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Title: Bible Romances - First Series
Author: Foote, G. W. (George William), 1850-1915
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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First Series

By G. W. Foote


     LOT'S WIFE.




The Book of Genesis is generally thought, as Professor Huxley says, to
contain the beginning and the end of sound science. The mythology of the
Jews is held to be a divine revelation of the early history of man, and
of the cosmic changes preparatory to his creation. The masses of the
people in every Christian country are taught in their childhood that God
created the universe, including this earth with all its flora and fauna,
in five days; that he created man, "the bright consummate flower" of
his work, on the sixth day, and rested on the seventh. Yet every student
knows this conception to be utterly false; every man of science rejects
it as absurd; and even the clergy themselves mostly disbelieve it Why,
then, do they not disabuse the popular mind, and preach what they deem
true instead of what they know to be false? The answer is very simple.
Because they feel that the doctrine of the Fall is bound up with the
Genesaic account of Creation, and that if the latter be discredited the
former will not long be retained. The doctrine of the Fall being the
foundation of the scheme of Atonement, the clergy will never admit the
Creation Story to be mythical until they are forced to do so by external
pressure. At any rate they cannot be expected to proclaim its falsity,
since by so doing they would destroy the main prop of their power. What
the recognised teachers of religion will not do, however, should not
be left undone, especially when it is so needful and important. Men of
science, by teaching positive and indisputable truths, are gradually
but surely revolutionising the world of thought, and dethroning the
priesthoods of mystery and superstition. Yet their influence on the
masses is indirect, and they do not often trouble themselves to show the
contradiction between their discoveries and what is preached from the
pulpit. Perhaps they are right. But it is also right that others should
appeal to the people in the name not only of science, but also of
scholarship and common sense, and show them the incredible absurdity of
much that the clergy are handsomely paid to preach as the veritable and
infallible Word of God.

The Creation Story, with which the Book of Genesis opens, is incoherent,
discrepant, and intrinsically absurd, as we shall attempt to show. It is
also discordant with the plainest truths of Science. Let us examine it,
after casting aside all prejudice and predilection.

If the universe, including this earth and its principal inhabitant, man,
was created in six days, it follows that less than six thousand years
ago chaos reigned throughout nature. This, however, is clearly untrue.
Our earth has revolved round its central sun for numberless millions of
years. Geology proves also that million years have elapsed since
organic existence first appeared on the earth's surface, and this world
became the theatre of life and death. Darwin speaks of the known history
of the world as "of a length quite incomprehensible by us," yet even
that he affirms "will hereafter be recognised as a mere fragment of
time" com-pared with the vast periods which Biology will demand. The
instructed members of the Church have long recognised these-statements
as substantially true, and they have tried to reconcile them with
Scripture by assuming that the word which in the History of Creation is
rendered _day_ really means a _period_, that is an elastic space of time
which may be expanded or contracted to suit all requirements. But there
are two fatal objections to this assumption. In the first place, the
same word is rendered _day_ in the fourth commandment, and if it
means period in Genesis it means period in Exodus. In that case we are
commanded to work six periods and rest on the seventh, and each period
must cover a geological epoch. How pleasant for those who happen to be
born in the seventh period, how unpleasant for those born in one of the
six! The lives of the one class all work, those of the other all play!
In the second place, the account of each day's creation concludes with
the refrain "and the evening and the morning were the first (or
other) day." Now evening and morning are terms which mark the luminous
gradations between night and day, and these phenomena, like night
and day, depend on the earth's revolving on its axis and presenting
different portions of its surface to the sun. Evening and morning
clearly imply a space of twenty-four hours, and the writer of Genesis,
whoever he was, would probably be surprised at any other interpretation
of his words. It is sometimes argued, as for instance by Dr. M'Caul,
that these primeval days were of vast and unknown duration, the evening
and the morning not being dependent on their present causes. But this
supposition could only apply to the first three days, for the sun, moon,
and stars were created on the fourth day, expressly "to rule over the
day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness." The
fifth and sixth days, at least, must be understood as of normal length,
and thus the chronological difficulties remain. All animal life was
brought into existence on the last two days, and therefore the Bible
still allows an antiquity of less than six thousand years for the
world's fauna. Geology and Biology allow millions of years. Here then
Science and the Bible are in flagrant and irreconcilable contradiction.

The fact that the writer of Genesis represents light as existing three
days before the creation of the sun, the source of light, has frequently
been noticed. One learned commentator supposed that God had infused a
certain "luminosity" through the air, which was not exactly the same
as the light of the sun. But light is not a _thing_; it is a phenomenon
caused by definite laws of astronomy and optics. Such explanations are
but fanciful refuges of superstition. "God said let there be light and
there was light," is not the language of science and history, but the
language of poetry. As such it is sublime. We find a similar expression
in the Vedas of the Hindoos: "He thought, I will create worlds, and they
were there!" Both become ridiculous when presented to us as a scientific
statement The physical astronomer knows how worlds are formed, as well
as how their movements are determined; he knows also the causes of
light; and he knows that none of these processes resembles the accounts
given in the Creation Stories of the Hebrews and the Hindoos.

Science knows nothing of six creative epochs, any more than of six
creative days; and it is quite certain that the order of Creation given
in Genesis differs widely from the revelations of Geology. For instance
(and one instance in such a case is as good as a thousand), fish and
fowl are said to have been created on the same day. Let us, for the sake
of argument, assume that day means period. The conclusion still is that
fish and fowl were created together. Starting from this conclusion, what
should we expect to find in our geological researches? Why, the fossil
remains of fish and of fowl in the same epochs. But we find nothing of
the kind. Marine animals antedate the carboniferous period, during which
all our coal deposits were laid, but no remains of fowl are found until
a later period. Now the carboniferious period alone, according to Sir
William Thompson, covers many millions of years; so that instead of fish
and fowl being contemporaneous, we find them geologically separated by
inconceivable spaces of time. Here again the Bible and Science fatally

Even if we admit that the fifth day of creation was a _period_, the
chronology of the Bible is still fatally at variance with fact
With respect to the antiquity of the human race, it is precise and
unmistakable. It gives us the age of Adam at his death, and the ages of
the other antediluvian patriarchs. From the Flood the genealogies are
carefully recorded, until we enter the historic period, after which
there is not much room for dispute. From the creation of Adam to
the birth of Christ, the Bible allows about four thousand years. The
antiquity of the human race, therefore, according to Scripture, is less
than six thousand years. Science, however, proves that this is but a
fragment of the vast period during which man has inhabited the earth.
There was a civilisation in Egypt thousands of years before the alleged
creation of Adam. The Cushite civilisation was even more ancient
Archaeology shows us traces of man's presence, in a ruder state, long
before that. The researches of Mr. Pengelly in Kent's Cavern prove that
cave-men lived there more than two-hundred thousand years ago; while
geological investigations in the Valley of the Somme have established
the fact that primitive men existed there in the tertiary period.
Professor Draper writes:--"So far as investigations have gone, they
indisputably-refer the existence of man to a date remote from us by
many hundreds of thousands of years. It must be borne in mind that
these investigations are quite recent, and confined to a very limited
geographical space. No researches have yet been made in those regions
which might reasonably be regarded as the primitive habitat of man.
We are thus carried back immeasurably beyond the six thousand years of
Patristic chronology. It is difficult to assign a shorter date for the
last glaciation of Europe than a quarter of a million of years, and
_human existence antedates that_. The chronology of the Bible is thus
altogether obsolete."

The idea of a seven-days' creation was not confined to the Jews: it
was shared by the Persians and Etruscans. The division of the year into
months and weeks is a general, although not a universal practice. The
ancient Egyptians observed a ten-days' week, but the seven-days' week
was well known to them. The naming of the days of the week after the
seven Planets was noted by Dion Cassius as originally an Egyptian
custom, which spread from Egypt into the Roman Empire. The Brahmins of
India also distinguish the days of the week by the planetary names. This
division of time was purely astronomical. The Jews kept the Feast of
the New Moon, and other of their ceremonies were determined by lunar and
solar phenomena. We may be sure that the myth of a seven-days' creation
followed and did not precede the regular observance of that period.

There is one feature of the Hebrew story of creation which shows how
anthropomorphic they were. The Persians represent Ormuzd as keeping high
festival with his angels on the seventh day, after creating all things
in six. But the Hebrews represent Jehovah as _resting_ on the seventh
day, as though the arduous labors of creation had completely exhausted
his energies. Fancy _Omnipotence_ requiring rest to recruit its
strength! The Bible, and especially in its earlier parts, is grossly
anthropomorphic. It exhibits God as conversing with men, sharing their
repasts, and helping them to slaughter their foes. It represents him as
visible to human eyes, and in one instance as giving Moses a back view
of his person. Yet these childish fancies are still thrust upon as
divine truths, which if we disbelieve we shall be eternally damned!

Let us now examine the Creation Story internally. In the first place
we find two distinct records, the one occupying the whole of the first
chapter of Genesis and the first three verses of the second, at which
point the other commences. These two records belong to different periods
of Jewish history. The older one is the Elohistic, so called because the
creator is designated by the plural term _Elohim_, which in our version
is translated _God_. The more modern one is the Jehovistic, in which
Elohim is combined with the singular term _Jehovah_, translated in
our-version _the Lord God_. The Elohistic and Jehovistic accounts both
relate the creation of man, but instead of agreeing they widely differ.
The former makes God create man in his own image; the latter does not
even allude to this important circumstance. The former represents man as
created male and female at the outset; the latter represents the male
as created first, and the female for a special reason afterwards. In
the former God enjoins the primal pair to "be fruitful and multiply and
replenish the earth;" in the latter there is no such injunction, but on
the contrary, the bringing forth of children in sorrow is imposed upon
the woman as a punishment for her sin, and she does not appear to have
borne any offspring until after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Lastly, the Elohistic record makes no mention of this Paradise, in
which, according to the Jehovistic record, the drama of the Fall was
enacted, but represents man as immediately commissioned to subdue
and populate the world. Such discrepancies are enough to stagger the
blindest credulity.

We now proceed to examine the Jehovistic account of Creation in detail.
We read that the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, the
Hebrew word for which is _adamah_. The word Adam means "be red," and
_adamah_ may be referred to the red soil of Palestine. Kalisch also
observes that man may have been originally called Adam on account of the
red color of his skin. The Chinese represent man as kneaded of _yellow_
earth, and the _red_ Indians of _red_ clay. The belief that man was
formed of earth was not confined to the Jews, but has been almost
universal, and undoubtedly arose from the fact that our bodies after
death return to the earth and resolve into the elements. The Lord God
placed this forlorn first man in the Garden of Eden with the command to
till it, and permission to eat of the fruit of all its trees except "the
tree of knowledge of good and evil." How Adam trespassed and fell, and
brought a curse upon himself and all his innocent posterity, we shall
consider in another pamphlet. The story of the Fall is infinitely
curious and diverting, and must be treated separately.

Adam's first exploit, after he had taken a good look round him, was very
marvellous. All the cattle and beasts of the field and fowl of the air
were brought before him to be named, and "whatsover Adam called every
living creature, that was the name thereof." This first Zoological
Dictionary is unfortunately lost, or we should be able to call every
animal by its right name, which would doubtless gratify them as well as
ourselves. The fishes and insects were not included in this primitive
nomenclature, so the loss of the Dictionary does not concern them.

The Lord made the animals pass before Adam seemingly with the
expectation that he would choose a partner from amongst them. Nothing,
however, struck his fancy. If he had fallen in love with a female
gorilla or ourang-outang, what a difference it would have made in the
world's history!

After this wonderful exploit "the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon
Adam," who surely must have been tired enough to fall into a good sound
natural sleep, without a heavenly narcotic. While in this state one of
his ribs was extracted for a purpose we shall presently refer to, and
which he discovered when he awoke. This curious surgical operation
involves a dilemma. If Adam was upright after it, he must have been
lopsided before; if he was upright before it, he must have been lopsided
after. In either case the poor man was very scurvily treated.

It has been maintained that God provided Adam with another rib in place
of the one extracted. But this is a mere conjecture. Besides, if the
Lord had a spare rib in stock he might have made a woman of it, without
cutting poor Adam open and making a _pre mortem_ examination of his

The divine operator's purpose was a good one, whatever we may think of
his means. He had discovered, what Omniscience would have foreknown,
that it was not good for man to be alone, and had resolved to make him a
help-meet. Adam's "spare rib" was the raw material of which his wife
was manufactured. The Greenlanders believed that the first woman was
fashioned out of the man's _thumb_. The woman was brought to Adam, who
said--"This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." Not a word
did he say about "soul of my soul." Perhaps he suspected she had none,
and with some truth, if we go no further than our English version. When
the Lord God made man, he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of
life, and man became a living soul," but apparently no such operation
was performed on Eve. Indeed, it is very difficult to prove from the
Bible that woman has a soul at all. Women should reflect on this. They
should also reflect on the invidious fact that they were not included
in the original scheme of things, but thrown in as a make-weight
afterwards. Let them ponder this a while, and the churches and chapels
in which this story is taught would soon be emptied. The majority of
those who occupy seats in such places wear bonnets, and most of those
who don't, go there for the sake of those who do.

When Adam had thus accosted his bride he grew prophetical. "Therefore,"
said he, "shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave
unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." In his desire to give the
institution of marriage the highest sanction, the writer of this story
perpetrated a gross anachronism. Adam had no parents, nor any
experience of marriage. Unless, therefore, we credit him with superhuman
prescience, it is absurd to make him talk in this way.

Eve's name, no less than Adam's, betrays the mythological character of
the story. It means the "mother of all," and was evidently applied to
her by the Jewish writers in order to signify her supposed relationship
to the human race.

While God was engaged in the work of creation, why did he not make two
human couples, instead of one? The arrangement he adopted involved the
propagation of the human species through incest Adam and Eve's sons must
have had children by their sisters. If two couples had been created,
their families might have intermarried, and mankind would not then have
sprang from the incestuous intercourse of the very first generation.
Surely omnipotence might have obviated the necessity of a crime against
which civilised consciences revolt with unspeakable disgust.

Adam and Eve were placed by God in the Garden of Eden. "Eden," says
Kalisch, "comprised that tract of land where the Euphrates and Tigris
separate; from that spot the 'garden in Eden' cannot be distant. Let it
suffice that we know its general position." Its exact position can never
be ascertained. What a pity it is that Noah did not occupy some of his
leisure time, during the centuries he lived after his exit from the ark,
in writing a typography of the antediluvian world! The Greeks placed
Paradise in the Islands of the Blessed, beyond the Pillars of Hercules
in the western main. The Swede, Rudbeck, asserts that Paradise was in
Scandinavia; some Russian writers supposed it to have been in Siberia;
and the German writers, Hasse and Schulz, on the coast of Prussia.
Eastern traditions place it in Ceylon, and regard the mountain of Rahoun
as the spot where Adam was buried. Some old Christian writers hazarded
the theory that Paradise was beyond the earth altogether, on the other
side of the ocean which they conceived to encircle it, and that Noah
was conveyed to our planet by the deluge. Kalisch gives a long list of
ancient and modern authorities on the subject, who differ widely from
each other as to the actual position of Eden, their only point of
agreement being that it was _somewhere_.

The Creation Story of the Bible cannot be considered as anything but a
Hebrew myth. Scholars have abundantly shown the absurdity of supposing
that Moses wrote it. Doubtless, as a piece of traditional mythology, it
is very ancient, but it cannot be traced back in its present literary
form beyond the Babylonish captivity. Men of science without exception
disbelieve it, not only with regard to the world in general, but also
with regard to the human race. In his famous article on "The Method and
Results of Ethnology," Professor Huxley made this declaration:--"There
are those who represent the most numerous, respectable, and would-be
orthodox of the public, and who may be called 'Adamites,' pure and
simple. They believe that Adam was made out of earth somewhere in Asia,
about six thousand years ago; that Eve was modelled from one of his
ribs; and that the progeny of these two having been reduced to the eight
persons who landed on the summit of Mount Ararat after an universal
deluge, all the nations of the earth have proceeded from these last,
have migrated to their present localities, and have become converted
into negroes, Australians, Mongolians, etc., within that time.
Five-sixths of the public are taught this Adamitic Monogenism as if
it were an established truth, and believe it. I do not; and I am not
acquainted with any man of science, or duly instructed person, who
does." The clergy, then, who go on teaching this old Creation Story as
true, are either unduly instructed or dishonest, ignorant or fraudulent,
blind guides or base deceivers. It is not for us to determine to which
class any priest or preacher belongs: let the conscience of each, as
assuredly it will, decide that for himself. But ignorant or dishonest,
we affirm, is every one of them who still teaches the Creation Story as
a record of actual facts, or as anything but a Hebrew myth.

The origin of the human race is far different from that recorded in
Genesis. Man has undoubtedly been developed from a lower form of life.
The rude remains of primitive men show that they were vastly inferior to
the present civilised inhabitants of the world, and even inferior to
the lowest savages with whom we are now acquainted. Their physical and
mental condition was not far removed from that of the higher apes; and
the general opinion of biologists is that they were descended from
the Old World branch of the great Simian family. There is, indeed, no
_absolute_ proof of this, nor is it probable that there ever will be, as
the fossil links between primitive man and his Simian progenitor,
if they exist at all, are most likely buried in that sunken continent
over which roll the waters of the South Pacific Ocean. But as the line
of natural development can be carried back so far without break, there
is no reason why it should not be carried farther. The evolution theory
is now almost universally accepted by men of science, and few of them
suppose that man can be exempted from the general laws of biology. At
any rate, the Bible account of Creation is thoroughly exploded, and when
that is gone there is nothing to hinder our complete acceptance of the
only theory of man's origin which is consistent with the facts of his
history, and explains the peculiarities of his physical structure.




The Bible story of the Deluge is at once the biggest and the most
ridiculous in the whole volume. Any person who reads it with the eyes of
common sense, and some slight knowledge of science, must admit that it
is altogether incredible and absurd, and that the book which contains it
cannot be the Word of God.

About 1,656 years after God created Adam, and placed him in the garden
of Eden, the world had become populous and extremely wicked; indeed,
every thought and imagination of man's heart was evil continually. What
was the cause of all this wickedness we are not informed; but we are
told that the sons of God took unto them wives of the daughters of men
because they were fair, and we are led to suppose that these matches
produced giants and other incurably wicked offspring. No physiological
reason is assigned for this Strange result, nor perhaps was there any
present to the mind of the writer, who probably had witnessed unhappy
marriages in his own family, and was anxious to warn his readers,
however vaguely, against allowing their daughters to be inveigled into
matrimonial bonds with pious sniffling fellows, who professed themselves
peculiarly the children of their Father in heaven. However, the
narrative is clear as to the fact itself: men had all gone irrecoverably
astray, and God had repented that he ever made them. In such a case
an earthly human father would naturally have attempted to improve his
family; but the Almighty Father either was too indifferent to do so, or
was too well aware of the impossibility of reforming his own wretched
offspring; and therefore he determined to drown them all at one fell
swoop, just as cat-loving old ladies dispose of a too numerous and
embarrassing feline progeny. Bethinking him, however, God resolved to
save alive one family to perpetuate the race: he was willing to give his
creatures another chance, and then, if they persisted in going the wrong
way, it would still be easy to drown the lot of them again, and that
without any reservation. He had also resolved at first to destroy every
living thing from off the face of the earth; but he afterwards decided
to spare from destruction two of every species of unclean beasts, male
and female, and fourteen, male and female, of all clean beasts and of
all fowls of the air and of every creeping thing. Noah, his wife, his
three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and their wives (eight persons in
all), were the only human beings to be preserved from the terrible fate
of drowning.

Noah was commanded by God to build an ark for the reception-of the
precious living freight, the dimensions of which were to be, in English
measure, 550 _feet long_, 93 _feet wide_, _and 55 feet deep_. Into this
floating box they all got; the flood then came and covered the earth,
and all besides were drowned.

Now this is a very strange, a very startling story; it seems more like
a chapter from the "Arabian Nights" or the "Adventures of Baron
Munchausen" than from the sacred Scriptures of any Religion. Carnal
reason prompts us to ask many questions about it.

1. How did Noah contrive to bring these beasts, birds, and insects all
together in one spot? The task seems superhuman. Some species could be
found only in very remote places--the kangaroo only in Australia, the
sloth only in South America, the polar bear only in the Arctic regions.
How could Noah, in those days of difficult locomotion, have journeyed in
search of these across broad rivers, and over continents and oceans?
Did he bring them singly to his dwelling-place in Asia, or did he travel
hither and thither with his menagerie, and finish the collection before
returning home? There are, according to Hugh Miller, 1,658 known species
of mammalia, 6,266 of birds, 642 of reptiles, and 550,000 of insects;
how _could_ one man, or a hundred men, have collected specimens of these
in those days, and in such & brief space of time? The beasts, clean and
unclean, male and female, might be got together by means of terrible
exertion; but surely to assemble the birds and reptiles and insects must
transcend human capacity. Some of the last class would of course not
require much seeking; they visit us whether we desire their company or
not; and the difficulty would not be how to get them into the ark, but
how on earth to keep them out. Others, however, would give infinite
trouble. Fancy Noah occupied in a _wild-goose_ chase, or selecting
specimens from a wasps' or hornets' nest, or giving assiduous chase to a
vigilant and elusive bluebottle fly!

But suppose Noah to have succeeded in his arduous enterprise, the
question still remains, how did he keep his wonderful zoological
collection alive? Some of them could live only in certain latitudes; the
inhabitants of cold climates would melt away amidst the torrid heat of
Central Asia. Then, again, there are some insects that live only a few
hours, and some that live a few days at the utmost: what means were
adopted for preserving these? Some animals, too, do not pair, but run
in herds; many species of fish swim in shoals; sometimes males and
sometimes females predominate, as in the case of deer, where one male
heads and appropriates a whole herd of females, or in the case of bees,
where many males are devoted to the queen of the hive. These could
not have gone in pairs, or lived in pairs; their instincts pointed
to another method of grouping. How did Noah provide for _their_ due
preservation? When these questions are answered others speedily arise;
in fact, there is no end to the difficulties of this marvellous story.

2. Whence and how did Noah procure the food for his huge menagerie?
That he was obliged to do so, that the animals were not miraculously
preserved without food, we are certain; for he was expressly commanded
by God to gather food for himself and for them. "Take thou unto thee,"
it was said to him, "of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather
it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them." What
provision was made for the _carnivorous_ animals, for lions, tigers,
vultures, kites, and hawks? Some of these would require not simply meat,
but _fresh_ meat, which could not be provided for them unless superfluous
animals were taken into the ark to be killed, or Noah had learned the
art of potting flesh. Otters would require fish, chameleons flies,
woodpeckers grubs, night-hawks moths, and humming-birds the honey of
flowers. What vast quantities of water also would be consumed! In
fact, the task of collecting food to last all the inmates of the ark,
including the eight human beings, for more than a year, must have been
greater even than that of bringing them together in the first place from
every zone. The labors of Hercules were mere trifles compared with those
of Noah. Poor old patriarch! He amply earned _his_ salvation. Had he
been possessed of one tithe of Jacob's cunning and business sagacity, he
would have struck a better bargain with God, and have got into the ark
on somewhat easier terms. Few men would have undertaken so much to gain
so little.

3. How were all the animals, with their food, got into the ark? The
dimensions as given in the Bible would be insufficient to accommodate a
tithe of them; the ark could not have contained them all, if they were
packed together like herrings or sardines. Even if they were so packed,
space would still be required for their food; and for what a vast
quantity! An animal even with man's moderate appetite would consume in
the course of twelve months solid matter to the extent of four or five
times its own weight, and some animals are of course far more voracious.
This difficulty as to stowing the animals and their food into the ark is
quite insuperable; it is not to be obviated by any employment of
miraculous intervention. Not even omnipotence can make a clock strike
less than one, and God himself must fail to make two things occupy the
same space at the same time.

4. How where the inmates of this floating menagerie, supposing them got
in, supplied with fresh air? According to the Bible narrative the ark
was furnished with but one window of a cubit square, and one door
which was shut by God himself, and it may be presumed, quite securely
fastened. Talk about the Black-hole of Calcutta, why it was nothing to
this! What a scramble there must have been for that solitary window
and a mouthful of fresh air! Lions, tigers, jackals, hyaenas,
boa-constrictors, kangaroos, eagles, owls, bees, wasps, bluebottles,
with Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and their wives, all in one fierce
melee. But the contention for the precious vital air must, however
violent, have soon subsided: fifteen minutes would have settled them
all. Yet curiously enough the choking animals-suffered no appreciable
injury; by some occult means they were all preserved from harm; which
furnishes another illustration of the mysterious ways of God. What
powerful perfumes, too, must have arisen from all those animals! So
powerful indeed that even the rancid flavor of foxes and skunks must
have been undistinguishable from the blended scents of all their fellow
passengers. Those who have visited Wombwell's menagerie, or stood in
the monkey-house of the Zoological Gardens, doubtless retain a lively
recollection of olfactory disgust, even although in those places the
must scrupulous cleanliness is observed; but their experience of such
smells would have been totally eclipsed if they could but for a moment
have stood within Noah's ark amidst all its heterogeneous denizens.
However the patriarch and his sons managed to cleanse this worse than
Augean stable passes all understanding. And then what trampings they
must have had up and down those flights of stairs communicating with the
three storeys of the ark, in order to cast all the filth out of that one
window. No wonder their children afterwards began to build a tower of
Babel to reach unto heaven; it was quite natural that they should desire
plenty of steps, to mount, so as to gratify fully the itch of climbing
they had inherited from their parents.

5. Where did all the water come from? According to the Bible story the
waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days, and covered
all the high hills and mountains under the whole heaven. Now mount
Ararat itself, on which the Ark eventually rested, is seventeen thousand
feet high, and the utmost peaks of Himalaya are nearly twice as high
as that; and to cover the whole earth with water to such a tremendous
height would require an immense quantity of water; in fact, about eight
times as much as is contained in all the rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans
of our globe. Whence did all this water come? The Scripture explanation
is sadly insufficient; the fountains of the great deep were broken up,
and the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth
for forty days and forty nights. The writer evidently thought that there
were great fountains at the bottom of the sea, capable of supplying
water in unlimited quantities from some central reservoir; but science
knows nothing whatever about them; nay, science tells us that the
internal reservoir, if there be one, must contain not water, but liquid
fire. If _this_ great reservoir poured its contents into the sea, the
result would be similar to that frightful catastrophe imagined by the
Yankee who wished to see Niagara Falls pour into Mount Vesuvius.

