Among the marks of God's word, none is more impressive or important than the design which the Holy Spirit was pleased to stamp indelibly on the various books individually and on the entire collection as a whole; and this not only on the O.T. and the N. T. separately, but on both as forming what we, Christians at least, call the Bible. There are faults of transcription in the Hebrew as in the Greek. There are shortcomings and errors of translation in ancient as in modern versions. There are yet more abundantly mistakes in the commentaries from the earliest extant down to our own day. But all these flaws together, though some may congeal the witness of a detail, cannot deface to the instructed eye of the believer (save in a very small degree) the exquisite beauty of the Scriptures, "For ever singing as they shine, The hand that made us is divine." And this is as much above the orbs of the sky, of which one of our own poets used the words, as what is material sinks below the expression of God's word, mind, gracious affections, and glorious purposes, for His children and His people, and all the nations too, which find their centre, their aim, and their accomplishment in Christ the Son of His love and the Lord of all.
That unbelief fails to hear God in His word goes without saying. So Scripture itself testifies; and such is its experience since it was written and diffused in every age, land, and tongue. Nor could it be otherwise with man fallen into alienation from God as a race. "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God," says the apostle to the Romans (Rom. 8:7). The world by wisdom knew not God," writes he to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:21). Who can wonder when he reads the overwhelming words to the Ephesians (Eph. 2:1-3)? "And you, being dead in your offences and sins, in which ye (Gentiles) walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we (Jews) all too had once our conversation in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest." "And you, being once alienated and enemies in mind by your wicked works," writes he to the Colossians (Col. 1:21). There is therefore innate repugnance to God and His word in every child of Adam. Hence the absolute necessity of being born anew, as our Lord assured Nicodemus (John 3:3-5): "Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And if they believed not when He told them the earthly things, how would they believe if He were to tell them the heavenly things? For God's kingdom embraces both, Christ being the Heir of all things, already set on high, as He will soon be manifested Head over them all.
But all this, and, yet more, the ground of it in His personal glory and in the efficacious work of reconciliation through His death, are unknown to and scorned by the haughty unbelief of man. This sees in the scripture (say of the Pentateuch, the very foundation of the O.T. and no less maintained as divine in the N.T.) only a patch-work of antique human legends which do not even agree, if not an imposture, at least a romance put together as a whole in Samuel's or even Josiah's day if not later still. But so abominable a fraud is the baseless imputation of old English Deists, burnished up to date by the mischievous ingenuity and the ponderous learning of their modern successors, chiefly in Germany and Holland, to say nothing of their English-speaking disciples.
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they and have done abominable iniquity; there is none that doeth good. God looked down from the heavens upon the sons of man to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are together become corrupt; there is none that doeth good, not even one" (Ps. 53:1-3). So it is that those self-styled "higher" but really sceptical critics treat His word. They exclude God from the authorship of the Scriptures. Not one of them honestly accepts the Lord's ruling by the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3:16): "every scripture is God-inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction that is in righteousness." It is a sentence expressly affirming divine inspiration, not for the writers only but of every whit, even to be written, as Scripture. So he had already spoken of the O. T. in ver. 15, distinguished by a different term so as to lend the greater emphasis; thus he takes in every part of what grace was supplying as God's latest communication. Of course the word that Timothy knew applies to what was written of old; for the Scriptures, like other boons from God, are committed to the care of His own, ever liable to fail in keeping intact, and duly understanding, and conveying to others, the holy deposit. To remove such human intrusions is the legitimate function of the critic; so that the reader may have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In no other book but the Bible is this found; no, nor in all others put together.
Now the neo-critics start with the preliminary lie that the Scriptures are in no real sense the word of God. They hence deprive themselves and their followers of all confidence in what is written, where no question arises of its primitive text. As they do not truly believe in God's inspiring any Scripture, so still less if possible do they look for His revelation of Himself in it, either in its wondrous unity, or in each part consistently and perfectly contributing to that grand end; and this throughout the varied dealings of God with man, before sin came in, and afterwards, when there was neither the law of God, nor the government of man ordained by Him; when the promises to the fathers were made, and when the law was given by Moses to their sons; when the Levitical system was introduced, and the shadows of the coming good things accompanied it; when the judges followed till Samuel, and kings were set up; when the prophets became more distinct and pronounced, developing on God's part what Moses predicted more generally, from the first judgment of Israel, then of Judah's idolatrous departure and every other from Jehovah, "till there was no remedy;" and times of the Gentiles began by His people becoming Lo-ammi (not-My-people), and the world-power given meanwhile to the Four Empires. Under the Fourth or Roman was sent the Messiah, presented too with every evidence of grace, truth, and power of God in humiliation, but for this very reason rejected by all, even and worst of all by the Jewish remnant which had returned under the Second empire from captivity in Babylon. Thus was fulfilled the word of the prophets, both in God found by Gentiles that sought Him not, and in the Jews losing their place for the time as a rebellious people to whom He had spread out His hands all the day. Compare Isaiah 65:1-2, with Rom. 10:20-21.
Hence the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the Only-begotten Son of God, brought out not only the lost and evil state of man, but that of the Jews more guilty still. For in the cross, which was the deepest proof of their combined iniquity, was accomplished fully by Christ the will of God, in virtue of which we have been and are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10). The gospel of God's grace to all mankind, and the church (the body of Christ in the baptism of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven), are the blessed consequences which required that new revelation of God commonly called the New Testament. This fully confirms the O.T. in every respect as divine, fulfilling it notably in prophecies of Messiah's person, God and man; His unique walk, mission, and service; His death too, not only through man's hatred but in God's atoning grace; His resurrection and ascension; and His return to raise the dead, to restore the kingdom to Israel, to bless the earth and all the nations, having put down the higher or spiritual powers of evil.
But the N.T., besides sealing the truth of the O.T., reveals for the Christian and the church the mysteries of the kingdom, showing a state of things quite different from the old, and yet more the mysteries with regard to the church, wholly incompatible with Israel's position either in the past or in the future. This therefore only comes into actuality and view when that people as a whole had for a while forfeited its privileges by adding the cross of Christ to its idolatry. Indeed man's responsibility as under law, and still more widely God's government, run through the O.T., though there is also prophetic testimony to His purpose in Christ.
But the New Testament gives us the Son of God come, a man yet the True God and Eternal Life. This brings in the greatest change. It is no longer as in the O.T. God hidden and dwelling in the thick darkness, but God manifested in Him, Who is Son as none else is or can be, the Word become flesh. His death, as sacrifice for sin, goes farther still: not simply God in man tabernacling among men, full of grace and truth, but the veil rent, sin judged in the cross, and the man, at least believing man, brought to God, all the offences forgiven, himself once and completely purged so as to have no more conscience of sins, and God's Spirit thereon abiding in him for ever. Such is the Christian; nor is it all the privilege which might be said. This gives a nearer, a more intimate, character to the N.T. generally; but divine authority belongs equally to both O. and N. Its authority is because God speaks in both through His instruments. If we do not hear Him, we have no living faith. A tract or a sermon, a parent or a preacher, may be the means of presenting the truth to my soul; but if I have not believed God, my faith is human and worthless. We are thus born of God, receiving Christ, the object and spirit of the word, as the apostle says in 2 Cor. 3:17: "Now the Lord is the spirit" (referring to ver. 6, not the letter but the spirit of the O.T.).
