Who Wrote the Five Books of Moses?

Author: Eduardo Freire Canosa
(University of Toronto Alumnus)


7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

(Judges 2:7-10)

Judges 2:7-10 (above) puzzles. How could the first generation after Joshua son of Nun "not know the LORD nor what he had done for Israel" unless all 22,000 Levites had perished (Numbers 3:39) and the extant Israelites mislaid all records of Moses and Joshua? Had not Moses enjoined his people east of the Jordan in the territory of Moab to remember and to teach the things their eyes had seen to their children and these to theirs? (Deuteronomy 4:7-10, 6:6-9, 11:18-21, 32:45-47).

The assertion of Judges 2:10 implies that the Levites had vanished mysteriously in contravention of Exodus 40:12-16. Else how could the generation after Joshua be unacquainted with the Book of the Law which the Levites were duty-bound to read in the hearing of all Israel every seven years? (Deuteronomy 31:9-13, Ezra 8:1-18). Had the Levites not already demonstrated their zeal for the Lord by slaughtering three thousand apostates? (Exodus 32:25-29).

The assertion of Judges 2:10 implies that all records of Moses and Joshua were mislaid. Yet had not Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people to write the Book of the Law "very clearly" on plaster-coated stones erected on Mount Ebal? (Deuteronomy 27:1-8). Had Joshua not set up twelve memorial stones in the campground at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho? (Joshua 4:19-20).1

Instead of Levites and records vanishing mysteriously it is more logical to brand the story of Moses a fabrication that requires the oblivion cited by Judges 2:10 to address the people's original dismissal of the fresh tale of Moses and Joshua.

The five books of Moses are religious literature similar after a fashion to the Book of Mormon. Despite their persuasive prose, no one can tell where Moses, Joshua, Jarom or Nephi lie buried nor can anybody summon contemporary records of their existence.

The goal of this essay is to find out who wrote the books of Moses and when.

1 Joshua 4:9 disagrees and affirms that Joshua set up twelve memorial stones in the middle of the River Jordan on the very spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. Either twenty-four memorial stones were set up in total or the two different emplacements proves the existence of two different versions of the Book of Joshua.


Clicking on a number will take you to the corresponding chapter right away

  1.    The First Book of Samuel

  2.    King David And His Court

  3.    Book of Psalms

  4.    Leviticus

  5.    Deuteronomy

  6.    The Book of Judges

  7.    The Book of Ruth

  8.    Conclusions

  9.    Appendix 1: The Unreliable Censuses of the Exodus

10.    Appendix 2: What May Have Truly Transpired

1.   The First Book of Samuel

Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, "Come, let us go to the seer," because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.

(1 Samuel 9:9)

1 Samuel 9:9 (above) pleads the books of Moses were written in the era of the prophets because those books never employ the word "seer" whereas they do fourteen times the word "prophet" (Genesis 20:7, Exodus 7:1, 12:6, Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:15-22, 34:10). Samuel was the first prophet after Moses (1 Samuel 3:20).

Since the books of Moses were written in the era of the prophets, the intervening centuries (Judges 2:7-10 to 1 Samuel 9:9) can only be explained in one of two ways: either the memory of the voluminous books of Moses, presumably written down in his day or in Joshua's, was transmitted orally from generation to generation within the bounds of a tiny, anonymous circle of Israelites or the voluminous books of Moses were written from scratch in the era of the prophets.

The ten verses of Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) favour the second hypothesis because her song resembles a psalm, and she did not write another one.

  1. "My heart rejoices in the Lord" resembles "Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 35:9) or "Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 64:10).

  2. "In the Lord my horn is lifted high" resembles "the horns of the righteous will be lifted up" (Psalm 75:10) or "You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox" (Psalm 92:10).

  3. "There is no Rock like our God" resembles "And who is the Rock except our God?" (Psalm 18:31).

  4. "She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away" resembles "He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children" (Psalm 113:9).

  5. "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap" is identical to Psalm 113:7.

  6. "He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor" resembles "he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people" (Psalm 113:8).

  7. "For the foundations of the earth are the Lord's; upon them he has set the world" resembles "He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved" (Psalm 104:5).

  8. "It is not by strength that one prevails" resembles "No warrior escapes by his great strength" (Psalm 33:16).

The compelling conclusion is that a psalmist conceived Hannah's song.

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2.   King David And His Court

King David instituted a ministry of prophesy made up of 288 musicians directed by Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman (1 Chronicles 25:1-7). Asaph is known to have written Psalm 73, but surely he, Jeduthun, Heman and the 288 musicians of the ministry must have composed many more over the thirty-three years of David's monarchy and the first quarter of Solomon's. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman outlived David by more than a decade (2 Chronicles 5:12).

