Antiquities of the Jews, Vol 1, The

CHAPTER 3. How Those That Stirred Up This Sedition Were Destroyed, According To The Will Of God; And How Aaron, Moses's Brother Both He And His Posterity, Retained The Priesthood.

1. When Moses had said this, the multitude left off the turbulent behavior they had indulged, and the suspicion they had of Moses, and commended what he had said; for those proposals were good, and were so esteemed of the people. At that time therefore they dissolved the assembly. But on the next day they came to the congregation, in order to be present at the sacrifice, and at the determination that was to be made between the candidates for the priesthood. Now this congregation proved a turbulent one, and the multitude were in great suspense in expectation of what was to be done; for some of them would have been pleased if Moses had been convicted of evil practices, but the wiser sort desired that they might be delivered from the present disorder and disturbance; for they were afraid, that if this sedition went on, the good order of their settlement would rather be destroyed; but the whole body of the people do naturally delight in clamors against their governors, and, by changing their opinions upon the harangues of every speaker, disturb the public tranquillity. And now Moses sent messengers for Abiram and Dathan, and ordered them to come to the assembly, and wait there for the holy offices that were to be performed. But they answered the messenger, that they would not obey his summons; nay, would not overlook Moses's behavior, who was growing too great for them by evil practices. Now when Moses heard of this their answer, he desired the heads of the people to follow him, and he went to the faction of Dathan, not thinking it any frightful thing at all to go to these insolent people; so they made no opposition, but went along with him. But Dathan, and his associates, when they understood that Moses and the principal of the people were coming to them, came out, with their wives and children, and stood before their tents, and looked to see what Moses would do. They had also their servants about them to defend themselves, in case Moses should use force against them.

2. But he came near, and lifted up his hands to heaven, and cried out with a loud voice, in order to be heard by the whole multitude, and said, "O Lord of the creatures that are in the heaven, in the earth, and in the sea; for thou art the most authentic witness to what I have done, that it has all been done by thy appointment, and that it was thou that affordedst us assistance when we attempted any thing, and showedst mercy on the Hebrews in all their distresses; do thou come now, and hear all that I say, for no action or thought escapes thy knowledge; so that thou wilt not disdain to speak what is true, for my vindication, without any regard to the ungrateful imputations of these men. As for what was done before I was born, thou knowest best, as not learning them by report, but seeing them, and being present with them when they were done; but for what has been done of late, and which these men, although they know them well enough, unjustly pretend to suspect, be thou my witness. When I lived a private quiet life, I left those good things which, by my own diligence, and by thy counsel, I enjoyed with Raguel my father-in-law; and I gave myself up to this people, and underwent many miseries on their account. I also bore great labors at first, in order to obtain liberty for them, and now in order to their preservation; and have always showed myself ready to assist them in every distress of theirs. Now, therefore, since I am suspected by those very men whose being is owing to my labors, come thou, as it is reasonable to hope thou wilt; thou, I say, who showedst me that fire at mount Sinai, and madest me to hear its voice, and to see the several wonders which that place afforded thou who commandedst me to go to Egypt, and declare thy will to this people; thou who disturbest the happy estate of the Egyptians, and gavest us the opportunity of flying away from our under them, and madest the dominion of Pharaoh inferior to my dominion; thou who didst make the sea dry land for us, when we knew not whither to go, and didst overwhelm the Egyptians with those destructive waves which had been divided for us; thou who didst bestow upon us the security of weapons when we were naked; thou who didst make the fountains that were corrupted to flow, so as to be fit for drinking, and didst furnish us with water that came out of the rocks, when we were in want of it; thou who didst preserve our lives with [quails, which was] food from the sea, when the fruits of the ground failed us; thou didst send us such food from heaven as had never been seen before; thou who didst suggest to us the knowledge of thy laws, and appoint to us a of government,—come thou, I say, O Lord of the whole world, and that as such a Judge and a Witness to me as cannot be bribed, and show how I never admitted of any gift against justice from any of the Hebrews; and have never condemned a man that ought to have been acquitted, on account of one that was rich; and have never attempted to hurt this commonwealth. I am now and am suspected of a thing the remotest from my intentions, as if I had given the preisthood to Aaron, not at thy command, but out own favor to him; do thou at this time demonstrate that all things are administered by thy providence and that nothing happens by chance, but is governed by thy will, and thereby attains its end: as also demonstrate that thou takest care that have done good to the Hebrews; demonstrate this, I say, by the punishment of Abiram and Dathan, who condemn thee as an insensible Being, and one overcome by my contrivances. This thou do by inflicting such an open punishment on these men who so madly fly in the face of thy glory, as will take them out of the world, not in an manner, but so that it may appear they do die after the manner of other men: let that ground which they tread upon open about them and consume them, with their families and goods. This will be a demonstration of thy power to all and this method of their sufferings will be an instruction of wisdom for those that entertain profane sentiments of thee. By this means I shall be a good servant, in the precepts thou hast given by me. But if the calumnies they have raised against me be true, mayst thou preserve these men from every evil accident, and bring all that destruction on me which I have imprecated upon them. And when thou hast inflicted punishment on those that have endeavored to deal unjustly with this people, bestow upon them concord and peace. Save this multitude that follow thy commandments, and preserve them free from harm, and let them not partake of the punishment of those that have sinned; for thou knowest thyself it is not just, that for the wickedness of those men the whole body of the Israelites should suffer punishment."