When men rest on the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit Who guides into all the truth. Doubtless we only know in part; yet even spiritual babes (1 John 2) are assured that they know all things. Ere long it is learnt that each book (remembering that such as the two of Samuel, and their continuation in the Kings, etc. go together), has its proper design permeating it, whether in O.T. or in N. Of this its own contents must be the evidence, as will by grace be presented severally ere long. To draw it out fully would demand many large volumes doubtless, even if one had spiritual ability for so serious and difficult a task. Here but a small space can be devoted to the purpose. This means that no more can be attempted at present than a cursory view of the various writings which compose the Bible. Such a sketch however involves the advantage that the proofs which scripture furnishes in each case will stand forth free from those clouds of commentary which so often overload and disguise the text.
There is thus no more striking characteristic of Scripture than the design God has imprinted on its various books. Old or New Testament makes no difference. The poetic portion attests it no less than the prose, the prophetic as clearly as the historical. It is not at all unlikely that the various writers may have been unconscious of any intention on their part to effect such a result. All the more instructive and sure is it that one animating and directing Author presided over each several part, imparting a special character to it, and at the same time causing all to contribute to the common purpose of revealing His counsels of glory and His ways of grace, while fully making known the weakness or the wickedness of the creature in resisting His will and doing its own. For that such is the fact, not obviously on the surface but indelibly and deeply underlying the entire body of the Scriptures, is the inevitable conviction produced on the Christian by the careful examination of the Bible as a whole and by the intelligent comparison of its component parts.
Evidence to appear consecutively and in due time will be set before the reader, unstrained, clear, and abundant, that the Scriptures are ruled from first to last by a moral purpose which discloses the wisdom and goodness of God rising above the failure of the creature, and especially man's sin giving occasion to the resources and the triumph of His grace in Christ for heaven and earth, time and eternity, for man, Israel, the saints of old, the church, and the nations. Who but God could have intimated so vast and far-reaching an intention from the first writing that ushers in all the books which follow through many generations, not only those composed in Hebrew (with Aramaic in a small degree), but such as after a marked interval appeared in Greek, revealing in that one generation of the N. T. the Son of God come, the gospel, and the church, the latest book being the suited answer to the earliest, manifestly also closing the complete compass of inspiration?
That in the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses we have the firm and ample foundation of the O.T. can be disputed by no reader subject to the truth. They are called the Torah or Law, as this is the institution of God given so fully in Exodus and Leviticus, with supplements drawn out by the journeys of Numbers, and the moral rehearsal of Deuteronomy in view of the entrance into the land of Canaan across the Jordan.
The Prophets, early and later, as the Jews distinguished the books that succeed as well as the openly predictive books to which we give that name, attest the growing departure from the law, and hold out the bright vision of Messiah's Kingdom, not only for the restored people of Israel but for all the nations of the earth. Then the hosts of the high ones shall be punished on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. Then Jehovah shall be exalted, and the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Then the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
The Psalms constitute the third division, the leading portion (as in the other sections) giving its title to various books of an emotional and ethic character. Here too we find a class of writings which bear witness quite as strongly as the others to the grand design of God in His word: the ruin of the first man; the blessedness of the Second, even for all those of the ruined race that put their trust in Him (Ps. 2:12). In the Prophets we have formal witness indeed to a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, which shall supersede that of the law; when the promises to the fathers shall be made good in the true Seed.
It would be idle to impute to the N.T. in the least degree any imitation of the O.T. The fresh revelation has the distinctive power of a divine testimony to the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus, manifested here below and ascended to heaven after accomplishing His great sacrificial work for man to God's glory. Yet one cannot fail, when attention is drawn to the new collection as compared with the old, to find the unmistakable proofs of a common plan, not named by a single writer, but evident when we have all before us. For there is a similar basis of fact historically presented: not the first but the Last Adam with the new creation dependent on Him, and associated with its Head; and instead of the Law (given alike on a day of Pentecost), the Holy Ghost sent forth from heaven to abide for ever. Here only is the "perfection," which was not possible by the law, though this made its need felt and was its shadow or even its foreshadow.
Then, after the Gospels and the Acts, we have the Epistles, which answer and more than answer to the Ketubhim or "writings" of the O.T., and unfold the grace and truth in Christ and His work and offices, with the blessed hope, all bearing on the heart and walk and worship of the saints.
Finally there is the one wondrous book of the Apocalypse preceded by not a little in the Gospels and Epistles as in the analogy of the O.T. Therein all the predictive revelations of Scripture are co-ordinated and completed, not only till the establishment of the displayed kingdom of the Lord Jesus filling the heavens and the earth to God's glory, but right on to the endless issues of all in eternity, when evil is finally and for ever judged, and the new heavens and earth are come, wherein righteousness, instead of ruling by power, can and does dwell unbroken and absolutely perfect, God being all in all.
Thus is there, where much else differs, a very distinct correspondency in the two volumes, the Old and the New, without the least effort after it by any writer in either volume. What could more indicate without a cloud one Divine mind of infinite purity and goodness, Light and Love, communicating in the Scriptures, as He will accomplish in fact, those purposes worthy of Himself and of His Son, full of blessing for all who believe, but of everlasting judgment to those that love Him not and despise His word?
Let us now test the reality of distinct purpose on God's part attributed to His word, beginning with the earliest book of Scripture.
The Bible opens with the creation, distinguishing the beginning when man was not nor our environment of nature, and intimating a state of convulsion for the earth at least, which followed the original act and preceded its formation for the human race (Gen. 1:1-2). The week is then detailed which ushers in Adam, God (Elohim)'s work and rest (Gen. 1:3 - 2:3).
The true commencement of Gen. 2 is in ver. 4, where the name of Jehovah Elohim, or the LORD God, necessarily appears as in Gen. 3 also. For the design was to identify Elohim, the Creator, with Jehovah, the moral Governor, Who established man, not as a living soul merely, but by His inbreathing into him only in immediate relationship with Himself, and set in a paradise planted for him, yet with moral responsibility put to the proof and provision for life if obedient, but if disobedient with death the penalty. Nor this only, but man's relation to his wife, builded out of himself to be his intimate counterpart and so named by himself, is here; as he also gave names to the subject creation of the earth, bird, and beast.
Gen. 3 shows how man fell through the woman by the wiles of a mysterious foe who availed himself of the serpent as medium, and so acquired to the end the title of "the old serpent, who is the Devil and Satan" (Rev. 20:2). The design here required the same divine designation as in the chapter before, the form of which is all the more apparent from the omission of Jehovah by the serpent and by the woman parleying with the tempter (1-5). But the solemn sentence of death was not passed on the head of the race, now knowing good and evil, without a previous curse on the serpent, wherein was intimated the blessed assurance of the woman's Seed, bruised in heel, to bruise the enemy's head. Coats of skins were given to the guilty pair, who knew themselves not the less naked for their fig-leaf aprons. The divine covering for sinners had its source in death; it was grace, but in righteousness.
Thereon follows the essential difference between Adam's sons in Gen. 4. Abel by faith brought a sacrifice. Cain, hard and unbelieving, brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, and, incensed at Jehovah's acceptance of Abel and his offering, slew his righteous brother. What a picture of man's worship! so the close of the chapter is of his world with art and science and pleasures of life to hide that he is an outcast, a vain substitute for paradise. Here accordingly Jehovah's name appears with strict propriety; the exceptional case in vers. 25 only confirms it, as Eve's natural expression, disappointed in her spiritual thought of ver. 1. Yet is Seth the appointed seed that succeeds the slain Abel, and men call on Jehovah's name: so it will be, as it was.
In Gen. 5 is a review of the race down to Noah and his offering. Adam and his sons, long as they might live, died at length. For if Elohim created and made, death entered through sin; but Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him. It was not simple government, but Elohim known and acting according to His nature. On the other hand Jehovah as properly is used in ver. 29 where His moral dealing is in view. Of all those, two men are divine witnesses, respectively of heavenly grace, and of earthly judgment yet with mercy glorying against it.
