HEBREW RELIGION (1) Introductory.—To trace the history of the religion of the Hebrews is a complex task, because the literary sources from which our knowledge of that history is derived are themselves complex and replete with problems as to age and authorship, some of which have been solved according to the consensus of nearly all the best scholars, but some of which still await solution or are matters of dispute. Even if the analysis of the literature into component documents were complete, we should still possess a most imperfect record, since the documents themselves have passed through many redactions, and these redactions have proceeded from varying standpoints of religious tradition, successively eliminating or modifying certain elements deemed inconsistent with the canons of religious usage or propriety which prevailed in the age when the redaction took place. Lastly it should be recollected that the entire body of the fragments of tradition and literature belonging to northern Israel has come down to us through the channel of Judaean recensions.
The influence of the Deuteronomic tradition in redaction is seen in such passages as Genesis xxxiii. 20 (cf. xxxi. 45 fol.); Josh. iv. 9-20, xxiv. 26 fol.; 1 Sam. vii. 12, where the maṣṣēbhah or stone symbol of deity (forbidden in Deut. xii. 3, xvi. 22) is in some way got rid of (in Gen. xxxiii. 20 the word “altar” in Hebrew is substituted). Similarly in Gen. xiii. 18, xiv. 13, xviii. 1, the Septuagint shows that the singular form “terebinth” stood in the original text. But the Massoretes altered this to the plural as this form was less suggestive of tree-worship (see Smend, A. Tliche Religionsgesch. i. p. 134, footnote 1; Nowack, Heb. Archäol. p. 12, footnote 1). Many other examples might be cited, as the “suspended nun” which transforms the pronunciation of the original Mosheh (Moses) into Menashsheh (Manasseh) owing to the irregular practices of his descendant, Jonathan ben Gershom (Jud. xviii. 30). It is not improbable that in 2 Kings iii. 27 the words “from Kemōsh” stood after “great wrath” in the original document, as the phraseology seems bald without them, and the motives for their suppression are obvious.
So far as concerns the critical problems which stand at the threshold of our task, it must suffice to say that the main conclusions reached by the school of Kuenen and Wellhausen as to the literary problems of the Old Testament are assumed throughout this sketch of the evolution of Hebrew religion. The documents underlying the Pentateuch and book of Joshua, represented by the ciphers J, E, D and P, are assumed to have been drawn up in the chronological order in which those ciphers are here set down, and the period of their composition extends from the 9th century B.C., in which the earlier portions of J were written, to the 5th century B.C., in which P finally took shape. The view of Professor Dillmann, who placed P before D in the regal period (though he admitted exilic and post-exilic additions in Exod., Levit. and Numb.), a view which he maintained in his commentary on Genesis (edition of 1892), has now been abandoned by nearly all scholars of repute. In the following pages we shall not attempt to do more than to sketch in very succinct outline the general results of investigation into the origins and growth of Hebrew religion.
2. Pre-Mosaic Religion.—Can any clear indications be found to guide us as to the religion of the Hebrew clans before the time of Moses? That Moses united the scattered tribes, probably consisting at first mainly of the Josephite, under the common worship of Yahweh, and that upon the religion of Yahweh a distinctly ethical character was impressed, is generally recognized. The tradition of the earliest document J ascribes the worship of Yahweh to much earlier times, in fact to the dawn of human life. A close survey of the facts, however, would lead us to regard it as probable that some at least of the Hebrew clans had patron-deities of their own.
(a) Both Moab and Ammon as well as Edom had their separate tribal deities, viz. Chemosh (Moab) and Milk (Milcōm), the god of Ammon, and in the case of Edom a deity known from the inscriptions as Kōs (in Assyrian Kauš). From the patriarchal narratives and genealogies in Genesis we infer that these races were closely allied to Israel. That in early pre-Mosaic times parallel cults existed among the various Hebrew tribes is by no means improbable. It would be reasonable to assume that Moab, Ammon, Edom and kindred tribes of Israel in the 15th and preceding centuries were included in the generic term Ḥabirī (or Hebrews) mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna inscriptions as forming predatory bands that disturbed the security of the Canaanite dwellers west of the Jordan. Lastly pre-Mosaic polytheism seems to be implied in the Mosaic prohibition Ex. xx. 3, xxii. 20.
(b) The tribal names Gad and Asher are suggestive of the worship of a deity of fortune (Gad) and of the male counterpart of the goddess, Ashērah. Under the name Shaddai (which Nöldeke suggests was originally Shēdī “my demon”) it is possible to discern the name of a deity who in later times came to be identified with Yahweh. On the other hand, the connexion of the name Samson with sun-worship throws light on the period of the Hebrew settlement in Canaan and not on pre-Mosaic times. Nor is it possible to agree with Baudissin (Studien zur semit. Religionsgesch. i. 55) that Elōhīm as a plural form for the name of the Hebrew deity “can hardly be understood otherwise than as a comprehensive expression for the multitude of gods embraced in the One God of Old Testament religion,” in other words that it presupposes an original polytheism. For (1) Elōhīm is also applied in Judges xi. 24 to the Moabite Chemosh (Kemōsh); in 1 Sam. v. 7 to Dagon; in 1 Kings xi. 5 to Ashtoreth; in 2 Kings i. 2, iii. 6, 16 to Baʽal Zebūl of Ekron. (2) It is merely a plural of dignity (pluralis majestatis) parallel to adōnīm (applied to a king in 1 Kings xviii. 8, whereas in the previous verse the singular form adōni is applied to the prophet Elijah). (3) The Tell el-Amarna inscriptions indicate that the term Elōhīm might even be applied in abject homage to an Egyptian monarch as the use of the term ilāni in this connexion obviously implies.
The religion of the Arabian tribes in the days of Mahomet, of which a picture is presented to us by Wellhausen in his Remains of Arabic Heathendom, furnishes some suggestive indications of the religion that prevailed in nomadic Israel before as well as during the lifetime of Moses. It is true that Arabian polytheism in the time of Mahomet was in a state of decay. Nevertheless the life of the desert changes but slowly. We may therefore infer that ancient Israel during the period when they inhabited the negebh (S. of Canaan) stood in awe of the demons (Jinn) of the desert, just as the Arabs at the present day described in Doughty’s Arabia deserta. We know that diseases were attributed by the Israelites to malignant demons which they, like the Arabs, identified with serpents. The counterspell took the form of a bronze image of the serpent-demon; see Frazer, Golden Bough, ii. 426; and I Sam. v. 6, vi. 4, 5 (LXX. and Heb.) as well as Buchanan Gray’s instructive note in Numbers, p. 276. The slaughter of a lamb at the Passover or Easter season, whose blood was smeared on the door-post, as described in Ex. xii. 21-23, probably points back to an immemorial custom. In this case the counterspell assumed a different form. Westermarck has shown from his observations in Morocco that the blood of the victim was considered to visit a curse upon the object to whom the sacrifice is offered and thereby the latter is made amenable to the sacrificer. It is hardly possible to doubt that in the original form of the rite described in Exodus the blood offering was made to the plague demon (“the destroyer”) and possessed over him a magic power of arrest.
It is therefore certain that belief in demons and magic spells prevailed in pre-Mosaic times among the Israelite clans. And it is also probable that certain persons combined in their own individuality the functions of magician and sacrificer as well as soothsayer. For we know that in Arabic the Kāhin, or soothsayer, is the same participial form that we meet with in the Hebrew Kōhēn, or priest, and in the early period of Hebrew history (e.g. in the days of Saul and David) it was the priest with the ephod or image of Yahweh who gave answers to those who consulted him. How far totemism, or belief in deified animal ancestors, existed in prehistoric Israel, as evidenced by the tribal names Simeon (hyena, wolf), Caleb (dog), Ḥamor (ass), Raḥel (ewe) and Leah (wild cow), &c., as well as by the laws respecting clean and unclean animals, is too intricate and speculative a problem to be discussed here. That the food-taboo against eating the flesh of a particular animal would prevail in the clan of which that animal was the deified totem-ancestor is obvious, and it would be a plausible theory to hold that the laws in question arose when the Israelite tribes were to be consolidated into a national unity (i.e. in the time of David and Solomon), but the application of this theory to the list of unclean foods in Deut. xiv. (Lev. xi.) seems to present insuperable difficulties. In fact, while Robertson Smith (in Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, as well as his Religion of the Semites, followed by Stade and Benzinger) strongly advocated the view that clear traces of totemism can be found in early Israel, later writers, such as Marti, Gesch. der israelit. Religion, 4th ed., p. 24, Kautzsch in his Religion of Israel already cited, p. 613, and recently Addis in his Hebrew Religion, p. 33 foll., have abandoned the theory as applied to Israel. On the other hand, the evidence for the existence of ancestor-worship in primitive Israel cannot be so easily disposed of as Kautzsch (ibid. p. 615) appears to think. We have examples (1 Sam. xxviii. 13) in which Elōhīm is the term which is applied to departed spirits. Oracles were received from them (Isa. viii. 19, xxviii. 15, 18; Deut. xviii. 10 foll.). At the graves of national heroes or ancestors worship was paid. In Gen. xxxv. 20 we read that a maṣṣēbah or sacred pillar was erected at Raḥel’s tomb. That the Terāphīm, which we know to have resembled the human form (1 Sam. xix. 13, 16), were ancestral images is a reasonable theory. That they were employed in divination is consonant with the facts already noted. Lastly, the rite of circumcision (q.v.), which the Hebrews practised in common with their Semitic neighbours as well as the Egyptians, belonged to ages long anterior to the time of Moses. This is a fact which has long been recognized: cf. Gen. xvii. 10 foll., Herod. ii. 104, and Barton, Semitic Origins, pp. 98-100. Probably the custom was of African origin, and came from eastern Africa along with the Semitic race. Respecting Arabia, see Doughty, Arabia deserta, i. 340 foll.
It is necessary here to advert to a subject much debated during recent years, viz. the effects of Babylonian culture in western Asia on Israel and Israel’s religion in early times even preceding the advent of Moses. The great influence exercised by Babylonian culture over Palestine between 2000 and 1400 B.C. (circa), which has been clearly revealed to us since 1887 by the discovery of the Tell el Amarna tablets, is now universally acknowledged. The subsequent discovery of a document written in Babylonian cuneiform at Lachish (Tell el Hesy), and more recently still of another in the excavations at Taʽannek, have established the fact beyond all dispute. The last discovery had tended to confirm the views of Fried. Delitzsch, Jeremias (Monotheistische Strömungen) and Baentsch, that monotheistic tendencies are to be found in the midst of Babylonian polytheism. Page Renouf, in his Hibbert lectures, Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by that of Ancient Egypt (1879), p. 89 foll., pointed out this monotheistic tendency in Egyptian religion, as did de Rougé before him. Baentsch draws attention to this feature in his monograph Altorientalischer u. israelitischer Monotheismus (1906). This tendency, however, he, unlike the earlier conservative writers, rightly considers to have emerged out of polytheism. He ventures into a more disputable region when he penetrates into the obscure realm of the Abrahamic migration and finds in the Abrahamic traditions of Genesis the higher Canaanite monotheistic tendencies evolved out of Babylonian astral religion, and reflected in the name El ʽElyon (Gen. xiv. 18, 22). Further discoveries like Sellin’s find at Taʽannek may elucidate the problem. See Baudissin in Theolog. lit. Zeitung (27th October 1906).
