The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.274–3.299

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

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2741. As for adultery, Moses forbade it entirely, as esteeming it a happy thing that men should be wise in the affairs of wedlock; and that it was profitable both to cities and families that children should be known to be genuine. He also abhorred men’s lying with their mothers, as one of the greatest crimes; and the like for lying with the father’s wife, and with aunts, and sisters, and sons’ wives, as all instances of abominable wickedness. 275He also forbade a man to lie with his wife when she was defiled by her natural purgation: and not to come near brute beasts; nor to approve of the lying with a male, which was to hunt after unlawful pleasures on account of beauty. To those who were guilty of such insolent behavior, he ordained death for their punishment.

2762. As for the priests, he prescribed to them a double degree of purity for he restrained them in the instances above, and moreover forbade them to marry harlots. He also forbade them to marry a slave, or a captive, and such as got their living by cheating trades, and by keeping inns; as also a woman parted from her husband, on any account whatsoever. 277Nay, he did not think it proper for the high priest to marry even the widow of one that was dead, though he allowed that to the priests; but he permitted him only to marry a virgin, and to retain her. Whence it is that the high priest is not to come near to one that is dead, although the rest are not prohibited from coming near to their brethren, or parents, or children, when they are dead; 278but they are to be unblemished in all respects. He ordered that the priest who had any blemish, should have his portion indeed among the priests, but he forbade him to ascend the altar, or to enter into the holy house. He also enjoined them, not only to observe purity in their sacred ministrations, but in their daily conversation, that it might be unblamable also. 279And on this account it is that those who wear the sacerdotal garments are without spot, and eminent for their purity and sobriety: nor are they permitted to drink wine so long as they wear those garments. Moreover, they offer sacrifices that are entire, and have no defect whatsoever.

2803. And truly Moses gave them all these precepts, being such as were observed during his own lifetime; but though he lived now in the wilderness, yet did he make provision how they might observe the same laws when they should have taken the land of Canaan. 281He gave them rest to the land from ploughing and planting every seventh year, as he had prescribed to them to rest from working every seventh day; and ordered, that then what grew of its own accord out of the earth should in common belong to all that pleased to use it, making no distinction in that respect between their own countrymen and foreigners: and he ordained, that they should do the same after seven times seven years, 282which in all are fifty years; and that fiftieth year is called by the Hebrews The Jubilee, wherein debtors are freed from their debts, and slaves are set at liberty; which slaves became such, though they were of the same stock, by transgressing some of those laws the punishment of which was not capital, but they were punished by this method of slavery. 283This year also restores the land to its former possessors in the manner following:—When the Jubilee is come, which name denotes liberty, he that sold the land, and he that bought it, meet together, and make an estimate, on one hand, of the fruits gathered; and, on the other hand, of the expenses laid out upon it. If the fruits gathered come to more than the expenses laid out, he that sold it takes the land again; 284but if the expenses prove more than the fruits, the present possessor receives of the former owner the difference that was wanting, and leaves the land to him; and if the fruits received, and the expenses laid out, prove equal to one another, the present possessor relinquishes it to the former owners. 285Moses would have the same law obtain as to those houses also which were sold in villages; but he made a different law for such as were sold in a city; for if he that sold it tendered the purchaser his money again within a year, he was forced to restore it; but in case a whole year had intervened, the purchaser was to enjoy what he had bought. 286This was the constitution of the laws which Moses learned of God when the camp lay under Mount Sinai, and this he delivered in writing to the Hebrews.

2874. Now when this settlement of laws seemed to be well over, Moses thought fit at length to take a review of the host, as thinking it proper to settle the affairs of war. So he charged the heads of the tribes, excepting the tribe of Levi, to take an exact account of the number of those that were able to go to war; for as to the Levites, they were holy, and free from all such burdens. 288Now when the people had been numbered, there were found six hundred thousand that were able to go to war, from twenty to fifty years of age, besides three thousand six hundred and fifty. Instead of Levi, Moses took Manasseh, the son of Joseph, among the heads of tribes; and Ephraim instead of Joseph. It was indeed the desire of Jacob himself to Joseph, that he would give him his sons to be his own by adoption, as I have before related.

2895. When they set up the tabernacle, they received it into the midst of their camp, three of the tribes pitching their tents on each side of it; and roads were cut through the midst of these tents. It was like a well-appointed market; and every thing was there ready for sale in due order; and all sorts of artificers were in the shops; and it resembled nothing so much as a city that sometimes was movable, and sometimes fixed. 290The priests had the first places about the tabernacle; then the Levites, who, because their whole multitude was reckoned from thirty days old, were twenty-three thousand eight hundred and eighty males; and during the time that the cloud stood over the tabernacle, they thought proper to stay in the same place, as supposing that God there inhabited among them; but when that removed, they journeyed also.

2916. Moreover, Moses was the inventor of the form of their trumpet, which was made of silver. Its description is this:—In length it was little less than a cubit. It was composed of a narrow tube, somewhat thicker than a flute, but with so much breadth as was sufficient for admission of the breath of a man’s mouth: it ended in the form of a bell, like common trumpets. Its sound was called in the Hebrew tongue Asosra. 292Two of these being made, one of them was sounded when they required the multitude to come together to congregations. When the first of them gave a signal, the heads of the tribes were to assemble, and consult about the affairs to them properly belonging; but when they gave the signal by both of them, they called the multitude together. 293Whenever the tabernacle was removed, it was done in this solemn order:—At the first alarm of the trumpet, those whose tents were on the east quarter prepared to remove; when the second signal was given, those that were on the south quarter did the like; in the next place, the tabernacle was taken to pieces, and was carried in the midst of six tribes that went before, and of six that followed, all the Levites assisting about the tabernacle; 294when the third signal was given, that part which had their tents towards the west put themselves in motion; and at the fourth signal those on the north did so likewise. They also made use of these trumpets in their sacred ministrations, when they were bringing their sacrifices to the altar as well on the Sabbaths as on the rest of the [festival] days; and now it was that Moses offered that sacrifice which was called the Passover in the Wilderness, as the first he had offered after the departure out of Egypt. 295A little while afterwards he rose up, and went from Mount Sinai; and, having passed through several mansions, of which we will speak anon, he came to a place called Hazeroth, where the multitude began again to be mutinous, and to blame Moses for the misfortunes they had suffered in their travels; 296and that when he had persuaded them to leave a good land, they at once had lost that land, and instead of that happy state he had promised them, they were still wandering in their present miserable condition, being already in want of water; and if the manna should happen to fail, they must then utterly perish. 297Yet while they generally spake many and sore things against the man, there was one of them who exhorted them not to be unmindful of Moses, and of what great pains he had been at about their common safety; and not to despair of assistance from God. The multitude thereupon became still more unruly, and more mutinous against Moses than before. 298Hereupon Moses, although he was so basely abused by them, encouraged them in their despairing condition, and promised that he would procure them a great quantity of flesh-meat, and that not for a few days only, but for many days. This they were not willing to believe; and when one of them asked whence he could obtain such a vast plenty of what he promised, he replied, “Neither God nor I, although we hear such opprobrious language from you, will leave off our labors for you; and this shall soon appear also.” 299As soon as ever he had said this, the whole camp was filled with quails, and they stood round about them, and gathered them in great numbers. However, it was not long ere God punished the Hebrews for their insolence, and those reproaches they had used towards him, for no small number of them died; and still to this day the place retains the memory of this destruction, and is named Kibroth-hattaavah, which is, The Graves of Lust.

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