The supply from that quarter thus failing, we are forced back upon the
rain which descended from the windows of heaven, wherever they may be.
It rained forty days and forty nights. Forty days and forty nights!
Why forty million days and nights of rain would not have sufficed. The
writer was evidently in total ignorance of the laws of hydrology. The
rain which falls from the clouds originally comes from the waters of the
earth, being absorbed into the atmosphere by the process of evaporation.
The utmost quantity of water that can thus be held in suspense
throughout the entire atmosphere is very small; in fact, if
precipitated, it would only cover the ground to the depth of about
five inches. After the first precipitation of rain, the process of
evaporation would have to be repeated; that is, for every additional
descent of rain a proportionate quantity of water would have to be
extracted from the rivers, lakes, and seas below. Now, surely every sane
man must perceive that this pretty juggle could not add one single drop
to the previously existing amount of water, any more than a man could
make himself rich by taking money out of one pocket and putting it into
another. The fabled man who is reported to have occupied himself with
dipping up water from one side of a boat and emptying it over on the
other, hoping thereby to bale the ocean dry, must have been the real
author of this story of Noah and his wonderful ark.

Some Christian writers, such as Dr. Pye Smith, Dr. Barry, and Hugh
Miller, have contended that the author of the book of Genesis is
describing not a universal but a partial deluge; not a flood which
submerged the whole earth, out one that merely covered some particular
part of the great Central Asian plains. But surely, apart from any
consideration pertaining to the very emphatic language of the text,
rational men must perceive that the difficulty is not obviated by this
explanation, but rather increased. How could the waters ascend in one
place to the height of seventeen thousand feet (the height of Mount
Ararat) without overflowing the adjacent districts, and, indeed, the
whole earth, in conformity to the law of gravitation? Delitzch is bold
enough to assert that the flood of water was ejected with such force
from the fountains beneath that it assumed quite naturally a conical
shape. But then, even supposing that this explication were anything
but sheer silliness, which it is not, how would the learned commentator
account for the water retaining its conical shape for months after the
force of upheaval had expended itself? These explanations are entirely
fanciful and groundless. The language of the narrative is sufficiently
explicit "And _all_ flesh died that moved upon the earth;" "all in
whose nostrils was the breath of life;" "and every living substance
was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground;" and "Noah _only_
remained alive and they that were with him in the ark." Such are the
precise unmistakeable words of Scripture, which no sophistry can explain
away. But even if the contention for a partial deluge could be made
good, the fundamental difficulties would still remain. As Colenso
observes, the flood, "whether it be regarded as a _universal_ or a
_partial_ deluge, is equally incredible and impossible."

Geology absolutely contradicts the possibility of any such catastrophe
as the deluge within the historic period. According to Sir Charles
Lyell, no devastating flood could have passed over the forest zone of
Ætna during the last twelve thousand years; and the volcanic cones of
Auvergne, which enclose in their ashes the remains of extinct animals,
and present an outline as perfect as that of Ætna, are deemed older
still. Kalisch forcibly presents this aspect of the question: "Geology
teaches the impossibility of a universal deluge since the last six
thousand years, but does not exclude a partial destruction of the
earth's surface within that period. The Biblical text, on the other
hand, demands the supposition of a universal deluge, and absolutely
excludes a partial flood."

6. What became of all the fish? In such a deluge the rivers and seas
must have mingled their waters, and this, in conjunction with the
terrific outpour from the windows of heaven, must have made the water
brackish, too salt for fresh-water fish, and too fresh for salt-water
fish; and consequently the aquatic animals must all have perished,
unless, indeed, they were miraculously preserved--a contingency which
anyone is free to conjecture, out no one is at liberty to assert, seeing
that the inspired writer never even hints such a possibility. Now there
is no evidence whatever that Noah took and _fish_ with him into the ark;
under natural circumstances they must have perished outside; yet the
seas and rivers still teem with life. When did the new creation of fish
take place?

7. What became of all the vegetation? Every particle of it must
have rotted during such a long submergence. But even if mysteriously
preserved from natural decay, it must still have been compressed into a
mere pulp by the terrific weight of the super-incumbent water. Colenso
estimates that the pressure of a column of water 17,000 feet high would
be 474 tons upon each square foot of surface--a pressure which nothing
could have resisted. Yet, wonderful to relate, just prior to the resting
of the ark on Mount Ararat, the dove sent out therefrom returned with
an olive leaf in her mouth _just pluckt off_. A fitting climax to this
wonderful story.

Finally the story relates how the ark rested on the top of Mount Ararat,
whence its inmates descended to the plains below, which were then quite
dry. Mount Ararat towers aloft three thousand feet above the region of
eternal snow. How the poor animals, aye, even the polar bear, must have
shivered! And what a curious sight it must have been to witness their
descent from such a height Often have I speculated on the probable way
in which the elephant got down, and after much careful thought I have
concluded thus: either he had waxed so fat with being fed so long on
miraculous food that he rolled pleasantly down like a ball, with no
other injury than a few scratches; or he had become so very, very thin
with living simply on expectations, in default of more substantial
fare, that he gently floated down by virtue of levity, like a descending

And then what journeys some of the poor animals would have to make; the
kangaroo back to Australia, the sloth to South America, the polar bear
to the extreme north. How they lived on the road to their ultimate
destinations the Lord only knows. There was no food for them; the deluge
had destroyed all vegetation for the herbiverous animals, all flesh for
the carniverous. Not even a nibble was left for the sheep.

As for poor Noah, the first thing recorded of him after his watery
expedition is that he drank heavily of wine and got into a state of
beastly inebriation. And who can wonder that he did so? The poor old man
had floated about on oceans of water for more than a year, and probably
he was heartily sick of his watery prospect. The astonishing thing is
that he did not get water on the brain. It was quite natural that
he should swill deep potations of some stronger fluid on the first
available opportunity. Surely he had water enough during that twelve
months to last a lifetime; enough to justify his never touching the
wretched fluid again.

While Noah was dead drunk, his second son. Ham, saw "the nakedness
of his father," and reported the fact to his two brethren, who took a
garment and, walking backwards so that they might not see, covered
the patriarch's nudity. On recovering from his drunken stupor, Noah
discovered "what his younger son had done unto him," and proceeded at
once to vigorous cursing. Ham was the offender, if there was any offence
at all, which is not very clear; but punishment in the Bible is
generally vicarious, and we read that the irate patriarch cursed Canaan,
the son of Ham, for his father's misdemeanor. Flagitiously unjust as
it is, this proceeding thoroughly accords with Jehovah's treatment
of Adam's posterity after he and Eve had committed their first sin by
eating of the forbidden fruit.

Before Noah got drunk he had received from God the assurance that the
world should never more be destroyed by a flood. As a perpetual sign of
this covenant the rainbow was set in the heavens. But the rainbow
must have been a common sight for centuries before. This phenomenon of
refraction is the result of natural causes which operated before
the Flood, as well as after. The earth yielded its fruits for human
sustenance, and therefore rain must have fallen. If rain fell before the
Deluge, as we are bound to conclude, the rainbow must have been then as
now. The usual practice of commentators is to explain this portion
of the narrative by assuming that the rainbow was visible before
the covenant with Noah, but only after the covenant had a special
significance. But, as Colenso observes, the writer of the story
supposes the rainbow was then first set in the clouds, and is evidently
accounting for the _origin_ of this beautiful phenomenon, which might
well appear _super_natural to his uninstructed imagination.

Besides the manifold absurdities of this story there are other aspects
of it even more startling. What a picture it presents of fiendish
cruelty and atrocious vindictiveness! What an appalling exhibition
of divine malignity! God, the omnipotent and omniscient ruler of the
universe, is represented as harboring and executing the most diabolical
intentions. He ruthlessly exterminates all his children except a favored
few, and includes in his vengeance the lower animals also, although
they were innocent of offence against his laws. Every creature in whose
nostrils was the breath of life, with the exception of those persevered
in the ark, was drowned, and the earth was turned into a vast
slaughter-house. How imagination pictures the terrible scene as the
waters rise higher and higher, and the ravening waves speed after their
prey! Here some wretched being, baffled and hopeless, drops supinely
into the raging flood; there a stronger and stouter heart struggles to
the last. Here selfish ones battling for their own preservation; there
husbands and wives, parents and children, lovers and maidens, affording
mutual aid, or at last, in utter despair, locked in a final embrace and
meeting death together. And when the waters subside, what a sickening
scene presents itself! Those plains, once decked with verdure,
and lovely in the sun and breeze, are covered with the bones of a
slaughtered world. How can the Christian dare to justify such awful
cruelty? The God of the Pentateuch is not a beneficent universal father,
but an almighty fiend.

This story of Noah's Flood is believed still because people never
examine what is taught them as the word of God. Every one who analyses
the story must pronounce it the most extraordinary amalgam of immorality
and absurdity ever palmed off on a credulous world.




Christianity is based upon the story of the Fall. In Adam all sinned, as
in Christ all must be sayed. Saint Paul gives to this doctrine the
high sanction of his name, and we may disregard the puny whipsters of
theology, who, without any claim to inspiration, endeavor to explain the
Genesaic narrative as an allegory rather than a history. If Adam did not
really fall he could not have been cursed for falling, and his posterity
could not have become partakers either in a sin which was never
committed or in a malediction which was never pronounced. Nor can
Original Sin be a true dogma if our first parents did not transmit the
germs of iniquity to their children. If Adam did not fall there was no
need for Christ to save us; if he did not set God and man at variance
there was no need for an atonement; and so the Christian scheme of
salvation would be a _fiasco_ from beginning to end. This will never do.
No Garden of Eden, no Gethsemane! No Fall, no Redemption! No Adam, no

Mother Eve's curiosity was the motive of the first transgression of
God's commandments in the history of the world, and the whole human
race was brought under the risk of eternal perdition because of her
partiality to fruit. Millions of souls now writhe in hell because,
six thousand years ago, she took a bite of an apple. What a tender and
beautiful story! God made her to be Adam's helpmeet. She helped him to
a slice of apple, and that soon helped them both outside Eden. The sour
stuff disagreed with him as it did with her. It has disagreed, with all
their posterity. In fact it was endowed with the marvellous power of
transmitting spiritual stomach-ache through any number of generations.

How do we know that it was an _apple_ and not some other fruit? Why, on
the best authority extant after the Holy Scriptures themselves, namely,
our auxiliary Bible, "Paradise Lost;" in the tenth book whereof Satan
makes the following boast to his infernal peers after his exploit in

             "Him by fraud I have seduced
     From his Creator, and, the more to increase
     Your wonder, with an _apple_."

Yet another authority is the profane author of "Don Juan," who, in the
first stanza of the tenth canto, says of Newton:

     "And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
     Since Adam, with a fall, or with an _apple_."

Milton, being very pious, was probably in the counsel of God. How else
could he have given us an authentic version of the long colloquies that
were carried on in heaven? Byron, being very profane, was probably in
the counsel of Satan. And thus we have the most unimpeachable testimony
of two opposite sources to the fact that it was an _apple_, and not a
rarer fruit, which overcame the virtue of our first parents, and played
the devil with their big family of children.

This apple grew on the Tree of Knowledge, which God planted in the midst
of the Garden of Eden, sternly enjoining Adam and Eve not to eat of its
fruit under pain of death. Now the poor woman knew nothing of death and
could not understand what a dreadful punishment it was; and there was
the fruit dangling before her eyes every hour of the day. Is it any
wonder that she brooded incessantly on the one thing forbidden, that her
woman's curiosity was irresistably piqued by it, and that at last her
longing grew so intense that she exclaimed, "Dear me! I can't refrain
any longer. Let the consequences be what they will, I must have a bite."
God made the woman; he knew her weakness; and he must have known that
the plan he devised to test her obedience was the most certain trap that
could be invented. Jehovah played with poor Eve just as a cat plays with
a mouse. She had free-will, say the theologians. Yes, and so has the
mouse a free run. But the cat knows she can catch it again, and finish
it off when she is tired of playing.

Not only did God allow Eve's curiosity to urge her on to sin, he also
permitted the serpent, "more subtil than any beast of the field," to
supplement its action. This wily creature is popularly supposed to have
been animated on the occasion by the Devil himself; although, as we
shall explain in another _Romance_ entitled "The Bible Devil," the book
of Genesis makes not even the remotest allusion to such a personage.
If, however, the tempter _was_ the Devil, what chance had the poor woman
against his seductive wiles? And even if he was only a serpent, he was
very "subtil" as we are told, and able to talk like a book, and we know
that these creatures have fatal powers of fascination. Surely Mother Eve
was heavily handicapped. God might have given her fair play, and left
her to fight the battle without furnishing auxiliaries to the strong

The serpent, we have said, could converse in human speech. His
conversation and his conduct will be dealt with in the _Romance_ just
referred to. Suffice it here to say that he plainly told the woman that
God was a liar. "He," said the tempter, "has said ye shall surely die if
ye touch the fruit of this tree. Don't believe it. I tell you, ye shall
not surely die." What could poor Eve think? In addition to her native
curiosity here was another incentive to disobedience. Which of these two
spoke the truth? There was only one way of deciding. She stretched forth
her hand, plucked an apple, and began to eat. And immediately, says

     "Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat,
     Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
     That all was lost."

What a rumpus about a trifle! It reminds us of the story of a Jew who
had a sneaking inclination for a certain meat prohibited by his creed.
One day the temptation to partake was too strong; he slipped into a
place of refreshment and ordered some sausages. The weather happened to
be tempestuous, and just as he raised his knife and fork to attack the
savory morsel, a violent clap of thunder nearly frightened him out of
his senses. Gathering courage, he essayed a second time, but another
thunderclap warned him to desist. A third attempt was foiled in the same
way. Whereupon he threw down his knife and fork and made for the door,
exclaiming "What a dreadful fuss about a little bit of pork."

Eve's transgression, according to the learned Lightfoot, occurred "about
_high noone_, the time of eating." The same authority informs us that
she and Adam "did lie comfortlesse, till towards the cool of the day, or
_three o'clock afternoon_." However that may be, it is most certain that
the first woman speedily got the better of the first man. She told him
the apple was nice and he took a bite also. Perhaps he had resolved to
share her fortunes good or bad, and objected to be left alone with his
menagerie. Lightfoot describes the wife as "the weaker vessell," but
a lady friend of ours says that the Devil stormed the citadel first,
knowing well that such a poor outpost as Adam could easily be carried

Having eaten of the fruit, and thus learned to distinguish between good
and evil, Adam and Eve quickly discovered that they were naked. So they
"sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." We are not told
who gave them lessons in sewing. Perhaps they acquired the art through
intuition. But the necessary implements could not have been gained in
that way. Dr. Thomas Burnet, whose mind was greatly exercised by the
astounding wonders of the Bible, very pertinently asked "Whence had
they a needle, whence a thread, on the first day of their creation?"
He, however, could give no answer to the question, nor can we, except we
suppose that some of the female angels had attended a "garden party"
in Eden and carelessly left their needles and thread behind them. Any
reader who is dissatisfied with this explanation must inquire of the
nearest parson, who, as he belongs to a class supposed to know almost
everything, and believed to have access to the oracles of God, will
doubtless be able to reveal the whole gospel truth on the subject.

A little later, God himself, who is everywhere at once, came down from
everywhere to the Garden of Eden, for the purpose of taking a "walk in
the cool of the day." He had perhaps just visited the infernal regions
to see that everything was ready for the reception of the miserable
creatures he meant to damn, or to assure himself that the Devil was
really not at home; and was anxious to cool himself before returning to
his celestial abode, as well as to purify himself from the sulphurous
taint which might else have sent a shudder through all the seraphic
hosts. Apparently he was holding a soliloquy, for Adam and Eve "heard
his voice." Colenso, however, renders this portion of the Romance
differently from our authorised version--"And they heard the sound
of Jehovah-Elohim walking in the garden in the breeze of the day."
Delitzsch thinks they heard the sound of his footsteps, for God used to
visit them in the form of a man! Could the force of folly farther go?
Any devout Theist, who candidly thought over this petty fiction, would
find its gross anthropomorphism inexpressibly shocking.

Knowing that God was everywhere, Adam and Eve nevertheless "hid
themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the
garden." But they were soon dragged forth to the light. Adam, who
seems to have been a silly fellow, explained that he had hidden himself
because he was _naked_, as though the Lord had not seen him in that
state before. "Naked!" said the Lord, "Who told thee that thou wast
naked. Hast thou eaten of that tree, eh?" "O, Lord, yes," replied Adam;
"just a little bit; but it wasn't my fault, _she_ made me do it, O Lord!
O Lord!" Whereupon God, who although he knows everything, even before it
happens, was singularly ill-informed on this occasion, turned fiercely
upon the woman, asking her what she had done. "Oh, if you please,"
whimpered poor Eve, "it _was_ I who took the first bite; but the serpent
beguiled me, and the fault you see is not mine but his. Oh dear! oh
dear!" Then the Lord utterly lost his temper. He cursed the serpent,
cursed the woman, cursed the man, and even cursed the ground beneath
their feet Everything about at the time came in for a share of the
malison. In fact, it was what the Yankees would call a good, all-round,
level swear.

The curse of the serpent is a subject we must reserve for our pamphlet
on "The Bible Devil," The curse of the woman was that she should bring
forth children in pain and sorrow, and that the man should rule over
her. With her present physiological condition, woman must always have
suffered during conception as she now does; and therefore Delitzsch
infers that her structure must have undergone a change, although he
cannot say in what respect He dwells also on the "subjection" of woman,
which "the religion of Revelation" has made by degrees more endurable;
probably forgetting that the Teutonic women of ancient times were
regarded with veneration, long before Christianity originated. Besides,
the subordination of the female is not peculiar to the human race, but
is the general law throughout the animal world.

Adam's curse was less severe. He was doomed to till the ground, and to
earn his bread by the sweat of his face. Most of us would rather take
part in the great strenuous battle of life, than loll about under the
trees in the Garden of Eden, chewing the cud like contemplative cows.
What men have had to complain of in all ages is, not that they have to
earn their living by labour, but that when the sweat of their faces has
been plenteously poured forth the "bread" has too often not accrued to
them as the reward of their industry.

Orthodox Christianity avers that all the posterity of Adam and Eve
necessarily participate in their curse, and the doctrine of Original Sin
is taught from all its pulpits. Only by baptism can the stains of our
native guilt be effaced; and thus the unbaptized, even infants, perish
everlastingly, and hell, to use the words of a Protestant divine, holds
many a babe not a span long. A great Catholic divine says--"Hold thou
most firmly, nor do thou in any respect doubt, that infants, whether
in their mothers' wombs they begin to live and then die, or when, after
their mothers have given birth to them, they pass from this life without
the sacrament of holy baptism, will be punished with the everlasting
punishment of eternal fire." Horror of horrors! These men call sceptics
blasphemers, but they are the real blasphemers when they attribute to
their God such supreme injustice and cruelty. What should we think of
a legislator who proposed that the descendants of all thieves should be
imprisoned, and the descendants of all murderers hung? We should think
that he was bad or mad. Yet this is precisely analogous to the conduct
ascribed to God, who should be infinitely wiser than the wisest man and
infinitely better than the best.

The crime of our first parents was indeed pregnant with the direst
consequences. It not only induced the seeds of original sin, but it also
brought death into the world. Milton sings--

     "Of man's first disobedience,
     And the fruit Of that forbidden tree,
     Whose mortal taste
     _Brought death into the world_."

And Saint Paul (Romans v., 12) writes "As by one man sin came into the
world, and death by sin."

Now this theory implies that before the Fall the inhabited portion
of the world was the scene of perfect peace. Birds lived on seeds and
eschewed worms, and the fierce carniverous animals grazed like oxen. The
lion laid down with the lamb. "Waal," said the Yankee, "I don't doubt
that, but I rayther guess the lamb was _inside_." The fact is that
most of the carnivorous animals could not live on a vegetable drat;
and therefore they must either have subsisted on flesh before the Fall,
which of course involves _death_, or their natures must have undergone
a radical change. The first supposition contradicts scripture, and the
second contradicts science.

Geology shows us that in the very earliest times living creatures died
from the same causes which kill them now. Many were overwhelmed by
floods and volcanoes, or engulphed by earthquakes; many died of old age
or disease, for their bones are found distorted or carious, and their
limbs twisted with pain; while the greater number were devoured,
according to the general law of the struggle for existence. Death ruled
universally before the human race made its appearance on the earth, and
has absolutely nothing to do with Eve and her apple.

Adam and Eve were warned by God that in the day they ate of the fruit of
the Tree of Knowledge they should surely die. The serpent declared this
to be rank nonsense, and the event proved his veracity. What age Eve
attained to the Holy Bible saith not, for it never considers women of
sufficient importance to have their longevities chronicled. But Adam
lived to the remarkably good old age of nine hundred and thirty years.
Like our Charles the Second he took "an unconscionable time a-dying."
One of his descendants, the famous Methusaleh, lived thirty-nine years
longer; while the more famous Melchizedek is not even dead yet, if any
credence is to be placed in the words of holy Saint Paul.

But all these are mere lambs, infants, or chicken, in comparison with
the primeval patriarchs of India. Buckle tells us that, according to the
Hindoos, common men in ancient times lived to the age of 80,000 years,
some dying a little sooner and some a little later. Two of their kings,
Yudhishther and Alarka, reigned respectively 27,000 and 66,000 years.
Both these were cut off in their prime; for some of the early poets
lived to be about half a million; while one king, the most virtuous as
well as the most remarkable of all, was two million years old when he
began to reign, and after reigning 6,800,000 years, he resigned his
empire and lingered on for 100,000 years more. Adam is not in the hunt
with that tough old fellow. On the principle that it is as well to be
hung for a sheep as a lamb, faithful Christians should swallow him as
well as Adam. When the throat of their credulity is once distended
they may as well take in everything that comes. What followed the Curse
clearly shows that man was not originally created immortal. Adam and Eve
were expelled from the Garden of Eden expressly in order that they might
not become so. God "drove them forth" lest they should "take also of the
tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." Many orthodox writers, who
have to maintain the doctrine of our natural immortality, preserve a
discreet silence on this text. Our great Milton, who has so largely
determined the Protestant theology of England, goes right in the face of
Scripture when he makes God say of man,

     "I at first with two fair gifts
     Created him endowed, with happiness
     And _immortality_."

The fact is, the Book of Genesis never once alludes to any such thing,
nor does it represent man as endowed with any other soul than that
"breath of life" given to all animals. It is also certain that the
_ancient_ Jews were entirely ignorant of the doctrine of a life beyond
the grave. The highest promise that Moses is said to have made in the
Decalogue was that their "days should be long in the land." The Jews
were a business people, and they wanted all promises fulfilled on this
side of death.

Nor is there any real _Fall_ implied in this story. God himself says
that "the man," having eaten of the forbidden fruit, "is become as one
of us." That could scarcely be a fall which brought him nearer to God.
Bishop South, indeed, in a very eloquent passage of his sermon on "Man
Created in God's Image," celebrates the inconceivable perfection of
the first man, and concludes by saying that "An Aristotle was but the
rubbish of an Adam, and Athens but the rudiments of Paradise." But a
candid perusal of Genesis obliges us to dissent from this view, Adam and
Eve were a very childish pair. Whatever intellect they possessed
they carefully concealed. Not a scintillation of it has reached us.
Shakespeare and Newton are an infinite improvement on Adam and Eve. One
of the Gnostic sects, who played such havoc with the early Christian
Church, utterly rejected the idea of a Fall. "The Ophites," says Didron,
"considered the God of the Jews not only to be a most wicked but an
unintelligent being.... According to their account, Jalda-baoth,
the wicked demi-god adored by the Jews under the name of Jehovah, was
jealous of man, and wished to prevent the progress of knowledge; but the
serpent, the agent of superior wisdom, came to teach man what course he
ought to pursue, and by what means he might regain the knowledge of good
and evil. The Ophites consequently adored the serpent, and cursed the
true God Jehovah."

Before expelling Adam and Eve from Eden, the Lord took pity on their
nakedness, and apparently seeing that their skill in needle-work did not
go beyond aprons, he "made coats of skins, and clothed them." Jehovah
was thus the first tailor, and the prototype of that imperishable class
of workmen, of whom it was said that it takes nine of them to make a
man. He was also the first butcher and the first tanner, for he must
have slain the animals and dressed their skins.

Lest they should return he "placed at the east of the Garden of Eden
_Cherubims_, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way
of the tree of life." As this guard seems never to have been relieved,
profane wits have speculated whether the Flood drowned them, and
quenched the flaming sword with a great hiss. Ezekiel describes the
Cherubims with characteristic magnificence. These creatures with wings
and wheels were "full of eyes round about." And "everyone had low faces:
the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the
face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face
of an eagle." What monsters! No wonder they effectually frightened poor
Adam and Eve from attempting a re-entrance into the Garden.

Perhaps the reader would like to know what became of the Tree of
Knowledge. One legend of the Middle Ages relates that Eve along with
the forbidden fruit broke off a branch which she carried with her from
Paradise. Planted outside by her hand, it grew to a great tree, under
which Abel was killed; at a later time it was used in building the most
holy place of Solomon's temple; and finally it yielded the beams out of
which the cross was made! Another legend says that, after the Fall,
God rooted out the Tree of Knowledge, and flung it over the wall of
Paradise. A thousand years after it was found by Abraham, none the worse
for its long absence from the soil. He planted it in his garden, and
while doing so he was informed by a voice from heaven that this was the
tree on whose wood the Redeemer should be crucified.

Space does not allow us to dwell at length on the Paradise Myths of
other ancient peoples, which singularly resembled that of the Jews.
Formerly it was alleged that these were all corruptions of the Genesaic
story. But it is now known that most of them date long anterior to the
very existence of the Jewish people. As Kalisch says, "they belonged to
the common traditionary lore of the Asiatic nations." The Bible story of
Paradise is derived almost entirely from the Persian myth. It was after
contact with the reformed religion of Zoroaster, during their captivity,
that the remnant of the Jews who returned to Palestine collated their
ancient literature, and revised it in accordance with their new ideas.
The story of Eve and her Apple is, as every scholar knows, an oriental
myth slightly altered by the Jewish scribes to suit the national taste,
and has absolutely no claims on our credence. And if this be so, the
doctrine of the Fall collapses, and down comes the whole Christian
structure which is erected upon it.




