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Rediscovering the Exodus: Part 12

Updated on June 18, 2013

As you have read in the previous two articles in this series, it was Moses's very serious intention to prevent any hereditary line of rule from establishing itself amongst the Children of Israel. Nevertheless, even with his own personal sacrifice of never entering the Promised Land, he failed in achieving his intended goal. But as had predicted, the resultant conflict between what he intended and the reality of what actually did occur provided a thorn in the side of every king that sat on the throne in both Jerusalem and Samaria. The simple fact was that the reign of kings was not approved nor actually condoned by God. Even amongst Karaites this is hard for some to accept since the Books of Kings and Chronicles would suggest that God did favour some of these rulers and despots. But when you look at the percentages, He only tolerated a few overall, the majority He condemned openly and punished us as a people over and over again for the existence of the monarchy. I suggest a rereading of Kings and Chronicles to merely reinforce how few of these Jewish Kings ever curried the Lord’s favour. Then you will appreciate that the elevation of Royal Houses amongst our people was never truly sanctified by the Lord, nor has it ever benefitted us as a people. Hard to accept, I know, but as a Theocracy, we must appreciate this concept if we are to understand not only our history but also our purpose.

Uncovering Deuteronomy

How convenient that a completely unknown book of the Torah, a fifth book known as Deuteronomy would suddenly be uncovered (discovered) in a separate chamber of the Temple. Not too surprisingly, it revealed in Chapter 17 that a King could be duly elected and sanctioned by God, contrary to the status quo that existed prior to Saul and in direct contradiction to anything that had been recorded or mentioned in the time of Judges and preceding. The reality was that Josiah needed to change the persistent and prevailing attitude that kings were the bane of Israel and Judah and cursed by the Almighty. The North no longer had a king and it was beginning to look like the South would soon follow in that direction. We know from the Book of Samuel, that it was only under extreme duress that Saul was elected, but ignoring that well documented and defined fact, when we scrutinize Deuteronomy carefully, we can appreciate that what was mysteriously discovered by the Priests and King Josiah was an edited version of whatever original documents may have been actually found. This collection of existing and established laws were incorporated into what we now know as Deuteronomy in the 7th century BCE and though these laws and regulations were handed down by Moses, the book itself was never part of the original Torah since it concerned events that transpired much later and long after the death of Moses. Therefore it must be considered and classified as later writings and not the Torah directly from Moses. Too emphasize this point, how can we ignore the closing lines of Deuteronomy chapter 34?

ט וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, מָלֵא רוּחַ חָכְמָה--כִּי-סָמַךְ מֹשֶׁה אֶת-יָדָיו, עָלָיו; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֵלָיו בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּעֲשׂוּ, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה.

9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This provides our first evidence of Moses establishing rule through demonstrated ability and not as a direct result of inheritance.The naming of a successor, a Judge, was well received by the people and they made no disagreement with the transition because it was instructions directly from God through Moses. But the verbs are all in the past tense. These are events that happend long ago and are recorded by someone else as such.

י וְלֹא-קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּמֹשֶׁה, אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוֹ יְהוָה, פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים.

10 And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face;

The time frame provided here is one of many generations since it clearly identifies that there have been numerous prophets between Moses and the time in which this particular chapter was written down but that none of those prophets have been the equal or even close in magnitude to the level that Moses attained.If we assume thatthis reference includes approximately half of the prophets recorded in the Tanach, then we have a reference point by which to assume that much of Deuteronomy wasn’t written down in this particular format until the time of King Josiah and Jeremiah.

יא לְכָל-הָאֹתֹת וְהַמּוֹפְתִים, אֲשֶׁר שְׁלָחוֹ יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם--לְפַרְעֹה וּלְכָל-עֲבָדָיו, וּלְכָל-אַרְצוֹ.

11 in all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land;

יב וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה, וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה, לְעֵינֵי כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל.

12 and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.

