The Babylonian episode was decisive in its consequences, both for the petty tribe of Judah at the time and for the Western world today.
During this period the Levites achieved things which were permanently to affect the life of peoples. They added four Books to Deuteronomy and thus set up a Law of racio-religious intolerance which, if it could be enforced, would for all time cut off the Judahites from mankind.
By experiment in Babylon, they found ways of enforcing it, that is to say, of keeping their followers segregated from those among whom they dwelt. They acquired authority among their captors, and at last they "pulled down" and "utterly destroyed" their captors' house; or if this did not truly happen, they handed on this version of history to a posterity which accepted it and in time began to see in these people an irresistibly destructive force.
The first "captivity" (the Egyptian) seems to have been completely legendary; at any rate, what is known confutes it and as Exodus was completed after the Babylonian incident the Levitical scribes may have devised the story of the earlier "captivity", and of Jehovah's punishment of the Egyptians, to support the version of the Babylonian period which they were then preparing.
In any case, what truly happened in Babylon seems to have been greatly different from the picture of a mass-captivity, later followed by a mass-return, which has been handed down by the Levitical scriptures.
No mass-exodus of captives from Jerusalem to Babylon can have occurred, because the mass of the Judahite people, from which a Jewish nation later emerged, was already self-distributed far and wide about the known world (that is, around the Mediterranean, in lands west and east of Judah), having gone wherever conditions for commerce were most favourable.
In that respect the picture was in its proportions very much like that of today. In Jerusalem was only a nucleus, comprizing chiefly the most zealous devotees of the Temple cult and folk whose pursuits bound them to the land. The authorities agree that merely a few tens of thousands of people were taken to Babylon, and that these represented a small fraction of the whole.
Nor were the Judahites unique in this dispersion, although the literature of lamentation implies that. The Parsees of India offer a case nearly identical and of the same period; they, too, survived the loss of state and country as a religious community in dispersion. The later centuries offer many examples of the survival of racial or religious groups far from their original clime. With the passing of generations such racial groups come to think of their ancestors' homeland simply as "the old country"; the religious ones turn their eyes towards a holy city (say, Rome or Mecca) merely from a different spot on earth.
The difference in the case of the Judahites was that old country and holy city were the same; that Jehovaism demanded a triumphant return and restoration of temple-worship, over the bodies of the heathen destroyed; and that this religion was also their law of daily life, so that a worldly political ambition, of the ancient tribal or nationalist kind, was also a primary article of faith. Other such creeds of primitive times became fossilized; this one survived to derange the life of peoples throughout the ages to our day, when it achieved its most disruptive effect.
This was the direct result of the experiments made and the experience gained by the Levites in Babylon, where they were first able to test the creed in an alien environment.
The benevolent behaviour of the Babylonian conquerors towards their Judahite prisoners was the exact opposite of that enjoined on the Judahites, in the reverse circumstances, by the Second Law which had been read to them just before their defeat: "Save nothing alive that breatheth. . ." Dr. Kastein says the captives "enjoyed complete freedom" of residence, worship, occupation and selfadministration.
This liberality allowed the Levites to make captives of people who thus were largely free; under priestly insistence they were constrained to settle in closed communities, and in this way the ghetto and Levite power were born.
The Talmudic ruling of the Christian era, which decreed the excommunication of Jews if without permission they sold "neighbour-property" to "strangers", comes down from that first experiment in self-segregation, in Babylon.
The support of the foreign ruler was necessary for this corralling of expatriates by their own priests, and it was given on this first occasion, as on innumerable other occasions ever since.
With their people firmly under their thumbs, the Levites then set about to complete the compilation of "The Law". The four books which they added to Deuteronomy make up the Torah, and this word, which originally meant doctrine, is now recognized to mean "the Law". However, "completion" is a most misleading word in this connection.
Only the Torah (in the sense of the five books) was completed. The Law was not then and never can be completed, given the existence of the "secret Torah" recorded by the Talmud (which itself was but the later continuation of the Torah), and the priestly claim to divine right of interpretation.
In fact, "the Law" was constantly changed, often to close some loophole which might have allowed "the stranger" to enjoy a right devolving only on "a neighbour". Some examples of this continuing process of amendment have already been given, and others follow in this chapter. The effect was usually to make hatred of or contempt for "the stranger" an integral part of "the Law" through the provision of discriminatory penalties or immunities.
When the Torah was complete a great stockade, unique in its nature but still incomplete, had been built between any human beings who at any time accepted this "Law" and the rest of mankind.