The Christian Godhead is usually spoken and written of as a Trinity,
whereas it is in fact a Quaternion, consisting of God the Father, God
the Son, God the Holy Ghost, and God the Devil. The Roman Catholics add
yet another, Goddess the Virgin Mary. God the Devil, whom this _Romance_
treats of so far as his history is contained in the Bible, is popularly
supposed to be inferior to the other persons of the Godhead. In reality,
however, he is vastly their superior both in wisdom and in power. For,
whereas they made the world, he has appropriated it almost entirely to
himself; and, whereas they who created all its inhabitants, have only
been able to lay down a very narrow-gauge railway to the Kingdom of
Heaven, he has contrived to lay down an exceedingly broad-gauge railway
to the Kingdom of Hell. Few passengers travel by their route, and
its terminus on this side is miserably small; but his route is almost
universally patronised, its terminus is magnificent, and there is an
extraordinary rush for tickets.

According to the Christian scheme, the Devil tempted Adam and Eve from
their allegiance to God in the form of a serpent. He played the devil
with Eve, she played the devil with Adam, and together they have played
the Devil with the whole human race ever since.

But let any unbiassed person read the Genesaic story of the Fall, and he
will certainly discover no reference to the Devil A serpent is spoken
of as "more subtle than any beast of the field;" it is throughout
represented simply as a serpent; and nowhere is there the faintest
indication of its possessing any supernatural endowments.

The Story of the Fall contains clear relics of that Tree and Serpent
worship which in ancient times prevailed so extensively over the East.
The serpent was formerly regarded as the symbol of a beneficent God. In
Hindustan, says Maurice, "the veneration of the serpent is evident
in every page of their mythologic history, in which every fabulous
personage of note is represented as grasping or as environed with a
serpent." According to Lajard, the word which signifies "life" in the
greater part of the Semitic languages signifies also "a serpent" And
Jacob Bryant says that the word "Ab," which in Hebrew means Father, has
also the same meaning as the Egyptian "Ob," or "Aub," and signifies "a
serpent," thus etymologically uniting the two ideas. The Tree and
the Serpent were frequently associated, although they were sometimes
worshipped apart. The Aryan races of the Western world mostly worshipped
the Tree alone. The Scandinavians had their great ash "Yggdrasill,"
whose triple root reaches to the depths of the universe, while its
majestic stem overtops the heavens and its branches fill the world. The
Grecian oracles were delivered from the oak of Dodona, and the priests
set forth their decrees on its leaves. Nutpi or Neith, the goddess
of divine life, was by the Egyptians represented as seated among the
branches of the Tree of Life, in the paradise of Osiris. The "Hom," the
sacred tree of the Persians, is spoken of in the Zendavesta as the "Word
of Life," and, when consecrated, was partaken of as a sacrament. An oak
was the sacred tree of the ancient Druids of Britain. We inherit their
custom of gathering the sacred mistletoe at Yule-tide, while in our
Christmas Tree we have a remnant of the old Norse tree-worship. During
the Middle Ages the worship of trees was forbidden in France by the
ecclesiastical councils, and in England by the laws of Canute. A learned
antiquary remarks that "the English maypole decked with colored rags and
tinsel, and the merry morice-dancers (the gaily decorated May sweeps)
with the mysterious and now almost defunct personage, Jack-in-the-green,
are all but worn-out remnants of the adoration of gods in trees that
once were sacred in England."

Now the serpent and the tree were originally both symbolic of the
generative powers of nature, and they were interchangeable. Sometimes
one was employed, sometimes the other, and sometimes both. But in
that great religious reformation which took place in the faiths of the
ancient world about 600 years before the time of Christ, the serpent
was degraded, and made to stand as a symbol of Ahriman, the god of evil,
who, in the Persic religion, waged incessant war against Ormuzd, the god
of beneficence. The Persian myth of the Fall is thus rendered from the
Zendavesta by Kalisch:--

"The first couple, the parents of the human race, Meshia and Meshiane,
lived originally in purity and innocence. Perpetual happiness was
promised them by Ormuzd, the creator of every good gift, if they
persevered in their virtue. But an evil demon (Dev) was sent to them
by Ahriman, the representative of everything noxious and sinful. He
appeared unexpectedly in the form of a serpent, and gave them the fruit
of a wonderful tree, Hom, which imparted immortality and had the power
of restoring the dead to life. Thus evil inclinations entered their
hearts; all their moral excellence was destroyed. Ahriman himself
appeared wider the form of the same reptile, and completed the work of
seduction. They acknowledged him instead of Ormuzd as the creator of
everything good; and the consequence was they forfeited for ever the
eternal happiness for which they were destined."

Every reader will at once perceive how similar this is to the Hebrew
story of the Fall. The similarity is intelligible when we remember that
all the literature of the ancient Jews was put into its present form by
the learned scribes who returned with the remnant of the people from the
Babylonish captivity, and who were full of the ideas that obtained in
the Persian religion as reformed by the traditional Zoroaster.

As we have said, the Hebrew story of the Fall contains clear relics of
Tree and Serpent worship. There is also abundant proof that during the
long ages in which the Jews oscillated between polytheism and monotheism
this worship largely prevailed. Even up to the reign of Hezekiah, as we
find in the Second Book of Kings, the serpent was worshipped in groves,
to the great anger of the king, who cast out the idolatry from among his

Having explained the subject thus, let us now assume with orthodox
Christians that the serpent in Eden was animated by the Devil, or was
indeed the Devil himself incarnate.

We have already observed that the Devil excels his three rivals in
wisdom and in power. While they were toiling so strenuously to create
the world and all that therein is, he quietly stood or sat by as a
spectator. "All right," he might have murmured, "work away as hard as
you please. You've more strength than sense. My turn will soon come.
When the job is finished we shall see to whom all this belongs." When
the work was completed and they had pronounced all things good, in
stepped the Devil, and in the twinkling of an eye rendered imperfect
all that they had so labored to create perfect;'turning everything
topsy-turvey, seducing the first pair of human beings, sowing the seeds
of original sin, and at one stroke securing the wholesale damnation
of our race. What were they about, to let him do all this with such
consummate ease? Surely they must have slept like logs, and thus left
the whole game in his hands. He made himself the "prince of this
world," although they created it; and if those may laugh who win, he was
entitled to roar out his mirth to the shaking of the spheres.

Besides being the prince of this world and of the powers of darkness,
the Devil is described as the father of lies. This, however, is a gross
libel on his character. Throughout the contest with his rivals he played
with perfect fairness. And from Genesis to Revelation there can be
adduced no single instance in which he departs from the strict line of
truth. On one occasion when Jehovah desired a lying spirit to go forth
and prophesy falsely to his people, he found one ready to his hand in
heaven and had no need to trouble Satan for a messenger. The Lord God
had told Adam, "Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thow shalt
not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thow shalt surely
die." Nay, said the Devil, when he began business "ye shall not surely
die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes
shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Every
word of his speech was true. Instead of dying "in the day" that he ate
of the fruit Adam lived to the fine old age of nine hundred and thirty

And after the "fall" the Lord God said, "Behold, the man is become as
one of us, to know good and evil." The Devil's truthfulness is thus
amply vindicated.

Satan's visit to Eve was paid in the form of a serpent. She manifested
no astonishment at being accosted by such a creature. It may be that the
whole menagerie of Eden spoke in the human tongue, and that Balaam's
ass was only what the biologists would call "a case of reversion" to
the primitive type. Josephus and most of the Fathers conceived of the
serpent as having had originally a human voice and legs; so that if he
could not have walked about with Eve arm in arm, he might at least have
accompanied her in a dance. Milton, however, discredits the legs, and
represents the serpent thus:

     "Not with indented wave,
     Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,
     Circular base of rising folds, that towered,
     Fold above fold, a surging maze, his head
     Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
     With burnish'd neck of verdant gold, erect
     Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
     Floated redundant."

Very splendid! But the doctors differ, and who shall decide? What
followed the eating of the forbidden fruit we have dealt with in "Eve
and the Apple." We shall therefore at once come to the curse pronounced
upon the serpent "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou
hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast
of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all
the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman,
and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou
shalt bruise his heel."

The final portion of this curse is flagrantly mythological Among the
Hindoos, Krishna also, as the incarnation of Vishnu, is represented
now as treading on the bruised head of a conquered serpent, and now
as entwined by it, and stung in the heel. In Egyptian pictures and
sculptures, likewise, the serpent is seen pierced through the head by
the spear of the goddess Isis. The "enmity" between mankind and the
serpent is, however, not universal Amongst the Zulus the snake is held
in great veneration, as their dead ancestors are supposed to reappear in
that form; and in ancient times, as we have already observed, serpents
were actually worshipped.

The middle portion of the curse has not yet been fulfilled. The serpent
lives on more nutritious food than dust. In the Zoological Gardens the
inmates of the serpent-house enjoy a more solid diet The fact is, we
have here an oriental superstition. Kalisch points out that "the great
scantiness of food? on which the serpent can subsist, gave rise to the
belief, entertained by many Eastern nations, that they eat dust." This
belief is referred to in Micah vii, 17, Isaiah lxv., 25, and elsewhere
in the Bible. Among the Indians the serpent is believed to live on wind.

That the serpent "goes" upon its "belly" is, of course, a fact. Before
the curse it must have moved about in some other way. Milton's poetical
solution of the difficulty we have already given. During the Middle Ages
those seraphic doctors of theology, who gravely argued how many angels
could dance on the point of a needle, speculated also on the serpent's
method of locomotion before the "fall." Some thought the animal had
legs, some that it undulated gracefully on its back, and others that it
hopped about on its tail. The ever bold Delitzsch decides that "its
mode of motion and its form were changed," but closes the controversy
by adding, "of the original condition of the serpent it is, certainly,
impossible to frame to ourselves a conjecture." All this is mere
moonshine. Geology, as Colenso remarks, shows us that the serpent was
the same kind of creature as it is now, in the ages long before man
existed on the earth.

Why the serpent was cursed at all is a question which no Christian can
answer. The poor animal was seized, mastered, occupied, and employed by
the Devil, and was therefore absolutely irresponsible for what occurred.
It had committed no offence, and consequently the curse upon it,
according to Christian doctrine, was a most brutal and wanton outrage.

Having done such a splendid stroke of business in Eden, the Devil
retired, quite satisfied that the direction he had given to the affairs
of this world was so strong and certain as to obviate the necessity of
his personal supervision. Fifteen centuries later the human race had
grown so corrupt that God (that is, the three persons in one) resolved
to drown them all; preserving, however, eight live specimens to repeople
the world. How the Devil must have laughed again! He knew that Noah
and his family possessed the seeds of original sin, which they would
assuredly transmit to their children, and thus prolong the corruption
through all time. Short-sighted as ever, Jehovah refrained from
completing the devastation, after which he might have started afresh. So
sure was the Devil's grip on God's creation that, a few centuries after
the Flood, there were not found ten righteous men in the whole city of
Sodom, and no doubt other cities were almost as bad.

According to the Bible, the Devil's long spell of rest was broken in
the reign of King David, the man after God's own heart, but a very great
scoundrel nevertheless. The Second Book of Samuel (xxiv., 1) tells us
that "Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he
moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." Now the
First Book of Chronicles (xxi, 1) in relating the same incident says,
"And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel"
Who shall reconcile this discrepancy? Was it God, was it Satan, or was
it both? Imagine David with the celestial and infernal powers whispering
the same counsel into either ear! A Scotch minister once told us that
this difficulty was only apparent. The Devil, said he, exercises only
a delegated power, and acts only by the express or tacit permission of
God; so that it matters not which is said to have provoked David. Yes,
but what of the consequences? Because the king, despite all protests,
took a census of his people, the Lord sent a destroying angel, who slew
by pestilence seventy thousand of them. Where, in the whole history of
religion, shall we find a viler sample of divine injustice?

Besides, if the Devil acts in all cases only by God's permission, the
latter is responsible for all the former's wrongdoing. The principal,
and not the agent, must bear the guilt. And this suggests a curious
problem. Readers of "Robinson Crusoe" will remember that when Man Friday
was undergoing a course of theological instruction, he puzzled
his master by asking why God did not convert the Devil. To his
unsophisticated mind it was plain that the conversion of the Devil would
annihilate sin. Robinson Crusoe changed the subject to avoid looking
foolish, but Man Friday's question remains in full force. Why does not
God convert the Devil? The great Thomas Aquinas is reported to have
prayed for the Devil's conversion through a whole long night. Robert
Burns concludes his "Address to the Deil" with a wish that he "wad tak
a thought an' men'." And Sterne, in one of his wonderful strokes of
pathos, makes Corporal Trim say of the Devil, "He is damned already,
your honor;" whereupon, "I am sorry for it," quoth Uncle Toby. Why, oh
why, we repeat, does not God convert the Devil, and thus put a stop for
ever to the damnation of mankind? Why do not the clergy pray without
cease for that one object? Because they dare not. The Devil is their
best friend. Abolish him, and disestablish hell, and their occupation
would be gone. They must stick to their dear Devil, as their most
precious possession, their stock-in-trade, their talisman of power,
without whom they were worse than nothing.

The Devil's adventures in the Book of Job are very amusing. One day
there was a drawing-room or _levée_ held in heaven. The sons of God
attended, and Satan came also among them. He seems to have so closely
resembled the rest of the company that only God detected the difference.
This is not surprising, for the world has seen some very godly sons of
God, so very much like the Devil, that if he met one of them in a dark
lane by night, he might almost suspect it to be his own ghost. God, who
knows everything, as usual asked a number of questions. Where had Satan
been, and what had he been doing? Satan replied, like a gentleman of
independent means, that he had been going to and fro in the earth, and
walking up and down in it. "Well," said the Lord, "have you observed my
servant Job? What a good man! perfect and upright I'm proud of him."
Oh yes, Satan had observed him. He keeps a sharp eye on all men. As old
Bishop Latimer said, whatever parson is out of his parish the Devil
is always in his. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" said Satan. "He is
wealthy, prosperous, happy, and respected; you fence him about from
evil; but just let trouble come upon him, and he will curse thee to thy
face." This was a new view of the subject; the Lord had never seen it
in this light before. So he determined to make an experiment. With God's
sanction Satan went forth to afflict Job. He despoiled his substance,
slaughtered his children, covered him with sore boils from head to foot,
and then set on his wife to "nag" him. But Job triumphed; he did not
curse God, and thus Satan was foiled. Subsequently Job became richer
than ever and more renowned, while a fresh family grew up around his
knees. "So," say the Christians, "all's well that ends well!" Not so,
however; for there remains uneffaced the murder of Job's children, who
were hurriedly despatched out of the world in the very midst of their
festivity. When the celestial and infernal powers play at conundrums, it
is a great pity that they do not solve them up above or down below,
and leave the poor denizens of this world free from the havoc of their

In the New Testament, as in the Old, the Devil appears early on the
scene. After his baptism in Jordan, Jesus was "led up of the spirit in
the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil." When he had fasted forty
days and nights he "was afterward hungered." Doctor Tanner overlooked
this. The hunger of Jesus only began on the forty-first day. The Devil
requests Jesus to change the stones into bread, but he declines to do
so. Then he sets him "on a pinnacle of the temple" in Jerusalem, and
desires him to throw himself down. Jesus must have been exceedingly
_sharp set_ in that position. Meanwhile, where was the Devil posted?
He could scarcely have craned his neck up so as to hold a confabulation
with Jesus from the streets, and we must therefore suppose that he was
sharp set on another pinnacle. A pretty sight they must have been for
the Jews down below! That temptation failing, the Devil takes Jesus "up
into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him _all_ the kingdoms of
the world, and the glory of them." This is remarkably like seeing
round a corner, for however high we go we cannot possibly see the whole
surface of a globe at once. "All these things," says Satan, "will I give
thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me." What a generous Devil! They
already belonged to Jesus, for doth not Scripture say the earth is the
Lord's and the fulness thereof?--a text which should now read "the
earth is the landlords' and the emptiness thereof." This temptation also
fails, and the Devil retires in disgust.

What a pretty farce! Our burlesques and pantomimes are nothing to it.
Satan knew Jesus, and Jesus knew Satan. Jesus knew that Satan would
tempt him, and Satan knew that Jesus knew it. Jesus knew that Satan
could not succeed, and Satan knew so too. Yet they kept the farce up
night and day, for no one knows how long; and our great Milton in his
"Paradise Regained" represents this precious pair arguing all day long,
Satan retiring after sunset, and Jesus lying down hungry, cold and wet,
and rising in the morning with damp clothes to renew the discussion.

Soon after Jesus went into the country of the Gergesenes, where he met
two fierce men possessed with devils whom he determined to exorcise, The
devils (for _the_ Devil had grown numerous by then), not liking to be
turned adrift on the world, without home or shelter, besought Jesus
to let them enter the bodies of an herd of swine feeding by. This he
graciously permitted. The devils left the men and entered the swine;
whereupon the poor pigs, experiencing a novel sensation, never having
had devils inside them before, "ran violently down a steep place into
the sea, and perished in the waters." Whether the devils were drowned
with the pigs this veracious history saith not. But the pigs themselves
were not paid for. Jesus wrought the miracle at other people's expense.
And the inhabitants of that part took precisely this view of the case.
For "the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they
besought him that he would depart out of their coasts." No doubt they
reflected that if he remained working miracles of that kind, at the end
of a week not a single pig would be left alive in the district. Entering
in Genesis, the Devil appropriately makes his exit in Revelation. The
twelfth chapter of that holy nightmare describes him as "a great red
dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his
heads; and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did
cast them to the earth." What a tail! The writer's ideas of size were
very chaotic. Bringing a third part of the stars of heaven to this
earth, is much like trying to lodge a few thousand cannon-balls on the
surface of a bullet.

Finally the Devil is to be "bound for a thousand years" in hell. Let us
hope the chain will be strong; for if it should break, the pit has no
bottom, and the Devil would go right through, coming out on the other
side to renew his old tricks.

Such is the Romance of the Bible Devil. Was ever a more ludicrous story
palmed off on a credulous world? The very clergy are growing ashamed
of it. But there it is, inextricably interwoven with the rest of the
"sacred" narrative, so that no skill can remove it without destroying
the whole fabric. The Devil has been the Church's best friend, but he
is doomed, and as their fraternal bond cannot be broken, he will drag it
down to irretrievable perdition.





If a man who had never read the Bible before wished to amuse himself
during a spare hour among its pages, we should recommend him to try the
first fourteen chapters of Exodus. A more entertaining narrative was
never penned. Even the fascinating Arabian Nights affords nothing
better, provided we read it with the eyes of common sense, and without
that prejudice which so often blinds us to the absurdities of "God's
Word." At the end of the fourteenth chapter aforesaid, let the book be
closed, and then let the reader ask himself whether he ever met with a
more comical story. We have no doubt as to his answer; and we feel
assured that he will agree with the poet Cowper in thinking that God
_does_ "move in a mysterious way his wonders to perform." Two hundred
and fifteen years after the arrival of Israel in Egypt, God's chosen
people had fallen into slavery. Yet they were exceedingly prolific, so
that "the land was filled with them." Afraid of their growing numbers,
Pharaoh "spake to the Hebrew midwives" and told them to kill all their
male children at birth and leave only the daughters alive. This
injunction the midwives very, properly disobeyed, excusing themselves on
the ground that "the Hebrew women were lively and were delivered ere the
midwives came in unto them." Had they obeyed Pharaoh, the Jewish race
would have been extinguished, and Judaism and Christianity been never
heard of.

But the comical fact as to these midwives is that there were only two
of them, Shiphrah and Puah. What a busy pair they must have been! What
patterns of ubiquitous industry! When the Jews quitted Egypt soon after
they mustered six hundred thousand men, besides women and children. Now,
supposing all these were collected together in one city, its size would
equal that of London. How could two midwives possibly attend to all
the confinements among such a population? And how much more difficult
would their task be if the population were scattered over a wide area,
as was undoubtedly the case with the Jews! Words fail us to praise
the miraculous activity of these two ladies. Like the peace of God, it
passes all understanding.

One of the male children born under the iron rule of Pharaoh was Moses,
the son of Amram and Jochebed. The incidents of his eventful life will
be fully recorded in our series of "Bible Heroes." Suffice it here to
say that he was adopted and brought up by Pharaoh's daughter; that he
became skilled in all the learning of the Egyptians; that he privily
slew an Egyptian who-had maltreated a Hebrew, and was obliged therefore
to flee to the land of Midian, where he married Zipporah, a daughter of
Jethro the priest. At this time Moses was getting on to his eightieth
year. Now-a-days a man of that age sees only the grave before him, and
has pretty nearly closed his account with the world. But in those days
it was different. At the age of eighty Moses was just beginning his
career. He was indeed a very astonishing old boy.

One day Moses was keeping his father-in-law's flock near Mount Horeb,
when lo! a strange vision greeted his eyes. The "angel of the Lord
appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush," which
burned without consuming. By "angel" we are to understand a vision or
appearance only, for the being within the bush was God Almighty himself;
and throughout the rest of the narrative the word "angel" is entirely
dropped, only Lord or God being used. Moses approached this wonderful
sight; but the Lord called out to him, "Draw not nigh hither: put off
thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy
ground." Thereupon Moses hid his face "for he was afraid to look upon
God." Could anything be more ludicrous! Fancy God, the infinite spirit
of the universe, secreting himself in a bush and setting it on fire,
just to make a little display for the benefit of Moses! Our wonder,
however, is presently lessened; for this God turns out to be only
Jehovah "the Lord God of the Hebrews," a mere local deity, who cared
only for his own people, and was quite ready to slaughter any number of
the inhabitants of adjacent countries, besides being bitterly jealous
of their gods. The utmost claimed for him is that he is the biggest God
extant, and quite capable of thrashing all the other gods with one
hand tied behind his back. He had heard the cries of his people and had
determined to rescue them from bondage. He had also resolved to give
Pharaoh and the Egyptians a taste of his quality, so that they might be
forced to-admit his superiority to their gods. "I will let them know,"
said he to Moses, "who I am, and you shall be my agent. We'll confound
their impudence before we've done with them. But don't let us be in a
hurry, for the little drama I have devised requires a good deal of time.
You go to Egypt and ask Pharaoh to let my people go. But don't suppose
he will consent. That wouldn't suit my plans at all. I have decided to
set you two playing at the little game of 'pull Moses, pull Pharaoh,'
and I shall harden his heart against your demands so that there may be
a fierce tussle. But don't be afraid. I am on your side, and just at the
end of the game I'll join in and pull Pharaoh clean over. And mind you
tell him all along that it is my power and not yours which works all
the wonders I mean you to perform, for you are only my instrument, and
I want all the glory myself. Play fair, Moses, play fair!" Moses was
not unwilling to engage in this enterprise, but like a prudent Jew he
required certain assurances of success. He therefore first raised an
objection as to his own insignificance--"Who am I, that I should go unto
Pharaoh?" To which God replied, "Certainly I will be with thee; and
this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast
brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this
mountain." Moses, however, required a much less remote token than this;
so he again objected that nobody would believe him. Thereupon the Lord
bade him cast his rod on the ground, and lo! it became a serpent Moses
very naturally fled before it, till the Lord told him not to run away
but to take it by the tail. He did so, and it became again a rod in his
hand. Then the Lord bade him put his hand in his bosom, and on taking it
out he found it was "leprous as snow." Again he put it in his bosom, and
when he plucked it out it was once more sound and well. "There," said
the Lord, "those signs will do in Egypt. When you evince them nobody
will doubt you." Still hesitant, Moses objected that he was very slow of
speech. So he frankly desired the Lord to send someone else. No wonder
the Lord grew angry at this persistent reluctance; nevertheless he
restrained himself, and informed Moses that his brother Aaron, who was
a good speaker, should accompany him. The prudent prophet seems to have
been at length satisfied. At any rate he made no further objection,
but after a little further conversation with the Lord, who was very
talkative, he set forth on his journey to Egypt.

Singular to relate, the Lord met Moses at an inn on the road, and,
instead of wishing him good-speed, sought to kill him. What a strange
God, to be sure! Why did he want to kill his own messenger? And why, if
he wanted to kill him, did he not succeed in doing it? Truly the ways
of God are past finding out. The only reason discoverable for this queer
conduct is that Moses' boy was uncircumcised. Zipporah, his wife, took a
sharp stone and performed the rite of circumcision herself, casting the
amputated morsel at the feet of the boy's father, with the remark that
he was "a bloody husband." The Lord's anger was thereby appeased, and
the text naively says that he then let Moses go.

Prompted by the Lord, Aaron went out into the wilderness to meet Moses,
and they soon appeared together before "all the elders of the children
of Israel," who readily believed in their mission when they heard
Aaron's account of the Lord's conversation with Moses, and saw the
wonderful signs. Afterwards the two brothers visited Pharaoh, but God
had hardened his heart; so he denied all knowledge of the Lord, and
refused to let Israel go. On the contrary, he commanded the taskmaskers
to be even more rigorous with them, and, instead of giving them straw to
make bricks, as theretofore, to make them gather straw for themselves.
And when they complained, Pharaoh replied that they were an idle lot,
and only wanted to go out and sacrifice to the Lord in order to avoid
work. Whereupon they remonstrated with Moses for his interference,
and he, in turn, remonstrated with God in very plain and disrespectful
language. "Nonsense!" said the Lord, "now you shall see what I will do
to Pharaoh."

Again Pharaoh was visited by the two brothers, who this time commenced
to work the miracle. Aaron cast down his rod, and it became a serpent.
But the magicians of Egypt, who were present by invitation of the King,
were in nowise astonished. "Oh," said they, "is that all you can do?"
Saying which, every man of them threw down his rod, and it also became
a serpent. That was indeed an age of miracles! The magicians of Egypt
wrought this wonder without any help from the Lord, and solely "with
their enchantments." Here, then, was a pretty fix! So far, neither
side had any advantage. Presently, however, Aaron's serpent--which thus
proved itself a truly Jewish one--created a diversion by swallowing all
the others up. We must suppose that it afterwards disgorged them, or
else that Aaron's, rod was exceedingly stout when he got it back.

Pharaoh's heart remained obdurate, notwithstanding this sign, and he
still refused to let the people go. And then the plagues commenced.

