Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
The power and independence of the clergy run parallel with its material endowment, which accordingly passes through the same course of development. Its successive steps are reflected even in the language that is employed, in the gradual loss of point sustained by the phrase "to fill the hand," at all times used to denote ordination. Originally it cannot have had any other meaning than that of filling the hand with money or its equivalent; we have seen that at one time the priest was appointed by the owner of a sanctuary for a salary, and that, without being thus dependent upon a particular employer, he could not then live on the income derived from those who might employ him sacrificially. But when the Levitical hereditary priesthood arose in the later kingdom of Judah the hands of the priests were no longer filled by another who had the right to appoint and to dismiss, but they themselves at God's command "filled their own hand," or rather they had done so in the days of Moses once for all, as is said in Exod. xxxii. 26-29, an insertion corresponding with the position of Deuteronomy. It is obvious that such a statement, when carefully looked at, is absurd, but is to be explained by the desire to protest against outside interference. Even here the etymological sense is still sufficiently felt to create an involuntary jar and leads to a change of the construction; but finally all sense of it is lost, and the expression becomes quite colourless: "to fill the hand" means simply "to consecrate." In Ezekiel not only the priest but also the altar has its "hand filled" (xliii. 26); in the Priestly Code the abstract milluim ["consecrations"] is chiefly used, with subject and object left out, as the name of a mere inaugural ceremony which lasts for several days (Leviticus viii. 33; Exod. xxix. 34), essentially consists in the bringing of an offering on the part of the person to be consecrated, and has no longer even the remotest connection with actual filling of the hand (2 Chron. xiii. 7; comp.
xxix. 31). The verb, therefore, now means simply the performance of this ceremony, and the subject is quite indifferent (Lev. xvi. 32, xxi. 10; Num. iii. 3); the installation does not depend upon the person who performs the rite, but upon the rite itself, upon the unction, investiture, and other formalities (Exod. xxix. 29).
This variation in the usus loquendi is the echo of real changes in the outward condition of the clergy, which we must now proceed to consider more in detail.
1. Of the offerings, it was the custom in the earlier time to dedicate a portion to the deity but to use the greater part in sacred feasts, at which a priest, if present, was of course allowed also in one way or another to participate. But he does not appear to have had a legal claim to any definite dues of flesh. "Eli's sons were worthless persons, and cared not about Jehovah, or about the priests’ right and duty with the people. When any man offered a sacrifice the servant of the priest came (that is all we have here to represent the 22,000 Levites) while the flesh was in seething, with a three-pronged flesh-hook in his hand, and stuck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and all that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Even before the fat was burnt, the servant of the priest came and said to the man that sacrificed: "Give flesh to roast for the priest; he will not take sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if the other said to him: Let the fat first be burnt, and then take according to thy soul's desire; then he would answer: Nay, but thou shalt give it now; and if not, I will take it by force" (1 Sam. ii. 12-16). The tribute of raw portions of flesh before the burning of the fat is here treated as a shameless demand which is fitted to bring Jehovah's offering into contempt (ver. 17), and which has the ruin of the sons of Eli as its merited reward. More tolerable is it, though even that is an abuse, when the priests cause boiled flesh to be brought them from the pot, though not seeking out the best for themselves, but leaving the selection to chance; they ought to wait and see what is given to them, or be contented with an invitation to the banquet. On the other hand we have it in Deuteronomy as "the priest's due from the people" (xviii. 3 = 1 Sam. ii. 12) that he receives the shoulder and the two cheeks and the maw of the slaughtered animal; and yet this is a modest
claim compared with what the sons of Aaron have in the Priestly Code (Lev. vii. 34),—the right leg and the breast. The course of the development is plain; the Priestly Code became law for Judaism. In sacrifice, its demands were those which were regarded; but in order to fulfil all righteousness the precept of Deuteronomy was also maintained, this being applied—against the obvious meaning and certainly only as a result of later scrupulosity of the scribes—not to sacrifices but to ordinary secular slaughterings, from which also accordingly the priests received a portion, the cheeks (according to Jerome on Mal. ii. 3), including the tongue, the precept being thus harmonistically doubled. 1 At an earlier date the priests at Jerusalem received money from those who employed them (Deut. xviii. 8), but for this had the obligation of maintaining the temple; from this one can discern that the money was properly speaking paid to the sanctuary, and was only conditionally delivered to its servitors. When they failed to observe the condition, King Jehoash took the money also from them (2 Kings xii. 7 seq.).
