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hand of Moses and Aaron, and bring them, according to his promise, to their land of rest. "'*
"Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more. and mightier than we. Come on, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters, to afflict them with their burdens."t Thus was active oppression added to secret prejudice and antipathy, to keep the people effectually separated from the Egyptians; and thus was literally fulfilled that portion of the prophecy, which said to Abraham, 'thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them.' ”‡
The circumstances of their deliverance out of this bondage, are detailed with incomparable sublimity in the early chapters of the book of Exodus; where we find an awfully literal fulfilment of the next clause of the prophecy,-"And also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge." It was soon after this deliverance, and during their passage through the wilderness, towards the promised land, that the circumstances already mentioned, connected with our text, occurred; and prophecy again marked them out as a people separate, and to continue separate. "Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”
Much of the prophecy given to Abraham had now received its literal fulfilment. The people were increased into a great nation: they had been in a strange land, serving strangers; the predicted period of their affliction had expired; they were delivered, and their enemies destroyed; and now it only remained that they should be put in full possession of the land of Canaan. It is remarkable, that after so many particulars of the prophecy had been fulfilled to the letter, the people should have hesitated, or evinced any sceptical feeling respecting the remainder. But they did so; and the faithfulness with which their murmuring is recorded, is no small internal testimony to the honesty of the author of the Pentateuch. §
+ Exod. i. 6-11.
+ Gen. xv. 13.
It has been objected, that had such stupendous miracles been performed before their eyes, they could never have murmured against a leader so divinely authenticated, and that, consequently, the fact of their murmuring proves that they never saw the miracles.
To this we reply, first, that there would indeed be some appearance of force
The congregation generally received, with culpable willingness, the evil report of the land, brought back by the majority of the spies; and they said, "Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt." And when Joshua and Caleb resisted that evil report, and declared, on the contrary, that the land was an exceeding good land, a land which flowed with milk and honey, all the congregation bade stone them with stones. The anger of the Lord was kindled against the congregation, and he sware in his wrath that they should not enter into the land. Their unbelief, however, could not render the faithfulness of God of none effect: the promise was sure to the seed of Abraham; some must enter in; and the Lord said to Moses, "Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.**
In the accomplishment of this part of the prophecy, we again see the special providence of God, in preserving the people separate. They were delayed in Egypt and in the wilderness till the iniquity of the Canaanites was completely full: that is, till it was a righteous thing in God, who had given those nations warning, and time for repentance, now at last to destroy them, either by famine, or pestilence, or earthquake, or by the hand of man. This last was his purpose, and he employed the Israelites in the dreadful mission.
When they entered the land, therefore, they were commanded utterly to destroy the inhabitants, sparing neither sex nor age; and thus their separation, as a people dwelling alone, was secured. And when one of the nations of the land deceived them into a league, so that they could not destroy them without breach of faith, they resolved upon a mode of treatment which would equally secure their national separation: they degraded them into a state of perpetual servitude; making them hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the accommodation of the congregation.†
in the objection, if the fact of the murmuring had been suppressed by Moses, and had reached us from some other source. But as it is, the narrator of the miracles is the narrator of the murmuring also; removing even the appearance of fraud.
And, secondly, we reply, that they know but little of human nature, who imagine that even the clearest intellectual conviction (and miracles can produce nothing more) will ever exercise a permanent practical power over man's character.
* Numb. xiv.
+ Joshua ix.
Together with establishment in their own land, they had now fresh elements of separation among them. The ordinances of the tabernacle worship, which had been instituted in the wilderness, with express and repeated injunctions to continue them in the land, served as a hedge by which the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts was surrounded, and fenced from the world.
Pausing, then, and contemplating the nation at this period. of their history, we make these two important observations.
First, the literal interpretation of the prophecies given to Abraham was proved, by the events, to be the true one.
And, secondly, a rich provision was made for the continued literal fulfilment of the prophecy of Balaam-Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
III. The voice of prophecy, which had so long and so frequently pronounced blessings upon the Hebrew nation, had now raised a counter tone; and the Lord had declared, by Moses, their dispersion and desolation. On this part of the subject the 28th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy should be carefully studied. No selection of quotations can convey any adequate idea of that celebrated prophecy. The same infallible voice had given utterance to the still more remote purposes of Jehovah concerning the nation; and restoration, free pardon, and final glory, were the animating themes. this point the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy is as clear and explicit, though not so copious, as is the 28th chapter on the desolation. It does not belong to our present purpose to enter into any detailed examination of these prophecies: it is sufficient to observe, that such of the Israelites as paid due attention to the predictions delivered to Abraham, comparing them with their literal fulfilment, had every reason to expect a similarly literal fulfilment of those delivered by Moses. Moses proclaimed two leading branches of the purpose of God, respecting the Jewish nation;-1. Desolation, long and dreary. Restoration, complete and glorious. Under these two heads nearly all the subsequent prophecies concerning the nation might be perspicuously arranged; with this remarkable difference, however, in the distribution; that whereas, in the predictions of Moses, a manifest superiority in stress and copiousness is given to the afflictive side of the prophecy; in David, Isaiah, and the other prophets, the case is just the reverse. The tribulation is indeed described by them all, but only as enduring for a night; while the exuberance of the prophecy is reserved for the joy of the succeeding morning. A train is laid under the nation, ready to explode, and scatter them to the four winds; while, at the same time, an everlasting arm is described as stretched forth around the ruins, all powerful to preserve, to restore, to rebuild, in permanent magnificence.