The first was a plague of blood. Aaron stretched forth his rod, and
_all_ the waters of Egypt, the streams, the rivers, the ponds, and the
pools became blood. Even the water in vessels of stone and wood was
ensanguined. The fish all died, and the river stank; and "there was
blood throughout all the land of Egypt." This was a good start, but the
magicians of Egypt beat it hollow; for, after Aaron had turned _all_ the
water of Egypt into blood, they turned the _rest_ into blood. No wonder
that Pharaoh's heart remained hardened! He quietly walked into his house
and let the subject drop.

Seven days later Moses went again to Pharaoh and said, "Thus saith
the Lord, let my people go." And Pharaoh said, "I won't." "Won't you?"
answered Moses, "we shall see." Forthwith Aaron stretched forth his rod
over the streams, rivers, and ponds, and brought on the second plague
in the shape of frogs, which swarmed all over the land. They entered the
houses, penetrated to the bedrooms, mounted the beds, slipped into the
kneading-troughs, and even got into the ovens, although one would expect
frogs to give such hot places a very wide berth. What a squelching
of frogs there must have been! The Egyptians could not have stood
absolutely still, and the land was covered with them. Still unfoiled,
the magicians, "with their enchantments, followed suit, and brought
up frogs too." Yet, as the land was already covered with frogs, it is
difficult to see how the new comers found room, unless they got on the
backs of the others, and went hopping about in couples. Pharaoh now
relented. He called for Moses, and said, "Intreat your Lord to take away
these nasty frogs, and I will let the people go." "That will I," said
Moses, "and you shall know that there is none like unto the Lord our
God." The next day the frogs died out of the houses, villages, and
fields, and were gathered into heaps, so that again "the land stank."
But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart
again, "as the Lord had said."

The third act of this tragi-comedy was decisive in one sense, for in
it the magicians of Egypt were obliged to retire from the competition.
Aaron stretched forth his rod again and smote the dust of the earth, all
of which instantly became _lice_, in man and in beast. Before this dirty
miracle the magicians of Egypt shrank dismayed. They made a feeble and
altogether unsuccessful attempt to imitate Aaron's performance, and then
drew back, declining to continue the contest. The lice settled them.
"This," said they, "is the finger of God." But Pharaoh still refused to
knuckle under. Even against the force of this supreme wonder his heart
was steeled.

So the fourth plague came. A grievous swarm of flies descended on Egypt,
so that "the land was corrupted by reason of them. But not a single
fly crossed over into the land of Goshe" where the Jews dwelt. Thereupon
Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and told them he was willing to
let their people go and sacrifice to the Lord for three days, but not
outside Egypt. Moses reiterated his demand for a three days' journey
into the wilderness. Whereto Pharaoh replied that they might go, but
"not too far." Moses then undertook to banish the flies. And he was as
good as his word; for there was made such a clean sweep of them that
"not one remained." This precious narrative always runs to extremes.
Egypt without a fly in it would be in a very abnormal condition. At
ordinary times the land is infested with flies; so much so, indeed, that
large numbers of the people suffer from diseased eyes, in consequence
of these insects incessantly fastening on the sores caused by the
irritating sand which fills the air. It was absurd for this Hebrew
story-teller to scotch the last fly; he should have left sufficient to
maintain the character of the country.

Again Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and when the flies were banished
he refused to "let the people go." So the fifth plague came. A "very
grievous murrain," which spared the cattle of Israel, broke out on the
cattle of Egypt, and with such virulence that they all died. Pharaoh
found on inquiry that there was "not one of the cattle of the Israelites
dead," yet for all that his heart was hardened, and he would not let the
people go.

So the sixth plague came. Aaron took "handfuls of ashes of the furnace,"
which Moses sprinkled towards heaven, and "it became a boil breaking
forth with blains upon man and _upon beast_." Even the magicians were
afflicted. Now the readers will bear in mind that _all_ the cattle of
Egypt were killed by the fifth, plague. What beasts, then, were these
tortured with boils? Were they dead carcasses, or were they live cattle
miraculously created in the interim? Surely this is a thing which "no
fellah can understand." From the serpent of Eden to Jonah's whale, the
animals of the Bible are a queer lot.

Pharaoh's heart remaining still hardened, God commanded Moses to make
a special appeal to him, and to get up early in the morning for that
purpose. So Moses stood before Pharaoh and said, "Thus saith the Lord
God of the Hebrews, let my people go, that they may serve me. If you
refuse I shall plague you and your people worse than ever, and so teach
you that there is none like me in all the earth. Don't puff yourself up
with conceit, for you were made what you are only in order that through
you my power might be manifested. You had better cave in at once." But
Pharaoh would not harken. He tacitly declared that the Lord God of the
Hebrews might go to Jericho.

So the seventh plague came. A fierce hail, accompanied by fire that ran
along the ground, smote all that was in the field, both man and beast.
It smote also _every_ herb of the field and brake _every_ tree of the
field. Only those were saved who "feared the Lord" and stayed in doors
with their servants and cattle. Fortunately the wheat and the rice were
spared, as they were not grown up; or there would have been a famine in
Egypt compared with which the seven years of scarcity in Joseph's time
had sunk into insignificance. Pharaoh now relented and repented. "I have
sinned this time," he said, "the Lord is righteous, and I and my people
are wicked." And Moses, seeing that the king had recognised Jehovah
as the true cock of the theological walk, procured a cessation of the
thunder and the hail. But lo! when Pharaoh perceived this, he hardened
his heart again, and "sinned yet more." The obduracy of this potentate,
under the manipulation of God, is really becoming monotonous. So the
eighth plague came. After a day and a night of east wind, a prodigious
swarm of locusts went up over the land of Egypt, covering the face of
the whole earth, and darkening the ground. They "did eat every herb of
the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had spared." But
we were told that the hail smote _every_ herb, and brake _every_ tree.
What then was left for the locusts to eat? The writer of this narrative
had a very short memory, or else a stupendous power of belief.

Again Pharaoh confessed that he had sinned. The locusts were cleared
away, and so effectually that "not one remained." But "the Lord hardened
Pharaoh's heart" for the eighth time, and he refused to let the people
go. Whereupon Moses brought darkness over the land of Egypt, a thick
darkness that might be felt. This thick darkness lasted in Egypt for
three days, during which time the people "saw not one another, neither
rose any from his place." We presume, therefore, that they all starved
for that time. Poor devils! What had they done to be treated thus? All
the children of Israel, however, had light in their dwellings. Why then
did they not avail themselves of such a fine opportunity to escape? It
was a splendid chance, yet they let it slip. Perhaps Moses did not give
the word, and they were like a flock of sheep without him. Perhaps
they wished to stay and see the rest of the fun. For more was coming,
although it was anything but fun to the poor Egyptians.

To them indeed it was an awful tragedy such as we lack words to
describe. Moses commanded the Jews to take a male lamb for each
household, to kill it, and to daub its blood over the two side-posts and
on the upper door-posts of their houses. The flesh they were to eat
in the night, roasted, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, as the
inauguration of the Passover. The Lord meant to pass through the land in
the dark, and slay all the firstborn in Egypt; and lest he should make
some mistakes he required the Jews' houses to be marked with blood so
that he might distinguish them. We should expect God to dispense with
such "aids to memory." What followed must be told in the language of
Scripture: "At midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land
of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on the throne unto the
firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn
of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants,
and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was
not a house where there was not one dead." The reader's imagination will
picture the horror of this scene. That "great cry in Egypt" arose from
a people who were the first victims of God's hatred of all who stood
in the way of his chosen "set of leprous slaves." And in this case the
tragedy was the more awful, and the more inexcusably atrocious, because
God deliberately planned it. He could easily have softened Pharaoh's
heart, but he chose to harden it. He could have brought his people
out of Egypt in peace, but he preferred that they should start amidst
wailings of agony, and leave behind them a track of blood.

Yet in the tragedy there is a touch of comedy. Those beasts that were
first killed by the murrian and afterwards plagued by the boil, at last
lose their firstborn by the tenth plague. Besides, there is a touch of
the ludicrous in the statement that _every_ house had one dead. All the
firstborn of such a large population could not have been present at that
time. Some might have left Egypt for purposes of trade, and others would
certainly have been cut off before by death. The story of the tenth
plague, like the other nine, requires to be taken with a very large
grain of salt.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians were now anxious to get rid of the Jews. So
God's people departed in haste. They took good care, however, not to
go empty-handed. They "borrowed" of the Egyptians, without the remotest
intention of ever paying them back, jewels of silver, jewels of gold,
and raiment. In fact they "spoiled the Egyptians." In recent times the
modern Egyptians have wiped off that old score by spoiling a few Jewish
moneylenders, and so returned tit for tat.

God led his people past instead of through the land of the Philistines,
lest they should be frightened by war, and wish to return to Egypt. He
does not seem to have known their character. Considering the delight
with which they subsequently warred against their enemies, and the joy
they took in wholesale massacre, we are inclined to think that they
would have just liked to get their hands into the business of fighting
by trying conclusions with the Philistines. Moses carried off the bones
of Joseph, which must have been rather stale by that time. And God went
before the huge host of six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women
and children, and a mixed multitude of followers; by day in a pillar of
cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give
them light, until at length they found themselves encamped before the
Red Sea.

In the meanwhile God had again hardened Pharaoh's heart, for the
express purpose of killing some more Egyptians and getting more honor to
himself. The Israelites soon heard that Pharaoh was pursuing them with
an army, and they remembered his dreadful war chariots. They found
themselves literally between the devil and the deep sea. Whereupon they
murmured against Moses for bringing them out into the wilderness to die.
But he, disregarding them, stretched forth his miraculous rod over the
sea, and lo! the waters parted, forming a wall on either side of a safe
passage, through which the Jews travelled with dry feet. Pharaoh and
his host, however, attempting the same feat, were overwhelmed by
the down-rushing sea-ramparts, and all drowned. There remained, says
_Exodus_, not so much as one of them.

We have heard a different account of this affair. A negro preacher once
explained that the Red Sea, just at that time, was "a little bit frozen
over," and the Jews, carrying only what they had borrowed "frum the
Gyptians," crossed the ice safely; but when Pharaoh came with his
thundering war-chariots, the ice broke, and "dey all was drown'd." But a
nigger in the audience objected that the Red Sea is "in de quator," and
is never frozen over. "War did you larn dat?" asked the preacher. "In de
jografy," was the reply. "Ah," was the ready retort, "dat's war you made
de mistake; dis was a very long time ago, and dere was no jografy and no
quator den." That nigger preacher's explanation seems quite as good as
the one given by "Moses."

We leave the Jews with their Lord God on the safe side of the Red Sea,
where Moses heads the men in singing a joyful song of praise, and Miriam
the prophetess heads the women with timbrel and with dance. Jehovah has
ended his plaguing of the Egyptians, after more than decimating them. He
has covered his name with terrible splendour, and proved "that there is
none like him" to a world which is very happy to be assured of the fact.
Two such monsters would make earth a hell. Reader! did you ever meet
with a more extraordinary story than this of the Ten Plagues? and can
you regard the book which contains it as God's Word?




We have often wondered whether Shakespeare had the story of Jonah in
his mind when he wrote that brief dialogue between Hamlet and Polonius,
which immediately precedes the famous closet-scene in the Master's
greatest play--

  Hamlet.--Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
  Polonius.--By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
  Hamlet.--Methinks it is like a weasel.
  Polonius.--It is backed like a weasel.
  Hamlet.--Or like a whale?
  Polonius.--Very like a whale.

Having, however, no means whereby to decide this question, we must
content ourselves with broaching it, and leave the reader to form his
own conclusion. Yet we cannot refrain from expressing our opinion that
the story of the strange adventures of the prophet Jonah is "very like a

In another of Shakespeare's plays, namely "The Tempest," we find a
phrase which exactly applies to the romance of Jonah. When Trinculo
discovers Caliban lying on the ground, he proceeds to investigate the
monster. "What," quoth he, "have we here? a man or a fish? dead or
alive? A fish: he smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like
smell." Now that is a most admirable description of the Book of Jonah.
It has "a very ancient and fish-like smell." In fact, it is about the
fishiest of all the fishy stories ever told.

Sailors' "yarns" have become proverbial for their audacious and
delicious disregard of truth, and the Book of Jonah is "briny" from
beginning to end. It contains only forty-eight verses, but its brevity
is no defect. On the contrary, that is one of its greatest charms. The
mind takes in the whole story at once, and enjoys it undiluted; as
it were a goblet of the fine generous wine of romance. Varying the
expression, the Book of Jonah may be called the perfect cameo of Bible

When the Book of Jonah was written no one precisely knows, nor is it
discoverable who wrote it. According to Matthew Arnold some unknown
man of genius gave to Christendom the fourth gospel, and with sublime
self-abnegation allowed his name to perish. A similar remark must be
made concerning the unknown author who gave to the world this racy story
of Jonah and the whale. We heartily wish his name had been preserved for
remembrance and praise.

Our marginal Bibles date the Book of Jonah b.c. cir. 862. Other
authorities give, the more recent date of b.c. 880 as that of the events
recorded in it. This chronology will suggest an important reflection
later on.

The wonderful story of Jonah and the whale begins in this wise:--"Now
the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise,
go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness
is come up before me."

Who Amittai was, and whether man or woman, is a problem still unsolved;
but it is reasonable to suppose the name was that of Jonah's father, as
the ancient Jews paid no superfluous attentions to women, and generally
traced descent from the paternal stem alone. Amittai belonged to a place
called Gathhepher, "the village of the Cow's tail," or, as otherwise
interpreted, "the Heifer's trough." Jonah's tomb is said to have been
long shown on a rocky hill near the town; but whether the old gentleman
was ever buried there no man can say. According to Mr. Bradlaugh, the
word Jonah means a dove, and is by some derived from an Arabic root,
signifying to be weak or gentle. Another interpretation, by Gesenius, is
a feeble, gentle bird. This refractory prophet was singularly ill-named.
If his cognomen was bestowed on him by his parents, they must have been
greatly deceived as to his character. The proverb says that it is a wise
son that knows his own father; and with the history of Jonah before us,
we may add that it is a wise father who rightly knows his own son.

The solicitude of "the Lord God of the Hebrews" for the welfare of the
Ninevites is to the sceptical mind an extraordinary phenomenon. It is
one of the very few cases in which he shows the slightest concern for
any other people than the Jews. His ordinary practice was to slaughter
them wholesale by pestilence or the sword; and it is therefore very
refreshing to meet with such an instance of his merciful care. For once
he remembers that the rest of Adam's posterity are his children, and
possess a claim on his attention.

Jonah, however, did not share this benign sentiment; and disrelishing
the missionary enterprise assigned him, he "rose up to flee unto
Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Jehovah does not seem to have
been omnipresent then; that attribute attaches to him only since the
beginning of the Christian era, when he assumed universal sway. Long
before the time of Jonah, another man, the first ever born in this
world, namely Cain, also "went out from the presence of the Lord, and
dwelt in the land of Nod;" probably so called because the Lord was not
quite awake in that locality. No one knows were Nod was situated,
nor can the most learned archaeologists denote the actual position
of Tarshish. These two places would be well worth study. A careful
examination of them would to some extent reveal what went on in those
parts of the world to which God's presence did not extend; and we should
be able to compare their geological and other records with those of
the rest of the world. No doubt some striking differences would be

Jonah determined to voyage by the Joppa and Tarshish line. So he went to
the former port and embarked in one of the Company's ships, after paying
his fare like a man.

Having a perfectly untroubled conscience, and no apprehension of his
coming troubles, Jonah no doubt felt highly elated at having done
the Lord so neatly. Perhaps it was this elation of spirits which
safe-guarded him from sea-sickness. At any rate he went "down into the
sides of the ship," and there slept the sleep of the just. So profound
was his slumber, that it was "quite unbroken" by the horrible tempest
that ensued. The Lord had his eye on Jonah, for the prophet had not yet
reached the safe refuge of Tarshish; and he "sent out a great wind into
the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was
likely to be broken." The mariners "cast forth the wares that were in
the ship" to lighten her, and toiled hard to keep afloat; but their
efforts were apparently fruitless, and nothing lay before them but the
certain prospect of a watery grave. The reader will be able to imagine
the tumult of the scene; the dash of ravening waves, the fierce howling
of the wind, the creaking of masts and the straining of cordage, the
rolling and pitching of the good ship and the shifting of her cargo,
the captain's hoarse shouts of command and the sailors' loud replies,
alternated with frenzied appeals to their gods for help. Yet amidst all
the uproar Jonah still slept, as though the vessel were gaily skimming
the waters before a pleasant breeze.

Let us pause here to interpose a question. Did the "great wind sent
out into the sea" by the Lord confine its attentions to the immediate
vicinity of Jonah's ship, or did it cause a general tempest and perhaps
send some other vessels to Davy Jones's locker? As no restrictions are
mentioned, we presume that the tempest was general, and that the Lord's
wind, like the Lord's rain referred to by Jesus, fell alike upon the
just and the unjust. This circumstance very naturally heightens our
previous conception of his righteousness.

That the Lord, or some other supernatural power, caused the tempest, the
mariners of Jonah's ship and their captain never once doubted. Living
as they did, and as we do not, under a miraculous dispensation, they
attributed every unusual, and especially every unpleasant, occurrence
to the agency of a god. The idea of predicting storms, with which the
civilised world is now familiar, they would doubtless have regarded as
blasphemous and absurd. It is, therefore, by no means wonderful that
every man on board (except Jonah, who was fast asleep) "called unto
his god." Ignorant of what god was afflicting them, they appealed
impartially all round, in the hope of hitting the right one. But the
circle of their deities did not include the one which sent the wind; so
the tempest continued to prevail, despite their prayers.

In this extremity a happy thought occurred to the "ship-master." It
struck him that the strange passenger down below might know something
about the tempest, and that his god might have caused it. Forthwith
there dawned within him a recollection of words which Jonah had uttered
on embarking. Had he not told them "that he fled from the presence of
the Lord?" "Dear me," the captain probably said to himself, "what a fool
I was not to think of this before. That chap down below is the occasion
of all these troubles; I'll go and hunt him up, confound him!" Thereupon
he doubtless slapped his thigh, as is the wont of sailors when they
solve a difficulty or hit on a brilliant idea; after which he descended
"into the sides of the ship," whither Jonah had gone. There he found the
prophet slumbering as peacefully as a weanling child, with a smile
of satisfaction playing over his Hebrew features. We can imagine the
captain's profound disgust in presence of this scene. He and his men had
been toiling and praying, and, alas! pitching the cargo overboard,
in order to save their skins; and all the while the occasion of their
trouble had been lying fast asleep! Preserving an outward decorum,
however, he accosted Jonah in very mild terms. "What meanest thou, O
sleeper?" said he, "Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will
think upon us, that we perish not."

What exquisite simplicity! It reminds us of the childlike and bland
Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, when he opposed Mr. Brad-laugh's entry to the
House of Commons. That honorable champion of Almighty God objected to
Mr. Bradlaugh on the ground that he acknowledged no God, and was thus
vastly different from the other members of the House, all of whom
"believed in some kind of deity or other." You must have a god to be a
legislator, it seems, even if that god is, as the Americans say, only a
little tin Jesus. So the captain of this tempest-tost ship desired Jonah
to call upon his god. He made no inquiry into the character of the god,
any more than did Sir Henry Drummond Wolff on a later occasion. It was
enough to know that Jonah had "some kind of deity or other." Any god
would do.

Now comes the most remarkable episode in this wonderful story. The
captain and the crew were aware that Jonah had "fled from the presence
of the Lord," because he had told them; they had, therefore, every
reason to believe that Jonah's god had caused the tempest. Yet,
curiously enough, instead of at once proceeding on this belief, they
said, everyone to his fellow, "Come, and let us cast lots, that we may
know for whose cause this evil is upon us." This wholly superfluous
procedure may, perhaps, be attributed to their exceptional love of
justice. They wished to make assurance doubly sure before they "went
for" Jonah. And with sweet simplicity they had recourse to the casting
of lots, in which their wills would be inoperative, and the whole
responsibility of deciding be thrown on the gods, who alone possessed
the requisite information.

The lot of course fell upon Jonah. Any other result would have spoiled
the story. "Then," continues our narrative, "said they unto him, Tell
us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us? What is thine
occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what
people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew, and I fear the
Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then
were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done
this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord,
because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do
unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought and was
tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into
the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake
this great tempest is upon you."

We are almost dumb with astonishment before this act of self-sacrifice
on the part of Jonah, for which his previous history left us quite
unprepared. Who would have thought him capable of such disinterested
conduct? His self-abnegation was assuredly heroic, and may even be
called sublime. No doubt the captain and crew of the ship were as much
astonished as we are, and their opinion of Jonah went up several hundred
per cent. They resolved to make a last supreme effort before turning him
into a fish-bait. But all their gallant endeavors were discovered to
be futile and a mere waste of time. So the men, more in sorrow than
in anger, finally took Jonah up and threw him overboard. They had done
their best for him, and now, finding that they could do no more except
at too great a risk, they sadly left him to do the rest for himself.

Immediately, we are told, "the sea ceased from her raging." Jonah
was oil upon the troubled waters. What an invaluable recipe does this
furnish us against the dangers of the deep sea! The surest method of
allaying a storm is to throw a prophet overboard. Every ship should
carry a missionary in case of need. It would, indeed, be well if the law
made this compulsory. The cost of maintaining the missionary would
be more than covered by the saving effected in insurance. Here is a
splendid field for Christian self-sacrifice! Hundreds of gentlemen who
are now engaged in very doubtful labor among the heathen, might engage
in this new enterprise with the absolute certainty of a beneficent
result; for poor ungodly mariners would thus be spared a hasty dispatch
from this world without time to repent and obtain forgiveness, and be
allowed ample leisure to secure salvation.

When the men saw that "the sea ceased from her raging" on Jonah's being
cast into her depths, "they feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a
sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows." To the sceptical mind it
would seem that they had much more reason to "fear" the Lord during the
continuance of the tempest than after it had subsided. It also seems
strange that they should have the means wherewith to offer a sacrifice.
Perhaps they had a billy-goat on board, and made him do duty, in default
of anything better. Or failing even a billy-goat, as the Lord God of the
Hebrews could only be propitiated by the shedding of blood, they perhaps
caught and immolated a stray rat. The nature of their "vows" is not
recorded, but it is not unreasonable to assume that they swore never
again to take on board a passenger fleeing "from the presence of the

Meanwhile, what had become of poor Jonah? Most men would be effectually
settled if thrown overboard in a storm. But there are some people who
were not born to be drowned, and Jonah was one of them. He was destined
to another fate. The Lord, it appears, "had prepared a great fish
to swallow up Jonah," and the feat was of course duly performed. Our
narrative does not describe the character of this "great fish," but
light is cast on the subject by another passage of Scripture. In
the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew, and the fortieth verse, Jesus is
represented as saying, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights
in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three
nights in the heart of the earth." The great fish was then a whale.
Jesus said so, and there can be no higher authority. Sharks and such
ravenous fish have an unpleasant habit of "chawing" their victims pretty
considerably before swallowing them; so, on the whole, we prefer to
believe that it was a whale. Yet the Levant is a curious place for a
whale to be lurking in. The creature must have been miraculously led
there to go through its appointed performance. It must also have been
"prepared," to use the language of the Bible, in a very remarkable way,
for the gullet of a whale is not large enough to allow of the passage
of an object exceeding the size of an ordinary herring. Swallowing
Jonah must have been a tough job after the utmost preparation. With a
frightfully distended throat, however, the whale did its best, and by
dint of hard striving at last got Jonah down.

Having properly taken Jonah in out of the wet, the poor whale doubtless
surmised that its troubles had ended. But alas they had only just begun!
Swallowing a prophet is one thing; digesting him is another. For three
days and three nights the whale struggled desperately to digest
Jonah, and for three days and nights Jonah obstinately refused to _be_
digested. Never in the entire course of its life had it experienced such
a difficulty. During the whole of that period, too, Jonah carried on a
kind of prayer meeting, and the strange rumbling in its belly must have
greatly added to the poor animal's discomfort At last it grew heartily
sick of Jonah, and vomited him up on dry land. We have no doubt that
it swam away into deep waters, a sadder but wiser whale; and that ever
afterwards, instead of bolting its food, it narrowly scrutinised every
morsel before swallowing it, to make sure it wasn't another prophet.
According to its experience, prophets were decidedly the most
unprofitable articles of consumption.

We are of course aware that the narrative states that "the Lord spake
unto the fish, and it vomited Jonah upon the dry land." But this we
conceive to be a mere pleasantry on the part of the unknown author. The
idea of the Lord whispering into a whale's ear is ineffably ludicrous:
besides, the whale had a very natural inclination to rid itself of
Jonah, and needed no divine prompting.

Jonah's prayer "unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly" is very
amusing. There is not a sentence in it which bears any reference to
the prophet's circumstances. It is a kind of Psalm, after the manner of
those ascribed to David. Our belief is that the author found it floating
about, and thinking it would do for Jonah, inserted it in his narrative,
without even taking the trouble to furbish it into decent keeping with
the situation.

The word of the Lord came unto Jonah a second time, and presuming no
more to disobey, he went to Nineveh. It is to be supposed, however,
that he first well-lined his poor stomach, for both he and the whale had
fasted for three days and nights, and must have been sadly in want of

Nineveh, according to our author, was a stupendous city of "three days'
journey." This means its diameter and not its circumference, for we are
told that Jonah "entered into the city a day's journey." If we allow
twenty miles as a moderate days' walk, Nineveh was sixty miles through
from wall to wall, or about twenty times as large as London; and if
densely populated like our metropolis, it must have contained more
than eighty million inhabitants. This is too great a stretch even for a
sailor's yarn. Our author did not take pains to clear his narrative of
discrepancy. In his last verse he informs us that the city contained
"more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their
right hand and their left." If this number is correct Nineveh was a
large place, but its dimensions were very much less than those stated in
the Book of Jonah.

Jonah obeyed the Lord this time and began to preach. "Yet forty days,"
cried he, "and Nineveh shall be overthrown." How the prophet made
himself understood is an open question! Either the Lord taught him their
language, or he miraculously enabled them to understand Hebrew. Further,
they worshipped Baal, and Jonah preached to them in the name of his
foreign God. According to ancient, and to a large extent modern custom,
we should expect them in such a case to kill the presumptuous prophet,
or at least to shut him up as a madman. Yet they did nothing of the
kind. On the contrary, "the people of Nineveh believed God." Even the
king was converted. He covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
He also decreed that neither man nor beast in the city should eat
or drink anything; but, said he, "let man and beast be covered with
sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from
his evil way." What an enormous consumption of sackcloth there must have
been! The merchants who sold it did a surprising business, and no doubt
quotations went up immensely. We wonder, indeed, how they managed
to supply such a sudden and universal demand. And what a sight was
presented by the whole population of the city! Men, women, and children,
high and low, rich and poor, were all arrayed in the same dingy
garments. Even the horses, cows, pigs and sheep, were similarly attired.
What a queer figure they must have cut! And what an astonishing chorus
of prayer ascended to heaven! According to the text, the beasts had to
"cry mightily" as well as the men. Since the confusion of tongues at
Babel, neither history nor tradition records such a frightful hubbub.

