Creation of Magistrates.
I. Some persons have contended that all magistracies ought to have the officers appointed to them by lot; which however is a mode of proceeding not advantageous for the multitude, for the casting of lots shows good fortune, but not virtue; at all events many unworthy persons have often obtained office by such means, men whom, if a good man had the supreme authority, he would not permit to be reckoned even among his subjects: for even those who are called lesser rulers by some persons, those whom men entitled masters, do not admit every one whom they can possibly find to be their servants, whether born in the house or bought with money; but they will only take those who are obedient, and at times they sell all those of incurably bad dispositions in a lot, as not being worthy to be the slaves of good men.
Therefore it is not right to make men masters and rulers of entire cities and nations, who obtain those places by lot, which is a sort of blunder on the part of fortune, which is an unstable and fickle thing. Beyond all question, casting of lots can have no connection with ability to attend upon the sick; for physicians do not obtain their employments by lot, but because their experience is approved of; again, with reference to the successful voyage and safety of men at sea, it is not any man who may obtain the office of pilot by lot, who is sent at once to the stern to steer the vessel, and who then by his ignorance may cause a needless wreck in calm and tranquil weather, but that person has that charge given to him who, from his earliest youth, appears to have learnt and carefully studied the business of a pilot; this is a man who has made many voyages, and who has traversed every sea, or at all events most seas, and who has carefully ascertained the character of all the marts, and harbors, and anchorages, and places of refuge in the different islands and continents, and who is still better, or at all events not worse acquainted with the tracks over the sea, than he is with the roads on land, through his accurate observation of the heavenly bodies; for having remarked the various motions of the stars, and having followed and being guided by their regular revolutions, he has learnt to be able to make out for himself an unerring and easy path through the pathless waste of waters, so that (what seems the most incredible of all things), beings whose nature it is to live on the land are able to traverse the sea which can only be crossed by sailing.
And if any one should be about to undertake the government or regulation of large and populous cities, full of inhabitants, and should attempt to settle the constitution of such, and should undertake the superintendence of private, and public, and sacred affairs, a task which any one may rightly call the art of arts, and the science of sciences, he would not trust to the uncertain chances of time, passing over the accurate and trustworthy test of truth; and the test of truth is proof combined with reason.
II. The all-wise Moses seeing this by the power of his own soul, makes no mention of any authority being assigned by lot, but he has chosen to direct that all offices shall be elected to; therefore he says, "Thou shalt not appoint a stranger to be a ruler over thee, but one of thine own brethren [Deuteronomy 17:15]," implying that the appointment is to be a voluntary choice, and an irreproachable selection of a ruler, whom the whole multitude with one accord shall choose; and God himself will add his vote in favor of, and set his seal to ratify such an election, that being who is the confirmer of all advantageous things, looking upon the man so chosen as the flower of his race, just as the sight is the best thing in the body.
III. And Moses gives also two reasons, on account of which it is not proper for strangers to be elected to situations of authority; in the first place, that they may not amass a quantity of silver, and gold, and flocks, and raise great and iniquitously earned riches for themselves, out of the poverty of those who are subjected to them; and secondly, that they may not make the nation quit their ancient abodes to gratify their own covetous desires, and so compel them to emigrate, and to wander about to and fro in interminable wanderings, suggesting to them hopes of the acquisition of greater blessings, which shall never be fulfilled, by which they come to lose those advantages of which they were in the secure enjoyment. For our lawgiver was aware beforehand, as was natural that one who was a countryman and a relation, and who had also an especial share in the sublimest relationship of all, (and that sublimest of relationships is one constitution and the same law, and one God whose chosen nation is a peculiar people); so that he would never offend in any manner similar to those which I have been mentioning, but, on the other hand, instead of causing the inhabitants to quit their abodes, he would be likely even to afford a safe return to such of his countrymen as were dispersed in a foreign land; and instead of taking away the property of others, he would even give his own property to those who were in need of it, making his own wealth common.