Clearly, the author was writing long after Moses had passed away, and similarly his reference as pointed out earlier to Joshua in the past tense, and the inference that it has been a very long time in Israel since they had a prophet that could even be considered a pale shadow of Moses implies that it has been generations since his passing. I know that there will be some of my fellow Karaites opposed to my suggestion that Deuteronomy is a much later version of edited documents but facts are facts. Even so, such an event does not take away any of the religious reverence with which we must read Deuteronomy. It merely enforces the awe and understanding by which we must recognize that we were and always have been an evolving nation and culture and this was never truer than the several centuries at the time of our beginning as a people.

And it is also factual that the following sentences are in many ways a commentary by Josiah himself on what Moses had warned against and how all of his predecessors had failed clearly in that regard. Understandably, he was reflecting on how the monarchy, the pale remant which he had just inherited, had become the very ruination of his people, exactly as Moses had forewarned and to which he as the new King still directly contributed to. But even in reflection he knew it was necessary to defend his right to rule and protect his own reign.

יד כִּי-תָבֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ, וִירִשְׁתָּהּ, וְיָשַׁבְתָּה בָּהּ; וְאָמַרְתָּ, אָשִׂימָה עָלַי מֶלֶךְ, כְּכָל-הַגּוֹיִם, אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתָי.

14 When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein; and shalt say: 'I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me';

The original instruction of Moses not to place a king over Israel, which was further confirmed by the condemnation with which Samuel greeted such a request from the people has now been ‘officially’ terminated by Josiah.Six hundred years later he has now made the House of David ‘official’ and not only that, it is sanctioned by God!

The Rightful Ruler

Obviously, it is not enough to merely say that one's appointment as King was divinely ordained. It is necessary to establish a framework in which such an event can be acceptable. Josiah does exactly that.

טו שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ: מִקֶּרֶב אַחֶיךָ, תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ--לֹא תוּכַל לָתֵת עָלֶיךָ אִישׁ נָכְרִי, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-אָחִיךָ הוּא.

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother.

Now that Josiah has made the Monarchy in Judah official and in harmony with God's requirments, what remains is proclaiming himself as the Lord’s anointed so that everyone will accept all that he will undertake in his massive plans for the reaffirmation of the faith. And for any student of Kings and Chronicles that which Josiah undertook was massive indeed! He has placed the words in Yahweh’s mouth that he is the truly anointed of God. Though we know this not to be true from the previous articles, nonetheless, the references in Kings and Chronicles by the editors of those books all praise Josiah for his righteousness and doing 'what was right in the eyes of the Lord.' Spin doctoring was alive and well even back in the 7th century BCE.

This interesting reference to the foreigner may be in direct reference to the Tobiads and Sanballet families that now ruled as governors in what was the old Northern Kingdom. It must be remembered that even in the Northern Kingdom, the king had always been of Jewish extraction and therefore this statement regarding a foreign king sitting on the throne of a Jewish Kingdom had to be reflective of current situtations as they had never existed prior nor were they even a consideration in the past five hundred years. Though those two northern families would have claimed that they were definitely of the Children of Israel, the numerous incidences of intermarriages within their families with the royal families of neighbouring kingdoms led to a belief in Judah that the North was now wholly assimilated and ruled over by foreigners.In this manner, Josiah is discounting any of the official claims by the Samaritans that they still represented the original northern tribes. Only Josiah can now be officially referred to as the King of the Jews as no one else has a legitimate claim in the North or the South any longer.

The Cause of Their Suffering

It may come as a surprise to many a reader that Josiah did have a ready answer for the people as to why the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah had suffered so much since their inception. In fact, he could pinpoint the cause not to a singular action but to a singular person, his ancestor, King Solomon. Though many readers may find this hard to accept, considering how much Jewish lore and Rabbinical legend have painted Solomon to be such a paragon of virtue, Josiah held a completely different perspective and he was not afraid to voice his opinion. The fact that the kingdoms split probably as a direct result of the forced labour and taxation practices under Solomon would suggest that Josiah was not incorrect in his assumption.