Their supplications prevailed. God "saw their works, that they had
turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had
said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." Immutable God
changes his mind, infallible God repents!

God spared Nineveh, but only for a brief while, for it was destroyed a
few years later by Arbaces, the Mede. The merciful respite was thus not
of long continuance. Yet it "displeased Jonah exceedingly." He had been
suspicious from the first, and he only fulfilled God's mission under
constraint. And now his worst suspicions were confirmed. After he had
told the Ninevites that their city would be overthrown in forty days,
God had relented, and utterly ruined Jonah's reputation as a prophet.
So he made himself a booth outside the city, and sat in its shadow, to
watch what would happen, with a deep feeling, which he plainly expressed
to the Almighty, that now his reputation was gone he might as well die.
The Lord considerately "prepared a gourd," which grew up over Jonah's
head to protect him from the heat; at which the sulky prophet was
"exceedingly glad," although it would naturally be thought that the
booth would afford ample protection. He, however, soon found himself
sold; for the Lord prepared a worm to destroy the gourd, and when the
sun arose he sent "a vehement east wind" which beat upon poor Jonah's
head, and made him so faint that he once more asked God to despatch him
out of his misery. Whereupon the Lord said coaxingly, "Doest thou well
to be angry?" And Jonah pettishly answered, "Yes, I do." Then the Lord,
with a wonderful access of pathos, altogether foreign to his general
character, twitted Jonah with having pity for the gourd and none for the
inhabitants of "that great city." With this the story concludes. We
are unable to say whether the poor prophet, so wretchedly sold, ever
recovered from his spleen, or whether it shortened his days and brought
him to an untimely grave.

The Book of Jonah is as true as Gospel, for Jesus endorsed it. The
Bible contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
So without expressing any sceptical sentiments, we will end by repeating
Byron's words, "Truth is strange--stranger than fiction."




The Middle Ages had a legend of the Wandering Jew. This person was
supposed to have been doomed, for the crime of mocking Jesus at the
crucifixion, to wander over the earth until his second coming. No
one believes this now. The true Wandering Jews were those slaves whom
Jehovah rescued from Egyptian bondage, with a promise that he would lead
them to a land flowing with milk and honey, but whom he compelled to
roam the deserts instead for forty years, until all of them except two
had perished. Of all the multitude who escaped from Egypt, only Joshua
and Caleb entered the promised land. Even Moses had to die in sight of

These poor Wandering Jews demand our pity. They were guilty of many
crimes against humanity, but they scarcely deserved such treatment as
they received. Their God was worse than they. He was quick-tempered,
unreasonable, cruel, revengeful, and dishonest. Few of his promises
to them were performed. They worshipped a bankrupt deity. The land of
promise was a Tantalus cup ever held to their lips, and ever mocking
them when they essayed to drink. God was their greatest enemy instead of
their best friend. Their tortuous path across the wilderness was marked
by a track of bleaching bones. All the evils which imagination can
conceive fell on their devoted heads. Bitten by serpents, visited by
plagues, cursed with famine and drought, swallowed by earthquake, slain
by war, and robbed by priests, they found Jehovah a harder despot than
Pharaoh. Death was to them a happy release, and only the grave a shelter
from the savagery of God.

Commentators explain that the Jews who left Egypt were unfit for the
promised land. If so, they were unfit to be the chosen people of God.
Why were they not allowed to remain in Egypt until they grew better, or
why was not some other nation selected to inherit Canaan?

At the end of our number on "The Ten Plagues" we left the Jews on the
safe side of the Red Sea. We must now ask a few questions which we had
no space for then.

How, in a period of two hundred and fifteen years, did the seventy males
of Jacob's house multiply into a nation of over two millions? Experience
does not warrant belief in such a rapid increase. The Jewish chroniclers
were fond of drawing the long bow. In the book of Judges, for
instance, we are told that the Gileadites, under, Jephthah, slew 42,000
Ephriamites; and that the Benjamites slew 40,000 Israelites, after which
the Israelites killed 43,000 Benjamites, all of these being "men
of valor" that "drew the sword." The book of Samuel says that the
Philistines had 30,000 war chariots, and that they slew 30,000 footmen
of Israel. The second book of Chronicles says that Pekah, king of
Israel, slew of Judah in one day 120,000 "sons of valor," and carried
away 200,000 captives; that Abijah's force consisted of 400,000, and
Jeroboam's of 800,000, 500,000 of whom were killed! At the battle of
Waterloo the total number of men killed on our side was 4,172. The
statistics of slaughter in the Bible were clearly developed from the
inner consciousness of the Jewish scribes; and no doubt the same holds
good with respect to the statistics of the flight from Egypt.

This view is corroborated by a singular statement in the third chapter
of Numbers. We are there informed that when the census was taken "All
the first-born males, from a month old and upwards of those that were
numbered, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and three score and
thirteen." Now as there were about 900,000 males altogether, it follows
that every Jewish mother must have had on an average _forty-two sons_,
to say nothing of daughters! Such extraordinary fecundity is unknown to
the rest of the world, except in the reign of romance. The Jews bragged
a great deal about Jehovah, and they appear to have obtained some
compensation by bragging a great deal about themselves.

How did the Jews manage to quit Egypt in one night? There were 600,000
men on foot, besides women and children, not to mention "the mixed
multitude that went up also with them." The entire population must have
numbered more than two millions, and some commentators estimate it at
nearly three. They had to come in from all parts of Goshen to Rameses,
bringing with them the sick and infirm, the very old and the very young.
Among such a large population there could not have been less than two
hundred births a day. Many of the Jewish women, therefore, must have
been just confined. How could they and their new-born children have
started off in such a summary manner? Many more women must have been at
the point of confinement How could these have been hurried off at all?
Yet we are told that not a single person was left behind.

How were the flocks and herds driven out in such haste? There were about
two million sheep and two hundred thousand oxen. The sheep alone would
have required grazing-land as extensive as the whole county of Bedford,
besides what would have been needed for the oxen. Is it credible that
all these animals were collected together from such a wide area, and
driven out of Egypt in one night? Yet we are told that not a single hoof
was left behind!

How did the huge multitude of people march? If they travelled fifty men
abreast, as is supposed to have been the practice in the Hebrew armies,
the able-bodied warriors alone would have filled up the road for about
_seven miles_, and the whole multitude would have formed a dense column
_twenty-two miles long_. The front rank would have been two days'
journey in advance of the rear.

How did the sheep and cattle march? How was it possible for them to keep
pace with their human fellow-travellers? They would naturally not march
in a compact array, and the vast drove must therefore have spread widely
and lengthened out for miles.

What did the drove live upon during the journey from Barneses to
Succoth, and from Succoth to Etham, and from Etham to the Red Sea? Such
grass as there was, even if the sheep and cattle went before the men,
women, and children, could not have been of much avail; for what was not
eaten by the front ranks must have been trodden under foot at once, and
rendered useless to those that followed. After they "encamped by the Red
Sea," on the third day, there was no vegetation at all. The journey
was over a desert, the surface of which was composed of hard gravel
intermixed with pebbles. After crossing the Red Sea, their road lay over
a desert region, covered with sand, gravel, and stone, for about nine
miles; after which they entered a boundless desert plain, called _El
Ati_ white and painfully glaring to the eye; and beyond this the ground
was broken by sand-hills. How were the two million sheep and two hundred
thousand oxen provisioned during this journey?

What did the Jews themselves live on? The desert afforded them no
sustenance until God miraculously sent manna. They must, therefore, have
taken a month's provisions for every man, woman, and child. How could
they possibly have provided themselves with so much food on so short
a notice? And how could they have carried it, seeing that they were
already burdened with kneading-troughs and other necessaries for
domestic use, besides the treasures they "borrowed" of the Egyptians.

How did they provide themselves with tents? Allowing ten persons for
each tent, they must have required two hundred thousand. Were these
carefully got ready in expectation? In the land of Goshen they lived in
houses with "lintels" and "side-posts." And how were the tents carried?
The Jews themselves were already well loaded. Of course the oxen remain,
but, as Colenso observes, they were not trained to carry t goods on
their backs, and were sure to prove refractory under such a burden.

Whence did the Jews obtain their arms? According to Exodus (xiii, 18)
"the children of Israel went up _harnessed_ out of the land of Egypt."
The Hebrew word which is rendered "harnessed" appears to mean "armed" or
"in battle array" in all the other passages where it occurs, and is so
translated. Some commentators, scenting a difficulty in this rendering,
urge that the true meaning is "by five in a rank." But if 600,000 men
marched out of Egypt "five in a rank," they must have formed a column
sixty-eight miles long, and it would have taken several days to start
them all off, whereas they went out altogether "that self-same day."
Besides, the Jews had arms in the desert, and how could they have
possessed them there unless they obtained them in Egypt? If they went
out of Egypt "armed," why did they cry out "sore afraid" when Pharaoh
pursued them?

According to Herodotus, the Egyptian army, which formed a distinct
caste, never exceeded 160,000 men. Why were the Jews so appalled by less
than a third of their own number? Must we suppose, with Kalisch, that
their bondage in Egypt had crushed all valor and manhood out of their
breasts? Josephus gives a different explanation. He says that the
day after Pharaoh's host was drowned in the Red Sea, "Moses gathered
together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp
of the Hebrews by the current of the sea and the force of the wind
assisting it. And he conjectured that this also happened by Divine
Providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons." But, as
Colenso observes, though body-armor _might_ have been obtained in this
way, swords, spears and shields _could not_ in any number. The Bible,
too, says nothing about such an occurrence. We must therefore assume
that 600,000 well-armed Jews were such utter cowards that they could not
strike a blow for their wives and children and their own liberty against
the smaller army of Pharaoh, but could only whimper and sigh after their
old bondage. Yet a month later they fought bravely with the Amalekites,
and ever afterwards they were as eager for battle as any Irishman at
Donnybrook: fair. How can this difference be accounted for? Could a
nation of hereditary cowards become stubborn warriors in the short space
of a month?

Let us now follow the Wandering Jews through the Desert, which they
should have crossed in a week or two, but which they travelled up and
down for forty years. People who want to make an expeditious journey had
better do without a divine guide.

Coming to Marah, they found only bitter water to drink, at which they
began to murmur. But the Lord showed Moses a certain tree, which when
cast into the water made it sweet. It must have been a wonderful tree to
sweeten water for two millions of people. Bitter water, also, quenches
thirst more readily than sweet, and it stimulates the appetite, which
would be highly desirable under a fierce relaxing sun.

A month after they left Egypt they came to the wilderness of Sin.
There they began to murmur again. Finding themselves without food, they
remembered "the flesh pots" of Egypt, and reproached Moses with having
brought them into the desert to die of hunger. Both Moses and the Lord
seem to have thought it unreasonable on their part to ask for something
to eat. Oliver Twist was stared at when he asked for more, but the Jews
surprised God by asking for something to begin with. Yet reflecting,
perhaps, that they were after all unable to live without food, the Lord
rained down manna from heaven. After the dew evaporated in the morning,
they found this heavenly diet lying on the ground. It was "like a
coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with
honey." No doubt the angels subsist on it in paradise. Moses preserved
a pot of it for the instruction of future generations. The pot has,
however, not been discovered up to the present day. Some future
explorers may light upon it "in the fulness of time," and so-help to
prove the historical character of the Pentateuch.

The manna, as might be expected, had some peculiarities. No matter how
much or how little he gathered, every man found on measuring that he had
exactly an omer of it. Although it fell regularly every week day, none
fell on Sunday. A double quantity had, therefore, to be gathered on
Saturday. It melted in the sun, but could nevertheless be baked and
seethed. Any of it left overnight stank in the morning and bred worms.

For forty years "the children of Israel did eat manna." But more than
once their gorge rose against it. Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch,
manna for dinner, manna for tea, and manna for supper, was a little more
than they could stand, The monotony of their diet became intolerable.
Accordingly, we read in the twenty-first chapter of _Numbers_, that
they complained of it and asked for a slight change in the bill of fare.
"There is no bread," said they, "neither is there any water; and our
soul loatheth this light food." This small request so incensed the Lord
that he sent a lot of fiery serpents among them, which bit them so
that "much people of Israel died." Like Oliver Twist, the Jews quickly
repented their presumption. They humbled themselves before Moses, and he
interceded with God for them. The prophet then made a brass serpent
and set it on a pole, and on looking at it all who had been bitten

On another occasion, as we read in the eleventh of _Numbers_, they were
guilty of a similar offence. This time it was the more surprising, as
God had just burnt a lot of them up with raging fire for 'complaining.'
They remembered "the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the
cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the
garlick." "Now," said they, "there is nothing at all, besides this
manna, before our eyes-Who shall give us flesh to eat?" The Egyptian
bill of fare was certainly enough to make their mouths water, and it
proves that if Pharaoh made them work hard he did not starve them, as
Jehovah very nearly succeeded in doing. They were so affected by their
recollection of the luscious victuals they enjoyed in Egypt, that they
actually cried with sorrow at their loss. Moses heard them weeping,
"every man in the door of his tent." This put the Lord in a very bad
temper; and Moses, who seems to have been much less irascible than
Jehovah, "also was displeased." God determined to give them a surfeit.
"Ye shall," said he, "not eat flesh one day, nor two days, nor five
days, neither ten days nor twenty days; but even a whole month, until
it come out at your nostrils, and be loathsome unto you." Thereupon
the Lord sent a wind which brought quails from the sea. They were so
plentiful that they fell in heaps two cubits high for about twenty miles
around the camp. That worthy commentator, the Rev. Alexander Cruden,
says that the miracle of this occurrence consisted, not in the great
number of quails, but in their being "brought so seasonably" to the
Jewish camp. The quantity did not trouble his credulous mind. "Some
authors," says he, "affirm that in those eastern and southern countries,
quails are innumerable, so that in one part of Italy within the compass
of five miles, there were taken about an hundred thousand of them every
day for a month together; and that sometimes they fly so thick over the
sea, that being weary they fall into ships, sometimes in such numbers,
that they sink them with their weight." The good man's easy reliance
on 'some authors.' and his ready acceptance of such fables, show what
credulity is engendered by belief in the Bible.

The Jews gathered quails for two days and a night, and joyfully carried
them home. But "while the flesh was yet between their teeth," the Lord
smote them with a very great plague, so that multitudes of them died.
Poor devils! They were always in hot water.

How the sheep and cattle were provisioned the Bible does not inform us.
There was scarcely a nibble of grass to be had in the desert, and as
they could not very well have lived on sand and pebbles, they must
have been supported miraculously. Perhaps the authors of the Pentateuch
forgot all about this.

Not only were the Jews, like their flocks and herds, miraculously
supported; they were also miraculously found in clothes. For forty years
their garments and shoes did not wear out. How was this miracle wrought?
When matter rubs against matter, particles are lost by abrasion. Did the
Lord stop this process, or did he collect all the particles that were
worn off during the day and replace them by night, on the soles of
shoes, on the elbows of coats, and on the knees of pantaloons? If
the clothes never wore out, it is fair to suppose that they remained
absolutely unchanged. Imagine a toddling urchin, two years old at the
exodus from Egypt, wearing the same rig when he grew up to manhood!
Justin, however, says that the clothes grew with their growth. Some
Jewish rabbis hold that angels acted as tailors in the wilderness, and
so the garments were all kept straight. But Augustine, Chrysostom, and
other Fathers abide by the literal interpretation that, through the
blessing of God, the clothes and shoes never wore out, so that those
who grew to manhood were able to hand them over, as good as new, to the
rising generation. According to this theory, _everybody_ must have had
a poor fit, unless there was a transference of garments every twelve
months or so.

The history of the Wandering Jews is full of miracles and wonders. It
says that all the congregation of Israel, numbering over two millions,
assembled at the door of the Tabernacle. As the whole width of the
Tabernacle was eighteen feet, only nine men could have stood in front
of it; and therefore the warriors of Israel alone, to say nothing of the
rest of the population, if we allow eighteen inches between each rank of
nine men, would have formed a column nearly _twenty miles_ long! We
find also that Moses, and Joshua after him, addressed not only the whole
congregation of Israel, including men, women, and children, but the
"mixed multitude" of strangers as well. Their voices were distinctly
heard by a crowded mass of people as large as the entire population of
London. They must have had stentorian lungs, or the people must have had
a wonderful sense of hearing.

When the Jews were encamped, according to Scott's estimate, they lived
in a sort of "moveable city, _twelve miles square_," nearly as large as
London. The people had to go outside this vast camp every day to bring
in a supply of water and fuel, after cutting the latter down where they
could find it! All their rubbish had to be carried out in like manner,
for Jehovah used sometimes to take a walk among them, and he was highly
displeased at seeing dirt. Every man, woman, and child, including the
old, the sick, and the infirm, had to go outside the camp to attend
to the necessities of nature! All the refuse of their multitudinous.
sacrifices had to be lugged out of the camp by the three priests,
Aaron, Eleazer, and Itharnar. Colenso reckons that the sacrifices alone,
allowing less than three minutes for each, would have occupied them
incessantly during the whole twenty-four hours of every day. The pigeons
brought to them daily as sin offer-ings must have numbered about 264,
and as these had to be consumed by the three priests, each of them had
to eat 88 pigeons a day, besides heaps of roast beef and other victuals!

Soon after the first fall of manna, the Jews murmured again because they
had no water. Whereupon Moses smote a rock with his magical rod, and
water gushed from it. The precious fluid came just in time to refresh
them for their fight with the Amalekites. These people were very
obstinate foes, and it required a miracle to defeat them. Moses ascended
a hill and held up his hand. While he did so the Israelites prevailed,
but when he let down his hand the Amalekites prevailed. To ensure
victory, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him, and held up his
hands until the sun set. By this means Joshua discomfited the Amalekites
with great slaughter. Moses built an altar to celebrate the event,
and God swore that he would "have war with Amelek from generation to
generation." As Jehovah's vengeance was so lasting, it is no wonder that
his worshipers carried on their wars ever afterwards on the most hellish

In the thirty-first chapter of Numbers we read that 12,000 Israelites
warred against Midian. The brag of the chronicler is evident in this
number or in those which follow. This little army polished off all the
kings of Midian, burnt all their cities and castles, slew 48,000 men,
and carried off 100,000 captives, besides, 675,000 sheep, 72,000 oxen,
and 61,000 asses. What prodigious spoil there was in those days! Of the
captives Moses ordered 48,000 women and 20,000 boys to be massacred in
cold blood; while the remaining 32,000 "women that had not known man
by lying with him" were reserved for another fate. The Lord's share of
these was thirty-two! They were of course handed over to the priests
as his representatives. Parsons, who rail against the immorality of
scepticism, say that this is all true.

These Midianites were a tough lot; for although they were _all killed_
on this occasion, and their cities and castles burnt, we find them a
powerful nation again in the sixth of _Judges_, and able to prevail
against the Jews for seven years.

Another people badly punished by the Jews were the inhabitants of Bashan.
All their cities were destroyed to the number of sixty. Their king, Og,
was a gigantic fellow, and slept on an iron bed twelve feet long. The
cities of Heshbon were destroyed in the same way. All the men, women,
and children, were slaughtered. Not one was spared.

We shall hereafter follow the Jews under Joshua. For the present we must
content ourselves with a last reference to their wanderings under Moses.
While they were encamped round Mount Sinai, their leader received an
invitation to go up and visit God who had been staying there for six
days. They had much to talk about, and the interview lasted forty days
and forty nights. At the end of it Moses descended, carrying with him
the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God on two tables of
stone. In his absence the Wandering Jews had given him up as lost, and
had induced Aaron to make them a god, in the shape of a golden calf, to
go before them. This image they were worshipping as Moses approached the
camp, and his anger waxed so not that he threw down the tables and broke
all the Ten Commandments at once. He then burnt the calf in fire and
ground it to powder, mixed it with water and made them drink it. He also
sent the Levites among them, who put three thousand men to the edge of
the sword. God wanted to destroy them altogether, but Moses held him
back. "Let me alone," said the Lord. "No, no," said Moses, "just think
what the Egyptians will say; they'll laugh at you after all as a poor
sort of a god; and remember, too, that you are bound by an oath to
multiply your people and to let them inherit the land of promise." So
the Lord cooled down, and wrote out the Decalogue again on two fresh
tables of stone. This Decalogue is supposed to be the foundation of
morality. But long before the time of Moses moral laws were known and
observed in Egypt, in India, and among all the peoples that ever lived.
Moral laws are the permanent conditions of social health, and the
fundamental ones must be observed wherever any form of society exists.
Their ground and guarantee are to be found in human nature, and do not
depend on a fabulous episode in the history of the Wandering Jews.




The Bible, it is frequently asserted, was never meant to teach us
science, but to instruct us in religion and morality; and therefore
we must not look to it for a faithful account of what happened in
the external world, but only for a record of the inner experiences of
mankind. Astronomy will inform us how the heavenly bodies came into
existence, and by what laws their motions are governed; Geology will
acquaint us with the way in which the earth's crust was formed, and with
the length of time occupied by the various stages of the process; and
Biology will tell us all about the origin and development of living
things. God has given us reason, by exercising which we may gather
knowledge and establish sciences, so as to explain the past, illustrate
the present, and predict the future; and as reason is sufficient for all
this, there is no need of a divine revelation in such matters. But
as reason is insufficient to teach the will of God and the laws of
morality, a divine revelation of these is necessary, and the Bible
contains it.

This plausible contention cannot, however, be maintained. The Bible
is not silent with respect to astronomy, geology, or biology. It makes
frequent and precise statements concerning them, and in nearly every
instance it contradicts scientific truth as we have amply proved in
previous numbers of this series.

The eleventh chapter of Genesis gives an explanation of the diversity
of languages on the earth. It does this in the truest spirit of romance.
Philologists like Max Müller and Whitney must regard the story of the
Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues, as a capital joke. A great
many parsons may still believe it, but they are not expected to know

One fact alone is enough to put the philology of Genesis out of court.
The native languages of America are all closely related to each other,
but they have no affinity with any language of the Old World. It is
therefore clear that they could not have been imported into the New
World by emigrants from the plains of Central Asia. The Genesaic theory
is thus proved to be not of universal application, and consequently

Let us come to the Bible story. Some time after the Flood, and before
the birth of Abraham, "the whole earth was of one language and one
speech;" or, as Colenso translates the original, "of one lip, and of one
language." This primitive tongue must have been Hebrew. God spoke it in
Eden when he conversed with our first parents, and probably it is spoken
in heaven to this day. For all we know it may be spoken in hell too. It
probably is, for the Devil and his angels lived in heaven before they
were turned into hell, and we may conclude that they took their native
language with them. It was spoken by Adam when he named his wife in
Paradise; by Eve, after the expulsion when she gave names to her sons,
Cain and Seth; by Lamech, shortly before the Flood, when he explained the
name of Noah; and indeed, as Colenso observes, "it is obvious that the
names of the whole series of Patriarchs from Adam to Noah, and from Noah
onwards, are in almost every instance pure Hebrew names." Delitzsch,
however, thinks it comparatively more probable that the Syriac or
Nabataan tongue, preserved after the dispersion at Babylon, was the one
originally spoken. Yet he dismisses the possibility of demonstrating it.
He supposes that the names of Adam and the other patriarchs have been
altered, but not so as to lose any of their original meaning; in other
words, that they have been, by God's grace, translated with perfect
accuracy from the primeval speech. But Colenso very justly remarks that
the original documents do not allude to a process of translation, and
that we have no right to assume it. He also adds that "if the authority
of Scripture is sufficient to prove the fact of a primeval language, it
must also prove that this language was Hebrew."

Yet the Bible is wrong, for Hebrew could not have been the primitive
speech. It is only a Semitic dialect, a branch of the Semitic stem.
Sanscrit is another stem, equally ancient; and according to Max Müller
and Bunsen, both are modifications of an earlier and simpler language.
Neither has the least affinity with Chinese, which again, like them,
differs radically from the native dialects of America. As Hosea Biglow

     "John P. Robinson, he
     Says they didn't know everything down in Judee."

And most certainly they did not know the true origin and development of
the various languages spoken by the nations of the earth.

The people who dwelt on the earth after the Deluge, and all spoke one
language, journeyed from the east, found a plain in, the land of Shinar,
and dwelt there. Shinar is another name for Babylon. After dwelling
there no one knows exactly how long, "they said one to another, Go
to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for
stone, and slime had they for morter." The writer of this story was very
fond of short cuts. It took men a long time to learn the art of making
bricks; and the idea of their suddenly saying to each other "let us make
brick," and at once proceeding to do so, is a wild absurdity.

Having made a lot of bricks, they naturally wished to do something with
them. So "they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose
top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be
scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." How could making
a name, for the information of nobody but themselves, prevent their
dispersion? And how could they resolve to build a "city," when they had
never seen one, and had no knowledge of what it was like? Cities are not
built in this manner. "Rome wasn't built in a day" is a proverb which
applies to all other places as well. London, Paris, and Rome, are
the growth of centuries, and the same must have been true of ancient

The reason assigned by Scripture for the work of these primitive
builders is plainly inadequate. A more probable reason is that they
mistrusted God's promise never again to destroy the earth with a flood,
and therefore determined to build a high tower, so that, if another
deluge came, they might ascend above the waters, or, if need be step
clean into heaven itself. Their lack of faith is not surprising. We find
the same characteristic on the part of believers in our own day. They
believe in God's promises only so far as it suits their interest and
convenience. Scripture says, "Whoso giveth unto the poor lendeth unto
the Lord." Yet there are thousands of rich Christians who seem to
mistrust the security.

How high did these primitive builders think heaven was? According to
Colenso, they said, "Come, let us build for us a city, and a tower _with
its head in heaven_." Did they really think they would ever succeed in
building so high? Perhaps they did, for their Natural Philosophy was
extremely limited. They doubtless imagined the blue vault of heaven as a
solid thing, in which were stuck the sun, moon, and stars, and no higher
than the sailing clouds.