IV. And from the first day on which any one enters upon his office, he orders that he shall write out a copy of the book of the law [Deuteronomy 17:18] with his own hand, which shall supply him with a summary and concise image of all the laws, because he wishes that all the ordinances which are laid down in it shall be firmly fixed in his soul; for while a man is reading the notions of what he is reading fleet away, being carried off by the rapidity of his utterance; but if he is writing they are stamped upon his heart at leisure, and they take up their abode in the heart of each individual as his mind dwells upon each particular, and settles itself to the contemplation of it, and does not depart to any other object, till it has taken a firm hold of that which was previously submitted to it. When therefore he is writing, let him take care, every day, to read and study what he has written, both in order that he may thus attain to a continual and unchangeable recollection of these commands which are virtuous and expedient for all men to observe, and also that a firm love of and desire for them may be implanted in him, by reason of his soul being continually taught and accustomed to apply itself to the study and observance of the sacred laws.
For familiarity, which has been engendered by long acquaintance, engenders a sincere and pure friendship, not only towards men, but even also towards such branches of learning as are worthy to be loved; and this will take place if the ruler studies not the writings and memorials of some one else but those which he himself has written out; for his own works are, in a certain degree, more easily to be understood by each individual, and they are also more easily to be comprehended; and besides that a man, while he is reading them, will have such considerations in his mind as these: "I wrote all this; I who am a ruler of such great power, without employing any one else as my scribe, though I had innumerable servants. Did I do all this, in order to fill up a volume, like those who copy out books for hire, or like men who practice their eyes and their hands, training the one to acuteness of sight, and the others to rapidity of writing? Why should I have done this? That was not the case; I did it in order that after I had recorded these things in a book, I might at once proceed to impress them on my heart, and that I might stamp upon my intellect their divine and indelible characters: other kings bear sceptres in their hands, and sit upon thrones in royal state, but my sceptre shall be the book of the copy of the law; that shall be my boast and my incontestible glory, the signal of my irreproachable sovereignty, created after the image and model of the archetypal royal power of God.
"And by always relying upon and supporting myself in the scared laws, I shall acquire the most excellent things. In the first place equality, than which it is not possible to discern any greater blessing, for insolence and excessive haughtiness are the signs of a narrow-minded soul, which does not foresee the future.
"Equality, therefore, will win me good will from all who are subject to my power, and safety inasmuch as they will bestow on me a just requital for my kindness; but inequality will bring upon me terrible dangers, and these I shall escape by hating inequality, the purveyor of darkness and wars; and my life will be in no danger of being plotted against, because I honor equality, which has no connection with seditions, but which is the parent of light and stability. Moreover, I shall gain another advantage, namely, that I shall not sway this way and that way, like the dishes in a scale, in consequence of perverting and distorting the commandments laid down for my guidance. But I shall endeavor to keep them, going through the middle of the plain road, keeping my own steps straight and upright, in order that I may attain to a life free from error or misfortune."
And Moses was accustomed to call the middle road the royal one, inasmuch as it lay between excess and deficiency; and besides, more especially, because in the number three the center occupies the most important place, uniting the extremities on either side by an indissoluble chain, it being attended by these extremities as its body-guards as though it were a king.
Moreover, Moses says that a long-enduring sovereignty is the reward of a lawful magistrate or ruler who honors equality, and who without any corruption gives just decisions in a just manner, always studying to observe the laws; not for the sake of granting him a life extending over many years, combined with the administration of the commonwealth, but in order to teach those who do not understand that a governor who rules in accordance with the laws, even though he die, does nevertheless live a long life by means of his actions which he leaves behind him as immortal, the indestructible monuments of his piety and virtue.
V. And it becomes a man who has been thought worthy of the supreme and greatest authority to appoint successors who may govern with him and judge with him, and, in concert with him, may ordain everything which is for the common advantage; for one person would not be sufficient, even if he were ever so willing, and if he were the most powerful man in the world, both in body and soul, to support the weight and number of affairs which would come upon him, as he would faint under the pressure and rapidity of all kinds of business coming in upon him continually every day from all quarters, unless he had a number of persons selected with reference to their excellence who might co-operate with him by their prudence, and power, and justice, and godly piety, men who not only avoid arrogance, but even detest it as an enemy and as the very greatest of evils.
For these men would stand by, and assist, and co-operate with a virtuous and holy man, one who hated evils equally with themselves, and would be the most suitable persons to lighten and relieve his labors. And, besides, since of the matters which would force themselves upon his attention, some are of greater importance and others of less, the chief will very reasonably commit those which are more unimportant to his lieutenants, while he himself would of necessity become the most accurate judge of the weightier matters. But the affairs which we ought to look upon as the most weighty are not, as some persons think, those in which persons of reputation are at variance with other persons of reputation, or rich men with rich men, or princes with princes; but, on the contrary, are rather where there are powerful men on one side, and private individuals, men of no wealth, or dignity, or reputation, on the other, men whose sole hope of escaping intolerable evils lies in the judge himself.