3. When Moses had said this, with tears in his eyes, the ground was moved on a sudden; and the agitation that set it in motion was like that which the wind produces in waves of the sea. The people were all aftrighted; and the ground that was about their tents sunk down at the great noise, with a terrible sound, and carried whatsoever was dear to the seditious into itself, who so entirely perished, that there was not the least appearance that any man had ever been seen there, the earth that had opened itself about them, closing again, and becoming entire as it was before, insomuch that such as saw it afterward did not perceive that any such accident had happened to it. Thus did these men perish, and become a demonstration of the power of God. And truly, any one would lament them, not only on account of this calamity that befell them, which yet deserves our commiseration, but also because their kindred were pleased with their sufferings; for they forgot the relation they bare to them, and at the sight of this sad accident approved of the judgment given against them; and because they looked upon the people about Dathan as pestilent men, they thought they perished as such, and did not grieve for them.

4. And now Moses called for those that contended about the priesthood, that trial might be made who should be priest, and that he whose sacrifice God was best pleased with might be ordained to that function. There attended two hundred and fifty men, who indeed were honored by the people, not only on account of the power of their ancestors, but also on account of their own, in which they excelled the others: Aaron also and Corah came forth, and they all offered incense, in those censers of theirs which they brought with them, before the tabernacle. Hereupon so great a fire shone out as no one ever saw in any that is made by the hand of man, neither in those eruptions out of the earth that are caused by subterraneous burn-rags, nor in such fires as arise of their own accord in the woods, when the agitation is caused by the trees rubbing one against another: but this fire was very bright, and had a terrible flame, such as is kindled at the command of God; by whose irruption on them, all the company, and Corah himself, were destroyed, 2 and this so entirely, that their very bodies left no remains behind them. Aaron alone was preserved, and not at all hurt by the fire, because it was God that sent the fire to burn those only who ought to be burned. Hereupon Moses, after these men were destroyed, was desirous that the memory of this judgment might be delivered down to posterity, and that future ages might be acquainted with it; and so he commanded Eleazar, the son of Aaron, to put their censers near the brazen altar, that they might be a memorial to posterity of what these men suffered, for supposing that the power of God might be eluded. And thus Aaron was now no longer esteemed to have the priesthood by the favor of Moses, but by the public judgment of God; and thus he and his children peaceably enjoyed that honor afterward.

CHAPTER 4. What Happened To The Hebrews During Thirty-Eight Years In The Wilderness.

1. However, this sedition was so far from ceasing upon this destruction, that it grew much stronger, and became more intolerable. And the occasion of its growing worse was of that nature, as made it likely the calamity would never cease, but last for a long time; for the men, believing already that nothing is done without the providence of God, would have it that these things came thus to pass not without God's favor to Moses; they therefore laid the blame upon him that God was so angry, and that this happened not so much because of the wickedness of those that were punished, as because Moses procured the punishment; and that these men had been destroyed without any sin of theirs, only because they were zealous about the Divine worship; as also, that he who had been the cause of this diminution of the people, by destroying so many men, and those the most excellent of them all, besides his escaping any punishment himself, had now given the priesthood to his brother so firmly, that nobody could any longer dispute it with him; for no one else, to be sure, could now put in for it, since he must have seen those that first did so to have miserably perished. Nay, besides this, the kindred of those that were destroyed made great entreaties to the multitude to abate the arrogance of Moses, because it would be safest for them so to do.

2. Now Moses, upon his hearing for a good while that the people were tumultuous, was afraid that they would attempt some other innovation, and that some great and sad calamity would be the consequence. He called the multitude to a congregation, and patiently heard what apology they had to make for themselves, without opposing them, and this lest he should imbitter the multitude: he only desired the heads of the tribes to bring their rods, 3 with the names of their tribes inscribed upon them, and that he should receive the priesthood in whose rod God should give a sign. This was agreed to. So the rest brought their rods, as did Aaron also, who had written the tribe of Levi on his rod. These rods Moses laid up in the tabernacle of God. On the next day he brought out the rods, which were known from one another by those who brought them, they having distinctly noted them, as had the multitude also; and as to the rest, in the same form Moses had received them, in that they saw them still; but they also saw buds and branches grown out of Aaron's rod, with ripe fruits upon them; they were almonds, the rod having been cut out of that tree. The people were so amazed at this strange sight, that though Moses and Aaron were before under some degree of hatred, they now laid that hatred aside, and began to admire the judgment of God concerning them; so that hereafter they applauded what God had decreed, and permitted Aaron to enjoy the priesthood peaceably. And thus God ordained him priest three several times, and he retained that honor without further disturbance. And hereby this sedition of the Hebrews, which had been a great one, and had lasted a great while, was at last composed.