The Torah allowed no distinction between this Law of Jehovah and that of man, between religious and civil law. The law of "the stranger", theologically and juridically, had no existence, and any pretension to enforce one was "persecution", as Jehovah's was the only law.
The priesthood claimed that the Torah governed every act of daily life, down to the most trivial. Any objection that Moses could not have received from Jehovah on the mountain detailed instructions covering every conceivable action performed by man, was met with the dogma that the priesthood, like relay runners, handed on from generation to generation "the oral tradition" of Jehovah's revelation to Moses, and infinite power of reinterpretation. However, such objections were rare, as the Law prescribed the death penalty for doubters.
Mr. Montefiore remarks, accurately, that the Old Testament is "revealed legislation, not revealed truth", and says the Israelite prophets cannot have known anything of the Torah as the Levites completed it in Babylon. Jeremiah's words, "the pen of the Scribes is in vain" evidently refer to this process of Levitical revision and to the attribution of innumerable new "statutes and judgments" to Jehovah and Moses.
"Sin" was not a concept in the Torah as it took shape. That is logical, for in law there cannot be "sin", only crime or misdemeanour. The only offence known to this Law was non-observance, which meant crime or misdemeanour. What is commonly understood by "sin", namely, moral transgression, was sometimes expressly enjoined by it or made absolvable by the sacrifice of an animal.
The idea of "the return" (together with the related ideas of destruction and dominion) was basic to the dogma, which stood or fell by it. No strong impulse to return from Babylon to Jerusalem existed among the people (any more than today, when the instinct of the vast majority of Jews is completely against "return", so that the Zionist state is much more easily able to find money abroad than immigrants).
Literal fulfilment was the supreme tenet and that meant that possession of Palestine, the "centre" of the dominant empire to come, was essential (as it still is); its importance in the pattern was political, not residential.
Thus the Levites in Babylon added Exodus, Genesis, Leviticus and Numbers to Deuteronomy.
Genesis and Exodus provide a version of history moulded to fit the "Law" which the Levites by then had already promulgated, in Deuteronomy. This goes right back to the Creation, of which the Scribes knew the exact date (however the first two chapters of Genesis give somewhat different accounts of the Creation and the Levitical hand, as scholars believe, is more to be seen in the second chapter than the first).
Whatever has survived of the former Israelite tradition is in Genesis and Exodus, and in the enlightened passages of the Israelite prophets. These more benevolent parts are invariably cancelled out by later, fanatical ones, which are presumably Levitical interpolations.
The puzzle is to guess why the Levites allowed these glimpses of a loving God of all men to remain; as they invalidated the New Law and could have been removed. A tenable theory might be that the earlier tradition was too well known to the tribespeople to be merely expunged, so that it had to be retained and cancelled out by allegorical incident and amendment.
Although Genesis and Exodus were produced after Deuteronomy the theme of fanatical tribalism is faint in them. The swell and crescendo come in Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers, which bear the plain imprint of the Levite in isolated Judah and Babylon.
Thus in Genesis the only fore-echo of the later sound and fury is,
"And I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed... and the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land..."
Exodus is not much different: for instance, "If thou shalt indeed, . . do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies... and I will cut them off"; and even these passages may be Levitical interpolations.
But in Exodus something of the first importance appears: this promise is sealed in blood, and from this point on blood runs like a river through the books of The Law.
Moses is depicted as "taking the blood and sprinkling it on the people" and saying, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words".
The hereditary and perpetual office of the Aaronite priesthood is founded in this blood-ritual: Jehovah says unto Moses, "And take unto thee Aaron thy brother and his sons with him that he may minister unto me in the priest's office".
The manner of a priest's consecration is then laid down in detail by Jehovah himself, according to the Levitical scribes:
He must take a bullock and two rams "without blemish", have them butchered "before the Lord", and on the altar burn one ram and the innards of the bullock. The blood of the second ram is to be put "upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons and upon the thumb of their right hands and upon the great toe of their right foot" and sprinkled "upon the altar round about... and upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons and the garments of his sons".
The picture of blood-bespattered priests, thus given, is worth contemplation. Even at this distance of time the question prompts itself: why was this insistent emphasis laid on blood-sacrifice in the books of the Law which the Levites produced.
The answer seems to lie in the sect's uncanny genius for instilling fear by terror; for the very mention of "blood", in such contexts, made the faithful or superstitious Judahite tremble for his own son!