3. The Era of Moses.—We are now on safer ground though still obscure. Moses was the first historic individuality who can be said to have welded the Israelite clans into a whole. This could never have been accomplished without unity of worship. The object of this worship was Yahweh. As we have already indicated, the document J assumes that Yahweh was worshipped by the Hebrew race from the first. On the other hand, according to P (Ex. vi. 2), God spake to Moses and said to him: “I am Yahweh. But I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai and by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them.” According to this later tradition Yahweh was unknown till the days of Moses, and under the aegis of His power the Hebrew tribes were delivered from Egyptian thraldom. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two sharply contrasted traditions. So much is clear. Yahweh now becomes the supreme deity of the Hebrew people, and an ark analogous to the Egyptian and Babylonian arks portrayed on the monuments was constructed as embodiment of the numen of Yahweh and was borne in front of the Hebrew army when it marched to war. It was the signal victory won by Moses at the exodus against the Egyptians and in the subsequent battle at Rephīdīm against ʽAmālēk (Ex. xvii.) that consolidated the prestige of Yahweh, Israel’s war-god. Indications in the Old Testament itself clearly point to the celestial or atmospheric character of the Yahweh of the Hebrews. The supposition that the name originally contained the notion of permanent or eternal being, and was derived from the verbal root signifying “to be,” involves too abstract a conception to be probable, though it is based on Ex. iii. 15 (E) representing a tradition which may have prevailed in the 8th century B.C. Kautzsch, however, supports it (Hastings’s D.B., extra vol. “Rel. of Isr.” p. 625 foll.) against the other derivations proposed by recent scholars (see Jehovah). That the name also prevailed as that of a god among other Semitic races (or even non-Semitic) is rendered certain by the proper names Jau-biʽ-di (= Ilu-biʽdi) of Hamath in Sargon’s inscriptions, Aḥi-jawi (mi) in Sellin’s discovered tablet at Taʽannek, to say nothing of those which have been found in the documents of Khammurabi’s reign. It has generally been held that Stade’s supposition has much to recommend it, that it was derived by Moses from the Kenites, and should be connected with the Sinai-Horeb region. The name Sinai suggests moon-worship and the moon-god Sin; and it also suggests Babylonian influence (cf. also Mount Nebo, which was a place-name both in Moab and in Judah, and naturally connects itself with the name of the Babylonian deity). Several indications favour the view of the connexion in the age of Moses between the Yahweh-cult at Sinai and the moon-worship of Babylonian origin to which the name Sinai points (Sin being the Babylonian moon-god). We note (a) that in the worship of Yahweh the sacred seasons of new moon and Sabbath are obviously lunar. Recent investigations have even been held to disclose the fact that the Sabbath coincided originally, i.e. in early pre-exilian days, with the full moon. (b) It also accords with the name bestowed on Yahweh as “Lord of Hosts” (ṣebāōth) or stars, which were regarded as personified beings (Job xxxviii. 7) and attendants on the celestial Yahweh, constituting His retinue (1 Kings xxii. 19) which fought on high while the earthly armies of Israel, His people, contended below (Judges v. 20).
The atmospheric and celestial character which belonged from the first to the Hebrew conception of Yahweh explains to us the ease with which the idea of His universal sovereignty arose, which the Yahwistic creation account (belonging to the earlier stratum of J, Gen. ii. 4b foll.) presupposes. How this came to be overlaid by narrow local limitations of His power and province will be shown later. It is probable that Moses held the larger rather than the narrower conception of Yahweh’s sphere of influence. While the ark carried with Israel’s host symbolized His presence in their midst, He was also known to be present in the cloud which hovered before the host and in the lightning (’ēsh Yahweh or “fire of Yahweh”) and the thunder (kōl Yahweh or “voice of Yahweh”) which played around Mount Sinai. Moreover, it is hardly probable that a great leader like Moses remained unaffected by the higher conceptions tending towards monotheism which prevailed in the great empires on the Nile and on the Euphrates. In Egypt we know that Amenophis IV. came under this monotheistic movement, and attempted to suppress all other cults except that of the sun-deity, of which he was a devoted worshipper. We also know that between 2000 and 1400 B.C. the Babylonian language as well as Babylonian civilization and ideas spread over Palestine (as the Tell el Amarna tables clearly testify). The ancient Babylonian psalms clearly reveal that the highest minds were moving out of polytheism to a monotheistic identification of various deities as diverse phases of one underlying essence. A remarkable Babylonian tablet discovered by Dr Pinches represents Marduk, the god of light, as identified in his person with all the chief deities of Babylonia, who are evidently regarded as his varying manifestations.
Through the influence of Mosaic teaching and law a definitely ethical character was ascribed to Yahweh. It was His “finger” that wrote the brief code which has come down to us in the decalogue. At first, as Erdmanns suggests, it may have consisted of only seven commands. So also Kautzsch, ibid. p. 634. The most strongly distinguishing feature of the code is the rigid exclusion of the worship of other gods than Yahweh. Moreover, the definitely ethical character of the religion of Yahweh established by Moses is exhibited in the strict exclusion of all sexual impurity in His worship. Unlike the Canaanite Baal, Yahweh has no female consort, and this remained throughout a distinguishing trait of the original and unadulterated Hebrew religion (see Bäthgen, Beiträge, p. 265). Indeed, Hebrew, unlike Assyrian or Phoenician, has no distinctive form for “goddess.” From first to last the true religion of Yahweh was pure of sexual taint. The ḳedēshīm and ḳedēshōth, the male and female priest attendants in the Baal and ʽAshtoreth shrines (cf. the kadishtu of the temples of the Babylonian Ishtar) were foreign Canaanite elements which became imported into Hebrew worship during the period of the Hebrew settlement in Canaan.
Lastly, the earliest codes of Hebrew legislation (Ex. xxi.-xxiii.) bear the distinct impress of the high ethical character of Yahweh’s requirements originally set forth by Moses. Of this tradition the Naboth incident in the time of Ahab furnishes a clear example which brings to light the contrast between the Tyrian Baal-cult, which was scarcely ethical, and of which Jezebel and Ahab were devotees, and the moral requirements of the religion of Yahweh of which Elijah was the prophet and impassioned exponent. It was this definite basis of ethical Mosaic religion to which the prophets of the 8th century appealed, and apart from which their denunciations become meaningless. To this early standard of life and practice Ephraim was faithless in the days of the prophet Hosea (see his oracles passim—especially chaps. i.-iv. and xiv.), and Judah in the time of Isaiah turned a deaf ear (Isa. i. 2-4, 21).
4. Influence of Canaan.—The entrance of Israel into Canaan marks the beginning of a new epoch in the development of Israel’s religious life. For it involved a transition from the simple nomadic relations to those of the agricultural and more highly civilized Canaanite life. This subject has been recently treated with admirable clearness by Marti in his useful treatise Die Religion des A.T. (1906), pp. 25-41.
It is in the festivals of the annual calendar that this agricultural impress is most fully manifested. To the original nomadic Pesaḥ (Passover)—sacrifice of a lamb—there was attached a distinct and agricultural festival of unleavened cakes (maṣṣōth) which marks the beginning of the corn harvest in the middle of the month Abīb (the name of which points to its Canaanite and agricultural origin). The close of the corn-harvest was marked by the festival Shabhūōth (weeks) or Ḳāṣīr (harvest) held seven weeks after maṣṣōth. The last and most characteristic festival of Canaanite life was that of Asīph or “ingathering” which after the Deuteronomic reformation (621 B.C.) had made a single sanctuary and therefore a considerable journey with a longer stay necessary, came to be called Succōth or booths. This was the autumn festival held at the close of September or beginning of October. It marked the close of the year’s agricultural operations when the olives and grapes had been gathered [Ex. xxiii. 14-17 (E), xxxiv. 18, 22, 23 (J)]; see Feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Another special characteristic of Israel’s religion in Canaan was the considerable increase of sacrificial offerings. Animal sacrifices became much more frequent, and included not only the bloody sacrifice (Zebaḥ) but also burnt offerings (kālīl, ʽōlah) whereby the whole animal was consumed (see Sacrifice). But we have in addition to the animal sacrifices, vegetable offerings of meal, oil and cakes (maṣṣōth, ashīshah and kawwān, which last is specially connected with the ʽAshtoreth cult: Jer. vii. 18, xliv. 19), as well as the “bread of the Presence” (leḥem happānīm), 1 Sam. xxi. 6. Whether the primitive rite of water-offerings (1 Sam. vii. 6; 2 Sam. xxiii. 16) belonged to early nomadic Israel (as seems probable) it is not possible to determine with any certainty.
Again, the conception of Yahweh suffered modification. In the desert he was worshipped as an atmospheric deity, who manifested himself in thunder and lightning, whose abode was in the sky, whose sanctuary was on the mountain summit of Horeb-Sinai, and whose movable palladium was the ark of the covenant. But when the nomadic clans of Israel came to occupy the settled abodes of the agricultural Canaanites who had a stake in the soil which they cultivated, these conditions evidently reacted on their religion. Now the local Baal was the divine owner of the fertile spot where his sanctuary (qōdesh) was marked by the upright stone pillar, the symbol of his presence, on which the blood of the slaughtered victim was smeared. To this Baal the productiveness of the soil was due. Consequently it was needful to secure his favour, and in order to gain this, gifts were made to him by the local resident population who depended on the produce of the land (see Baal, especially ad init.). Now when the Hebrews succeeded to these agricultural conditions and acquired possession of the Canaanite abodes, they naturally fell into the same cycle of religious ideas and tradition. Yahweh ceased to be exclusively regarded as god of the atmosphere, worshipped in a distant mountain, Horeb-Sinai, situated in the south country (negebh), and moving in the clouds of heaven before the Israelites in the desert, but he came to be associated with Israel’s life in Canaan. He manifested His presence either by a signal victory over Israel’s foes (Josh. x. 10, 11; 1 Sam. vii. 10-12) or by a thunderstorm (1 Sam. xii. 18) or through a dream (Gen. xxviii. 16 foll.; cf. 1 Kings iii. 5 foll.) at a sacred spot like Bethel. Accordingly, whenever His presence and power were displayed in places where the Canaanite Baal had been worshipped, they came to be attached to these spots. He had “put his name,” i.e. power and presence (numen) there, and the same festivals and sacrifices which had previously been devoted to the cult of the Canaanite Baal were now annexed to the service of Yahweh, the war-god of the conquering race. The process of transference was facilitated by two potent causes: (a) Both Canaanite and Hebrew spoke a common language; (b) the name Baal is not in reality an individual proper name like Kemōsh (Chemosh), Rammān or Hadad, but is, like Ēl (Ilu) “god,” an appellative meaning “lord,” “owner” or “husband.” The name Baal might therefore be used for any deity such as Milk (Milcom) or Shemesh (“sun”) who was the divine owner of the spot. It was simply a covering epithet, and like the word “god” could be transferred from one deity to another. In this way Yahweh came to be called the Baal or “lord” of any sacred place where the armies of Israel by their victories attested “his mighty hand and outstretched arm.” (See Kautzsch in Hastings’s D.B., extra vol., p. 645 foll.)
Such was the path of syncretism, and it was fraught with peril to the older and purer faith. For when Yahweh gradually became Israel’s local Baal he became worshipped like the old Canaanite deity, and all the sensuous accompaniments of Kedēshōth, as well as the presence of the ashērah or sacred pole, became attached to his cult. But the symbol carried with it the numen of the goddess symbolized, and there can be little doubt that Ashērah came to be regarded as Yahweh’s consort. In the days of Manasseh syncretism went on unchecked even in the Jerusalem temple and its precincts, and it was not till the year of Jesiah’s reformation (621 B.C.) that the Kedēshīm and Kedēshōth as well as the Ashērah were banished for ever from Yahweh’s sanctuary (2 Kings xxi. 7, xxiii. 7), which their presence had profaned.
Now local worship means the differentiation of the personality worshipped in the varied local shrines, in other words Baʽālīm or Baals. Just as we have in Assyria an Ishtar of Arbela and an Ishtar of Nineveh (treated in Assur-bani-pal’s (Rassam) cylinder like two distinct deities), as we have local Madonnas in Roman Catholic countries, so must it have been with the cults of Yahweh in the regal period carried on in the numerous high places, Bethel, Shechem, Shiloh (till its destruction in the days of Eli) and Jerusalem. Each in turn claimed that Yahweh had placed his name (i.e. personal presence and power or numen) there. Each had a Yahweh of its own.