The meal-offerings are in the Priestly Code a subordinate matter, and the share that falls to the priests is here trifling compared with what they receive of the other sacrifices. The meal, of which only a handful is sprinkled upon the altar, the baked bread, and the minḥa altogether are theirs entirely, so also the sin and trespass offerings so frequently demanded, of which God receives only the blood and the fat and the offerer nothing at all (Ezek. xliv. 29); of the burnt-offering at least the skin falls to their lot, These perquisites, however, none of them in their definite form demonstrably old, and some of them demonstrably the reverse, may be presumed to have had their analogues in the earlier period, so that they cannot be regarded absolutely as augmentation of the priestly income. In Josiah's time the maççoth were among the principal means of support of the priests (2 Kings xxiii. 9); doubtless they came for the most part from the minḥa. Instead of sin and trespass offerings, which are still unknown to Deuteronomy, there were formerly sin and trespass dues in the form of money payments to the priests,—payments which cannot, however, have been so regular (2 Kings xii. 17). It is as if money payments were in the eye of the law too profane; for atonement there must be shedding of blood. That the skin of the holocaust, which cannot well be consumed
on the altar, should fall to the priest is so natural an arrangement, that one will hardly be disposed to regard it as new, although Ezekiel is silent about a due which was not quite worthless (xliv. 28-31).
So far then as departures from earlier custom can be shown in the sacrificial dues enjoined by the Priestly Code, they must not indeed be treated as purely local differences, but neither are they to be regarded as on the whole showing a serious raising of the tariff. But in the Code the sacrificial dues are only a subordinate part of the income of the priests. In Deuteronomy the priests are entirely thrown upon the sacrifices; they live upon them (xviii. 1) and upon invitations to the sacred banquets (xii. 12, 18 seq.); if they are not exercising the priestly function they must starve (1 Sam. ii. 36). On the other hand, the Aaronidæ of the Priestly Code do not need to sacrifice at all, and yet have means of support, for their chief revenue consists of the rich dues which must be paid them from the products of the soil.
2. The dues falling to the priests according to the law were all originally offerings—the regular offerings which had to be brought on the festivals; and these all originally were for sacred banquets, of which the priests received nothing more than the share which was generally customary. This is true in the first instance of the male firstlings of cattle. As we have seen in the chapter on the sacred feasts, these are sacrifices and sacrificial meals, alike in the Jehovistic legislation and in the Jehovistic narrative of the exodus and of Abel, as were all the offerings brought by private individuals in the olden time. When in Exod. xxii. 29 it is said that they must be given to Jehovah, this does not mean that they must be given to the priests; no such thing is anywhere said in the Book of the Covenant. Matters still stand on essentially the same footing in Deuteronomy also: "thou shalt sanctify them unto Jehovah; thou shalt not plough with the firstling of the bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep; thou shalt eat it before Jehovah year by year in the place which He shall choose; and if there be any blemish therein, thou shalt not offer it to Jehovah thy God" (Deut. xv. 19, 20). To sanctify to Jehovah, to eat before Jehovah, to offer to Jehovah, are here three equivalent ideas. If now, in Num. xviii. 15 seq., every first birth is assigned without circumlocution to the priest, and a special paschal offering is appointed in addition, this can only be understood as the last phase in the development, partly because the idea of dues altogether is secondary to that
of offerings, and partly because the immense augmentation in the income of the priests points to an increase of the hierocratic power. Ezekiel does not yet reckon the firstlings among the revenues of the clergy (xliv. 28-31); the praxis of Judaism, on the other hand, since Neh. x. 37, is regulated, as usual, in accordance with the norm of the Priestly Code.