And we can find clear instances of both kinds in the sacred laws, which it is well for us to imitate; for there was once a time in which Moses, alone by himself, decided all causes and all matters of legal controversy, laboring from morning till night. But after a time his father-in-law came to him, and seeing with what a weight of business he was overwhelmed, as all those who had any disputes were everlastingly coming upon him, he gave him most excellent advice, counselling him to choose subordinate magistrates, that they might decide the less important affairs, and that he might have only the more serious causes to occupy him, and by this means provide himself with time for rest. [Exodus 18:14.] And Moses, being convinced by the arguments of Jethro (for, indeed, they were for his good), having chosen the men of the highest reputation in the whole nation, he appointed them his lieutenants and judges, bidding them refer the more important cases to him.
And the history of the sacred laws contains this arrangement duly recorded, for the instruction of the rulers in all succeeding generations, that, in the first place, they may not despise the assistance of fellow counsellors, as if they were able of themselves to superintend everything, since that all-wise and godly man, Moses, did not reject them; and, secondly, that they may learn to choose subordinates of the second class and of the third class, so as to provide for themselves not being driven to neglect matters of greater importance, through being wholly occupied by affairs of a more trifling nature; for it is impossible for human nature to attend to everything at once.
VI. We have here mentioned one example of what we before alluded to. We must now add an instance of the second kind. I said that the causes of men of humble condition were important; for the widow, and the orphan, and the stranger are powerless and humble. And it is right that the supreme King should be the judge in their case, the Ruler who has the supreme authority over the whole nation; since, according to Moses, even God, the Ruler of the universe, did not exclude them from the provisions of his laws; for when Moses, that holy interpreter of the will of God, is raising a hymn in praise of the virtues of the living God in these terms, "God is great and mighty, one who is no respecter of persons, and who does not take gifts to guide him in his judgment [Deuteronomy 10:17]," he adds, in whose case it is that he gives judgment, not in the case of satraps, and tyrants, and men who have the power by land and sea, but he gives judgment respecting the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow.
In the case of the first, because he has made his own kinsmen, whom alone it was natural for him to have as allies and champions, his irreconcilable enemies, by quitting their camp and taking up his abode with the truth, and with the honor of the one Being who is entitled to honor, abandoning all the fabulous inventions and polytheistic notions which his fathers, and grandfathers, and ancestors, and all his kindred, who cleave to the beautiful settlement which he has forsaken, were wont to honor.
In the case of the second, because he is deprived of his father and mother, his natural defenders and protectors, and by consequence of the only power which was bound to show itself as his ally.
And lastly, in the case of the woman who is a widow because she has been deprived of her husband, who succeeded her parents as her guardian and protector; for a husband is to his wife in point of relationship what her parents are to a virgin. And one may almost say that the whole nation of the Jews may be looked upon in the light of orphans, if they are compared with all other nations in other lands; for other nations, as often as they are afflicted by any calamities which are not of divine infliction, are in no want of assistance by reason of their frequent intercourse with other nations, from their habitual dealings in common. But this nation of the Jews has no such allies by reason of the peculiarity of its laws and customs. And their laws are of necessity strict and rigorous, as they are intended to train them to the greatest height of virtue; and what is strict and rigorous is austere. And such laws and customs the generality of men avoid, because of their inclination for and their adoption of pleasure.
But, nevertheless, Moses says that the great Ruler of the universe, whose inheritance they are, does always feel compassion and pity for the orphan and desolate of this his people, because they have been dedicated to him, the Creator and Father of all, as a sort of first-fruits of the whole human race. And the cause of this dedication to God was the excessive and admirable righteousness and virtue of the founders of the nation, which remain like undying plants, bearing a fruit which shall ever flourish to the salvation of their descendants, and to the benefit of all persons and all things, provided only that the sins which they commit are such as are remediable and not wholly unpardonable.
