THE LEVITES AND THE LAW
During the hundred years that followed the Assyrian conquest of Israel, the Levites in Judah began to compile the written Law. In 621 BC they produced Deuteronomy and read it to the people in the temple at Jerusalem.
This was the birth of "the Mosaic law", which Moses, if he ever lived, never knew. It is called the Mosaic law because it is attributed to him, but the authorities agree that it was the product of the Levites, who then and later repeatedly made Moses (and for that matter, Jehovah) say what suited them. Its correct description would be "the Levitical law" or "the Judaic law".
Deuteronomy is to formal Judaism and Zionism what the Communist Manifesto was to the destructive revolution of our century. It is the basis of the Torah ("the Law") contained in the Pentateuch, which itself forms the raw material of the Talmud, which again gave birth to those "commentaries" and commentaries-on-commentaries which together constitute the Judaic "law".
Therefore Deuteronomy is also the basis of the political programme, of worldly dominion over nations despoiled and enslaved, which has been largely realized in the West during this Twentieth Century. Deuteronomy is of direct relevancy to the events of our day, and much of the confusion surrounding them disperses if they are studied in its light.
It was read, in 621 BC, to so small an audience in so small a place that its great effects for the whole world, through the following centuries into our time, are by contrast the more striking.
Before Deuteronomy was compiled only the "oral tradition" of what God said to Moses existed. The Levites claimed to be the consecrated guardians of this tradition and the tribespeople had to take their word for it (their pretensions in this respect chiefly caused the anger of the Israelite "prophets"). If anything had been written down before Deuteronomy was read, such manuscripts were fragmentary and in priestly keeping, and as little known to the primitive tribesmen as the Greek poets to Kentucky hillsfolk today.
That Deuteronomy was different from anything that had been known or understood before is implicit in its name, which means "Second Law". Deuteronomy, in fact, was Levitical Judaism, first revealed; the Israelites (as already shown) "were not Jews" and had never known this "Law".
Significantly, Deuteronomy which appears as the fifth book of today's Bible, with an air of growing naturally out of the previous ones, was the first book to be completed as a whole. Though Genesis and Exodus provide the historical background and mount for it, they were later produced by the Levites, and Leviticus and Numbers, the other books of the Torah, were compiled even later.
Deuteronomy stood the earlier tradition on its head, if it was in harmony with the moral commandments. However, the Levites were within their self-granted right in making any changes they chose, for they held that they were divinely
authorized to amend the Law, as orally revealed by God to Moses, in order to meet "the constantly changing conditions of existence in the spirit of traditional teaching" (Dr. Kastein).
For that matter, they also claimed that Moses had received at Sinai a secret oral Torah, which must never be committed to writing. In view of the later inclusion of the Old Testament in one volume with the Christian New Testament, and the average Gentile's assumption that he thus has before his eyes the whole of "the Mosaic Law", this qualification is of permanent interest.
The Talmud, as quoted by Dr. Funk, says, "God foresaw that one day a time would come when the Heathen would possess themselves of the Torah and would say to Israel, 'We, too, are sons of God'. Then will the Lord say: 'Only he who knows my secrets is my son'. And what are the secrets of God? The oral teachings" .
The few people who heard Deuteronomy read in 621 BC, and then first learned what "the Mosaic Law" was to be, were told that the manuscripts had been "discovered". Today's Judaist authorities dismiss this and agree that Deuteronomy was the independent work of the Levites in isolated Judah after Judah's rejection by the Israelites and the conquest of Israel. Dr. Kastein puts the matter like this:
"In 621 BC, a manuscript hoary with the dust of ages was discovered among the archives. It contained a curious version of the laws which had been codified up to that time, a sort of repetition and variation of them, giving a host of instructions regarding man's duty to God and to his neighbour. It was couched in the form of speeches supposed to have been delivered by Moses just before his death on the farther side of Jordan. Who the author was it is impossible to say".
Thus Dr. Kastein, a zealot who awaits the literal fulfilment of "the Mosaic Law" in every detail, does not believe that its author was either Jehovah or Moses. It is enough for him that it was produced by the lawgiving priesthood, which for him is divine authority.
None can now tell how closely Deuteronomy, as we know it, resembles Deuteronomy as it was read in 621 BC, for the books of the Old Testament were repeatedly revised up to the time of the first translation, when various other modifications were made, presumably to avoid excessive perturbation among the Gentiles. No doubt something was then excised, so that Deuteronomy in its original form may have been ferocious indeed, for what remains is savage enough.