The tithe also is originally given to God, and treated just as the other offerings are; that is to say, it is not appropriated by the priests, but eaten by those who bring it in sacred banquets. It does not occur in the Jehovistic legislation, but Jacob dedicates it (Gen. xxviii. 22) to the God of Bethel, a place where, although the whole story is a projection out of a later time, it would hardly be in harmony with the conceptions of the narrator to think of the presence of priests. The prophet Amos, who probably represents much the same stage of the cultus as the Jehovist does, says: "Come to Bethel to transgress, to Gilgal to sin still more; and bring every morning your sacrifices, every three days your tithes, and offer with bread pieces of flesh to the flames, and proclaim free offerings aloud, for so ye like, ye children of Israel" (Amos iv. 4 seq.). He ironically recommends them to persevere in the efforts they have hitherto made in honour of God, and to double them; to offer daily, instead of, as was usual (1 Sam. i.), yearly at the chief festival; to pay tithes every three days, instead of, as was the custom, every three years. It is clear that the tithe here holds rank with Zebah, Toda, and Nedaba; it is a sacrifice of joy, and a splendid element of the public cultus, no mere due to the priests. Now, in this point also Deuteronomy has left the old custom, on the whole, unchanged. According to xiv. 22 seq. the tithe of the produce of the soil, or its equivalent in money, must be brought year by year to the sanctuary, and there consumed before Jehovah that is, as a sacrificial meal; only every third year it is not to be offered in Jerusalem, but is to be given as alms to the people of the locality who have no land, to which category the Levites in particular belong. This last application is an innovation, connected on the one hand with the abolition of the sanctuaries, and on the other with the tendency of the Deuteronomist to utilise festal mirth for humane ends. 1 But this is a mere trifle compared with what we find in the Priestly Code, where the whole tithe has
become a mere due to be collected by the Levites (Neh. x. 38 ) on behalf of the clergy, whose endowment thereby is again very largely increased. Ezekiel is silent on this point also (xliv. 18-31), but as the tithe is demanded in Numbers (xviii. 21 seq.), so was it paid from the days of Nehemiah (x. 38  seq.) by the church of the second temple. Later there was added over and above, so as to meet the divergent requirement of Deuteronomy, the so-called second tithe, which usually was consumed at Jerusalem, but in every third year was given to the poor (so Deut. xxvi. 12, LXX), and in the end the tithe for the poor was paid separately over and above the first and second (Tobit i. 7, 8; Jos., Ant., iv. 8, 22).
It is absolutely astounding that the tithe which in its proper nature should apply only to products of definite measure, such as corn and wine and oil (Deut. xiv. 23), comes to be extended in the Priestly Code to cattle also, so that besides the male firstlings every tenth head of cattle and of sheep must also be paid to the priests. This demand, however, is not yet met with in Numbers xviii., nor even in Neh. x. 38, 39, but first occurs as a novel in Lev. xxvii. 32 (1 Sam. viii. 17). Whether it ever came into the actual practice of Judaism seems doubtful; in 2 Chron. xxxi. 6 the tithe of cattle is indeed mentioned, but on the other hand the firstlings are not; in the pre-rabbinical literature no traces of it are discoverable,—especially not in Philo, who knows only of the ordinary tithes due to the Levites, and not of the tithes of cattle due to the priests (De praem. sacerd. 6).
