corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Genesis Overview

 

 


PREFACE.

THE present Commentary on the Old Testament, of which the First Volume is now placed before the reader, is based on the same principles, and designed for the same class of readers, as the companion Commentary on the New Testament.

In the Preface to that Work, the general aims and objects of the Commentary were set forth with some fulness. It was stated that the Commentary was designed for that large and increasing class of cultivated English readers who, believing the Holy Scriptures not only to contain God’s Word, but to be God’s Word, do earnestly desire to realise that Word, and to be assisted in applying it to their own spiritual needs, and to the general circumstances and context of daily life around them.

It was further stated that its object was also to meet some of the deep needs of the present time, especially of that large, and—as we fear it must again be said—increasing class of readers, who are conscious that chilling doubts have crept into the soul, and that modern criticism has seemed to them to make it doubtful whether Scripture is what it claims to be; not merely a truthful record of God’s dealings with man, but a power to make man wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. For these, and for such as these, it was stated that much that would be put forward in the Notes, and especially the manner in which it would be put forward, would be found especially helpful. Difficulties would be fairly met; removed where they could be removed; left, simply and frankly, where it did not appear that God had yet vouchsafed to us the means of doing more than modifying them, or reducing their gravity and magnitude.

The main difficulties connected with the Old Testament may briefly be summed up as scientific historical, and moral—all of which, in their turn, are constantly presenting themselves to the interpreter, and, at the very least, demand of him something more than mere passing notice and recognition.

The scientific difficulties mostly connect themselves with the narrative of the emergence of the world and of the totality of things around us, and with the place which man holds in the order and system of nature of which we have more immediate cognisance. The origination of the human race, its antiquity, its dispersions, and its developments, are all subjects which are forced upon the attention of the candid interpreter, and which must be dealt with, even in the necessarily circumscribed limits of a commentary, with distinctness and candour. The day for the so-called reconciliations of Scripture and Science, or, in other words, for wide assumptions as to the statements of Scripture, and shallow and superficial answers to inferences drawn from real or supposed discoveries, has now passed away. The interpreter is now remanded to the simple and holy words into which tradition, or imperfect knowledge, may have imported a meaning which they never were intended to bear. He is reminded, ere he attempts either defence or reconciliation, that his duty is to set forth in clearness and truth that and that only which, by the ordinary principles of human thought and of human language, the words on which he is meditating really express; and when he has done this, he is bidden to remember that it is also his duty not to recognise as truths of science what as yet are no more than working hypotheses, nor to invest with the high character of established theories, brilliant generalisations which are still regarded by eminent men of science as, at best, only partially verified. The duty of the faithful interpreter is to set forth the apparent meaning of that which lies before him with all candour, breadth, and simplicity; to be severely truthful, and to wait. The disclosures of science are as yet only partial and fragmentary. Their drift and tendency, however, indisputably lead us to this conviction, that, with fuller knowledge, much that at present prevents our fully realising the harmony between the revelation of God in the book of Nature, and the revelation of God in His own inspired Word, will entirely pass away. We must, then, often be content to wait. He that has sent the dream will, in His own good time, send the interpretation thereof.

We do not disguise that there are difficulties; we do not deny that there are subjects, such, for instance, as the antiquity of the human race, in regard of which our first impressions derived from Scripture do not appear to be coincident with some of the results of modern discovery. These things we deny not. But this, on the other hand, we assert with unchanging confidence, that by very far the greater portion of the so-called opposition between Religion and Science is due to bias, preconception, and literalism, on one side, and, on the other side, to an elevation, often studiously antagonistic, of plausible hypothesis into the higher domain of universally received and established theory.

Scarcely less in magnitude and importance are the numerous historical difficulties which present themselves in the inspired narrative, whether as connected with supposed discrepancies with generally accepted secular history, or as presented by what are claimed to be ascertained facts as to the early origination of the human race, or as ipso facto forced upon the modern reader by the inherent improbabilities of the story. This last-mentioned class of difficulties is, it need hardly be said, always connected with the miraculous portions of the narrative, and more especially with the presence of miracles when appearing in what would seem to be ordinary human history. In the earlier books of Scripture, this form of difficulty is not felt to be so trying to the faith. In the youth of the world many things seem admissible, which at a later period seem startling and incongruous. The presence of the supernatural may be felt to be partially explicable in the case of the one portion of the narrative, but inexplicable in the case of the other. The age of the miraculous is assumed to have passed away, and its startling recurrence in the ordinary stream of human history, in the narratives of wars, or the annals of established kingdoms, often raises uneasy feelings in the minds of really earnest and religious readers—feelings which, at a time such as the present, may be entertained far more widely than we may, at first sight, be disposed to admit.

Difficulties such as these must, it is plain, often traverse the path of an interpreter; and it will be found by the readers of this Commentary that they have been neither evaded nor ignored. In regard of the first two forms of historical difficulty, it may be observed that the remarkable additions to the records of ancient history that have been disclosed within the present generation, and the still more remarkable documents that relate to what may not improperly be called a pre-historic period, will be found to have been used soberly and critically, wheresoever their testimony might be judged to be available. It will be found also that they are of the highest evidential importance. Not only do they supply the interpreter with hitherto undiscovered demonstrations of the faithfulness and truth of the inspired record, where it might otherwise have seemed most open to criticism, but even suggest inferences as to the early migrations and settlements of the great human family, which are shadowed forth in the brief and mainly genealogical notices of the opening chapters of Holy Scripture. Just as true science, apart from mere speculative inferences or unverified hypotheses, has of late been permitted, in many striking discoveries, to bear its testimony to the Divine truth of the earliest pages of the world’s history, so has recent archaeology been enabled to throw a light upon the pages that follow it. Nay, even in regard to the grave difficulty connected with the presence of the supernatural and miraculous in the current of what might be deemed ordinary national history, even in this respect recent historical research has indirectly ministered light and reassurance. It has shown that in numerous details the holy narrative is now proved to be in strict accordance with independent secular history; and in showing this, it suggests the important consideration that if Scriptural statements are thus to be relied on in one portion of the narrative, there is at least a presumption of a very high order that they deserve to be believed and relied upon in the other. And the more so, when it is borne in mind that the narrative of Holy Scripture is the record of the providential government of the world rather than of the events and issues of merely human history. These combined considerations will go far, in any candid mind, to alleviate the doubts that may have arisen from the presence of the miraculous, where experience might have seemed to suggest that it was due only to the misconceptions or credulity of the writer.

The moral difficulties connected with the details of many events that come before us in the Old Testament are not lightly to be passed over. They can, however, only properly be dealt with in connection with the whole narrative of which they form a part. Still, this may be said generally, that while, on the one hand, each portion of the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament presents to us, faithfully and truthfully, the morality and civilisation of the age to which that portion refers, there is, on the other hand, plainly to be traced a Divine working by which the standard is persistently raised both in the individual and in the nation. The prœparatio evangelica was continuous and progressive; the passage from the days of comparative ignorance to those in which the blessed teaching of the Sermon on the Mount was proclaimed in the ears of men, was by steady gradation and providential advance. There was no period in which, whether in regard of spoken word or entailed consequence, God left Himself without a witness: but the testimony of each witness became fuller and clearer as the centuries rolled onward; and as the time drew nigh when the mystery of salvation was to be fully disclosed to the children of men, the light shone forth clearer and clearer even unto the perfect day.

Such are the three main classes of difficulties which from time to time present themselves to the earnest student of the Old Testament. They differ in many important particulars from the difficulties connected with the New Testament, and are, we fear, seriously felt by many who accept without any conscious hesitation the broader outlines of Christianity. Thus felt, and thus admitted into the general current of thought, they contribute to that silent and often unconscious depreciation of the Divine authority of the Old Testament, which is certainly disclosing itself in our own times, even among those who might claim to be considered religiously-minded readers and thinkers. To such as these—and their number, it is to be feared, is yearly increasing—this Commentary will be found to supply a help that is sorely needed, and that is likely, by the very manner in which that help is offered, to exercise a permanently good effect on those who may seek for it. As in the Commentary on the New Testament, difficulties are fairly met. Where a full answer to the questions that may arise can distinctly be given, it is given; where only such reasonable considerations can be urged as qualify the force of objections, and suggest, though they may not as yet completely supply, the true explanation, there the limited state of our present knowledge, and so of our power of wholly removing the difficulty, is placed clearly before the reader; where, as in the case of numerical statements and other and similar details, startling objections at once present themselves, there the possibility, and even likelihood, of transcriptional errors is pointed out, and the statement left as it has come down to us—still needing elucidation, but, as the whole aspect of recent discovery warrants us in believing, in due time fully to receive it.

But here, as was done in the case of the Commentary on the New Testament, it is proper to state with all distinctness, that though the truth is so dear to the writers of this Commentary that they have never allowed themselves to set forth explanations in which they themselves have not the fullest confidence, no one is, for one moment, to expect to find any traces of unfixed or vacillating opinions as to the true nature and authority of this portion of God’s Holy Word. As was said in the Preface to the Commentary on the New Testament, so may it be said with equal force here, that each member of our present company knows on Whom and in What he has trusted, and is persuaded, with all that deep conviction which the study of this blessed Book ever bears to the humble and reverent, that heavenly truth is present in every part and portion, even though he himself may not be able to set it forth in all its brightness. This, it is plainly avowed, is the presumption and prœjudicium under which the work of the interpreter has been done throughout this Commentary. That presumption, however, has never interfered with the most exact discharge of the duty of the faithful interpreter; nay—for truth will bear any investigation—it has even encouraged and enhanced it.

But it is far indeed from the sole aim of this Commentary to remove or attenuate the difficulties that are to be found in the Old Testament. No; as in the Notes on the New Testament, so here, it has been the main object of the writers to bring the blessed teaching of the Sacred Volume home to the heart and soul of the reader; to show how He that was to come is the guiding light, the quickening principle, the mystic secret of the long ages of preparation; how history typified, and rite foreshadowed, and prophesy foretold; how, in a word, salvation is the orient light under which all the mysteries of the Old Dispensation become clear and intelligible.

