Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/622
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
the other hand, the numbering of the people not only proceeds without the slightest evil resulting therefrom, but at the express command of God himself.
In the book of Deuteronomy the service of Jehovah is said to consist mainly in the practice' of righteousness, in works of kindness toward our fellows, in sincere and holy love toward the Deity, who is represented as the merciful father of all his human children. 2 Sam. xxi., a famine comes upon the land of Israel. The anger of Jehovah is kindled against the people. To appease him, David offers sacrifice human sacrifice. The seven sons of Saul are slain, and their bodies kept exposed on the hill, "in the sight of Jehovah," and the horrid offering is accepted, and the divine wrath is thereby pacified. Truly, in the age of David, the Hebrews were far, far removed from that high state of culture in which the ideal conception of religion that pervades Deuteronomy became possible. And long after, when centuries had gone by and the kingdom of Judah was already approaching its dissolution, the direful practices of David's reign still survived, and the root of idolatry had not been plucked from the heart of the people. Still do we hear of human sacrifice perpetrated in the midst of Jerusalem, and steeds and chariots dedicated to the sun-god, and images of the Phallus, and all the abominations of sensual worship, filled the very Temple of Jehovah.
But in the mean time a new force had entered the current of Hebrew history. The conviction that one God, and he an all-just, almighty being, rules the destinies of Israel, began to take root. In the eighth century b. c. authentic records prove that monotheism, as a form of religious belief, obtained, at least among the more illustrious members of the prophetic order. We have elsewhere attempted to trace the causes which led to the rise of monotheism at this particular epoch, and shall do no more than briefly allude to them here.When the mountaineers of Southern Palestine, after centuries of protracted struggle, had secured the safe possession of individual homes, the endearments of domestic life were invested with a sanctity in their eyes never before known. The attachment of the Hebrew toward his offspring was intensified; his devotion to the wife of his bosom became purer and more enduring. Now, the prevailing forms of Semitic religion outraged these feelings at every point. The gods of the surrounding nations were gods of pleasure and of pain; and in their worship the stern practices of fanatic asceticism alternated with the wildest orgies of sensual enjoyment. The worship of Baal Moloch demanded the sacrifice of children; that of the lascivious Baaltis in-
- It is important to note that the seven sons of Saul were sacrificed in the beginning of the barley-harvest. This circumstance seems to throw light on the primitive mode of celebrating the Passover. That the rite of human sacrifice was originally connected with this festival is generally acknowledged. Vide, e. g., Exod. xiii., 2. By such offerings it was intended, no doubt, to secure the favor of the god during the continuance of the harvest.