It is all spelt out in Exodus, this claim of the fanatical priests to the firstborn of their followers:
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine".
According to the passage earlier quoted from Micah, this practice of sacrificing the human firstborn long continued, and the sight of the bloodied Levite must have had a terrible significance for the humble tribesman, for in the words attributed to God, quoted above, the firstborn "of man and of beast" are coupled.
This significance remained long after the priesthood (in a most ingenious way which will later be described) contrived to discontinue human sacrifice while retaining the prerogative. Even then the blood which was sprinkled on the priest, though it was an animal's, was to the congregation still symbolically that of their own offspring!
Moreover, in the Talmudic strongholds of Jewry this ritual bloodying of priests has continued into our time; this is not a reminiscence from antiquity.
Twenty-four centuries after Exodus was compiled the Reform Rabbis of America (at Pittsburgh in 1885) declared: "We expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the administration of the sons of Aaron; nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish State". The importance of this statement lay in the need, thus felt in 1885, to make it publicly; it shows that the opposite school of Jewry still practised literal observance, including the ritual of "sacrificial worship". (By the 1950's the Reform Rabbis of America had lost much ground and were in retreat before the force of Zionist chauvinism).
The Levitical authorship of the Torah is indicated, again, by the fact that more than half of the five books are given to minutely detailed instructions, attributed directly to the Lord, about the construction and furnishings of altars and tabernacles, the cloth and design of vestments, mitres, girdles, the kind of golden chains and precious stones in which the blood-baptized priest is to be arrayed, as well as the number and kind of beasts to be sacrificed for various transgressions, the uses to be made of their blood, the payment of tithes and shekels, and in general the privileges and perquisites of the priesthood. Scores of chapters are devoted to blood sacrifice, in particular.
God probably does not so highly rate the blood of animals or the fine raiment of priests. This was the very thing, against which the Israelite "prophets" had protested. It was the mummifying of a primeval tribal religion; yet this is still The Law of the ruling sect and it is of great potency in our present-day world.
When they compiled these Books of the Law, the Levitical scribes included many allegorical or illustrative incidents of the awful results of "non-observance". These are the parables of the Old Testament, and their moral is always the same: death to the "transgressor". Exodus includes the best known of these, the parable of the golden calf.
While Moses was in the mountain Aaron made a golden calf; when Moses came down and saw it he commanded "the sons of Levi" to go through the camp "and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour", which these dutiful Levites did, so that "there fell of the people that day about three thousand men".
Christendom also has inherited this parable of the golden calf (having inherited the Old Testament) and holds it to be a warning against the worship of idols. However, a quite different motive may have produced whatever trend among the people caused the Levites to invent it. Many Judahites, and possibly some priests, at that time may have thought that God would be better pleased with the symbolic offering of a golden calf than with the eternal bleating of butchered animals, the "sprinkling" of their blood, and the "sweet savour" of their burning carcasses. The Levites at all times fought fiercely against any such weakening of their ritual, so that these parables are always directed against any who seek to change it in any detail.
A similar case is the "rebellion of Korah" (Numbers), when "two and fifty hundred princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown, gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye yourselves above the congregation of the Lord".
The Israelite "prophets" had made this very complaint, that the Levites took much on themselves, and the parable in Numbers is plainly intended to discourage any other objectors: "So the earth opened and swallowed Korah and his two hundred and fifty men of renown" (however, the congregation "continued to murmur", whereon the Lord smote it with the plague, and by the time Aaron interceded, "fourteen thousand and seven hundred" lay dead.)
The lesson of these parables, respect for the priesthood, is driven home immediately after this anecdote by the enumeration, in words attributed to the Lord, of the Levite's perquisites: "All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the first fruits of them which they shall offer unto the Lord, them have I given thee".
Presumably because the older tradition imposed some restraint in the writing of history, Genesis and Exodus are relatively restrained. The fanatical note, first loudly sounded in Deuteronomy, then becomes ever louder in Leviticus and Numbers, until at the end a concluding parable depicts a racio-religious massacre as an act of the highest piety in "observance", singled out for reward by God! These last two books, like Deuteronomy, are supposed to have been left by Moses and to relate his communions with Jehovah. In their cases, no claim was made that "a manuscript hoary with the dust of ages" had been discovered; they were just produced.
They show the growth of the sect's fanaticism at this period, and the increasing heat of their exhortations to racial and religious hatred. Deuteronomy had first decreed, "Love ye therefore the stranger", and then cancelled this "judgment" (which probably came down from the earlier Israelite tradition) by the later one which excluded the stranger from the ban on usury.
