Imatges de pÓgina

the institution of the passover: a religious rite appointed to commemorate the mercy of God in charging the destroying angel to pass over the houses of the Israelites, when he smote all the first-born of the Egyptians; and ordered to be annually observed from generation to generation until the coming of Jesus Christ to put an end to the Mosaic dispensation, and to make that effectual atonement for sin, of which the Paschal offering was an emblem, *

The shortest road from Egypt to the land of Canaan lay along the coast of the Mediterranean through the country of the Philistines. The Israelites, however, with minds depressed by slavery and unaccustomed to repose full confidence on their God, would have preferred a return into their former bondage to a contest with warlike nations hostile to their passage. For this reason, therefore, among others t, the Supreme Being had conducted them circuitously by the way of the Red Sea. He now directed their course through the wilderness towards Mount Sinai, one part of the chain of Mount Horeb; the place concerning which he had said on his first appearance to Moses, “ When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” I

On their way thither, by their successive murmurings, at Marah, in the wilderness of Sin, and at Rephidim, notwithstanding the reiterated miracles by which they were protected and sustained, they gave early proofs of meriting the denomination so frequently applied to them in the Scriptures, that of a “stiff-necked" people; a people stubborn in unbelief, and obstinately rebellious. One of these miracles was nothing less than the daily supply of a substance, termed Manna, in quantities sufficient for the sustenance of the whole multitude;

* 1 Cor, v. 7.

+ Exod. xiii. 17, 18.

| Exod. iii. 12.

and ultimately continued to them without interruption during forty years.

In the third month after their departure from Egypt they encamped before Mount Sinai.

It was here that the Almighty, graciously accommodating his conduct to the apprehensions and usages of men, proposed the establishment of a solemn covenant between himself and the people of Israel. “ Moses went up unto God; and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel : Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians; and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people ; for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people; and laid before their faces all these words, which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.” *

In consequence of this unequivocal acceptance and ratification of the covenant proposed, the Supreme Being proceeded to deliver to the Israelites those laws and institutions, the faithful observance of which was the condition on their part that should entitle them to the privileges and blessings reciprocally promised by their God. That the obedience already due for unnumbered mercies might be confirmed by a display of the terrors

* Exod. xix. 3-8.

of his majesty, he revealed his glory in the most aweful manner on Mount Sinai. “There were thunders, and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the Mount; and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud : so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Mount Sinai was altogether in a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace; and the whole Mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake; and God answered him by a voice."* When the voice of God had proclaimed the Ten Commandments, the people, unable to support the tremendous manifestations of the Divine Presence, earnestly entreated † that they might no more hear the voice of God; but that his will might be communicated to Moses, and by Moses be declared to them. The Supreme Being listened to their request. The people retired afar off. “ Moses drew near unto the thick darkness, where God was ;” and received many additional laws and regulations, which he recited to the Israelites, and then recorded in a book ; and the people solemnly renewed their promise of punctual obedience. I Moses then, according to the Divine command, re-ascended the mountain, leaving the Israelites under the conduct of Aaron and Hur, and continued there forty days; during which period he was instructed in the ritual of the service of the tabernacle, and the appointment of the family of Aaron to the priesthood; and received two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God. In the mean time, the people, weary of his absence, and presumptuously regardless of their covenanted obedience to the Almighty, by whom they had been expressly prohibited from worshipping or making any image as an emblem of himself, induced Aaron, who most criminally permitted himself to be overborne by their importunities, to form a golden calf; a form probably adopted in consequence of their having been accustomed to see it adored in Egypt; that it might be carried at the head of the host as a visible representation of Jehovah. On the earnest intercession of Moses, God forbore to destroy the people. Their guilt, however, was punished by the loss of the two tables, broken by Moses in his indignation on first being informed of the idolatry established in the camp; by the still more grievous loss of the immediate presence of God, who ordered his tabernacle to be removed out of the encampment, and declared that an angel instead of himself should now be their conductor; by the menace of future visitations on account of this transgression; and by the actual penal inflictions implied in the words of Scripture, “ The Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf.”* Two fresh tables of stone, in the place of those which had been broken, were then prepared by Moses, and taken up unto the Mount, according to the commandment of God, who wrote upon them the words which had been inscribed on the former; and afterwards delivered to Moses, during this his second continuance there of forty days, additional ordinances and directions to be obeyed by the twelve tribes. The remainder of the Jewish code was from time to time imparted to Moses, chiefly from the tabernacle, and by him was made known to the people. And the tribe of Levi was set apart for the service of the sanctuary.

* Exod. xix. 16-19. + Exod. xx. 19. See also Deut. v. 22, &c.

Exod. xxiv. 3. 7.

* Exod. xxxii. 34, 35.

In the second month of the second year after their departure from Egypt, the Israelites were commanded to resume their march towards the promised land; and in the fourth month of the same year they arrived on its confines. Even the few intervening weeks did not pass without exhibiting two scenes of rebellious murmuring against God * ; together with a sedition in which Aaron himself was a party, directed against Moses. These outrages were but the preludes to more flagrant acts of incredulity and disobedience. Twelve leading men, selected one from a tribe, were despatched by Moses, conformably to the desire of the people, to examine into the state and productions of the land of Canaan. All of them, on their return from exploring the land during forty days, concurred in extolling its fertility. But ten of them gave so formidable an account of the personal strength and the military power of the inhabitants, that, notwithstanding the utmost efforts of their associates, Caleb and Joshua, who strenuously exhorted the Israelites to go up instantly, trusting in the might and the promise of the Lord of Hosts, the people absolutely refused to venture into the country. They even prepared to stone to death Caleb and Joshua, and, as it seems, Moses and Aaron also. At the fervent supplication of Moses, the destruction with which the Almighty threatened instantly to overwhelm his rebellious people was delayed. But God solemnly declared, that not one individual of the whole congregation who had arrived at the age of twenty years, his faithful servants, Caleb and Joshua excepted, should ever enter into the promised land.

* At Taberah, and at Kibroth-hattaavah. Numb. xi.


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