Then Gen. 6:1-8 proceeds with righteous judgment under Jehovah's name, which is no way inconsistent with "the sons of God" in 2 and 4, as in Job a regular designation; whereas Elohim alone is found in 9-22. The expression is as accurate as the design is evident. Relationship was violated; and nature was corrupted; but if judgment must ensue, the Creator duly perpetuates the creature.
So in Gen. 7 Jehovah has respect for Noah and his house too, enjoining clean beasts and birds by sevens, not two as in His name of Elohim; and Noah obeyed in both (5, 9). Oh, the blindness of pseudo-critics, who fancy inconsistency, when the divine wisdom was as plain in His acts as His design is in His word! What ignorance and folly to account for all this by the imaginary patchwork of tradition! See also the absurdity of an Elohist and a Jehovist in the same ver. 16, where the two motives of divine action meet in Noah subject and kept safe. Truly "all have not faith:" woe to those who believe not! particularly if they profess the Lord's name.
Gen. 8 conversely has Elohim only in 1-9, but in 20-22 Jehovah no less instructively. This instruction pseudo-criticism denies and destroys, as far as it can, by the childish fancy of different legendists. Truly they labour for the fire and weary themselves for vanity.
So Gen. 9 designedly gives Elohim throughout, save that the special blessing in Shem's case brings in Jehovah his God in 26, whereas in 27 of Japheth is said Elohim only. Conceive the imbecility as well as the unspirituality of supposing here two authors, where so much of the force depends on the One, Who first uttered all by one mouth, then writing all by a single pen in due time! As the end of chap. 8 shows the world that was resting for its order on sacrifice, so 9 begins with the principle of government committed to man's hand, to which was added the sign of no deluge more.
In Gen. 10 we have the rise of nations divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, from Noah's three sons; and even in those days Nimrod's assumption of despotic power, where alone Jehovah occurs, as right relationship was violated. But in the earlier verses (1-9) of Gen. 11 we have Jehovah judging the moral cause for the scattering of men, bent on making themselves a name in one vast republic. From ver. 10 the generations of Shem are traced to bring in "the fathers," and afterward "the sons," of Israel.
Gen. 12 presents Jehovah's call of Abram. He had left Ur of the Chaldees for Haran at the end of chap. 11. Only when he "went as Jehovah had spoken to him" does he arrive in Canaan. He first has the promises, father of the faithful, as Adam of all mankind. Abram is a pilgrim, with "this land" promised to his seed, and has not a tent only but altars he built to Jehovah. His was the walk and worship of faith. Under the pressure of famine he goes down into Egypt, and denies his true relationship to Sarai; so that she was taken into Pharaoh's house, and he became very rich with the king's gifts. Thus it was total failure; but Jehovah plagued Pharaoh, delivered Sarai, and dismissed Abram, who had no altar in Egypt and returns to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, unto the place of his altar there.
Gen. 13. Thereon strife among their herdmen leads to the separation of Lot from Abram, who has Jehovah's promise more fully renewed, and consequently builds another altar.
But Gen. 14 shows Lot swept away in the world's wars, as he had already betrayed his worldly-mindedness. But Abram defeats the conquerors who led Lot captive. Then Melchizedek king of Salem blessed Abram on the part of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed God Most High Who delivered Abram's enemies into his hand. It is a picture which closes the first part of Abram's history, the type of the day of blessing, of "bread and wine," not of sacrifices nor of intercession above and unseen, which sustains now, based on sacrifice. Here the distinctive name is Jehovah, but qualified by God Most High (Elyon), the victory of faith when enemies are put down and rival gods vanish; heaven and earth unite in the blessing of God and His own under the priest Melchizedek reigning. How plain yet profound is this typical climax! Who could have designed it all but God?
From Gen. 15 we have a fresh and subsequent order of things personal, rather that public, closing with chap. 21, where the question of the heir is solved fully and in various points of view. First we have Jehovah's word coming in a vision, and the seed after the flesh in prophetic detail, and a sacrificial covenant by which the limits of the land are guaranteed. In Gen. 16 we see failure in the faith so bright in the chapter before, and the carnal impatience which sought it illegitimately, to her sorrow especially who had first suggested it. Not Hagar but Sarai must be the heir's mother. Cf. Gal. 4. In Gen. 17 Jehovah (for such is the name here also) appears to Abram revealing His title, specific for the patriarchs, of El Shaddai, God Almighty, and enlarging his name to Abraham, as his wife's was to be Sarah. Yet it is said to be Elohim so talking and saying: so baseless is the fancy of different documents or authors; and so perfect is the design in putting these elements together. Nations and kings were to come of Abraham and Sarah by an everlasting covenant established with Isaac, but with circumcision (expressing death to the flesh) which extended even to the connected stranger. Gen. 18 gives Jehovah's next appearing in intimate condescension; and the time of the heir's birth is announced, but after this too the judgment just about to fall on the guilty cities which draws out Abraham's intercession. This stopped short of what his heart yearned after; but Jehovah delivered Lot and his daughters, while punishing his wife's disobedience, as in Gen. 19 with its sad sequel. In Gen. 20 Abraham again denies his relationship to the mother of the coming heir; but Elohim warns Abimelech who also restores Sarah intact. God's grace alone shines throughout; but Jehovah had judged the deed (ver. 18) in His righteous government. The series concludes with Gen. 21, when the heir was born, and (soon after) the bondmaid's son was cast out, though preserved in respect for faithful Abraham. But more now; for Abimelech, instead of reproving, stands reproved; and Beersheba attests the inheritance of the world, Abraham planting a tamarisk or grove and calling on the name of Jehovah, the everlasting God (El Olam). The inheritance, wide as it is, may not compare with His grace Who gives all; but it is glorious. Who but One could have indited these communications? Did He leave them like Sibylline leaves to be blown about, and gathered by Elohists, Jehovists, or such like imaginary ghosts? His word is truth.
Gen. 22 lays the foundation in the Son's death and resurrection figuratively for new and heavenly things; Gen. 23 is the passing away of the mother, Israel; Gen. 24 the call of the bride for the risen bridegroom;* and Gen. 25:1-10 indicates other descendants of Abraham endowed with favour, but not to the disparagement of the heir of all; after which the father dies in a good old age. Here the futility of different hands, Elohist or Jehovist, is as manifest as before. Elohim tempted or tried Abraham's faith; yet the angel of Jehovah interposed after the proof that he feared Elohim; and so to the end of chap. 22. Neither occurs in 23; but Jehovah the God of the heavens and the God of the earth etc. is in 24. In Gen. 25:11 Elohim blessed Isaac, yet after the generations of Ishmael (12-18), Jehovah appears in those of Isaac: what more simple, intelligible, or accurate from one and the same hand? So it is Jehovah yet the God of Abraham in Gen. 26 even on Gentile lips; and again in chap. 27. There we read "Jehovah hath blessed; and Elohim give thee" (vers. 27, 28): plain and sure evidence against the variorum hypothesis; and so is Gen. 28:3-4, 13, 16-17, 20-22.
* In Joseph's case we have the type of the bride repeated, but this to mark the fact that it was when he who became the bridegroom was sold by and separated from his brethren, exalted to a glory by them unknown. The truth needs both figures; and each tale is true and has its own characteristics, as Moses' case has in Ex. 2.
