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[214] I will now treat of what I before omitted, the garment of the high priest: for he [Moses] left no room for the evil practices of [false] prophets; but if some of that sort should attempt to abuse the Divine authority, he left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased, and when he pleased to be absent. 1 And he was willing this should be known, not to the Hebrews only, but to those foreigners also who were there. For as to those stones, 2 which we told you before, the high priest bare on his shoulders, which were sardonyxes, (and I think it needless to describe their nature, they being known to every body,) the one of them shined out when God was present at their sacrifices; I mean that which was in the nature of a button on his right shoulder, bright rays darting out thence, and being seen even by those that were most remote; which splendor yet was not before natural to the stone. This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy, as to despise Divine revelation. Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God's being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks, who had a veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this, called that breastplate the Oracle. Now this breastplate, and this sardonyx, left off shining two hundred years before I composed this book, God having been displeased at the transgressions of his laws. Of which things we shall further discourse on a fitter opportunity; but I will now go on with my proposed narration.

1 Of this strange expression, that Moses "left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased, and when he pleased to be absent," see the note on B. II. against Apion, sect. 16.

2 These answers by the oracle of Urim and Thummim, which words signify, light and perfection, or, as the Septuagint render them, revelation and truth, and denote nothing further, that I see, but the shining stones themselves, which were used, in this method of illumination, in revealing the will of God, after a perfect and true manner, to his people Israel: I say, these answers were not made by the shining of the precious stones, after an awkward manner, in the high priest's breastplate, as the modern Rabbins vainly suppose; for certainly the shining of the stones might precede or accompany the oracle, without itself delivering that oracle, see Antiq. B. VI. ch. 6. sect. 4; but rather by an audible voice from the mercy-seat between the cherubims. See Prideaux's Connect. at the year 534. This oracle had been silent, as Josephus here informs us, two hundred years before he wrote his Antiquities, or ever since the days of the last good high priest of the family of the Maccabees, John Hyrcanus. Now it is here very well worth our observation, that the oracle before us was that by which God appeared to he present with, and gave directions to, his people Israel as their King, all the while they submitted to him in that capacity; and did not set over them such independent kings as governed according to their own wills and political maxims, instead of Divine directions. Accordingly we meet with this oracle (besides angelic and prophetic admonitions) all along from the days of Moses and Joshua to the anointing of Saul, the first of the succession of the kings, Numbers 27:21; Joshua 6:6, etc.; 19:50; Judges 1:1; 18:4-6, 30, 31; 20:18, 23, 26-28; 21:1, etc.; 1 Samuel 1:17, 18; 3. per tot.; 4. per tot.; nay, till Saul's rejection of the Divine commands in the war with Amalek, when he took upon him to act as he thought fit, 1 Samuel 14:3, 18, 19, 36, 37, then this oracle left Saul entirely, (which indeed he had seldom consulted before, 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Chronicles 10:14; 13:3; Antiq. B. 7 ch. 4 sect 2.) and accompanied David, who was anointed to succeed him, and who consulted God by it frequently, and complied with its directions constantly (1 Samuel 14:37, 41; 15:26; 22:13, 15; 23:9, 10; 30:7, 8, 18; 2 Samuel 2:1; 5:19, 23; 21:1; 23 :14; 1 Chronicles 14:10, 14; Antiq. B IV ch. 12 sect. 5). Saul, indeed, long after his rejection by God, and when God had given him up to destruction for his disobedience, did once afterwards endeavor to consult God when it was too late; but God would not then answer him, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, 1 Samuel 28:6. Nor did any of David's successors, the kings of Judah, that we know of, consult God by this oracle, till the very Babylonish captivity itself, when those kings were at an end; they taking upon them, I suppose, too much of despotic power and royalty, and too little owning the God of Israel for the supreme King of Israel, though a few of them consulted the prophets sometimes, and were answered by them. At the return of the two tribes, without the return of the kingly government, the restoration of this oracle was expected, Nehemiah 7;63; 1 Esd. 5:40; 1 Macc. 4:46; 14:41. And indeed it may seem to have been restored for some time after the Babylonish captivity, at least in the days of that excellent high priest, John Hyrcanus, whom Josephus esteemed as a king, a priest, and a prophet; and who, he says, foretold several things that came to pass accordingly; but about the time of his death, he here implies, that this oracle quite ceased, and not before. The following high priests now putting diadems on their heads, and ruling according to their own will, and by their own authority, like the other kings of the pagan countries about them; so that while the God of Israel was allowed to be the supreme King of Israel, and his directions to be their authentic guides, God gave them such directions as their supreme King and Governor, and they were properly under a theocracy, by this oracle of Urim, but no longer (see Dr. Bernard's notes here); though I confess I cannot but esteem the high priest Jaddus's divine dream, Antiq. B. XI. ch. 8. sect. 4, and the high priest Caiaphas's most remarkable prophecy, John 11:47-52, as two small remains or specimens of this ancient oracle, which properly belonged to the Jewish high priests: nor perhaps ought we entirely to forget that eminent prophetic dream of our Josephus himself, (one next to a high priest, as of the family of the Asamoneans or Maccabees,) as to the succession of Vespasian and Titus to the Roman empire, and that in the days of Nero, and before either Galba, Otho, or Vitellius were thought of to succeed him. Of the War, B. III. ch. 8. sect. 9. This, I think, may well be looked on as the very last instance of any thing like the prophetic Urim among the Jewish nation, and just preceded their fatal desolation: but how it could possibly come to pass that such great men as Sir John Marsham and Dr. Spenser, should imagine that this oracle of Urim and Thummim with other practices as old or older than the law of Moses, should have been ordained in imitation of somewhat like them among the Egyptians, which we never hear of till the days of Diodorus Siculus, Aelian, and Maimonides, or little earlier than the Christian era at the highest, is almost unaccountable; while the main business of the law of Moses was evidently to preserve the Israelites from the idolatrous and superstitious practices of the neighboring pagan nations; and while it is so undeniable, that the evidence for the great antiquity of Moses's law is incomparably beyond that for the like or greater antiquity of such customs in Egypt or other nations, which indeed is generally none at all, it is most absurd to derive any of Moses's laws from the imitation of those heathen practices, Such hypotheses demonstrate to us how far inclination can prevail over evidence, in even some of the most learned part of mankind.

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