On the other hand, old deities still lurked in old spots which had been for centuries their abode. It was no easy task to establish Yahweh in permanent possession of the new lands conquered by the Hebrew settlers. The old gods were not to be at once discrowned of might. Of this we have a vivid example in the episode 2 Kings xviii. 24-28. The inhabitants of Babylonia and other regions whom the Assyrian kings had settled in Ephraim after 721 B.C. (cf. Ezra iv. 10) are described as suffering from the depredations of lions, and a priest from the deported Ephraimites is sent to them to teach them the worship of Yahweh, the god of the land. Similarly in the earlier pre-exilian period of Israel’s occupation of Canaanite territory the Hebrews were always subject to this tendency to worship the old Baal or ʽAshtoreth (the goddess who made the cattle and flocks prolific). A few years of drought or of bad seasons would make a Hebrew settler betake himself to the old Canaanite gods. Even in the days of Hosea the rivalry between Yahweh and the old Canaanite Baal still continued. The prophet reproaches his Ephraimite countrymen for going after their “lovers,” the old local Baals who were supposed to have bestowed on them the bread, water, wool, flax and oil, and for not knowing that “it is I (Yahweh) who have bestowed on her (i.e. Israel) the corn, the new wine and the oil, and have bestowed on her silver and gold in abundance which they have wrought into a Baal image” (Hos. ii. 10).
External danger from a foreign foe, such as Midian or the Philistines, at once brought into prominence the claim and power of Yahweh, Israel’s national war-god since the great days of the exodus. The religion of Yahweh (as Wellhausen said) meant patriotism, and in war-time tended to weld the participating tribes into a national unity. The book of Judges with its “monotonous tempo—religious declension, oppression, repentance, peace,” to which Wellhausen refers as its ever-recurring cycle, makes us familiar with these alternating phases of action and reaction. Times of peace meant national disintegration and the lapse of Israel into the Canaanite local cults, which is interpreted by the redactor as the prophets of the 8th century would have interpreted it, viz. as defection from Yahweh. On the other hand, times of war against a foreign foe meant on the religious side the unification, partial or complete, of the Israelite tribes by the rallying cry “the sword of Yahweh” (Judges vii. 20). In this way ’Ophrah became the centre of the coalition under Gideon in the tribe of Manasseh. Its importance is attested by Judges viii. 22-28, and we may disregard the “snare” which the Deuteronomic writer condemns in accordance with the later canons of orthodoxy. What ’Ophrah became on a small scale in the days of Gideon, Jerusalem became on a larger scale in the days of David and his successors. It was the religious expression of the unity of Israel which the life and death struggle with the Philistines had gradually wrought out.
Despite the capture of the ark after the disastrous battle of Shiloh, Yahweh had in the end shown himself through a destructive plague superior in might to the Philistine Dagon. There are indeed abundant indications that prove that in the prevalent popular religion of the regal period monotheistic conceptions had no place. Yahweh was god only of Israel and of Israel’s land. An invasion of foreign territory would bring Israel under the power of its patron-deity. The wrath with which the Israelite armies believed themselves to be visited (probably an outbreak of pestilence) when the king of Moab was reduced to his last extremity, was obviously the wrath of Chemosh the god of Moab, which the king’s sacrifice of his only son had awakened against the invading army (2 Kings iii. 27). In other words, the ordinary Israelite worshipper of Yahweh was at this time far removed from monotheism, and still remained in the preliminary stage of henotheism, which regarded Yahweh as sole god of Israel and Israel’s land, but at the same time recognized the existence and power of the deities of other lands and peoples. Of this we have recurring examples in pre-exilian Hebrew history. See 1 Sam. xxvi. 19; Judges xi. 23, 24; Ruth i. 16.
5. Characteristics and Constituent Elements.—It is only possible here to refer in briefest enumeration to the material and external objects and forms of popular Hebrew religion. These were of the simplest character. The upright stone (or maṣṣēbah) was the material symbol of deity Material objects. on which the blood of sacrifice was smeared, and in which the numen of the god resided. It is probable that in some primitive sanctuaries no real distinction was made between this stone-pillar and the altar or place where the animal was slaughtered. In ordinary pre-exilian high places the custom described in the primitive compend of laws (Ex. xx. 24) would be observed. A mound of earth was raised which would serve as a platform on which the victim would be slaughtered in the presence of the concourse of spectators. In the more important shrines, as at Jerusalem or Samaria, there would be an altar of stone or of bronze. Another accompaniment of the sanctuary would be the sacred tree—most frequently a terebinth (cf. Judges ix. 37 “terebinth of soothsayers”), or it might be a palm tree (cf. “palm tree of Deborah” in Judges iv. 5), or a tamarisk (ʽēshel), or pomegranate (rimmōn), as at the high place in Gibeah where Saul abode. Moreover, we have frequent references to sacred springs, as that of Beēr-sheba, ʽĒnharōd (ʽēyn-ḥarod) (Judges vii. 1; cf. also Judges 19, ʽĒn-haḳḳōrē [ʽēyn-haqqōre’]). (On this subject of holy trees, holy waters and holy stones, consult article Tree-Worship, and Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites, 2nd ed., pp. 165-197.)
The wide prevalence of magic and soothsaying may be illustrated from the historical books of the Old Testament as well as from the pre-exilian prophets. The latter indeed tolerated the qōsēm (soothsayer) as they did the seer (rōʽēh). The rhabdomancy denounced by Hosea (iv. 12) was associated with idolatry at the high places. But the arts of the necromancer were always and without exception treated as foreign to the religion of Yahweh. The necromancer of baʽal ’ōbh’ was held to be possessed of the spirit who spoke through him with a hollow voice. Indeed both necromancer and the spirit that possessed him were sometimes identified, and the former was simply called ōbh. It is probable that necromancy, like the worship of Ashērah and ʽAshtoreth, as well as the cult of graven images, was a Canaanite importation into Israel’s religious practices. (See Marti, Religion des A.T., p. 32.)
The history of the rise of the priesthood in Israel is exceedingly obscure. In the nomadic period and during the earlier years of the settlement of Israel in Canaan the head of every family could offer sacrifices. In the primitive codes, Ex. xx. 22-xxiii. 19 (E), xxxiv. 10-28 (J), we have Priesthood. no allusion to any separate order of men who were qualified to offer sacrifices. In Ex. xxiv. 5 (E) we read that Moses simply commissioned young men to offer sacrifices. On the other hand the addendum to the book of Judges, chaps. xvii., xviii. (which Budde, Moore and other critics consider to belong to the two sources of the narratives in Judges, viz. J as well as E), makes reference to a Levite of Bethlehem-Judah, expressly stated in xvii. 7 as belonging to a clan of Judah. This man Micah took into his household as priest. This narrative has all the marks of primitive simplicity. There can be no reasonable doubt that the Levite here was member of a priestly tribe or order, and this view is confirmed by the discovery of what is really the same word in south Arabian inscriptions. The narrative is of some value as it shows that while it was possible to appoint any one as a priest, since Micah, like David, appointed one of his own sons (xvii. 5), yet a special priest-tribe or order also existed, and Micah considered that the acquisition of one of its members was for his household a very exceptional advantage: “Now I know that Yahweh will befriend me because I have the Levite as priest.” In other words a priest who was a Levite possessed a superior professional qualification. He is paid ten shekels per annum, together with his food and clothing, and is dignified by the appellation “father” (cf. the like epithet of “mother” applied to the prophetess Deborah, Judges v. 7; see also 2 Kings ii. 12, vi. 21, xiii. 14). This same narrative dwells upon the graven images, ephod and terāphīm, as forming the apparatus of religious ceremonial in Micah’s household. Now the ephod and teraphim are constantly mentioned together (cf. Hos. iii. 4) and were used in divination. The former was the plated image of Yahweh (cf. Judges viii. 26, 27) and the latter were ancestral images (see Marti, op. cit. pp. 27, 29; Harper, Int. Comm. “Amos and Hosea,” p. 222). In other words the function of the priest was not merely sacrificial (a duty which Kautzsch unnecessarily detaches from the services which he originally rendered), nor did he merely bear the ark of the covenant and take charge of God’s house; but he was also and mainly (as the Arabic name kāhin shows) the soothsayer who consulted the ephod and gave the answers required on the field of battle (see 1 Sam. and 2 Sam. passim) and on other occasions. This is clearly shown in the “blessing of Moses” (Deut. xxxiii. 8), where the Levite is specially associated with another apparatus of inquiry, viz. the sacred lots, Urīm and Thummīm. The true character of Urīm (as expressing “aye”) and Thummīm (as expressing “nay”) is shown by the reconstructed text of 1 Sam. xiv. 41 on the basis of the Septuagint. See Driver ad loc.
The chief and most salient characteristic of the worship of the high places was geniality. The sacrifice was a feast of social communion between the deity and his worshippers, and knit both deity and clan-members together in the bonds of a close fellowship. This genial aspect Geniality of Worship. of Hebrew worship is nowhere depicted more graphically than in the old narrative (a J section = Budde’s G) 1 Sam. ix. 19-24, where a day of sacrifice in the high place is described. Saul and his attendant are invited by the seer-priest Samuel into the banqueting chamber (lishkah) where thirty persons partake of the sacrificial meal. It was the ’āsīph or festival of ingathering, when the agricultural operations were brought to a close, which exhibited these genial features of Canaanite-Hebrew life most vividly. References to them abound in pre-exilian literature: Judges xxi. 21 (cf. ix. 27); Amos viii. 1 foll.; Hos. ix. 1 foll., Jer. xxxi. 4; Isa. xvi. 10 (Jer. xlviii. 33). These festivals formed the veins and arteries of ancient Hebrew clan and tribal life. Wellhausen’s characterization of the Arabian hajj applies with equal force to the Hebrew hagg (festival): “They formed the rendezvous of ancient life. Here came under the protection of the peace of God the tribes and clans which otherwise lived apart from one another and only knew peace and security within their own frontiers.” 1 Sam. xx. 28 foll. indicates the strong claims on personal attendance exercised on each individual member by the local clan festival at Bethlehem-Judah.
It is easy to discern from varied allusions in the Old Testament that the Canaanite impress of sensuous life clung to the autumnal vintage festivals. They became orgiastic in character and scenes of drunkenness, cf. Judges ix. 27; 1 Sam. 14-16; Isa. xxviii. 7, 8. Against this tendency the Nazirite order and tradition was a protest. Cf. Amos ii. 11 foll.; Judges xiii. 7, 14. As certain sanctuaries, Shiloh, Shechem, Bethel, &c., grew in importance, the priesthoods that officiated at them would acquire special prestige. Eli, the head priest at Shiloh in the early youth of Samuel, held an important position in what was then the chief religious and political centre of Ephraim; and the office passed by inheritance to the sons in ordinary cases. In the regal period the royal residence gave the priesthood of that place an exceptional position. Thus Zadok, who obtained the priestly office at Jerusalem in the reign of Solomon and was succeeded by his sons, was regarded in later days as the founder of the true and legitimate succession of the priesthood descended from Levi (Ezek. xl. 46, xliii. 19, xliv. 15; cf. 1 Kings ii. 27, 35). His descent, however, from Eleazar, the elder brother of Aaron, can only be regarded as the later artificial construction of the post-exilian chronicler (1 Chron. vi. 4-15, 50-53, xxiv. 1 foll.), who was controlled by the traditions which prevailed in the 4th century B.C. and after.
6. The Prophets.—The rise of the order of prophets, who gradually emerged out of and became distinct from the old Hebrew “seer” or augur (1 Sam. ix. 9), marks a new epoch in the religious development of the Hebrews. Over the successive stages of this growth we pass lightly (see Prophet). The life-and-death struggle between Israel and the Philistines in the reign of Saul called forth under Samuel’s leadership a new order of “men of God,” who were called “prophets” or divinely inspired speakers. These men were distributed in various settlements, and their exercises were usually of an ecstatic character. The closest modern analogy would be the orders of dervishes in Islām. Probably there was little externally to distinguish the prophet of Yahweh in the days of Samuel from the Canaanite-Phoenician prophets of Baal and Ashērah (1 Kings xviii. 19, 26, 28), for the practices of both were ecstatic and orgiastic (cf. 1 Sam. x. 5 foll., xviii. 10, xix. 23 foll.). The special quality which distinguished these prophetic gilds or companies was an intense patriotism combined with enthusiastic devotion to the cause of Yahweh. This necessarily involved in that primitive age an extreme jealousy of foreign importations or innovations in ritual. It is obvious from numerous passages that these prophetic gilds recognized the superior position and leadership of Samuel, or of any other distinguished prophet such as Elijah or Elisha. Thus 1 Sam. xix. 20, 23 et seq. show that Samuel was regarded as head of the prophetic settlement at Naiōth. With reference to Elijah and Elisha, see 2 Kings ii. 3, 5, 15, iv. 1, 38 et seq., vi. 1 et seq. There cannot be any doubt that such enthusiastic devotees of Yahweh, in days when religion meant patriotism, did much to keep alive the flame of Israel’s hope and courage in the dark period of national disaster. It is significant that Saul in his last unavailing struggle against the overwhelming forces of the Philistines sought through the medium of a sorceress for an interview with the deceased prophet Samuel. It was the advice of Elisha that rescued the armies of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat in their war against Moab when they were involved in the waterless wastes that surrounded them (2 Kings iii. 14 foll.). We again find Elisha intervening with effect on behalf of Israel in the wars against Syria, so that his fame spread to Syria itself (2 Kings v.-viii. 7 foll.). Lastly it was the fiery counsels of the dying prophet, accompanied by the acted magic of the arrow shot through the open window, and also of the thrice smitten floor, that gave nerve and courage to Joash, king of Israel, when the armies of Syria pressed heavily on the northern kingdom (2 Kings xiii. 14-19).
