Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. V.: Shewing the State of the Jews in the Captivity; and after their Return out of it; with the Frame of the Jewish Commonwealth. - The Oceana and Other Works
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAP. V.: Shewing the State of the Jews in the Captivity; and after their Return out of it; with the Frame of the Jewish Commonwealth. - James Harrington, The Oceana and Other Works 
The Oceana and Other Works of James Harrington, with an Account of His Life by John Toland (London: Becket and Cadell, 1771).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Shewing the State of the Jews in the Captivity; and after their Return out of it; with the Frame of the Jewish Commonwealth.
Sect. 1. The state of the Israelits in captivity.WE left the children of Israel upon a sad march, even into captivity. What orders had bin antiently observ’d by them during the time they were in Egypt (one of which, as has bin already shewn, was their seventy elders) the same, so far as would be permitted by the princes whose servants they were, continu’d in practice with them during the time of their captivity, out of which the ten tribes never more return’d.Jer. 25. 12. The two tribes, when seventy years were accomplish’d from the time that they were carry’d away by Nebuchadnezzar,2 Chr. 36. 22. and in the first year ofCyrusking of Persia, return’d the best part of them, not only with the king’s leave and liking,Ezra 1. but with restitution of the plate and vessels belonging to the temple.
Sect. 2. The balance of the commonwealth restor’d by Zorobabel.The first colony (as I may say) of the two tribes, or those that return’d under the conduct of Zorobabel prince of Judah, amounted to forty-two thousand three hundred and threescore, among which there were about one hundred patriarchs or princes of familys. To these, in the reign of Artaxerxes, came sixteen or twenty princes more with their familys; among whom the prophets Haggai, Zacharias, and Malachi were eminent.Ezra 2. Som of them could not shew their fathers house and their seed, whether they were of Israel. But these were few;Ezra 8. for it is said of them in general, That they went every one to his own city, or to the inheritance of his fathers:Ezra 2. 59. in which you may note the restitution of the balance of the Mosaical commonwealth; tho to what this might com without fixation, the jubile being not after the captivity in use, I cannot say. However, for the present, plain it is that the antient superstructures did also insue: as in order to the putting away of the strange wives, which the people in captivity had taken, is apparent.
Sect. 3. The superstructures of this commonwealth in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.Their whole progress hitherto is according to the law of Moses; they return every man to his inheritance by direction of his pedegree, or according to the house of his fathers; they are led by princes of their familys, and are about to put away strange wives: for what reason then should a man believe that what follows should not be according to the orders of the same lawgiver? now that which follows,Ezra 10. 8. in order to the putting away of these foren wives, is, proclamation was made throout Judah and Jerusalem to all the children of the captivity, that they shouldgather themselves to Jerusalem; and that whosoever will not com within three days, according to the counsil of the princes and elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had bin carry’d away.Chap. V. This plainly, by the penalty annex’d, is a law for banishment; of which kind there was none made by Moses; and a law made by the princes and the elders. What doubt then can remain, but these elders were the sanhedrim, or seventy elders? but wheras neither the sanhedrim, nor any other senat of it self has bin found to make laws, what others can these princes be that are join’d with the elders, than those spoken of before; that is, the princes of familys, or the chief fathers in the congregation of them that had bin carry’d away? so the princes and the elders in this place may be understood of the sanhedrim and the people:1 Chr. 27. 1. for thus David proposes to the congregation of the people of Israel, or the chief fathers, and must be understood of them; because there is no such thing throout the Scripture to be found, as a law made by the sanhedrim without the people: and if so, then that the sanhedrim with the people had power to make a law, is by this place of Scripture undeniably evinc’d.Ezra 10. 14. But besides the chief fathers, which here are call’d rulers of the congregation, and in the time of David were call’d captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, mention is also made of the elders of every city, and the judges therof; in which words you have the judges in the gates throout the tribes of Israel, as they were instituted by Moses. All which particulars being rightly sum’d up, com to this total; that the commonwealth restor’d by Ezra, was the very same that originally was instituted by Moses.
Sect. 4. A transition to the cabalistical or Jewish commonwealth.Such was the government restor’d by Zorobabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Now whether the Jewish or cabalistical commonwealth, father’d by the Presbyterian Jews of latter ages upon Moses or Ezra, be the same, shall be shewn by reducing the invention of these men to three heads: as first, their cabala; secondly, their ordination; and last of all, their great synagog.