Let not any one then think that nobility of birth is a perfect good, and therefore neglect virtuous actions, considering that that man deserves greater anger who, after he has been born of virtuous parents, brings disgrace on his parents by reason of the wickedness of his disposition and conduct; for if he has domestic examples of goodness which he may imitate, and yet never copies them, so as to correct his own life, and to render it healthy and virtuous, he deserves reproach.
VII. The law also forbids, by a most just and reasonable prohibition, the man who has undertaken the care and government of the common interests of the state, to behave with treachery among the people [Leviticus 19:16]; for a treacherous disposition is the mark of an illiberal and very slavish soul, which seeks to overshadow its real nature by hypocrisy; for, in reality, a ruler ought to stand up in defense of his subjects as a father would in defense of his children, that he may be honored by them as if they were his own real children; on which account good rulers are the common parents of their cities and nations, if one may say the plain truth, displaying equal, and sometimes even superior, good will to them; but those men who acquire great power and authority to the injury and damage of their subjects, ought to be entitled, not rulers, but enemies, inasmuch as they are acting the part of implacable foes.
Not but what those who injure one treacherously are even more wicked than those who oppose one openly, since it is possible to repel the one without difficulty, as they display their hostility without disguise; but the evil-mindedness of the others is difficult to detect and hard to unveil, being like the conduct of men on the stage, who are clothed in a dress which does not belong to them, in order to conceal their real appearance.
But there is a kind of pre-eminence and superior authority, which I had almost said pervades every part of life, varying only in respect of magnitude and quantity; for what the king of a city is, that also is the first man in a village, and the master of a house, and a physician among the sick, and a general in his camp, and an admiral with respect to his crew and to his passengers, and a captain of a ship in regard to merchant vessels and transports, and a pilot among common sailors, every one of whom has power to make things either better or worse. But they ought to wish to conduct themselves in everything for the best, and the best is to use all their energies to assist people and not to injure them; for this is to act in imitation of God, since he also has the power to do either good or evil, but his inclination causes him only to do good. And the creation and arrangement of the world shows this, for he has summoned what had previously no being into existence, creating order out of disorder, and distinctive qualities out of things which had no such qualities, and similarities out of things dissimilar, and identity out of things which were different, and intercommunion and harmony out of things which had previously no communication nor agreement, and equality out of inequality, and light out of darkness; for he is always anxious to exert his beneficent powers in order to change whatever is disorderly from its present evil condition, and to transform it so as to bring it into a better state.
VIII. Therefore it is right for good rulers of a nation to imitate him in these points, if they have any anxiety to attain to a similitude to God; but since innumerable circumstances are continually escaping from and eluding the human mind, inasmuch as it is entangled among and embarrassed by so great a multitude of the external senses, as is very well calculated to seduce and deceive it by false opinions, since in fact it is, as I may say, buried in the mortal body, which may very properly be called its tomb, let no one who is a judge be ashamed to confess that he is ignorant of that of which he is ignorant, for in the first place the man who is deceived becomes worse than he was before, because he has expelled truth from the confines of his soul; in the second place, he will do exceeding mischief to those on whose causes he is deciding by delivering a blind decision in consequence of his not seeing what is just.
When, therefore, he does not clearly comprehend a case by reason of the perplexed and unintelligible character of the circumstances which throw uncertainty and darkness around it, he ought to decline giving a decision, and to send the matter before judges who will understand it more accurately. And who can these judges be but the priests, and the ruler and governor of the priests? For the genuine, sincere worshippers of God are by care and diligence rendered acute in their intellects, inasmuch as they are not indifferent even to slight errors, because of the exceeding excellence of the Monarch whom they serve in every point.
On which account it is commanded that the priests shall go soberly [Leviticus 10:9] to offer sacrifice, in order that no medicine such as causes men to err, or to speak and act foolishly may enter into the mind and obscure its vision, and perhaps because the real genuine priest is at once also a prophet, having attained to the honor of being allowed to see the only true and living God, not more by reason of his birth than by reason of his virtue. And to a prophet there is nothing unknown, since he has within himself the sun of intelligence, and rays which are never overshadowed, in order to a most accurate comprehension of those things which are invisible to the outward senses, but intelligible to the intellect.
IX. Again, merchants and pedlars, and people in the market, and all those who deal in things necessary for life [Leviticus 19:36], and who in consequence are conversant with measures, and weights, and balances, since they sell things both dry and wet, are put in subjection to the superintendents of the market, and these superintendents are bound to govern them if they act with moderation, doing what is right, not out of fear, but voluntarily, for spontaneous good conduct is in every case more honorable than that which proceeds from compulsion.