With the tithe of the fruit of the soil the first fruits are at bottom identical; the latter were reduced to definite measure later and through the influence of the former. This is no doubt the reason why in the Jehovistic legislation tithe and first fruits are not both demanded, but only a gift of the first and best of corn, wine, and oil, left to the free discretion of the offerer, which is conjoined with the firstling of cattle and sheep (Exod. xxii. 28 . xxiii. 19, xxxiv. 26). In a precisely similar way the tithe of the field stands conjoined with the firstlings of cattle in Deuteronomy (xiv. 22, 23, xv. 19 seq.). But also the reshith, usually translated first-fruits, occurs in Deuteronomy,—as a payment of corn, wine, oil, and wool to the priests (xviii. 4); a small portion, a basketful, thereof is brought before the altar and dedicated with a significant liturgy (xxvi. 1 seq.). It appears that it is taken from the tithe, as might be inferred from xxvi. 12 seq. taken as the continuation of vers. 1-11; in one passage, xxvi. 2, the more general
usus loquendi reappears, according to which the reshith means the entire consecrated fruit, which as a whole is consumed by the offerers before Jehovah, and of which the priests receive only a portion. But in the Priestly Code not only is the entire tithe demanded as a due of the clergy, the reshith also is demanded in addition (Num. xviii. 12), and it is further multiplied, inasmuch as it is demanded from the kneading-trough as well as from the threshing-floor: in every leavening the ḥalla belongs to Jehovah (xv. 20). Nor is this all; to the reshith (xviii. 12) are added the bikkurim also (xviii. 13), as something distinct. The distinction does not occur elsewhere (Exod. xxxiv. 26); prepared fruits alone are invariably spoken of, the yield of the threshing-floor and the wine-press, of which first produce—"the fulness and the overflow "—was to be consecrated. The fat of oil, wine, and corn is the main thing in Num. xviii. also, and is called reshith (ver. 12) or terumah (ver. 27); but the bikkurim (ver. 13) seem to be a separate thing, and, if this be really the case, must mean those raw fruits which have ripened earliest. Judaism, here once more moulding itself essentially in accordance with the tenor of the Priestly Code, actually drew this distinction; from the publication of the Law through Ezra the community pledged itself to bring up yearly the bikkurim to the house of Jehovah, and to deliver the reshith into the temple cells (Neh. x. 36 ). The former was a religious solemnity, associated with processions, and the use of the ritual in Deut. xxvi.; the latter was rather a simple tax paid from natural products,—a distinction which perhaps is connected with the different expressions they shall bring (Num. xviii. 13) and they shall give (xviii. 12). The LXX keeps ἀπαρχή and πρωτογενιήματα strictly apart, as also do Philo (De praem. sacerd. 1, 2) and Josephus (Ant., iv. 4, 8, 22).
3. The amount which at last is required to be given is enormous. What originally were alternatives are thrown together, what originally was left free and undetermined becomes precisely measured and prescribed. The priests receive all the sin and trespass offerings, the greater share of the vegetable offerings, the hides of the burnt offerings, the shoulder and breast of meat offerings. Over and above are the firstlings, to which are added the tithes and first-fruits in a duplicate form, in short, all kodashim, which originally were demanded merely as ordinary meat offerings (Deut. xii. 26 = ver. 6, 7, and so on), and were consumed at holy places and by consecrated guests indeed, but not by
the priest. And, notwithstanding all this, the clergy are not even asked (as in Ezekiel is the prince, who there receives the dues, xlv. 13 seq.) to defray the cost of public worship; for this there is a poll-tax, which is not indeed enjoined in the body of the Priestly Code, but which from the time of Nehemiah x. 33  was paid at the rate of a third of a shekel, till a novel of the law (Exod. xxx. 15) raised it to half a shekel.
1. To the endowment of the clergy in the Priestly Code belong finally the forty-eight cities assigned by Joshua in accordance with the appointment of Moses (Num. xxxv.; Josh. xxi.). The tribes gave them up freely; the smaller giving few and the larger more (Num. xxxv. 8). The Aaronidæ and the three families of the Levites cast lots about them in four divisions; the sons of Aaron get thirteen cities in Judah, the Levites ten in Ephraim-Manasseh, thirteen in Galilee, and twelve in the territory eastward of Jordan. It is not merely the right to inhabit, but, in spite of all apologetic rationalism, the right of absolute possession that they receive (Josh. xxi. 12), inclusive of a portion of land two thousand ells square (square in the strictly literal sense; Num. xxxv. 5), which serves as public common.