Sect. 5. The cabala.Thecabala, call’d also by the Jews the oral law, consists of certain traditions by them pretended at the institution of the sanhedrim to have bin verbally deliver’d to the seventy elders by Moses for the government of the commonwealth. These were never written till after the dispersion of the Jews by the emperor Adrian; when, to save them from being lost, they were digested into those volums call’d the Talmud: which they hold to be, and indeed are, as to matter of fact, the authentic records of their government.Rabbi corbulenus. Of the traditions thus recorded says one of the rabbins or Jewish doctors: Think not that the written law (or the law of Moses) is fundamental,Exod 34. 27.but that the oral or traditional law is fundamental, it being upon this that God enter’d into a league with the Israelits, as it is written after the tenor of these words,In codice juris chagiga.I have made a covenant with thee, and with Israel. A man (says another) who returns from the study of the Talmud to the study of the Bible, can have no quiet conscience, neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in.Zach. 8. 10. The like wherof is the Talmudical way of applying Scripture throout.Mat. 15. 6. And it was the common blessing the Pharises gave their children: My son, hearken to the words of a scribe or doctor, rather than to the law ofMoses. To whom says Christ hereupon, You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
Sect. 6. Ordination by imposition of hands.Now as true as the Talmud, or as this word of a scribe, or that Moses deliver’d the oral law to the seventy elders and to Joshua, so true it is that Moses ordain’d both the seventy elders and Joshua by the imposition of hands; and that this ordination by the imposition of hands, together with the oral law, came successively, and hand in hand from the seventy elders, and from Joshua downright to these doctors. This indeed is so generally affirm’d by their Talmudists, that there is no denying of it; but, that as to the seventy elders it is quite contrary to Scripture, has already bin made sufficiently apparent; for Joshua is acknowleg’d to have bin ordain’d by Moses with imposition of hands. But this argument (besides that the act of Moses was accompany’d with a miracle, and that it is absurd to think that a thing plainly miraculous should or can be receiv’d as an order in a commonwealth) will go no farther than that Joshua, upon this authority, might have elected his successor by imposition of hands. Let them shew us then that he did so, or indeed that he left any successor at all: for certainly if Joshua left no successor so ordain’d, or no successor at all (which is the truth of the case) then descended there upon them no such ordination from Joshua; and so by consequence none from Moses. Whence it follows, that the authority and vogue of ordination, by the imposition of hands among the Jews, procedes not from the law of Moses, but from the oral law; which how bad an authority soever it be to us of right, is of fact, or of what the exercise of ordination was among the Jews, a good and sufficient testimony. Now therby the condition of this ordination (tho in som times of the commonwealth it was less restrain’d) was such, that no man not having receiv’d the same from the great sanhedrim, or som one of the inferior courts by laying on of hands, by word of mouth, or by writing, could be a presbyter, or capable of any judicature or magistracy in the commonwealth, or to give council in the law, or any part of the law, or to be of the assembly of the great synagog.
Sect. 7. The great synagog.What the assembly of the princes and fathers was in the time of Ezra, has bin shewn, and is left to the judgment of others. But this is that which the Talmudists and their ancestors the cabalistical Jews (among which the Pharises were of the highest rank) unanimously affirm to have consisted of the seventy elders, and of a juncta of fifty presbyters not elected by the people; but by the laying on of hands by the sanhedrim, or by som other judicatory. This, they say, was the institution of their great synagog, where I leave them: but that, according to the sense wherin they cite their authoritys, the like with them was a constant practice, appears not only by their own testimony and records, but is plain in Scripture; as where Christ speaks of the Jews to his apostles in this manner:Grot. a[Editor: illegible character]They will scourge you in their synagogs: that is, the Jews having as yet no law made wherby they can invade the liberty of conscience, or bring you for the practice therof to punishment,Mat. 10. 17. will call their great synagog, wherin the priests and the Pharises, or the sanhedrim, have at least seven to five the overbalancing vote over the rest. Which also are their creatures, and by these will easily carry, or make such laws wherby they may inflict upon you corporal punishment:Acts 4. 6. which interpretation of Christ’s words, was fulfil’d even to a tittle, or rather with over measure. For upon this occasion the high priest, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gather’d together at Jerusalem. That this same juncta, to be in this case added to the sanhedrim, was to consist but of fifty, those fifty not elected by the people, but chosen by the elders of the sanhedrim; and not out of the body of the people, but out of such only as had receiv’d ordination by the sanhedrim, or by som other court, or indeed were actually judges in som other court, was not enough, unless they might consist also of as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.Acts 5. 21. Which rights and privileges being all observ’d, The high priest came, and they that were with him, and call’d the sanbedrim, and all the presbytery of the children of Israel: that is, so many of them, as being assembl’d in the great synagog, represented all the presbytery of the children of Israel, or all the children of Israel themselves. In this assembly you have the full description of the great synagog:Acts 5. 