On which account the law orders these merchants and dealers, and all other persons who have adopted this way of life, to take care to provide themselves with just balances, and measures, and weights, not practicing any wicked maneuvers to the injury of those who purchase of them, but to do and say everything with a free and guileless soul, considering this, that unjust gains are injurious, but that that wealth which is acquired in accordance with justice a man cannot be deprived of; and since wages are offered to artisans as a reward for their work, and since it is people in want who are artisans, and not men who have an abundance of wealth, the law commands that the payment of their wages shall not be delayed, but that their employers shall pay them the wages agreed upon the same day that they are earned [Deuteronomy 24:15]; for it is absurd for the rich to avail themselves of the services of the poor, and yet for those who live in plenty and affluence not at once to give the poor the proper remuneration for those services. Are not these things very conspicuous instances to teach us to guard against greater offenses? For he who will not allow a payment which is sure to be eventually repaid to be delayed beyond the proper time, fixing the evening of the day for the time on which the artisan, at his return home, is to carry his wages home with him, does not he much more by such a commandment prohibit rapine and theft, and the repudiation of debts, and all things of that sort, fashioning and molding the soul according to the approved characteristics of virtue and piety?
X. Also this commandment is given with exceeding propriety [Leviticus 19:14], which forbids anyone from blaspheming and speaking ill, especially of a deaf man, and of one who is unable to perceive by the aid of his outward senses the injuries which are done to him, nor to retaliate in an equal manner under similar circumstances; for that is the most iniquitous conflict of all, in which the one side is considered only in acting, and the other only in suffering; and those who speak ill of the dumb, or of people whose sense of hearing is defective, are committing the same offenses as those who put stumbling blocks in the way of the blind, or who offer other obstacles to their progress; for in this case also it is impossible for the blind to step over the obstacles, as they are not aware of their existence, so they stumble over them, and both are hindered in their progress and hurt their feet. Accordingly, with great propriety and fitness, does the law threaten those who devise and execute wickedness of this kind with punishment at the hand of God; since he alone holds his protecting hand over and defends those who are unable to protect themselves, and all but says in plain words to those who injure the innocent, "O foolish minded men, do you expect to escape detection while turning the misfortunes of those men into ridicule, and committing offenses against those very parts in respect of which they are unfortunate, attacking their ears by false accusations, and their eyes by putting stumbling blocks in their path? But you will never escape the notice of God, who sees everything and governs everything, while you insult in this manner the calamities of miserable men, so as to avoid meeting with similar distresses yourselves, inasmuch as your bodies are also liable to all kinds of diseases, and your outward senses are susceptible of injury and mutilation, being such as, by a very slight and ordinary cause, they are often not only impaired, but crippled by incurable mutilations.
Why then should those who forget themselves, and who in their arrogance fancy that they themselves are superior to the ordinary natural weakness of mankind, and that they are out of the reach of the invisible and unexpected attacks of fortune, which often aims sudden blows at all people, and which has often wrecked men, who up to that moment had enjoyed a prosperous voyage through life, when they had almost arrived in the very harbor of ultimate happiness, why, I say, should such men triumph in and insult the misfortunes of others, having no respect for justice, the ruler of human life, who sits by the side of the great Ruler of the universe, who surveys all things with sleepless and most piercing eyes, and sees what is in recesses as clearly as if it was in the pure sunlight?
It seems to me that these men would not spare even the dead, in the extravagance of their cruelty, but, according to the proverb so commonly quoted, would even slay the slain over again, since they in a manner think fit to insult and ill treat those members of them which are already dead; for eyes which do not see are dead, and ears which are devoid of the power of hearing are devoid of life; so that if the man himself to whom these members belong, were to be extinct, they would then show their merciless and implacable nature, doing no humane or compassionate action, such as is shown to the dead, even by their enemies in irreconcilable wars. And this may be enough to say on this subject.
