Delitzsch on the Pentateuch - Part 2

Translated From Manuscript Notes

Samuel Ives Curtiss, D. D.,

Professor in Chicago Theological Seminary

Taken from THE HEBREW STUDENT April, 1882. Vol. 1, Issue 2

§ 8. Oral Transmission.

The precursors of antique literature, especially in the Orient, are spoken words, widen pass from mouth to mouth before they are committed to writing. Lamech's praise of the sword (Gen. iv. 208q.) and other antediluvian words cannot be regarded as precursors of Hebrew literature, because the Hebrew language first arose after the flood. But the predictions of Isaac concerning Jacob and Esau (Gen. xxvii), and of Jacob concerning his sons as ancestors of the twelve tribes (Gen. xlix), were spoken in the language of Canaan, which Abraham and his family had there adopted; and, since the memory of Orientals accomplishes wonders, these predictions can have been transmitted in their original form. We consider this probability as a reality, since they are neither in themselves necessarily prophecies after the event, nor do they indicate that they are such through their contents. Also the song in Num. xxi. 27-30 is such a fragment, which has been handed down by tradition, and which Israel received from the mouth of Amoritic poets (moshlim), when they conquered the territory of the Amoritic king of Sihon, to whose kingdom the Moabitic land, extending northward from Arnon to Heshbon, belonged at that time. The fact that the thirtieth verse, where the Amorites are unquestionably the speakers, cannot now be clearly understood is favorable to the antiquity and originality of this document. It is as follows :—

27. “Come to Heshbon, Sihon's city will be built and fortified;

28. “For fire has gone forth from Heshbon, a fianie from Sihon's castle.

     “Has consumed Ar of Moab, the inhabitants of the heights of Arnon.

29. “Woe to thee, Moab! Thou art lost, people of Kemosh.

     “He has yielded up his sons as fugitives, and his daughters in captivity,—

     “Namely to the king of Sihon.

30. “We have cast thee down (?) Heshbon was lost unto Dibon,

     “And have wasted them, so that fire was kindled unto Medeba.”¯

We may also conjecture that the Canaanites (Phoenicians) wrote at that time; for from Abraham until the entrance into the promised land, according to the Biblical reckoning, at least five hundred years passed away, but Canaanitic written monuments of so great an age and also direct testimonies concerning the use of writing at that time are wanting

Remark 1. The consecutive imperfects in the Amoritic song need not surprise us, since even the inscription of king Mesha contains four such imperfects, e.g. ואץש. We explain וֵנִּירָם according to  Ex. xv. 4, and וַנּשּׁים according to Jer. xlix. 20. The word אֲשֶׁרׁ has a point over the resh and is  translated by the Septuagint and Samaritan version as “fire.”¯ The phrase נָפַח שֵשׁ signifies to blow up a fire (Ezek. xxii. 2.). Jeremiah (xlviv. 4:5sq.) blends reminiscences from this song and from the sayings of Balaam. The assumption of Edward Meyer in Stade's Zeitschrift, Giessen, 1881, that this song relates to the conflict of the northern kingdom with Moab, and hence is misunderstood in the Pentateuch, is a specimen of the violent hypotheses of that critic.

Remark 2. The Canaanitic name of the city קִרְיַת סֵפֶר (Josh. xv. 15), and קִרְיַת סַנָּה (Josh. xv. 49), both old names of the later Judean דְּבִיר would seem to indicate literature and tradition (sunna); but neither is this interpretation certain, nor does the Babylonian Sippara, where it is related that Xisuthros concealed the sacred books of the Chaldeans, unmistakably signify the city of books. It is called in the Bible Sepharvaim, because it was a double city (Sippar and Akkad) on both sides of the most northern Babylonian canal outside of the district which was annually overflowed.

§ 9. The Egyptian School.