Especially is it our hope that some momentous truths in relation to the Old Testament will be found to have been brought out with fresh force and perspicuity, and that not so much by isolated notes or special disquisitions, as by the whole tone and tenour of the Commentary. There was never a time when this was more needed. It is not now merely by outward foes that the Divine authority of the Old Testament is impugned and its teaching invalidated: Christians are now being taught by Christians to regard the history of the Old Testament as no more than the strange annals of an ancient people, that have no more instruction for us than the histories of the nations among whom they dwelt. Nay, more, the very moral scope and bearing of that Law, from which it has been said that “one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass away till all things be accomplished,” is boldly called in question in the very precincts of Christian controversy. It is well, then, that the simple and earnest reader should have within reach a Commentary professedly plain, popular, and uncontroversial, which by the very tenour of its interpretation, and the reverent candour of its discussion, should assist in maintaining in the foreground those broad truths relative to the Old Dispensation which it is the especial care of modern criticism to keep out of sight and to ignore. We allude more particularly to these three great truths: First, that the history of the Old Testament is not merely the history of an ancient nation, but the history of a nation that was, as it were, the church of humanity, and in which and through which dawned the true future and true hope of mankind; secondly, that the Divine government of that nation, and the law to which it was to be subordinated, are to be estimated, not by the isolated consideration of individual facts or commands, but by the scope, purpose, and final issues of that law and that government which history incontrovertibly discloses; and lastly, and almost inferentially, that the revelation which God vouchsafed to His chosen people, and partially, through them, to the widespread nations of the earth, was progressive and gradual, and that the Old Testament is the record of the long preparation of mankind for that for which every true heart in every age had dimly longed for—redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Such is our Commentary. It now only remains necessary to make a very few comments on those details of the responsible work which may seem to require it.

In regard of the learned and able body of men who have, to the great advantage of the student, consented to take part in this Commentary, the same general remark may be made that was made in the Preface to the Commentary on the New Testament, viz., that each writer is responsible for his own notes and his own interpretation. It has been the care of the Editor to help each writer, so far as he had power to do so, to set forth his interpretation with clearness and precision. No attempt has been made, where similar ground has been passed over by two independent writers, to bring about any conventional uniformity of comment or interpretation. The tenour and context of each passage—and it is rare indeed that the tenour and context of two passages are exactly alike—have been regarded as those elements which each writer must be considered utterly free to use as conditioning the details of interpretation. The result may be, here and there, some trivial differences in the subordinate features of the interpretation, yet only such differences as help to bring out what may ultimately be regarded as the closest approximation to the true facts of the case. In many passages it is from this sort of concordia discors that the real meaning is most clearly ascertained. In these and all similar details it has been the especial care of the Editor so to place himself in the same point of view with each writer, as to supply most effectively assistance where it might seem to be needed, and, in offering suggestions or proposing alterations, to do so with a due regard to the position deliberately taken up by the writer. Reconsideration has, from time to time, been suggested; but where such reconsideration has seemed to the writer to confirm him in his original view, there that view has never been interfered with.

As in the case of the New Testament, an Introduction has been prefixed to each portion, in which the general tenour of the inspired writing, and those details which might help to set it forth most clearly to the reader, are specified with as much fulness as the nature of this Commentary will permit. Where, also, the subject-matter has seemed to require it, an Excursus has been appended to the Notes for the purpose of helping the more critical reader, and supplying a detail that could not be given elsewhere consistently with the general character of the Work. It has never been forgotten that this Commentary is popular in its general aspect, and designed for the English reader rather than for the professed scholar. Modern controversies, therefore, and the subtler criticisms to which portions of Holy Scripture, especially the prophetical portions, have recently been subjected, are treated broadly and generally, and more with reference to the results arrived at than to the procedure by which those results were obtained. Detailed investigations of hypercritical objections, or elaborate confutations of theories which common sense or common honesty seems to predispose us at once to repudiate, would obviously be out of place in this Commentary. Nothing, however, has been kept back from the reader. All opposing statements that seem to be of any weight whatever are candidly set forth, and plainly answered whensoever and wheresoever the material for a conclusive answer has been found to exist. That difficulties will in part still remain may be frankly conceded; but even in regard of them this remark may certainly be made—that it is the plain tendency of modern historical discovery to attenuate or remove them.

The broad purpose and the structure of the Notes remain the same as in the Commentary on the New Testament. Exegetical details, linguistic discussions, and the refutations of competing interpretations, are, for the most part, if not entirely, avoided; while, on the other hand, all those more general considerations which seem likely to bring home the sacred words more closely to the heart of the reader, are set forth with as much fulness as our limits will allow. Scripture faithfully interpreted is the best evidence for the truth of Scripture, and on that defence no anxious soul has ever rested in vain.

We now (for I well know that my dear brethren and associates would desire to be joined with me in this closing paragraph) humbly commit this work to Almighty God, praying earnestly and devoutly that it may be permitted to set forth the truth of the living Oracles of God, and may minister to the deeper adoration of Him who spake through patriarchs and prophets, the Holy and Eternal Spirit, to whom, with the Father and the Son, be all glory for evermore.

C. J. GLOUCESTER AND BRISTOL

GENERAL INTRODUCTION.

II. The Literature of the Patriarchal Age.—Whether there were any written records in the earliest age of that people, in the period commonly known as the patriarchal, is a question on which we cannot speak with certainty. We have no Hebrew inscriptions of that period, and the Moabite Stone, with its records of the reign of Mesha, a contemporary of Ahab, is, perhaps. the earliest record in any cognate alphabet. Egypt, however, had, at that time, its hieroglyphics, and Assyria its cuneiform characters. Coming as Abraham did from Ur of the Chaldees, and sojourning in Egypt, as the honoured chieftain of a tribe, he may well have appropriated some elements of the culture with which he came in contact. The purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:17-20) implies a documentary contract, and the record of the conveyance bears a strong resemblance to the agreements of like nature which we find in the old inscriptions of Nineveh, and the Hittite capital, Carchemish (Records of the Past, i. 137; ix. 91; xi. 91). The commerce of the Midianites (Genesis 37:28) would scarcely have been carried on without written accounts. If the name of Kirjath Sepher (City of Scribes, or Book-city—Joshua 15:15-16; Judges 1:11-12) could be traced so far back it would prove that there was a class of scribes, or a city already famous for its library. The episode of the invasion of the cities of the plain by the four kings of the East (Genesis 14) has the character of an extract from some older chronicle. The “book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5) and other like genealogical documents, tribal, national, or ethnological (Genesis 10; Genesis 11:10-32; Genesis 22:20-24; Genesis 25:1-4; Genesis 36), indicate a like origin. The Book of Job is, perhaps, too doubtful in its date to furnish conclusive evidence, but if not pre-Mosaic it, at least, represents fairly the culture and the thought of a patriarchal age, outside the direct influences of Mosaic institutions, and there the wish of the sufferer that his words might be “printed in a book” (Job 19:23); that his adversary had “written a book,” i.e., that his accuser had formulated an indictment (Job 31:35), shows the use of writing in judicial proceedings. On the whole, then, it seems probable that when Jacob and his descendants settled in the land of Goshen they had with them at least the elements of a literature, including annals, genealogies, and traditions of tribal history, together with fragments of ancient poems, like the song of Lamech (Genesis 4:23-24) and the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49). The Book of Genesis was probably composed largely out of the documents that were thus preserved.

III. Literature of Israel at the Time of the Exodus.—At the time of the exodus from Egypt there can be little doubt that Israel had its historiographers and its poets, as well as its framers and transcribers of laws. Without entering into disputed questions as to the authorship or editorship of books, it can scarcely admit of doubt that the song of Moses, in Exodus 15, has the ring of a hymn of victory written at the time; that at least the first section of the Law (Exodus 20-23.) dates from the earliest dawn of Israel’s history; that the genealogies and marching orders of Numbers 1, 2, 10, , 26, and the record of the offerings of the several tribes in Num. vii and 8, and of the encampments of the wandering in Numbers 33, are contemporary records. Incidental notices indicate the process by which these records were made, and there is no reason to suppose that they are the out-growth of a later age. After the defeat of the Amalekites, Moses is commanded to “write it for a memorial in the book” (Heb.), which was to contain the mighty acts of the Lord (Exodus 17:14). After the first installment of legislation, he “wrote all the words of the Law,” presumably in the same book, which is now designated as “the Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:3-5); Passing over the more explicit statements of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 17:18-19; Deuteronomy 28:58-61; Deuteronomy 29:19-20; Deuteronomy 29:27; Deuteronomy 30:10), as not wishing to discuss here the questions which have been raised as to the authorship and date of that book, we have incidentally in Joshua 24:26 a notice of a “Book of the Law of God,” which was kept in the sanctuary, and had a blank space in which additions might be made from time to time as occasion might require. In addition to these traces of records, partly historical and partly legislative, we have extracts from other books now lost, which indicate the existence of a wider literature, the well-digging song of Numbers 21:17-18, the hymn of victory over the Amorites, commemorating their early victories over Moab (Numbers 21:27-28), both probably taken from the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Numbers 21:14), which seems to have been the lyric record of the achievements which the historians narrated in prose. On the whole, then, there would seem to be ample grounds for believing that on their entry into the land of Canaan the Israelites brought with them, not indeed the whole Pentateuch in its present form, but many documents that are now incorporated with it, and which served as a nucleus for the work of future compilers.

IV. Hebrew Literature under the Judges.—The period that followed the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan was not favourable to the growth of what we call literature. A population half-pastoral and half-agricultural, with few cities of any size, and struggling for existence under repeated invasions, had not the leisure out of which literary culture grows. In the list of conquered kings, however (Joshua 12), and in the record of the division of the lands, which forms, as it were, the Doomsday Book of Israel (Joshua 13-21.), we have documents that bear every trace of contemporary origin, and show that the work of the annalist had not ceased. The Book of the Wars of the Lord apparently found a successor in a collection of heroic sagas known as the Book of Jasher (the just or upright), from which extracts are given in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18, and may have been the unrecognised source of many of the more poetical elements of history that now appear in the Pentateuch. The mention of those who “handle the pen of the writer” in the song of Deborah (Judges 5:14) might suggest at first, like the name of Kirjath-Sepher, the thought of a recognised class of scribes, but scholars are agreed that the words should be translated as “those that wield the rod of the ruler;” and it is obvious that, except as registering the muster-rolls or chronicling achievements, such a class could have found no place in Deborah’s song of triumph. That song itself, with the stamp of originality and contemporaneousness impressed on every line, shows that among the women of Israel the genius that had shown itself in Miriam, the part taken by female singers in triumphal processions (Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:7) and in funeral lamentations (2 Samuel 1:24; Jeremiah 22:18), each of which called for words appropriate to the occasion, naturally tended to the development of this form of culture, and in the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10) we may probably trace its influence, intermingled with that of the higher inspiration of the moment.