We see that the prophet had now definitely emerged from the old position of “seer.” Prophetic personality now moved in a larger sphere than that of divination, important though that function be in the social life of the ancient state as instrumental in declaring the will of the deity when any enterprise was on foot. For the prophet’s function became in an increasing degree a function of mind, and not merely of traditional routine or mechanical technique, like that of the diviner with his arrows or his lots which he cast in the presence of the ephod or plated Yahweh image. The new name nabhi’ became necessary to express this function of more exalted significance, in which human personality played its larger rôle. Even as early as the time of David it would seem that Nathan assumed this more developed function as interpreter of Yahweh’s righteous will to David. But both in 2 Sam. xii. 1-15 as well as in 2 Sam. vii. we have sections which are evidently coloured by the conceptions of a later time. We stand on safer ground when we come to Elijah’s bold intervention on behalf of righteousness when he declared in the name of Yahweh the divine judgment on Ahab and his house for the judicial murder of Naboth. We here observe a great advance in the vocation of the prophet. He becomes the interpreter and vindicator of divine justice, the vocal exponent of a nation’s conscience. For Elijah was in this case obviously no originator or innovator. He represents the old ethical Mosaism, which had not disappeared from the national consciousness, but still remained as the moral pre-supposition on which the prophets of the following century based their appeals and denunciations. It is highly significant that Elijah, when driven from the northern kingdom by the threats of the Tyrian Jezebel, retreats to the old sanctuary at Horeb, whence Moses derived his inspiration and his Tōrah.
We have hitherto dealt with isolated examples of prophetism and its rare and distinguished personalities. The ordinary Hebrew nabhi’ still remained not the reflective visionary, stirred at times by music into strange raptures (2 Kings iii. 15), but the ecstatic and orgiastic dervish who was meshuggah or “frenzied,” a term which was constantly applied to him from the days of Elisha to those of Jeremiah (2 Kings ix. 11; in Hos. ix. 7 and Jer. xxix. 26 it is regarded as a term of reproach). It is only in rare instances that some exalted personality is raised to a higher level. Of this we have an interesting example in the vivid episode that preceded the battle of Ramoth-Gilead described in 1 Kings xxii., when Micaiah appears as the true prophet of Yahweh, who in his rare independence stands in sharp contrast with the conventional court prophets, who prophesied then, as their descendants prophesied more than two centuries later, smooth things.
It is not, however, till the 8th century that prophecy attained its highest level as the interpreter of God’s ways to men. This is due to the fact that it for the first time unfolded the true character of Yahweh, implicit in the old Mosaic religion and submerged in the subsequent centuries of Israel’s life in Canaan, but now at length made clear and explicit to the mind of the nation. It became now detached from the limitations of nationalism and local association with which it had been hitherto circumscribed.
Even Elisha, the greatest prophet of the 9th century, had remained within these national limitations which characterized the popular conceptions of Yahweh. Yahweh was Israel’s war-god. His power was asserted in and from Canaanite soil. If Naaman was to be healed, it could only be in a Palestinian river, and two mules’ load of earth would be the only permanent guarantee of Yahweh’s effective blessing on the Syrian general in his Syrian home.
That larger conceptions prevailed in some of the loftier minds of Israel, and may be held to have existed even as far back as the age of Moses, is a fact which the Yahwistic cosmogony in Gen. ii. 4b-9 (which may have been composed in the 9th century B.C.) clearly suggests, and it is strongly sustained by the overwhelming evidence of the powerful influence of Babylonian culture in the Palestinian region during the centuries 2000–1400 B.C. Probably in our modern construction of ancient Hebrew history sufficient consideration has not been given to the inevitable coexistence of different types and planes of thought, each evolved from earlier and more primordial forms. In other words we have to deal not with one evolution but with evolutions.
The existence of the purer and larger conception of Yahweh’s character and power before the advent of Amos indicates that the transition from the past was not so sudden as Wellhausen’s graphic portrayal in the 9th edition of this Encyclopaedia (art. Israel) would have led us to suppose. There were pre-existent ideas upon which that prophet’s epoch-making message was based. Yet this consideration should in no way obscure the fact that the prophet lived and worked in the all-pervading atmosphere of the popular syncretic Yahweh religion, intensely national and local in its character. In Wellhausen’s words, each petty state “revolved on its own axis” of social-religious life till the armies of Tiglath-Pileser III. broke up the security within the Canaanite borders. According to the dominating popular conception, the destruction of the national power by a foreign army meant the overthrow of the prestige of the national deity by the foreign nation’s god. If Assyria finally overthrew Israel and carried off Yahweh’s shrine, Assur (Ašur), the tutelary deity of Assyria, was mightier than Yahweh. This was precisely what was happening among the northern states, and Amos foresaw that this might eventually be Israel’s doom. Rabshakeh’s appeal to the besieged inhabitants of Jerusalem was based on these same considerations. He argued from past history that Yahweh would be powerless in the presence of Ashur (2 Kings xviii. 33-35).
This problem of religion was solved by Amos and by the prophets who succeeded him through a more exalted conception of Yahweh and His sphere of working, which tended to detach Him from His limited realm as a national deity. Amos exhibited Him to his countrymen as lord of the universe, who made the seven stars and Orion and turns the deep midnight darkness into morning. He calls to the waters of the sea and pours them on the earth’s surface (chap. v. 8). Such a universal God of the world would hardly make Israel His exclusive concern. Thus He not only brought the Israelites out of Egypt, but also the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir (ix. 7). But Amos went beyond this. Yahweh was not only the lord of the universe and possessed of sovereign power. The prophet also emphasized with passionate earnestness that Yahweh was a God whose character was righteous, and God’s demand upon His people Israel was not for sacrifices but for righteous conduct. Sacrifice, as this prophet, like his successor Jeremiah, insisted (Amos v. 25; cf. Jer. vii. 22) played no part in Mosaic religion. In words which evidently impressed his younger contemporary Isaiah (cf. esp. Is. chap. i. 11-17), Amos denounced the non-ethical ceremonial formalism of his countrymen which then prevailed (chap. v. 21 foll.):—
“I hate, I contemn your festivals and in your feasts I delight not; for when you offer me your burnt-offerings and gifts, I do not regard them with favour and your fatted peace-offerings I will not look at. Take away from me the clamour of your songs; and the music of your viols I will not hear. But let judgment roll down like waters and justice like a perennial brook.”
In the younger contemporary prophet of Ephraim, Hosea, the stress is laid on the relation of love (ḥesēd) between Yahweh, the divine husband, and Israel, the faithless spouse. Israel’s faithlessness is shown in idolatry and the prevailing corruption of the high places in which the old Canaanite Baal was worshipped instead of Yahweh. It is shown, moreover, in foreign alliances. Compacts with a powerful foreign state, under whose aegis Israel was glad to shelter, involved covenants sealed by sacrificial rites in which the deity or deities of the foreign state were involved as well as Yahweh, the god of the weaker vassal-state. And so Yahweh’s honour was compromised. While these aspects of Israel’s relation to Yahweh are emphasized by the Ephraimite prophet, the larger conceptions of Yahweh’s character as universal Lord and the God of righteousness, whose government of the world is ethical, emphasized by the prophet of Tekoah, are scarcely presented.
In Isaiah both aspects—divine universal sovereignty and justice, taught by Amos, and divine loving-kindness to Israel and God’s claims on His people’s allegiance, taught by Hosea—are fully expressed. Yahweh’s relation of love to Israel is exhibited under the purer symbol of fatherhood (Isa. i. 2-4), a conception which was as ancient and familiar as that of husband, though perhaps the latter recurs more frequently in prophecy (Isa. i. 21; Ezek. xvi. &c.). Even more insistently does Isaiah present the great truth of God’s universal sovereignty. As with his elder contemporary, the foreign peoples—(but in Isaiah’s oracles Assyria and Egypt as well as the Palestinian races)—come within his survey. The “fullness of the earth” is Yahweh’s glory (vi. 3) and the nations of the earth are the instruments of His irresistible and righteous will. Assyria is the “bee” and Egypt the “fly” for which Yahweh hisses. Assyria is the “hired razor” (Isa. vii. 18, 19), or the “rod of His wrath,” for the chastisement of Israel (x. 5). But the instrument unduly exalts itself, and Assyria itself shall suffer humiliation at the hands of the world’s divine sovereign (x. 7-15).
And so the old limitations of Israel’s popular religion,—the same limitations that encumbered also the religions of all the neighbouring races that succumbed in turn to Assyria’s invincible progress,—now began to disappear. Therefore, while every other religion which was purely national was extinguished in the nation’s overthrow, the religion of Israel survived even amid exile and dispersion. For Amos and Isaiah were able to single out those loftier spiritual and ethical elements which lay implicit in Mosaism and to lift them into their due place of prominence. National sacra and the ceremonial requirements were made to assume a secondary rôle or were even ignored. The centre of gravity in Hebrew religion was shifted from ceremonial observance and local sacra to righteous conduct. Religion and righteousness were henceforth welded into an indissoluble whole. The religion of Yahweh was no longer to rest upon the narrow perishable basis of locality and national sacra, but on the broad adamantine foundations of a universal divine sovereignty over all mankind and of righteousness as the essential element in the character of Yahweh and in his claims on man. This was the “corner-stone of precious solid foundation”: “I will make judgment the measuring-line and righteousness the plummet” (Isa. xxviii. 16, 17). The religion of the Hebrew race—properly the Jews—now enters on a new stage, for it should be observed that it was Amos, Isaiah and Micah—prophets of Judah—who laid the actual foundations. The latter half of the 8th century, which witnessed a rapid succession of reigns in the northern kingdom accompanied by dismemberment of its territory and final overthrow, witnessed also the humiliating vassalage and religious decline of the kingdom of Judah. Unlike Amos and Micah, Isaiah was not only the prophet of denunciation but also the prophet of hope. Though Yahweh’s chastisements on Ephraim and Judah would continue to fall till scarcely a remnant was left (Isa. vi. 13, LXX.), yet all was not to be lost. A remnant of the people was to return, i.e. be converted to Yahweh. The name given to an infant child—Immanuel—was to become the mystic symbol of a growing hope. God’s presence was to abide in Jerusalem, and, as the century drew near its close, “Immanuel” became the watchword and talisman of a strong faith that God would never permit Jerusalem to be captured by the Assyrians. In fact it is not improbable that the words of consolation uttered by the prophet (Isa. viii. 9-10) in the dark days of Ahaz (735–734 B.C.) were among the oracles which God commanded Isaiah “to seal up among his disciples” (verse 16), and that they were quoted once more with effect as the armies of Sennacherib closed around Jerusalem. The talismanic name Immanuel became the nucleus out of which the later Messianic prophecies of Isaiah grew. To this age alone can we probably assign Isa. ix. 1-7, xi. 1-9, xxxii. 1-3. The hopes expressed in the word Immanuel, “God with us,” were to become embodied in a personality of the royal seed of David, an ideal righteous ruler who was to bring peace to the war-distraught realm. Thus Isaiah became in that troubled age the true founder of Messianic prophecy. The strange contrast between the succession of dynasties and kings cut off by assassination in the northern kingdom, ending in the tragic overthrow of 721 B.C., and the persistent succession through three centuries of the seed of David on the throne of Jerusalem, as well as the marvellous escape of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. from the fate of Samaria, must have invested the seed of David in the eyes of all thoughtful observers with a mysterious and divine significance. The Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, the prophet of faith and deliverance, were destined to reverberate through all subsequent centuries. We hear the echoes in Jeremiah and Ezekiel and lastly in Haggai in ever feebler tones, and they were destined to reawaken in the Psalter (Pss. ii. and lxxii.), in the psalms of Solomon and in the days of Christ. See Messiah (and also the article “Messiah” in Hastings’s Dict. of Christ and the Gospels).