XI. After this the lawgiver proceeds to connect with these commandments a somewhat similar harmony or series of injunctions; commanding breeders not to breed from animals of different species; not to sow a vineyard so as to make it bear two crops at once; and not to wear garments woven of two different substances, which are a mixed and base work. Now the first of these injunctions we have already mentioned in our treatise on adulterers, in order to make it more evident, that our people ought not to be anxious for marriages with foreigners, corrupting the dispositions of the women, and destroying also the good hopes which might be conceived of the propagation of legitimate children. For the lawgiver, who has forbidden all copulation between irrational animals of different species, appears to have utterly driven away all adulterers to a great distance. And we must now speak again of this rule in this our treatise on justice.
For we must take care not to pass over the opportunity of adapting it to as many particulars as possible. It is just then to bring together those things which are capable of union; now animals of the same species are by nature capable of union, as, on the other hand, all animals of different species are incapable of any admixture or union, and the man who brings unlawful connections to pass between such animals is an unjust man, transgressing the ordinances of nature; but that which is the really sacred law takes such exceeding care to provide for the maintenance of justice, that it will not permit even the ploughing of the land to be carried on by animals of unequal strength, and forbids a husbandman to plough with an ass and a heifer yoked to the same plough, lest the weaker animal, being compelled to exert itself to keep up with the superior power of the stronger animal, should become exhausted, and sink under the effort; and the bull is looked upon as the stronger animal, and is enrolled in the class of clean beasts and animals, while the ass is a weaker animal and of the class of unclean beasts; but nevertheless he has not grudged those animals which appear to be weaker, the assistance which they can derive from justice, in order, as I imagine, to teach the judges most forcibly, that they are never in their decisions to give the worse fate to the humbly born, in matters the investigation of which depends not on birth but on virtue and vice.
And resembling these injunctions is the last commandment concerning things yoked in pairs, namely, that it is unlawful to wear together substances of a different character, such as wool and linen; for in the case of these substances, not only does the difference prevent any union, but also the superior strength of the one substance is calculated rather to tear the other than to unite with it, when it is wanted to be used.
XII. The commandment which came in the middle of the three injunctions about pairs, was that one was not to sow a vineyard so as to make it bear two crops at the same time; the object of this law being, in the first place, that those things which are of different species might not be confused by being mixed together; for crops grown from seed have no connection with trees, nor trees with crops grown from seed; on which account nature has not appointed to them both the same time for the production of their fruits, but has assigned to the one the spring as the season of their harvest, while to the others it has appointed the end of summer, as the season for the gathering of their fruits; accordingly, it happens that at the same period of the year the one are becoming withered having been in bloom at an earlier time, while the others are just budding having been dried up before; for the crops which are produced from seed begin to flourish in the winter, when the trees are losing their leaves; and in the spring, on the contrary, when all the crops which are produced from seed are drying up, the wood of all trees, whether wild or improved by cultivation, are shooting; and one may almost say, that the period in which the crops which are produced from seed come to perfection is the same as that in which those of the trees derive the beginning of their productiveness.
Very naturally therefore, has God separated things so wholly different from one another, both in their natures and in the period of their flowering, and in the seasons of their producing their appropriate fruits, and has appointed different situations for them, producing order out of disorder; for order is closely connected with arrangement, and disorder with a want of arrangement.
And in the second place, in order that the two different species may not go through a reciprocal system of inflicting and suffering injury, because of one kind drawing away the nourishment from the other kind, while if that nourishment is divided into small portions, as happens in times of famine and of scarcity of necessaries, all plants of every kind will in every place become weak, and will be either afflicted with barrenness, becoming utterly unproductive, or at all events will never bear tolerably fine fruit, inasmuch as they have been previously weakened by want of nourishment.
And in the third place, in order that the naturally fertile land may not be oppressed with burdens beyond its strength, partly by the continued and uninterrupted thickness of the crops which are sown, and of the trees which are planted in the same place, and partly by the doubling of the crops, which are exacted from the ground; for it ought to be quite sufficient for the owner to draw one yearly tribute from one spot, just as it is sufficient for a king to receive his tribute from a city once a year; and to endeavor to extract larger revenues is the act of exceeding covetousness, by which all the laws of nature are attempted to be overturned.
For which reason the law might well say to those who have determined to sow their vineyards with seed out of pure covetousness; "Do not you be worse than those kings who have subdued cities with arms and warlike expeditions, for even they, from a prudent regard for the future and from a proper wish to spare their subjects, are content to receive one payment of tribute each year, as they are desirous not to reduce them utterly to the very extremity of want and distress in a short time; but if you in the spring exact from the same piece of ground crops of barley and of wheat, and in the summer the crops from the fruit-bearing trees, you will be exhausting it by a double contribution; for then it will very naturally grow faint and fail, like an athlete, who is never abroad any time to take breath and to collect his strength for the beginning of another contest.