David had three major prophets at hand who heard the word of the Lord. They were Nathan (2 Samuel 7:1-17) Gad (2 Samuel 24:10-12) and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh. Moreover he also had three "seers," Jeduthun (2 Chronicles 35:15) Heman (1 Chronicles 25:5) and Zadok the priest (2 Samuel 15:27).

David then had a highly qualified team to help him write the primitive book(s) of Moses. He also had plenty of spare time, thirty-three years in Jerusalem with a divine assurance of military success everywhere (1 Chronicles 18:1-13).

The protracted survival of David's liturgy underscores his preeminence. Hezekiah purified the Temple 320 years after David's death and stationed his musicians as prescribed by David, Gad and Nathan while the Levites praised the Lord with the words of David and Asaph (2 Chronicles 29:20-30). Josiah celebrated a grand Passover 110 years later and he posted his musicians as David, Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun had prescribed (2 Chronicles 35:15). Jerusalem held a ceremonial thanksgiving for its rebuilt wall ca. 445 B.C.; priests, Levites, singers and gatekeepers acted "according to the commands of David and his son Solomon" (Nehemiah 12:45-46; see also Ezra 3:10).

Three thousand years after David's monarchy religious Jews today still heed the Law of Moses. Yet Judges 2:7-10 (Introduction) assert that the very first generation following Joshua's death no longer remembered it! Evidently the Law of Moses did not originate with Moses or Joshua but with King David and his literate staff of prophets and seers.

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3.   Book of Psalms

Here is found an abstract of the books of Exodus and Numbers.

Psalm 77, attributed to Asaph, mentions on verses 19-20 Moses and Aaron and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-29).

Psalm 78, attributed to Asaph, recalls the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud in the desert (Exodus 13:21-22) the provision of water out of a rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:1-6, Numbers 20:11) the provision of manna (Exodus 16:13-19) the provision of quail (Exodus 16:11-13) the plague visited on the Israelites after they grumbled for meat (Numbers 11:32-33) and the plagues of Egypt. The psalm also takes on the First Book of Samuel: God's rejection of the tabernacle at Shiloh (1 Samuel 4:1-11) and the choosing of David his servant (1 Samuel 16:1-13). This last item argues that Asaph wrote Psalm 78 to eulogize David during the monarchy of Solomon.

Psalm 81, attributed to Asaph, cites "the waters of Meribah" (Numbers 20:1-13).

Verses 6-7 of Psalm 99 bundle Moses, Aaron and Samuel together and make the baffling remark that "they called on the Lord" and that "he spoke to them from the pillar of cloud." Either Samuel is a fictional character like Moses and Aaron or Samuel did exist and was whom Deuteronomy 18:15 pointed to, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him."

Psalm 105 mentions Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Aaron, the plagues of Egypt, the pillar of cloud in the desert, the provision of quail, the provision of manna, the provision of water out of a rock at Horeb and the conquest of the Promised Land. It is almost certain that the ministry of prophesy supervised by David composed Psalm 105 because its verses 1-5 are identical to 1 Chronicles 16:8-12, its verses 7-15 are identical to 1 Chronicles 16:14-22, and 1 Chronicles 16:7 reveals that "David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner."

Psalm 106 recalls the parting of the Red Sea, the demise of Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:1-35) the casting of a golden calf at Horeb (Exodus 32:1-6) the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13) and the response of Phinehas to the plague visited upon the Israelites for worshiping the Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:1-9). Once more the ministry of prophesy supervised by David almost certainly composed Psalm 106 because its verses 47-48 are identical to 1 Chronicles 16:35-36.

Verses 7-8 of Psalm 114 cite the provision of abundant water out of the rock at Horeb.

Psalms 135 and 136 mention the defeat of Sihon king of the Amorites, of Og king of Bashan and of "all the kings of Canaan" (Numbers 21:21-25, 21:33-35). The refrain of Psalm 136, "His love endures forever," hearkens back to David, Asaph and his associates (1 Chronicles 16:34).

Accordingly one may confidently assume that the primitive books of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers were written by King David together with his ministry of prophesy.

Psalm 83 mentions Sisera and Jabin (Judges 4:2) Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 7:25) Zebah and Zalmunna (Judges 8:5). The presence of Assyria among the nations listed on verses 5-8 suggests that Psalm 83, and by extension the Book of Judges, was written during or sometime after the monarchy of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-14).

The following examples imply that many versions of these books were written.

A book of Moses could be altered without remorse because its various editors knew it to be religious literature, not fact.

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4.   Leviticus

Leviticus was written to expound a protocol for the priesthood of Solomon's Temple and to prescribe the regulations governing burnt, grain, sin, guilt, ordination and fellowship offerings. The initial authors of Leviticus sat in the court of King Solomon.

The authors committed legal fraud by insisting that their all-too-human rules were handed down to Moses at the Tent of Meeting (1:1, 3:2, 4:4, 6:16, 8:3, 9:5, 10:9, 12:6, 14:11, 15:14, 16:7, 17:4, 19:21, 24:3) or at Mount Sinai (7:37-38, 25:1, 26:46, 27:34) and therefore enjoyed divine sanction.

