2nd Book of the Law

2nd Book of Law

The 2nd Book of the Law

The Rabbis will tell you that Moses wrote the Book of Exodus even though it describes events many centuries after the purported life and death of Moses.  Exodus is referred to as the First Book of the Law.  But Moses also wrote the Second Book of the Law named Deuteronomy, as is plainly stated in the following verses;  

24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,   

25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying,

26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.     Deut 31:24-26

There simply exists no evidence for the law’s origination as depicted in the Bible. The reality is that the evidence, including the Bible itself, indicates the law was composed long after Moses’s alleged life time.

The Book was lost for 600 years???

In this regard, we read in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34 about the alleged discovery of the “Book of the Law,” (in Hebrew  תורה towrah).  Although it refers to the entire Pentateuch in general, the term “torah” is understood often to signify the individual biblical book of Deuteronomy or the “Second Law.”

 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”    2 Kings 13

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.    2 kings 22:8

 15 Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.    2 Chronicles 34:15

In order to explain why the Israelites kept “whoring after” other gods after Yahweh supposedly chose them for his monotheistic revelation, the Bible writers pretended that Moses’s “Book of the Law” had been “lost,” to be found 600 years later (622 BCE) by Hilkiah, a “son of Zadok” or proto-Sadducee, one of the two main sects of Jewish priests in later times.

Hilkiah High Priest

Either before or after reading the law— depending on which of the contradictory accounts you choose in the “inerrant word of God” —Josiah goes on a rampage and purges the high places in the same violent manner that Hezekiah had done previously. This destruction is described in the following verses:

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.

And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove.       2 Kings 23:4–11

10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.     2 Kings 23:10

.asherah

Fig. 10. Stylized palm tree or asherah, like those torn down by Josiah (2 Kings 23)

King Manasseh

The biblical story contends that, after Hezekiah’s death (687 BCE), his son Manasseh (c. 697/6–642/64 BCE) returned the people to local “pagan whoring” worship.  The whoring included sacrificing their own children to Baal.

However much later, the fanatical and violent reformers struck back with their favorite leader, King Josiah, who was even more vehement than his grandfather Hezekiah in his assaults on the old Isrealite pagan religion.

King Josiah

In his fanaticism, Josiah reversed the policies of King Manasseh, who had again, had restored ancient pagan polytheistic worship shared in by the follow along Israelites.  Sacred objects were immolated and priests killed.  A “grove” (asherah) from the “house of the Lord” was burned, and the “houses of the sodomites”, located inside the Temple, were destroyed.

From this one pericope alone, we can learn a great deal about the Israelite worship, that it was  the same as that of the Canaanites and other peoples of the Levant.  It was largely astro-theological in nature, having to do with sun worship. It also incorporated male cult prostitutes or qadeshim, previously mentioned in the Biblical verses.

Priestly Payoff

The obsession with preventing people from worshiping other gods is motivated by a priesthood that desires power and enrichment. The monetary aspect of the biblical scenario is punctuated throughout the foundational tale, with constant offerings to the Jewish priesthood, such as exemplified in the tithe, as in the following verses: 

28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.      Deuteronomy 14:28–29

The politics are obvious from this verse:

16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.  Deuteronomy 16:16–18

Concerning this development, Dever remarks:

The Deuteronomistic history...is almost certainly the work under Josiah (650–609 B.C.) of a school of Mosaic reformers (thus “Deuteronomy” or “Second Law”). Final additions concerning the end of Judah were added during the exile in the 6th century B.C.

That Josiah’s grandfather Hezekiah had a hand in creating the scriptures is contended biblically at Proverbs 25:1, in which it is claimed that “Solomon’s” proverbs were “copied” by Hezekiah’s men.

25 These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.    Proverbs 25:1

In the above verse we have a clear admission of Hezekiah’s hand in the composition of the Bible.

  It is easy to suspect that such influence did not end there and that the hand effort continued for centuries afterwards. In this same regard, concerning the hypothesized source text “P,” Friedman shows that it “has elements that connect it to the time of Hezekiah...”

This above verse recounts the writing down of sayings traditionally and pseudepigraphically attributed to “Solomon” that had been passed along for centuries, and originally claimed to have emanated from a deity or deities. Since we have not discovered any such texts as Hezekiah’s Solomonic composition, it is possible they were written in perishable materials, such as papyrus scrolls, rather than cuneiform tablets. These latter would be cumbersome for nomadic peoples, which the Israelites originally were.