Now we enter on Jacob's varied experience, hearing no more of Isaac but his death in Gen. 35:28-29, after a life spent exclusively in Canaan as contrasted with Abraham and Jacob. Divine design is evident in the scripture as well as in the fact. Isaac typified the Son who after death and resurrection is the church's Head and Bridegroom in the heavenlies. Compare Gen. 24:3-9, 37-41. Just as strikingly he who was even called Israel knows the greatest vicissitudes, as we see in the remaining chapters of the book. Was this casual? Did it not flow from God's design? It is Jehovah in Gen. 29 and Elohim in Gen. 30:2-23, yet in the next verse (24) Rachel says not Elohim, but Jehovah; and thus it is in 27 and 30. The notion of different writers is mere fancy, explains nothing, and hinders all due enquiry into the divine motive for the change of name. See also Gen. 26:3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 24, 29, 42, 49, 50, 53; Gen. 32:9, 28, 30; and Gen. 33:5, 10-11, 20.
One cannot wonder that neither name is in Gen. 34 or in 36, 37; but it is Elohim, God in His nature, God sovereign in His action, which appears in Gen. 35:1, 3, 7, 9, 10; only the revealed El Shaddai, dropped with Isaac save in reference to Jacob (Gen. 28:3), here reappears (11). Then Elohim is in 13, 15. But Jehovah is the name in Gen. 38:7, 10, where His rights were violated flagrantly in Judah's family; as His marked blessing was on Joseph in Gen. 39:2-3, 5, 21, 23. What could be more correct? On the other hand Elohim alone suits Gen. 40:8, 16, 25, 32, 38, 39, 51, 52. It is the historic as well as abstract expression; and hence in Gen. 42:18, 28; Gen. 43:23, 29; Gen. 44:16; Gen. 45:5, 7-9; Gen. 46:1, 3; Gen. 47:9, 11, 15, 20, 21; Gen. 49:25; 1, 17, 19, 20, 24, 25; whilst in Gen. 48:14 and Gen. 48:3 it is El Shaddai, and in Gen. 49. Jehovah as specially due. God, or Elohim, is in contrast with man; Jehovah is His name of relationship; El Shaddai is the proper patriarchal title, as El Elyon is that of the kingdom in figure.
But how manifestly we have divine purpose in progressive warning through Esau as before through Ishmael! For Esau was worse, a profane man despising his birthright, which Jacob, however faulty, was far from; but God is faithful in wanderings caused by his unbelief and given with much detail. It is the picture of Israel's sad history, the pledge of their future and blessed restoration to the promised land; as indeed God announced in Gen. 46:4, and predicts in Jacob's last words (Gen. 49). To this also point the burials there of his body and Joseph's.
Nor can one fairly overlook the tale of Joseph, the general hatred on the part of his brethren, the special guilt and special recovery of Judah, the sale of Joseph to the Gentiles and their subsequent evil, Joseph's interpretation of God's mind in his humiliation, his elevation to administer the kingdom over the Gentiles with a wife then given him, and finally his reception of his brethren now penitent before his glory. A plainer type cannot be of God's dealings, much accomplished though some not even yet, all settled and sure if we believe the scriptures in general which teach these truths explicitly elsewhere as to Christ.
Is not then divine design throughout the book of Genesis established of God beyond just question? How vast the scope from the absolutely first act of creative energy! How wise the details only when man was to be created! How important to distinguish the fact of the Adamic earth from the relative position of all concerned, and to show how soon and complete was the ruin through sin! Yet do we see immense long-suffering, till the violation of all order, added to man's growing corruption and overspread violence, draws down divine judgment, yet Noah and his house prepared by grace to begin the world, set under sacrifice on the one hand, and the principle of human government brought in on the other. Instead of filling the earth at God's command, the wilful effort to combine and make themselves a name was met by the confusion of tongues, which scattered mankind.
Thus began the nations divided in their lands, everyone after his tongue and his family. Then, when men began to serve other gods, as Joshua 24 tells us, Abraham was called out of country, kindred, and father's house, separated to the true God as His witness. To him was promised the land of Canaan, and yet more all the families of the earth to be blessed in him. Isaac typifies the risen Son in the heavenly places, with a bride called out from the world to join Him there. Jacob represents the earthly people, to be blessed at length in the kind after bitter experiences in and out of it, the effect of their own faults. In the midst of this history Joseph foreshadows Christ separated from his envious and hating brethren, but manifesting God's wisdom in his low estate, and exalted to the administration of a kingdom of the world. He is thus made known to the Jews, now humbled and owing their preservation to him as all others do; yet was his heart set on the people and land notwithstanding; where the great prophecy of Gen. 49 shows they are to be at the end of days. Is all this a concourse of atoms? or the certain work of divine purpose?
§ 2. EXODUS.
Very different from the first is the second book of the Pentateuch. Here, instead of the vast variety which meets us in Genesis, we have in the main one great truth developed, with the antecedents which made its necessity felt, and with the most characteristic consequence which ensued in God's wisdom and goodness. For here in a way peculiar to itself we have redemption accomplished for Israel, the foreshadow of an eternal one in Christ, in its foundation, its display, and its effects. The basis one must be blind not to see typified in the Paschal sacrifice; and the displayed power in the passage of the Red Sea: the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The effect is seen in God's tabernacling in their midst. What lends it the greater force is that, multifarious as are the counsels and the ways of God which Genesis presents to us in germ, redemption is wholly absent from its contents. The very word occurs only once toward the close in its general or figurative application to Jacob's life; and thus is quite distinct from that precise sense which the type in Exodus vividly supplies. Can any proof of specific design on God's part be asked more powerful than this, supposing the facts to be made out clearly and without violence? Let us then examine the evidence.
Exodus 1 opens with the sons of Israel after Joseph's death waxing many and mighty but, under a king that knew not Joseph, bitterly oppressed. The then king of Egypt sought even to destroy the males. This was counteracted at first; but in Ex. 2 the murderous aim was pressed so far that Moses could not be longer hid. Him when exposed Pharaoh's daughter found and brought up as her son; who, when not only grown up but going out to see his afflicted brethren, slew an Egyptian evildoer, but finding no right feeling in the objects of his care, had to flee the king's resentment. The time was not yet some; and Moses in Midian protects the daughters of its priest-king, one of whom he marries; and his son "Gershom" witnesses that he was no settler there but a sojourner, who remembered his brethren: so God did His covenant with their fathers as He heard their groans.
In Ex. 3 when "Jehovah" saw that he turned to see the bush that burnt, unconsumed with fire, "Elohim" called to him (vers. 4). How irrational as well as unspiritual to imagine more than one writer! Jehovah is relative name, Elohim is God in nature. Compare verses 7 and 14, where He adds "I AM THAT I AM" as the name to assure His despairing people, and sends Moses and their elders with the petition to let them go. Then in Ex. 4 Jehovah gives two signs and even a third for his mission, and makes Aaron to be his spokesman when hesitating, as once too precipitate. So Moses bids his father-in-law farewell, and with wife and sons returns to Egypt, but not without a solemn reminder of a neglected duty for both husband and wife. Aaron meets him at Jehovah's command on the mountain of God, and the people bow and worship when they heard. Next in Ex. 5 they lay Jehovah's message before Pharaoh, who scornfully flouts it, and cruelly aggravates the burden of the Israelites under penalty; so that they suffer more than ever, and Moses pours out His plaint.