Leviticus went much further. It, too, began with the admonition to love:
"The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself" (chapter 19).
The reversal came in chapter 25:
"Of the children of the stranger that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land, and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren, the children of Israel, ye shall not rule over one another with rigour".
This made hereditary bondage and chattel-slavery of "strangers" a tenet of the Law (which is still valid). If the Old Testament is of "equal divine authority" with the New, professing Christians of the pioneer, frontiersman or Voortrekker kind were entitled in their day to invoke such passages as these in respect of slavery in America or South Africa.
Leviticus introduced (at all events by clear implication) what is perhaps the most significant of all the discriminations made by the Law between "thy neighbour" and "the stranger". Deuteronomy, earlier, had provided (chapter 22) that "if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die; but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death; for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter". This is the kind of provision, in respect of rape, which probably would have been found in any of the legal codes which were then taking shape, and for that matter it would fit into almost any legal code today, save for the extreme nature of the penalty. This passage, again, may very well represent the earlier Israelite attitude towards this particular transgression; it was impartial and did not vary according to the person of the victim.
Leviticus (chapter 19) then provided that a man who "lieth carnally" with a betrothed woman slave might acquit himself of fault by bringing a ram to the priest "as a trespass offering", when "the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him", but the woman "shall be scourged". Under this Law the word of a woman slave clearly would not count against that of her owner, on a charge of rape, so that this passage appears to be an amendment, of the discriminatory kind, to the provision in Deuteronomy. Certain allusions in the Talmud support this interpretation, as will be shown..
Leviticus also contains its parable depicting the awful consequences of non-observance, and this particular example shows the extreme lengths to which the Levites went. The transgression committed by the two allegorical characters in this case (who were themselves two Levites, Hadab and Abihu) was merely that they burned the wrong kind of fire in their censers. This was a capital offence under "the Law" and they were immediately devoured by the Lord!
Numbers, the last of the five Books to be produced, is the most extreme. In it the Levites found a way to rid themselves of their chief prerogative (the claim to the firstborn) while perpetuating "the Law" in this, its supreme tenet. This was a political move of genius. The claim to the firstborn evidently had become a source of grave embarrassment to them, but they could not possibly surrender the first article of a literal Law which knew no latitude whatever in "observance"; to do so would have been itself a capital transgression. By one more reinterpretation of the Law they made themselves proxies for the firstborn, and thus staked a permanent claim on the gratitude of the people without any risk to themselves:
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, And I, behold. I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; because all the firstborn are mine..." (As the firstborn to be so redeemed outnumbered their Levite redeemers by 273, payment of five shekels each for these 273 was required, the money to be given "to Aaron and his sons".)
Proceeding from this new status of redeemers, the Levites laid down many more "statutes and judgments" in Numbers.
They ruled by terror and were ingenious in devising new ways of instilling it; an example is their "trial of jealousy". If "the spirit of jealousy" came on a man, he was legally obliged (by "the Lord speaking unto Moses, saying") to hale his wife before the Levite, who, at the altar, presented her with a concoction of "bitter water" made by him, saying, "If no man have lain with thee and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse. But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband... the Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell."
The woman then had to drink the bitter water and if her belly swelled the priests "executed the law" of death on her. The power which such a rite put in the hands of the priesthood is apparent; ascribed to the direct command of God, it resembles the practices of witch doctors in Africa.
The final touch is given to "the Law" in the last chapters of this, the last book to be compiled. It is provided by the parable of Moses and the Midianites. The reader will have remarked that the life and deeds of Moses, as related in Exodus, made him a capital transgressor, several times over, under the "Second Law" of Deuteronomy and the numerous other amendments of Leviticus and Numbers. By taking refuge with the Midianites, by marrying the Midianite highpriest's daughter and by receiving instruction in priestly rites from him, and in other ways, Moses had "gone a-whoring after other gods", had "taken of their daughters", and so on. As the whole structure of the law rested on Moses, in whose name the commands against these things were laid down in the later books, something evidently had to be done about him before the Books of the Law were completed, or the whole structure would fall to the ground.
The last small section of Numbers shows how the difficulty was overcome by the scribes. In these final chapters of "the Law" Moses is made to conform with "all the statutes and judgments" and to redeem his transgressions by massacring the entire Midianite tribe, save for the virgins! By what in today's idiom would be called a fantastic "twist", Moses was resurrected so that he might dishonour his saviours, his wife, two sons and father-in-law. Posthumously he was made to "turn from his wickedness", to validate the racio-religious dogma which the Levites had invented, and by complete transfiguration from the benevolent patriarch of earlier legend to become the founding father of their Law of hatred and murder!