V. The Schools of the Prophets.—With the institution of the schools of the prophets traditionally ascribed to Samuel, the culture of Israel advanced as by leaps and strides. They were to its civilisation, besides all that was peculiar to their vocation, what the Orphic brotherhoods and the Homeridæ were to that of Greece—what universities and cathedrals and monasteries were to that of mediæval Europe. Their work of worship, uniting as it did both song and music, developed into the Book of Psalms which we retain, and into the lost art of Hebrew music of which the titles to the Psalms (e.g., Neginoth, Nehiloth, Sheminith, Gittith, Muthlabben, &c.) present so many traces. The language of unpremeditated praise in which their work apparently began, though even then not without a certain order (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 19:20), passed before long first into the more deliberate work of the reporter, and afterwards into that of a man who sits down to compose a hymn. A like process, we cannot doubt, went on with the preaching which formed another part of the prophet’s work. In the earlier days the prophet comes and goes and speaks his message, and leaves but the scantiest records, as probably in the record of the work of the “angel” (better “messenger”) of the Lord in Judges 2:1; Judges 5:23; and in the words of Jehovah, which must have come from some human lips, in Judges 10:11. In the second stage in that of the schools of the prophets, he utters, as throughout the history of Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, what he has to say in the presence of his disciples, and they take down his words, but the prophet himself is a preacher rather than a writer. In the third the prophet is himself the author, either writing with his own hand (Isaiah 8:1), or employing still the help of an amanuensis (Jeremiah 36:1-4). In this way we may trace to the schools of the prophets, as to a fountainhead, a large portion of the Psalms and of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. It was natural under the conditions in which they lived that their influence should spread to the hereditary caste of the tribe of Levi, who had been set apart for the ministries of worship. The founder of the prophetic schools, himself a Levite. formed a link between the two, and from the days of Heman, Asaph, and Jeduthun (1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 15:16-22; 1 Chronicles 25:1-3) under David, to those of the sons of Korah under Jehosaphat and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 20:19), the Levites appear to have furnished their full quota to the minstrelsy of Israel, that minstrelsy being described in one memorable passage as belonging to the functions of a prophet (1 Chronicles 25:3). The fact that David himself had been trained in those schools—that from earliest youth (1 Samuel 16:17-23) to extreme old age (2 Samuel 23:1-7) his life was illumined with the stars at once of prophecy and of verse, made his advent to the throne the golden time of Hebrew literature. The king was known not only as the conqueror and the ruler, but as the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” and every form of composition found in him at once a master and a patron. The consciousness of national life which was thus developed, found expression, as it has always done in the analogous stages of the growth of other nations, in the form of history. Men felt that they had at once a future and a past. One man felt drawn to search out the origines of his people, and another to record the events in which he and his fathers had actually been sharers. There were the formal official annals, the Books of the “Chronicles,” the work, probably, for the most part of the priests, and therefore dwelling largely on the organisation of the Temple, and the changes made during periods of religious reformation under the kings of Judah and Israel. And besides these we have traces of a copious literature, chiefly the work of prophets, and therefore viewing the history of the people from the prophet’s standpoint of faith in a righteous order working through the history of the nation, such as has been described above, in the books of Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:29); the book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chronicles 9:29); the visions of Iddo the seer (ibid.); the prophecy of Jonah, not found in the book that bears his name (2 Kings 14:25); the book of Shemaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 12:15); of Iddo the seer, concerning genealogies (ibid.), and a third book by the same writer (2 Chronicles 13:22); the book of Jehu the son of Hanani (2 Chronicles 20:34); the acts of Uzziah and Hezekiah, by Isaiah, the son of Amoz (2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 32:32); and the lamentations of Jeremiah for Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:25).

Working side by side with each other, and taking each a wider range than the mere register of events which was the work of the “recorder” of the king’s court (2 Samuel 8:16; Isaiah 36:22), the priests and the prophets, the same man often uniting both characters, laid the foundations of the historical literature of Israel, as the monks did of the history of mediæval Europe. In addition to their work as preaching the word of Jehovah they left their impress on the music and psalmody of the people, on its battle-songs and lamentations, and delighted to trace out the sequence of events in the history of the people as indicating the conditions of true greatness and the fulfilment, more or less complete, of the laws of a righteous government.

VII. The Law Forgotten.—So far the literature that thus grew up was in harmony with the faith in Israel, but its wider and more cosmopolitan character tended to a greater laxity; and it would seem that in course of time there came to be a natural conflict between the new literature and the old, as there was between the worship of Jehovah, as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and that of Moloch and Chemosh, of Baal and Ashtaroth, which formed one of the perils of this wider culture, and to which kings like Solomon, Ahaz, and Manasseh gave a wrongful preference. The Book of the Law of the Lord, in whatever form it then existed, fell into comparative oblivion. The reformation under Jehoshaphat brought it again into a temporary prominence (2 Chronicles 17:9), and it is natural to assume that a devout king like Hezekiah cultivating as he did both the psalmody and the sapiential literature which were identified with the faith of Israel (Proverbs 25:1), and guided by a teacher like Isaiah, would not be neglectful of the older book (or books) which was the groundwork of both. The long reign of Manasseh, however, did its work alike of destruction and suppression, and when the Book of the Law of the Lord was discovered in some secret recess in the Temple during the progress of Josiah’s reformation (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 34:14), it burst upon the people, with its warnings and its woes, with the startling terrors of an unknown portent. What that book was, is one of the problems which must be reserved for discussion in its proper place in the course of this Commentary. It may have been the whole Pentateuch as we now have it, or, as the prominence given to its prophecies of evil might indicate, the Book of Deuteronomy, as the work of Moses, or, as the bolder criticism of our time has suggested, the work of a contemporary who, confident that he was reproducing the mind of Moses, that the spirit of the lawgiver was speaking through him, did not hesitate to assume his character and speak as in his name, as at a later date, certainly in the Book of Wisdom, and possibly also in Ecclesiastes, the teachers of wisdom spoke with no fraudulent animus in the name of Solomon.

VIII. The Literature of the Northern Kingdom.—It lies in the nature of the case that we have fuller materials for tracing the history of Hebrew literature in the kingdom of Judah than in that of Israel. The culture of the northern kingdom was of a lower type. The apostasy of Jeroboam alienated from the outset the priests and Levites, who supplied the chief materials of a learned class, and the “lowest of the people” (1 Kings 12:31), who were made priests of the high places, and of the calves of Bethel and of Dan, were not likely to supply its place. But here also, it must be remembered, there were official historiographers attached to the royal court, schools of the prophets which, under the guidance of Elijah and Elisha, maintained the worship of Jehovah as hymn-writers and as preachers, writers of songs for the feasts of princes and of nobles of a far other character than that of the songs of Zion (Amos 6:5; Amos 8:10), probably even a literature as profligate and as sceptical as that of the European Renaissance (Hosea 8:12; Hosea 9:9-10). The conquest of the kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians, the events which we sum up as the captivity of the Ten Tribes, swept off alike the good and the evil elements of that literature. If, as in the case of some of the Psalms (probably, e.g., Psalms 80) and the writings of prophets like Hosea and Amos, whose lives and work were cast in the northern kingdom, some of it has survived, it was probably because the remnant of Ephraim that was left took refuge in Judah (2 Chronicles 30:18) at a time when Hezekiah was carefully gathering up (as we have seen in the case of the Book of Proverbs) all fragments that remained of the older and nobler literature of the people, that nothing might be lost.

IX. The Babylonian Exile.—The capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldæeans under Nebuchadnezzar must have wrought a like destruction in Judah or Jerusalem. The royal library of Jerusalem, of which we possibly find a trace as suggesting the symbolism of the house of wisdom with its “seven pillars” (comp. Proverbs 9:1), must have perished in the flames, as that of Alexandria, at a later period, did under Omar, and with it much that would have thrown light on the history and religion of Israel has passed away, never to be recovered. All, however, was not lost. The most precious books were, as in all ages, not those that were only on the shelves of a public library, but those that were treasured up by individual men as the guides and counsellors of their life. The priests, Levites, prophets, and psalmists of Israel, carried with them into Babylon the books which they held most sacred. They were known to have with them the “songs of Zion” (Psalms 137:3), and were expected to sing them at the bidding of their conquerors. A priest-prophet, like Ezekiel, may well have had with him the Book of the Law to which he appeals (Ezekiel 5:6; Ezekiel 20:11), the documents which served as the basis of his ideal realisation of the Holy Land, of Jerusalem, and of the Temple (Ezekiel 40-48). A scribe like Baruch, over and above his work as committing to writing the prophecies of his master Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:4; Jeremiah 36:32), was not likely to be unmindful of the books which, like Deuteronomy and some of the earlier prophets, formed the basis of that master’s teaching. A prince like Daniel, “skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science” (Daniel 1:4), must, in the nature of the case, have been trained in the books in which the wisdom of his people was enshrined (Daniel 6:5; Daniel 9:13). To the influence of these three men at the beginning of the captivity it was, we may believe, due that the Jewish exiles did not shrink into a degraded and unlettered caste, that they preserved what they could of the sacred books of their fathers, now more precious to them than ever. Under their training or, at least, with the memory of their work ever before his eyes, grew up the man whose relation to those books is absolutely unique.