But Jehovah (Ex. 6) assures him that He would act so that Pharaoh should drive them out of his land. And here He formally inaugurates "Jehovah" for Israel, in contradistinction from the patriarchal revelation of "El-shaddai" (God Almighty), as the pledge of also bringing them into the promised land. But the people hearkened not for anguish, as Moses told Jehovah, when He bade him speak to Pharaoh. Both Moses and Aaron He charged with the same errand. Thereon follows a remarkable genealogy, as in Genesis; but as each there has its own character, so has this, which, starting with Reuben and Simeon, stops at Levi and his sons, giving prominence to "Aaron and Moses" (20-26) in natural order first, but lastly (ver. 27) in spiritual power "Moses and Aaron." Is this then man's folly, or God's wisdom and design? For men have not been wanting to blow on it in their ignorant presumption. Let them learn His mind and give thanks.
After the preliminary sign in Ex. 7 the plagues follow God's demand refused: — 1, The river which they gloried in and adored was turned to blood for seven days at the time when even a red appearance never occurs; 2, Frogs swarmed so as to torment then in their houses, beds, ovens, everywhere; 3, The dust became lice or some equally noisome insect on man and beast; 4, So did flies swarm yet more grievously, but none in Goshen; 5, A deadly murrain overspread Egypt, but not Israel's quarter; 6, A boil broke out on all in Egypt man and beast; 7, Hail followed, and fire mingled, and thunder, without example in that land; 8, Locusts beyond parallel; 9, Darkness for three days that might be felt; 10, The first-born slain of man and cattle from the king to the slave, but Israel untouched (Ex. 8 - 11).
Then came redemption by the blood of the lamb, Ex. 12. Without this, as Israel's ground before Jehovah, He could not go with a people sinful and degraded. But where He saw the blood, He would pass over (ver. 13). On His own estimate of that blood, which pointed to the one efficacious sacrifice, He acted; as they at His word had sprinkled it on the door-posts of each house. Pilgrims now, they fed on the lamb's flesh with bitter herbs (repentance) and without leaven (the emblem of corruption rejected). There is no type of redemption so clear and comprehensive. Who but God could have given it? or would have put it here, the most suited time and place in all the Bible? Israel, not the priest yet, was separated to Jehovah by it; and this marked by their first-born of man and beast, as well as by the feast of unleavened bread (Ex. 13) continually, in remembrance of the slain first-born of Egypt and judgment executed against all their gods. Ex. 14 completes the picture: redemption by power, which brought Israel dry-shod through the waters of death when they engulfed the flower and forces of Egypt. The song in Ex. 15 celebrates their salvation and their enemies overwhelmed, but Jehovah's holiness glorious. But they pass through a desert world, where the bitter waters need the tree cast in to sweeten them; but where they come to springs and palms in all fulness for refreshment by the way. The sabbath, figure of rest, is marked by the manna that typified Christ; as the living water, i.e. the Spirit, was given from the smitten rock (Ex. 16, 17), followed by conflict with the enemy, where victory depends on the continued intercession of the Mediator. This series of grace closes (Ex. 18) with the type of the orderly government of the kingdom; where the Gentile worships and eats bread with Israel, confessing Jehovah greater than all gods.
From this reign of grace to glory we turn in Ex. 19 to law accepted as the condition of blessing and finding themselves under curse, instead of owning their sinfulness and pleading the promises. All is changed to menace of death, to thunder, lightning, and thick cloud; to trumpet's sound exceeding loud, and a voice of words more awful still, so that Moses quaked. Then the Ten Words were spoken; and national judgments were given afterwards (Ex. 20-23). Blood sealed this covenant on the ground of the people doing all the words Jehovah had spoken: death was the solemn sanction of all; and Israel's elders eat and drink in God's presence. But Moses ascends higher to receive the tables of stone, and abides on high forty days and nights.
In Ex. 25 Moses is directed that the Israelites should bring Him a heave-offering, as their heart prompted, of all the requisites in precious metals and stones, in dyes, skins, wood, oil, fine cotton or byssus, incense and aromatics, for the priesthood and the sanctuary, with all the parts and vessels of which He would show the patterns. They represented heavenly things, as we learn in Hebrews. Of these the ark is first with the mercy-seat and the cherubim in the holiest; then in the holy place the table, and the lamp-stand. Thus did Jehovah provide for manifesting Himself in His dwelling in the midst of His people. For to this grand effect of redemption are we now come. The ark was His seat in relationship with Israel, but in truth as the Judge of all; there divine righteousness was attested. For on the day of atonement the blood was sprinkled upon it once, before it seven times. Christ Who alone glorified the Father in living obedience glorified God about sin on the cross. But there was also in the supporters the witness of judicial authority that would make Him respected. The table with its loaves set forth divine nourishment in man, as the lamp-stand divine light in the Spirit; of both which Christ is the fulness and perfect witness.
Ex. 26 presents the tabernacle itself with its curtains, boards, bars, and veil which severed the holy place from the most holy. Christ too was the true tabernacle or temple, though it had a wider application too. Next in Ex. 27 we have the copper-laid altar of Burnt-offering, and the court of the tabernacle with the requirement of oil for the light. This altar represents God's righteousness in Christ, as far at least as man's sin thoroughly judged, but in grace to the sinner, where he is and can come before Him freely.
To rationalistic eyes it seems unaccountable disorder that the command for the consecration of the priesthood should be given in Ex. 28, 29. It is really divine wisdom; for thus is separated that part of these patterns of the heavenly which relates to God's manifestation of Himself to man, from what brings out the presenting of man to God in the sanctuary, though some may partake in a measure of both. But there is a true distinction; and the priesthood is the transition, as they were the medium which represented Israel therein. Aaron and his sons represented those of the heavenly calling in the grace of Christ minutely displayed and throughout those two chaps., as is plain enough to every instructed believer. Then in Ex. 30, the due place for it, comes first the altar of incense, as the type of Christ in intercession for the saints, a continual sweet savour, on the horns of which too the atoning blood was put. Next came the atonement-money, the same half-shekel for every one rich or poor; then the laver of copper for purifying Aaron and his sons; the holy anointing oil also for them; and the perfume of aromatics holy to Jehovah. All these are types of what Christ is for us; not the manifestation of God to us, but the means needful for our being presented to Him. But who could have initiated this but Jehovah? Then in Ex. 31 comes the qualifying of the workmen by Jehovah for the construction of all; the sabbath too here again appears as the sign that God's rest is His people's hope; and Jehovah gave Moses the tables of testimony.
Below, how sad the contrast! The people of Israel corrupted themselves away from Jehovah; and Aaron helped them in it. Hence Jehovah bids Moses go down to his people, corrupt as they were, and offers to make of him a great nation. But Moses pleads, and not in vain. Yet when he saw the golden calf and heard their songs, he shattered the tables in his indignation and summoned those that stood for Jehovah. When the sons of Levi responded, he called on them to consecrate themselves in His name, and they slew about 3,000 men. The same Moses turns to Jehovah in intercession the next day, and offers to be blotted out for them. But God, accepting his mediation, modifies the terms by His long-suffering goodness while still leaving them under His law, and bids Moses lead them on with His angel going before. It is thus no longer law, pure and simple as at the first, but now a mixture of grace with law, to which 2 Cor. 3 refers as a ministry of death and condemnation, even though Moses' face shone as only on the second time (Ex. 33, Ex. 34). It is at this time too that Moses left the camp and pitched the tent outside, calling it the tent of meeting, whither went every one that sought Jehovah, anticipating the tabernacle that was to be established. There God revealed His merciful name on that separation from corruption.
In Ex. 35 Moses again speaks of the sabbath, and enjoins the heave-offering on all the willing; to which they answered promptly. He told them once more that Jehovah called Bezaleel and Aholiab in chief to the work. In Ex. 36, Ex. 37 it proceeds with abundant zeal, set out in detail, not only there but in Ex. 38, Ex. 39, "as Jehovah commanded Moses." Is this true? If any one bearing the Lord's name dare to say it is false, it is well that Christians should know with what they have to do. Ex. 40 tells of the tabernacle set up and of the priesthood consecrated according to the command of Jehovah, all anointed. The cloud then covered the tent and the glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle. How true is the book to the divine design of showing redemption, and the worthy end of God dwelling in the midst of His own then realised in type, as the effect of redemption!