טז רַק, לֹא-יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ

סוּסִים, וְלֹא-יָשִׁיב אֶת-הָעָם מִצְרַיְמָה, לְמַעַן הַרְבּוֹת סוּס; וַיהוָה, אָמַר לָכֶם, לֹא תֹסִפוּן לָשׁוּב בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה, עוֹד.

16 Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you: 'Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.'

יז וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ נָשִׁים, וְלֹא יָסוּר לְבָבוֹ; וְכֶסֶף וְזָהָב, לֹא יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ מְאֹד.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

Though a descendant of Solomon, Josiah appears to be condemning his illustrious ancestor for many of the practices he committed such as the multiplication of horses and wives for his own personal benefit.This is in spite of Josiah’s own multiple marriages of at least four in number but he is saying that this is an acceptable number as compared to the rumoured hundreds of Solomon. Also, Solomon became the son-in-law of Pharoah Sheshonk which led to the sacking of Jerusalem and the possibility that the Ark was carried back to Egypt at that time. In Chronicles we do have a mention by Josiah that he instructed the Levites to stop carrying the Ark about and let it rest in the Temple but it is not confirmed that this was actually done.Instead it implies that contrary to David giving a permanent resting place for the Ark, that it was possibly no longer in Jerusalem.Whatever the case, any close relationship with Egypt is entirely condemned, an action which ultimately will result in Josiah’s own death at Megiddo as you will see in the next article.

When one reads of the practices of Josiah in how he tore down the high places, and led an austere life-style, it becomesobvious that he held Solomon’s acts and life in extreme contempt.

יח וְהָיָה כְשִׁבְתּוֹ, עַל כִּסֵּא מַמְלַכְתּוֹ--וְכָתַב לוֹ אֶת-מִשְׁנֵה הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת, עַל-סֵפֶר, מִלִּפְנֵי, הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם.

18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites.

And now the Coup de Grace, so to speak.The admission by Josiah that he did write these new laws of hereditary rule and dynastic law which were being read in Deuteronomy but he considered himself completely justified in doing so since the priests were already in possession of a document that sanctified the practice.Exactly what or where this mysterious manuscript of laws originated from he does not specify but it obviously exists and therefore there is no reason he could not write this version of the law into Deuteronomy. Clearly this hither-to unknown document or codification of Priestly laws different from Leviticus has not been passed down but there is always hope that one day it will be uncovered.

יט וְהָיְתָה עִמּוֹ, וְקָרָא בוֹ כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּיו--לְמַעַן יִלְמַד, לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת וְאֶת-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, לַעֲשֹׂתָם.

19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them;

כ לְבִלְתִּי רוּם-לְבָבוֹ מֵאֶחָיו, וּלְבִלְתִּי סוּר מִן-הַמִּצְוָה יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול--לְמַעַן יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים עַל-מַמְלַכְתּוֹ הוּא וּבָנָיו, בְּקֶרֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל. {ס}

20 that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left; to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel.

And finally Josiah makes his lineage permanent and never ending. A scion of David, who will always be amongst Israel until the end of time. As we know from history, the end of the Kingdom of Judah was just around the corner but the establishment of a messianic dynasty was now firmly entrenched in the beliefs of the children of Israel.

In Conclusion

As we know from Kings and Chronicles, Josiah followed a very similar path to Hezekiah whom preceded him one hundred years earlier.But we also know from Kings 2, Chapter 18 that Hezekiah took some actions that were contrary to Moses as well. To understand the fallacy of these actions one must have an appreciation for what the Nehushtan was actually about. But all of these will be discussed in the next article as well as Josiah's justification for condemning Solomon.

It will be clear how events of the Exodus impacted on the failures of the twin Kingdoms and why we must seek our true destiny solely in the words of Moses and not in the mythos and legends that have been spun over the past three milennia of our people.

Peace Be with you as Always, Shalom Aleichim Tamid

Avrom Aryeh Zuk Kahana


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