3. And now Moses, because the tribe of Levi was made free from war and warlike expeditions, and was set apart for the Divine worship, lest they should want and seek after the necessaries of life, and so neglect the temple, commanded the Hebrews, according to the will of God, that when they should gain the possession of the land of Canaan, they should assign forty-eight good and fair cities to the Levites; and permit them to enjoy their suburbs, as far as the limit of two thousand cubits would extend from the walls of the city. And besides this, he appointed that the people should pay the tithe of their annual fruits of the earth, both to the Levites and to the priests. And this is what that tribe receives of the multitude; but I think it necessary to set down what is paid by all, peculiarly to the priests.

4. Accordingly he commanded the Levites to yield up to the priests thirteen of their forty-eight cities, and to set apart for them the tenth part of the tithes which they every year receive of the people; as also, that it was but just to offer to God the first-fruits of the entire product of the ground; and that they should offer the first-born of those four-footed beasts that are appointed for sacrifices, if it be a male, to the priests, to be slain, that they and their entire families may eat them in the holy city; but that the owners of those first-born which are not appointed for sacrifices in the laws of our country, should bring a shekel and a half in their stead: but for the first-born of a man, five shekels: that they should also have the first-fruits out of the shearing of the sheep; and that when any baked bread corn, and made loaves of it, they should give somewhat of what they had baked to them. Moreover, when any have made a sacred vow, I mean those that are called Nazarites, that suffer their hair to grow long, and use no wine, when they consecrate their hair, 4 and offer it for a sacrifice, they are to allot that hair for the priests [to be thrown into the fire]. Such also as dedicate themselves to God, as a corban, which denotes what the Greeks call a gift, when they are desirous of being freed from that ministration, are to lay down money for the priests; thirty shekels if it be a woman, and fifty if it be a man; but if any be too poor to pay the appointed sum, it shall be lawful for the priests to determine that sum as they think fit. And if any slay beasts at home for a private festival, but not for a religious one, they are obliged to bring the maw and the cheek, [or breast,] and the right shoulder of the sacrifice, to the priests. With these Moses contrived that the priests should be plentifully maintained, besides what they had out of those offerings for sins which the people gave them, as I have set it down in the foregoing book. He also ordered, that out of every thing allotted for the priests, their servants, [their sons,] their daughters, and their wives, should partake, as well as themselves, excepting what came to them out of the sacrifices that were offered for sins; for of those none but the males of the family of the priests might eat, and this in the temple also, and that the same day they were offered.

5. When Moses had made these constitutions, after the sedition was over, he removed, together with the whole army, and came to the borders of Idumea. He then sent ambassadors to the king of the Idumeans, and desired him to give him a passage through his country; and agreed to send him what hostages he should desire, to secure him from an injury. He desired him also, that he would allow his army liberty to buy provisions; and, if he insisted upon it, he would pay down a price for the very water they should drink. But the king was not pleased with this embassage from Moses: nor did he allow a passage for the army, but brought his people armed to meet Moses, and to hinder them, in case they should endeavor to force their passage. Upon which Moses consulted God by the oracle, who would not have him begin the war first; and so he withdrew his forces, and traveled round about through the wilderness.

6. Then it was that Miriam, the sister of Moses, came to her end, having completed her fortieth year 5 since she left Egypt, on the first 6 day of the lunar month Xanthicus. They then made a public funeral for her, at a great expense. She was buried upon a certain mountain, which they call Sin: and when they had mourned for her thirty days, Moses purified the people after this manner: He brought a heifer that had never been used to the plough or to husbandry, that was complete in all its parts, and entirely of a red color, at a little distance from the camp, into a place perfectly clean. This heifer was slain by the high priest, and her blood sprinkled with his finger seven times before the tabernacle of God; after this, the entire heifer was burnt in that state, together with its skin and entrails; and they threw cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet wool, into the midst of the fire; then a clean man gathered all her ashes together, and laid them in a place perfectly clean. When therefore any persons were defiled by a dead body, they put a little of these ashes into spring water, with hyssop, and, dipping part of these ashes in it, they sprinkled them with it, both on the third day, and on the seventh, and after that they were clean. This he enjoined them to do also when the tribes should come into their own land.

7. Now when this purification, which their leader made upon the mourning for his sister, as it has been now described, was over, he caused the army to remove and to march through the wilderness and through Arabia; and when he came to a place which the Arabians esteem their metropolis, which was formerly called Arce, but has now the name of Petra, at this place, which was encompassed with high mountains, Aaron went up one of them in the sight of the whole army, Moses having before told him that he was to die, for this place was over against them. He put off his pontifical garments, and delivered them to Eleazar his son, to whom the high priesthood belonged, because he was the elder brother; and died while the multitude looked upon him. He died in the same year wherein he lost his sister, having lived in all a hundred twenty and three years. He died on the first day of that lunar month which is called by the Athenians Hecatombaeon, by the Macedonians Lous, but by the Hebrews Abba.

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