In fact Leviticus records the formal resolutions of thirty-four deliberating councils. Their decrees open with the mantra, "The Lord said to Moses" (1:1, 4:1, 5:14, 6:1, 6:8, 6:24, 7:22, 7:28, 8:1, 11:1, 12:1, 13:1, 14:1, 14:33, 15:1, 16:1, 17:1, 18:1, 19:1, 20:1, 21:1, 21:16, 22:1, 22:17, 22:26, 23:1, 23:9, 23:23, 23:26, 23:33, 24:1, 24:13, 25:1, 27:1).

The first council (1:1) naturally enough made haste to expound the rules for burnt, grain and fellowship offerings because offerings were the Levites' sustenance (Deuteronomy 18:1).

The second council (4:1) forgave unintentional sins via the butchering of young bulls or goats. A provision allowed substituting female lambs for female goats (4:32-35, 5:6) presumably after the council realized that some families kept sheep only. This second council also moved to forgive the sin of withholding information improperly if the sinner made a public confession (snitched) and presented a sin offering (5:1). The circumstance of tight-lipped witnesses to an unintentional killing comes to mind (Numbers 35:22-28, Deuteronomy 4:41-43, 19:1-7). The council also let poor people buy and offer doves instead of goats (5:7) or even let them buy and offer "a tenth of an ephah of fine flour" instead of doves in cases of extreme poverty (5:11). These concessions were surely mulled over in the confines of a flourishing market economy, not in the "vast and dreadful wilderness" of an inhospitable desert (Deuteronomy 8:15).

The third council (5:14) couched its resolution in abstruse language, but reading between the lines, it decreed that anyone guilty of cheating the edict of the second council had to offer "a ram from the flock" plus pay a fine worth 20% of the ram's value expressed in "sanctuary shekels." The circumstance of someone pretending to be poor to take advantage of the cheaper sin offerings decreed by the previous council comes to mind. The resolutions of the third council show that the Levites raised and sold rams to the faithful, ran a bank and minted their own currency. The third council also abrogated the sin offering of a female goat (4:27-28) and replaced it with "a ram from the flock" of the "proper value" (5:17-18).

The fourth council (6:1) exacted this same penalty (to offer a ram from the flock) for cheating a neighbour, keeping lost-and-found items, swearing falsely or committing "any such sin that people may do." Levitical greed or penury is evident here.

The fifth council (6:8) reminded priests to char the discarded fat and meat portions of an offering; it also enjoined a priest and his family to eat the grain offerings "in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting" (i.e., the courtyard of the Temple) probably to forestall the hoarding of grain for subsequent sale in the black market.

The sixth council (6:24) applied the same constraint to sin offerings. More importantly this council imposed the death penalty on "unclean" partakers of a fellowship offering (7:20). This first resort to capital punishment betrays a widespread flouting of the rules (cf. Deuteronomy 17:8-13).

The seventh council (7:22) extended the death penalty to eating the fat of cattle, sheep or goats or the blood of any bird or animal.

The eighth council (7:28) reserved the savoury portions of a fellowship offering for the priests. It also declared that the regulations governing burnt, grain, sin, guilt, ordination and fellowship offerings were now complete, but since the ninth council (8:1) set the rules for an ordination offering, the chronological order of the councils here got rumpled.

The tenth council (11:1) defined "clean" and "unclean" food. The exclusion of perfectly edible food (e.g., catfish) forced people to consume a diet that provided income and sustenance to the religious caste.

The eleventh council (12:1) commanded every woman who gave birth to present a year-old lamb for a burnt offering plus one dove for a sin offering. This decree outraged the populace and the second council's leniency was brought forward: "If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons" (12:8).

The twelfth council (13:1) taught priests to examine sores, rashes, boils, burns and white spots on someone's skin solely with a view to branding the affected person "clean" or "unclean"; no medical remedies were forthcoming (cf. Numbers 24:4-9).

The thirteenth council (14:1) called on priests to certify a natural cleansing of "unclean" skin with a disgusting ritual involving two birds and to pronounce the person "clean" eight days later upon the offering of two male lambs, an ewe, three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour and one log of oil (14:10). This was another decree that must have angered the populace deeply. Towing the line of the second council, cheaper alternatives were afforded the poor, but undoubtedly the thirteenth council encouraged the concealment of sores, rashes, boils, burns and white spots.

The fourteenth council (14:33) issued a similar dictate to deal with the presence of mildew in a house. Evidently these councils aimed to raise the income of the religious caste.

The fifteenth council (15:1) prolonged the outrage and proclaimed that every man's "bodily discharge" (undefined) or every woman's period required atonement with a joint sin and burnt offering of two doves.