Their simple ignorance is intelligible, but how can we explain the
ignorance of God? Their project alarmed him. He actually "came down to
see the city and the tower which the children of men builded." Heaven
was too distant for him to see from with accuracy, and telescopes
were not then invented. A close inspection led him to believe that his
ambitious children would succeed in their enterprise. They thought they
might build into heaven, and he thought so too. What was to be done? If
they once got into heaven, it might be very difficult to turn them
out again. It took several days' hard fighting to expel Satan and the
rebellious angels on a previous occasion, and these newcomers might be
still more obstinate. In this dangerous extremity, "the Lord said [unto
whom is unknown], Behold, the people is one, and they have all one
language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained
from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down,
and there confound their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech."

Why did the Lord resolve to take all this trouble? Had he forgotten the
law of gravitation and the principles of architecture? Was he, who made
the heaven and the earth, ignorant of the distance between them? He
had only to let the people go on building, and they would eventually
confound themselves; for, after reaching a certain height, the tower
would tumble about their ears. Gravitation would defeat the cohesion
of morter Why did not God leave them alone? Why did he take so much
unnecessary trouble? The answer is that this "Lord" was only "Jehovah"
of the Jews, a tribal god, who naturally knew no more about the facts
and laws of science than his worshippers who made him.

The Lord carried out his resolution. He "confounded their language," so
that no man could understand his neighbors. Probably this judgment was
executed in the night; and when they awoke in the morning, instead of
using the old familiar tongue, one man spoke Chinese, another Sanscrit,
another Coptic, another American, another Dutch, another Double Dutch,
and so on to the end of the chapter.

According to the Bible, this is the true philology. No language on
the earth is more than four thousand years old, and every one was
miraculously originated at Babel. Is there a single philologist living
who believes this? We do not know one.

The result of this confusion of tongues was that the people "left off
to build the city," and were "scattered, abroad on the face of all the
earth." But why did they disperse? Their common weakness should have
kept them together. Society is founded upon our wants. Our necessity,
and not our self-sufficience, causes association and mutual helpfulness.
Had these people kept company for a short time, they would have
understood each other again. A few common words would have come into
general use, and the building of the tower might have been resumed.

How was their language "confounded?" Did God destroy their verbal
memory? Did he paralyse a part of their brain, so that, although they
remembered the words, they could not speak them? Did he affect the
organs of articulation, so that the sounds of the primeval language
could not be reproduced? Will some theologian kindly explain this
mystery? Language is not a gift, but a growth. Different tribes and
nations have had different experiences, different wants, and different
surroundings, and the result is a difference in their languages, as
well as in their religious ideas, political organisations, and social

Before we leave this portion of the subject, we beg to introduce Milton
again. In the last Book of "Paradise Lost" he adds from his fertile
imagination to the Bible story, and supplies a few deficiencies about
which the mind is naturally curious. He makes the Archangel Michael tell
poor Adam and Eve, as part of his panoramic description of future times,
that a mighty hunter shall arise, claiming dominion over his fellows,
and gather under him a band of adherents. This is clearly Nimrod. Milton
separates him and his subjects from the rest of mankind, and represents
them as the people who settled on "the plain in the land of Shinar."

According to our great poet, therefore, the confusion of tongues applied
only to them, and the other inhabitants of the earth retained the
primeval language in all its original purity. This detachment, says

     Marching from Eden towards the west, shall find
     The plain, wherein a black bituminous gurge,
     Boils out from underground, the mouth of Hell:
     Of brick, and of that stuff they cast to build
     A city and a tower, whose top may reach to Heaven;
     And get themselves a name, lest, far dispersed
     In foreign lands, their memory be lost,
     Regardless whether good or evil fame.
     But God, who oft descends to visit men
     Unseen, and through their habitations walks
     To mark their doings, them beholding soon,
     Comes down to see their city, ere the tower
     Obstruct Heav'n-tow'rs, and in derision sets
     Upon their tongue a various spirit to rase
     Quite out their native language, and instead
     To sow a jangling noise of words unknown.
     Forthwith a hideous gabble rises loud
     Among the builders; each to other calls
     Not understood, till hoarse, and all in rage,
     As mock'd, they storm: great laughter was in Heaven,
     And looking down, to see the hubbub strange
     And hear the din; thus was the building left
     Ridiculous, and the work Confusion named.

If the Tower of Babel was built over the mouth of Hell it would be wise
to explore its site and make proper excavations, so as to settle the
geography and physical character of the bottomless-pit. The Churches
are sadly in want of a little information about hell, and here is an
opportunity for them to acquire it, We hope the explorers will all be
selected for their extreme piety, so that they may be as fire-proof as
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and happily escape cremation.

Because the Lord "did there confound their language" the place was
"called Babel." The Hebrew root, _balal_ to confound, is not, however,
that from which the word "Babel" is derived, It is a compound of "Bel,"
and may mean the "House of Bel," "Court of Bel," or "Gate of Bel."
Some, including Professor Rawlinson, suppose it be a compound of "El" or
"il," in which case "Bab-El" means the "Gate of God."

It is evident that the story of the Tower of Babal was borrowed by the
Jehovist author of this part of Genesis from the tradition of the famous
unfinished Temple of Belus, one of the wonders of antiquity. "Birs
Nimroud" is thus described by Kalisch:--

"The huge heap, in which bricks, stone, marble, and basalt, are
irregularly mixed, covers a surface of 49,000 feet; while the chief
mound is nearly 300 feet high, and from 200 to 400 feet in width,
commanding an extensive view over a country of utter desolation. The
Tower consisted of seven distinct stages or square platforms, built of
kiln-burnt bricks, each about twenty feet high, gradually diminishing
in diameter. The upper part of the brickwork has a vitrefied appearance;
for it is supposed that the Babylonians, in order to render their
edifices more durable, submitted them to the heat of the furnace;
and large fragments of such vitrefied and calcined materials are also
intermixed with the rubbish at the base. This circumstance may have
given rise to, or at least countenanced, the legend of the destruction
of the Tower by heavenly fire, still extensively adopted among the
Arabians. The terraces were devoted to the planets, and were differently
colored in accordance with the notions of Sabæan astrology--the lowest,
Saturn's, _black_; the second, Jupiter's, _orange_; the third, Mars,
_red_; the fourth, the Sun's, _yellow_; the fifth, Venus's, _white_;
the sixth, Mercury's, _blue_; the seventh, the Moon's, _green_.
Merodach-adan-akhi is stated to have begun it B.C. 1100. It was finished
five centuries afterwards by Nebuchadnezzar, who left a part of its
history on two cylinders, which have lately been excavated on the spot,
and thus deciphered by Rawlinson. 'The building, named the Planisphere,
which was the wonder of Babylon, I have made and finished. With bricks,
enriched with lapis lazuli, I have exalted its head. Behold now the
building, named "The Stages of the Seven Spheres," which was the wonder
of Borsippa, had been built by a former king. He had completed forty-two
cubits of height: but he did not finish the head. From the lapse of time
it became ruined. They had not taken care of the exit of the waters; so
the rain and wet had penetrated into the brickwork. The casing of burnt
brick lay scattered in heaps. Then Merodach, my great lord, inclined
my heart to repair the building. I did not change its site, nor did I
destroy its foundation-platform. But, in a fortunate month, and upon an
auspicious day, I undertook the building of the raw-brick terrace and
the burnt-brick casing of the Temple. I strengthened its foundation, and
I placed a titular record on the part which I had rebuilt. I set my
hand to build it up, and to exalt its summit. As it had been in ancient
times, so I built up its structure. As it had been in former days, thus
I exalted its head.'"

Professor Rawlinson assigns B.C. 2300 as the date of the building of the
Temple. But as Colenso remarks, his reasoning is very loose. His date,
however, is _antecedent_ to the supposed time of the building of
Babel, and according to his own chronology the latter _may_ have been
a tradition of the former. Add to this that the ruins of _Birs Nimroud_
are extant, while there is no vestige of the ruins of Babel. According
to Kalisch's chronology, _Birs Nimroud_ was built long after the
supposed time of Moses; and if _he_ wrote the Pentateuch our position
cannot be maintained. But he did not write the Pentateuch or any portion
of it. The writer of the Jehovist portion of Genesis, which contains the
story of the Tower of Babel, certainly did not flourish before the
time of Solomon, about b.c. 1015--975. Here, then, is an interval of
a century. That is a short period for the growth of a legend. Yet, as
Colenso observes, "as the _tower_ was apparently an observatory, and
the fact of its being dedicated to the seven ancient planets shows
that astronomical observations had made considerable progress among the
Chaldeans at the time when it was built, the traditions connected with
it may have embodied stories of a much earlier date, to which the new
building gave fresh currency."

The Temple of Jupiter Belus with its tower was partially destroyed
by Xerxes b.c. 490; upon which, says Kalisch, "the fraudulent priests
appropriated to themselves the lands and enormous revenues attached to
it, and seem, from this reason, to have been averse to its restoration."
A part of the edifice still existed more than five centuries later, and
was mentioned by Pliny. But the other part was, in the time of Alexander
the Great, a vast heap of ruins. He determined to rebuild it, but
desisted from the enterprise, when he found that ten thousand workmen
could not remove the rubbish in two months. Benjamin of Tudela described
it in the twelfth century, after which, for more than six hundred
years, it remained unnoticed and unknown. The ruins were rediscovered
by Niebuhr in 1756; subsequent explorers more accurately described
them; and they were thoroughly examined, and their monumental records
deciphered, about thirty years ago.

The myth attaching to it is not unique. As Kalisch observes, "most
of the ancient nations possessed myths concerning impious giants, who
attempted to storm heaven, either to share it with the immortal gods, or
to expel them from it." And even the orthodox Delitzsch allows that
"the Mexicans have a legend of a tower-building, as well as of a Flood.
Xelhua, one of the seven giants rescued in the flood, built the great
pyramid of Cholula, in order to reach heaven, until the gods, angry at
his audacity, threw fire upon the building, and broke it down, whereupon
every separate family received a language of its own." To lessen the
force of this, Delitzsch says that the Mexican legend has been much
colored by its narrators, chiefly Dominicans and Jesuits; but he is
obliged to admit that there is great significance in the fact that the
Mexican terrace-pyramid closely resembles the construction of the Temple
of Belus. No argument can vitiate the conclusion that as similar myths
to that of Genesis abounded in ancient times, it is highly illogical to
attach particular importance to any one of them. If one is historic, all
are historic. We are justified in holding that the Jewish story of the
Tower of Babel is only a modification of the older story of the Temple
of Belus.

We will conclude this Number by mentioning a few facts, not
speculations, which are exceedingly curious, and which present grave
difficulty to the orthodox believer.

According to the Bible, in Abraham's time, not four centuries after the
Deluge, the descendants of Noah's three sons had multiplied into the
four great kingdoms of _Shinar_ (Babylon), _Elam_, _Egypt_, and _Gerar_,
besides a multitude of smaller nations. Does any instructed man believe
in the possibility of such multiplication? It is altogether incredible.

Some of these nations had reached a high degree of civilisation. Indeed,
the temples, tombs, pyramids, manners, customs, and arts of Egypt
betoken a _full-grown_ nation. The sculptures of the Fourth Dynasty, the
earliest extant, and which must be assigned to the date of about 3500
b.c., are almost as perfect as those of her Augustan age, two thousand
years later. Professor Rawlinson seeks to obviate this difficulty by
appealing to the version of the Seventy instead of to the Hebrew text,
by which he obtains the remote antiquity of 8159 B.C., instead of 2848,
for the Deluge. But this chronology does not reach within four hundred
years of the civilisation denoted by the sculptures referred to! And
there must have been milleniums of silent progress in Egypt before that

On the ancient monuments of Egypt the negro head, face, hair, form,
and color, are the same as we observe in our own day. Consequently, the
orthodox believer must hold that, in a few generations, the human family
branched out into strongly marked varieties. History discountenances
this assumption, and Biology plainly disproves it. Archdeacon Pratt
supposes that Shem, Ham, and Japheth "had in them elements differing as
widely as the Asiatic, the African, and the European, differ from each
other." He forgets that they were brothers, sons of the same father
and presumably of the same mother! Such extraordinary evolution throws
Darwinism into the shade.

Noah lived fifty-eight years after the birth of Abraham. Shem lived a
hundred and ten years after the birth of Isaac, and fifty years after
the birth of Jacob. How was it that neither Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob
knew either of them. They were the most interesting and important men
alive at the time. They had seen the world before the Flood. One of
them had seen people who knew Adam. They had lived through the confusion
of tongues at Babel, and were well acquainted with the whole history of
the world. Yet they are never once mentioned in Scripture during all
the centuries they survived their exit from the ark. Why is this?
Noah before his death was the most venerable man existing. He was five
hundred years older than any other man. He must have been an object
of universal regard. Yet we have no record of the second half of his
career; no account is given of his burial; no monument was erected to
his memory. Who will explain this astounding neglect? The Bible is a
strange book, and they are strange people who believe it.




The ass has figured extensively in romance. His long ears and peculiar
bray are explained by a story which goes back to the Flood. On that
occasion, it is said, the male donkey was inadvertently left outside the
ark, but being a good swimmer, he nevertheless managed to preserve his
life. After many desperate efforts he at last succeeded in calling out
the patriarch's name, as nearly as the vocal organs of a jackass would
allow. "No-ah, No-ah," cried the forlorn beast. Noah's attention was at
last aroused, and on looking out of window to see who was calling, he
perceived the poor jackass almost spent and faintly battling with the
waves. Quickly opening the window, he caught Neddy by the two ears
and hauled him in. This he did with such vigor that Neddy's aural
appendages were considerably elongated; and ever since donkeys have had
long ears, and brayed "No-ah, No-ah" at the approach of wet weather. For
the sake of Christians who are not well acquainted with God's Word, we
add that this story is not in the Bible.

Classical scholars and students of modern literature know how the ass
has been treated by poets and romancers. The stolid animal has generally
been made the subject of comedy. Drunken and impotent Silenus, in the
Pagan mythology, joins in the professions of Bacchus on a sober ass, and
the patient animal staggers beneath the heavy burden of a fat-paunched
tipsy god. Apulius and Lucian transform the hero of their common
story into an ass, and in that shape he encounters the most surprising
experiences. Voltaire makes an ass play a wonderful part in his
"Pucelle." And in all these cases it is worth noticing how the profane
wits remember the ass's relation to Priapian mysteries, from his fabled
interruption of the garden-god's attempt on the nymph Lotis downwards,
and assign to him marvellous amatory adventures. Erasmus, in his "Praise
of Folly," does not forget the ass, with whom he compares the majority
of men for stupidity, obstinacy, and lubricity; nor is the noble
animal forgotten by Rabelais, who cracks many a joke and points many a
witticism at his expense.

Our own genial humorist, Charles Lamb, confesses however to a deep
tenderness for Neddy, and dwells with delight on the protection which
his thick hide affords against the cruel usuage of man. He has, says
Lamb, "a tegument impervious to ordinary stripes. The malice of a child
or a weak hand can make feeble impressions on him. His back offers no
mark to a puny foeman. To a common whip or switch his hide presents an
absolute-insensibility. You might as well pretend to scourge a schoolboy
with a tough pair of leather breeches on." Lamb also quotes the
following passage from a tract printed in 1595, entitled "The Noblenesse
of the Asse; a Work Rare, Learned, and Excellent": "He refuseth no
burden; he goes whither he is sent, without any contradiction. He lifts
not his foote against any one; he bytes not; he is no fugitive, nor
malicious affected. He doth all-things in good sort, and to his liking
that hath cause to employ him. If strokes be given him, he cares not for
them." True, the ass is not much given to kicking or biting, but he has
an awkward knack of quietly lying down when he is indisposed to work,
and of rolling over with equal quietude if a rider happens to be on his
back. But the old author is so enchanted with the "asse" that he does
not stay to notice this scurvy trick. He even goes on to express his
liking for the ass's bray, calling Neddy "a rare musitian," and saying
that "to heare the musicke of five or six voices changed to so many of
asses is amongst them to heare a song of world without end."

Sterne, in his "Sentimental Journey," has a chapter entitled "The
Dead Ass," wherein the animal is lifted into the sphere of pathos. And
lastly, Coleridge has some very pious musings on an ass, wherein the
animal is lifted into the sphere of religion.

Now, dear reader, you begin to see the drift of this long exordium,
although my purpose was indeed twofold. First, I wished, after the
example of my betters in literature, to give you a slight glimpse of the
immense extent of my learning. Secondly, I wished to lead you through
the various stages of literary treatment of the ass, from the comic
to the pathetic, and finally to-the religious, in order that you might
approach in a proper frame of mind the consideration of Balaam's ass,
who is the most remarkable of all the four-legged asses mentioned in the
Bible. There were others. Asses were being sought by Saul, the son
of Kish, when he found a kingdom of subjects instead. Jesus rode into
Jerusalem on an ass, and also apparently on a colt, having probably
one leg over each. With the jawbone of an ass Samson slew a thousand
Philistines; and if the rest of the animal accorded with that particular
bone, he must have been a tough ass indeed. But all these are of little
interest or importance beside the wonderful ass of the prophet
Balaam, whose history is contained, with that of his master, in the
twenty-second, twenty-third, and twenty-fourth chapters of the Book of

Soon after the Wandering Jews in the desert were plagued by "fiery
serpents" for asking Moses to give them a slight change in their
monotonous bill of fare, they warred against the Amorites and pretty
nearly exterminated them. Whereupon Balak the son of Zippor, king of
Moab, grew "sore afraid." He called together the "elders of Midian" with
those of Moab, and said that in his opinion the Jews would lick them all
up as the ox licked up the grass of the field.

Against such a ferocious gang as the Jews, with a bloody God of Battles
to help them, human valor promised little success; so Balak resolved to
solicit supernatural aid. Accordingly he sent messengers unto Balaam the
son of Beor, a renowned and potent soothsayer, desiring him to come and
curse the people of Israel.

The King had implicit confidence in Balaam. "Whom thou blessest," said
he, "is blessed, and whom thou cursest is cursed." This great prophet
must have wrought prodigious wonders in his time to gain so magnificent
a reputation; and if the king's panegyric on him was true, he must have
been a dangerous person to those who annoyed him and made him swear.

The "elders of Moab and the elders of Midian," who were Balak's
messengers, went to Pethor, where Balaam resided. As the reader might
expect, they did not go empty-handed, but took with them "the rewards
of divination." What these were we are not told. No doubt they were very
handsome. The prophetical business requires large profits to compensate
for the absence of quick returns; and in any case it is not to be
supposed that a man who can do what no one else can, will begin work
without a heavy retaining fee. We conclude that Balaam, like nearly
every prophet mentioned in history, had a good eye for the main chance,
and did not trust very much in the bounty of the gods. He was never
hard up for bread and cheese while other people were hard up for divine
assistance, and as that was an ignorant and credulous age, we presume
that his larder was well-stocked. He must, indeed, have had a fine
time, for he was the biggest pot in his own line of business in all that

Balaam knew his business well. It would never do for a prophet, a
soothsayer, a wizard, or a diviner, to give prompt answers to his
applicants, or even to make his answers plain when he does give them.
That would render the profession cheap and rob it of mystery. So Balaam,
therefore, said to the messengers, "Lodge here this night, and I will
bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me."

Now this reference to _the Lord_ is very surprising. The Moabites
worshipped Baal, and no doubt they had the utmost contempt for Jehovah.
Yet Balaam, who was a prophet of their religion, tells them that he will
consult the god of Israel on the subject of their visit! This is one of
the self-contradictions with which the Bible abounds.

The next incident of the story is no less remarkable. God, the infinite
spirit of the universe, paid Balaam a visit; and although he knows
everything, past, present, and to come, he asked the prophet "What
men are these with thee?" Balaam gave a straightforward reply, for he
doubtless knew that prevarication and subterfuge were useless with
God. Said he, "Balak the son of Zippor, King of Moab, has sent unto me,
saying, Behold there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the
face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able
to overcome them and drive them out." The precision of Balaam's language
is admirable, and so is its accuracy. He neither desired to keep the
Lord in suspense, nor to leave him in ignorance of necessary details.
God's answer was equally brief and perspicuous: "Thou shalt not go with
them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed."

This interview between God and Balaam, like the following ones, occurred
in the night. The Lord seems to have been always afraid of daylight, or
else to have had a peculiar fondness for the dark. Perhaps he thought
that during the night there was less chance of the conversation being
interrupted, and it is well known that the Lord loves privacy and does
not like conversing with more than one at a time. He agrees with us that
"two's company and three's none."

In the morning Balaam got out of bed and told Balak's messengers to
return and say that the Lord would not let him come; and they at once
set out for the capital.

Balak, however, was not to be so easily put off. He seems to have
regarded the prophet's talk about the Lord's prohibition as "all my
eye." "Perhaps," said he to himself, "my messengers were small fry in
the sight of Balaam, and he is therefore displeased. My presents also
may have been too small I should have recollected that Balaam has a
very exalted opinion of himself, and is renowned for his avarice. What a
stupid I was, to-be sure. However, I'll try again. This time I'll send
a deputation of big guns, and promise him great wealth and high position
in the state. He can't refuse such a tempting offer." Straight-way he
"sent yet again princes, more and more honorable" than those who went
before, and commanded them to urge Balaam to let nothing hinder him from

Balaam slightly resented this treatment. He told the messengers-that if
Balak would give him his house full of silver and gold, he could not
go beyond the word of the Lord, to do more or less. Yet he apparently
deemed it politic to make another trial. He was, of course, quite aware
that God is unchangeable, but somehow he thought the Lord might alter
his mind. So he bade the messengers to tarry there that night while he
consulted God afresh.

Balaam's expectation was realised. The Lord did change his mind. He
"came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call
thee, rise up and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say
unto thee, that shalt thou do." So the prophet rose up in the morning,
saddled and mounted his wonderful ass, and went off with the princes of

Poor Balaam, however, did not reflect that as the Lord had changed his
mind once he might change it twice, and the omission very nearly cost
him his life. He was unfortunately ignorant of what happened to Moses on
a similar occasion. After the Lord had dispatched the Jewish prophet
to Egypt to rescue his people from bondage, he met him at an inn, where
perhaps they both put up for the night, and sought to kill him. The same
thing happened now. No sooner had Balaam set out on his journey than
"God's anger was kindled against him because he went." This Jehovah is
a queer God and dreadfully hard to please. If you don't obey his orders
you run the risk of being damned, and if you do you stand a good chance
of being murdered. The only safe course is to get out of his way and
have nothing to do with him.

The "angel of the Lord" stood in Balaam's path, with a drawn sword in
his hand, ready to kill the prophet whose only crime was having done
exactly what he was told. But neither Balaam nor his two servants saw
him. The ass, however, had better eyesight. Being only an ass, and not a
man, he had a greater aptitude for seeing angels. Not liking the look
of this formidable stranger, Neddy bolted from the pathway into a field.
Balaam, who saw no reason for such behavior except sheer perverseness,
began to whack his ass and tried to turn him * into the right road.
Neddy succumbed to this forcible argument and jogged on again. The angel
of the Lord had apparently, in the meantime, made himself invisible
even to a jackass. His intention was ultimately to kill Balaam, but he
delayed the fatal stroke in order to make the most of the comedy
which he foresaw. Going a little in front, he "stood in a path of the
vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that" Neddy caught
sight of the angel again, and being unable this time to bolt into
the field, he lurched against the wall, and gave Balaam's foot a good
scrunching. Still the prophet suspected nothing out of the common, for
that was an ordinary trick of refractory asses. Poor Neddy, therefore,
got another thrashing. Then the angel of the Lord went on further, and
"stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to
the right hand or to the left." Neddy estimated the certain penalty of
refusing to proceed and the probable penalty of going forward. After
comparing them he decided to stop where he was, and then quietly laid
down. Balaam's anger was once more kindled by this stupid obstinacy, and
he whacked the ass again with his staff.

     * Balaam's ass was a "she," but the sex is immaterial, and
     as we commenced with the masculine gender we will continue
     with it.

Then the Lord intervened, and brought about the most extraordinary
incident of this wonderful story. He "opened the mouth of the ass," and
lo! instead of braying Neddy spoke. Without a note of preparation he
began to upbraid his master in good Moabitish. "What have I done," said
he, "that thou hast smitten me these three times."

Singular to relate, Balaam was not in the least astonished at hearing
an ass speak. He took it as quite an ordinary occurrence. One is almost
inclined to think that the prophet and his donkey had held many a
conversation before. In the Bible no one ever is astonished at anything,
however wonderful. When the serpent accosted Eve in the garden of Eden,
she was not at all surprised, but went on with the colloquy as though
talking serpents were common things. If a dumb animal were nowadays
to address a man with "How d'ye do?" he would certainly be very much
startled; but when the same thing occurred in the old Bible days, the
man at once replied "Very well, thank you, how are you?"

Balaam promptly answered the ass's question. "Because," said he, "thou
hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I
kill thee." Then the ass rejoined, "Am not I thine ass, upon which thou
hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to
do so unto thee?" This was a poser. Balaam scratched his head and
reflected, but at last he was obliged to say "Nay."

Neddy had so far the best of the argument. But Balaam had the practical
argument of the stick left, and no doubt he was about to convince the
donkey with it. All arguments, practical or otherwise, would however
have left the dispute exactly where it stood. Neddy saw the angel, and
that was enough for him. Balaam did not see the angel, but only Neddy's
obstinate stupidity. In short, they reasoned from different premises,
and could not therefore arrive at the same conclusion. They might have
argued till doomsday had not the Lord again intervened. He "opened
Balaam's eyes," so that he also "saw the angel of the Lord standing in
the way, and his sword drawn in his hand." Then Balaam "bowed his head,
and fell flat on his face," and there he and Neddy laid side by side,
two asses together.

Now, dear reader, you will observe that the ass, being indeed an ass,
saw the angel first, and that Balaam, who was a wise man, did not see
the angel until his wits were disordered by the wonder of a talking
donkey. Does this not bear out great Bacon's remark that "in all
superstition, wise men follow fools"? And may we not say, that if asses
did not see angels first, wise men would never see them after?