Found or Fabricated?

To reiterate, in the story of Josiah, the “stiff-necked chosen people” were “whoring after” the gods in their old worship ways, as if no previous censure had ever happened, whether with Hezekiah two generations before, or with Moses and Aaron centuries previously.

Both  lineages of Moses and Aaron were supposed to uphold the law given by Yahweh over a very long 40-year indoctrination-reeducation camp in the desert, in which the Almighty allegedly appeared in person many times.  According to the Torah, the Lord had expended much energy with one supernatural, miraculous and magical event after another to ensure his law would be imposed upon his chosen.

It is inexplicable why God would have gone to so much trouble to talk regularly with Moses and Aaron—both pious workers of miracles and founders of priestly lineages—give them an enormous amount of painstaking and detailed instructions, and then just let them put it all away for 600 years. 

Where was Yahweh during this time? He was purportedly involved in every little detail of Israelite life; yet, he never reminded his prophets and priests of the long-lost law?

Seven-Year Recitation

Moses instructed the priestly tribe of Levites to read the law once entirely to the Israelite congregation every seven years;

10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”      Deuteronomy 31:10–13

Again, why was it lost for 600 years? It seems odd that the Levites or their faithful followers would not remember any of it.  Note that centuries later Ezra was claimed to have done just that, purportedly recalling from memory all the books of the Old Testament or “Tanakh,” as it is called in Hebrew, written by his time.

Yet, in the end it was all for naught, as the people—including a highly trained and organized priesthood whose very livelihood depended on the law— simply forgot all about it, and lost the books???

This tale of the finding of the law is obviously fictitious, as, in reality, it cannot be explained why, if Moses had been real and had such a dramatic and impacting life on the Isrealite people, his law would NOT have been “lost” in the first place. And if it had been lost, how did Hezekiah know to follow it, when he made his purges and reforms?

Temple Find

The finding of the book of the law under the temple recalls the location of religious libraries such as that of the high priest at Ugarit/Ras Shamra, discovered in between the city’s two main temples, one to Baal and the other to Dagan. The Ugaritic library also provides an example of a legal text dedicated to a god, El’s Marzeah or Marziḥu, reflecting the rules of a wine cult festival,  discussed elsewhere.

In consideration of the numerous tablets at Ugarit and elsewhere, it is possible that one or more older Semitic text indeed was found in Jerusalem, from a pre-Israelite temple or shrine, eventually used as the basis of some of the Pentateuch. It is also possible that religious law texts of this sort were deliberately buried in such sacred spaces as talismans or objects dedicated to a god or gods.

Josiah’s Yahwism

From the biblical tale about the discovery of the book of the law in the Jerusalem temple, as well as various anachronisms and artifacts in the Pentateuch, it has been surmised that “Moses’s” law was written down first during the reign of Josiah, apparently based in significant part on his predecessor Hezekiah’s actions.  Kings Josiah and Hezekiah used religion and God to justify both of their violent assaults, designed to slaughter competitor priests and leaders, and to subordinate their peoples under Yahwistic rule.

While it is claimed Moses discovered or developed monotheism, from the numerous biblical references to the Jews worshiping other gods it appears that it was under Hezekiah and then Josiah that fanatical, intolerant monotheism began to be imposed upon the masses, starting around 690 BCE.

Although there is no mention of Moses in the other pre-exilic prophets, it is possible that a germ tale of a tribal lawgiver was elaborated piously to some extent at this time, in order to give a more ancient, godly foundation to Hezekiah/Josiah’s fanatical and harsh legal reforms, under the intolerant and oppressive monotheism.  This tale would have been embellished and altered continuously until it was finally written down in the form found in the Old Testament today.

Part of this Yahwism was the imposition of onerous laws as in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, about which Dever comments:

“Much of the incredibly complex priestly legislation (especially throughout Leviticus) can only reflect the later institutional cult of urban life in the Monarchy, not the experience of desert wanderers.”

Yahweh Loves Violence

In this same regard, discussing Yahweh’s law, Redford remarks:

The rules he laid down by "God", unilaterally in fact—the human party to the contract had no say in the matter—were Draconian in the extreme, and the deity’s will utterly barbaric. Alien groups whose actions or even presence were deemed in opposition to Israel are consigned to genocidal slaughter at the behest of Yahweh (Exod. 17:14; Num. 31; 1 Sam. 15:3); even fraternization with foreigners brings the plague (Num. 25:9, 18). Anyone who dissents, Yahweh burns up (Num. 11:1–3; 16:35); anyone who complains he strikes with plague (Num. 11:33; 14:37; 16:49), or sends poisonous snakes after (Num. 21:6). Aberrant cultic practices, even though indulged in innocently, bring death (Exod. 32:35; Num. 15:37–40).136

When reading this tedious mass of oft-cruel instructions about issues currently irrelevant to the bulk of humanity, it becomes obvious why Christianity was created as a sort of “Peaceful Judaism Lite,” with no need to follow the violent law in all its mind-numbing and draconian details.