In Chapter 25 Moses is made to relate that "the anger of the Lord was kindled" because the people were turning to other gods. He is commanded by the Lord, "Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the Lord against the sun", whereon Moses instructs the judges, "Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor" (Baal-worship was extensively practised throughout Canaan, and the competition of this cult with Jehovah-worship was a particular grievance of the Levites).
The theme of religious hatred is thus introduced into the narrative. That of racial hatred is joined to it when, in the direct sequence, a man brings "a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses". Phinehas (the grandson of Moses's brother Aaron) goes after them "and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the women through her belly". Because of this deed, "the plague was stayed", and "the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas hath turned away my wrath from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake. . . Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace!"
Thus the covenant between Jehovah and the hereditary Aaronite priesthood was again sealed (by the Levitical scribes) in blood, this time the blood of a racioreligious murder, which "the Lord" then describes as "an atonement for the children of Israel". Moses, the witness of the murder, is then ordered by the Lord, "Vex the Midianites and smite them". The symbolism is plain. He is required, in resurrection, to strike equally at "other gods" (the god of the high priest Jethro, from whom he had received instruction) and at "strangers" (his wife's and father-in-law's race).
The Levites even made the ensuing massacre Moses's last act on earth; he was rehabilitated on the brink of eternity!
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites; afterwards thou shalt be gathered to thy people".
Thus ordered, Moses's men:
"warred against the Midianites as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males... and took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of their cities, and all their flocks, and all their gods, and burnt their cities".
This was not enough. Moses, the husband of a loving Midianite wife and the father of her two sons, was "wroth" with his officers because they had "saved all the Midianite women alive.
Behold these caused the children of Israel... to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregations of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves".
(The booty is then listed; after the enumeration of sheep, beeves and asses follow "thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him". These were shared among the Levites, the soldiers and the congregation; "the gold" was brought to the Levites "for the Lord".)
With that, Moses was allowed at last to rest and the Books of the Law were concluded. Incitement could hardly be given a more demoniac shape.
Chapters 25 and 31 of Numbers need to be compared with chapters 2, 3 and 18 of Exodus for the full significance of the deed foisted on Jehovah and Moses by the Levites to become apparent. It was a plain warning to the special people of what Jehovaism was to mean to them; it remains today a warning to others.
On that note The Law ended. Its authors were a small sect in Babylon, with a few thousand followers there. However, the power of their perverse idea was to prove very great. By giving material ambition the largest shape it can have on earth, they identified themselves forever with the baser of the two forces which eternally contend for the soul of man: that downward pull of the fleshly instincts which wars with the uplifting impulse of the spirit.
The theologians of Christendom claim more for this Law than the scholars of Jewry. I have before me a Christian Bible, recently published, with an explanatory note which says the five books of the Torah are "accepted as true", and for that matter also the historical, prophetic and poetic books. This logically flows from the dogma, earlier quoted, that the Old Testament is of "equal divine authority" with the New.
The Judaist scholars say differently. Dr. Kastein, for instance, says that the Torah was "the work of an anonymous compiler" who "produced a pragmatic historical work". The description is exact; the scribe or scribes provided a version of history, subjectively written to support the compendium of laws which was built on it; and both history and laws were devised to serve a "political" purpose.
"A unifying idea underlay it all", says Dr. Kastein, and this unifying idea was tribal nationalism, in a more fanatical form than the world has otherwise known. The Torah was not revealed religion but, as Mr. Montefiore remarked, "revealed legislation", enacted to an end.
While the Law was being compiled (it was not completed until the Babylonian "captivity" had ended) the last two remonstrants made their voices heard, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The hand of the Levite may be traced in the interpolations which were made in their books, to bring them into line with "the Law" and its supporting "version of history".
The falsification is clearest in the book of Isaiah, "which is the best known case because it is the most easily demonstrable. Fifteen chapters of the book were written by someone who knew the Babylonian captivity, whereas Isaiah lived some two hundred years earlier. The Christian scholars circumvent this by calling the unknown man "Deutero-Isaiah", or the second Isaiah.