Religious intolerance is the basis of this "Second Law" (racial intolerance was to follow later, in another "New Law") and murder in the name of religion is its distinctive tenet. This necessitates the destruction of the moral Commandments, which in fact are set up to be knocked down. Only those of them which relate to the exclusive worship of the "jealous" Jehovah are left intact. The others are buried beneath a great mound of "statutes and judgments" (regulations issued
under a governing Law, as it were) which in effect cancel them.
Thus the moral commandments against murder, stealing, adultery, coveting, bad neighbourliness, and the like are vitiated by a mass of "statutes" expressly enjoining the massacre of other peoples, the murder of apostates individually or in communities, the taking of concubines from among women captives, "utter destruction" that leaves "nothing alive", the exclusion of "the stranger" from debt-remission and the like.
By the time the end of Deuteronomy is reached the moral commandments have been nullified in this way, for the purpose of setting up, in the guise of a religion, the grandiose political idea of a people especially sent into the world to destroy and "possess" other peoples and to rule the earth. The idea of destruction is essential to Deuteronomy. If it be taken away no Deuteronomy, or Mosaic Law, remains.
This concept of destruction as an article of faith is unique, and where it occurs in political thought (for instance, in the Communist philosophy) may also derive originally from the teaching of Deuteronomy, for there is no other discoverable source.
Deuteronomy is above all a complete political programme: the story of the planet, created by Jehovah for this "special people", is to be completed by their triumph and the ruination of all others. The rewards offered to the faithful are exclusively material: slaughter, slaves, women, booty, territory, empire. The only condition laid down for these rewards is observance of "the statutes and judgments", which primarily command the destruction of others. The only guilt defined lies is non-observance of these laws. Intolerance is specified as observance; tolerance as non-observance, and therefore as guilt. The punishments prescribed are of this world and of the flesh, not of the spirit. Moral behaviour, if ever demanded, is required only towards co-religionists and "strangers" are excluded from it.
This unique form of nationalism was first presented to the Judahites in Deuteronomy as "the Law" of Jehovah and as his literal word, spoken to Moses. The notion of world domination through destruction is introduced at the start (chapter 2) of these "speeches supposed to have been delivered" by the dying Moses:
"The Lord spake unto me, saying. . . This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee". In token of this, the fate of two nations is at once shown. The King of Sihon and the King of Bashan "came out against us, he and all his people", whereon they were "utterly destroyed, the men, and the women, and the little ones", only the cattle being spared and "the spoil" being taken "for a prey unto ourselves". (The insistence on utter destruction is a recurrent and significant feature of these illustrative anecdotes).
These first examples of the power of Jehovah to destroy the heathen are followed by the first of many warnings that unless "the statutes and judgments" are observed Jehovah will punish his special people by dispersing them among these heathen. The enumeration of these "statutes and judgments" follows the Commandments, the moral validity of which is at once destroyed by a promise of tribal massacre:
"Seven nations greater and mightier than thou" are to be delivered into the Judahites' hands, and: "Thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them. . . ye shall destroy their alters . . . for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are on the face of the earth . . . Thou shalt be blessed above all people . . . And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them. . . the Lord thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed. . . And the Lord thy God will put out these nations before thee by little and little. . . But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction until they be destroyed. And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven; there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them. . ."
By the Twentieth Century AD the peoples of the West, as a whole, had ceased to attach any present meaning to these incitements, but the peoples directly concerned thought differently. For instance, the Arab population of Palestine fled en masse from its native land after the massacre at Deir Yasin in 1948 because this event meant for them (as its perpetrators intended it to mean) that if they stayed they would be "utterly destroyed".
They knew that the Zionist leaders, in the palavers with British and American politicians of the distant West, repeatedly had stated that "the Bible is our Mandate" (Dr. Chaim Weizmann), and they knew (if the Western peoples did not realize) that the allusion was to such passages as that commanding the "utter destruction" of the Arab peoples. They knew that the leaders of the West had supported and would continue to support the invaders and thus they had no hope of even bare survival, save by flight. This massacre of 1948 AD relates directly to the "statute and judgment" laid down in chapter 7 of the book of The Law which the Levites completed and read in 621 BC.