Literature first begins when the family has expanded into a people, and when the people has attained that stage of development, where it has a great past behind it, and a great future before it. Hence we can first expect beginnings of Israelitish literature during the sojourn in Egypt, but we know little concerning this period. The Pentateuch hastens over these four centuries (Gen. xv. 13.; Ex. xii. 4b., compare Acts vii. 6), or two centuries (Gen. xii. 40 in the Septuagint, compare Gal. iii. 17) to the history of the Exodus, which followed under Menephtes, the son of Ramses II. of the nineteenth dynasty (1314 B. C.), long after the dominion of the Hyksos had come to an end through the conquest of their citadel Avaris (Pelusium). But it is evident from Josh, xxix, 14; Ezek. xx,  that Israel had become worldly and Egyptianized in Egypt. The more, however, Israel then blended with Egypt, the deeper the civilization of Egypt must have worked upon it. God ordered it so that Egypt became for Israel a worldly preparatory school for the life and literature of his future people. No people of antiquity was so well adapted for this purpose, who in a secular way became for the human race, what Israel in a spiritual way was to become for them. Even their literary activity must have become powerfully excited there, since Herodotus, Historia, ii. 82, says: “No Egyptian omits to record exactly rare and remarkable events;”¯ and when under the Pharaohs of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties national science and art unfolded their highest splendors, and not only heroic poems like those of the court poet Pentaur concerning the victory of Ramses II. over Cheta, but also romances and legends were written, the beginning of an Israelitish literature in the age of the exodus by no means comes too soon.

Remark 1. There is a reference in 1 Chron. iv. 18 to the Egyptian period according to which Mered, besides a Jewess, had a daughter of Pharaoh Bitiah as his wife. On the contrary the time, when the predatory excursion of the Ephraimites against Gath (1 Chron. vii. 20-23, cf. viii. 13) occurred, is uncertain.

Remark 2. Respecting the poem of Pentaur compare Lenormant, Anfœnge der Cultur, vol. 1, p. 195sq., and in the same work the romance concerning the two brothers, p. 249sq., and a pregnant legend in Brugsch's articles which he has entitled, Aus dem Orient. Compare also Lincke, Beitrœge zur Kenntniss der Ęgyptischen Briefliteratur., Leipzig, 1879.

Remark 3. According to the preceding section, the collection of heroic songs which is cited in Num. xxi. 13sq., The Book of the Wars of Jehovah., can be an antique book. It is the Jehovist who cites it there. The citation is designed to show that at the time of the entrance into the promised land the Arnon formed the boundary of Moab against the Amorites. It sounds antique, highly poetic, and is partly a riddle for us: “Wahheb in Supha and the brooks, Arnon, and the valley of the brooks, which stretches thither, where Ar lies and leans on the boundary of Moab.”¯

§ 10. Legitimate Expectations.

Pentateuch criticism is bound to consider the following points :

1. The history of Israel does not begin on the basis of an ignorant, rough, undisciplined horde. It begins with the transition of a race to a nation, after it has been matured in the midst of the richest means and examples of civilization.

2. This people, which was in process of development, doubtless possessed traditions concerning its ancestors, who had removed from Chaldea and Aramęa over Canaan to Egypt, reminiscences of the experiences of the patriarchs and especially of their religious life. Through these the people, although the mass had become Egyptianized, could be brought to recall the religious knowledge and destiny which had been granted them since Abraham.

3. However late the histories of the patriarchs may have been written down, yet the roots of these histories reach back until the time of the residence in Canaan. But' the man in whom the national and divine consciousness, which was reawakened toward the end of the sojourn in Egypt, was combined and culminated, was not only, as an Israelite, a man of deep religious character and of high talents, but also, as the adopted son of a daughter of Pharaoh, perhaps of Bath-Antah, a favorite daughter of Ramses IL, he was educated at the court, and intitiated into the mysteries of the priestly caste, which was next in dignity to royalty itself (Ex. ii, 10; Acts vii. 22). Pentateuch criticism should consider this last point so as not to have too light an estimate of Moses' participation in codifying the law contained in the Pentateuch, especially when it appears that in related and antithetic traits the law indicates the Egyptian father-land of its mediator. For God Himself, whose plan of salvation is accomplished in the history of the world, prepared the way for the Sinaitic legislation, through the residence of Israel in Egypt. The influence of the legality and manifoldness of the Egyptian life with its constitutional kingdom, priesthood and prophetic office is of great importance for the proper estimate of the Mosaic Tora.