"But you seem rashly to forget those precepts of general advantage which I enjoined you to observe. For, at all events, if you had recollected the commandment concerning the seventh year, in which I commanded you to allow the land to remain fallow and sacred, without being exhausted by any agricultural operation of any kind, by reason of the labors which it has been going through for the six preceding years, and which it has undergone, producing its crops at the appointed seasons of the year in accordance with the ordinances of nature; you would not now be introducing innovations, and giving vent to all your covetous desires, be seeking for unprecedented crops, sowing a land fit for the growth of trees, and especially one planted with vines, in order by two crops every year, both being founded in iniquity, to increase your substance out of undue avarice, amassing money by lawless desires."
For the same man would never endure to let his land lie fallow every seventh year without exacting any revenue from it, for the sake of not having his land exhausted by over-production, but of allowing it to recover itself by rest, and yet at the same time to oppress and overwhelm it by double burdens; therefore I have judged it necessary to pronounce all acquisition or exaction of wealth in this way unholy and impious; I mean the production of the fruit of trees, and of such crops as are derived from seed, because such fertility does in a manner exhaust and destroy the vivifying principle in the good soil, and, because too, by requiring so much, the owner of the land is insulting and abusing the bounty and liberality of God, giving full reins to his unrighteous desires, and not restraining them by any limits.
Ought we not, then, to feel an attachment to such commandments as these, which tend to restrain us from and to remove us to a great distance from the acts of covetousness, which are common among men, blunting the edge of the passion itself? For if the private individual, who, in the matter of his plants, has learnt to renounce all unrighteous gain, if he should acquire power in weightier matters and become a king, would adopt the same practice towards men and women, not exacting twofold tributes from them, not exhausting his subjects with taxes and contributions; for the habits in which he has been brought up would be sufficient for him, and would be able to soften the harshness of his disposition, and in a manner to educate him, and to re-mold him to a better character. And that is a better character which justice impresses upon the soul.
XIII. These, then, are the laws which he appoints to be observed by each individual. But there are other commandments of a more general nature of which he enjoins the observance to the whole nation in common, recommending them to attend to them, not only with regard to their own friends and allies, but also to those who are unconnected with their alliance. For if, says Moses [Deuteronomy 20:1], they shut themselves up within their walls and make their necks stiff, then let your young men arm themselves well, and being provided with all the preparations necessary for war, go forth and fortify their camp all around, and watch in expectancy, not indulging their anger so as to neglect reason, but taking care to apply themselves to what must be done firmly and strenuously. Let them, therefore, at once send out heralds to invite the enemy to an agreement, and at the same time let them display the power and considerable character of the force which is encamped; and if the enemy, repenting of the evil designs which they had conceived, submit and turn to peace in any manner, then let the people gladly receive them and make a truce with them; for peace, even though it be very unfavorable, is more advantageous than war.
But if they persevere in their folly, and push it further, acting with audacity, then let our people display vigorous confidence, relying also on the invincible alliance of justice, and so let them advance, placing their destructive engines against the walls, and when they have made a breach in some part of them let them all enter in together; and shooting with their spears with correct aim, and brandishing their swords, and slaying the enemies all around, let them repel them unshrinkingly, inflicting upon them what they were intended to suffer themselves, until they have overthrown the whole army arrayed against them, every man of them, and taken their silver, and their gold, and all the booty. And let them bring fire against their city, and burn it so that it may never, after an interval of rest, again raise its head and excite wars and tumults, with the view also of terrifying and warning the neighboring states, since it is by the calamities of others that men are taught to act with moderation.
But let them suffer the maidens and the women to go free, inasmuch as they did not expect to suffer any of the evils which war brings upon men at their hands, as they are exempt from all military service through their natural weakness.
