The true start of this affair occurred on a day in 458 BC which this narrative will reach in its sixth chapter. On that day the petty Palestinian tribe of Judah (earlier disowned by the Israelites) produced a racial creed, the disruptive effect of which on subsequent human affairs may have exceeded that of explosives or epidemics. This was the day on which the theory of the master-race was set up as "the Law".
At the time Judah was a small tribe among the subject-peoples of the Persian king, and what today is known as "the West" could not even be imagined. Now the Christian era is nearly two thousand years old and "Western civilization", which grew out of it, is threatened with disintegration.
The creed born in Judah 2,500 years ago, in the author's opinion, has chiefly brought this about. The process, from original cause to present effect, can be fairly clearly traced because the period is, in the main, one of verifiable history.
The creed which a fanatical sect produced that day has shown a great power over the minds of men throughout these twenty-five centuries; hence its destructive achievement. Why it was born at that particular moment, or ever, is something that none can explain. This is among the greatest mysteries of our world, unless the theory that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction is valid in the area of religious thought; so that the impulse which at that remote time set many men searching for a universal, loving God produced this fierce counter-idea of an exclusive, vengeful deity.
Judah-ism was retrogressive even in 458 BC, when men in the known world were beginning to turn their eyes away from idols and tribal gods and to look for a God of all men, of justice and of neighbourliness. Confucius and Buddha had already pointed in that direction and the idea of one-God was known among the neighbouring peoples of Judah.
Today the claim is often made that the religious man, Christian, Muslim or other, must pay respect to Judaism, whatever its errors, on one incontestable ground: it was the first universal religion, so that in a sense all universal religions descend from it. Every Jewish child is taught this.
In truth, the idea of the one-God of all men was known long before the tribe of Judah even took shape, and Judaism was above all else the denial of that idea.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead (manuscripts of which were found in the tombs of kings of 2,600 BC, over two thousand years before the Judaist "Law" was completed) contains the passage:
"Thou art the one, the God from the very beginnings of time, the heir of immortality, self-produced and self-born; thou didst create the earth and make man".
Conversely, the Scripture produced in Judah of the Levites asked,
"Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the Gods?" (Exodus).
The sect which attached itself to and mastered the tribe of Judah took this rising concept of one-God of all-peoples and embodied it in its Scripture only to
destroy it, and to set up the creed based on its denial. It is denied subtly, but with scorn, and as the creed is based on the theory of the master-race this denial is necessary and inevitable. A master-race, if there be one, must itself be God.
The creed which was given force of daily law in Judah in 458 BC was then and still is unique in the world. It rested on the assertion, attributed to the tribal deity (Jehovah), that "the Israelites" (in fact, the Judahites) were his "chosen people" who, if they did all his "statutes and judgments", would be set over all other peoples and be established in a "promised land". Out of this theory, whether by forethought or unforeseen necessity, grew the pendent theories of "captivity" and "destruction". If Jehovah were to be worshipped, as he demanded, at a certain place in a specified land, all his worshippers had to live there.
Obviously all of them could not live there, but if they lived elsewhere, whether by constraint or their own choice, they automatically became "captives" of "the stranger", whom they had to "root out", "pull down" and "destroy". Given this basic tenet of the creed, it made no difference whether the "captors" were conquerors or friendly hosts; their ordained lot was to be destruction or enslavement.
Before they were destroyed or enslaved, they were, for a time, to be "captors" of the Judahites, not in their own right, but because the Judahites, having failed in "observance", deserved punishment.
In this way, Jehovah revealed himself as the one-God of all-peoples: though he "knew" only the "chosen people", he would employ the heathen to punish them for their "transgressions", before meting out the foreordained destruction to these heathen.