The incitements and allurements of Deuteronomy continue: ". . . Go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself . . . the Lord thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face; so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the Lord hath said unto thee. . . For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you . . . then will the Lord drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier
than yourselves . . . even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be. There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the Lord your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon . . ."
Then Moses, in this account, enumerates the "statutes and judgments" which must be "observed" if all these rewards are to be gained, and again "the Law" is to destroy:
"These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do . . . Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods. . . When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land: Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them. . . and that thou inquire not after their gods."
This tenet of "the Law" requires the faithful to destroy other religions. It was impartial when enacted but gained a specific application in later centuries from the fact that the Christian faith grew up in, and the mass of Jews then moved into, the same geographical area: the West. (This made Christianity the primary object of the command to "utterly destroy the places. . .", and the dynamiting of Russian cathedrals, the opening of "anti-God museums", the canonization of Judas and other acts of early Bolshevist governments, which were to nine-tenths comprized of Eastern Jews, were evidently deeds of "observance" under this "statute" of Deuteronomy).
The ideas of the inquisition of heretics and of the informer, which the West has used in its retrogressive periods and repudiated in its enlightened ones, also find their original source (unless any can locate an earlier one) in Deuteronomy. Lest any such heretic should call in question the Law of destruction, summarized in the preceding paragraphs, Deuteronomy next provides that "if there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams . . . (he) shall be put to death"; the crucifixion of Jesus (and the deaths of numerous expostulants against literal Judaism) fall under this "statute".
The denunciation of kinsfolk who incur suspicion of heresy is required. This is the terrorist device introduced in Russia by the Bolshevists in 1917 and copied in Germany by the National Socialists in 1933. The Christian world at the time professed horror at these barbarbous innovations, but the method is plainly laid down in Deuteronomy, which requires that any who say, "Let us go and serve other gods", be denounced by their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives and so on, and be stoned to death.
Characteristically, Deuteronomy prescribes that the hand of the bloodkinsman or spouse shall be "first upon" the victim of denunciation at the killing, and only afterwards "the hand of all the people". This "statute of the Law" is still observed today, in a measure dictated by local conditions and other circumstances. Apostates cannot be publicly stoned to death in the environment of foreign communities, where the law of "the stranger" might hold this to be
murder, so that a formal pronunciation of "death" and ceremony of mourning symbolically takes the place of the legal penalty; see Dr. John Goldstein's account both of the symbolic rite and of a recent attempt to exact the literal penalty, which during the centuries was often inflicted in closed Jewish communities where the law of "the stranger" could not reach.
The Law also demands that entire communities shall be massacred on the charge of apostasy: "Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein".
In this matter of destroying cities, Deuteronomy distinguishes between near (that is, Palestinian) and far cities. When a "far off city" has been captured, "thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword, but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself. . ." This incitement in respect of captured women is a recurrent theme and Deuteronomy lays down the law that a Judahite captor who sees among captives "a beautiful woman" may take her home, but if he had "no delight in her" may turn her out again.
The case of a near city is different; the law of utter destruction (against which Saul transgressed) then rules. "But of the cities of these people which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth; But thou shalt utterly destroy them. . . as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee". (This verse 16 of chapter 20, again, explains the mass flight of the Palestinian Arabs after Deir Yasin, where nothing that breathed was saved alive. They saw that literal fulfilment of the Law of 62l BC was the order of the day in 1948 AD, and that the might of the West was behind this fulfilment of the Law of "utter destruction".)
The Second Law continues: "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth". Further "statutes and judgments" then provide that "anything that dieth of itself", being unclean, may not be eaten, but "thou shalt give it to the stranger . . . or thou mayest sell it to the alien; for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God".
Every seven years a creditor shall remit his "neighbour's" debt, but "of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again". Chapter 10 (surprisingly in this context) says, "Love ye therefore the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt", but chapter 23 brings the familiar cancellation: "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother . . . unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury" (and graver examples of this legal discrimination between the "neighbour" and "the "stranger" appear in later books, as will be seen).
Deuteronomy ends with the long-drawn-out, rolling, thunderous curse-or-blessing theme. Moses, about to die, once more exhorts "the people" to choose between blessings and cursings, and these are enumerated.
The blessings are exclusively material: prosperity through the increase of kith,
crop and kine; the defeat of enemies; and world dominion. "The Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth . . . The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself . . . And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. . . thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath . . ."