Remark 1. A reawakened national and divine consciousness finds utterance in many proper names in the time of the Exodus. The following names are examples of the reawakened recognition of God: ֻץזִּיאֵל my strength is God (Ex. vi. 18); מִישָׁאֵל who is that which God is? (Ex. vi. 22), compare מִיכָאֵל who is like God? צוּרִישַדַּי my rock is the Almighty (Num. iv. 1, 6); פְּדָהצוּר the Rock [i. e. God] redeems Num. i. 10). The following names indicate a reawakened national consciousness: עֵמִּינָדָב my people is renown (Num. i. 10); עֵמִּישַׁדַּי people of the Almighty (Num. 1 .12).  The proper names in the sixth chapter of Exodus and in Num. i, ii, vii, x are a significant mirror of contemporaneous history. The name of Moses' father עֵמְרָם an exalted people (Ex. vi. 18; Num. iii. 27), and of his mother יוׁכֶכֶד Jehovah is glory,  are indications of the great thoughts which filled Moses' soul, and which made him the liberator of his people.

Remark 2. Two Egyptologists believe that they have found Moses in the Egyptian documents. Eisenlohr, Professor in Heidelberg: Der grosse Parpyrm Harris, ein wichtiger Beitrag zur ęgyptischen Geschichte, ein 3000 Jahre altes Zeugniss fur die mosaische Religionsstiftung enthaltend. The great papyrus Harris, an important contribution to Egyptian history, containing a witness three thousand years old, for the Mosaic establishment of religion;” and Lautli, Professor in Munich : Moses der Ebrœer nach zwei œgyptiachen Papyrmurkunden, “Moses the Hebrew, according to two Egyptian papyrus documents.”¯ But both are deceived; and if it were not so, historical knowledge would gain nothing from these Egyptian narratives.

Remark 3. Wellhausen thinks that the ark of the covenant was originally a warlike sanctuary, a kind of oriflamme; but it rather resembles the sacred chests of the Egyptians. The breatplate (השׁן) of the high-priest with the Urim and Tliummim resembles the image of the goddess of truth, which the chief judge wore fastened to a golden chain on his breast.1 It is also worthy of remark that the detailed leper's Tora in Leviticus agrees with the fact, that the Egyptians regarded the exodus as the banishment of the lepers. Leprosy was accordingly an endemial disease of the Israelites, as in general of the Egyptian Shemites.

§ 11. The Postulate of a Mosaic Tora.