To summarize, although parts of it are older, it has been surmised by many scholars that, during Josiah’s time around 621 BCE, someone such as the high priest Hilkiah and his scribal underlings composed and/or combined much of the Pentateuch. This work evidently was redacted during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century and afterwards.

Elephantine Papyri

Throwing a wrench into the works of solving this puzzle of authorship and late dating of the Pentateuch’s emergence, Gmirkin remarks:

…archaeological evidence fails to support the historicity of Josiah’s reforms, essential for Wellhausen’s theory of the historical circumstances which produced—and dated—D. The Elephantine Papyri show no evidence of the existence of any Pentateuchal writings as late as 400 BCE.

Dating to between 494–400 BCE, the Elephantine Papyri “confirm the Jewish worship of the god Ya’u (alongside 'Anath, Bethel, Ishum and Herem); the Jewish observation of the Days of Unleavened Bread and (probably) Passover (related ostraca referred to both Passover and sabbath); and the religious authority of the Jewish high priest at Jerusalem from whom the Elephantine colonists sought support for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple at Elephantine.”

 

Fig. 11. Aramaic letter from Jewish community, 407 BCE. Papyrus, Elephantine, Egypt

As we can see, even in the fifth century (500 to 401 BCE), the Jews in Egypt remained polytheistic, continuing to worship their ancestral Canaanite/Semitic deities, cultic practices similar to those Jews in “other preexilic Jewish sanctuaries, notably at 7th-century Kuntillet ‘Ajrud.” It should be kept in mind that, even after the fifth century, Jews in general continued to revere deities other than Yahweh, including syncretizing him with the gods Zeus, Dionysus and others.

Furthermore, the Papyri texts are devoid of the Mosaic writings, as Gmirkin points out:

Yet when the Elephantine Papyri are scoured for evidence of the existence of the Pentateuch or any portion thereof, the results are emphatically negative. There is no evidence that the priests at Yeb were of Aaronide descent. Indeed, there is no mention of Aaron or Levites in the papyri. Of over 160 Jews at Elephantine mentioned in the papyri, not one name comes from the Pentateuch. Nor is there any reference in the papyri to the Exodus or any other biblical event. Reference to laws of Moses or other authoritative writings is entirely absent….

….The extraordinary absence of any reference to the contents of the Pentateuch in the Elephantine Papyri is all the more remarkable given the friendly contacts between the Jews of Elephantine and the priests of the temple of Jerusalem.140

It would seem that the Pentateuch was unknown to these Jews and those at Jerusalem in the fifth century BCE. If so, it remains to be explained, if Hezekiah and Josiah were real people, what actions they did instead of these biblical event accounts and why they were singled out for this falsification of history.

Ezra’s Memories

 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”    2 Kings 13

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.     2 Kings 22:8

 15 Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.    2 Chronicles 34:15

Also purportedly written in the fifth century, at 2 Kings 22 we read that the Torah was lost once more, to be reproduced reputedly from memory around 425 BCE by Ezra. For various reasons, including the entire Old Testament/Tanakh’s apparent emergence in the historical record during this period, it was suggested by Porphyry and others that Ezra himself composed much of the text. There are apparently even later strata in some parts of the text, however, indicating composition and/or redaction after Ezra’s time, particularly in light of the Elephantine papyri’s omissions.

After Ezra, once more these books disappear, supposedly destroyed by Greco-Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 180 BCE, to reappear yet again.

With all this destruction, it would be difficult to believe that we possess the true words of a Moses from over a thousand years earlier, unless they were preserved orally, as was the original divinely revealed instruction to the priests. Again, how could the law be lost for 600 years if there was a continuous oral tradition from Moses’s day?

 

Hezikiah

Fig. 12. Israelite reformer king Hezekiah and his men destroy idols, including Moses’s brazen serpent (2 Kings 18)

Hezikiah

Fig. 13. Josiah smashes the idols of Baal (2 Ki 23). (Holman Bible, 1890)

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