The Making of a Nation eBook

Charles Foster Kent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 125 pages of information about The Making of a Nation.

If ye know my commandments, happy are ye if ye do them.—­Jesus.

Wherewithal shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the High God? . . .  He hath showed thee, Oh man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?—­Micah 6:6, 8.

Most religions are meant to be straight lines connecting two points—­God and man.  But Christianity has three points—­God, man, and his brother—­with two lines to make a right angle.—­Maltbie D. Babcock.

  So many prayers, so many creeds,
  So many paths that wind and wind,
  When just the art of being kind
  Is all the sad world needs. 
    —­Eva Wheeler Wilcox.

I.

THE HISTORY OF THE PROPHETIC DECALOGUE.

The decalogues of Exodus 20-23 clearly represent the earliest canon of the Old Testament.  These are intended to define clearly the obligations of the nation to Jehovah, and to place these obligations before the people so definitely that they would be understood and met.  As the term “decalogue,” that is “ten words,” indicates, the Biblical decalogue originally contained ten brief sententious commands, easily memorized even by children.  Each of the decalogues is divided into two groups of five laws or pentads.  This division of five and ten was without reasonable doubt intended to aid the memory by associating each law with a finger or thumb of the two hands.  Exodus 20-23 and its parallels in Deuteronomy contain ten decalogues, that is a decalogue of decalogues, suggesting that originally a decalogue was associated with each of the fingers and thumbs of the two hands even as were the individual words or commands.  This system of mnemonics was useful in teaching a child nation.  It is still useful to-day.  It is important to impress upon the child in this concrete way certain of the fundamental obligations to God and man.  The form of the ten commandments in part explains the commanding place which they still hold in religious education throughout Christendom.

The Biblical accounts of the two decalogues in Exodus 20 and 34 vary in details.  The early Judean prophetic narrative in Exodus 34 states that these commands were inscribed by Moses himself on two stone tablets.  In the later versions of the story Jehovah inscribes them with his own fingers on the two tablets which he gave to Moses.  That the older decalogue was written on two tablets and set up in the temple of Solomon is exceedingly probable, for by the days of the United Kingdom the Hebrews were beginning to become acquainted with the art of writing and therefore could read the laws in written form.  The recently discovered code of Hammurabi, which comes from the twentieth century B.C., was inscribed in parallel columns on a stone monument.  In the epilogue to this wonderful code the king states:  “By the order of Shamash, the judge supreme of heaven

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The Making of a Nation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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