The sixteenth council (16:1) turned its attention in-house and laid down the rites for the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

The seventeenth council (17:1) tightened the screws on the people once more and enacted the death penalty for slaughtering an ox, lamb or goat without the sanction of a priest.

The eighteenth council (18:1) moved to regulate the sexual mores of society and enumerated seventeen couplings (among them incest, bestiality and male homosexuality) punishable by death. Misplaced verse 18:21, "Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God," appertains to the twentieth council.

The nineteenth council (19:1) reiterated and expanded the commandments of Exodus 20-23. Two novel injunctions, "Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight" (19:13) and "Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity" (19:35) once more tab a flourishing market economy, not the dire straits of vagabonds in a wasteland. Reading between the lines, a considerable number of people was executed for eating the leftovers of a fellowship offering too late (19:5-8). This same council twice ordained keeping the Sabbath (19:2, 19:30), a sure sign it was not kept.

The twentieth council (20:1) reiterated and increased the number of death sentences. Two legal means of execution were stoning and "burning in the fire" (20:14). This council obviously convened after Solomon passed away because it sought to punish the worship of Molech the god of the Ammonites with stoning by the community (20:1-5). King Solomon had turned to Molech in his old age (1 Kings 11:1-7) but who would have dared to suggest then that he ought to be stoned?

The twenty-first council (21:1) laid down general rules of conduct for all priests including the High Priest.

The twenty-second council (21:16) defrocked the blind, lame, disfigured, deformed, crippled or dwarfed men.

The twenty-third council (22:1) added more in-house rules. Reading between the lines, it was normal for priests to own slaves (22:11).

The twenty-fourth council (22:17) ordained that freewill or vow offerings consist of an unblemished male specimen from the cattle, sheep or goats. The attendant reproach, "Do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores," reveals the practice. Withal the council relented perhaps after poor families complained, "You may, however, present as a freewill offering an ox or a sheep that is deformed or stunted, but it will not be accepted in fulfillment of a vow" (22:23).

The twenty-fifth council (22:26) appended three short rules to the burnt and thanksgiving offerings, thereby annulling the eighth council's closure.

The twenty-sixth council (23:1) reaffirmed the Sabbath (nineteenth council) and instituted the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

The twenty-seventh council (23:9) appended the Feast of New Grain. Misplaced verse 23:22 reproduces verse 19:9.

The twenty-eighth council (23:23) instituted the Feast of Trumpets. This council also convened after Solomon passed away because his monarchy celebrated only Unleavened Bread, Weeks (or New Grain) and Tabernacles (2 Chronicles 8:12-13).

The twenty-ninth council (23:26) instituted the Day of Atonement. The chronological order fixed for this council and the sixteenth, which laid down the rites for the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, is disputable.

The thirtieth council (23:33) instituted the Feast of Tabernacles. The chronological order fixed for this council and the twenty-eighth, which instituted the Feast of Trumpets, is questionable because King Solomon celebrated Tabernacles but not Trumpets (2 Chronicles 8:12-13).

The thirty-first council (24:1) commanded the people to supply olive oil for the lamps at the Temple, presumably gratis.

The thirty-second council (24:13) decreed the death penalty for blasphemy or murder and ordained reciprocity for injuring a neighbour and restitution for killing his animal.

The thirty-third or second-last council (25:1) decreed fallow every seventh year and a Jubilee every forty-ninth. It elaborated complex rules for buying or selling real estate ahead of a Jubilee. It proscribed lending money with interest to a fellow Israelite or treating him like a slave, but it condoned the acquisition of foreign slaves (25:44-46). It bears repeating that despite the leadoff justification, "The Lord said to Moses," the deliberations of this thirty-third council tab the activities of a bustling market economy, not the aimless wandering of nomads depicted in the Book of Exodus.

Leviticus 26 is a rehash of Deuteronomy 28.

The thirty-fourth or last council (27:1) fixed the monetary equivalence of persons vowed to the Lord and empowered priests to set the monetary equivalence of animals, houses or fields vowed to the Lord. A man could recover his vowed animal, house or field by paying a surcharge of 20%. Reading between the lines, the fear of repression (read the twentieth council) must have triggered many reluctant vows to the Lord.

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5.   Deuteronomy

The first three chapters of Deuteronomy retell the approach of the Israelites to the River Jordan after rambling forty years across a "vast and dreadful desert, a thirsty and waterless land with its venomous snakes and scorpions" (8:15). The story was first told in the Book of Numbers. Deuteronomy's replay with minor variations is an attempt to build further on the foundation of Exodus and Numbers.

Repetition plagues the opening chapters of Deuteronomy (e.g., 6:8, 11:18; 6:9, 11:20; 12:15-18, 12:20-27) probably due to insertions made by many editors down through the centuries.