X. The Work of Ezra.—Round the name of Ezra there has gathered much that is obviously legendary and fantastic; but the traditions, wild as they are, are such as cluster round the memory of a great man, and indicate the character of his work. To him, according to those legends, it was given to dictate, as by a special inspiration, all the sacred books that had been destroyed by fire and perished from the memories of men (2 Esdras 14:21; 2 Esdras 14:44; Iren. adv. Hœr. iii. 21, 2; Tertull. de Cult. Fœmin. 1, 3.) He had, besides this, dictated to an esoteric circle of disciples seventy other books of a mystic and apocalyptic character (2 Esdras 14:46). He was the president of the Great Synagogue, which included every notable name of the period, and to which the traditions of later rabbis assigned the whole work of the restoration of religion at Jerusalem, the institution of synagogues, the settlement by authority of something like a canon of books that were to be accounted sacred (art. Synagogue, Great, in Smith’s Dict. of Bible). In the more authentic records his work is naturally confined within narrower limits, but it lies in the same direction. He brings the people together on his return to Jerusalem, and has the Book of the Law read to them publicly (Nehemiah 8:1-5), and appoints interpreters to expound its meaning (Nehemiah 8:8) and cause the hearers “to understand the reading.” It is an open question whether their work was confined to translating from the older Hebrew into the later Aramaic, which became from this time the spoken language of the Jews, or extended to a paraphrase of the text, such as afterwards took shape in the books known as Targums (interpretations or paraphrases). In any case the work of Ezra, as the restorer of the religion of Israel, must have been one of immense importance. To him, with scarcely a shadow of a doubt, we owe the preservation of the books which we now have as the anthology of a wide literature, the Reliquiœ Sacrœ of the older days of Israel, probably the completion out of many documents of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, one from the prophetic, the other from the priestly standpoint; one dealing generally with the history of both Israel and Judah, as the record of the Divine government of the people, the other more fully with that of Judah only.

XII. Jewish Classification of the Old Testament Books.—At a later date, probably in the ninth century after Christ, from the scribes of the Masora (= Tradition—i.e., the text as it had been handed down) or revised text of the sacred books, the sacred books received a new and more complete classification, which is retained in all existing copies, written or printed, of the Hebrew text, as follows:—

(1) The Torah, or Law, including the books of the Pentateuch, the title of each being taken from its opening words:—

[image]

[*] Divided, after the manner of the Pentateuch, into five distinct sections, indicated by the word Amen in Psalms 41, 72, 89, and the doxology of Psalms 105.

[+] So called because each book was written on a parchment roll for synagogue or private use.

XIII. The Work of the Masoretic Scribes.—In addition to this work of classification, the Masoretic scribes (1) carefully revised the text, copying what they found in MSS. of authority, even where they judged it faulty, under the title of the K’thib, or text to be written, while they wrote in the margin what seemed to them a preferable reading as the K’ri, or text to be uttered, when the passage was read aloud. (2) They introduced an elaborate system of subdivisions: (a) the Pentateuch was divided into 54 Parashioth, or sections, the number being chosen so as to give a lesson for synagogue use on each Sabbath of the Jewish intercalary year; this division had probably been in use from the time when the Torah was first publicly read in the synagogues (Acts 15:21); (b) the prophets in like manner were divided into the same number of sections, known in this case as Haphtaroth; (c) throughout the whole of the Hebrew Canons there ran a more minute division into Pesukim, or verses, for convenience of reference in writing or preaching. These were reproduced in the edition of the Latin Vulgate, printed by Stephens in 1555, were adopted by the translators of the Geneva Bible in 1560, and afterwards appeared in the Bishops’ Bible of 1563, and the Authorised version of 1611, the earlier English printed versions having had only on each page the letters A, B, C, D at equal intervals, as we see in the early editions of Plato and other books. The division into Parashioth and Haphtaroth, being adapted entirely for synagogue uses (Acts 13:15). has naturally never gained acceptance in the Christian Church, and for many centuries the Law and the Prophets were written without any subdivision, till circ. A.D. 1240, when Cardinal Hugh de St. Cher divided each book into sections of convenient length which, combined, as above stated, with the Hebrew Pesukim, give us our familiar chapter and verse arrangement. It may be added that the first Hebrew Bible was printed at Soncino in A.D. 1477, just in time to serve as the basis first of Luther’s translation, and afterwards, in varying degrees, of the successive English versions. It is true of the Church and people of England that they have received the books of the Old Testament from the fountain-head of what became known in the Reformation controversies by the almost technical term of the “Hebrew verity.” The careful revision of the text between the sixth and the ninth centuries after Christ by the Masoretic scribes, and the scrupulous exactness of most Jewish copyists, have minimised the chances of variation in the text, and the result of the collation of MSS. of the Old Testament presents in this respect a marked contrast to that of a like process in dealing with the MSS. of the New.

XV. The Apocrypha.—The Alexandrian Jews, it is clear, looked on the Hebrew books as a Bibliotheca Sacra, a library of the sacred literature of their nation, and did not hesitate, as occasion offered, to place, as it were, on the shelves of that library what seemed to them precious, either as recording the dealings of God for and with His people, as in 1 Esdras, Tobit, Judith , 1 and 2 Maccabees, or the utterances of the wise of heart, whether pseudonymous, like the Wisdom of Solomon, or compilations with the name of the editor, like the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), or devotional fragments like the Prayer of Manasseh, which is found in some, though not in all, MSS. of the LXX. It is, of course, open to question how far they were right in exercising this freedom at all; how far they were wise in the use they made of it. The fact that they inserted all the books of the Hebrew Canon is, at all events, valuable as a testimony to the authority of the older Scriptures, and they can claim, as those of the Apocryphal books cannot, the consensus alike of the Hebrew and Hellenistic Jews. It might have been well, indeed, to have acknowledged their higher prerogative by placing them, as Protestant churches have done, in a separate group, as standing in this respect on a lower level. On the other hand, we owe to this action of the LXX. translators the preservation of whatever was most valuable in the literature of Judaism between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New, and are thus able to trace the continuous education that was preparing the way for the higher revelation which was made known to men in Christ.

XVI. The Apocrypha in the Eastern Church.—The absence of any earlier MSS. of the LXX. than those of the fourth or fifth century makes it difficult to say when the complete collection thus formed appeared as a single volume. The fact that Josephus (though, as a Greek writer, he must have been familiar with the Greek version of the sacred books, and largely uses some of the additions, as in the history of the Maccabean period) adheres, as stated above, to the Hebrew Canon when he gives a list of them, shows that he, of Palestinian birth, at once a priest and a Pharisee, did not admit the claims of the later books to stand on the same level as the earlier. The writers of the New Testament, as was also natural from their education and training, write in much the same way, never quoting the books that we know as the Apocrypha, as authoritative, or honouring them with the title of Scripture; while yet, as is shown by a comparison of the Epistle to the Hebrews with the Wisdom of Solomon, they borrow largely from their phraseology, or allude, as the writer of that epistle does, to facts recorded in their history (Hebrews 11:35), or cite, as St. James seems to do, some of their utterances of wisdom. (See St. James in the Cambridge School Bible, pp. 32, 33.) If, as many critics, from Luther onwards, have thought, Apollos was the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it was perhaps natural that he should use the books of the Alexandrian Canon more freely than the other writings of the New Testament. It lies on the surface, however, that the New Testament writers, while recognising the supreme authority of the books of the Hebrew Canon, do not shrink from using freely books that were neither in that Canon nor the Alexandrian, and refer, e.g., to some lost version of the history of the Exodus, which contained the names of Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8), to some legendary record of the dispute between Michael the archangel and Satan after the death of Moses (Jude 1:9), and to a prophecy ascribed to Enoch (Jude 1:14) found in the book that bears his name, and which, after having been hidden and forgotten for centuries, was found by the traveller Bruce in an Ethiopian version, and has since been translated by Archbishop Laurence in 1838, and edited by various hands.

The history of the Christian Church follows mainly on the same lines. Its writers used freely all the books that belonged to the sacred literature of the Jews, whether Hebrew or Hellenistic: As the earliest MSS. of the LXX. version, such as the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian, show, they recognised, as adapted for the worship of the Church, for its lessons and its sermons, the Alexandrian Canon with all its numerous additions. The Greek Church, as was natural, has continued to use it, as its only text of the Scriptures of the Old Testament. On the other hand, the more critical writers who studied Scripture in the light of history, recognised, tacitly or expressly, the difference between the Hebrew Canon and the additions. Justin Martyr (in this instance we trace the influence of his birth and training in Palestine) never quotes the latter. Melito of Sardis (circ. A.D. 160) omits them altogether, with the exception of the Wisdom of Solomon, in his catalogue of the Old Testament writings. It may be noted also that lie omits the names of Nehemiah and Esther. Probably they were included under the general name of Esdras. Origen in like manner confines his list to the twenty-two books of the Hebrew Canon. The Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363), possibly under the influence of the tradition which originated with Melito, excluded all the Apocryphal books except the Epistle to Baruch, which seems to have been regarded as an integral part of the Book of Jeremiah.

XVII. The Apocrypha in the Western Church.—The history of the Latin Church runs, to a great extent, parallel with that of the Greek, in its relation to the Old Testament Canon. The earliest converts in Rome and its Latin-speaking provinces, northern Africa being the most prominent of these, were either Hellenistic Jews, or proselytes who had passed through Hellenistic Judaism on their way to the faith of Christ, and they therefore naturally adopted the Alexandrian rather than the Hebrew Canon. The early Latin Fathers, Tertullian and Cyprian, quote the Apocryphal books freely as Scripture. Augustine follows them in his general use of the books, gives a list which includes the additions, but, possibly under the influence of his great contemporary Jerome, draws a line of distinction between them and those of the Hebrew Canon, confining the adjective “Canonical” to the latter, and speaking of the others as “received by the Church, though not by the Jews,” as on a lower level than “the Law, and Psalms, and the Prophets, to which the Lord bore His witness” (De Doct. Christ. ii. 8, 13). The Old Latin version, however, as made, not from the Hebrew, but from the Greek, reproduced the same books, and in the same order as we find them in the LXX.