As scarce a book in the O.T. consists so much of the express words of Jehovah, so none gives fuller evidence of divine design from first to last. One great theme governs as in Exodus; but it is approach to God in the sanctuary, not redemption as there. The title we employ like most is vaguely if at all appropriate; for from its nature the priesthood are essential and prominent, not the Levites who figure here but little. The Jews do not attempt distinctive titles, but name the books from the opening word in each.
It is Jehovah speaking, not the Ten words from the darkness on the top of Sinai, but out of the tent of meeting in the midst of His people, to lay down the conditions of their relationship with Him. Hence His relative name to Israel is used throughout, and only in the later chapters from 18 have we occasionally "your" or "thy" God added to it, or connected with it. Hence not a shadow yields room for the dream of an Elohist, senior, junior, or in any wise. It is Elohim in relation with His people, and therefore "Jehovah" calls, speaks, and commands throughout. Even the historical episode of 8 - 10 is all and only Jehovistic, and so is the briefer one in Lev. 24:10 to the end of the chapter. But it is the more untrue and illogical to make this fact depend on a special writer; for the writer, though giving uniform predominance to "Jehovah," identifies Him as surely with "thy" or "your" Elohim.
Access to Jehovah then is the design of this book, as redemption is of Exodus; access to Him in the sanctuary, as individuals or as His people, according to the law. Not only are the means defined, which required sacrifice and offering, with the priests duly inaugurated, but the duties and state of the people, as well as their privileges, with those of the priestly family. Then follows the ruin which disobedience and apostasy must entail; yet would He in judgment remember mercy, and the covenant with their fathers, anterior to the law and dependent on promise. Also the vow of devoting persons, beasts, or land should result, on Israel's failure, in Jehovah's rights, when Christ as both Priest and King will order all to His glory. Not Moses, nor any other mere man, left to himself, was capable of a design so profound, and of evidently prophetic character; but if Moses was inspired to give what Jehovah spoke throughout, all is plain and holy and true. Rationalism may impute departure from original integrity and other faults suggested by the pettiness of man's mind; those who do so must take the consequence before Him Who is its Author. Let us look into the details as they stand.
The book opens with the basis of all access to Jehovah, sacrifice and offering. As not the first man but the Second is His object, He begins with the Burnt-offering (1), the Meal-offering (2), and the Peace-offering (3), and only then enters on the Sin-offering and Trespass-(or, Guilt-)offering (4 - 6:7), with the laws of each (Lev. 6:8 - 7). Such is the divine institution: when application comes, as with the priests (Lev. 8:14, etc.), the Sin-offering precedes, or with a leper, the Trespass-offering (Lev. 14:12, etc.). Who but God could so order? The first three oblations are alike Fire-offerings of sweet savour to Jehovah. They represent the positive excellency of Christ as offered upon the altar, in death as in life man holy, and for communion; together they form the first communication from Jehovah. Offerings for sin follow in Lev. 4, with a transition of mingled character in Lev. 5:1-13, after which to Lev. 6:7 we have the Trespass-offering fully; and the regulations, which deal mainly with the question of eating or not, are given to the end of Lev. 7. From the Trespass-offering in Lev. 5:14 are no less than seven distinct but connected communications from Jehovah.
In chaps. 8, 9 is given the institution of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. Here we find another, and if possible brighter, witness to the unique excellency of Christ. For the high priest alone, as typifying Christ and duly attired, was anointed without blood (Lev. 8:10-12), and at the same time the tabernacle with all therein. He to Whom Aaron pointed was entitled to the energy of the Spirit in person and inheritance; and He is Heir of all things. No mortal would ever have so thought or spoken of himself; only Jehovah Who inspired Moses. His sons also, duly attired, required the Sin-offering; and as Aaron personally was a sinner like them, all laid their hands on the victim's head (Lev. 14), and Moses put of its blood on the altar, and thereon burnt the fat and the rest of the body without the camp. Then the ram for a Burnt-offering was duly offered; but that for consecration had its blood put by Moses, first on Aaron's right ear, thumb, and toe, then on his sons similarly. After the rest of that rite was completed, Moses took of the anointing oil and of the blood, and sprinkled it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and their garments with his. On the eighth day the glory of Jehovah appeared, the plain prefiguration of what will be for Israel when He shall sit and rule upon His throne, not for heaven only but manifested for the earth. Lev. 10 is the affecting history of the failure of the priesthood at once, even Eleazar and Ithamar only spared by intercession. Next are the chapters that refer to discernment of food clean and unclean (Lev. 11), and priestly dealing with defilements natural (Lev. 12), also typifying sin and its cleansing (Lev. 13, 14), and others occasional (Lev. 15).
Then comes the momentous Atonement-day (Lev. 16), the fast of the sacred year, on which all hung for priests and people, the high priest acting for both in access to God. How any believer can fail to own that Jehovah alone could have designed it, not only for the time then present, but as prophetic of the first coming of Christ and His work, and even of the still unaccomplished second coming when it is applied to Israel's pardon and spiritual restoration, is strange indeed. The N. T. interpretation is unmistakable in Heb. 9 more particularly. The Christian blessing is identified with Aaron and his house, in virtue of the one offering for them in the sanctuary. When the high priest comes out will be the application of the scapegoat, but on the ground of Jehovah's lot, to the repentant people. To regard Azazel, the living goat sent away associated with the slain one, as a demon or evil genius, is a monstrous perversion whether of ritualists or of rationalists, blind to the full efficacy of Christ's atoning work and to the hopes of the Jews. The two goats figure one Christ offered to Jehovah for propitiation and substitution. But who beforehand could have anticipated the truth?
This is followed by communications to guard priests and people from the dishonour of Jehovah, in the matter of blood, and especially against eating it (Lev. 17); in natural relationships against impurity (Lev. 18); in the maintenance of holy ways and comely practice, far from profanity (Lev. 19); and especially in abhorrence of heathen and unnatural abominations (Lev. 20): all, as became a people in holy nearness to Jehovah, and separated from the peoples to be His. Lev. 21 insists on a still higher sanctity on the part of Aaron's sons, and especially of the high priest, in view of their access to the sanctuary; and Lev. 22 adds other disqualifications even if but transient. Then the people are joined with the priests in the caution against a blemished offering, and due heed claimed for Jehovah's injunction as to times, etc.
Lev. 23 presents the Feasts in which, especially in the greater ones, Jehovah gathered all the males around Himself as their centre. Here the prophetic character is yet more marked than in the great Day of Atonement; as in it there is plain historical sequence, so that it is easy enough to distinguish the fulfilled from what remains to be so, when the Lord returns in power and glory. Now who is, who could be, competent for these things? Only Jehovah, Who spoke to Moses concerning these "set times" of drawing near to Himself.
The Sabbath has this speciality of being revealed before the Feasts proper, as it will be accomplished at their close, when the true sabbatism will no longer "remain" but be realised for the people of God (3). It alone recurred week by week.
The Passover is the foundation of all blessing as it prefigures Christ sacrificed (1 Cor. 5:7), the head or beginning of months (5).
In immediate sequence is Unleavened bread for seven days, the feast we now celebrate, not with old leaven nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth (6-8).
Then comes the Wave-sheaf on the next day after the sabbath, the clear type of Christ risen from the dead; for Whom therefore was no Sin or Trespass-offering, but Burnt and Meal-offerings with the Drink-offering thereof (9-14).