The fourth chapter of Deuteronomy delivers an elegant sermon on idolatry. However Moses' long-winded speech in the desert east of the Jordan is unrealistic for the speaker is a hundred and twenty years old and the audience ("all Israel") numbers six hundred thousand men besides women and children.

The fifth chapter reiterates the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:4-22, Exodus 20:1-17). The pace is relaxed, the prose ornate.

Verse 5:14 imparts the humane purpose of the Sabbath, "so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do," parting with the alibi of Exodus 20:11, "the Lord rested on the seventh day."

Verse 5:21 ranks coveting a neighbour's wife first in a list of five prohibited items whereas Exodus 20:17 ranks it second. The modification abets the thesis that Deuteronomy was written after Exodus and that Exodus was written by David's court because the king famously coveted a neighbour's wife (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

Verse 5:22 refutes Exodus 20:18-22 for here Moses says, "and he [the Lord] added nothing more," riveting the commandments of God from the commandments of men which would follow. Verses 9:10-11 confirm that the commandments inscribed on the two stone tablets were God's sole prescription for his covenant with the Israelites.

The seventh chapter of Deuteronomy exhorts the Israelites to exterminate the seven nations of the Promised Land: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (7:1-5). The ninth chapter will append the Anakites (9:2) implying that it belongs to a latter version of Deuteronomy.

The tenth chapter of Deuteronomy digresses from the Book of Exodus. After the people's apostasy Moses ascends Mount Sinai to speak with the Lord a second time. In Exodus 34:10-27 the Lord makes a covenant with him and immediately hands down a few rules proper to the domain of the thirty-four councils postulated on Chapter 4, "Leviticus". In Deuteronomy 10:4-5 the Lord simply rewrites the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets and abstains from imparting council regulations.

Verse 11:24 certifies that Deuteronomy was written during or sometime after the monarchy of Solomon because the verse tries to persuade the reader that Moses prophesied the breadth of Solomon's kingdom (1 Kings 4:20, 2 Chronicles 9:26).

Aside for the thoughtful reader

The Book of Mormon uses the same literary device to impart that Nephi son of Lehi had a vision ca. 600 B.C. concerning the British colonization of the U.S. territory,

12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land. 13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. 14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten. 15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

(1 Nephi 13:12-15)

Deuteronomy 12:11-19 clarify a regulation of the seventeenth council. It was lawful after all to slaughter animals in any town and to eat as much meat as wanted, but the tithes of grain or new wine or oil, the firstborn of herds and flocks and the freewill offerings had to be eaten at the Temple to help feed the Levites. Reading between the lines, many Israelites resented the Levites' authority.

The thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy prescribes the death sentence for attempting to persuade others away from the new religion. No pity or show of mercy toward even one's own brother, son, daughter, wife or closest friend was deemed licit (13:6-10). "Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again" (13:11). This Grand Inquisitor's stance plus Israel's multiple returns to idolatry after David passed away demonstrates that his new religion was so unpopular it had to be stamped on people's minds through the use of state terror and unsparing intimidation.

The fourteenth chapter starts to report many decisions of Levite councils. Here, unfortunately, there is no partition so the result is clutter. Some council resolutions reflect the savage tenor of the times (20:10-14, 21:10-13, 22:23-24, 25:11-12). Others are surprisingly benign (20:1-8, 21:14, 22:1-4, 23:15-16, 23:19-20, 24:5-6, 24:10-15, 24:17-22, 25:4, 25:15-16). A few are superfluous (22:8, 22:10, 23:12-14).

Verses 14:3-20 reiterate the classification of clean and unclean food set forth by the tenth council albeit with two departures. The tenth council ruled that locusts were "clean" food, but Deuteronomy 14:19 states that "all flying insects that swarm are unclean." The tenth council ruled that lizards and rats were "unclean" food, but Deuteronomy 14:3-20 forgo.

Verse 15:4 states that no one in the land will be poor if the Lord's commands are fully obeyed. Withal verse 15:11 states that there will always be poor people in the land. Yet another token of multiple versions.

Verses 15:21-22 and 17:1 recall the twenty-fourth council.

Verses 17:2-7 punish idolatry with stoning to death at the city gate. The word of two witnesses sufficed to convict someone. This horrendous loophole may have been used to blackmail or press false charges against a vulnerable third party (e.g., a wealthy widow).

Verses 17:12-13 stipulate the death sentence for contempt of court or for contemning a ministering Levite. This harsh law reiterates again that David's novel state religion was very unpopular.

Verse 17:14 reproduces the ploy of verse 11:24 and has Moses anticipate 1 Samuel 8:4-5.

Aside for the thoughtful reader

The Book of Mormon uses the same device to foretell the discovery by Prophet Joseph Smith of the inscribed metal plates on Hill Cumorah, and the witness of three men to that effect,

Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein.

