By Paul Johnson

A countrywide bestseller, this terrific 4000 12 months survey covers not just Jewish background yet he effect of Jewish genius and mind's eye at the international. by way of the writer of Modern occasions: the area From the Twenties to the Eighties.

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Moses commanded Joshua to ‘go out, fight with Amalek’, while he himself stood ‘on top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand’. Aaron and Hur held up the old prophet’s hands to encourage the warriors, ‘and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. ’124 Just ISRAELITES / 43 before his death, Moses transferred the leadership to Joshua and ‘set him over the congregation’ at a solemn public ceremony. ’125 Thus Joshua began and to a great extent completed the conquest of Canaan. He may not have commanded all the Israelites, at any rate at the beginning.

135 That is what helps to give the land its extraordinary fascination and beauty. But it also tended to perpetuate tribal divisions and impede unity. The Israelite tradition, already strongly entrenched, of equality, communal discussion, acrimonious debate and argument, made them hostile to the idea of a centralized state, with heavy taxes to pay for a standing army of professionals. They preferred tribal levies serving without pay. The Book of Judges, covering the first two centuries of the settlement, gives the impression that the Israelites had more leadership than in fact they were prepared to tolerate.

Pharaonic slavery was, in a sinister way, a distant adumbration of Hitler’s slave-labour programme and even of his Holocaust: there are disturbing parallels. So the Exodus was an act of political separation and resistance; but it was also, and above all, a religious act. For the Israelites were distinct, and were seen and feared by the Egyptians as distinct, precisely because they rejected the whole weird and teeming pantheon of Egyptian gods, and the entire spirit of Egyptian spirituality, which in its own way was as intense and all-pervasive as the dawning religion of Israel.

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