Moses usurped Judea as the Goths usurped a part of the empire. (Discourses, book 2 chapter 9)
When people are oppressed with famine, war, or servitude in their country, oftentimes they go to conquer other countries, wherein they change their name. As the people of Israel, being oppressed with servitude in Egypt, under the conduct of Moses, occupied a part of Syria, which he called Judea; even as the Goths and Vandals occupied the western empire. Likewise the Maurusians, an ancient people of Syria, perceiving the Hebrews coming with great power from Egypt and feeling themselves not strong enough to resist them, abandoned their country and withdrew into Africa, where they conquered ground and chased away the natural inhabitants. This may be proved by the authority of the historian Procopius, who wrote in the life of Bellisarius that he read the inscription on certain pillars written in the country of the Maures in Africa: Nos Maurisci, qui fugimus a facie Fosu latronis filis Nave: that is to say, We are the Maricians who fled before the face of Fosu, the chief son of Nave.
This atheist, having before said that Moses was made prince of the Hebrews by his own virtue and by arms, will now persuade that he was a thief and usurper of another country, without any title or reason, and that he seized upon Judea as the Goths and Vandals did Lombardy, Spain, and other countries of the Roman Empire. I have before protested, as I do sill, that it grieves me much to defile my paper with such filthy speeches; yet the more am I vexed that the ears and eyes of so many people should be occupied in reading and hearing things evil sounding, and so far from all piety and verity. But it is necessary to discover the doctrine and the doctor of our courtiers at this day, who think that the damnable books of this atheist should serve for rules to conduct affairs of state, as the stern serves to guide a ship. To refute then this maxim, we know that the land of Judea was first called the land of Canaan, having taken that name from Cain the son of Noah, who dwelled there after the deluge and was the first stock of the Canaanites in that country. One part of that land was called Palestine, which name it took from the Philistines, a people coming from Philistim, Noah’s nephew, who were a mighty and strong people of that land, and who had the government of the other people of the country. One part also of that land of Canaan was called Judea, of the name of Judah, who was chief of the twelve patriarchs of the children of Jacob, from whence came the people of Israel. We do not read that in the time of Moses this country was called Syria, for at that time the country which afterwards men called Syria was called the land of Aram, who was the son of Shem, the son of Noah. Although those who came after, under the name of Syria, comprised the country of Assyria, which in Moses’ time was called the land of Assur, also the son of Shem. And therefore is manifestly seen the beastliness and ignorance of Machiavelli when he says that Moses usurped a part of Syria, seeing the name of Syria was not yet invented, much less comprised the land of Canaan. But what could a simple secretary of the town of Florence either have read or seen except the registers of the town-house? But good authors, Greek or Latin, he never read, as is easy to judge by his writings, wherein he cites no story to enrich his work but the bad and slender examples of the Genoese, the Florentines, the pope, the Duke of Milan, and of other such like petty potentates of Italy. He sometimes cites some words out of Livy, but to so little purpose as may be. Moreover it is known that the land of Canaan was promised many times by God to Abraham and his seed, as is seen in Genesis; and that Abraham dwelled there, and his race after him, after he departed from his nephew Lot, unto the time that Jacob and his family were by famine constrained to retire into Egypt. Should we then say that when the Hebrews returned from Egypt to dwell in their original land, which was promised to them by God (master of heaven and earth), that they were usurpers, like the Goths and Vandals? Nay contrary, they were the just and true possessors thereof, and with good right expulsed and drove out the Canaanites, occupiers thereof, who usurped from them the land of their education, which God had promised and assigned to them for a heritage.
And as for what he alleges of the Mauritanians, it is a very fable; for the names of all such nations that were vanquished by Moses and Joshua are plainly set down in their books, but there is not found the name of Mauritanians, neither is there found written in any good author that in the land of Canaan there ever dwelled any nation called Mauritanians. And as for that nation of Africa called Mauritania, it never came out of the country of Palestine, but out of Media; by the corruption of tongues these people were called Maures of Medes, as Sallust says, who is a more credible author than this beast Machiavelli, who says that the Mauritanians of Africa came from ancient Syria.
And as for that inscription Nos Maurusi, etc., cited by Machiavelli out of Procopius, true it is that Procopius says that in Numidia in Africa the Mauritanians built a town called Tinge, and there set up two pillars of white stone, where they put the said inscription in the Phoenician language. But Procopius does not say that he either saw or read the said inscription engraved on the pillars. And it is not likely to be true that they could have endured entire and whole from the time of Joshua till the time of Procopius, 2500 years or more, seeing the wars and devastations occurring during that time in Africa and all parts of the world. Other authors who speak of the affairs of Africa, far more authentic and ancient than Procopius, do not note the said inscription. It is also absurd to say that the Mauritanians would make known to their posterity that they were cowards, flying before their enemies without any resistance. Absurd also to say that in one town they should set up two pillars for one same thing, but rather to immortalize the memory of their flight they would have erected two pillars in places distant from each other, to the end that if one perished the other might remain. But we need not be abashed by Procopius, who was a rhetorician, a sophist, and a Greek (three qualities yielding to presumption), that he might be too light and forward, and feign too much touching that inscription. For in the same place he says that the Mauritanians, a people of Phoenicia, abandoned their country and went to dwell in Africa, flying before Joshua and the people of Israel; and further, that they were a people composed of the Jebusites, Gessurians, and other people named in the Bible. But the Bible refutes him therein, for it is written that neither the Jebusites nor the other Canaanites were driven out of their country by the Hebrews, but were made their tributaries. And therefore to conclude this point, neither Machiavelli nor Procopius (his great author) is therein more to be credited than the rabbis’ dreams, which hold that the Romans sprung from the Judeans, and the Germans from the Canaanites. Yet let this be said, not in any way to diminish the credit and authority of Procopius, who notwithstanding I confess is well to be believed in the history which he has written touching the wars made in his time by the emperor Justinian and his lieutenants Belisarius, Narces, and others.