Without prejudging at all in regard to the contents and form we only presuppose in general, that a Mosaic Tora lies at the foundation of the Pentateuch, and that this Mosaic Tora consists of more than the ten words of the Decalogue; and we maintain that the history and literature of the post- Mosaic age demands the existence of such a Mosaic Tora. Nor are we to infer that it did not exist from the fact, that the national life of Israel, with the exception of a few brighter intervals, shows the want of the normative influence of such a Tora. The one fundamental dogma of the Tora was without doubt the unity of God and the worship of him without an image; and yet Israel in all the periods of its pre-exilie history was never entirely free from the worship of idols and images, and the masses were usually sunken therein. If the essence of the religion of Israel is ethical monotheism, as Kuenen maintains, the constant opposition of the natural character of Israel against it shows, that this ethical monotheism was not the result of a natural development, but was the demand of a documentary revelation, which presented an ideal, whose realization indeed suffered shipwreck on the natural heathen propensities of the people, but which always made its divine authority effectual when it was brought to light. Even the bright side of the pre-exilic history demands the existence of a divine Tora going back to Moses' mediatorship. The arrangements of David and Solomon, the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah have it as their basis. The sacrosanct authority of the prophets, and the oneness of Spirit in the Judean and Israelitic prophets are incomprehensible without the radical unity of one documentary foundation laid by God. And the same is true of the Psalms for which David certainly had an epoch-making significance. The Tora which David praises in Ps. XIX must be a documentary mandate of God, indicating how man shall act according to his will. It must have had a fixed form, for David speaks of it as something well known, and the series of synonyms: the Tora, testimony, statutes, command, fear and judgments of Jehovah testify to the richness of its contents. Riehm in opposition to Hupfeld, who discovers in his praise of the law, a later age, refers to Ps. xviii. 23, 24, 31. It is apparent that the religiousness which finds expression in the Psalms is not first a fruit of the prophecy of the eighth century, from the fact, that even the oldest psalmody casts aside the bonds of the ceremonial, spiritualizing it as symbol, and depreciating its external observance (Ps. iv. 6; xxvii. 6).

Remark. The postulate of a Mosaic Tora is confirmed in the post-Mosaic literature by unquestionable testimonies:

1. The song of Deborah (Judg v. 4sq.) celebrates the divine revelation on Sinai as having taken place under wonderful natural phenomena; and also Micah, who names Aaron and Miriam as leaders of Israel from the Egyptian house of bondage (vi. 4) testifies (vii. 15) that the accomplishment of this redemptive act was accompanied by miracles, which are to find their antitype in the final period.

2. Hosea says (xii. 14): “Through a prophet Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt, and through a prophet he tended them.”¯ This prophet (נביא) is Moses. But nabi indicates one who stands in prayerful intercourse with God, and who through such communion with him becomes the mediator of divine revelations for others. It is presupposed in Jer. xv. 1, that Moses was mighty in prayer.

3. Both Amos (ii. 10) and the Babylonian Isaiah (lxii. 10sq.) unite in testifying, that at that time, when Israel became free under -Moses, the Holy Spirit manifested himself in the midst of the people,—compare Num. xi. 23-xii. 13, according to which a rich prophetic life was dominant in the time of Moses. The prophets therefore testify sufficiently, that at that time the indelible character of Israel's nationality was stamped upon the people, and that too by Moses who was the Prophet par excellence. Hence we must presuppose that there was a Mosaic basis to the pentateuchal code. It must be granted however, that the form and extent of this Mosaic Tora cannot be determined from the prophetic literature. The relation of the apostolic epistles to the gospels resembles the relation of the prophets to the Pentateuch.

§ 12. The Arrangement of the Five Books.

Before we ask what parts of the Pentateuch claim to be immediately Mosaic, and can be regarded as such, let us attempt to take a survey of the contents and plan of the Pentateuch.

The First Book begins with the creation of the world. The Tora has no corresponding end; for its five, primeval toledoth are the foundation of the redemptive history in general. On the other hand, Abram's call and entrance into Canaan (xii. 1-9) is the first step in the establishment of a people of redemptive history; and the five patriarchal toledoth tend toward this goal, since here the line of the covenant is continued, with the branching-off of the side lines, until finally in Jacob's twelve sons the ancestry is in existence, which is transplanted to Egypt in order to ripen there to the people of the twelve tribes.

In the Second Book until xii. 36, Egypt is the theatre of the history. The song of thanksgiving at the deliverance (xv. 1-21) forms the dividing-line between the exodus and the wandering in the wilderness. Under God's miraculous and gracious leadings Israel reaches Sinai (xv. 22-xviii). Moses ascends Mount Sinai twice and receives the fundamental laws (xix-xxiv) and ordinances respecting the preparation of the sacred things (xxv- xxxi). Here the youngest and the oldest elements in the legislation come dosely together. After Moses has again obtained mercy of the Lord for his apostate people (xxxii-xxxiv), the sacred vessels are prepared and Jehovah's dwelling is set up (xxxv-xl2). This took place on the first day of the first month of the second year.