The physical impracticability of such an arrangement has been conclusively shown, after Gramberg, by Graf (Merx, Archiv, i. p. 83). The 4 × 12 or the substituted 13 + 10 + 13 + 12 cities, of which in spite of Num. xxxv. 8 for the most part four belong to each of the twelve tribes, are already sufficient to suggest a suspicion of artificial construction; but the regulation that a rectangular territory of two thousand ells square should be measured off as pasture for the Levites around each city (which at the same time is itself regarded only as a point; Num. xxxv. 4) might, to speak with Graf, be very well carried out perhaps in a South Russian steppe or in newly founded townships in the western States of America, but not in a mountainous country like Palestine, where territory that can be thus geometrically portioned off does not exist, and where it is by no means left to arbitrary legal enactments to determine what pieces of ground are adapted for pasturage and what for tillage and gardening; there, too, the cities were already in existence, the land was already under cultivation, as the Israelites slowly conquered
it in the course of centuries. Besides, from the time of Joshua there is not a historical trace of the existence of the Levitical cities. Quite a number of them were in the days of the judges and down to the early monarchy still in the hands of the Canaanites,—Gibeon, Shechem, Gezer, Taanach; some perhaps may even have so continued permanently. Those on the other hand which passed into the possession of the Israelites at no time belonged to the Levites. Shechem, Hebron, Ramoth, were the capital cities of Ephraim, Judah, and Gilead; and Gibeon, Gezer, Heshbon were in like manner important but by no means ecclesiastical towns. In the Deuteronomic period the Levites were scattered throughout Judah in such a manner that each locality had its own Levites or Levite; nowhere did they live separated from the rest of the world in compact masses together, for they made their living by sacrificing for others, and without a community they could not exercise their calling. Some indeed possessed land and heritage; such were at an earlier period the Silonic family at Gibeath-Phineas, Amaziah at Bethel, and Abiathar at Anathoth, and at a later period Jeremiah, also at Anathoth. But Anathoth (for example) was not on that account a priestly city in the sense of Joshua xxi.; Jeremiah had his holding there as a citizen and not as a priest, and he shared not with the priests but with the people (xxxvii. 12). As a tribe Levi was distinguished from the other tribes precisely by holding no land, and its members joined themselves to the settled citizens and peasants, for the most part as dependent inmates (Deuteronomy x. 9, xviii. 1).
Even after the exile, indeed, matters were not different in this respect. "Ab excidio templi prioris sublatum est Levitis jus suburbiorum," says R. Nachman (B. Sotah, 48b), and he is borne out by the silence of Neh. x. The execution of the law was probably postponed to the days of the Messiah; it was not in truth within the power of man, and cannot be seriously demanded in the Priestly Code itself, which contemplates a purely ideal Israel, with ideal boundaries, and leaves the sober reality so far out of sight that on archaeological grounds it never once so much as mentions Jerusalem, the historical capital of the priests.
The circumstance that these towns lay in partibus infiidelium seems to make them unavailable as a means of fixing the antiquity of the Priestly Code. It is possible with Bleek to explain the transcendence of history as Mosaicity; such a view is not to be argued against. But it is also possible with Nöldeke to insist that an
invention so bold cannot possibly be imputed to the spirit of the exilic and post-exilic time, which in everything is only anxiously concerned to cleave to what is old and to restore it; and such a contention deserves and admits of refutation. It is not the case that the Jews had any profound respect for their ancient history; rather they condemned the whole earlier development, and allowed only the Mosaic time along with its Davidic reflex to stand; in other words, not history but the ideal. The theocratic ideal was from the exile onwards the centre of all thought and effort, and it annihilated the sense for objective truth, all regard and interest for the actual facts as they had been handed down. It is well known that there never have been more audacious history-makers than the Rabbins. But Chronicles affords evidence sufficient that this evil propensity goes back to a very early time, its root the dominating influence of the Law, being the root of Judaism itself. Judaism is just the right soil for such an artificial growth as the forty-eight priestly and Levitical cities. It would hardly have occurred to an author living in the monarchical period, when the continuity of the older history was still unbroken, to look so completely away from all the conditions of the then existing reality; had he done so, he would have produced upon his contemporaries the impression merely that he had scarcely all his wits about him. But after the exile had annihilated the ancient Israel, and violently and completely broken the old connection with the ancient conditions, there was nothing to hinder from planting and partitioning the tabula rasa in thought at pleasure, just as geographers are wont to do with their map as long as the countries are unknown.