(2 Nephi 27:12)

Deuteronomy 17:16-17 were necessarily written after the monarchy of Solomon for he acquired a great number of horses (1 Kings 4:26) took many wives (1 Kings 11:3) and accumulated large amounts of silver and gold (1 Kings 10:14, 10:27).

Verses 18:3-5 recall the eighth council.

Verse 22:5 banning cross-dressing pops up between a block of verses dealing with stray or invalid livestock and another dealing with birds in the nest. This odd placement reveals the verse was inserted hurriedly, reluctantly or contemptuously.

Adultery merits a double death sentence (22:22). Obviously this law passed long after David's monarchy.

Verses 22:23-29 hint that rape was common.

Verse 23:1 pertains to the twenty-second council.

Verses 23:19-20 refer to the thirty-third council.

Verses 23:21-23 become intelligible minding the thirty-fourth council.

Verses 24:8-9 concern the twelfth and thirteenth councils.

The twenty-sixth chapter sets down the ritual for offering first fruits at the Temple. A donor standing before the altar had to recite a standard abstract of the books of Genesis and Exodus (Deuteronomy 26:5-10).

Verses 34:1-6 relate the elusive death and supernatural burial of Moses in an unknown grave. The implausible ending reaffirms that Moses is the fictitious hero of a three-part saga known to us as the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

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6.   The Book of Judges

The Book of Judges has glaring contradictions right off the bat, suggesting that several dispirited authors concocted it.

  1. Joshua is dead on 1:1 but is unaccountably "brought back to life" on 2:6.

  2. The men of Judah annihilate the Jebusites and burn down Jerusalem (1:8). Withal the Benjamites failed to dislodge the Jebusites and these dwell in Jerusalem still (1:21).

  3. Although "the LORD was with the men of Judah," they could not overcome the people of the plains because these had iron chariots (Judges 1:19). Apparently the people of the plains were tougher than Pharaoh's mighty armies (Exodus 14:23-25).

  4. A new champion, "the angel of the LORD," mimics the Lord God of Israel (Judges 2:1-5, Exodus 19) but the double strikes a sedate, prosaic pose.

  5. Israel evicts the Canaanites left and right as a cat would troublesome mice (Judges 1:3-36) but the roles get switched on the flip of an unfriendly card (2:7-16).

  6. The Lord decides to let the nations stay in the land to test the Israelites' faithfulness (2:18-23). Withal he decides to let the nations stay so the Israelites can train for warfare (3:1-2).

The Book of Judges is full of campfire yarns.

The Book of Judges cites six cycles of apostasy. The Lord punished Israelite apostasy with oppression by Aram Naharaim (8 years) Moab (18 years) Hazor (20 years) Midian (7 years) Philistines and Ammonites (18 years) and the Philistines (40 years). Reading between the lines, approximating the might of the foe with the might of Israel, the trend says that Israel was insignificant at the onset of the Book of Judges and at the end merely matched the paltry strength of the Philistines (see Isaiah 14:31). The trend gainsays the massive invasion of the Promised Land recounted in the Book of Joshua.

The Book of Judges spans 410 years, yet it does not write one word about Assyria, Egypt or Elam. Reading between the lines, these major empires shunned the land of Israel because it was sparsely populated and barren.

Judges is unfinished for it does not bridge the gap between Samson son of Manoah and judge Eli of the First Book of Samuel.

Judges 18:30 intimates a time frame for the whole book,

There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land.

This verse was written an indeterminate number of years after Shalmaneser king of Assyria conquered Samaria and deported the Israelites (2 Kings 17:1-6).

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7.   The Book of Ruth

The tale of Ruth is set in the days when the judges ruled (Ruth 1:1), which they did not, because "everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 17:6). The Israelites forsook the Lord and "served the Baals" six times over 111 years of continual apostasy.

A conspicuous marvel in the Book of Ruth is the scriptural mastery of casual onlookers at the gate of Bethlehem. These first told Boaz, "May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel" (Ruth 4:11) and more impressively, "Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah" (Ruth 4:12, Genesis 38:24-30). This marvel alone tabs the Book of Ruth fiction.

Two fundamental contradictions mar the Book of Ruth.

The religious caste could only sanction the heretical Book of Ruth after Moab was forcefully assimilated by Alexander Janneus (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, Chapter 15, par. 4).

Finally the absence of a judge's name in the Book of Ruth suggests it was written ahead of the Book of Judges.1

1 Please notice how smoothly the books of Joshua and 1 Samuel meld without the interposition of Judges and Ruth,
Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendants. And Eleazar son of Aaron died and was buried at Gibeah, which had been allotted to his son Phinehas in the hill country of Ephraim.

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord.