In regard to the other books of the Alexandrian Canon, however, the Council of Trent (Sess. iv.), in its antagonism to the rising criticism of the period, accepted the action rather than the teaching of Jerome, and, in stronger language than had ever been used before, declared that they were to be received with the same reverence and honour as the other Canonical books, and pronounced its anathema on all who should teach otherwise. The Reformed Churches, as might be expected, took the other line. Luther placed them in a group by themselves, and for the first time affixed to them the title of Apocrypha. The English version followed in the line of Luther, and adopted his nomenclature. In one remarkable instance, indeed, we trace a feeling of hesitation showing itself in a somewhat curious blunder. In the preface to Cranmer’s Bible the books had been described as Apocrypha, and the usual explanation of that term had followed. In correcting the proofs, apparently, the thought had occurred to the editor that it would be better to use a more respectful title, and the word was altered, and so, when the volume was published, the reader was informed that the books “were called Hagiographa” (= Holy Writings, the title commonly given to the K’thubim of the Hebrew Canon), “because they were read not publicly, but, as it were, in secret.” That blunder, however, was not repeated, and the word Apocrypha retained its place in the printed versions of the Old Testament. In 1542, the sixth of what were then the forty-two Articles of the Church of England, deliberately adopted, in the words that have been already quoted, the distinction which Jerome had been the first to draw; and without using the term Apocrypha (its reticence in this respect is noteworthy), spoke of them as “the other books,” which were not Canonical, and therefore were not to be used “to establish any doctrine.” Practically, however, the Church of England, by appointing lessons to be read from some of the books, both in the older and, in a more limited measure, in the more recent lectionary, has treated the books in question with more honour than any other Reformed Church; and with some of her leading divines—e.g., Cosin—the term “deuterocanonical” has commended itself as more accurately describing their character than the more familiar Apocrypha.

XIX. English Versions of the Old Testament.—The history of the English translations of the Old Testament may, for our present purpose, be very briefly told. In Wycliffe’s version the Old Testament was assigned to his friend and disciple Nicholas de Hereford, but the work was apparently interrupted, probably by a citation to appear before Archbishop Arundel, in A.D. 1382, and ends abruptly in the middle of the Epistle of Baruch. It was completed and revised by Richard Purvey in A.D. 1388, and took its place in what was commonly known as Wycliffe’s Bible. It was based entirely on the Vulgate, neither Hebrew nor Greek being at that time accessible to English students; and a crucial instance of this appears in its rendering of Genesis 3:15, as “she shall trede thy head.” The statement in the preface, “that, by witnesse of Jerom, of Lire” (Nicholas de Lyra, the great mediæval commentator), “and other expositoures, the texte of our boke discordeth much from the Ebrew,” shows, however, a consciousness that something more was wanted, and that the true idea of a translation implied that it should be made from the original. The work of Tyndale was naturally concentrated chiefly on the New Testament, but there is abundant evidence throughout his writings that he had studied Hebrew with a view to the translation of the Old. As a first experiment he published a translation of Jonah, and (circ. 1530-1) this was followed by the Pentateuch. He did not proceed further. Traces of his labours as a student are found, however, in many casual notes throughout his later works; in a table of Hebrew words, with their meanings, prefixed to his translation of the Pentateuch; notably in a remark (preface to Obedience of a Christian Man) which shows how fully he had entered into the genius of the language: “The properties of the Hebrew tongue agreeth a thousand time more with the English than with the Latin. The manner of speaking is in both one, so that in a thousand places thou needest not but to translate the Hebrew word for word.”

The work which was thus begun by Tyndale was taken up by Coverdale. His aim, however, was a less lofty one. His translation did not profess to be made from the original text either of the Old or the New Testament, but “from the Douche and the Latine,” i.e., from Luther and the Vulgate. It would seem, however, that he attained in the course of his labours a wider knowledge than that with which he started, and in a letter to Cromwell (Remains, p. 492. Parker Soc.) he speaks of himself as acquainted “not only with the standing text of the Hebrew, but with the interpretation of the Chaldee and the Greek” (i.e., with the Targums and the LXX.), “and with the diversity of reading of all texts.” Luther’s version was, however, dominant in its influence. Thus, to give a few examples of special interest:—“Cush,” which in Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the Authorised version, is uniformly rendered “Ethiopia,” is in Coverdale “the Morians’ land,” after Luther’s “Mohrenland” (= land of the Moors) (Psalms 68:31; Acts 8:27, &c), and appears in this form accordingly in the Prayer Book version of the Psalms. The proper name Rab-shakeh passes, as in Luther, into “the chief butler” (2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 36:11). In making the sons of David “priests” (2 Samuel 8:18) he followed both his authorities. “Shiloh,” in the prophecy of Genesis 49:10, becomes “the worthy,” after Luther’s “der Held.” “They houghed oxen” takes the place of “they digged down a wall,” in Genesis 49:6. The singular word “lamia” (=a vampire sorceress that sucked the blood of children) is taken from the Vulgate as the rendering of the Hebrew ziim (“wild beasts” in Authorised version) in Isaiah 34:14. The “tabernacle of witness,” where the Authorised version has “congregation,” shows the same influence. It was perhaps under the same guidance that his language as to the Apocrypha lacks the sharpness of that of the more zealous Reformers. Baruch is placed with the Canonical books after Lamentations. Of the rest, he says that “they are placed apart,” as “not held in the same repute” as the other Scriptures; but this is only because there are “dark sayings” in them, which seem to differ from the “open Scripture.” He has no wish that they “should be despised or little set by.” “Patience and study would show that the two were agreed.”

Coverdale’s version was first printed, probably at Zurich, in 1535; other editions appeared in 1537, 1539, 1550, 1553. The plural form “Biblia” appears in the title-page—possibly, however, in its later use as a singular feminine. There are no notes, no chapter-headings, no division into verses. The letters A, B, C, D, in the margin, as in the early editions of the Greek and Latin authors, are the only helps for finding places. Marginal references point to parallel passages. The Old Testament, especially in Genesis, has the attraction of wood-cuts. Each book has a table of contents prefixed to it.

In the year 1537 a large folio Bible appeared, as edited and dedicated to the king by Thomas Matthew. No one of that name appears at all prominently in the religious history of the period, and this suggests the inference that the name was pseudonymous, adopted as a veil to conceal the real translator. There is abundant evidence, external and internal, identifying this translator with John Rogers, the proto-martyr of the Marian persecution, and a friend and disciple of Tyndale. As far as the Old Testament is concerned, it seems to have been based, but with an independent study of the Hebrew, upon the previous versions of Tyndale (so far as that extended) and Coverdale. Signs of a more advanced knowledge are found in the explanations given of technical words connected with the Psalms, Neginoth, Shiggaion, Sheminith, &c. Psalms 2 is printed as a dialogue. The names of the Hebrew letters are prefixed to the verses in the acrostic chapters of Lamentations. Reference is made to the Chaldee paraphrase (Job 6), to Rabbi Abraham (Job 19), to Kimchi (Psalms 3). After being printed abroad as far as the end of Isaiah it was taken up as a business speculation by Grafton and Whitchurch, the king’s printers, and patronised by Cranmer and Cromwell. Through their influence, and probably through the fact that Rogers’ name was kept in the background, it obtained, in spite of notes which were as strongly Protestant as any of Tyndale’s, the king’s sanction, and a copy of it was ordered to be placed in every church at the cost of the incumbent and the parishioners. It was accordingly the first Authorised version.

Taverner’s version (1539), based upon “the labours of others,” whom, however, he does not name, was probably undertaken in deference to the wishes of the more moderate Reformers, who were alarmed at the vehemence of some of Rogers’ notes, and yet wished for a more accurate version, and one more definitely based upon the original, than Coverdale’s. It left no marked impress on the theology or literature of the time, and its chief interest lies perhaps in the fact that, alone of all the English versions of the Bible, it was the work of a layman.

In the same year as Taverner’s, and coming from the same press, appeared an English version of the Bible, in a more stately folio, printed after a more costly fashion, bearing a higher name than any previous edition. The title-page is an elaborate engraving, the spirit and power of which indicate the hand of Holbein. The king, seated on his throne, is giving the Verbwm Del to the bishops and doctors, and they distribute it to the people, while bishops, doctors, and people are all joining in cries of Vivat Rex. It declares the book to be “truly translated after the verity of the Hebrew and Greek texts,” by “divers learned men, expert in the foresaid tongues.” A preface, in an edition of 1540, with the initials T. C., implies the archbishop’s sanction. In a later edition (Nov., 1540) his name appears on the title-page, and the names of his coadjutors are given, Cuthbert (Tonstal), Bishop of Durham, and Nicholas (Heath), Bishop of Rochester. In the translation of the Old Testament there is, as the title-page might lead us to expect, a greater display of Hebrew than in any previous version. The books of the Pentateuch have their Hebrew names given, B’reshith (“In the beginning”) for Genesis, Velle Sh’moth (“And the names”) for Exodus, and so on. 1 and 2 Chronicles, in like manner, appear as Dibre Haiamim (“Words of days”). The strange mistake caused by the substitution of Hagiographa for Apocrypha, for which this version is memorable, has been already noticed. The sanction given to the book, and the absence of any notes (though a marginal hand [[image]] indicated an intention to supply them some day), naturally gave it a greater popularity than had been acquired by any previous version. In 1541 it appears as “authorised,” to be “used and frequented” in every church in the kingdom. It was the Authorised version of the English Church till 1568, the interval of Mary’s reign excepted. From it were taken most, if not all, the portions of Scripture in the Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552. The Psalms as a whole, the quotations from Scripture in the Homilies, the sentences in the Communion Service, and some phrases elsewhere, still preserve the remembrance of it.