In confirmation of this, it would be easy to adduce from all the prophets a multitude of passages, parallel to the 28th and 30th chapters of Deuteronomy: but our attention is, for the present, to be restricted to some of those predictions, concerning the nation, which have already been avowedly fulfilled.
IV. Subsequently to the establishment of the Israelites in Canaan, a period of four hundred years elapsed, without any event permanently affecting the affairs of the nation. "Israel served the Lord, all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel."* The next ages degenerated: their compliances with the idolatrous customs of the surrounding nations, provoked the Lord their God to anger, and brought down frequent and severe chastisements upon them. They were given successively into the hands of their enemies, the king of Mesopotamia, the king of Moab, the king of Canaan, the king of Midian, the king of the Philistines, and served them. But still they were kept separate; and in their troubles, when they called upon the Lord, he heard them, and raised up deliverers for them, one after another-Othniel, and Ehud, and Barak, and Gideon, and Samson, by whom he brought them out of all their distresses, without any internal change in their national constitution. During this period, there seems to have been a cessation of prophecy, if we except the song of Deborah: and that song has been deemed prophetic, more, perhaps, on account of a parallelism of expression in one clause of it, with a passage in the 68th Psalm, than because of any actual prediction contained in it.†
V. The next period of the history of Israel was marked by a great and national change-the introduction and establishment of the regal government. I pass over the anointing of Saul to be king, which was done by special directions from God to Samuel, without what can properly be called a prophecy. The same may be said of the call of David to the throne: but after his appointment, the settlement of the crown in his family became the subject of clear and copious prediction. The first king of the nation had been of the tribe of Benjamin; the second was of the tribe of Judah; and there was nothing in the existing state of affairs, independent of prophecy, to give satisfaction to the people, on the subject of the succession to the throne of David, or the establishment of the royal dynasty. Prophecy supplied this want, accurately defining and limiting the succession of the crown in David's family. (2 Sam. vii. 12-17. 1 Chron. xvii. 11-27.) It is scarcely possible to + Judges v. 12, comp. Psal. lxviii. 18.
* Joshua xxiv. 31.
comment upon this prophecy, without adverting to what has been well called, the double sense; as it is scarcely possible to read it (comparing it with Heb. i. 5.) without perceiving that a greater than Solomon is here. But it is the primary and temporal sense alone, to which we are now to advert, and that for the single purpose of marking its strictly literal fulfilment. The prophecy declares a perpetuity of dominion to be enjoyed by the seed of David: "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever." The fulfilment of this declaration, in the full and absolute meaning of the terms, is reserved (as I shall endeavour to prove in its proper place) for that king of the Jews, who was born of the house of David, according to the flesh; and concerning whom, the angel Gabriel proclaimed at his birth, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." But in its application to the typical kingdom of David, and his successors, "the expression for ever conveys, according to an acknowledged principle of scriptural criticism, the idea of an age or dispensation; an unbroken perpetuity for a given time; holding on through a period or system of things, to which a reference is understood to be made." Here, the system of things to which reference is made, is the regal government of Judah. "So long as kings shall reign in Jerusalem, the throne shall be filled by a man of the house and lineage of David."
The prophecy thus understood was fulfilled to the letter. Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, &c., son after father in regular succession, occupied the throne of David in
"Scripture prophecy is so framed in some of its predictions, as to bear a sense directed to two objects; of which structure the predictions concerning the kingdom of David furnish a conspicuous example; and. I should say, an unquestionable one, if the whole principle of that kind of interpretation had not been by some disputed and denied. But the principle has met with this ill acceptance, for no better reason, it should seem, than because it has been injudiciously applied in cases where it had no proper place; or has been suspected, if not mistaken, in its constituent character, as to what it really is. The double sense of prophecy, however, is of all things the most remote from fraud or equivocation, and has its ground of reason perfectly clear. For what is it? Not the convenient latitude of two unconnected senses, wide of each other, and giving room to a fallacious ambiguity; but the combination of two related, analogous and harmonizing, though disparate subjects, each clear and definite in itself; implying a twofold truth in the prescience, and creating an aggravated difficulty, and thereby an accumulated proof, in the completion." -Davison, pp. 210, 211.
+ St. Luke i. 32, 33. The propriety of giving a literal interpretation to these verses, is placed in a striking point of view, by quoting the preceding verse in the angel's address to Mary: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus." Is the literal interpretation of verse 31 correct? And why not of verses 32 and 33?