A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson

By Paul Johnson

A countrywide bestseller, this awesome 4000 yr survey covers not just Jewish background yet he impression of Jewish genius and mind's eye at the global. via the writer of contemporary instances: the realm From the Twenties to the Eighties.

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The first code, discovered among texts in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul, dates from about 2050 BC, the work of Ur Nammu, ‘king of Sumer and Akkad’, the Third Dynasty of Ur. This states, among other things, that the god Nanna chose Ur Nammu to rule, and he got rid of dishonest officials and established correct weights and measures. Abraham must have been familiar with its provisions. Another code, which Abraham may have known too, dates from about 1920 BC: two tablets now in the Iraq Museum, from the ancient kingdom of Eshnuna, written in Akkadian, list about sixty property regulations laid down by the god, Tiskpak, and transmitted through the local king.

He illustrates the fact, which great historians have always recognized, that mankind does not invariably progress by imperceptible steps but sometimes takes a giant leap, often under the dynamic propulsion of a solitary, outsize personality. That is why the contention of Wellhausen and his school that Moses was a later fiction and the Mosaic code a fabrication of the post-Exilic priests in the second half of the first millennium BC—a view still held by some historians today—is scepticism carried to the point of fanaticism, a vandalizing of the human record.

But there was no need; it is all in the record. Perhaps the most convincing aspect of the Biblical presentation is the way in which it shows Moses as hesitant and uncertain almost to the point of cowardice, mistaken, wrong-headed, foolish, irritable and, what is still more remarkable, bitterly conscious of his shortcomings. ’73 Lack of articulation is about the last disqualification a lawgiver and statesman will admit. Still more striking are the images of Moses as an isolated, rather desperate and inefficient figure, struggling with the burdens of a huge role he has reluctantly accepted but grimly seeks to discharge.

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