From all which it is plain that the nation of the Jews is allied with and friendly to all those who are of the same sentiments, and all who are peaceful in their intentions; and that it is not to be despised as one that submits to those who begin to treat it with injustice out of cowardice; but when it goes forth to defend itself, it distinguishes between those who are habitually plotting against it and those who are not; for to be eager to slay all men, and even those who have committed but slight offenses, or no offenses at all against one, I should call the conduct of an inhuman and pitiless soul, as it would be also to treat women as if they were an addition to the men who carry on war, when their way of life is naturally peaceful and domestic.
But our lawgiver implants such a love of justice in all men who live under the institution which he has established, that he does not permit them to injure the fertile land of even an hostile city by ravaging it, or by cutting down the trees, so as to destroy the crops. "For why," says he, "do you bear a grudge against inanimate things, which are in their nature quiet, and which produce wholesome fruits? Does the tree, my friend, display the hostile spirit of a man that is an enemy, so that you are to tear it up by the roots in retaliation for the evils which it has inflicted, or which it has designed to inflict upon you? On the contrary, it assists you, bestowing on you, when you are victorious, an abundance of necessary food, and of supplies which conduce to rendering life happy and luxurious; for it is not men alone who contribute revenues to their lords, but plants offer even more useful tribute at the fixed seasons of the year, a tribute without which man cannot live." But there is no prohibition against their cutting down those trees which are barren and unproductive, and which are not cultivated for food, for the purpose of making staves, or poles, or posts, or fences; and, when occasion requires, ladders, and engines, and wooden towers; for the chief use of these kinds of trees is for such and other similar purposes.
XIV. We have now enumerated the matters which belong to justice; but as for justice itself, what poet or orator could celebrate it, in worthy terms, since it is beyond all panegyric and all praise? At all events, there is one most important good thing belonging to it, which, even if one were to pass over and be silent about all its other parts, would be an all-sufficient panegyric on it; for this is the principle of equality, which is, as those who have accurately investigated the secrets of nature have handed down to us, the mother of justice; and equality is a light which is never shaded; the sun (if one must speak the plain truth) appreciable by the intellect alone, since inequality, on the contrary, in which that which is superior and that which is inferior are both found, is the beginning and source of darkness; it is equality which, by its unchangeable laws and ordinances, has arranged, in their present beautiful order, all the things in heaven and earth; for who is there who does not know this fact, that the days are measured in due proportion to the nights, and the nights in due proportion to the days, by the sun, according to the equality of proportionate distances?
Nature, therefore, has marked out those periods in every year, which are called the equinoxes, from the state of things which exists at that time, namely, the spring and the autumnal equinox, with such distinctness, that even the most illiterate persons are aware of the equality which then exists between the extent of the days and of the nights. Again, are not the periods of the moon, as she advances and retraces her course, from a crescent to a full circle, and again, from a complete orb to a crescent, also measured by an equality of distances? For as great and as long as the period and amount of her increase is, so also is her diminution, in both respects, as to magnitude and duration, as to the number of days and the size of her orb.
And as, in that purest of all essences, heaven, equality is honored with especial honors, so also is she in the neighbor of heaven, the air. For as the year is portioned out into four divisions, the air is formed by nature to endure changes and alterations at what are called the seasons of the year, and it displays an indescribable regularity in its irregularity; for as the atmosphere is divided by an equal number of months into winter, and spring, and summer, and autumn, it completes the whole year by allotting three months to each season; as, in fact, the very name of the year ('eniautos') intimates. For it in itself ('autos en auto') contains everything, being complete in itself, though otherwise it would not be able to effect this, if it were not aided by the regular revolutions of the seasons of the year.
Again, this same equality extends from the heavenly bodies, and from those which are raised on high, to the things upon earth, raising on high its own pure nature, which is akin to the air, and sending downwards its beams like the sun, as a sort of secondary light, for all the things which are inharmonious or irregular among us are caused by inequality, and all those which have in them that regularity which becomes them are the work of equality, which, in the universal essence of the universe, one may fairly call the world, and in cities one may entitle it that best regulated and most excellent of all constitutions, democracy, and in bodies health, and in souls virtue.
For, on the contrary, inequality is the cause of diseases and wickednesses; and the existence of the longest lived man of the human race would fail, if he were to attempt to enumerate all the praiseworthy qualities of equality, and of its offspring, justice. In consequence of which it seems to me to be best to be satisfied with what has already been said, which may be sufficient to rouse up the recollection of those persons who are fond of learning, and to leave the remaining circumstances unwritten in their souls, as divine images in a most sacred place.