These blessings occupy thirteen verses; the cursings some fifty or sixty. The deity in whose name the curses are uttered clearly was held capable of doing evil (indeed, this is explicitly stated in a later book, Ezekiel, as will be shown).
Literal Judaism is ultimately based on terror and fear and the list of curses set out in chapter 28 of The Second Law shows the importance which the priesthood attached to this practice of cursing (which literal Judaists to this day hold to be effective in use). These curses, be it remembered, are the penalties for non-observance, not for moral transgressions! "If thou will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and statutes. . . all these curses shall come upon thee . . ."
The city and the dwelling, the children, crops and cattle, are to be cursed "until thou be destroyed and until thou perish utterly". Plague, wasting, inflammation, mildew, botch, emerods, scab, itch, madness, blindness, famine, cannibalism and drought are specified. Men's wives are to lie with other men; their children are to be lost into slavery; any that remain at home are to be eaten by their parents, the father and mother contesting for the flesh and denying any to the children still alive. (These curses were included in the Great Ban when it was pronounced on apostates down to relatively recent times, and in the fastnesses of Talmudic Jewry are probably in use today).
The diseases and disasters were to be visited on the people "if thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord Thy God: . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live for ever".
Such was the life and the blessing which the Judahites, gathered in the Temple in 621 BC, were exhorted in the name of Jehovah and Moses to choose by their tribal chieftain Josiah, the mouthpiece of the priesthood. The purpose and meaning of existence, under this "Mosaic Law", was the destruction and enslavement of others for the sake of plunder and power. Israel might from that moment have counted itself happy to have been pronounced dead and to have been excluded from such a world to come. The Israelites had mingled in the living bloodstream of mankind; on its banks the Judahites were left stranded in the power of a fanatical priesthood which commanded them, on pain of "all these curses", to destroy.
To the terror inspired by "all these curses" the Levites added also an allurement. If "the people" should "return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments. . .", then "all these curses" would be transferred to their "enemies" (not because these had sinned, but simply to swell the measure of the blessing conferred on the rehabilitated Judahites!)
In this tenet Deuteronomy most clearly revealed the status allotted to the heathen by The Second Law. In the last analysis, "the heathen" have no legal existence under this Law; how could they have, when Jehovah only "knows" his "holy people"? Insofar as their actual existence is admitted, it is only for such purposes as those stated in verse 65, chapter 28 and verse 7, chapter 30: namely, to receive the Judahites when they are dispersed for their transgressions and then, when their guests repent and are forgiven, to inherit curses lifted from the regenerate Judahites. True, the second verse quoted gives the pretext that "all these curses" will be transferred to the heathen because they "hated" and "persecuted" the judahites, but how could they be held culpable of this when the very presence of the Judahites among them was merely the result of punitive "curses" inflicted by Jehovah? For Jehovah himself, according to another verse (64, chapter 28) took credit for putting the curse of exile on the Judahites:
"And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other . . . and among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest…"
Deuteronomy employs this Doublespeak (to use the modem idiom) throughout: the Lord makes the special people homeless among the heathen for their transgressions; the heathen, who have no blame either for their exile or for those transgressions, are their "persecutors "; ergo, the heathen will be destroyed.
The Judaist attitude towards other mankind, creation, and the universe in general, is better understood when these and related passages have been pondered, and especially the constant plaint that Jews are "persecuted" everywhere, which in one tone or another runs through nearly all Jewish literature. To any who accept this book as The Law, the mere existence of others is in fact persecution; Deuteronomy plainly implies that.
The most nationalist Jew and the most enlightened Jew often agree in one thing: they cannot truly consider the world and its affairs from any but a Jewish angle, and from that angle "the stranger" seems insignificant. Thinking makes it so, and this is the legacy of twenty-five centuries of Jewish thinking; even those Jews who see the heresy or fallacy cannot always divest themselves entirely of the incubus on their minds and spirits.
The passage from Deuteronomy last quoted shows that the ruling sect depicted homelessness at one and the same time as the act of the special people's god and as persecution by the special people's enemies, deserving of "all these curses". To minds of such extreme egotism a political outrage in which 95 Gentiles and 5 Jews lose their lives or property is simply an anti-Jewish disaster, and they are not
consciously hypocritical in this. In the Twentieth Century this standard of judgment has been projected into the lives of other peoples and applied to all major events in the ordeal of the West. Thus we live in the century of the Levitical fallacy.