Cranmer’s version, however, did not satisfy the more zealous Reformers. Its size made it too costly. There were no explanatory or dogmatic notes. It followed Coverdale too closely, and failed, therefore, in spite of the profession of the title-page, to represent the Hebrew of the Old Testament, or the Greek of the New. The English refugees at Geneva accordingly—among them Whittingham, Goodman, Pullain, Sampson, and Coverdale himself—undertook the task of making a new translation of the whole Bible. They entered on what they call their “great and wonderful work” with much “fear and trembling.” It occupied them for more than two years. The New Testament was printed at Geneva in 1557; the whole Bible in 1560. Of all the versions prior to that of 1611 the Geneva gained the most general acceptance. Not less than eighty editions were printed between 1558 and 1611, and it kept its ground for some time even against the Authorised version. The causes of this popularity are not far to seek. The volume was, in all its editions, cheaper and more portable—a small quarto, or octavo, instead of the large folio of Cranmer’s “Great Bible.” It was the first version that laid aside the obsolescent black-letter, and appeared, though not in all the editions, in Roman type. It was the first which, following the Hebrew example, recognised the division into verses, so dear to preachers and to students. It was accompanied, in most of the editions after 1578, by a Bible Dictionary of considerable merit. The notes were often really helpful in dealing with the difficulties of Scripture, and were looked upon as spiritual and evangelical. It was, accordingly, the version specially adopted by the great Puritan party through the whole reign of Elizabeth and far into that of James. In regard to the Old Testament it may be noted that it attempted to reproduce the exact form of Hebrew names, such as Izhak (Isaac), Jaacob, and the like. The English edition, published by Barker, became popularly known as the “Breeches” Bible, from its use of that word instead of “aprons” in Genesis 3:7.

Archbishop Parker, though he had supported an application from the publisher of the Geneva Bible for a licence to reprint in 12mo, was not satisfied, and contemplated, as he stated at the time, “one other special Bible for the churches, to be set forth as convenient time and leisure should permit.” In the meantime, he said, “it would nothing hinder, but rather do good, to have diversity of translations and readings” (Strype’s Life of Parker, iii. 6). With the help, accordingly, of eight bishops, with some deans and professors, Cranmer’s Bible, which was avowedly taken as the basis, was carefully revised, and the book appeared in a magnificent folio in 1568. It was adorned, by portraits of Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester, with a map of Palestine, with not a few wood engravings, with an elaborate set of genealogical tables, prepared by Speed the antiquary, under the direction of Hugh Broughton, the greatest Hebrew scholar of the century. It adopted the verse division of the Geneva Bible. Alone of all the versions it classified the books, both of the Old and New Testaments, under the headings of legal, historical, sapiential, and prophetical. Like the Geneva, it aimed at a more accurate representation of the Hebrew of Old Testament names, as, e.g., in Heva (Eve), Isahac, Urijahu. The bulk and cost of the Bishops’ Bible tended to confine its use to the churches, in all of which it was ordered to be used. It never entered into anything like a practical competition with the Geneva version.

Of the Douay version of the Old Testament, published in 1609, by Roman Catholic scholars, as the complement of the Rhemish New Testament of 1582, there is not need to say much. It was based on the Vulgate, not on the Hebrew. The style was disfigured by pedantic Latinisme, and strange “ink-horn” phrases. It left no mark on the thought and language of the English people.

In that part of their work with which we are now more immediately concerned, the version of the Old Testament, the translators of 1611 were relatively more successful than in dealing with the New. The Hebrew scholarship of the time stood on a higher level than the Greek, and the reverence which men felt for what was known in their controversies with Rome as the “Hebrew verity” made them look to the original text as the basis of their work, caring little for the LXX. or the Vulgate. Making allowance for the inherent difficulties of their work, they succeeded in a marvellous degree in reproducing the loftiness and grandeur of the prophets and psalmists of Israel, and through that success have enriched the thoughts and language of the theological. and even of the non-theological, literature of England. They did not, however, claim finality for their work, and those who would urge that claim now on their behalf, as a bar to further revision, are unfaithful at once to their teaching and their example. It cannot be questioned that their work, excellent as it was, is yet capable of improvement. The labours of Gesenius, and Furst, and Ewaid have given us better lexicons and grammars than those of the seventeenth century. The literature of England, and yet more of Germany, presents a vast mine of exegetical apparatus, which cannot be without an influence for good upon the work of revision. The company of revisers to whom the Old Testament has been committed represent a higher average of Semitic scholarship than that of 1611. The comparative scantiness of variations in the Hebrew text, the comparative simplicity of Hebrew grammar, free their work from occasions of controversy and offence which have, rightly or wrongly, proved a hindrance to the general acceptance of the Revised version of the New. The edition of the Bible published in 1876 by Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, “with various readings and renderings from the best authorities,” under the editorship of Messrs. Cheyne. Clarke, Driver, and Goodwin, may perhaps be fairly taken as giving a forecast of what may be expected as the result of the labours of the revisers; and those who have studied that volume will acknowledge that the forecast is, at least, promising, that we may look for light thrown in upon obscurities, for loyalty to the past, for pure and idiomatic English.

XX. The Authority and Inspiration of the Old Testament.—Such, briefly, is the history of the volume which we have come to know throughout Christendom as the Old Testament. It remains, in conclusion, to say a few words as to the nature of its claims on the attention of the thoughtful reader, and the temper in which it should be studied It need hardly be said that if it came before us only as embodying all that remains of the literature of Israel in its brightest and palmiest days, it would have for us an interest beyond that which attaches (with the one exception of the New Testament) to any other of what are known as the sacred books of the history of mankind. It is something more than a collection of liturgical hymns like the Vedas of India, or the Zend-Avesta of the Parsees; something more than the utterances of a single mind, reflecting its various moods and phases, like the Koran, or than the proverbial maxims which represent the teaching of Confucius, or the mystic legends which make up the sacred books of Buddhism. It represents, to say the least, the whole life—political, religious, and literary—of a people of singular gifts, and it has sustained the life of that people through the long succession of centuries. It embodies their strivings after wisdom, their aspirations after the Eternal, their belief in a Divine order asserting itself among the disorders of mankind. It has formed the basis of a religion wider than its own, and through Christendom has permeated the thoughts and feelings of the most civilised portion of mankind. It has left its impress upon their laws, their polity, their creeds. Were it nothing more than this, it would deserve and would repay the study of any thoughtful student of the religious history of mankind. But for us it is something more, much more, than this. It has its highest outcome in the life, the teaching, the character of Christ, and of those whom He sent to be His apostles and evangelists. That life and character were, humanly speaking, fashioned under its influence; they fulfilled all its dim foreshadowings and inextinguishable hopes, stamped it with the supreme sanction of His authority as a Divine revelation of the will and mind of God. It was not, indeed, a full revelation, for God “had provided some better thing for us” (Hebrews 11:40), and He who had “in sundry times and divers manners” spoken in times past to the fathers (Hebrews 1:1), spake in the last days to us through the Son; but it was taken by that Son Himself as the norm and standard of His teaching (Matthew 5:17), as prophetic of His work. He testified that Law and Prophets and Psalms spake of Him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39; John 5:46), that they bore their witness to His Divine Sonship, that they prophesied, sometimes distinctly, sometimes in parables and dark sayings, of His sufferings and death and resurrection. Its sayings sustained Him in His conflict with evil (Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-12), in His endurance of shame and obloquy and pain (Matthew 26:54; Luke 23:37). Its brightest visions of a Divine kingdom of peace and purity and blessedness were, He taught men, (Luke 4:21), realised in the kingdom which He founded, in the company of believers in Him, which, as the Church of the living God, was founded upon the Eternal Rock. And the witness which He thus bore was carried on by His Apostles. They taught men to find now and deeper meanings in the types of Jewish. ritual, in the aspirations of psalmists, in the visions of prophets (Epistle to the Hebrews, passim). For them the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament were “able to make men wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, and, being inspired of God,” were “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). They taught that prophecy “came not of old time” (or indeed at any time)” by the will of man, but that holy men of God spake as they were borne on by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

“Inspired of God.” That thought has, we know, been fruitful in many controversies. On the one hand, there have been theories of inspiration which have minimised or excluded the human element; which have made prophets, lawgivers, apostles, evangelists, only the machines through which the Divine Spirit uttered His own words; and have seen, accordingly, in every statement of fact as regards history or nature, an oracle of God not to be questioned or debated; in the title even of every book, that which was a bar to any inquiry into its authorship or date. On à priori grounds it has been argued that a revelation from God must, in the nature of the case, include all the subordinate accessories that cluster round it, that it was not worth giving at all unless it were infallible in everything. That mechanical theory of inspiration has, it is believed, but little to recommend it, except that it meets the craving of men for an infallible authority; and that craving, as we know, goes farther, and leads to a demand for an infallible interpreter of the infallible book. The à priori assumption goes beyond the limits of what is in itself reasonable and right. We are in no sort judges, as Bishop Butler has taught us (assuming that God willed to impart to mankind a knowledge of Himself), of the methods and the forms, the measures and degrees in which that knowledge would be imparted (Analogy, ii. 6). And the theory is, to say the least, at variance with the impression made on us by the books themselves. They bear, as strongly as the books of any other literature, the stamp of individual character. They indicate, in not a few cases, the labours of compilation and editing which brought them into their present form. They reflect the thoughts and feelings of the times in which they were severally written. They are from first to last intensely national in their character.

1882.

E. H. PLUMPTRE.

INTRODUCTION

TO

THE PENTATEUCH.

THE Pentateuch derives its name from a word in the Greek language as spoken at Alexandria, signifying “the five-fold book,” and with this agrees the fact that the breaking of it up into five parts was apparently the work of the Alexandrian translators. The titles of these parts at the present day are all taken from their version, the LXX., while in the Hebrew itself there is no trace of any such arrangement, and though the division has been accepted for the sake of convenience, the names of the several books are simply the opening words. Thus Genesis is called Berêshith, that is, In the beginning; Exodus, Eleh Sh’moth, These are the names; Leviticus, Wayikra, And he called; Numbers, Bemidbar, In the wilderness; and Deuteronomy, Eleh Haddebarim, These are the words. Everywhere in the Bible it is spoken of as a whole, of which the name occurs once only before the Captivity, in 2 Kings 22:8, where it is called “the book of the Torah,” or Law. Naturally, after the return from Babylon, when the state had to be reconstituted, and the kingly office was virtually abolished to make way for a more exact observance of the Mosaic institutions, a more frequent reference is made to it, and we find it fully described as “the book of the Torah of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded to Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1), and as “the book of the Torah of Jehovah” in 2 Chronicles 17:9.