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8.   Conclusions

1. The five books of Moses do not depict historical events or people.

2. The books were not preserved intact with the passage of time; they were edited and augmented.

3. David and his court began writing Genesis, Exodus and Numbers.

4. Solomon and his court started writing Leviticus.

5. The bulk of Deuteronomy was written after the monarchy of Solomon and completed before the days of Elisha.

Additionally it is proposed that:

6. David and his court wrote Joshua.

7. Ruth was written in the monarchy of Alexander Janneus.

8. Judges was written sometime after Ruth.

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9.   Appendix 1: The Unreliable Censuses of the Exodus

The first census was taken on the Desert of Sinai (Numbers 1).

Tribe...Men 20 years old or more and fit for military service.

Judah...74,600; Simeon...59,300; Benjamin...35,400; Ephraim...40,500; Manasseh...32,200; Issachar...54,400; Zebulun...57,400; Naphtali...53,400; Dan...62,700; Asher...41,500; Reuben...46,500 and Gad...45,650.

The total number of men is 603,550 (Numbers 1:46).

Now the probability that the last two digits of eleven independent statistics are zero-zero is 10-22. Consequently the eleven statistics can be assumed to be inflated by a factor of 100.

Gad is the discordant statistic ending in five-zero. The "five-zero" is assumed to be some type of cipher.

A wholesale division by 100 yields: Judah...746; Simeon...593; Benjamin...354; Ephraim...405; Manasseh...322; Issachar...544; Zebulun...574; Naphtali...534; Dan...627; Asher...415; Reuben...465 and Gad...456.

The new total is 6,035 men.

The second census was taken on the plains of Moab (Numbers 26).

Tribe...Men 20 years old or more and fit for military service.

Judah...76,500; Simeon...22,200; Benjamin...45,600; Ephraim...32,500; Manasseh...52,700; Issachar...64,300; Zebulun...60,500; Naphtali...45,400; Dan...64,400; Asher...53,400; Reuben...43,730 and Gad...40,500.

The total number of men is 601,730 (Numbers 26:51).

Thirty-eight years separate the censuses. In the interval Simeon lost 37,100 men and Manasseh gained 20,500. The changes are significant enough to warrant an explanation, but the Bible offers none.

Eleven statistics are again inflated by a factor of 100 and Reuben is now the outlier ending in five-zero.

Division by 100 yields: Judah...765; Simeon...222; Benjamin...456; Ephraim...325; Manasseh...527; Issachar...643; Zebulun...605; Naphtali...454; Dan...644; Asher...534; Reuben...437 and Gad...405.

The new total is 6,017 men.

Conclusion: The revised totals are endorsed by the size of the Babylonian exile which took place 930 years after the second census.

Conjectures: (1) The revised censuses are factual but were done during the monarchies of David and Solomon for the purpose of keeping a stable standing army. (2) Conscripts came from twelve administrative regions artificially labelled "tribes" by David and his court. (3) Simeon's loss of men and Manasseh's gain can be explained by a bureaucratic redefinition of tribal boundaries between censuses. (4) The "five-zero" cipher may have identified a census director by pointing to his tribe.

The two censuses are a post-David attempt to lend credence to the tale of Moses, but how credible can a tale be which bothers to name insignificant kings like Sihon of the Amorites or Og of Bashan and yet omits the paramount name of Pharaoh?

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10.   Appendix 2: What May Have Truly Transpired

The foregoing analysis and the conclusions of Chapter 8 draw a simple picture far removed from the grandeur found in the books of Moses. There was no exodus from Egypt and there was no conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua. Instead the land of Palestine was sparsely populated and barren; its inhabitants were poor migrants and shepherds like the neighbouring people (Genesis 46:31-34, Isaiah 16:1-4). Naturally enough the regional empires overlooked Palestine until they apprised it had amassed some wealth (1 Kings 14:25-26). Pharaoh Shishak was the first emperor to come and plunder (1 Kings 14:25).

Most inhabitants of Palestine were polytheists (1 Kings 11:5-8). They felt comfortable worshiping the gods the more important nations round about revered (Deuteronomy 17:14, 1 Samuel 8:4-5) and they backslid away from imposed monotheism continually (1 Kings 11:28-33, 12:26-33).

A small monotheist sect dwelled in the land of Palestine. Its headquarters was initially at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1, Judges 18:31). There a yearly congress was held (Judges 21:19). The sect followed a doctrine that had originated outside Palestine a long time prior (Deuteronomy 26:5) and which posited a simple set of rules to please the one undescribable God (Exodus 20:3-17). The congregation chiselled that set of rules on two stone tablets (Exodus 34:1-4) and put them inside a chest of acacia wood to be kept as a memento at Shiloh (1 Samuel 4:3-4, Deuteronomy 10:3).