But, of course, no fancy is pure fancy; every imagination has underlying it some elements of reality by which it can be laid hold of, even should these only be certain prevailing notions of a particular period. It is clear, if a proper territory is assigned to the clergy, that the notion of the clerical tribe which already had begun to strike root in Deuteronomy has here grown and gathered strength to such a degree that even the last and differentiating distinction is abolished which separates the actual tribes from the Levites, viz. communal independence and the degree of concentration which expresses itself in separate settlements. For when we read, notwithstanding, in the Priestly Code that Aaron and Levi are to have no lot nor inheritance in Israel (Num. xviii. 20, 23), this is merely a form of speech taken over from Deuteronomy and at the same time an involuntary concession to
fact; what would the forty-eight cities have been, had they actually existed, if not a lot, a territorial possession, and that too a comparatively large one? The general basis which serves as starting-point for the historical fiction being thus far recognisable, we are able also to gain a closer view of its concrete material. The priestly and Levitical cities stand in close connection with the so-called cities of refuge. These are also appointed in Deuteronomy (xix.), although not enumerated by name (for Deut. iv. 41-43 cannot be regarded as genuine). Originally the altars were asylums (Exod. xxi. 14; 1 Kings ii. 28), some in a higher degree than others (Exod. xxi. 13). In order not to abolish the asylums also along with the altars, the Deuteronomic legislator desired that certain holy places should continue as places of refuge, primarily three for Judah, to which, when the territory of the kingdom extended, three others were to be afterwards added. The Priestly Code adopts the arrangement, and specifies three definite cities on this side and three on the other side of Jordan (Num. xxxv.; Josh. xx.), four of which are demonstrably famous old seats of worship,—all the three western ones, and Ramoth, that is, Mizpah, of the eastern ones (Gen. xxxi.; Judges xi. 11). But as all these asylums are at the same time priestly and Levitical cities, it is an obvious conjecture that these also in like manner arose out of old sanctuaries. We need not suppose that there is more in this than an echo of the general recollection that there were once in Israel many holy places and residences of priesthoods; it is by no means necessary to assert that each of the towns enumerated in Josh. xxi. had actually been an ancient sanctuary. In many cases, however, this also admits of being shown, 1 although some of the most famous (or according to the later view, infamous) high places, such as Bethel, Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba are omitted, probably of set purpose.
The immediate starting-point, however, for this territorial donation to the Levites is perhaps to be sought in Ezekiel, in the picture of the
future Israel which he draws at the close of his book. He concerns himself there in a thorough-going manner about the demarcation of the national and tribal boundaries, and in doing so sets quite freely to work, taking, so to speak, the yard measure in his hand. Leaving the land eastward of Jordan wholly to the Saracens, he divides the western portion into thirteen parallel transverse sections; in the middle of the thirteenth (the rest of which is assigned to the prince), lying between Judah and Benjamin, the twelve tribes give up a square with a base line of 25,000 ells as a sacred offering to Jehovah. This square is divided into three parallelograms, 25,000 ells long, running east and west; the southernmost of these, 5000 ells broad, includes the capital with its territory; the middle one, 10,000 ells broad, contains the temple and the priestly territory; the northernmost, also 10,000 ells broad, has the inheritance and the cities of the Levites. 1 Thus we have here also a surrender of land to the clergy on the part of the tribes; the comparison with Josh. xxi. is not to be put aside,—all the less, because nowhere else in the Old Testament is anything similar met with. Now Ezekiel is quite transparent, and requires no interpreter but himself. In order that the temple may be protected in its sanctity in the best possible manner, it is placed in the centre of the priestly territory, which in its turn is covered by the city on the south, and by the Levites on the north. At the same time the personnel connected with the function of worship is to dwell as much as possible apart on its own soil and territory, which shall serve them for separate houses to sanctify them, as is expressly remarked for the priests (xiv. 4), and in an inferior degree holds good also, of course, for the Levites beside them. Here everything starts from, and has its explanation in, the temple. Its original is unmistakably the temple of Solomon; its site is beside the capital, in the heart of the sacred centre of the land between Judah and Benjamin; there the sons of Zadok have their abode, and beside them are the Levites whom Josiah had brought up from all the country to Jerusalem. Obviously the motives are not here far to seek. In the Priestly Code, on the other hand, which was not in a position to shape the future freely out of the present, but was compelled to accept archaeological restrictions, the motives are historically concealed and almost paralysed. The result has remained, namely, the
holding of separate territory by the clergy, but the cause or the purpose of it can no longer be recognised on account of the sanctuary being now an abstract idea. Jerusalem and the temple, which, properly speaking, occasioned the whole arrangement, are buried in silence with a diligence which is in the highest degree surprising; and on the other hand, in remembrance of the priesthoods scattered everywhere among the high places of Israel in earlier days, forty-eight fresh Levitical cities are created, from which, however, their proper focus, a temple to wit, is withheld only in the circumstance that precisely the thirteen cities of Judah and Benjamin happen to fall to the lot of the sons of Aaron, does the influence of Jerusalem unconsciously betray itself.