40. and when (in this synagog) they had beaten the apostles Peter and John,they commanded them that they should not speak in the name ofJesus,and let them go. Upon these procedings there are considerations of great importance; as first, that the cabalistical doctors themselves did never so much as imagin that Moses had indu’d the sanhedrim alone, or separatly consider’d from the people, with any legislative power; nevertheless, that the sanhedrim came into the place, and succeded to the whole power of Moses, they unanimously held: whence, even upon their principles, it must follow that in Moses, distinctly and separatly taken from the people, there could be no power of making any law. The second ching remarkable in this proceding, is, that the most corrupt commonwealth, and in her most corrupt age, had not yet the face, without som blind, of pretending to legislative power in a single counsil. The last I shall observe, is, that no possible security is to be given to liberty of conscience, but in the security of civil liberty, and in that only not by laws which are otherwise as perishing as flowers or fruits, but in the roots or fundamental orders of the government. What even in these times must have follow’d, as to the liberty of conscience, had there bin an equal representative of the people, is apparent, in that the captain and the officers, imploy’d by this synagog to apprehend the apostles, brought them without violence; for they fear’d the people, lest they should have bin ston’d.Acts 5. 26. It is true, there is nothing with us more customary, even in the solemnest places, and upon the solemnest occasions, than to upbraid the people with giddiness from the Hosanna and the crucifige of the Jews. What may be charg’d upon a multitude not under orders, the fouler crime it be, is the fairer argument for such orders, as where they have bin once establish’d, the people have not bin guilty of such crimes; at least, it should seem, that in this case there is great scarcity of witnesses against them, seeing the death of Socrates is more laid to one people, than that of all the martyrs to kings: yet were the false witnesses by whom Socrates suffer’d (and by the like wherto a man in the best government may chance to suffer) no sooner discover’d, than they were destroy’d by the people, who also erected a statue to Socrates.Mark 15. 11. And the people who, at the arraignment of Christ, cry’d, Crucify him, crucify him, were such as the chief priests mov’d or prompted, and such also as fear’d the multitude.Mat. 21. Now that the people which could be prompted by the chief priests, or the people which could fear the people, could be no other than this pretended representative of the people, but indeed a juncta of cousins and retainers, is that which, for ought I know, may be possible; and the rather, for what happen’d before upon the law call’d among the Jews, The law of the zealot, which was instituted by Moses in these words:Deut. 13. 6.If thy brother, the son of thy mother—intice thee, saying, Let us go and serve other Gods—thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death—and afterwards the hand of all the people. By this law it is plain that, as to the true intent thereof, it relates to no other case than that only of idolatry. The execution of the same, according to the Talmud, might be perform’d by any number of the people, being not under ten, either apprehending the party in the fact, or upon the testimony of such witnesses as had so apprehended him: yet will it not be found to have bin executed by the people, but upon instigation of the priest, as where (they interpreting the law as they list) Stephen is ston’d. Now if the priests could have made the people do as much against Christ, what needed they have gon to Pilat for help? and if they could not, why should we think that the multitude which cry’d out Crucify him, crucify him, should be any other than the great synagog?
However, that it was an oligarchy, consisting of a senat and a presbytery, which not only scourg’d the apostles, but caus’d Christ to be crucify’d, is certain. And so much for the great synagog.
Sect. 8. The model of the Jewish commonwealth.These parts being historically laid down and prov’d, it follows that the cabalistical or Jewish commonwealth was much after this model:
BE the capacity of bearing magistracy, or giving council upon the law, or any part of the law of this commonwealth, in no other than such only as are presbyters.
BE presbyters of two sorts: the one general, the other particular.
BE presbyters general ordain’d by the laying on of hands of the prince of the sanhedrim with the rest of the elders, or presbytery of the same, and by no other court without a licence from the prince of the sanhedrim; and be those ordain’d in this manner eligible by the major vote of the seventy elders into the sanhedrim, or into any other court by the major vote of the elders or presbytery of that court.
BE presbyters particular ordain’d by any court of justice; and be these capable of giving council in the law, or in som particular part of the law, according to the gift that is in them by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
BE all presbyters capable of nomination to the great synagog.
BE the sanhedrim in law made the supreme magistracy or judicatory; and with a juncta of fifty presbyters of their nomination, the great synagog.
BE the great synagog the legislative power in this commonwealth.
Such was the government, where the word of a scribe or doctor was avowedly held to be of more validity than the Scripture; and where the usual appellation of the people, by the doctors and Pharises, was (populus terræ) the rascally rabble.
Regis ad exemplum totus componitur orbis.
Sect. 9. Ordination in the lesser synagog.There were other synagogs for other uses, as those wherin the law was read every Sabbath-day; each of which also had her ruler and her presbytery, with power to ordain others to this capacity.