And the Feast of Weeks follows, seven weeks complete from the day of the Wave-sheaf, or fifty days till the morning after the seventh sabbath. It is Pentecost with its two Wave-loaves of fine flour, but with leaven: not Christ now, but they that are His, and therefore the leaven. Here then not only have we a Burnt-offering, with oblation and Drink-offering, but a Sin-offering. For it is short sight to deny the old man in believers; it is their joy that by Christ's death the evil is annulled to faith. This new oblation to Jehovah has His injunction appended, not to reap or glean so as to clear the field's corners, but to leave for the poor and the stranger. It is a provision for those who are to follow the souls who now believe, during the age's completion (15-22).
Next is announced a new speaking of Jehovah to Moses. It is a fresh testimony, a memorial of blowing of Trumpets. This new Feast, like those that succeed, are all in the seventh month; and this on its first day. It is Jehovah summoning His ancient people from their sleep — from their "graves" as Ezekiel calls it figuratively. Compare Isaiah 26:19, Dan. 12:2. The Christian call is past; the Jewish appeal will then begin and go on. Grace is preparing a people for Jehovah on earth, as now under the gospel for heaven.
On the tenth day is the day of the Atonement, when Israel no longer unbelieving but repentant shall afflict their souls, and mix up no works of theirs with His work, long despised, now understood and honoured. It is the application of the cross of Christ to their souls, deeply feeling their sins and His grace.
The fifteenth day opens the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles seven days to Jehovah: a complete cycle for them when "glory shall dwell in their land," as we have in keeping the feast of Unleavened bread. Only an eighth day follows, which points to the glory in resurrection connected then, the heavenly things of the kingdom with the earthly. Compare John 3:12, Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20.
Now who was capable of such a living, comprehensive, all-important scheme of divine dealings from the beginning? Look at it from the purpose of rest couched in the pledge of the sabbath, till that day which shall display the Heir of all things centring in Himself all creation, heavenly and earthly, not only reconciled to God by His blood, then applied in power, and ourselves reigning with Him, being already reconciled by faith, as Israel will be "in that day" with all nations joined and no more at enmity. Christ is the One on Whom all turns: if received, life, peace, holiness, blessing, with access to God and to His glory; if rejected, wrath and indignation, tribulation and distress, when the vanity of present things and the carnal show of man can no longer hide the truth. What could imaginary Elohists or Jehovists avail to put together such a wondrous plan? All is simple, and only so, if Jehovah spoke to Moses, and Moses wrote of Christ. And who or what are they who blasphemously deny it? For He has testified to it.
Lev. 24 furnishes the solemn contrast of Israel according to purpose and as they are through their unbelief. In the one aspect shines the light of the Spirit through the High Priest during the dark night of their slumber; and the twelve loaves, with the pure frankincense, are on the table as a memorial for Aaron and his sons to eat (1-9). In the other we see the actual state under the "son of an Israelitish woman whose father was an Egyptian," blaspheming the Name and cursing. "His blood be on us and on our children" was their cry; as Blood-field (Aceldama) is their land to this day. So do they bear their sin (10-23).
In Lev. 25 we have the sabbath of the land every seventh year, and the hallowed year of Jubilee, the fiftieth year proclaimed on Atonement day. What affecting regulations in view of the trumpet which will usher the people of Jehovah, long outcasts for their sins, into the land which He will make theirs! for it is His, as He will prove against the mightiest foes. Let Gentiles beware who intrude. As this is prophetic, so is Lev. 26. Israel made and worshipped idols; Israel rebelled, despising their nearness to Jehovah; Israel braved His chastenings; Israel brought waste on their cities, and desolation on their land. But away in exile shall they confess their iniquity and accept its punishment from Jehovah Who will remember His covenant with their fathers and remember their land. Mercy shall glory over judgment; and Jehovah's end is that He is full of tender compassion and pitiful.
The last chapter (Lev. 27) brings in the priest again, but Moses' estimation. There may be vows of persons or beasts (not of the first-born, already Jehovah's), of house or land; but if all fail or be lost through man, God's rights abide. All was gone before God, when Christ was worth no more in Jewish eyes than the price of a slave. Yet will He retrieve all for them, having glorified Jehovah in all. Is this a human book?
§ 4 NUMBERS.
The Fourth Book of the Pentateuch is inadequately described by the title given in the versions generally. Nor is the usual Jewish expedient of the first words better rendered, "And spoke;" others say what is given later in the verse, "In the wilderness," which fairly presents its scope. For, as we have seen in its predecessors, this book has no less impressed on its contents a worthy divine design, which we as Christians are enabled by the Holy Spirit to apprehend and enjoy, in a way impossible to the Israelites or even to Moses its writer. "Now all those things happened to them as types; and they were written for our admonition on whom the ends of the ages are come" (1 Cor. 10:11). This to the believer is decisive authority, far from excluding the book of Exodus, but fully extending to Numbers. The history, as far as it goes, is thoroughly reliable; but the typical instruction, as we are taught, was the aim and motive of the Holy Spirit. And this it is which accounts for repetitions and a seeming disorder in parts, which is the best order for the truth intended by the divine Author. If the Neo-critics had only reverent faith to learn, they would be kept from a wholly ungrounded pretension to judge what is above their powers, and might apprehend the goodness and wisdom of God's revealed mind to their blessing for evermore.
The book contemplates, as does none other, the desert journeyings of Jehovah's people, the walk in the wilderness. Hence here only are the people numbered (Num. 1), and arranged (Num. 2), at the beginning; and for an equally important reason they are numbered again toward the end. As service attaches to this condition, here we have (not in Leviticus) necessary prominence given to the Levites who are separately numbered, and their tabernacle duties (Num. 3, 4); whereas in the preceding book, which treats of access to Jehovah, the priesthood has that prominent place. Hence too the preservation of the camp as a whole, and of each individual, from defilement is here fully provided (Num. 5); as is the converse case of special devotedness in its various forms (Num. 6, 7). The High Priest lighting the lamps next appears in Num. 8 morally connected; and the consecration of the Levites. Gracious consideration follows for any unintentionally unclean, that they too might not be debarred from observing the fundamental feast for all the people, the Passover (Num. 9). Hence here is the great and common call to guide the journey and the encampment according to the commandment of Jehovah. Nor was there "the cloud" only, but the silver trumpets for special occasions (Num. 10). Yet when their first march was ordered, grace interposed beyond prescription, and if Moses leaned on Hobab, the ark of the covenant of Jehovah went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting-place for them. What a God of all consolation for the earthly pilgrimage! And Moses could now in the Spirit suitably speak when the ark set forward, and when it halted.
Such is a brief review of the first division of this book. Could any mere man that ever lived have conceived and adjusted such an introduction? Were this the fitting occasion to enter into the details, for instance for carrying the tabernacle and the vessels of the sanctuary in Num. 4, the typical force would add incalculably to the impiety as well as absurdity of fancying such ill-omened sprites as Elohists, Jehovists, and Redactors, where every thing points to the One Divine Spirit Who employed Moses to write, not for Israel only, but for all that fear God at all times. The literary mania of Jew or Gentile (one is ashamed to say of professing Christians) is a suicidal and destructive snare of Satan when it sits in rationalistic judgment on God's word. It is blind to that manifestation of God in Christ here portrayed in the holy vessels, etc., and their respective coverings, only here found, only here suited, whether for the day that now is, or for that which is to come for His people on the earth. Further, "holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for evermore." The desert journey is just the responsible scene for maintaining it; and therefore is Num. 5 in its precisely right place, whatever be the objection of shallow and reckless speculation. So is the counterpart in Num. 6 of Nazarite separation to Jehovah: special defilements, and special devotedness, closing with the blessing of Jehovah on Israel pronounced by the entire priesthood.
