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saith Cyrus the King—Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the Israelites worship: for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea. This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: My will is that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfil what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem and the temple of God.'
We have attributed the very flattering language addressed to Cyrus by Jehovah to the pen of the Great Unknown,' but his work was not improbably interpolated by the pious conspirators who designed and accomplished the return from captivity. If, however, we even accept the prediction as the veritable forecast of Isaiah, it follows that, in the opinion of the Hebrews, prophecy was miraculously fulfilled when a man deliberately performed actions which he was assured had been divinely decreed, and for which he had been rewarded in anticipation by the gift of empire.
This view of Hebrew prophecy receives further confirmation from Josephus' in the narrative which
| Antiq. xiii. 3.
depicts the High Priest Onias, when living in exile at Alexandria, obtaining permission from Ptolemy Philometer to build a Hebrew temple at Heliopolis, on the grounds that Isaiah had prophesied that there should be an altar in Egypt to Jehovah.'
SAMUEL having succeeded Eli as the last of the Judges of Israel, when conscious of the growing infirmities of age, appointed his two sons, Joel and Abia, as assistant judges, with the unhappy result of their detection by the Elders in the act of accepting bribes for the perversion of justice.
The addition of judicial corruption to the numerous other calamities endured for centuries under a theocratic government at length exhausted the patience of the long-suffering Israelites; who therefore determined on following the example of their more fortunate neighbours by adopting the monarchical form of government. It was a wise conclusion ; and if they had elected a king invested with the royal prerogative to rule in absolute independence of Samuel and all the prophets, the Hebrews might have succeeded in reforming social abuses, developing internal resources, and so organising national capabilities for resisting foreign aggression as to have founded a permanent dynasty, ruling a united and prosperous people with much happier results than are now found in the blood-stained annals of Israel and Judah.
The moral courage of the people did not, however,
11 Sam. viii.
rise to the occasion. The prophetic superstition was too powerful for the development of independent public opinion ; and the Elders sealed the doom of the nation by requesting Samuel to appoint a king. The venerable prophet, personally hostile to political innovation, and feeling as confident as a modern Pope that the representative of God is necessarily the wisest temporal ruler, communicated the popular views to Jehovah, who, apparently unconscious of or unwilling to admit the disastrous failure of theocratic government, replied with the wounded amour-propre of an earthly sovereign deposed by rebellious and ungrateful subjects, and instructed Samuel to comply, under protest, with the wishes of the nation, at the same time warning them of the tyranny and oppression of an earthly king, demanding tithes of all their possessions, and making lackeys and confectioners of their sons and daughters—conditions of life which, if coincident with individual and national security, must have appeared to the harassed victims of theocratic anarchy far preferable to a precarious existence under inspired judges and prophets, who embittered the sufferings of private misfortune or national calamity by denouncing their victims as miserable sinners.
In Deuteronomy xvii. 14-20 we read a circumstantial prediction of the future adoption of the monarchical form of government by the Hebrews, after obtaining possession of the promised land. The king was to be chosen by Jehovah, and, when sitting on his throne, was to write out a copy of Deuteronomy, and study it all the days of his life.
Is this Mosaic forecast, or fictitious divination uttered after the event?
In deprecating the election of a king, had Jehovah forgotten the prediction of Moses ? Was the general community aware of the existence of the prophecy ? Did Saul fulfil the prediction by copying the Book of Deuteronomy, and why did not the contents enable him to confront Samuel with the divine sanction of monarchy through the greatest of the prophets?
These are embarrassing questions for orthodox believers in the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy ; but find their obvious solution in the fact, that neither Samuel nor his contemporaries had ever heard of a book unknown till more than four centuries later, in the reign of Josiah king of Judah.
It is important to observe, with reference to the fictitious dates of Hebrew Scripture, that not only was Deuteronomy unknown to Samuel, but the annals bearing his name were unknown to Josiah, who would have otherwise detected the pious conspiracy to assign Deuteronomy to the age of Moses, in Samuel's obvious ignorance of the inspired prediction forecasting a future kingdom of Israel.
The popular demand for a king having resulted in the abdication of Jehovah, we might reasonably expect divine permission for the Hebrews to elect their own king, and thus test, in his administration, the comparative merits of theocratic and human government. But, on the contrary, we read : “Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear, a day before Saul came, saying, to-morrow, about this time, I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be Captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hands of the Philistines, for I have