The Judahites had this inheritance thrust on them. It was not even theirs, for the "covenant", according to these Scriptures, had been made between Jehovah and "the children of Israel", and by 458 BC the Israelites, spurning the non-Israelitish Judahites, had long since been absorbed by other mankind, taking with them the vision of a universal, loving God of all men. The Israelites, from all the evidence, never knew this racial creed which was to come down through the centuries as the Jewish religion, or Judaism. It stands, for all time, as the product of Judah of the Levites.
What happened before 458 BC is largely lore, legend and mythology, as distinct from the period following, the main events of which are known. Before 458 BC, for instance, there were in the main only "oral traditions"; the documentary period begins in the two centuries leading up to 458 BC, when Judah had been disavowed by the Israelites.
At this stage, when the word-of-mouth tradition became written Scripture, the perversion occurred. The surviving words of the earlier Israelites show that their tradition was a widening one of neighbourliness under a universal God. This was changed into its opposite by the itinerant priests who segregated the Judahites and established the worship of Jehovah as the god of racialism, hatred and revenge.
In the earlier tradition Moses was a great tribal leader who heard the voice of
one-God speak from a burning bush and came down from a mountain bearing this one-God's moral commandments to the people. The time when this tradition took shape was one when the idea of religion was first moving in the minds of men and when all the peoples were borrowing from each other's traditions and thought.
Whence the idea of one-God may have come has already been shown, although the earlier Egyptians themselves may have received it from others. The figure of Moses himself, and his Law, both were taken from material already existing. The story of Moses's discovery in the bulrushes was plainly borrowed from the much earlier legend (with which it is identical) of a king of Babylonia, Sargon the Elder, who lived between one and two thousand years before him;
the Commandments much resemble earlier law codes of the Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians.
The ancient Israelites built on current ideas, and by this means apparently were well on the way to a universal religion when they were swallowed up by mankind.
Then Judah put the process into reverse, so that the effect is that of a film run backward. The masters of Judah, the Levites, as they drew up their Law also took what they could use from the inheritance of other peoples and worked it into the stuff they were moulding.
They began with the one just God of all men, whose voice had been briefly heard from the burning bush (in the oral tradition) and in the course of five books of their written Law turned him into the racial, bargaining Jehovah who promised territory, treasure, blood and power over others in return for a ritual of sacrifice, to be performed at a precise place in a specified land.
Thus they founded the permanent counter-movement to all universal religions and identified the name Judah with the doctrine of self-segregation from mankind, racial hatred, murder in the name of religion, and revenge.
The perversion thus accomplished may be traced in the Old Testament, where Moses first appears as the bearer of the moral commandments and good neighbour, and ends as a racial mass-murderer, the moral commandments having been converted into their opposites between Exodus and Numbers.
In the course of this same transmutation the God who begins by commanding the people not to kill or to covet their neighbours' goods or wives, finishes by ordering a tribal massacre of a neighbouring people, only the virgins to be saved alive!
Thus the achievement of the itinerant priests who mastered the tribe of Judah, so long ago, was to turn one small, captive people away from the rising idea of a God of all men, to reinstate a bloodthirsty tribal deity and racial law, and to send the followers of this creed on their way through the centuries with a destructive mission.
The creed, or revelation of God as thus presented, was based on a version of history, every event of which had to conform with, and to confirm the teaching.
This version of history went back to the Creation, the exact moment of which was known; as the priests also claimed to possess the future, this was a complete story and theory of the universe from start to finish.
The end was to be the triumphant consummation in Jerusalem, when world dominion was to be established on the ruins of the heathen and their kingdoms.
The theme of mass-captivity, ending in a Jehovan vengeance ("all the firstborn of Egypt"), appears when this version of history reaches the Egyptian phase, leading up to the mass-exodus and mass-conquest of the promised land. This episode was necessary if the Judahites were to be organized as a permanent disruptive force among nations and for that reason, evidently, was invented; the Judaist scholars agree that nothing resembling the narrative in Exodus actually occurred.
