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A CRITICAL ENQUIRY INTO THE HISTORY OF
ACCOUNT OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR PROPHETS
ENQUIRY INTO THE PROPHECIES RELATING TO JESUS.
Howeven slightly we cast our eyes over the history of the Jews, such as it is transmitted in their sacred hooks, we are forced to acknowledge, that this people were at all times the blindest, the most stupid, the most credulous, the most superstitious, and the silliest that ever appeared on the earth. Moses, by dint of miracles, or delusions, succeeded in subjugating the Israelites.* After having liberated them from
* Justin Martyr informs us, that Moses was the grandson of a great magician, who communicated to bim all his art. Maneton and Chereman, Egyptian historians, respecting whom testimonies have been transmitted by Joseph the Jew, state that a multitude of lepers were driven out of Egypt by king Amenophis ; and that these exiles elected for their leader a priest of Heliopolis, whose name was Moses, who formed før them a religion and a code of laws. Joseph. contra Appion, lib. i. c. 9, 11, 12-Diodorus Siculus also relates the history of Moses; vide translation of Abbe Tanasson.--From the Bible itself it appears, that Moses began his career by assassinating an Egyptian, who was quarrelling with a Hebrew after which he fled into Arabia, and married the daughter of an idolatrous priest, by whom he was often reproached for his cruelty. Thence he returned into Egypt, aad placed himself at the head of his nation, which was dissatisfied with King Pbaroab. Moses reigned very tyrannically. The examples of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, show to what kind of people he had an aversion. He at last disappeared like Romulus, no one being able to find his hody, nor the place of his sepulture. The author of The Three Impostors, a translation of which we understand is preparing for the press, states that Moses concealed himself in a cave, or pit, which he had found in his solitude, where he retired from time to time, under pretence of holding conference with his God; and which he had for a long time destined for his grave, in order that the people, not finding his body, might persuade themselves it had been carried to heaven.
the iron rod of the Egyptians, he put tliem under his
This celebrated legislator had evidently no other intention than to subject the Hebrews for ever to his purposes, and, after himself, to render them the slaves of his family and tribe. It is indeed obvious, that the Mosaical economy had no other object than to deliver up the people of Israel to the tyranny and extortions of priests and Levites. These the law, which was promulgated in name of the Eternal, authorised to devour the rest of the nation, and crush them under an insupportable yoke. The chosen people of God were, in short, destined solely to be the prey of the priesthood; to satiate their avarice and ambition; and to become the instrument and victim of their passions.
Hence, by the law and policy of the priests, the people of God were kept in a profound ignorance; in an abject superstition ; in an unsocial and savage gion.*
aversion for the rest of mankind; in an inveterate hatred of other forms of worship; and in a barbarous and sanguinary intolerance towards every foreign reli
All the neighbours of the Hebrews were, therefore, their enemies. If the holy nation was the object of the love of the Most High, it was an object of contempt and horror to all those who had occasion to know it. For this it was indebted to its religious institutions; to the labours of its priests; to its diviviners, and its prophets, who continually profited by its credulity, in displaying wonders, and kindling its delia rium.t
Under the guidance of Moses, and of generals or judges whd governed them afterwards, the Jewish peo
* Josephus informs us that the surrounding nations considered the Jews “the most stupid of barbarians, and that they had never invented any thing useful to man.” Joseph. C. Appion, lib. 2. See also the work entitled Opinions des Anciens sur les Juifs, by Mirabaud. Yet there are men of letters blind enough to maintain, that the Greeks borrowed a great number of philosophical and theological ideas from the Jews!
+ The art of prophecying was then an actual profession, and no doubt a useful and profitable branch of commerce in that miserable nation, which believed God to be constantly busy in their affairs. St. Jerome says, that the Sadducees rejected the prophets, contenting themselves with believing the five books attributed to Moses. Dodwell, de jure laicorum, asserts, that the prophets prepared themselves to prophecy by drinking wine. Vide p. 259. We actually find Isaiah complaining that “ the priests and the prophets have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up with wine ; they are out of the way through strong drink ; they err in vision; they stumble in judg. ment,” chap. xxviii. 7. It seems they were jugglers, poets, and musicians, who had made themselves masters of their trades, and knew how to exercise them profitably, and live comforta ably.
ple distinguished themselves only by massacres, unjust wars, cruelties, usurpations, and infamies, which were enjoined them in the name of the Eternal.* Weary of the government of their priests, which drew on them pothing but misfortunes and bloody defeats, the descendants of Abraham demanded kings;t but, under these, the state was perpetually torn with disputes between the priesthood and the government. Superstition aimed always at ruling over policy. Prophets and priests pretended to reign over kings, of whom such as were not sufficiently submissive to the interpreters of heaven, were renounced by the Lord; and, from that time, unacknowledged and opposed by their own subjects. Fanatics and impostors, absolute masters of the understandings of their nation, were continually ready to rouse it, and excite in its bosom the most ter
* Proud of the protection of Jehovah, the Hebrews marched forth to victory. Heaven authorised them to commit knavery and cruelty. Religion, united to avidity, rendered them deaf to the cries of nature; and, uoder the conduct of inhuman chiefs, they destroyed the Canaanitish nations with a barbarily at which every man must revolt, whose reason is not annihilated by superstition. Their fury destroyed every thing, even infants at the breast, in' those cities whither these inonsters carried their victorious arms. By the commands of their God, or his prophets, good faith was violated, justice outraged, and the most unbeard of cruelties, exercised.--Boulanger. .' box
. It appears that the Lord seldom or' ever made a person a king for his goodness, or foreknew how he would turn out. He first of all chose Saul, one would think for his tallness; and he soon repented of that, then David seemed to be chosen for his fresh colour and courage; and the Lord was so fond of him as to promise him on oath, that he would fix the crown on his seed for ever ; yet only a sixth part of the promise remained to his grandson; and ever since the captivity, all the promise has been forgot.--P. Anet.
rible revolutions. It was the intrigues of the prophets, that deprived Saul of his crown, and bestowed it on David, the man according to God's own heart—that is to say, devoted to the will of the priests.* It was the prophets, who, to punish the defection of Solomon in the person of his son, occasioned the separation of the kingdoms of Judea and Israel. It was the prophets who kept these two kingdoms continually at variance; weakened them by means of each other; desolated them by religious and fatal wars ;; conducted them to : complete ruin; a total dispersion of their inhabitants; and a long captivity among the Assyrians.
So many calamities did not, however, open the eyes of the Jews, who were obstinate in refusing to acknow. ledge the true source of their misfortunes. Restored to their homes by the bounty of Cyrus, they were again governed by priests and prophets, whose maxims ren dered them turbulent, and drew on them the hatred of sovereigns who subdued them. The Greek princes treated with the greatest severity a people whom the
* The prophet Samuel, displeased with Saul, who refused to second his cruelly, declared that he had forfeited the crown, and raised up a rival to him in the person of David. Elias the prophet appears to have been a seditious subject, who, finding himself unable to succeed in his rebellious designs, thought proper to escape deserved punishment by flight. Jeremiah him. self gives us to understand, that he conspired with the Assyrians against his besieged country. He seems to have employed him self in depriving his fellow citizens, of both the will and the courage to defend themselves. He purchased a field of his re, lations, at the very time when he informed his countrymen that they were about to be dispersed, and led away
into captivity. The king of Assyria recommended this prophet to his general Nabuzaradan, whom he commanded to take great care of him.--See Jeremiah.