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SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS.
IN a small country, almost unknown to others, lived a nation, the founders of which having long been slaves among the Egyptians, were delivered from their servitude by a priest of Heliopolis, who, by means of his superior genius and knowledge, gained the ascendancy over them. [*] This man, known by the name of Moses, being educated in the mysteries of a religion, which was fertile in prodigies, and the mother of superstitions, placed himself at the head of a band of fugitives, whom he persuaded that he was an interpreter of the will of their God, whose immediate commands he pretended to receive. He proved his mission, it is said, by works which appeared supernatural to men ignorant of the operations of nature, and the resources of art. The first command that he gave them on the part of his God was to rob their masters, whom they about to desert. When he had thus enriched them with the spoils of Egypt, being sure of their confidence, he conducted them into a desert, where, during forty years, he accustomed them to the blindest obedience. He taught them the will of heaven, the marvellous fables of their forefathers, and the ridiculous ceremonies to which he pretended the Most High attached his favours. He was particularly careful to inspire them with the most envenomed. hatred against the gods of other nations, and the most refined cruelty to those who adored them. By means of carnage and severity, he rendered them a nation of slaves, obsequious to his will, ready to second his passions, and sacrifice themselves to gratify his ambitious views. In one word, he made the Hebrews monsters of phrenzy and ferocity. After having thus animated them with the spirit of destruction, he showed them the lands and possessions of their neighbours, as an inheritance assigned them by God himself.
Proud of the protection of Jehovah, the Hebrews marched forth to victory. Heaven authorised in them knavery and cruelty. Religion, united to avidity, rendered them deaf to the cries of nature; and, under the conduct of inhuman chiefs, they destroyed the Canaanitish nations with a barbarity, at which every man must revolt, whose reason is not wholly annihilated by superstition. Their fury destroyed every thing, even infants at the breast, in those cities whether these monsters carried their victorious arms. By the commands of their God, or his prophets, good faith was violated, justice outraged, and cruelty exercised.
This nation of robbers, usurpers, and murderers, at length established themselves in a country, not indeed very fertile, but with which they found delicious in comparison with the desert in which they had so long wandered. Here, under the authority of the visible priests of their hidden God, they founded a state, detestable to its neighbours, and at all times the object of their contempt or their hatred. The priesthood, under the title of a Theocracy, for a long time governed this blind and ferocious people. They were persuaded that in obeying their priests they obeyed God himself.
Notwithstanding their superstition, the Hebrews at length, forced by circumstances, or perhaps weary of the yoke of priesthood, determined to have a king, according to the example of other nations. But in the choice of their monarch they thought themselves obliged to have recourse to a prophet. Thus began the monarchy of the Hebrews. Their princes, however, were always crossed in their enterprises, by inspired priests and ambitious prophets, who continually laid obstacles in the way of every sovereign whom they did not find sufficiently submissive to their own wills. The history of the Jews at all times shows us nothing but kings blindly obedient to the priesthood, or at war with it, and perishing under its blows.
The ferocious and ridiculous superstitions of the Jews rendered them at once the natural enemies of mankind, and the object of their contempt. They were always treated with great severity by those who made inroads upon their territory. Successively enslaved slaved by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Grecians, they experienced from their masters the bitterest treatment, which was indeed but too well deserved. Often disobedient to their God, whose own cruelty, as well as the tyranny of his priests, frequently disgusted them, they were never faithful to their princes. In vain were they crushed beneath sceptres of iron; it was impossible to render them loyal subjects. The Jews were always the dupes of their prophets, and in their greatest distresses, their obstinate fanaticism, ridiculous hopes, and indefatigable credulity, supported them against the blows of fortune. At last, conquered with the rest of the earth, Judea submitted to the Roman yoke.
Despised by their new masters, the Jews were treated hardly, and
with great haughtiness ; for their laws, as well as their conduct,
had inspired the hearts of their conquerors with the liveliest
detestation. Soured by misfortune, they became more blind, fanatic,
and seditious. Exalted by the pretended promises of their God; full
of confidence in oracles, which have always announced to them a
felicity which they have never tasted; encouraged by enthusiasts,
or by impostors, who successively profit by their credulity; the
Jews have, to this day, expected the coming of a Messiah, a
monarch, a deliverer, who shall free them from the yokes beneath
which they groan, and cause their nation to reign over all other
nations in the universe.
[*] Maneton and Cheremon, Egyptian historians, respecting whom testimonies have been transmitted to us by Joseph[us] the Jew, inform us that a multitude of lepers were drawn out of Egypt by king Amenophis; and that these exiles elected for their leader a priest of Heliopolis whose name was Moses, and who formed for them a religion and a code of laws. Joseph contre Appion. liv. i. chap. 9, 11,12.
Diodorus Siculus also relates the history of Moses. Vide translation of Abbe Terrasson.
Be this as it may, Moses, by the confession of
the Bible itself, began his career by assassinating an Egyptian,
who was quarrelling with an Hebrew; after which he fled into
Arabia, and married the daughter of an idolatrous priest, by whom
be was often reproached for his cruelty. Thence he returned into
Egypt, and placed himself at the head of his nation, which was
dissatisfed with king Pharaoh. Moses reigned very tyrannically; the
examples of Korah, Dathau, and Abiram, prove to what kind of people
he had an aversion. He at last disappeared like Romulus, no one
being able to find his body, or the place of his sepulture.
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