom, virtue, happiness, and prosperity unattainable by ordinary mortals denied the boon of theocratic government? And if these conditions are unfulfilled in Judaism, shall we discard the illusion of a Chosen Race, or attribute legislative failure to Divinity ?
The pages of Genesis record the covenant with Jehovah, through which the land of Canaan was secured to the descendants of Abraham as an everlasting possession. This divine charter was ratified by the rite of circumcision: any male child found uncircumcised after eight days was to be put to death, “ because he had broken the covenant. A savage inauguration of divine government, which Christian piety accepts as theocratic legislation because it is in the Holy Bible, and only concerns Hebrew babes such a long time ago : but, if the truth were brought home to modern maternity through the capital punishment of Christian babes negligent of baptism, feminine instincts would detect
i Gen. xvii. 8.
the Satanic tendency of this legislative cruelty, and vindicate the Deity by denying His complicity in sacerdotal infanticide, Sacred Scripture notwithstanding.
From a merely mortal point of view, we might reasonably expect that, in selecting the father of the Hebrew race, Jehovah would have chosen a man as pre-eminent in courage and virtue as the most illustrious chief of Gentile antiquity ; but immediately after his election, Abraham discloses a despicable cowardice unreproved by Jehovah, who, instead of punishing his baseness, inflicts the penalty on the innocent.
It is recorded that, in consequence of a famine in the land, Abraham set out for Egypt in company with Sarah, his beautiful and affectionate wife. As they drew near to their destination, the true character of the Patriarch became apparent. He entreated Sarah to save him from any personal danger by concealing that she was his wife. In consequence of this deception, Sarah became an inmate of Pharaoh's house; and Abraham was freely supplied, for her sake, with sheep and oxen, asses and camels, men-servants and maidservants, which, for anything he knew to the contrary, were the price of his wife's dishonour. Jehovah forthwith afflicted • Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah, Abraham's wife. And Pharaoh called Abraham, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Take her, and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him, and they sent him away and his wife, and all that he had.' Thus the Egyptian king, who erred in ignorance, was severely
1 Gen. xii. 10-20.
punished with all his innocent household, whilst the Hebrew impostor escaped with impunity, carrying with him the spoil acquired by false pretences.
Was Sarah when wooed by her royal lover quite true to her caitiff husband? The king, as a man of honour, sustained her innocence; and if she was, indeed, faithful to the man who thought more of possible danger to himself than of almost certain dishonour to his wife, modern Hebrews may well feel proud of their ancestress, whilst humiliated by the disreputable conduct of the father of the race, who subsequently played the same trick on Abimelech, King of Gerar. This monarch, fascinated by the charming Sarah, also committed the indiscretion of introducing her into his house ; but, warned by Jehovah in a dream, he forthwith sent her away, and bestowed a number of valuable presents on her husband, who thus travelled about reaping a rich harvest from the good looks of his wife.
The Hebrew historian, Josephus, tells us that, in the compilation of genealogies, women who had been in captivity were carefully excluded, in consequence of the suspicion attaching to their intercourse with foreigners. As Isaac was, therefore, born subsequent to the residence of Sarah with Abimelech, is it not questionable, according to this theory, whether modern Jews are the veritable descendants of Abraham ?
From the age of Abraham to the departure of Jacob for the land of Egypt, the Hebrews enjoyed one of those intervals of peaceful prosperity which rarely relieved the calamities of their subsequent career. But having settled in Egypt as colonists, and become as numerous as the native population, they proved so bereft of every
manly virtue as to submit to abject slavery without a struggle. Even the females of the brute creation attain the courage of despair when their offspring are assailed by the fiercest animals ; but the men of Israel had become slaves, so vile and abject, that they preferred ignoble safety in making bricks to heroic, if even hopeless resistance to the murder of their children. Do modern Jews accept as veritable history a narrative which depicts their race as the most despicable cravens of antiquity ?
The ingenuity of a Hebrew mother devised the plot which rescued Moses from the Nile, to become the protégé of a royal princess, educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Let us consider the relative merits of Hebrew and Egyptian training. Moses, surrounded by all the pleasures and allurements of a royal court, might well have forgotten the very existence of his servile kinsmen; but, when he beheld one of them illused by an Egyptian, he permitted neither self-interest nor personal danger to withhold his hand from slaying the oppressor, whereas, so ignobly servile had his brethren become, that they treated with sneering insolence the intervention of the man who, in showing his will and ability to protect them from their enemies, had also presumed to teach them justice towards each other.
Moses having fled out of Egypt in disgust with his countrymen, they remained in bondage until the sighs and groans of forty years, at length, recalled his covenant with Abraham to the memory of Jehovah who, accordingly, 'came down to deliver them from the hands of the Egyptians.' In later generations inspired
prophets proclaimed great calamities as manifestations of divine wrath for national desertion of the God of Israel ; but now, it is Jehovah Himself who, without any alleged provocation, had abandoned the Chosen Race to the debasing influence of slavery. Can we wonder if the Hebrews, thus trained to see in Jehovah a capricious God, turned towards the shrines of other divinities in emergencies possibly overlooked by their national deity ?
Moses, having brooded over the misfortunes of his race during an exile of forty years in the land of Midian, at length formed the design of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It was useless to appeal to the higher instincts of Humanity in addressing a people lost in servile abasement to the ennobling virtues of freemen. Moses, advancing no more imposing claims to the authority of a national leader than may be found in personal patriotism, would have been received with the scorn and derision of his degenerate countrymen.
He could, therefore, only hope to win their obedience as the accredited representative of a God who had undertaken the duties of their national Deity, and instructed him to communicate the divine will and purpose.
The alleged covenant of Jehovah with Abraham was doubtless a legend of the Hebrews, dwelling on which, in an age of universal belief in the supernatural, the future prophet inevitably dreamt a dream or saw a vision which summoned him, in the name of Jehovah, to the rescue of his unhappy countrymen. What more simple in an age of extravagant credulity than for an enthusiastic prophet to accept his own impassioned thoughts as a divine revelation, and hasten to give them