The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, while he remained flat on his
face, "Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold,
I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
and the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had
turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive."
The moral of this is that asses stand the best chance of salvation, and
that wise men run a frightful risk of damnation until they lose their

Balaam recognised the awful mess he was in, and being by this time as
limp as a wet rag, he made the most abject apology. "I have sinned," he
said, "for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me." This
strange reasoning shows still more clearly how the poor prophet had
taken leave of his senses. He had not sinned at all, for he was
strictly obeying God's commands; nor was it his fault that the angel
remained so long invisible. When the Lord "opened his eyes," and made
his vision like unto the vision of an ass, he saw the angel plainly
enough; and how could he possibly have done so before?

"I'll go back," added Balaam, thinking that if he sinned so greatly in
going forward, he had better return home. But the angel of the Lord,
who had intended to kill him for advancing, now told him to "go with the
men." And Balaam went with them, keeping his weather eye open during the
rest of the journey.

Balak was heartily glad to see Balaam. The prophet had been a long time
coming, but better late than never. The next day they went "up into the
high places of Baal," from which they could see the utmost part of
the people of Israel. "There they are," said Balak, "confound them!
leprous slaves out of Egypt, bent on stealing other people's lands, and
sticking to all they can lay hands on; bloodthirsty vagabonds, who fight
people with whom they have no quarrel, and kill men, women, and children
when they are victorious. Now, Balaam, do your duty. Curse them, and lay
it on thick."

Seven altars were built, and seven oxen and seven rams sacrificed on
them. But all this good meat was wasted, for when Balaam "went to an
high place," God met him, according to agreement, and told him what to
say. And lo! when the prophet returned to the king, he blessed the Jews
instead of cursing them.

"Hullo, Balaam, what's this?" cried the king. "I asked you to curse
my enemies and you've gone and blessed them. What d'ye mean?" "True,"
answered Balaam, "but I told you that I could only speak what the Lord
put into my mouth."

Balak appears to have been just as sceptical as Pharaoh about the God
of the Jews. He attributed his disappointment to a freak of the prophet,
and not being easily baffled he resolved to try again. So he took Balaam
up another high place, and built seven fresh altars, and sacrificed
on them seven more bullocks and rams; after which he repeated his
invitation. Again Balaam went farther to consult the Lord, whom he found
waiting for him, and received his instructions. And lo! when he returned
to Balak he again blessed the Jews instead of cursing them.

Balak resolved to try again. He took Balaam to another high place, built
seven more altars, and sacrificed seven more bullocks and seven more
rams. But again the prophet blessed Israel, and a third time the king
was sold. Then he gave it up, and Balaam and his ass went home.

What became of the ass is unknown. Perhaps he went into the prophetical
business himself, and eventually retired on a very handsome fortune.
Perhaps he went about as a preacher of the gospel as it was then
understood; in which case, judging from the rule of success in later
ages, we have no doubt that he attracted large audiences and delighted
all who were fortunate enough to sit under him. And when he died all the
two-legged asses in Moab probably wept and refused to be comforted.

Balaam's end was tragic. The thirteenth chapter of _Joshua_ informs us
that he was eventually slain by the very people he had thrice blessed.
After an account of one of the bloody wars of Jehovah's bandits we read
that "Balaam also the son of Beor, the sooth-sayer, did the children
of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them." The
angel of the Lord spared him, but God's butchers cut his throat at
last. On the whole he might as well have cursed the Jews up and down to
Balak's satisfaction, and taken the handsome rewards which were offered
him on such easy terms.

Here endeth the story of Balaam's Ass. I hope my reader still believes
it, for if not, he will be reprobate while he lives and damned when he




Some years ago the righteous indignation of England was roused by
the daily record of atrocities perpetrated in Bulgaria by the Turkish
bashi-bazouks. Men were wantonly massacred, pregnant women ripped up,
and maidens outraged by brutal lust. Our greatest statesman uttered a
clarion-cry which pealed through the whole nation, and the friends of
the Turk in high places shrank abashed and dismayed before the stern
response of the people. Many clergymen attended public meetings, and
denounced not only the Turks, but also their Mohammedanism. They alleged
that the Koran sanctioned, even if it did not command, the horrors which
had been wrought in Eastern Europe, and they declared that there was
no hope for a country which derived its maxims of state from such an
accursed book. Those denunciations did honor to their hearts, but very
little to their heads. For every brutal injunction in the Koran, twenty
might be found in the Bible. Before the clergy cry out against the
Scriptures of Islam, they should purge their own of those horrid
features which are an insult to man and a blasphemy against God.
Mohammed gave savage counsels to his followers with respect to waging
war, but these sink into insignificance beside the counsels given to the
Jews by Moses in the name of God.

Bible Romances are generally comic, but this one is infinitely tragic.
The whole range of history affords no worse instances of cold-blooded
cruelty than those which God's thieves, the Jews, perpetrated in Canaan,
when they took forcible possession of cities they had not built and
fields they had never ploughed. "How that red rain will make the harvest
grow!" exclaims Byron of the blood shed at Waterloo; and surely the
first harvests reaped by the Jews in Canaan must have been luxuriantly
rich, for the ground had been drenched with the blood of the slain.

Before Moses died, according to the Bible, he delivered an elaborate
code of laws to his people in the name of God. The portions referring to
war are contained in the twentieth chapter of _Deuteronomy_. Here they
stand in all their naked hideous-ness:--

"When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim
peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and
open unto thee, then it shall be that all the people that is found
therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And
if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then
thou shalt besiege it. And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into
thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the
sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all
that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto
thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord
thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which
are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these
nations. But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God
doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that
breatheth. But thou shalt utterly destroy them."

Such were the fiendish commands of Jehovah, the bloody maxims of
inspired war. Let us see how the Jews carried them out.

During the lifetime of Moses they made a good beginning; for in their
war against Midian they slew 48,000 men, 48,000 women, and 20,000 boys,
and took as spoil 32,000 virgins. But they did much better under Joshua.

After God had dispatched Moses and secretly buried him, so that nobody
should ever discover his sepulchre, Joshua was appointed leader in his
stead. He was "full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his
hands upon him." Then, as now, religious superiors transmitted holiness
to their inferiors through the skull. God accepted the nomination of
Moses and instructed Joshua in his duties. He told him to be above all
"strong and very courageous," and to fight the enemy according to the
law of Moses. Joshua was not the man to neglect such advice.

Joshua was soon ordered to cross the river Jordan and begin the holy
war. But before doing so, he dispatched two spies to reconnoitre
Jericho, the first place to be attacked. They reached the city by night,
and of course required lodgings. Instinct led them to the house of
Rahab, the harlot. She proved a very good friend; for when messengers
came from the king in the morning to inquire about them, she said that
they had gone, and advised the messengers to go after them, which they
did. Meanwhile she hid the spies under some flax on the roof of her
house, and at night "let them down by a cord through the window, for she
dwelt on the town wall." Before they left, however, she made a covenant
with them. Like many other ladies of easy virtue, or no virtue at
all, Rahab was piously inclined. She had conceived a great respect
for Jehovah, and was assured that his people would overcome all their
enemies. But she had also a great respect for her own skin; so she made
the two spies promise on behalf of the Jews that when they took Jericho
they would spare her and all her relatives; and they were to recognise
her house by the "line of scarlet thread in the window." They got back
safe to Joshua and told him it was all right; the people were in a
dreadful funk, and all the land would soon be theirs.

Joshua got up early the next morning and told the Jews that the Lord was
going to do wonders. They wanted to get "on the other side of Jordan."
and the Lord meant to ferry them across in his own style. Twelve men
were selected, one from each tribe, to follow the priests who bore the
ark in front, and all the Jewish host came after them. As it was harvest
time, the river had overflowed its banks. When the priests' feet "were
dipped in the brim of the water," the river parted in twain; on one side
the waters "stood and rose up upon an heap," while on the other side
they "failed and were cut off." As no miracle was worked further up the
river to stop the supplies, the "heap" must have been a pretty big one
before the play ended. A clear passage having been made, the Jews all
crossed on dry ground. They seem to have done this in less than a day,
but three millions of people could not march past one spot in less than
a week. Perhaps the Lord gave them a shove behind.

The twelve selected Jews, one from each tribe, took twelve big stones
out of the bed of the river, which were "pitched in Gilgal" as "a
memorial unto the children of Israel for ever." For ever is a long time
and is not yet ended. Those stones should be there now. Why don't the
clergy try to discover them? If brought to London and set up on the
Thames embankment they would throw Cleopatra's needle into the shade.

When God had ferried the Jews across, and picked out the twelve
big stones as aids to memory, the "heap" of water tumbled down and
overflowed the banks of the river. Joshua and his people then encamped
near Jericho, in readiness for greater wonders to come.

Three days afterwards the manna ceased. Jehovah's fighting cocks wanted
a more invigorating diet. This time they did not ask for a change, but
the Lord vouchsafed it spontaneously.

All the males, too, were circumcised by God's orders. This Jewish rite
had been neglected during the forty years' wandering in the wilderness,
but it was now resumed. From the text it seems that Joshua circumcised
all the males himself. As they numbered about a million and a half it
must have been a long job. Allowing a minute for each amputation, it
would in the natural course of things have taken him about three years
to do them all; but being divinely aided, he finished his task in a
single day. Samson's jaw-bone was nothing to Joshua's knife.

Soon after Joshua, being near Jericho, like Balaam's ass saw an angel
with a drawn sword in his hand. When he had made obeisance, by falling
flat and taking off his shoes, he received from this heavenly messenger
precise instructions as to the capture of the doomed city. The Lord's
way of storming fortresses is unique in military literature. Said he to
Joshua--"Ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round
about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests
shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh
day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow
with the trumpet? And it shall come to pass that when they make a long
blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet
all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city
shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight
before him."

Did ever another general receive such extraordinary instructions from
his commander-in-chief? God's soldiers need no cannon, or battering
rams, or bombshells; all they require is a few rams' horns and good
lungs for shouting.

God's orders were obeyed. Six days in succession did the Jews march
round the walls of Jericho, no doubt to the great bewilderment of its
inhabitants, who probably wondered why they didn't come on, and felt
that there was something uncanny in this roundabout siege. On the
seventh day they went round the city seven times. How tired they must
have been! Jericho, being a capital city, could not have been less than
several miles in circumference. The priests blew with the trumpets,
the people shouted with a great shout, and the walls of Jericho fell
flat--as flat as the simpletons who believe it.

A scene of horror ensued. The Jews "utterly destroyed all there was in
the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass,
with the edge of the sword." Only Rahab and her relatives were spared.
The silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, were put
into the Lord's treasury--that is, handed over to the priests; and then
the city was burnt with fire. God commanded this, and his chosen people
executed it Could Jericho have been treated worse if the Devil himself
had planned the fight, and the vilest fiends from hell had conducted it?

Rahab the harlot, being saved with all her relatives, who were perhaps
as bad as she, dwelt with the Jews ever afterwards. Whether she
continued in her old profession we are unable to say. But it is certain
that the Jews soon after grew very corrupt, and the Lord's anger was
kindled against them. The first result of God's displeasure was that the
Jews became demoralised as warriors. Three thousand of them, who went up
against Ai, were routed, and thirty-six of them were slain. This seems
a very small number, but, as we have already observed, the Jewish
chroniclers were much given to bragging. Their losses were always very
small, and the enemy's very great.

After this rebuff the Jews funked; their hearts "melted and became as
water." Joshua rent his clothes, fell upon his face before the ark, and
remained there until the evening. The elders of Israel did likewise,
and they all put dust on their heads. To conclude the performance Joshua
expostulated with God, asked him whether he had brought his people over
Jordan only to betray them to their enemies, and expressed a hearty wish
that they had never crossed the river at all.

The Lord told Joshua to get up, as it was no use lying there. Israel had
sinned, and God had determined not to help them until they had purged
themselves. Some one, in fact, had stolen a portion of the spoil of
Jericho, all of which belonged to the Lord, that is to the priests,
who evidently helped to concoct this pretty story. Joshua forthwith
proceeded to hunt the sinner out. His method was very singular. He
resolved to go through the twelve tribes until the culprit was found.
The tribe of Judah was examined first, and luckily in the very first
family "Achan was taken," although we are not told how he was spotted.
Achan confessed that he had appropriated of the spoil a "goodly
Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of
gold of fifty shekels weight," which he had hidden under his tent. His
doom was swift and terrible; he was stoned to death, and his body burnt
with fire. We may think his punishment severe, but we cannot deny his
guilt. He, however, was not the only sufferer. Jehovah was not to be
satisfied with a small quantity of blood. Achans's sons and daughters
were stoned with him, and their bodies were burnt like his. His very
oxen, asses, and sheep were served in the same manner. A great heap of
stones was raised over their cinders, and then "the Lord turned from
the fierceness of his anger." Jehovah acted just like the savage old
chieftain of a savage tribe. As irascible tempers do not improve with
age, we presume that he is still as peppery as ever. Yet we are asked to
love, venerate, and worship this brutal being, as the ideal of all that
is merciful, just, and pure.

Immediately after Joshua sent thirty thousand men against Ai, which they
took with great ease. All its inhabitants, from the oldest man to the
youngest babe, were massacred. The city itself was burnt into a desolate
heap. The King of Ai was reserved to furnish the Jews with a little
extra sport, by way of dessert to the bloody feast. He was hanged on a
tree until eventide, when his carcass was taken down and "buried under
a heap of stones." Joshua "then built an altar unto the Lord God of
Israel in mount Ebal," who appears to have been mightily well pleased
with the whole business.

Joshua's next exploit was indeed miraculous. He gathered all the Jews
together, men, women, children, and even the strangers, and read to them
all the laws of Moses, without omitting a single word. It must have been
a long job, and Joshua's throat must have been rather dry at the end.
But the greatest wonder is how he made himself heard to three millions
of people at once. No other orator ever addressed so big an audience.
Either their ears were very sharp, or his voice was terribly loud. The
people in the front rank must have been nearly stunned with the sound.
Joshua could outroar Bottom the weaver by two or three miles.

The people of Gibeon, by means of messengers who palmed themselves off
on Joshua as strangers from a distant country, contrived to obtain a
league whereby their lives were spared. When their craft was detected
they were sentenced to become hewers of wood and drawers of water to the
Jews; in other words, their slaves.

Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem; Hoham, king of Hebron; Piram, king
of Jamuth; Japhia, king of Lachish; and Debir, king of Eglon; banded
themselves together to punish Gibeon for making peace with the Jews.
Joshua went with all his army to their relief. He fell upon the armies
of the five kings, discomfitted them with great slaughter, and chased
them along the way to Beth-horon. As they fled the Lord joined in the
hunt. He "cast down great stones from heaven upon them" and killed a
huge number, even "more than they whom the children of Israel slew with
the sword."

When we read that Pan fought with the Greeks against the Persians at
Marathon, we must regard it as a fable; but when we read that Jehovah
fought with the Jews against the five kings at Gibeon, we must regard it
as historical truth, and if we doubt it we shall be eternally damned.

Not only did the Lord join in the war-hunt, but Joshua wrought the
greatest miracle on record by causing a stationary body to stand still.
He stopped the sun from "going down" and lengthened out the day for
about twelve hours, in order that the Jews might see to pursue and kill
the flying foe. "The sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the
people had avenged themselves upon their enemies." What Joshua really
stopped, if he stopped anything, was the earth, for its revolution,
and not the motion of the sun, causes the phenomena of day and night.
Science tells us that the arrest of the earth's motion would generate a
frightful quantity of heat, enough to cause a general conflagration.
Yet nothing of the kind happened. How is it, too, that no other ancient
people has preserved any record of this marvellous occurrence? The
Egyptians, for instance, carefully noted eclipses and such events, but
they jotted down no memorandum of Joshua's supreme miracle. Why is this?
How can Christians explain it?

When Jupiter personated Amphytrion, and visited his bride Alcmena, the
amorous god lengthened out the night in order to prolong his enjoyment.
Why may we not believe this? Is it not as credible, and quite as moral,
as the Bible story of Jehovah's lengthening out the day to prolong a
massacre? Were the Greeks any bigger liars than the Jews?

It has been suggested that Joshua was so elated with the victory that
he drank more than was good for him, and got in such a state that in the
evening he saw two moons instead of one. Nobody liked to contradict him,
but the elders of Israel, to harmonise their leader's vision, declared
that it comprised the sun and the moon, instead of two moons, which
were clearly absurd. The court poet improved on this explanation, and
composed the neat little poem which is partially preserved by the Jewish
chronicler, who asks "Is not this written in the book of Jasher?" The
waggish laureate Jasher is supposed by some profane speculators to have
got up the whole miracle himself.

The five kings fled with their armies and "hid themselves in a cave at
Makkedah." Joshua ordered the mouth to be closed with big stones until
the pursuit was ended. At last they were brought out and treated with
great ignominy. Their necks were made footstools of by the captains of
Israel, and they were afterwards hung on trees until the evening, when
their carcasses were flung into the cave. After this highly civilised
treatment of their captives, the Jews took all the capital cities of
these five kings and slew all the inhabitants. Then they desolated the
hills and vales. Joshua "left none remaining, but utterly destroyed
all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded." Hazor and many
other places were also treated in the same way, "there was not any left
to breathe."

Jehovah was not, however, able to execute his intentions completely. The
children of Judah could not drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem; nor
could the children of Manasseh entirely drive out the Canaanites from
their cities. After Joshua's death, as we read in the book of _Judges_,
"the Lord was with Judah, and he drave out the inhabitants of the
mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because
they had chariots of iron." Iron chariots were too strong for the
Almighty! Yet he managed to take off the wheels of Pharaoh's chariots
at the Red Sea. Why could he not do the same on this occasion? Were the
linch-pins too tight or the wheels too heavy?

Joshua died at the ripe old age of a hundred and ten. Whatever else he
may have been, he was certainly one of the gamest fighting cocks that
ever lived. Jehovah never found a better instrument for his bloody
purposes. They buried him at Timnath-serah. Joseph's old bones, which
Moses brought out of Egypt, were buried at Shechem. Had they been kept
much longer some Hebrew "old-clo' man" might have carried them off and
made an honest penny by them.

After Joshua's death, the tribe of Judah fought against Adoni-bezek.
When they caught him they cut off his thumbs and his big toes. He
acknowledged the justice of his punishment, and admitted that God had
served him just as he had himself served seventy kings, whose great toes
he had cut off, and made them eat under his table. Kings must have been
very plentiful in those days.

During Joshua's lifetime the Jews served God, and they kept pretty
straight during the lifetime of the elders who had known him. But
directly these died they went astray; "they forsook the Lord and
worshipped Baal and Ashtaroth." God punished them by letting their
enemies oppress them. "Nevertheless," says the story, "the Lord raised
up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled
them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went
a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them; and they
turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the
commandments of the Lord; but they did not so..... And it came to pass,
when the judge was dead, that they returned and corrupted themselves
more than their fathers, in following other Gods to serve them, and
to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from
their stubborn way."

God's selection of the Jews as his favorite people does not seem to
reflect much credit on his sagacity. All who came out of Egypt, except
two persons, turned out so badly that they were pronounced unfit to
enter the promised land, and doomed to die in the wilderness. The new
generation who entered Canaan, after being circumcised to make them
holy; after seeing the miracles of Jordan and the valley of Ajalon;
after having gained a home by God's assistance in a land flowing with
milk and honey; this very generation proved worse than their fathers.
The original inhabitants of Canaan, whom they dispossessed, could hardly
have surpassed them in sin against Jehovah; and therefore the ruthless
slaughter of their conquest was as unreasonable as it was inhuman. So
much for "God's Thieves in Canaan."




God completed the immense labors described in the first chapter of
Genesis by creating man "in his own image," after which he serenely
contemplated "everything that he had made, and; behold, it was very
good." Yet the first woman deceived her husband, the first man was
duped, and their first son was a murderer. God could not have looked
very far ahead when he pronounced everything "very good." It is clear
that the original pair of human beings were very badly made. As the Lord
was obliged to take a rest on the seventh day, it is not unreasonable to
suppose that he was pretty tired on the sixth, and scamped the work.
All the sin and suffering in this world is the consequence of man having
been the fag-end of creation. If the Lord had rested on the sixth day
and created man on the seventh, how different things might have been!
The Devil would probably have done no business in this world, and the
population of hell would be no more now than it was six thousand years

After leaving the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, having no fear of
Malthus in their hearts, began to "multiply and replenish the earth."
When their first child was born, Eve said, "I have gotten a man from
the Lord," poor Adam's share in the youngster's advent being quietly
ignored. She christened him Cain, a name which comes from a Hebrew root
signifying to _acquire_. Cain was regarded as an _acquisition_, and his
mother was very proud of him. The time came when she wished he had never
been born.

Some time after, but how long is unknown, Eve gave birth to a second
son, called Abel. Josephus explains this name as meaning _grief_, but
Hebrew scholars at present explain it as meaning _nothingness, vanity,
frailty_. The etymology of Abel's name shows conclusively that the story
is a myth. Why should Eve give her second boy so sinister a name? How
could she have so clearly anticipated his sad fate? Cain's name has,
too, another significance besides that of "acquisition," for, as
Kalisch points out, it also belongs to the Hebrew verb to _strike_, and
"signifies either the man of violence and the sire of murderers, or
the ancestor of the inventors of iron instruments and of weapons of

Cain and Abel had to get their own living. Being born after the Fall,
they were of course debarred from the felicities of Eden, and were
compelled to earn their bread by the sweat of their brows, in accordance
with God's wide-reaching curse. Both, so to speak, were forced to deal
in provisions. Abel went in for meat, and Cain for vegetables. This was
an admirable division of labor, and they ought to have got on very well
together; one finding beef and mutton for dinner, and the other potatoes
and greens. They might even have paid each other handsome compliments
across the table. Abel might have said "My dear Cain, these vegetables
are first-rate," and Cain might have replied, "My dear Abel, I never
tasted a better cut."

Delitzsch, whose criticisms are huge jokes, frowns on this picture of
fraternal peace. He opines that Cain and Abel were vegetarians and never
enjoyed a beef-steak or a mutton-chop. Abel kept only small domestic
cattle, such as sheep and goats, whose woolly skin might be used to
cover "their sinful nakedness." The utmost Delitzsch allows is that they
perhaps drank milk, which, although animal nutriment, is not obtained
through the destruction of animal life. But, as Colenso observes,
animals were slain for sacrifices, and they may have been killed also
for eating. Besides, even a vegetable diet involves infinite destruction
of minute animal life. On the whole we prefer to disregard Delitzsch
in this matter, and to stand by our pleasant picture of the two first
brothers at dinner.

Their admirable arrangement, however, brought mischief in the end. It
was right enough so far as they were concerned, but it worked badly
in relation to God. They liked a mixed diet, but the Lord was purely
carnivorous and liked all meat. He devoured Abel's provisions with
great relish, but turned up his nose at Cain's vegetables. The mealiest
potatoes, the tenderest green peas, had no charm for him; and even the
leeks, the garlic, the onions, and the cucumbers, which were afterwards
so beloved by his Jewish favorites, were quite unattractive. In the
language of Scripture, "Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an
offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of
his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and
to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had no respect"
Elsewhere in the Bible we read "God is no respecter of persons,"
but Scripture is full of contradictions, and such things present no
difficulty to the spirit of faith, which, like hope, "believeth all

Why was Cain's offering slighted? The Bible does not tell us, but many
reasons have been advanced by commentators. The Talmud supposes that
Cain did not offer his _best_ produce, but only the inferior kinds, thus
giving God what he did not require himself, and treating the holy rite
of sacrifice as a means of working off his refuse vegetables. Kalisch
waives this theory, and thinks it probable that Cain's sin was primarily
not against God, but against man. "The supposition," he says, "is
obvious that envy and jealousy had long filled the heart of Cain, when
he contrasted his laborious and toilsome life with the pleasant and easy
existence of his brother Abel. With incessant exertion, tormented by
anxiety, and helplessly dependent on the uncertainty of the skies,
he forced a scanty subsistence out of the womb of the repugnant soil;
whilst his brother enjoyed a life of security and abundance, in the
midst of rich valleys, beautiful hills, and charming rural scenes. And
while he envied Abel's prosperity, he despised his idleness, which was
indebted for the necessaries of life to the liberality of nature, rather
than to personal exertions. This hatred and jealousy took root in Cain's
heart. He beheld the happiness of his brother with the feelings-of an
enemy. The joy at the success of his own labors was embittered by the
aspect of his brother's greater affluence. How could God look with
delight upon an offering which the offerer himself did not regard with
unalloyed satisfaction? How could he encourage by his applause a man
whose heart was poisoned by the mean and miserable passion of envy?"

But all this is gratuitous and far-fetched. Cain was not afflicted with
so laborious an occupation. Adam supported himself and Eve, and all Cain
had to do was to provide himself, and perhaps Abel, with vegetables. Nor
could Abel's occupation have been light, for flocks and herds require
a good deal of attendance, and in those early days they needed vigilant
protection against the ravages of wild beasts. Abel's task must have
been quite as heavy as Cain's. Our opinion is that the Lord showed his
usual caprice, hating whom he would and loving whom he would. Jehovah
acted like the savage hero of Mr. Browning's "Caliban on Setebos," who
sprawls on the shore watching a line of crabs make for the sea, and
squashes the twentieth for mere variety and sport. If Jehovah is
requested to explain his loves and hates, he answers with Shylock, "it
is my whim." It was his whim to love Jacob and hate Esau, and it was no
doubt his whim to accept Abel's offering and reject Cain's.

Mythologically the acceptance of Abel's offering and the rejection of
Cain's are easily intelligible. The principle of sacrifice was deeply
imbedded in Judaism. Without shedding of blood there could be no
remission of sin. Under the Levitical law the duties of the priesthood
chiefly consisted in burning the sin offerings of the people. It is,
therefore, not difficult to understand how the Jewish scribes who wrote
or revised the Pentateuch after the Babylonish captivity should give
this coloring to the narrative of Genesis; nor is it hard to conceive
that for centuries before that date the popular tradition had already,
under priestly direction, taken such a color, so as to give the oldest
and deepest sanction to the doctrine of animal sacrifice.

