Humaneness Of The Mosaic Code -- By: J. B. Sewall

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 019:74 (Apr 1862)
Article: Humaneness Of The Mosaic Code
Author: J. B. Sewall


Humaneness Of The Mosaic Code

Rev. J. B. Sewall

We have frequently heard the Mosaic laws alluded to as barbarous and bloody, and belonging to an age of like character; adapted, perhaps, to the degree of civilization, or rather uncivilization, which then prevailed, but altogether unfit for the present advanced stage of enlightenment and progress. An instance of this kind within our knowledge led us recently to examine the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, with this point in view. We took note as we went along, both of the features which give

rise to the charge, and the opposite, the laws which must be marked as lenient and humane. We have embodied in the following remarks our results, at which we confess, on our own part, no little surprise.

We note it as wonderful, at the outset, that a code of laws, if barbarous and bloody, should have made a people so highly civilized as the Hebrews certainly became, whatever we may say of the age. A barbarous and bloody code should belong to a barbarous and bloody people, and make them only the more so. We should expect such a people to be rude, warlike, cruel, idolatrous, and perhaps cannibal. We should think of them together with the old Assyrians, the later Scythians, and the still later fierce tribes which overbore the power of the Roman Empire, and later still, with the inhabitants of New Zealand and the South Sea Islands. We should think of them certainly as little advanced in the arts and customs of civilization. We cannot think thus, however, of the Hebrews. They were far from being a people of this character. From the day of their exodus from Egypt, a nation of emancipated slaves, they occupied the level of an unparalleled civilization. They were widely distinguished at once from the barbarous nations around them. The degraded and barbarous practices of Egypt, Edom, Assyria, Syria, and the tribes of Canaan, they were wonderfully exempt from. Observe the difference, e. g. between them and the Egyptians, a close similarity to whom, on the contrary, we should have expected. It was remarkable. The Egyptians had a civilization which, it is true, was very high in certain respects. It had arts and learning, for Moses had profited by them, being learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. The monuments likewise which stand to this day on the banks of the Nile witness the same. It had the science of astronomy, and had carried it as far as was possible, perhaps, without the aid of modern instruments; also the science of chemistry in certainly greater degree than modern civilization had attained before the time of Lord Bacon. It had geometry too, and a grand massive architecture, as the Pyramids and temples

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