Having undertaken to put "all these curses" on innocent parties, if the Judahites would return to observance of "all these statutes and judgments", the resurrected Moses of Deuteronomy promised one more blessing ("The Lord thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them. . . ") and then was allowed to die in the land of Moab.
In "the Mosaic Law" the destructive idea took shape, which was to threaten Christian civilization and the West, both then undreamed of. During the Christian era a council of theologians made the decision that the Old Testament and the New should be bound in one book, without any differentiation, as if they were stem and blossom, instead of immovable object and irresistible force. The encyclopaedia before me as I write states laconically that the Christian churches accept the Old Testament as being of "equal divine authority" with the New.
This unqualified acceptance covers the entire content of the Old Testament and may be the original source of much confusion in the Christian churches and much distraction among the masses that seek Christianity, for the dogma requires belief in opposite things at the same time. How can the same God, by commandment to Moses, have enjoined men to love their neighbours and "utterly to destroy" their neighbours? What relationship can there be between the universal, loving God of the Christian revelation and the cursing deity of Deuteronomy?
But if in fact all the Old Testament, including these and other commands, is of "equal divine authority" with the New, then the latterday Westerner is entitled to invoke it in justification of those deeds by which Christendom most denied itself: the British settlers' importation of African slaves to America, the American and Canadian settlers' treatment of the North American Indian, and the Afrikaners' harsh rule over the South African Bantu. He may justly put the responsibility for all these things directly on his Christian priest or bishop, if that man teaches that the Old Testament, with its repeated injunction to slay, enslave, and despoil is of "equal divine authority". No Christian divine can hold himself blameless if he so teaches. The theological decision which set up this dogma cast over Christendom and the centuries to come the shadow of Deuteronomy, just as it fell on the Judahites themselves when it was read to them in 621 BC.
Only one other piece of writing has had any comparable effect on the minds of men and on future generations; if any simplification is permissible, the most tempting one is to see the whole story of the West, and particularly of this decisive Twentieth Century, as a struggle between the Mosaic Law and the New Testament and between the two bodies of mankind which rank themselves
behind one or other of those two messages of hatred and love respectively.
In Deuteronomy Judaism was born, yet this would have been a stillbirth, and Deuteronomy might never again have been heard of, if that question had rested only with the Levites and their captive Judahites. They were not numerous, and a nation a hundred times as many could never have hoped to enforce this barbarous creed on the world by force of its own muscle. There was only one way in which "the Mosaic Law" could gain life and potency and become a disturbing influence in the life of other peoples during the centuries to follow. This was if some powerful "stranger" (among all those strangers yet to be accursed), some mighty king of those "heathen" yet to be destroyed, should support it with arms and treasure.
Precisely that was about to happen when Josiah read The Second Law to the people in 621 BC, and it was to repeat itself continually down the centuries to our day: the gigantic improbability of the thing confronts the equally large, demonstrable fact that it is so! The rulers of those "other nations" which were to be dispossessed and destroyed repeatedly espoused the destructive creed, did the bidding of the dominant sect, and at the expense of their own peoples helped to further its strange ambition.
Some twenty years after the reading of Deuteronomy in Jerusalem, Judah was conquered by the Babylonian king, in about 596 BC. At the time, this looked like the end of the affair, which was a petty one in itself, among the great events of that period. Judah never again existed as an independent state, and but for the Levites, their Second Law and the foreign helper the Judahites, like the Israelites, would have become involved in mankind.
Instead, the Babylonian victory was the start of the affair, or of its great consequences for the world. The Law, instead of dying, grew stronger in Babylon, where for the first time a foreign king gave it his protection. The permanent state-within-states, nation-within-nations was projected, a first time, into the life of peoples; initial experience in usurping power over them was gained. Much tribulation for other peoples was brewed then.
As for the Judahites, or the Judaists and Jews who sprang from them, they seem to have acquired the unhappiest future of all. Anyway, it was not a happy man (though it was a Jewish writer of our day, 2,500 years later, Mr. Maurice Samuel) who wrote: ". . . we Jews, the destroyers, will remain the destroyer forever. . . nothing that the Gentiles will do will meet our needs and demands".
At first sight this seems mocking, venomous, shameless. The diligent student of the controversy of Zionism discovers that it is more in the nature of a cry of hopelessness, such as the "Mosaic Law" must wring from any man who feels he cannot escape its remorseless doctrine of destruction.