Whether Moses even lived is in dispute. "They tell you", said the late Rabbi Emil Hirsch, "that Moses never lived. I acquiesce. If they tell me that the story that came from Egypt is mythology, I shall not protest; it is mythology. They tell me that the book of Isaiah, as we have it today, is composed of writings of at least three and perhaps four different periods; I knew it before they ever told me; before they knew it, it was my conviction".
Whether Moses lived or not, he cannot have led any mass-exodus from Egypt into Canaan (Palestine). No sharply-defined Israelitish tribes existed (says Rabbi Elmer Berger) at any time when anyone called Moses may have led some small groups out of Egyptian slavery.
The Habiru (Hebrews) then were already established in Canaan, having reached it long before from Babylonia on the far side: Their name, Habiru, denoted no racial or tribal identity; it meant "nomads". Long before any small band led by Moses can have arrived they had overrun large Canaanite areas, and the governor of Jerusalem reported to Pharaoh in Egypt, "The King no longer has any territory, the Habiru have devastated all the King's territory".
A most zealous Zionist historian, Dr. Josef Kastein, is equally specific about this. He will often be quoted during this narrative because his book, like this one, covers the entire span of the controversy of Zion (save for the last twenty-two years; it was published in 1933). He says,
"Countless other Semitic and Hebrew tribes were already settled in the promised land which, Moses told his followers, was theirs by ancient right of inheritance; what matter that actual conditions in Canaan had long since effaced this right and rendered it illusory".
Dr. Kastein, a fervent Zionist, holds that the Law laid down in the Old Testament must be fulfilled to the letter, but does not pretend to take the version of history seriously, on which this Law is based. In this he differs from Christian polemicists of the "every word is true" school. He holds that the Old Testament was in fact a political programme, drafted to meet the conditions of a time, and frequently revised to meet changing conditions.
Historically, therefore, the Egyptian captivity, the slaying of "all the firstborn
of Egypt", the exodus toward and conquest of the promised land are myths. The story was invented, but the lesson, of vengeance on the heathen, was implanted in men's minds and the deep effect continues into our time.
It was evidently invented to turn the Judahites away from the earlier tradition of the God who, from the burning bush, laid down a simple law of moral behaviour and neighbourliness; by the insertion of imaginary, allegorical incident, presented as historical truth, this tradition was converted into its opposite and the "Law" of exclusion, hatred and vengeance established. With this as their religion and inheritance, attested by the historical narrative appended to it, a little band of human beings were sent on their way into the future.
By the time of that achievement of 458 BC, many centuries after any possible period when Moses may have lived, much had happened in Canaan. The nomadic Habiru, supplanting the native Canaanites by penetration, intermarriage, settlement or conquest, had thrown off a tribe called the Ben Yisrael, or Children of Israel, which had split into a number of tribes, very loosely confederated and often at war with each other.
The main body of these tribes, the Israelites, held the north of Canaan. In the south, isolated and surrounded by native Canaanitish peoples, a tribe called Judah took shape. This was the tribe from which the racial creed and such words as "Judaism", "Jewish" and "Jew" in the course of centuries emerged.
From the moment when it first appears as an entity this tribe of Judah has a strange look. It was always cut off, and never got on well with its neighbours. Its origins are mysterious. It seems from the beginning, with its ominous name, somehow to have been set apart, rather than to have been "chosen".
The Levitical Scriptures include it among the tribes of Israel, and as the others mingled themselves with mankind this would leave it the last claimant to the rewards promised by Jehovah to "the chosen people".
However, even this claim seems to be false, for the Jewish Encyclopaedia impartially says that Judah was "in all likelihood a non-Israelitish tribe".
This tribe with the curious air was the one which set out into the future saddled with the doctrine drawn up by the Levites, namely, that it was Jehovah's "chosen people" and, when it had done "all my statutes and judgments", would inherit a promised land and dominion over all peoples.
Among these "statutes and judgments" as the Levites finally edited them appeared, repeatedly, the commands, "utterly destroy", "pull down", "root out". Judah was destined to produce a nation dedicated to destruction.