2. Apart from this historical fiction, the other claims that are made for the endowment of the clergy are, however exorbitant, nevertheless practicable and seriously meant. So far as the circumstances of their origin are concerned, two possibilities present themselves. Either the priests demanded what they could hope to obtain, in which case they were actually supreme over the nation, or they set up claims which at the time were neither justified nor even possible; in which case they were not indeed quite sober, yet at the same time so sane prophetically, that centuries afterwards the revenues they dreamed of became in actuality theirs. Is it to be supposed that it was (say) Moses, who encouraged his people as they were struggling for bare life in the wilderness to concern themselves about a superabundantly rich endowment of their clergy? Or is it believed that it was in the period of the judges, when the individual tribes and families of Israel, after having forced their way among the Canaanites, had a hard fight to maintain their position, get somehow settled in their new dwelling-places and surroundings, that the thought first arose of exacting such taxes from a people that was only beginning to grow into a national unity, for an end that was altogether remote from its interest? What power could then have been able in those days, when every man did what was right in his own eyes, to compel the individual to pay? But even when actually, under the pressure of circumstances, a political organisation had arisen which embraced all the tribes, it could hardly have occurred to the priests to utilise the secular arm as a means for giving to themselves a place of sovereignty; and still less could they have succeeded without the king on whom they were so completely dependent. In short, the claims they make in the Law would in the pre-exilic period have been regarded as utopian in the strict
sense of that word; they allow of explanation only by the circumstances which from the beginning of the Chaldæan rule, and still more that of the Persians, lent themselves to the formation of a hierocracy, to which, as to the truly national and moreover divine authority, the people gave voluntary obedience, and to which the Persians also conceded rights they could not have granted to the family of David. At the very beginning of the exile, Ezekiel begins to augment the revenues of the priests (xliv. 28-30), yet he still confines himself on the whole to the lines of Deuteronomy, and makes no mention of tithes and firstlings. Of the demands of the Priestly Code in their full extent we hear historically in Neh. x. for the first time; there it is stated that they were carried through by men who had the authority of Artaxerxes behind them. This was the most difficult and at the same time the most important part of the work Ezra and Nehemiah had to do in introducing the Pentateuch as the law of the Jewish Church; and that is the reason why it is so specially and minutely spoken of. Here plainly lies the material basis of the hierocracy from which the royal throne was ultimately reached.
For all these dues, apart from sacrificial perquisites, flowed into a common coffer, and benefited those who had the control of this, viz., the priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem, whom it helped to rise to a truly princely position. The ordinary priests, and especially the Levites, did not gain by all this wealth. The latter indeed ought, according to law, to have had the tithes, and to have handed over the tithes of these again to the sons of Aaron, but as the general tendency of the time was to depress the Levites, this legal revenue was also gradually withdrawn from them and appropriated by the priests. Afterwards the chief priests claimed the tithes for themselves alone, while their inferior brethren had to suffer severe privation and even hunger itself (Josephus, Ant., xx. 8, 8; 9, 2).