It must also be noticed that Abel, who found favor with God, was "a
keeper of sheep," while Cain, whose offering was contemned, was "a
tiller of the ground." This accords with the strongest traditional
instincts of the Jews. The Persian religion decidedly favors
agriculture, which it regards as a kind of divine service. Brahminism
and Buddhism countenance it still more decidedly, and even go to the
length of absolutely prohibiting the slaughter of animals. The Jews,
on the other hand, esteemed the pastoral life as the noblest, and
the Hebrew historian very naturally represented it as protected and
consecrated by the blessing of Jehovah, while agriculture was declared
to have been imposed on man as a _punishment_. The nomadic origin of the
Jews accounts for their antipathy to that pursuit, which survived
and manifested itself, long after they settled in Palestine, devoted
themselves to the cultivation of the soil, and enacted agrarian laws.
They always esteemed agriculturalists as inferior to shepherds; men of
superior attainments in their histories and legends rose from pastoral
life; and kings kept their flocks. David, the man after God's own heart,
and the national hero of the Jews, was a shepherd, and the Lord came
to him while he was keeping his father's sheep. Moses was keeping his
father-in-law's sheep when God appeared to him in the burning bush at
Mount Horeb; Jacob kept his uncle Laban's sheep when he fled from Esau;
and Abraham, the father of the faithful, was rich in flocks and herds.

To recur to our story. Abel probably enjoyed the conspicuous mark
of divine favors conferred on him. Cain, however, experienced very
different feelings. He "was very wroth, and his countenance fell."
Whereupon the Lord somewhat facetiously asked him what was the matter.
"Why," said he, "art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If
thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well,
sin lieth at the door." This was all very well, but as a matter of fact
Cain's offering had already been _rejected_, and according to the Bible
he had done nothing to deserve such harsh treatment.

The Lord's final words on this occasion read thus in our English Bible:
"And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." These
words are construed as applying to Cain's mastery over Abel, as the
elder brother; but they seem quite unmeaning in that connexion; for
Abel left no offspring, and the prophecy, if such it were, was never
fulfilled. Kalisch throws light on this obscure passage. The Lord,
he says, was referring not to Abel but to Cain's secret sin, and the
passage should read "And to thee is _its_ desire, but thou shalt rule
over it."

Cain then "talked with Abel his brother." Gesenius supposes that he
communicated to him the words of God, and treats this as the first step
towards a reconciliation. However that may be, we hear nothing more of
it, for the very next words relate the murder of the younger brother by
the elder. "And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain
rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."

This abrupt narrative certainly requires explanation. Kalisch seems to
think that Cain went about his work, after the interview with God, in a
better frame of mind; but while he toiled hard "in the field" he became
incensed at the sight of Abel loafing under a fine umbrageous tree
and calmly watching his flock. Forgetting the divine admonitions,
and listening only to the voice of passion, he madly killed his only
brother, and made himself the first murderer. The Talmud gives several
legends about the hatred between the two brothers. One imputes the
difference to Cain's avarice, another to his ambition, another to his
innate sinfulness, and another to his envy and jealousy on account
of Abel's wife. The last of all seems the truest; namely, that they
differed "in their views regarding Providence, the moral government of
the world, and the efficacy of virtuous deeds for happiness." This idea
informs Byron's tragedy on the subject. In "Cain" the younger, brother's
offering is burnt up with supernatural fire, while the elder's altar
remains unkindled; whereupon Cain inveighs against God's partiality, and
denounces the bloody sacrifice which finds greater favor than his own
peaceful tribute of fruit and flowers. He then advances to scatter the
relics of Abel's offering from the altar, but is thwarted by his brother
who resists the sacrilege. Abel is felled in the struggle, and Cain, who
had no intention of killing him, finds himself an actual murderer before
his brother's corpse.

We are bound to conclude that the first quarrel in the world, like
nine-tenths of those that have occurred since, was about religion. Cain
thought God should be worshiped in one way, Abel thought he should be
worshiped in another; and they settled the question, after the manner of
religious disputants in all ages, by the stronger knocking the weaker on
the head. In religion there is no certitude on this side of the grave;
if we are ever destined to know the truth on that subject, we must die
to find it out. We may therefore argue fruitlessly until the day of
judgment. The only effectual way of settling a religious problem is to
settle your opponents.

After the murder the Lord paid Cain another visit, and asked him where
Abel was. Cain replied that he was not his brother's keeper and didn't
know. He does not appear to have thought God a particularly well
informed person. Then the Lord said that Abel's blood cried unto him
from the ground. "And now," he continued, "art thou cursed from the
earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from
thy hand; when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield
unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be on the
earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, my punishment is greater than I
can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the
earth; and from thy face shall I be hid, and I shall be a fugitive and
a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass that every one
that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore
whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And
the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And
Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of
Nod, on the east of Eden."

Now let us examine this story. Why was Cain so solicitous about his
safety? Why did he fear that everybody would try to kill him? He had
slain his brother, and his father and mother were the only people in
the world besides himself and perhaps his sisters (? who knew). Kalisch
suggests that he apprehended the future vengeance of mankind when the
world grew more populous. But how, in that case, could a distinctive
mark be any protection? It would publish his identity to all beholders.
Besides, one would suppose that Cain, the first man ever born into the
world, would always be well known without carrying about a brand like a
special wine or a patent edible. And what was the mark? Kalisch thinks
it was only a villainous expression. Others think it was the Mongolian
type impressed upon the features of Cain, who became the founder of that
great division of the human race. A negro preacher started a different
theory. When the Lord called out in a loud voice "Cain, where is thy
brother Abel," Cain, who was a black man, like Adam, turned pale with
fear, and never regained his original color. All his children were pale
too; and that, said the preacher, "accounts for de white trash you see
ebery war in dese days."

How did Cain manage to go "out from the presence of the Lord," who is
everywhere? Satan does the same thing in the Book of Job, and Jonah
tries to do it later on. Jehovah was clearly a local as well as a
visible God, and not the infinite spirit of the universe.

Where was the land of Nod situated? East of Eden, says the Bible. But
nobody knows where Eden was. As we pointed out in "The Creation Story,"
scores of different positions have been assigned to it. The only point
of agreement among the commentators is that it was _somewhere_. All that
can safely be affirmed, then, is that Nod was east of Somewhere. The
name itself is very appropriate. No doubt the Lord was not quite awake
in that locality, and hence we may explain how Cain managed to go "out
from his presence."

In this strange land of Nod, Cain "knew his wife." Who was she? Probably
his own sister, but the Bible does not tell us anything about her. Their
first son was called Enoch. Cain then "builded a city, and called
the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch." But this is
directly opposed to the curse "a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be
in the earth."

Delitzsch notices this, and, as usual, seeks to explain it away. Cain,
he says, "in this way set himself against the divine curse, in order
to feel it inwardly so much the more, as outwardly he seems to have
overcome it." To which we reply--first, that there is no evidence
that Cain felt the curse "more inwardly" after he built the city; and,
secondly, the idea of a man successfully setting himself against an
omnipotent curse is a trifle too absurd for credence or criticism.

Now Adam and Eve, when Cain fled after the murder of Abel, were left
childless, or at least without a son. But it was necessary that they
should have another, in order that God's chosen people, the Jews, might
be derived from a purer stock than Cain's. Accordingly we read that
Adam, in his hundred and thirtieth year, "begat a son in his own
likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth." Why was not Cain
begotten in the same way? Had he been so, the cradle of the world might
not have been defiled with the blood of fratricide. Seth being "the
image" of Adam, and Adam "the image" of God, Seth and the Almighty were
of course very much alike. He was pious, and from him were descended the
pious patriarchs, including Noah, from whom was descended Abraham the
founder of the Jewish race. God's chosen people came of a good stock,
although they turned out such a bad lot.

From Seth to Noah there are ten Patriarchs before the Flood. This is
clearly mythological. The Hindus believed in _ten_ great saints, the
offspring of Manu, and in _ten_ different personifications of Vishnu.
The Egyptians had _ten_ mighty heroes, the Chaldeans _ten_ kings before
the Flood, the Assyrians _ten_ kings from Ham to Ninyas, and as many
from Japhet to Aram; and Plato enumerates _ten_ sons of Neptune, as the
rulers of his imaginary Island of Atlantis, submerged by the Deluge.

Cain's descendants were of course drowned by the Flood, but they did a
great deal more for the world than the descendants of pious Seth, who
seems to have done little else than trust in God. The Cainites laid the
basis of civilisation. One of them Jabal, founded _cattle-keeping_; his
brother, Jubal, invented _musical instruments_; and their half-brother
Tubal-cain first practised _smithery_. Seth's descendants had nothing
but piety. Even their morals were no better than those of the Cainites;
for at the Flood only eight of them were found worthy of preservations,
and they were a poor lot. Noah got beastly drunk after the waters
subsided, and one of his three sons brought a curse on all his
offspring. What then must we think of the rest?

Tuch excellently explains the mythological significance of the story
of Cain and Abel and Seth. "There lies," he says, "in this myth the
perfectly correct reminiscence, that in the East _ancient_ nations
lived, under whom in very early times culture and civilisation extended,
but at the same time the assertion, that these could not prejudice the
renown of the Western-Asiatics, since the prerogatives, which their
descent from the first-born would secure to them, were done away through
God's Curse, which lighted on their ancestor, Cain. Thus the East is
cut off from the following history, and the thread fastened on, which
carries us on in Genesis, right across through the nations, to the only
chosen people of Israel." The entire history of the world before the
Flood is dismissed in five chapters, and that from the Flood to Abraham
in two more. After that the mighty antique civilisations are never
noticed except so far as they affect the history of the Jews. The ages
of the Patriarchs also dwindle down from nine centuries in the beginning
to almost the normal longevity in the semi-historical period. Could
anything more conclusively prove the mythical character of the

One of the Patriarchs descended from Seth, namely Enoch, which
singularly enough is also the name of Cain's eldest son, never died. We
read that "he was not, for God took him." It is about time that the
Lord took the whole lot out of his Word, and gave us a little ancient
_history_ instead. We want a _revised_ Bible in the fullest sense of
the word. The old book needs to be completely rewritten. How thankful
we should all be if the Lord inspired _another_ "Moses" to rectify the
errors and supplement the deficiencies of the first, and to give us
scientific truth instead of fanciful myths about the early history of
our race! But the Lord never inspires anybody to do a useful piece of
work, and our Darwins will therefore have to go on with their slow and
laborious task of making out a history of mankind from the multitudinous
and scattered traces that still survive the decay of time.




Lot and his family were a queer lot. Their history is one of the
strangest in the whole Bible. They dwelt amongst a people whose
debauchery has become a by-word, and in a city which has given a name to
the vilest of unnatural crimes. Lot, his wife, and their two unmarried
daughters, were the only persons preserved from the terrible fate which
Jehovah, in one of his periodic fits of anger, inflicted upon the famous
Cities of the Plain. They witnessed a signal instance of his ancient
method of dealing with his disobedient children. In the New Testament,
God promises the wicked and the unbelievers everlasting fire after they
are dead; in the Old Testament, he drowns them or burns them up in this
world. Lot and his family saw the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by
"brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven"; and they, four persons
in all, just half the number that survived the Flood a few centuries
before, were the only ones that escaped. God specially spared them. Yet
Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back as she fled
from the doomed city, and the old man himself soon after got drunk and
committed incest with his daughters. From this crime sprang Moab and
Ammon, the founders of two nations who became for many centuries the
most implacable enemies of God's chosen people.

Why did the Lord spare these four persons? Why did he not profit by the
lesson of the Flood? The eight persons rescued from drowning in that
great catastrophe were infected with original sin, and the consequence
was that the world peopled from their stock was a great deal worse than
the ante-diluvian world. It would clearly have been better to destroy
all and start absolutely afresh. The eight rescued persons were
apparently just as bad as those who were drowned. So with the four
persons spared at the destruction of Sodom. The people of that city
could hardly have been much worse than Lot and his children. The Lord
appears to have been as stupid in his mercy as he was brutal in his

Lot was Abraham's nephew, and evidently came of a bad stock. The uncle's
evil career will be sketched in our series of "Bible Heroes." For
the present we content ourselves with the remark that no good could
reasonably be expected from such a family. Lot's father was Haran, a son
of Terah, and brother to Abraham.

He "died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of
the Chaldees." A city was called by his name in the land of Canaan, and
Terah and the family dwelt there after they left Ur, until the patriarch
died and Abraham was called out from his kindred to found a new house.
The "father of the faithful" took his orphaned nephew with him. Lot
accompanied his uncle on the journey to Egypt, where Abraham passed his
wife off as his sister, and showed his natural bent by lying right and

Soon afterwards we learn that Abraham and Lot had grown very rich, the
former "in cattle, in silver, and in gold," and the latter in "flocks,
and herds, and tents." Indeed "their substance was so great that they
could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdmen of
Abram's cattle and the herd-men of Lot's cattle." Whereupon Abraham said
"Don't let us quarrel within the family, but let us part. You can go
where you like. If you go to the right I'll go to the left, and if you
go to the left I'll go to the right" It was necessary to separate Lot
from the fortunes of Abraham, in order that God's dealings with the
latter might be uninterrupted and his family kept distinct; and so the
Hebrew chronicler very naturally separates them here, in a manner which
reflects great credit on Abraham, and exhibits him in a most amiable

Cunning Lot took full advantage of the offer. He "lifted up his eyes,
and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere,
even as the garden of the Lord." So they parted, and Lot "pitched his
tent towards Sodom," whose inhabitants, says our naive story, "were
wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." Commentators explain
that Lot's approach to such a detestable sink of iniquity indicated the
native corruption of his heart, or at least a sad lack of horror at the
sins which made the place stink in the nostrils of God.

In the next chapter we find Lot living in Sodom, although we are not
told when he moved there. Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of
Ellasar, Chedorlaorner king of Elam, and Tidal "king of nations," made
war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of
Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the "king of Bera, which is Zoar."
A great battle was fought in the vale of Siddim, which is alleged to
be now covered by the Dead Sea. The four kings were victorious over
the five. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and the victors spoiled
their cities, taking with them many captives, among whom was "Lot,
Abram's brother's son." How Abraham went out with a handful of men,
defeated the triumphant forces of the allied kings, and rescued his
nephew, is a pretty little story which we reserve for our life of that
patriarch. All the other captives were rescued also, and Lot, returning
with his friends, continued to dwell in Sodom as before.

We hear no more of him for a considerable time. During the interval
Abraham has a child by Hagar. Ishmael, with the rest of the patriarch's
household, is circumcised. And finally the Lord visits Abraham again to
tell him that, notwithstanding their advanced ages, he and Sarah shall
yet have a son. What happened during the interview properly belongs to
the life of Abraham, but we shall here consider so much of it as relates
to the fortunes of Lot.

The Lord complained that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was "very
grievous," and said that the great cry of it had reached him in heaven.
Being much concerned about their "goings on," he had resolved to drop
down and see for himself if they were realty as bad as he suspected.
"If not," said he, "I will know." In the Old Testament, God, who knows
everything, is always seeking information.

Abraham surmised that the Lord meant to play the devil with the
Sodomites, and he was anxious about Lot who dwelt with them. So he
began a parley. "Now, my Lord," said Abraham, "you surely don't mean to
destroy indiscriminately; you, the judge of all the earth, must act on
the square. Suppose there are fifty righteous men in Sodom, won't you,
just for their sake, spare the place?" Knowing that there were nothing
like fifty righteous men in Sodom, the Lord promptly acceded to
Abraham's-request; so promptly indeed that Abraham smelt a rat, and
determined to drive a closer bargain. So he asked the Lord to knock off
five. "Very well," was the reply, "if I find forty-five righteous men
I'll spare the city." Abraham was still suspicious. He knew that Jehovah
loved a bit of destruction, and was not easily moved when he had once
made up his mind to indulge himself. So he returned to the charge. "I
beg pardon," said he, "for troubling you so, but do you mind knocking
off another ten, and making thirty of it?" "Not at all," answered the
Lord, "we'll say thirty." Abraham felt there-was something wrong. This
amiable readiness to oblige thoroughly perplexed him. If the Lord had
haggled over the thirty, he would have known that there was about that
number of righteous men in the place; but in the actual condition of
affairs, he felt that he had considerably overshot the mark. The-game
was very dangerous, but he decided to renew it. "My Lord," he began,
"I'm a dreadful bore, but I'm not quite satisfied with our contract and
should like to re-open it. I don't wish to be importunate, but will you
knock off another ten?" "With all my heart," replied the Lord, "we'll
say twenty." Still dissatisfied, Abraham resolved on a final effort. "My
good Lord," said he, "this is really the last time of asking. I promise
to bother you no more. Will you knock off another ten?" "All right," was
the reply, "anything to oblige. Well say ten altogether. If there are so
many righteous men in Sodom I'll spare it. Good afternoon, Abraham,
good afternoon." And the Lord was off. Abraham ruefully watched the
retreating figure, perfectly assured that the Lord had got the best of
the bargain, and that he himself had been duped, worsted, and befooled.

God did not go to Sodom himself, but sent two angels to inspect it. They
reached its gate in the evening, and found Lot sitting there. In eastern
towns the places before the gate are the appointed localities for
meetings; and in ancient times they were used for still more extensive
purposes. There the judge pronounced his decisions, and even kings held
there occasionally their courts of justice; there buying and selling
went on; the people assembled there to see each other and hear the news;
and almost all public affairs were transacted there, from religious
worship to the smallest details of civil life. It is not surprising,
therefore, that Lot should be sitting in the gate when the two strangers
arrived at the city. Some commentators have even conjectured that he
went out to meet them; but others object that this is contradictory to
the narrative, which does not exhibit Lot as recognising the angels, and
that it implies "too ideal a notion of its virtue." Some have supposed
that Lot had attained to the dignity of a judge, and that he was sitting
to act in that capacity on this occasion; but later circumstances refute
this supposition; for, in the quarrel which ensued, the people of Sodom
reproached him as "a stranger" who set himself up as a judge of their

Lot advanced to the strangers, greeted them with a profound bow,
addressed them as "my lords," and asked them to stay over night at his
house, where he would wash their feet, give them something to eat, and
find them a bed. They declined his frank hospitality, and said they
meant to pass the night in the streets. Kalisch observes, as though he
knew all about their motives, that "it was their intention to try
his character, and to give him an opportunity of showing whether his
generosity was merely a momentary emotion, or had become a settled
feature in his character." He also dismisses the idea that they wished
to remain in the streets in order to study "the moral state of the
Sodomites," as they required no such knowledge, for "they were not only
the angels of God, but God himself acted in them." But Kalisch should
bear in mind that God told Abraham he was going on purpose to "see
whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it"; and that,
as the angels could not know more than God, it was after all necessary
that they should make inquiries. Lot, however, "pressed upon them
greatly," and at last they entered his house. He then "made them a
_feast_" which seems to have consisted of nothing but unleavened bread.
Perhaps the angels, who had dined heavily with Abraham on veal, butter,
and milk, were afraid of bad dreams, and only wanted a light supper
before going to roost.

They were not, however, destined to enjoy a good night's sleep. Before
they "lay down," the men of Sodom "compassed the house round, both old
and young, all the people from every quarter." And they called unto
Lot, and said unto him, "Where are the men which came in unto thee this
night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them."

We are reluctant to criticise this dirty story, but duty compels us.
God's Word is full of disgusting narratives, and if we scrupled to
examine them we should have to leave the book alone. We have no love
of filth, and if the Bible were not held up as a divine work we should
never condescend to notice its beastly tales of fornication, adultery,
sodomy, and incest.

Why did _all_ the men of Sodom, both old and young, flock to Lot's
house? Is it likely that _every_ male in the city, past the age of
puberty, should burn with unnatural lust at one and the same time? Did
they suppose that _all_ of them could abuse the two strangers? The story
is as silly as it is nasty.

For a parallel to Lot's answer to the demand of his neighbors we must
go to the nineteenth chapter of _Judges_, where the men of Gibeah clamor
for the Levite as the men of Sodom clamor for the two angels, and where
his host offers them instead his own daughter as well as the Levite's
concubine. A woman's honor was a very trivial thing to God's chosen
people. In itself it counted as next to nothing. The man's right of
possession gave it all its importance and worth.

Lot went out and shut the door after him. Then he rebuked his neighbors
for desiring to do "so wickedly," and immediately made them an offer
which he seems to have thought perfectly fair and square. "Behold, now,"
he said, "I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray
you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes:
only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow
of my roof." The laws of hospitality are sacred, and Lot did well to
maintain them; but he had no right to sacrifice to them a still more
sacred law. Instead of strenuously opposing the committal of one crime,
he proposes another as heinous.

The Sodomites scorned his offer. They had a _penchant_ for a different
pleasure. Ravishing virgins was not in their line. So they reviled Lot
for setting himself up as a judge amongst them, called him "fellow,"
threatened to deal worse with him than with the strangers, and actually
pressed so sore upon him that they "came near to break the door."

Then the strangers manifested their power. They "put forth their hand,
and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut too the door. And they
smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both
small and great; so that they wearied themselves to find the door."
However blind they were surely they might have found the door by feeling
for it. Kalisch makes this episode more reasonable by substituting
"blind confusion" for "blindness."

The angels continued to act promptly. They informed Lot that they
intended to destroy the place because of its sin, and told him to
gather all his family together and leave at once. Lot spoke to his
"sons-in-law, which married his daughters," but they appear to have
thought him daft. Early in the morning "the angels hastened Lot" who
still lingered. They laid hold of his hand, his wife's, and his two
unmarried daughters', led them outside the city, and said, "Escape now
for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain;
escape to the mountains lest thou be consumed." Lot did not relish this
prospect of a hard climb. He therefore asked the angels to let him flee
unto the city of Zoar, because it was near and "a little one." That
is what the servant girl said to her mistress when she produced an
illegitimate child, "please 'm its only a very little one." She thought
that a small illegitimate baby wasn't as bad as a big illegitimate baby,
and Lot thought that a little wicked city wasn't as bad as a big wicked

Lot's request was granted, and he was told to look sharp. He made good
speed, and reached Zoar when "the sun was risen."

"Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire
from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the
plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon
the ground." It is a mistake to suppose that brimstone and fire are
characteristic of hell, for the Lord evidently keeps a large stock of
those commodities in heaven. Nor must it be supposed that Lot was spared
because he was righteous. He was spared because the Lord "was merciful
unto him." His virtues, Kalisch remarks, were not sufficient for his
salvation, which he owed to "the piety of Abraham." Abraham may have
had "piety" enough to save a Lot, but he had scarcely "virtue" enough to
save a mouse.

Kalisch says that "about the situation of Zoar there remains little
doubt." He identifies it with "the considerable ruins found in Wady
Kerek, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea." But he has no such
assurance as to the situation of Sodom. He deprecates De Saulcy's
assumption, that Sodom is traceable in the heap of stones found near the
Salt Mountain, Udsum; and adds--"We may hope rather than expect, that
authentic ruins of the four destroyed towns will ever be discovered.
Biblical historians and prophets already speak of them as localities
utterly and tracelessly swept away; and the remark of Josephus, that
'shadows' of them still existed in his time, is vague and doubtful."

In the South of Palestine there is an extraordinary lake of mysterious
origin. It is about thirty-nine miles long, and from eight to twelve
miles broad. It is fed by the river Jordan, and drained by the
evaporation of a fierce and terrible sun. Its water is clear and
inodorous, but nauseous like a solution of alum; it causes painful
itching and even ulceration on the lips and if brought near a wound, or
any diseased part, produces a most excruciating sensation. It contains
muriatic and sulphuric acid, and one-fourth of its weight is salt. No
fishes live in it; and according to tradition, which however is not
true, birds that happen to fly over its surface die. Near it is said to
grow the Apple of Sodom, beautiful in appearance, but containing only
ashes. This lake is appropriately called the Dead Sea.

The natives say that at low water they glimpse fragments of buildings
and pillars rising out of the bottom of the lake. But this is only a
fancy. Yet beneath the waters of the Dead Sea are thought to lie the
Cities of the Plain. The northern part of the lake is very deep, the
southern part very shallow. The bottom consists of two separate plains,
one elevated, the other depressed. The latter is by some held to be the
original bottom of the lake, and the former to have been caused by the
destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But this also is only a fancy. The
bitumen, which is found in such large quantities in and near the lake,
is a symptom and remnant of the volcanic nature of the region. Several
lines of earthquake are traced from it in a north-eastern direction;
and it is conjectured that the three lakes, Merom, Tiberias, and
Asphaltites, together with the river Jordan, are the remaining traces of
the huge gulf once filled by the Dead Sea before the land was lifted by
a geological catastrophe. Volcanic action has caused all the remarkable
phenomena of the district, which were of immemorial antiquity thousands
of years ago; and the story of the Cities of the Plain is only one of
the legends which ancient peoples associated with every striking aspect
of nature.

Let us recur to Lot. His sons, his married daughters, and their
husbands, perished in the deluge of brimstone and fire. He and his two
unmarried daughters fled to Zoar as fast as their legs could carry
them. But his wife was less fortunate. She ran behind Lot, and with the
natural curiosity of her sex she looked back on the doomed city. For
this violation of the angels' orders she was turned into "a pillar of
salt." Some commentators try to blink this unpleasant fact by artful
translations; such as "she fell into a salt-brook," or "she was covered
with a salt crust," or she was "_like_ a pillar of salt." Josephus
pretended to have seen this old woman of salt, but others have been less
lucky, although many travellers and pilgrims have searched for it as for
a sacred relic. But let us not despair. Lot's wife may yet be discovered
and exhibited in the British Museum.

What became of Lot and his daughters? Fearing to dwell in Zoar, they
left it and "dwelt in a cave." The damsels, who had heard their father
offer them to the promiscuous embrace of a lustful crowd, could not
be expected to be very scrupulous in their conduct. They were alone,
without husbands to make them mothers, and to be childless was a
calamity and a reproach; so they put their heads together and devised
a nasty scheme. Two nights successively they made their father blind
drunk, and got him to commit incest with them. This is very beastly and
very absurd. Lot was _old_; he was so drunk that he knew nothing of what
happened; yet he got two virgins with child! The porter in "Macbeth"
would have laughed at such a ridiculous story.

These improper females were by no means ashamed of their action; on the
contrary, they boast of their bastards; and the historian does not utter
a word in condemnation of their crime.

Lot was the father of his own grandchildren; his daughters were the
mothers of their own brothers; and his other children were destroyed by
heavenly brimstone and fire. Were they not, as we said at the outset, a
queer lot? But the queerest lot was Lot's wife. Whatever may be said of
the rest of the family, no one can say that she was not worth her salt,
for the Lord thought she was worth enough to make a pillar. Let us hope
that the old lady will some day be (un)covered, and that her pillar of
salt may yet, to the confusion of sceptics, stand as a veritable pillar
in the house of God, and there defy the attacks of all the infidel
Samsons, world without end. Amen.

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