As guardian of the oracle and priest of the desert sanctuary, Moses, like the later prophet of Islam, but with far greater spiritual power and deeper insight, taught his people not only the art of worship, but certain of the great essentials of religion. He it was who formulated in a positive faith the wholesome reaction, which he and his kinsmen felt against the gross polytheism of Egypt. The inspiration of all of Moses’ work was his own personal faith. The first great vision of Jehovah’s character and purpose that he had received in the land of Midian was doubtless often renewed amidst the same wild, impressive scenes. The exact nature of the deeper, more personal side of his character and faith must be inferred from the close analogies that may be drawn from the memoirs of Isaiah or Jeremiah. At the same time it is a mistake to infer that Moses’ beliefs were as lofty as those of the later prophets who stood in the light of a larger experience. On the other hand, it is not just to disregard the fact that Moses, being a prophet, was far in advance of the primitive age in which he lived. Not only did Moses create the Hebrew nation and teach it its first lessons in practical politics and religion, but he it was who first instilled into his race commanding loyalty to the one God, Jehovah, and taught that religion was more than form: that it meant right thinking and doing. Thus Moses was the forerunner of Israel’s later prophets, who broke away from the narrow heathen interpretation of religion and defined it in terms of life and service.
THE EARLY STAGES IN THE TRAINING OF THE HUMAN RACE.
It is interesting and important to note that Israel’s history was in most respects like that of other growing nations. In the beginning pastoral society and tribal government develop among savages primarily through the domestication of animals. The young of the animals slain in the hunt are kept first as pets: then, when as a result of the thriftless nature of the savages supplies at times become scarce, the pets are slain for food. As pets become more common and population increases, the advantage of breeding for use is apparent, and private property, in distinction from community possessions, appears. The growing herds naturally develop the need of regular service. To meet this need the institutions of permanent marriage and bondage arise and the wife or wives and the slaves perform the added work. With the custom of fixed marriage and the possibility of tracing ancestry through the father, comes in time ancestral government. The Hebrews seem to have had this type of government, even in the days of Abraham; and it lasted until the tribes broke up into clans and families, when they acquired permanent homes and became agriculturists in the land of Canaan.
Many of the characteristics of the tribe disappear almost entirely, as wandering nomads settle in a fixed abode, and the patriarchal rule changes to that of a royal or democratic government. Customs become fixed in formal statutes. Property in land becomes more important than that in herds. War becomes the business of a special army, instead of the frequent duty of all.