Upon the difference just stated between the later practice and the Law, one argument more has recently been founded against assigning the latter to the Babylonio-Persian period. "Another testimony borne by tradition completely excludes the idea of the Elohistic torah (i.e., the Priestly Code) having been composed by Ezra. As is well known, it is the Elohistic torah that carefully regulates the mutual relations of priests and Levites, while Deuteronomy groups the two together without bringing forward the distinction. It is the former that assigns the tithes to the Levites, while requiring these in their turn to
hand over the tithe of their tithes as a due to the priests. Such was also the practice (Neh. x. 38 seq.) soon after the exile [i.e., a hundred years later; Neh. vii. 5]. But subsequently the payment of the tithes to the Levites fell entirely into disuse; these were rendered immediately and exclusively to the priests, so that Jose ben Hanina actually confesses: "We do not pay the tithes according to the command of God" (Sota, 47b). But everywhere the Talmud refers this practice back to Ezra. Ezra it was who punished the Levites by withdrawal of the tithes, and that because they had not come out from Babylon (Jebam. 386b; Chullin 11b). The point to be noted is that Ezra, according to the testimony of tradition, superseded a precept of the Elohistic torah, supporting himself in this perhaps by reference to the Deuteronomic torah." So Delitzsch in the Zeitschr. für luth. Theol., 1877, p. 448 seq. That Ezra is not the author of the Priestly Code may readily be granted—only not on such an argument as this. If the genuine historical tradition expressly names Ezra as the man who introduced the Levites’ tithe just as prescribed by law (Neh. x. 38 seq.), what conscientious man can attach any weight to the opposite assertion of the Talmud?
But, even assuming that the divergence of practice from the legal statute actually does go back to the time of Ezra, what would follow from that against the post-exilic origin of the Priestly Code? For this is what the question comes to, not to Ezra's authorship, which is made the main point by a mere piece of transparent controversial tactics. The demands of the Priestly Code, which demonstrably were neither laid down, nor in any sense acted on before the exile, attained the force of law one hundred years after the return from Babylon (Neh. x.); the whole taxation system of Judaism ever afterwards rested upon it;—shall this be held to have no meaning as against the trifling circumstance that the tithe also was indeed paid to the clergy, in full accordance with the Priestly Code, and inconsistently with ancient custom, but paid to the higher, and not to the lower order?
In point of fact any other difference whatever between Jewish practice and the Law might better have been adduced against the thesis of Graf,—for example, the absence of Urim and Thummim (Neh. vii. 65), or of the forty-eight Levitical cities, the church of the returned exiles instead of that of the twelve tribes of Israel, the second temple instead of the tabernacle, Ezra instead of Moses, the sons of
[paragraph continues] Zadok instead of the sons of Aaron, the absence of the other marks of Mosaicity. For the position of the Levites is the Achilles heel of the Priestly Code. If the Levites at a later date were still further lowered beneath the priests, and put into a worse position in favour of these, this nevertheless presupposes the distinction between the two; let it first then be shown that the distinction is known to the genuine Old Testament, and that, in particular, it is introduced by Ezekiel not as a new thing, but as of immemorial antiquity. Or is the primary fact that the separation between priests and Levites was set up only in the Priestly Code and in Judaism, and that its genesis can be traced with confidence from the time of Josiah downwards, a fact of less importance than the secondary one that the distinction extended itself somewhat further still in the subsequent development of Judaism?
154:1 Philo, De praem. sacerd., sec. 3. Josephus, Ant., iii. 9. 2; iv. 4, 4.
156:1 Connection is, however, possible with some older custom, such as must certainly be assumed for Amos iv. 4. Comp. Deut. xxvi. 12, "the year of tithing."
162:1 In the cases of Hebron, Gibeon, Shechem, Ramoth, Mahanaim and Tabor (Host v. 1) by historical data; in those of Bethshemesh, Ashtaroth, Kadesh,, perhaps also Rimmon, by the names. Not even here can one venture to credit the Priestly Code with consistent fidelity to history. As for Hosea v. 1, 2, the original meaning seems to be: "A snare have ye become for Mizpah, and an outspread net upon Tabor, and the pit-fall of Shittim (שחת השטים) have they made deep." Shittim as a camping-place under Moses and Joshua must certainly have been a sanctuary, just like Kadesh, Gilgal, and Shiloh; the prophet names these seats at which in his opinion the worship was especially seductive and soul-destroying; his reproach is levelled at the priests most famous (or according to the later view, infamous) high places, such as Bethel, Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba are omitted, probably of set purpose.
163:1 For עשרים לשכת (xlv. 5), read, with the LXX, שערים לשבת "to dwell within the gates." Compare a similar transposition of letters in xiii. 3, LXX. The expression "gates" for "cities" has its origin in Deuteronomy.