"This man left the famous words (often quoted out of their context), "The Lord hath said... I will also give thee for a light unto the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth". This was heresy under the Law which was in preparation and the Levite apparently added (as the same man presumably would not have written) the passages foretelling that "the kings and queens" of the Gentiles "shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth and lick up the dust of thy feet ... I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I am the Lord thy Saviour and thy Redeemer" (This sounds like the voice of Ezekiel, who was the true father of the Levitical Law, as will be seen.)
Jeremiah's book seems to have received Levitical amendment at the start, because the familiar opening passage sharply discords with other of Jeremiah's thoughts: "See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy ..."
That does not sound like the man who wrote, in the next chapter:
"The word of the Lord came to me saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown ... What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me ... my people have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters ..."
Jeremiah then identified the culprit, Judah (and for this offence well may have come by his death): "The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah".
Israel had fallen from grace, but Judah had betrayed; the allusion is plainly to the Levites' new Law. Then comes the impassioned protest, common to all the expostulants, against the priestly rites and sacrifices:
"Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord..." (the formal, repetitious incantations) "... but thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, oppress not the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place" (the ritual of blood-sacrifice and the ordained murder of apostates)...
"Will ye steal, murder and commit adultery, and swear falsely... and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations" (the ceremonial absolution after animal-sacrifice). "
Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? . . I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices…."
In such words Jeremiah, like Jesus later, protested against the "destruction" of the Law in the name of its fulfilment. It seems possible that even in Jeremiah's time the Levites still exacted the sacrifice of firstborn children, because he adds,
"And they have built the high place... to burn their sons and daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into my heart".
Because of these very "abominations", Jeremiah continued, the Lord would "cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride; for the land shall be desolate".
This is the famous political forecast which was borne out; the Levites, with their genius for perversion, later invoked it to support their claim that Judah fell because their Law was not observed, whereas Jeremiah's warning was that their Law would destroy "treacherous Judah". Were he to rise from the earth today he might use the word without change in respect of Zionism, for the state of affairs is similar and the ultimate consequence seems equally foreseeable.
When Judah fell Jeremiah gave his most famous message of all, the one to which the Jewish masses today often instinctively turn, and the one which the ruling sect ever and again forbids them to heed: "Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace". The Levites gave their angry answer in the 137th Psalm:
"By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept….. Our tormentors asked of us mirth: Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth... O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones".
In Jeremiah's admonition and the Levites' reply lies the whole story of the controversy of Zion, and of its effects for others, down to our day.
Jeremiah, who was apparently put to death, would today be attacked as a "crackpot", "paranoiac", "antisemite" and the like; the phrase then used was "prophet and dreamer of dreams".
He describes the methods of defamation, used against such men, in words exactly applicable to our time and to many men whose public lives and reputations have been destroyed by them (as this narrative will show when it reaches the present century):
"For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, they say, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him".
While Jeremiah was a refugee in Egypt, the second Isaiah, in Babylon, wrote those benevolent words which glow like the last light of day against the dark background of the teaching which was about to triumph:
"Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice…… let not the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people ... The sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants ... even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer ...
for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people".
With this glimpse of a loving God of all mankind the protests ended. The Levites and their Law were left paramount, and therewith the true captivity of "the Jews" began, for their enslavement to the law of racial and religious hatred is the only genuine captivity they have suffered.
Jeremiah and the Second Isaiah, like the earlier Israelite remonstrants, spoke for mankind, which was slowly groping its way towards the light when the Levites reverted to darkness.
Before the Law was even completed Prince Sidharta Gautama, the Buddha, had lived and died and founded the first religion of all mankind, founded on his First Law of Life:
"From good must come good, and from evil must come evil".
This was the answer to the Levites' Second Law, though they probably never heard of it. It was also time's and the human spirit's inevitable answer to Brahminism, Hindu racialism and the cult of the perpetual master-caste (which strongly resembles literal Judaism).
Five hundred years ahead lay a second universal religion, and five hundred years after that a third. The little nation of Judah was held back in the Law's chains from this movement of mankind; it was arrested in the fossil stage of spiritual development, and yet its primitive tribal creed retained life and vigour. The Levitical Law, still potent in the Twentieth Century, is in its nature a survival from sunken times.
Such a Law was bound to cause curiosity, first, and alarm next among peoples with whom the Judahites dwelt, or to their neighbours, if they dwelt alone.
When the Judahites returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, about 538 BC, this impact on other peoples began. At that moment in time it was felt only by little clans and tribes, the immediate neighbours of the repatriated Judahites in Jerusalem. It has continued ever since in widening circles, being felt by ever greater numbers of peoples, and in our century has produced its greatest disturbances among them.