The next notable contribution to the permanent growth of Hebrew prophetic religion was made about a century after the lifetime of Isaiah by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The reaction into idolatry and Babylonian star worship in the long reign of Manasseh synchronized and was connected with vassalage to Assyria, while the reformation in the reign of Josiah (621 B.C.) is conversely associated with the decay of Assyrian power after the death of Assur-bani-pal. That reformation failed to effect its purifying mission. The hurt of the daughter of God’s people was but lightly healed (Jer. vi. 14, 15; cf. viii. 11, 12). No possibility of recovery now remained to the diseased Hebrew state. The outlook appeared indeed far darker to Jeremiah than it seemed more than a century before to Isaiah in the evil days of Jotham and Ahaz, “when the whole head was sick and the whole heart faint” (Isa. i. 5). Jeremiah foresaw that there was now no possibility of recovery. The Hebrew state was doomed and even its temple was to be destroyed. This involved an entire reconstruction of theological ideas which went beyond even the reconstructions of Amos and Isaiah. In the old religion the race or clan was the unit of religion as well as of social life. Properly speaking, the individual was related to God only through the externalities of the clan or tribal life, its common temple and its common sacra. But now that these external bases of the old religion were to be swept away, a reconstruction of religious ideas became necessary. For the external supports which had vanished Jeremiah substituted a basis which was internal, personal and spiritual (i.e. ethical). In place of the old covenant based on external observance, which had been violated, there was to be a new covenant which was to consist not in outward prescription, but in the law which God would place in the heart (Jer. xxxi. 30-33). This was to take place by an act of divine grace (Jer. xxiv. 5 foll.): “I will give them an heart to know me that I am the Lord” (verse 7). Ezekiel, who borrowed both Jeremiah’s language and ideas, expresses the same thought in the well-known words that Yahweh would give the people instead of a heart of stone a heart of flesh (Ezek. xi. 19, 20, xx. 40 foll., xxxvi. 25-27), and would shame them by his loving-kindness into repentance, and there “shall ye remember your ways and all your doings wherein ye have been defiled and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight” (xx. 43).
Personal religion now became an important element in Hebrew piety and upon this there logically followed the idea of personal responsibility. The solidarity of race or family was expressed in the old tradition reflected in Deut. v. 9, 10, that God would visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, and it lived on in later Judaism under exaggerated forms. The hopes of the individual Jew were based on the piety of holy ancestors. “We have Abraham as our father.” But Ezekiel expressed the strong reaction which had set in against this belief in its older forms. He denies that the individual ever dies for the sins of the father. “The soul that sinneth, it (the pronoun emphasized in the original) shall die” (Ezek. xviii. 4). Neither Noah, Daniel nor Job could have rescued by his righteousness any but his own soul (xiv. 14). And as a further consequence individual freedom is strongly asserted. It is possible for every sinner to turn to God and escape punishment, and conversely for a righteous man to backslide and fall. In the presence of these awful truths which Ezekiel preached of individual freedom and of impending judgment, the prophet is weighted with a heavy responsibility. It is his duty to warn every individual, for no sinner is to be punished without warning (Ezek. iii. 16 foll. xxxiii.).
The closing years of the Judaean kingdom and the final destruction of the temple (586 B.C.) shattered the Messianic ideals cherished in the evening of Isaiah’s lifetime and again in the opening years of the reign of Josiah. The untimely death of that monarch upon the battlefield of Megiddo (608 B.C.), followed by the inglorious reigns of the kings who succeeded him, who became puppets in turn of Egypt or of Babylonia, silenced for a while the Messianic hopes for a future king or line of kings of Davidic lineage who would rule a renovated kingdom in righteousness and peace. Even in the darkness of the exile period hopes did not die. Yet they no longer remained the same. In the Deutero-Isaiah (chaps. xl.-lv.) we have no longer a Jewish but a foreign messiah. The onward progress of the Persian Cyrus and his anticipated conquest of Babylonia marked him out as Yahweh’s anointed instrument for effecting the deliverance of exiled Israel and their restoration to their old home and city (Isa. xli. 2, xliv. 24, xlv.). This was, however, but a subsidiary issue and possesses no permanent spiritual significance. Of far more vital importance is the conception of Israel as God’s suffering servant. This is not the place to enter into the prolonged controversy as to the real significance of this term, whether it signifies the nation Israel or the righteous community only, or finally an idealized prophetic individual who, like the prophet Jeremiah, was destined to suffer for the well-being of his people. Duhm, in his epoch-making commentary, distinguishes on the grounds of metre and contents the four servant-passages, in the last of which (lii. 13-liii. 12) the ideal suffering servant of Yahweh is portrayed most definitely as an individual. In the “servant-passages” he is innocent, while in the rest of the Deutero-Isaiah he appears as by no means faultless, and the personal traits are not prominent. These views of Duhm, in which a severe distinction is thus drawn between the representation of Yahweh’s servant in the servant-passages, and that which meets us in the rest of the Deutero-Isaiah, have been challenged by a succession of critics. It is only necessary for us to take note of the ideal in its general features. It probably arose from the fact that the calamities from which Israel had suffered both before and during the exile had drawn the reflective minds of the race to the contemplation of the problem of suffering. The “servant of Yahweh” presents one aspect of the problem and its attempted solution, the book of Job another, while in the Psalms, e.g. Pss. xxii., xlii.-xliii., lxxiii., lxxvii., other phases of the problem are presented. In the Deutero-Isaiah the meaning of Israel’s sufferings is exhibited as vicarious. Israel is suffering for a great end. He suffers, is despised, rejected, chastened and afflicted that others may be blessed and be at peace through his chastisement. This noble conception of Israel’s great destiny is conveyed in Isa. xlix. 6, in words which may be regarded as perhaps the noblest utterance in Hebrew prophecy: “To establish the tribes of Jacob and bring back the preserved of Israel is less important than being my servant. Yea, I will make you a light to the Gentiles that my salvation may be unto the end of the earth.” This passage, which belongs to the second of the brief “servant-songs,” sets the mission of Israel in its true relation to the world. It is the necessary corollary to the teaching of Amos, that God is the righteous lord of all the world. If Jerusalem has been chosen as His sanctuary and Israel as His own people, it is only that Israel may diffuse God’s blessings in the world even at the cost of Israel’s own humiliation, exile and dispersion.
The Deutero-Isaiah closes a great prophetic succession, which begins with Amos, continues in Isaiah in even greater splendour with the added elements of hope and Messianic expectation, and receives further accession in Jeremiah with his special teaching on inward spiritual and personal religion which constituted the new covenant of divine grace. Finally the Deutero-Isaiah conveyed to captive Israel the message of Yahweh’s unceasing love and care, and the certainty of their return to Judaea and the restoration of the national prosperity which Ezekiel had already announced in the earlier period of the exile. To this is united the noble ideal of the suffering servant, which serves both as a contribution to the great problem of suffering as purifying and vicarious and as the interpretation to the mind of the nation itself of that nation’s true function in the future, a lesson which the actual future showed that Israel was slow to receive. Nowhere in the Old Testament does the doctrine taught by Amos of Yahweh’s universal power and sovereignty receive ampler and more splendid exposition than in the great lyrical passages of chap. xl. It marks the highest point to which the Hebrew race attained in its progress from henotheism to monotheism. Here again we see the wholesome influences of the exile. The Jew had passed from the narrow confines of his homeland into a wider world, and this larger vision of human life reacted on the prophet’s theology. This closes the evolution of Hebrew prophetism. What immediately follows is on a descending slope with some striking exceptions, e.g. the book of Job and the book of Jonah.
7. Deuteronomic Legalism.—The book of Deuteronomy was the product of prophetic teaching operating on traditional custom, which was represented in its essential features by the two codes of legislation contained in Ex. xx. 24-xxiii. 19 (E) and Ex. xxxiv. 10-26 (J), but had also become tainted and corrupted by centuries of Canaanite influence and practice which especially infected the cult of the high places. The existence of “high places” is pre-supposed in those two ancient codes and is also presumed in the narratives of the documents E and J which contain them. But the prevalence of the worship of “other gods” and of graven images in these “high places,” and the moral debasement of life which accompanied these cults, made it clear that the “high places” were sources of grave injury to Israel’s social life. In all probability the reformation instituted in the reign of Hezekiah, to which 2 Kings xviii. 4 (cf. verse 22) refers, was only partial. It is hardly possible that all the high places were suppressed. The idolatrous reaction in the reign of Manasseh appears to have restored all the evils of the past and added to them. Another and more drastic reform than that which had been previously initiated (probably at the instigation of Isaiah and Micah) now became necessary to save the state. It is universally held by critics that our present book of Deuteronomy (certainly chaps. xii.-xxvi.) is closely connected with the reformation in the reign of Josiah. It is quite clear that many provisions in the old codes of J and E expanded lie at the basis of the book of Deuteronomy. But new features were added. We note for the first time definite regulations respecting Passover and the close union of that celebration with Massōth or “unleavened bread.” We note the laws respecting the clean and unclean animals (certainly based on ancient custom). Moreover, the prohibitions are strengthened and multiplied. In addition to the bare interdict of the sorceress (Ex. xxii. 18), of stone pillars to the Canaanite Baal, of the Ashērah-pole, molten images and the worship of other gods than Yahweh (Ex. xxxiv. 13-17), we now have the strict prohibition of any employment whatever of the stone-symbol (Maṣṣēbhah), and of all forms of sorcery, soothsaying and necromancy (Deut. xviii. 10, 11. Respecting the stone-pillar see xvi. 22). But of much more far-reaching importance was the law of the central sanctuary which constantly meets us in Deuteronomy in the reference to “the place (i.e. Jerusalem) which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there” (xii. 5, xvi. 5, 11, 16, xxvi. 2). There alone all offerings of any kind were to be presented (xii. 6, 7, xvi. 7). By this positive enactment all the high places outside the one sanctuary in Jerusalem became illegitimate. A further consequence directly followed from the limitation as to sanctuary, viz. limitation as to the officiating ministers of the sanctuary. In the “book of the covenant” (Ex. xx. 22-xxii. 19), as we have already seen, and in the general practice of the regal period, there was no limitation as to the priesthood, but a definite order of priesthood, viz. Levites, existed, to whom a higher professional prestige belonged. As it was impossible to find a place for the officiating priests of the high places, non-levitical as well as levitical, in the single sanctuary, it became necessary to restrict the functions of sacrifice to the Levites only as well as to the existing official priesthood of the Jerusalem temple (see Priest). Doubtless such a reform met with strong resistance from the disestablished and vested interests, but it was firmly supported by royal influence and by the Jerusalem priesthood as well as by the true prophets of Yahweh who had protested against the idolatrous usages and corruptions of the high places.
The strong impress of Hebrew prophecy is to be found in the deeply marked ethical spirit of the Deuteronomic legislation. Love to God and love to man is stamped on a large number of its provisions. Love to God is emphasized in Deut. vi. 5, while love to man meets us in the constant reference to the fatherless and the widow (cf. especially Deut. xvi.). This note of philanthropy is frequently found as a mitigating element (e.g. in the laws respecting slavery and war) that subdues or even removes the harshness of earlier laws or usages. It should be noted, however, that the spirit of brotherly love was confined within national barriers. It did not operate as a rule beyond the limits of race.