The Third Book contains throughout regulations and events from the course of the first month just mentioned. After the sacrificial Tora (i-vii) we have the continuation (viii-x) of the history begun in Ex. xl. 17 interrupted by the catastrophe of Na- dab and Abihu. With the laws respecting food (xi) a series of laws begins concerning pure and impure and cleansing, which end in the ritual of the day of atonement (xi-xvi). The following laws are in themselves a connected series (xvii-xix), but without coming in a premeditated order; and the final laws of the Sinaitic legislation (xxi-xxvii), relating mostly to divine service and sacred seasons, do not even form an entirely homogeneous series. The insertion of a continuation of the penal code (xviii- xx) between the cycle of yearly festivals and that of the epoch-festivals is best explained, if we may suppose that the written laws lie before us in the order in which they were first promulgated. The address of promise and threatening (xxvi. 3sq.), which has quite a peculiar style, forms the peroration of the code beginning with chapter xvii. The series of laws, which follow, concerning voluntary and obligatory consecrations by vows (xxvii) turns the face of Leviticus, so to speak, toward Numbers.

The Fourth Book transports us from the first month of the second year to the beginning of the second month of this year. It commences (i-x) with the preparations for breaking up, but this compact whole, closing with the signal-words of Moses, is interrupted by intervening legal portions, which are inserted at the points where temporal relations call them forth. There follow Divine manifestations of mercy and judgment in the second year (xi-xiv), and laws for the time of the future citizenship in Canaan (xv). We then read in chronological order the history of Korah's rebellion (xvi- xviii). In view of the great field of corpses the law concerning the red heifer does not occur unexpectedly (xix). But without any previous warning chapter xx springs from the second year into the fortieth. Now after thirty-eight years the Israelites find themselves a second time at the fatal Kadesh-Barnea. This train of sorrowful occurrences (xx) is followed by those which are more encouraging (xxi), especially by the frustration of Balaam's curse (xxii-xxiv); but this curse which was transformed into a blessing is frustrated by Israel's sin (xxv). A second census of the people is taken in the plains of Moab (xxvi). A question of the daughters of Zelophehad is the occasion of the daughter's law of inheritance (xxvii. 1-11). After Moses in view of his approaching death has indicated the man who is to lead the people into Canaan (xxviii. 12sq.), there follows the completion of the sacrificial Tora with reference to a richer ritual for the people who are on the point of settling in Canaan (xxviii-xxix). Also the law of the second year concerning vows is supplemented by new enactments (xxx). Moses takes vengeance on the Midianites, and this war is the occasion of laws concerning booty and the rights of war (xxxi). Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh receive their promised possession on the east side of the Jordan (xxxii). Moses registers the stations. The boundaries of the laud are sketched, and its division among the tribes is arranged (xxxiv). The cities of the Levites, and the cities of refuge are set off (xxxv), and the book closes with a supplementary law which limits the marriage of the daughters of Zelophehad within the tribe (xxxvi).

The Fifth Book contains addresses and regulations by Moses from the first days of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, and hence stands chronologically in the right place. But it can be taken out of the framework of the Pentateuch without disturbing it. For in Deut. xxxii. 48 the history of Israel proceeds in the style of Numbers. The divine command given to Moses to ascend the Neboof the Abarim range of mountains in order to die there, is repeated. The history is continued until the death of Moses and is closed there. Even here it is apparent that the Pentateuch falls into unhomogeneous parts in its composition, and we shall next fix our attention on those which are derived from Moses not only as their intellectual author, but also as their writer.


1) Didorus i. 75.

2) These chapters contain the account of the completion of the Sanctuary.