Then, as we have said, follows the free-will offering from the twelve chiefs of the tribes, given to the Levites according to their service (Num. 7), the dedication-gift of the altar. And the Voice from above the mercy-seat speaks, in Num. 8, first of the candlestick, a striking figure designedly here, whatever rationalist presumption may say; then the Levites purified and set apart for Jehovah's work. That the sons of Israel laid their hands on them is a wholesome hint for ritualists to ponder. Jehovah gave them to Aaron and his sons for ministry. The Passover fitly comes at this point as uniting all Israel in the feast of redemption, with a gracious provision here only for such as were hindered by uncleanness from a dead body (Num. 9). The direction by the cloud is next given. The sounding of the silver trumpets opens Num. 10; then the first move with its deeply interesting accompaniments already noticed. Various subdivisions may be observed within this first division; but we must first forbear.
The second general portion opens with the moral history of the people in their journeyings. They murmur, and Jehovah judges but hears the prayer of Moses. They lust after flesh, weary of the manna; all fail, even Moses and Joshua in a measure; and Jehovah smote the people severely (Num. 11). Envy shows itself in Miriam and Aaron; but Aaron confesses, and Miriam stricken with leprosy is healed at Moses' cry (Num. 12). As unbelief let in these evils on the way, so in Num. 13, 14 we see as to the hope. The pleasant land is despised through fear of the sons of Anak. In the same unbelief, instead of allowing self-judgment, after a carnal mourning, they went up without a word from Jehovah and were cut to pieces, as far as Hormah by the Amalekite and the Canaanite hill-men. How marvellous and opportune the grace, which there and then drops these evil ways of Israel and their inevitable chastenings, to instruct them (Num. 15) what to do when come into the land of their habitations which Jehovah gives them! To offer Fire-offerings to Him with the Drink-offering of joy! To offer Him the first of their dough as a Heave-offering throughout their generations! Let us admire also the provision for sin unwittingly (only the gospel could meet worse evil): the presumptuous sin dealt with by a death which all joined to indict; and the fringe of blue to promote remembrance and obedience. What man of his own notion would have ventured such an episode? No wonder that unbelievers cavil, because they know not God. Num. 16 is the culmination of the sad story here in the gainsaying of Korah, with other chiefs. The worst part of the rebellion lay in the ministry arrogating the priesthood; which, as Jude declares, has its answer in the apostasy of Christendom. Jehovah decided by consuming fire; and, when the assembly murmured, by the plague that destroyed more than 14,000.
We may consider Num. 17 as introducing a fresh division, where the power of priestly intercession is shown in the fruitful rod of Aaron, living after death, alone able to lead the failing people through the wilderness. In Num. 18 the relative place of priests and Levites is explained. Aaron and his sons bear the iniquity of the sanctuary. How far is this from human, earthly, ambition! Theirs were the hallowed things to eat. The tithe was for the Levites, not for the priests save a tithe of the tithe given by the Levites to Aaron.
As these chapters are by divine design in their exactly right places, so in Num. 19 the Red Heifer is here alone given; for it alone suits this boon as the special provision for the defilements of the wilderness in general and in this place of grace particularly. The standard for every Israelite is the holiness of the sanctuary. The blood was put in its completeness of efficacy, as the basis needing no renewal; the ashes mixed with living water were applied to the unclean. It is the remembrance of Christ's suffering by the word in the Spirit. In Num. 20 Miriam dies; and the people, wanting water, contend with Moses. Jehovah being appealed to directs Moses to take the rod, and speak to the rock which should give its water. Here Moses and Aaron quite fail to represent Jehovah's grace. For instead of speaking with Aaron's rod of priestly grace, Moses smote the rock with his own rod of power. The waters flowed; but Moses and Aaron were doomed to die outside the land, as they did. Edom, we are told, opposed the direct way; and Israel turned from them as akin however hostile. Aaron dies on mount Hor, and Eleazar succeeds.
Num. 21 appears to begin a new series. King Arad's coming out against the Israelites is said by Dr. Perowne (Smith's Dict. ii. 581) to be "clearly out of place." But the comparison of Num. 33:40 confirms the assurance that it certainly is in its true place. Only the supplied "when" of the A.V. is a mistake; this is not written. But now the Canaanite made head, till Israel vowed to Jehovah to deal with the accursed race as He adjudged. Yet after fresh impatience and murmuring against the bread from above, they are smitten by the enemy's deadly sting, and find the only remedy in what figures Christ made sin for us. Then comes joyful refreshment in the well dug by the staves of their chiefs; and Sihon and Og assail them to their destruction, leaving their possessions to Israel. On the plains of Moab, with only Jordan severing them from Canaan, Satan makes a new and final effort to thwart Jehovah by cursing His people. But the false prophet was compelled to bless in repeated strains of unequalled beauty, before which the odes of Pindar and Horace are as inferior as their heroes and the occasions of their laudation. They are not only prophetic but Messianic throughout, indirectly and directly. Elohim, Jehovah, El Elyon, and El Shaddai are used with perfect propriety, but so as to expel from the field of spiritual intelligence the flimsy rag of Astruc wherewith rationalism seeks to cover its nakedness. Poor as His people are in themselves, here God gives His mind and purpose about them: separateness, justification, beauty, and glory (Num. 22 - 24). Never did such thoughts grow out of the heart of man; and God will verify them all in His time. The day is at hand.
In Num. 25 we see Balaam's will in corrupting the people, but Phinehas avenging it and staying the plague. Then in Num. 26 is renewed the enumeration of the people; and Num. 27 has daughters secured in the coming inheritance; while Jehovah bids Moses, in view of his decease, lay his hand on Joshua to lead the people in. Num. 28, 29 follow the analogy of kindred insertions, and treat of what Jehovah calls His bread, His offerings at the set times, not as Lev. 23 did in picturing the course of dispensations but viewed intrinsically and as displaying the worship rendered by His people on earth. Then in Num. 30 we have the secret of man's or Israel's failure, and the way grace takes to surmount it and deliver the weak. Next is the holy war to execute Jehovah's vengeance on Midian, with (not Joshua the soldier, but) Phinehas the priest for leader and the alarm-trumpets in his hand. The victory is complete, and the seducers destroyed. But Num. 32 indicates the fact, so sadly natural, that whole tribes prefer their inheritance outside the Jordan: still they fight as Jehovah's people against the enemy. Then comes the interesting list of the journeys as far as God was pleased to relate them in Num. 33; and in Num. 34 the borders of the land on the other side of the Jordan, to fall by lot to the nine and a half tribes of Israel. This leads to the cities of the Levites (Num. 35), who had no inheritance in the land, and to the provision for him who might have slain unwittingly: a striking figure of what grace will yet reckon to the repentant remnant of Israel. The last chapter guards the security for heiresses from disordering the inheritance by passing out of the proper tribe.
If it be objected that not a little of this book refers to the land of promise, not yet possessed by the people, as adverse to the character of pilgrimage, the answer is that the looking onward in assured hope is precisely what is needed to cheer those who pass through the difficulties and dangers of the wilderness. The thing objected to is therefore in perfect keeping with its divine design. So we saw in the riband of blue only given in Numbers 15, like the water for separation in Num. 19, however differing in character; for the one recalls the light of heaven to those walking on earth, who also specially need the means of purifying from the defilements of the way. How superficial are the critical censures of unbelief! how deep and precious are the helps of the divine word to faith!