The book of Deuteronomy, in conjunction with the reformation of Josiah’s reign (which synchronizes with the rapid decline of Assyria and the reviving prestige of Yahweh), appeared to mark the triumph of the great prophetic movement. It became at once a codified standard of purer religious life and ultimately served as a beacon of light for the future. But there was shadow as well as light. We note (a) that though the book of Deuteronomy bears the prophetic impress, the priestly impress is perhaps more marked. The writer “evinces a warm regard for the priestly tribe; he guards its privileges (xviii. 1-8), demands obedience for its decisions (xxiv. 8; cf. xvii. 10-12) and earnestly commends its members to the Israelites’ benevolence (xii. 18-19, xiv. 27-29, &c.).” (b) In many passages Jewish particularism is painfully manifest. Yahweh’s care for other peoples does not appear. The flesh of a dead (unslaughtered) beast is not to be eaten, but it may be given to the “stranger within the gates”! (Deut. xiv. 21). (c) Prophetic religion was a religion of the spirit which came to the messenger (Isa. lxi. 1) and expressed itself as a word of instruction of Yahweh (tōrah); see Isa. 1. 10. Now when the Hebrew religion was reduced to written form it began to be a book-religion, and since the book consisted of fixed rules and enactments, religion began to acquire a stereotyped character. It will be seen in the sequel that this was destined to be the growing tendency of Jewish religious life—to conform itself to prescribed rules, in other words, it became legalism. (d) Lastly, the old genial life of the high places, in which the “new moon” or Sabbath or the annual festival was a sacrificial feast of communion, in which the members of the local community or clan enjoyed fellowship with one another—all this picturesque life ceased to be. And though there was positive gain in the removal of idolatrous and corrupt modes of worship, there was also positive loss in the disappearance of this old genial phase of Hebrew social life and worship. It involved a vast difference to many a Judaean village when the festival pilgrimage was no longer made to the familiar local sanctuary with its hoary associations of ancient heroic or patriarchal story, but to a distant and comparatively unfamiliar city with its stately shrine and priesthood.
8. Ezekiel’s System.—Ezekiel was the successor of Jeremiah and inherited his conceptions. But though the younger prophet adopted the ideas respecting personal religion and individual responsibility from the elder, the characters of the two men were very different. Jeremiah, when he foretold the destruction of the external state and temple ritual, found no resource save in a reconstruction that was internal and spiritual. In this he was true to his prophetic impulse and genius. But Ezekiel was, as Wellhausen well describes him, “a priest in prophet’s mantle.” While Jeremiah’s tendency was spiritual and ideal, Ezekiel’s was constructive and practical. He was the first to foretell with clearness the return of his people from captivity foreshadowed by Jeremiah, and he set himself the task even in the midnight darkness of Israel’s exile to prepare for the nation’s renewed life. The external bases of Israel’s religion had been swept away, and in exchange for these Jeremiah had led his countrymen to the more permanent internal grounds of a spiritual renewal. But a religion could not permanently subsist in this world of space and time without some external concrete embodiment. It was the task of Ezekiel to take up once more the broken threads of Israel’s religious traditions, and weave them anew into statelier forms of ritual and national polity. The priest-prophet’s keen eye for detail, manifested in the elaborate vision of the wheels and living creatures (Ezek. i.) and in his lamentation on Tyre (chap. xxvii.), is also exhibited in the visions contained in chaps. xl.-xlviii., which describe the ideal reconstructed temple and theocracy of the restored Israel. The foreground is filled by the temple and its precincts. The officiating priests are now the descendants of the line of Zadok belonging to the tribe of Levi. Thus the priesthood is still further restricted as compared with the restriction already noted in the Deuteronomic legislation. It is the sons of Zadok only that have any right to offer sacrifice at the altar of burnt offering (xliii. 19, xliv. 15 foll.). The Levites, who formerly ministered in the high places, now discharge the subordinate offices of gate-keepers and slaughterers of the sacrificial victims.
Another element in this ideal scheme which comes into prominence is the sharp distinction between holy and profane. The word holiness (qodesh) in primitive Hebrew usage partook of the nature of taboo, and came to be applied to whatever, whether thing or person, stood in close relation to deity and belonged to him, and could not, therefore, be used or treated like other objects not so related, and so was separated or stood apart. The idea underlying the word, which to us is invested with deep ethical meaning, had only this non-ethical, ritual significance in Ezekiel. Unlike the old temple and city, the ideal temple of Ezekiel is entirely separate from the city of Jerusalem. In the immediate surroundings of the temple there is an open space. Then come two concentric forecourts of the temple. The temple stands in the midst of what is called the gizrah or space severed off. The outer court lies higher than the open space, the inner court higher still, and the temple-building in the centre highest of all. No heathen may tread the outer court, no layman the inner court, while the holiest of all may not be trodden even by the priest Ezekiel but only by the angel who accompanies him. “The temple-house has a graduated series of compartments increasing in sanctity inwards” (Davidson). In the innermost the presence of Yahweh abides.
We are here moving in a realm of ideas prevailing in ancient Israel respecting holiness, uncleanness and sin, which are ceremonial and not ethical; see especially Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites, 2nd ed., p. 446 foll. (additional note B.) on holiness, uncleanness and taboo. It is, of course, true that the ethical conception of sin as violation of righteousness and an act of rebellion against the divine righteous will had been developed since the days of Amos and Isaiah; but, as we have already observed, cultus and prophetic teaching were separated by an immense gulf, and in spite of the reformation of 621 B.C. still remain separated. In the sacrificial system of sin-offerings (ḥattāth and ’āshām) we have to do with sin as ceremonial violation and neglect (frequently involuntary), or violation of holiness in the old sense of the term or as personal uncleanness (touching a corpse, eating unclean food, sexual impurity, &c.). In the historical evolution of Hebrew sacrifice it is remarkable how long this non-ethical and primitive survival of old custom still survived, even far into post-exilian times. (See Sacrifice; also Moore’s art. “Sacrifice” in Ency. Bibl.)
One conspicuous feature of Ezekiel’s system is the predominance of piacular sacrifice. It undoubtedly existed in pre-exilian Israel, especially in times of crisis or calamity, for the appeasement of an offended deity (2 Sam. xxiv. 18 foll.), and in Deut. xxi. 1-9, we have details of the purificatory rite which was necessary when human blood was shed; but now and in the future propitiatory sacrifice and ideas of propitiation began to overshadow all the other forms of sacrifice and their ideas. Ezekiel prescribes a half-yearly ritual of sin-offering whereby atonement was to be made (xlv. 18-20). We shall see subsequently to what great institution this led the way.
Ezekiel’s system constituted an ecclesiastical in place of a political organization, a church-state in place of a nation. We clearly discern how this reacted on his Messianic conceptions. In his earlier oracles (xxxiv. 23 foll.) we find one shepherd ruling over united Israel, viz. Yahweh’s servant David, whereas in the ideal scheme detailed in chap. xl. et seq. the rôle of the prince as a ruler is a very shadowy one. The prince, it is true, has a central domain, but his functions are ecclesiastical and subordinate and his powers strictly limited (xlvi. 3-8, 12, 16-18).
Thus the exile period marks the parting of the ways in the development of Hebrew religion. In the Deutero-Isaiah we reach the highest point in the evolution of prophetism. It is true that we have some noble resounding echoes in the lyrical passages lx.-lxii. In the Trito-Isaiah during the post-exilian period, and in such psalm literature as Pss. xxii., xxxvii., l., lxii., cvii., cxlv. 9-12 and others; and also in Isa. xxxv., which is obviously a lyrical reproduction of earlier literature. But it cannot be said that we possess in later literature any fresh contribution to the conception of God or any presentation of a higher ideal of human life or national destiny than that which meets us in chap. xl. or in the servant-passages of the Deutero-Isaiah. It may with truth be said that after Jeremiah we discern the parting of the ways. The first is represented by the Deutero-Isaiah, who constitutes the climax and close of Hebrew prophetism, which is henceforth (with the possible exception of the Trito-Isaiah, Malachi and Jonah, who reproduce some features of the earlier prophecy) a virtually arrested development. The second path is that which is traced out by the priest-prophet Ezekiel, and is that of legalism, which was destined to secure a permanent place in the life and literature of the Jewish people. It is essentially the path which may be summed up in the word Judaism, though, as will be shown in the sequel, Judaism came to include many other factors. The statement, however, remains virtually true, since Judaism is mainly constituted by the body of legal precepts called the Tōrah, and, moreover, by the post-exilian Tōrah.
9. Post-exilian Law—The Priestercodex.—The oracles of Malachi clearly reveal the continued influence of the book of Deuteronomy in his day. But the new conditions created by the return of the exiles and the germinating influence of Ezekiel’s ideas developed a process of new legislative construction. The code of holiness (Lev. xvii.-xxvi.) is the most obvious product of that influence. The ideas of expiation and atonement so prevalent in Ezekiel’s scheme, which there find expression in the half-yearly sacrificial celebrations, are expressed in Lev. xvi. in the single annual great fast of atonement. It is impossible to enter here into the numerous details of that impressive ceremonial. Two special features, however, which characterize the celebration should here be noted: (a) The person of the high priest, who is throughout the entire drama the chief and indeed the sole actor. This supreme official, who was destined ultimately to take the place of the king in the church-nation of post-exilian Judaism, is mentioned for the first time in Zech. iii. 1 (in the person of Joshua). In the Priestercodex he stands at the head of the priests, who are, in the post-exilian system, the sons of Aaron and possessed the sole right to offer the temple sacrifices. On the great day of atonement the high priest appears in a vicarious and representative capacity, and offers on behalf of the whole nation which he was considered to embody in his sacred person. (b) The rite of the goat devoted to Azazel. There can be little doubt that Azazel was an evil demon (like an Arabic Jinn) of the desert. The goat set apart for Azazel was in the concluding part of the ceremonial brought before the high priest, who laid both his hands upon it and confessed over it the sins of the people. It was then carried off by an appointed person to a lonely spot and there set free.
In later post-exilian times this great day of atonement became to an increasing degree a day of humiliation for sin and penitent sorrow, accompanied by confession; and the sins confessed were not only of a purely ceremonial character, whether voluntary or inadvertent, but also sins against righteousness and the duties which we owe to God and man. This element of public confession for sin became more prominent in the days when synagogal worship developed, and prayer took the place of the sacrificial offerings which could only be offered in the Jerusalem temple. The development of the priestly code of legislation (Priestercodex) was a gradual process, and probably occupied a considerable part of the 5th century B.C. The Hebrew race now definitely entered upon the new path of organized Jewish legalism which had been originally marked out for it by Ezekiel in the preceding century. It became a holy people on holy ground. Circumcision and Sabbath, separation from marriage with a foreigner, which rendered a Jew unclean, as well as strict conformity to the precepts of the Tōrah, constituted henceforth an adamantine bond which was to preserve the Jewish communities from disintegration.
10. The later Post-exilian Developments in Jewish Religion.—These may be briefly referred to under the following aspects:
(a) Codified law and the written record of the patriarchal history, as well as the life and work of the lawgiver Moses (to whom the entire body of law came to be ascribed), assumed an ever greater importance. The reverence felt for the canonized Tōrah or law (the Pentateuch or so-called five books of Moses) grew even into worship. Of this spirit we find clear expression in some of the later psalms, e.g. the elaborate alphabetic Ps. cxix. and the latter portion of Ps. xix. There were various causes which combined to enhance the importance of the written Tōrah (the “instruction” par excellence communicated by God through Moses). Chief among these were (1) The conception of God as transcendent. We have taken due note of Amos, who unfolded the character of Yahweh as universal righteous sovereign; and also the sublime portrayal of His exalted nature in Isa. xl. (verse 15; cf. 22-26, and Job xxxvi. 22-xlii. 6). The intellectual influence of Greece, manifested in Alexandrian philosophy, tended to remove God still further from the human world of phenomena into that of an inaccessible transcendental abstraction. Little, therefore, was possible for the Jew save strict performance of the requirements of the Tōrah, once for all given to Moses on Sinai, and, in his approach to the awful and unknown mystery, to rely on ceremonial and ascetic performances (see Wendt’s Teaching of Jesus, i. 55 foll.). The same tendency led the pious worshippers to avoid His awful name and to substitute Adonai in their scriptures or to use in the Mishna the term “name” (shēm) or “heaven.” (2) The Maccabean conflict (165 B.C.) tended to accentuate the national sentiment of antagonism to Hellenic influence. The Ḥasīdim or pious devotees, who arose at that time, were the originators of the Pharisaic movement which was conservative as well as national, and laid stress on the strict performance of the law.