At that period we have full evidence that the Pentateuch was accepted by Ezra and the Jews returning from Babylon as the fundamental law of the children of Israel, and that its influence was so paramount that the members of the royal family laid no claim to the throne of David. Jewish tradition also asserts that Ezra and the men of the Great Synagogue settled the texts both of it and of their other Scriptures, and, to use a modern phrase, re-edited them, adding many remarks to elucidate the meaning, which in our days would be placed as foot-notes at the bottom, but which were incorporated into the body of the work. Were such a thing possible, nothing could be more interesting than for us to possess the original text of the Pentateuch. Even as it is, the vocabulary is to some extent different from that of later books, and there still remain numerous traces of archaic grammatical forms and inflexions different from those of later times, even though the Masorites have done much to obliterate them. But when we find that the autograph copies of the Apostolic Epistles, which existed in Tertullian’s days (Tert. de Praescrip. xxxvi.), have long passed away, we must be content with the Old Testament as we find it, though the hope is held out to us of the discovery of copies anterior to the Masoretic Recension. And even as it is, we have no reason to suppose that it has ever been falsified, or that it was treated by Ezra with anything but the most reverent respect; and the Samaritan Pentateuch and the LXX. version prove to demonstration that we at this day have the Pentateuch just as it was several centuries before the advent of Christ.

Confessedly, then, in the days of Ezra, the Pentateuch was regarded as the work of Moses, and as given by the command of Jehovah. (See Nehemiah 8:1-8.) We find, also, that the reading of it, with the interpretation into the Aramaic tongue, occupied a whole week (Nehemiah 8:18). But the assertion that it was “the Torah of Moses” may be interpreted in two ways. It may mean that Moses was the virtual author, the various laws having been enacted or even written by him, though the collection and arrangement of the book was left to others; or it may mean that he was also the actual composer of the work, and that at his death he left the Pentateuch, not in a loose and scattered condition, but such, in the main as we now have it.

It is incumbent upon us, therefore, first of all to examine the evidence of the book itself, and we find towards the end of it a most important passage. In Deuteronomy 31:24-26 we read that “when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this Torah in a book until they were finished,” he commanded the Levites to “take this book of the Torah and put it by the side of the Ark of the Covenant.” Now these words show that Moses did not leave his laws un-arranged, but himself collected them. There is previously allusion made to the practice of Moses to keep written accounts of memorable events, as in Exodus 17:14, where in the Hebrew we are told not of “a book,” but of “the book,” the official record of Israel’s doings. In a similar manner, in Exodus 34:27, Numbers 33:2, we find the assertion that the more important events which took place in the wilderness were recorded in writing by the commandment of Jehovah. But the evidence of the present passage is much more express, for it speaks of Moses completing the writing of the Torah. It no longer however, speaks of the book, but of a book, as if from the official narratives and other sources Moses had compiled and digested into one volume both the history of Israel’s selection to be God’s people, and also the laws by which they were to be governed. This book is also referred to in Deuteronomy 17:18. The autograph copy of Moses was to be laid up “by the side of the Ark” (Deuteronomy 31:26); but “the priests, the Levites” Avere also to have a copy for their use, and of this again a copy was to be made for the king’s guidance.

The meaning of the words in Deuteronomy 31 seems plainly to be that the actual writing by the hand of Moses ceased at the end of Deuteronomy 30. Following it, we have in the other four chapters a history of his last days, and especially of the appointment of Joshua to be his successor. There are also preserved in them “the song of Moses,” and “the blessing wherewith he blessed the children of Israel” before his death. These two compositions would probably be on separate rolls, and may have been for many years the companions and occupation from time to time of Moses in the wilderness. It would only be after their solemn delivery at the close of his life that they would be reverently added to the Torah, together with the account of the prophet’s last actions, and of his death. The person who was charged to do this was, according to the tradition of the Syriac Church, Moses’ successor, Joshua, for to their copies of the Pentateuch this Note is always attached, that it was “written by Moses, but arranged and completed by Joshua bar Nun his minister.” Moses may even have often employed him as his scribe, just as Jeremiah employed Baruch, and as St. Paul constantly used the hands of others. But the testimony of the book itself is full and complete as to the authorship of Moses, and we may add in passing that we know of no one except Moses who could have written a psalm so sublime as that in Deuteronomy 32. The author of it stands on a level as high as that of David and Isaiah, and such writers are not produced every day, and are each too strong and masterly for any one but themselves to have written their compositions.

It does not, of course, follow that we have the Pentateuch just in every minute particular as it left the hands of Moses and Joshua, and we must therefore examine the limitations of such changes. It seems, then, to have been the case that additions were made to certain documents to complete them. Thus, for instance, I have shown the probability of the two genealogies contained in Genesis 36:31-43 having been added in later times. And nothing was more natural; for the Pentateuch was a great document, and the title-deed of the nation’s possession of Palestine; and the records contained in it would from time to time be completed and brought down to later times by proper authority. With regard to the work of Ezra, we can well understand that after so great a calamity as the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple, one of the most pressing needs of the nation would be a correct copy of their Law. Fortunately there had been an interval of eleven years between the carrying away of Jewish captives by Nebuchadnezzar and the fall of Zedekiah, and during this period there had been a thriving community of exiles growing up at Babylon, to whose piety the prophet Jeremiah makes frequent reference. One of their first cares would be to supply themselves with copies of their Law, but many of these would be made hurriedly, and Ezra, in his anxiety to make the people understand their Torah (Nehemiah 8:1-8), would also certainly endeavour to give them a text as correct as possible. In this work he was assisted, according to Jewish tradition, by three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, by the prince Zerubbabel, the high priest Jeshua, the son of Jozedek, and others, to the number in all of twelve. A full account of this tradition is given by Buxtorf, in his Tiberias, chap. x., with the authorities in proof of it. It was accepted by St. Jerome, and is too reasonable in itself, and too directly confirmed by the passages in Nehemiah referred to above, to be lightly disregarded. Excepting, however, the addition of notes by Ezra and the men of the Great Synagogue, and the completion of documents, we can find no trace of change or alteration in the text as written by Moses.

It has been thought, however, that the book referred to in Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:26, was the book of Deuteronomy only. In the LXX. version the words in Deuteronomy 17:18 rendered “a copy of this law” are translated by “this Deuteronomy.” Jerome also, no mean authority, in the Vulgate renders them “a Deuteronomy of this law.” We may, however, dismiss this passage, because it is quite possible that the priests may have had an abstract of the law for their guidance, which contained only the ritual and legal portions of the Pentateuch; and that the king was to make a copy of this for his instruction and direction in giving judgment in cases brought before his tribunal. But neither here, nor still less in the thirty-first chapter, can I see any probability of “this book” being that of Deuteronomy. For Deuteronomy consists of three addresses delivered by Moses to the people at the very end of their forty years’ wanderings in the wilderness. There had probably been a sojourn of many years in Kadesh (Numbers 20:1), during which, while the headquarters of each tribe were with Moses, the mass of the people was wandering in search of pasture for their flocks in the wildernesses of Paran and Zin. At the end of this sojourn Moses made preparations for the conquest of Palestine; but it was probably during this lengthened period of repose that he digested into one book the patriarchal documents which he had brought with him from Egypt (for the exodus was made in so orderly a manner, and with such careful preparation, though hurried at last, that even Joseph’s bones were not forgotten), and also the written records that he had himself made of the events of which he had been the centre. Probably there, too, he wrote these addresses, or at least arranged the subjects of them; but when he “made an end of writing the words of this law in a book until they were finished,” the reference would naturally be, not to the three addresses, which, after they had been delivered, would, of course, be added to the words of the law, but to the whole history. And this is confirmed by the fact, already referred to, that there are no traces in the Bible itself of the division into five parts made by the translators of the LXX. And granting, as we do, that in Deuteronomy the popular side of the Mosaic ordinances is exhibited, and their more kindly and social aspect made prominent, as was natural when, in his last addresses, the prophet was commending them to the hearty acceptance of a stiff-necked and wilful people, yet there is no proof that Deuteronomy ever was regarded as the Torah itself; and the supposition that it is meant by “the Book of the Torah” in 2 Kings 22:8, and not the whole Pentateuch, is based upon no other foundation than the fact that Jeremiah does especially refer to Deuteronomy; and it is a convenient matter for the critics to find some one to whom they may assign a deliberate forgery.

We find, then, the assertion in the Pentateuch of the Mosaic authorship, and upon this point we must remember that the forgery of writings did not begin until books were marketable commodities, and men made money by their sale. Literary forgeries are comparatively modern things, and the art was first practised on a large scale by the Jews in Egypt. In the Bible it is most rare to find any account given either of the writer of a book, or of the circumstances under which it was composed. Nor is it easy to find a time when the forgery could have been made; for after the settlement of the nation in Palestine its civilisation declined. When it left Egypt its chiefs were men who had profited necessarily by the flourishing state of literature there. Not a year passes without fresh proofs being brought to light of the greatness of that “wisdom of the Egyptians,” in which Stephen tells us that Moses was learned (Acts 7:22). But there is no reason for supposing that the Israelite chiefs were dependent upon the Egyptians for a knowledge of the art of writing. Not only had Abraham been brought up at a place where writing was in daily use, but it was no unknown matter in Palestine. The Phœnicians not only introduced their alphabet into Greece, but were the inventors of parchment prepared from the skins both of sheep and goats (Herod. v. 58). The introduction of writing materials—so portable compared with the old tablets of clay—must have done much to popularise literary arts, and even more so must the use of papyrus in Egypt. It was not so much the discovery of printing, as of paper, which brought the darkness of mediæval times to a close. As long as the material was so expensive as parchment, copying by hand was not more costly than printing would have been; for it is the multiplication of copies, by reason of our possession of an inexpensive material, that makes the printing of books so cheap. But parchment was a great improvement upon the materials previously in use, and the method of preparing it would not have been invented unless there had been a demand for a convenient writing material. Accordingly, in the Egyptian monuments, the Hittites, who were the leading people of Palestine, are repeatedly mentioned both as scribes and as authors; and it is interesting to find that the document referred to in Genesis 23:17, and which has all the exactness of a written contract, was a covenant between Abraham and the chiefs of this very nation.