The coffer kept at Shiloh was the genuine "ark of the Lord"; it had no special significance since replicas were easy to make. In contrast the literary "ark of the Lord" contains two stone tablets plus an omer of manna kept in a jar "for the generations to come" (Exodus 16:32-35) plus Aaron's fabulous staff (Numbers 17:1-11). The Bible later admits that there was nothing in the physical ark except the two stone tablets "that Moses had deposited" (1 Kings 8:9).1

The reach of monotheist belief was circumscribed to a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah with another headquarters at Ramah where a conspicuous altar to the Lord had been erected (1 Samuel 7:15-17).

The biblical story of David's rise to power is full of contradictions. Four examples follow.

  1. Samuel anoints Jesse's eighth son David who, being the youngest, is tasked with the menial job of tending sheep (1 Samuel 16:10-12). Withal one of Saul's servants tells the king that David is a brave man and a warrior (1 Samuel 16:18).

  2. David's brothers march off to war against the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:13). Contravening Samuel's recent anointing and the servant's comment, David stays back with "those few sheep in the desert" (1 Samuel 17:28).

  3. Saul hires David as a harpist and armor-bearer (1 Samuel 16:19-23). Withal Saul does not recognize him when David marches out to confront Goliath (1 Samuel 17:55-56).

  4. David slays a champion from Gath named Goliath and becomes instantly famous (1 Samuel 17:50). Withal David twice seeks sanctuary in Gath (1 Samuel 21:10, 27:1-7) where Goliath's brother Lahmi lived! Lahmi also had "a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod" (1 Chronicles 20:5). Later the Bible itself discredits the famous story of David and Goliath when it affirms that Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite slew Goliath the Gittite (2 Samuel 21:19).

All this confusion proves that multiple versions of the books of Samuel existed, and this raises doubts especially about the truthfulness of the First Book of Samuel.

Saul reigned loosely over Israel during forty-two years with a small "army" of raiders (1 Samuel 13:1-2, 2 Samuel 4:2). "Gibeah of Saul" in the territory of Benjamin was his main residence (1 Samuel 15:34, Isaiah 10:29). Saul the king and David the captain became enemies (1 Samuel 22:14). The king thought the other wanted to depose him (1 Samuel 20:30-31). David fled to a cave on the western foothills of the territory of Judah with about four hundred men "who were in distress or in debt or discontented" (1 Samuel 22:2). Then he moved to Ziklag in the desert. More defectors arrived to Ziklag and joined him. David like Saul had a small "army" of raiders (1 Chronicles 12:1-22, 2 Samuel 3:22). After Saul's death David settled in Hebron. There he ruled over the house of Judah (2 Samuel 2:3-4). Ish-Bosheth son of Saul reigned over the remainder of Israel for two years (2 Samuel 2:10) until he was murdered by two former commanders of his father's army (2 Samuel 4:1-8).

David was a member of the monotheist sect, Saul was not (1 Samuel 22:6-21, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, 13:3). Saul did not impose monotheist belief on his subjects. David eventually did. On the day that King David took the "ark of the Lord" in triumphal procession to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:1) he committed a psalm to Asaph and his associates that gave thanks to "the Lord," and thenceforth the Lord became "the God of Israel" (1 Chronicles 16:13-14, 16:36).

Chapter 2 established that David had a highly qualified team to write the original book(s) of Moses with. The motivation for elaborating a national Israelite myth was to justify the worship of a national Israelite god. Every neighbouring city-state, people or nation had its patron god. The Sidonians had the goddess Astoreth, the Ammonites had Molech, the Moabites had Chemosh, the Philistines of Ashdod had Dagon, the Philistines of Ekron had Baal-Zebub. And every god was associated with a myth, native or foreign. It was natural therefore to endow the newly established national god of Israel with its own national myth. King David and his court sat down to the task and wrote a magnificent report, the original version of the three books known to us as Genesis, Exodus and Numbers.

1 Regarding the literary "ark of the Lord," the Book of Judges ignores it completely except for one short explanatory note (Judges 20:27-28) inserted a posteriori. The ark becomes irrelevant marooned at Kiriath Jearim for twenty years (1 Samuel 7:1-2). Its next residence is fuzzy: King Saul has it in Gibeah of Benjamin (1 Samuel 14:16-19) and King David finds it in Baalah of Judah (2 Samuel 6:1-3). A suspicious note (1 Chronicles 13:6) equates Baalah of Judah with Kiriath Jearim, conveniently papering over the disparity. David restores the ark to short-lived stardom (2 Samuel 7:1-3) although Gibeon the most important high place remains a rival shrine until King Solomon finishes the Temple in the eleventh year of his reign (1 Kings 3:2-4, 6:37-38).

The Bible mentions the "ark of the Lord" last when Solomon adduces it to justify his building a palace for Pharaoh's daughter (2 Chronicles 8:11). Five years after Solomon's death Pharaoh Shishak raided Jerusalem and carried off all the treasures in the city (1 Kings 14:25-26). Back in Egypt the ark was most likely dismantled and its gold recycled in a smelter.

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When I Was a Child in Ferrol, Spain (1953-65)