(b) Eschatology in the Judaism of the Greek period began to assume a new form. The pre-exilian prophets (especially Isaiah) spoke of the forthcoming crisis in the world’s history as a “day of the Lord.” These were usually regarded as visitations of chastisement for national sins and vindications of divine righteousness or judgments, i.e. assertions of God’s power as judge (shōphet). By the older prophets this judgment of God or “day of Yahweh” was never held to be far removed from the horizon of the present or the world in which they lived. But now as we enter the Greek period (320 B.C. and onwards) there is a gradual change from prophecy to apocalyptic. “It may be asserted in general terms that whereas prophecy foretells a definite future which has its foundation in the present, apocalyptic directs its anticipations solely and simply to the future, to a new world-period which stands sharply contrasted with the present. The classical model for all apocalyptic is to be found in Dan. vii. It is only after a great war of destruction, a day of Yahweh’s great judgment, that the dominion of God will begin” (Bousset). Ezek. xxxviii. and xxxix. clearly bear the apocalyptic character; so also Isa. xxxiv. and notably Isa. xxiv.-xxvii. Apocalyptic, as Baldensperger has shown, formed a counterpoise to the normal current of conformity to law. It arose from a spiritual movement in answer to the yearning of the heart: “O that Thou mightest rend the heavens and come down and the mountains quake at Thy presence!” (Isa. lxiv. 1 [Heb. lxiii. 19]); and it was intended to meet the craving of souls sick with waiting and disappointment. The present outlook was hopeless, but in the enlarged horizon of time as well as space the thoughts of some of the most spiritual minds in Judaism were directed to the transcendent and ultimate. The present world was corrupt and subject to Satan and the powers of darkness. This they called “the present aeon” (age). Their hopes were therefore directed to “the coming aeon.” Between the two aeons there would take place the advent of the Messiah, who would lead the struggle with evil powers which was called “the agonies of the Messiah.” This terrible intermezzo was no longer terrestrial, but was a cosmic and universal crisis in which the Messiah would emerge victorious from the final conflict with the heathen and demonic powers. This victory inaugurates the entrance of the “aeon to come,” in which the faithful Jews would enter their inheritance. In this way we perceive the transformation of the old Messianic doctrine through apocalyptic. Of apocalyptic literature we have numerous examples extending from the 2nd century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. (See especially Charles’s Book of Enoch.)
The doctrine of the resurrection of the righteous to life in the heavenly world became engrafted on to the old doctrine of Sheōl, or the dark shadowy underworld (Hades), where life was joyless and feeble, and from which the soul might be for a brief space summoned forth by the arts of the necromancer. The most vivid portraiture of Sheōl is to be found in the exilian passage Isa. xiv. 9-20 (cf. Job x. 21-22). With this also compare the Babylonian Descent of Ishtar to Hades. The added conception of the resurrection of the righteous does not appear in the world of Jewish thought till the early Greek period in Isa. xxvi. 19. R. H. Charles thinks that in this passage the idea of resurrection is of purely Jewish and not of Mazdaan (or Zoroastrian) origin, but it is otherwise with Dan. xii. 2; see his Eschatology, Hebrew, Jewish and Christian. Corresponding to heaven, the abode of the righteous, we have Gē-henna (originally Gē-Hinnom, the scene of the Moloch rites of human sacrifice), the place of punishment after death for apostate Jews.
(c) Doctrine of Angels and of Hypostases.—In the writings of the pre-exilian period we have frequent references to supernatural personalities good and bad. It is only necessary to refer to them by name. Sebāōth, or “hosts,” attached to the name of Yahweh, denoted the heavenly retinue of stars. The seraphīm were burning serpentine forms who hovered above the enthroned Yahweh and chanted the Trisagion in Isaiah’s consecration vision (Isa. vi.). We have also constant references to “angels” (malāchīm) of God, divine messengers who represent Him and may be regarded as the manifestation of His power and presence. This especially applies to the “angel of Yahweh” or angel of His Presence [Ex. xxiii. 20, 23 (E). Note in Ex. xxxiii. 14 (J) he is called “my face” or “presence” (cf. Isa. lxiii. 9)]. We also know that from earliest times Israel believed in the evil as well as good spirits. Like the Arabs they held that demons became incorporate in serpents, as in Gen. iii. The nephīlīm were a monstrous brood begotten of the intercourse of the supernatural beings called “sons of God” with the women of earth. We also read of the “evil spirit” that came upon Saul. Contact with Babylonia tended to stimulate the angelology and demonology of Israel. The Hebrew word shēd or “demon” is no more than a Babylonian loan word, and came to designate the deities of foreign peoples degraded into the position of demons. Līlīth, the blood-sucking night-hag of the post-exilian Isa. xxxiv. 14, is the Babylonian Lilātu. Whether the se’īrīm or shaggy satyrs (Isa. xiii. 31; Lev. xvii. 7) and Azāzēl were of Babylonian origin it is difficult to determine. The emergence of Satan as a definite supernatural personality, the head or prince of the world of evil spirits, is entirely a phenomenon of post-exilian Judaism. He is portrayed as the arch-adversary and accuser of man. It is impossible to deny Persian influence in the development of this conception, and that the Persian Ahriman (Angromainyu), the evil personality opposed to the good, Ahura Mazda, moulded the Jewish counterpart, Satan. But in Judaism monotheistic conceptions reigned supreme, and the Satan of Jewish belief as opposed to God stops short of the dualism of Persian religion. Of this we see evidence in the multiplication of Satans in the Book of Enoch. In the Book of Jubilees he is called mastēmā. In later Judaism Sammael is the equivalent of Satan. Persian influence is also responsible for the vast multiplication of good spirits or angels, Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, &c., who play their part in apocalyptic works, such as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Enoch.
Probably the transcendent nature of the deity in the Judaism of this later period made the interposition of mediating spirits an intellectual necessity (cf. Ps. civ. 4). It also stimulated the creation of divine hypostases. First among these may be mentioned Wisdom. The roots of this conception belong to pre-exilian times, in which the “word” of divine denunciation was regarded as a quasi-material thing. (It is hurled against offending Israel, Isa. ix. 8.). In the post-exilian cosmogony it is the divine word or fiat that creates the world (Gen. i.; cf. Ps. xxxiii. 6, 9). Out of these earlier conceptions the idea of the divine wisdom (Heb. ḥokhmah) gradually arose during the Persian period. The expression “wisdom,” as it is employed in the locus classicus, Prov. viii., connotes the contents of the Divine reason—His conscious life, out of which created things emerge. This wisdom is personified. It dwelt with God (Prov. viii. 22 foll.) before the world was made. It is the companion of His throne, and by it He made the world (Prov. iii. 19, viii. 27; cf. Ps. civ. 24). It, moreover, enters into the life of the world and especially man (Prov. viii. 31). This conception of wisdom became still further hypostatized. It becomes redemptive of man. In the Wisdom of Solomon it is the sharer of God’s throne (πάρεδρος), the effulgence of the eternal light and the outflow of His glory (Wisd. vii. 25, viii. 3 foll., ix. 4, 9); “Them that love her the Lord doth love” (Ecclesiasticus iv. 14). This group of ideas culminated in the Logos of Philo, expressing the world of divine ideas which God first of all creates and which becomes the mediating and formative power between the absolute and transcendent deity and passive formless matter, transmuted thereby into a rational, ordered universe.
In later Jewish literature we meet with further examples of similar hypostases in the form of Mēmrā, Metatron, Shechinah, Holy Spirit and Bath kōl.
(d) The doctrine of pre-existence is another product of the speculative tendency of the Jewish mind. The Messiah’s pre-existent state before the creation of the world is asserted in the Book of Enoch (xlviii. 6, 7). Pre-existence is also asserted of Moses and of sacred institutions such as the New Jerusalem, the Temple, Paradise, the Tōrah, &c. (Apocal. of Baruch iv. 3-lix. 4; Assumptio Mosis i. 14, 17); Edersheim’s Life and Times of the Messiah, i. 175 and footnote 1.
11. Christ resumes the Broken Tradition of Prophetism.—The Psalms of Solomon and the synoptic Gospels (70 B.C.-A.D. 100) clearly reveal the powerful revival of Messianic hopes of a national deliverer of the seed of David. This Messianic expectation had been a fermenting leaven since the great days of Judas Maccabaeus. The conceptions of Jesus of Nazareth, however, were not the Messianic conceptions of his fellow-countrymen, but of the spiritual “son of man” destined to found a kingdom of God which was righteousness and peace. The Tōrah of Jesus was essentially prophetic and in no sense priestly or legal. The arrested prophetic movement of Jeremiah and Deutero-Isaiah reappears in John the Baptist and Jesus after an interval of more than five centuries. The new covenant of redeeming grace—the righteousness which is in the heart and not in externalities of legal observance or ceremonial—are once more proclaimed, and the exalted ideals of the suffering servant of Isa. xlix. 6 and Isa. liii. (nearly suppressed in the Targum of Jonathan) are reasserted and vindicated by the words and life of Jesus. Like Jeremiah He foretold the destruction of the temple and suffered the extreme penalties of anti-patriotism. And thus Israel’s old prophetic Tōrah was at length to achieve its victory, for after Jesus came St Paul. “Many shall come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. viii. 11, 12). The fetters of nationalism were to be broken, and the Hebrew religion in its essential spiritual elements was to become the heritage of all humanity.
Authorities.—1. On Semitic religion generally: Wellhausen’s Reste des arabischen Heidentums (2nd ed.) and Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites (2nd ed.) are chiefly to be recommended. Barton’s Semitic Origins is extremely able, but his doctrine of the derivation of male from original female deities is pushed to an extreme. Bäthgen’s Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte (1888) is most useful, and contains valuable epigraphic material. Baudissin’s Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte (1876) is still valuable. See also Kuenen’s National Religions and Universal Religions (Hibbert lectures) and Lagrange’s Études sur les religions sémitiques (2nd ed.).
2. On Hebrew religion in particular: specially full and helpful is Kautzsch’s article “Religion of Israel” in Hastings’s D.B., extra vol.; Marti’s recent Religion des A.T. (1906) and his Geschichte der israelitischen Religion, are clear, compact and most serviceable, and the former work presents the subject in fresh and suggestive aspects. Wellhausen’s Prolegomena and Jüdische Geschichte should be read both for criticism and Hebrew history generally. Duhm’s Theologie der Propheten and Robertson Smith’s Prophets of Israel should also be consulted. Strongly to be recommended are Smend, Lehrbuch der alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte; Bennett, Theology of the Old Testament and Religion of the Post-Exilic Prophets; A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament, as well as the sections devoted to “Sacralaltertümer” in the Hebräische Archäologie both of Benzinger and also of Nowack. Budde’s Die Religion des Volkes Israel bis zur Verbannung, as well as Addis’s recent Hebrew Religion (1906), is a most careful and scholarly compendium. Harper’s Introd. to his Commentary on Amos and Hosea (I. and T. Clark) contains a useful survey of the history of Hebrew religion before the 8th century. Buchanan Gray’s Divine Discipline of Israel, and A. S. Peake’s Problem of Suffering in the O.T., are suggestive. See also S. A. Cook, Religion of Ancient Palestine.
3. On the history of Judaism till the time of Christ, Schürer’s Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Christi (3rd ed.), vol. ii. and in part vol. iii., are indispensable. Bousset’s Religion des Judentums (2nd ed.), and Volz, Die jüdische Eschatologie von Daniel bis Akiba, are highly to be commended. Weber’s Jüdische Theologie is a useful compendium of the theology of later Judaism.
4. On the special department of eschatology the standard works are R. H. Charles, Eschatology, Hebrew, Jewish and Christian, and Schwally, Das Leben nach dem Tode, as well as Gressmann’s suggestive work Der Ursprung der israelitisch-jüdischen Eschatologie, which contains, however, much that is speculative. On apocalyptic generally the introductions to Charles’s Book of Enoch, Apocalypse of Baruch, Ascension of Isaiah and Book of Jubilees, should be carefully noted. See also Eschatology.
5. On the religion of Babylonia, Jastrow’s work is the standard one. Zimmern’s Heft ii. in K.A.T. (3rd ed.) is specially important to the Old Testament student. See also W. Schrank, Babylonische Sühnriten. (O. C. W.)
- See Bäthgen, Beiträge zur semit. Religionsgesch. p. 11 (Edom); and cf. Schrader, C.O.T. i. 137; K.A.T. (3rd ed.), p. 472 foll. See also Beiträge, pp. 13-15; K.A.T. (3rd ed.), pp. 469-472.
- Z.D.M.G. (1886). It is impossible to discuss the other theories of the origin of this name. See Driver, Commentary on Genesis, excursus i. pp. 404-406.
- The Tell el-Amarna despatches are crowded with evidences of Canaanite forms and idioms impressed on the Babylonian language of these cuneiform documents. Ilāni here simply corresponds to the Canaanite Elōhīm. See opening of the letters of Abimelech of Tyre, Bezold’s Oriental Diplomacy, Nos. 28, 29, 30.
- “Magic and Social Relations” in Sociological Papers, ii. 160.
- See Kautzsch, “Religion of Israel,” in Hastings’s Dict. of the Bible, extra vol., p. 614.
- See Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie, pp. 152, 297 foll. (1st ed.).
- The theory was opposed by Nöldeke, 1886 (Z.D.M.G. p. 157 foll.), as well as Wellhausen, and since then by Jacobs and Zapletal. (Der Totemismus u. die Religion Israels). See Stanley A. Cook, “Israel and Totemism,” in J.Q.R. (April, 1902).
- These sacred arks were carried in procession accompanied by symbolic figures. We note in this connexion the form of a sacred bark represented in Meyer’s Hist. of Egypt (Oncken series), p. 257, viz. the procession carrying the sacred ark and the bark of the god Amōn belonging to the reign of Rameses II. (Lepsius, Denkmäler, iii. 189b). See also Birch, Egypt (S.P.C.K.), p. 151 (ark of Khonsu); cf. Jeremias, Das A.T. im Lichte des alten Orients (2nd ed.), pp. 436-441.
- Cf. Zimmern in Z.D.M.G. (1904), pp. 199 foll., 458 foll. This view is based on Dr Pinches’s discovered list in which Sapatti is called the 15th day (Proc. of the Soc. of Biblical Arch., p. 51 foll.). See A. Jeremias, Das A. T. im Lichte des alten Orients (2nd ed.), pp. 182-187. Marti, in his stimulating work Religion des A.T., pp. 5, 72, advocates the exclusive reference of the word Sabbath to the full moon until the time of Ezekiel on the basis of Meinhold’s arguments in Sabbat u. Woche im A.T. The latter regards Ezekiel as the organizer of the Jewish community and the originator of the sanctity of the Sabbath as a seventh day (Ezek. xlvi. 1; cf. Ezek. xx. 12, 13, 16, 20, 24, xxii. 8, 26, xxiii. 38, in which the reproaches for the profanation or neglect of the Sabbath in no way sustain Meinhold’s view). In opposition to Meinhold, see Lotz in P.R.E. (3rd ed., art. “Sabbath,” vol. xvii. pp. 286-289). To this Meinhold replies in Z.A.T.W. (1909), p. 81 f. Cf. also Hehn, Siebenzahl und Sabbat. While admitting that a special significance may have been attached in pre-exilian times to the full-moon Sabbath, and that the latter may have been specially intended in the combination “new moon and Sabbath” in the 8th-century prophets (Hos. ii. 13; Amos viii. 5; Isa. i. 13), we are not prepared to deny that the institution of a seventh-day Sabbath was an ancient pre-exilian tradition. The sacredness of the number seven is based on the seven planetary deities to whom each day of the week was respectively dedicated, i.e. was astral in origin. Cf. C.O.T. i. 18 foll., and Winckler, Religionsgeschichtlicher u. geschichtlicher Orient, p. 39. See also K.A.T. (3rd ed.), pp. 620-626. In the Old Testament the sanctity of the number seven is clearly fundamental (e.g. in the Nif’al form nišba’, “to swear,” in the derivative subst. for “oath,” in Beēr-sheba’, &c.). The seventh day of rest was parallel to the seventh year of release and of the fallow field. It is, therefore, impossible to detach Ex. xxiii. 12 from Ex. xxi. 2. xxiii. 10 foll.; cf. Ex. xxxiv. 21. We therefore hold that the law of the seventh-day Sabbath goes back to the Mosaic age. The general coincidence of the Sabbath or seventh day with the easily recognized first quarter and full moon established its sacred character as lunar as well as planetary.
- The tablet is neo-Babylonian and published by Dr Pinches in the Transactions of the Victoria Institute, and is cited by Professor Fried. Delitzsch in the notes appended to his first lecture Babel u. Bibel (5th German ed., p. 81 ad fin. and p. 82). On this subject of Babylonian influence over Israel see Jeremias, Monotheistische Strömungen innerhalb der babylonischen Religion, and E. Baentsch, Altorientalischer u. israelitischer Monotheismus. The text and rendering of the passage are doubtful in the cuneiform letter discovered by Sellin in Taʽannek (biblical Taʽanach, near Megiddo) addressed by Aḥi-jawi (? Aḥijah) to Ishtar-wasur, in which the following remarkable phrases are read: “May the Lord of the gods protect thy life. . . . Above thy head is one who is above the towns. See now whether he will show thee good. When he reveals his face, then will they be put to shame and the victory will be complete.” The letter appears to belong to about 1400 B.C. See A. Jeremias, Das A.T. im Lichte des alten Orients (2nd ed.), pp. 315, 316, 323. Sellin, Ertrag der Ausgrabungen im Orient.
- The allusion in Amos ii. 7; Hos. iv. 13, 14 is sufficiently explicit; cf. Jer. ii. 20-23, iii. 6-11, v. 7, 8. The practice is prohibited in Deut. xxiii. 17.
- Column i. 15, 16, 42, 43, ii. 128, iii. 30, 31, iv. 47, 48, &c. Probably we should regard them as differentiated hypostases.
- Hence the ʽAshtārōth or offspring of flocks in Deut. vii. 13, xxviii. 18. A like function belonged to the Babylonian Ishtar. See “Descent of Ishtar to Hades,” Rev. lines 6-10, where universal non-intercourse of sexes follows Ishtar’s departure from earth to Hades.
- Proleg. Gesch. Israels (2nd ed.), p. 240 foll., cf. p. 258.
- Internat. Crit. Commentary, Judges, Introd. p. xxx., also p. 367 foll.
- לוא “priest,” לואת “priestess”; see Hommel, Süd-arabische Chrestomathie, p. 127; Ancient Hebrew Tradition, p. 278 foll.
- Moore regards this verse as belonging to the J or older document, op. cit. p. 367.
- Similarly in ancient Greece. See the instructive passage in Aristotle, Nic. Eth. viii. 9 (4, 5), on the relation of Greek sacrifices and festivals to κοινωνίαι and politics: αἱ γὰρ ἀρχαῖαι θυσίαι καὶ σύνοδοι φαίνονται γίγνεσθαι μετὰ τὰς τῶν καρπῶν συγκομιδὰς οἷον ἀπαρχαί; cf. Grote on Pan-Hellenic festivals, History of Greece, vol. iii., ch. 28.
- Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums (2nd ed.), p. 89.
- Though this be an interpolated gloss (Thenius, Budde), it states a significant truth as Kautzsch clearly shows, op. cit. p. 672. In Micah iii. 7 the ḥōzeh is mentioned in a sense analogous to the rō’ēh or “seer,” and coupled with the qōsēm or “soothsayer,” viz. as spurious; cf. Deut. xviii. 10.
- No better derivation is forthcoming of the word nabhi’, “prophet,” than that it is a Kāṭīl form of the root nābā = Assyr. nabū, “speak.”
- In Isa. iii. 2 the soothsayer is placed on a level with the judge, prophet and elder.
- Kautzsch, in his profoundly learned article on the “Religion of Israel,” to which frequent reference has been made, exhibits (pp. 669-671) an excess of scepticism, in our opinion, towards the views propounded by Gunkel in 1895 (Schöpfung und Chaos) respecting the intimate connexion between the early Hebrew cosmogonic ideas and those of Babylonia. Stade indeed (Z.A.T.W., 1903, pp. 176-178) maintained that the conception of Yahweh as creator of the world could not have arisen till after the middle of the 8th century as the result of prophetic teaching, and that it was not till the time of Ezekiel that Babylonian conceptions entered the world of Hebrew thought in any fulness. Such a theory appears to ignore the remarkable results of archaeology since 1887. At that time Stade’s position might have appeared reasonable. It was the conclusion to which Wellhausen’s brilliant literary analysis, when not supplemented by the discoveries at Tell el-Amarna and Tell el-Hesi, appeared to many scholars (by no means all) inevitably to conduct us. But the years 1887 to 1891 opened many eyes to the fact that the Hebrews lived their life on the great highways of intercourse between Egypt on the one hand, and Babylonia, Assyria and the N. Palestinian states on the other, and that they could scarcely have escaped the all-pervading Babylonian influences of 2000–1400 B.C. It is now becoming clearer every day, especially since the discovery of the laws of Khammurabi, that, if we are to think sanely about Hebrew history before as well as after the exile, we can only think of Israel as part of the great complex of Semitic and especially Canaanite humanity that lived its life in western Asia between 2000 and 600 B.C.; and that while the Hebrew race maintained by the aid of prophetism its own individual and exalted place, it was not less susceptible then, than it has been since, to the moulding influences of great adjacent civilizations and ideas. Cf. C. H. W. Johns in Interpreter, pp. 300-304 (in April 1906), on prophetism in Babylonia.
- There is some danger in too strictly construing the language of the prophets and also the psalmists. It is not to be supposed that either Amos or Isaiah would have countenanced the total suppression of all sacrificial observance. It was the existing ceremonial observance divorced from the ethical piety that they denounced. The speech of prophecy is poetical and rhetorical, not strictly defined and logical like that of a modern essayist. See Moore in Encyc. Bibl., “Sacrifice,” col. 4222.
- Viz. Budde in Die so-genannten Ebed-Jahweh Lieder u. die Bedeutung des Knechtes Jahwehs in Jes. xl.-lv. (Giessen, 1900); Karl Marti in his well-known commentary on Isaiah, and F. Giesebrecht, Der Knecht Jahwes des Deuterojesaja. The special servant-songs which Duhm asserts can be readily detached from the texture of the Deutero-Isaiah without disturbance to its integrity are Isa. xlii. 1-4, xlix. 1-6, l. 4-9, lii. 13-liii. 12.
- We have here followed Dillmann’s construction of a difficult passage which Duhm attempts to simplify by omission of the complicating clause without altering the general sense.
- Thus in comparison with the “book of the covenant,” Deuteronomy adds the stipulation in reference to the release of the slave; that his master was to provide him liberally from his flocks, his corn and his wine (Deut. xv. 13, 14). See Hastings’s D.B., arts. “Servant,” “Slave,” p. 464, where other examples may be found. In war fruit-trees are to be spared (Deut. xx. 19 foll.), whereas the old universal practice is the barbarous custom Elisha commended (2 Kings iii. 19) of ruthlessly destroying them.
- Driver, Internat. Commentary on Deuteronomy, Introd. p. xxx.
- It should be noted that in P (Code of Holiness) Lev. xvii. 15 foll. the resident alien (gēr) is placed on an equality with the Jew.
- We shall have to note the emergence of the doctrine of the resurrection of the righteous in later Judaism, which is obviously a fresh contribution of permanent value to Hebrew doctrine. On the other hand, the doctrine of pre-existence is speculative rather than religious, and applies to institutions rather than persons.
- The legislative portions are mainly comprised in Ex. xxxv.-end, Leviticus entire and Num. i.-x.
- But this term (literally the chief priest) was already in use during the regal period to designate the head priest of an important sanctuary such as Jerusalem (2 Kings xii. 11).
- Cf. the Phoenician parallel of “Face of Baal,” worshipped as Tanit, “queen of Heaven” (Bäthgen, Beiträge zur Semit. Religionsgeschichte, p. 55 foll.); also the place Penuel (face of God).
- Deut. xxxii. 17; Ps. cvi. 37. Baal Zebūb of the Philistine Ekron became the Beelzebub who was equivalent to Satan.