We suppose, however, that no one now, after the flood of light thrown upon ancient Chaldea and Egypt, and still more recently upon the nation of the Hittites, doubts the fact that Moses and all high-born Israelites were well acquainted with the art of writing; or even that the Semitic race was in advance of most other nations in this respect. As the words for ink and book (sepher, comp. the name of the Hittite town, Kirjath-Sepher, Introd. to Genesis, p. 9) are common to almost all the Semitic dialects, we need feel no difficulty in accepting the statement of Herodotus, that it was a Semitic people who invented a writing material capable of being made into books, and also the simple contrivances for inscribing characters upon it. But their verb “to write,” like those in Greek and Latin, means to cut in, or dig, and belongs to the older age, when the materials for writing were either of clay or plaster (still used in Deuteronomy 27:2), or tablets of wood or metal (Isaiah 8:1, where the word rendered roll is a metal plate), or the smoothed surface of rocks (Job 19:24). But after the conquest of Palestine the Israelites seem to have gradually declined in all the arts of civilisation. Deborah, indeed, appears as an educated woman; and we find that the priests had preserved at Shiloh writing and other remains of more polished days. But when we read, in the song of Deborah, of Zebulon producing men who “handle the pen of the writer” (Judges 5:14), most persons are aware that the words really mean “the sceptre or baton of the musterers” of the army. Generally the book of Judges describes the Israelites as hardly bestead, and constantly fighting for their very existence; and it was not till the days of Samuel, the great restorer of Israel, that we find the civilisation of the nation reviving, and Samuel himself writing “the manner of the kingdom in a book, and laying it up before Jehovah” (1 Samuel 10:25).

Samuel, a man of extraordinary ability, and trained from his early infancy in the tabernacle of Shiloh, undoubtedly could have written the Pentateuch as far as acquaintance with the arts of writing and literary composition go. We will suppose even that the documents brought by Moses out of Egypt, and the memorials written by his hand in the wilderness, were all stored up at Shiloh, and, therefore, that he possessed that knowledge of Egypt which is so marked an element of the Pentateuch; but if so, what object could Samuel have had in falsifying those documents, and in asserting that Moses himself had made them into a book? The knowledge of Egypt and of the Sinaitic wilderness manifested in the Pentateuch is abundant and precise. If, for instance, we take the plagues of Egypt, we find that almost every one of them is founded upon natural occurrences there, utterly unknown in Palestine; and that the Divine intervention consisted in the intensifying of their force, and in their rapid sequence. But Samuel could have had no personal knowledge of these Egyptian phenomena, nor of the many Egyptian customs referred to in the Pentateuch, exact parallels to which are to be found in books like Brugsch’s History of Egypt and Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians. Even in the hands of practised forgers there are sure to be numerous unintentional proofs of the want of personal knowledge, of the misuse of knowledge obtained secondhand, and of the obtrusion of ideas taken from the state of things among which the forger was living. The more the Pentateuch is searched by hostile critics, and supposed examples of this ignorance brought forth and examined, the more clear becomes the proof that the writer had a thorough acquaintance both with Egypt and with the wilderness of Sinai. And so exact and intimate is this knowledge, that we look in vain elsewhere for a person or an age when it would have been possible, without records written in Egypt, to have composed this book.

If, however, Samuel found Mosaic documents in the tabernacle at Shiloh, and rescued them, and subsequently compiled them into a volume, then we have in the Pentateuch substantially the work of Moses; but we fail altogether in finding a reason why this great and good man should deliberately represent his own work as that of another. For though the restorer of Israel, he nowhere appears as the restorer of the Mosaic institutions. On the contrary, there are occasions in which, as in the offering of sacrifices, he does not conform to the Mosaic Law. On no occasion do we find him endeavouring to restore a central place of worship, such as was contemplated by Moses, and had existed at Shiloh. On the contrary, the ark was left by him at Kirjathjearim for twenty years; and it was first Saul, and then David, who restored to it something of its Mosaic importance. There are proofs of the existence of the Mosaic Law and institutions in the time of Samuel, but they are never obtruded upon our notice, and must be searched for. The great work of Samuel was the foundation of the schools of the prophets. The need of them was forced upon his attention by the decay of the nation in all literary arts, but even here he did not build upon the old lines. It was not men of the tribe of Levi whom he chose for his purposes; on the contrary, the doors of entry to his schools stood open to all. Nor was it at a central sanctuary that he gathered the flower of the nation round him to instruct them in the learning which he had been taught at Shiloh. Nor do we find in the Pentateuch any preparations for Samuel’s work, or allusion to it. It was distinctly an addition to the Mosaic institutions, and was forced upon Samuel by the lapse of the nation into barbarism.

At the return from Babylon there was an attempt made to keep exactly to the Mosaic lines, but never before. For what we have said of Samuel holds good of the times of the kings. There never was, until the return from exile, any age in which the Law of Moses commanded the universal assent of the people. In the times of the judges the anarchy and distress of the nation were too great; and subsequently the kings may have regarded the Mosaic Law as a matter to be left to the priests. They certainly do not seem, as a rule, to have observed the precept in Deuteronomy 17:18, which required each one of them to write out for himself a copy of the Levitical Law. Written copies were probably rare, and the knowledge of it was preserved by its being learnt y heart in the prophetic schools. Many critics have, in fact, made this their main ground of objection to the authenticity of the Pentateuch. They have said, that had it existed in the times of the kings, there must have been a more complete observance of it. But the attempt thus made to assign a later date to its fabrication is itself met in the most complete way. For we have clear proof that it existed under the kings, not only in Judah but also in Israel.

This proof consists partly in the manner in which the Levitical Law is referred to by the prophets Hosea and Amos. The former was a contemporary of Isaiah, but was an Israelite, and addressed his words entirely to the kingdom of the ten tribes. Amos was himself a member of the tribe of Judah, but his mission was to Israel, and he too prophesied in the days of Jeroboam II., whose victories extended the empire of Samaria to the widest limits to which it ever attained. Now these two prophets, in the narrow compass of a few chapters refer to a large number of the most distinctive points in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I shall not enter minutely into this argument, because it has been demonstrated in so satisfactory a manner by Bishop Brown in the Introduction to the Pentateuch in the Speaker’s Commentary. He has shown there that throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, and especially in these prophetical books, there is a perpetual reference to the Mosaic Law. Beginning with the book of Joshua, he carefully examines each subsequent scripture, and shows that the Pentateuch underlies the whole of them, and that its very words were constantly in the minds of the writers. Probably only a few picked men could read and write. We know how in mediæval Europe these arts became rare; and the result necessarily was that the influence of the Christian Scriptures diminished, but it never entirely ceased. In Judah and Israel probably the want of education was far greater; still, even there, copies, we may be sure, of their sacred books existed, if not generally, yet at the chief prophetic schools, and neither the knowledge of them nor their influence ever entirely died out.

Still, some things are certain. For, first, these Samaritan manuscripts are written in the same characters as those used by the Jews before the Babylonian exile. Even in Jerusalem the use of their old alphabet did not immediately die out; for the inscriptions upon the Maccabean coins are still in the Samaritan characters, though the Babylonian square writing may have superseded it for ordinary purposes. In the Talmud (Tract. Sanhedrin 21 b) it is said, that “whereas the Torah was originally given to Israel in the Hebrew writing, and the holy language, in the days of Ezra the Israelites changed it into the Assyrian writing and the Aramaic language.” As the words Hebrew writing might be equivocal, the Rabbi goes on to explain it by a term which signifies that found in these Samaritan copies of the Law. But, besides this change of the characters, we notice that the authorship also of the Chaldee Targum is referred to Ezra. But both assertions must be taken in a very limited sense. The Chaldee paraphrase undoubtedly grew out of the custom begun by Ezra, of translating the Torah, that is, the Pentateuch, into the Aramaic language, that the people might understand the sense (Nehemiah 8:8). But centuries passed away before it was committed to writing under the name of “the Targum of Onkelos.” All, nevertheless, that Onkelos did was to give in written form that which had long been handed down by tradition; and one reason which probably moved him to it was, that, though in the great schools, like that of Tiberias, there was an exact knowledge of the text, yet that elsewhere variations were growing up. Just, then, as the Aramaic paraphrase was the work of centuries, though it began in the customs of Ezra, so it was but slowly that the new writing took the place of the old, and the use of the sacred characters was probably long retained in the copying of the Scriptures, even though the more easy method of writing was growing into common use. So, in the Syriac Church, the Estrangelo character was still employed, both for the Scriptures and ritual books, long after simpler alphabets were in other matters universally prevalent.

It is exceedingly probable that the Samaritan paraphrase, as long as it was a matter of tradition, would be more or less influenced by the Chaldee Targum, as being the translation of the greater authority. Such, in fact, we find to have been the case. But granting this, there still remain facts of which there can be no reasonable doubt. We cannot doubt but that “the book of the Torah of Moses” (Nehemiah 8:1), was the authoritative rule of faith and practice, both in Samaria and Jerusalem, on the return from Babylon, nor that its language, nevertheless, was unintelligible to the mass of the people, and that the custom grew up in Judea of translating it to them, and that this translation gradually became fixed and settled, and finally was committed to writing as the Targum of Onkelos. As this Targum includes the whole Pentateuch, and nothing besides, it also seems plain that the Torah of Moses was the whole Pentateuch, and not some portion of it. Equally, too, the Samaritans acknowledged the Pentateuch as their one sacred book, rejecting the other scriptures; and, moreover, they adhered to the use of the old characters common to all the Jews before the exile. As they too could not understand the old language, they likewise had an Aramaic version for common use, agreeing to a considerable extent with that of Onkelos. But, surely, neither Jew nor Samaritan would have accepted a book as their rule of faith, and as the national law in civil matters also, unless it had held that same position in previous time. It was the strictness of the Mosaic Law in the matter of mixed marriages which made Nehemiah drive away from Jerusalem men of high rank, including a grandson of the high priest Eliashib (Nehemiah 13:28). Some have even supposed that it was this person, called by Josephus (Antiq. xi. 7, 8), “Manasseh, the brother of the high priest,” who carried the Pentateuch to Samaria, and that his father-in-law, Sanballat, made him there high priest of the temple on Mount Gerizim. But no attempt was made to excise from the Pentateuch, or even to soften down, its severe enactments; nor neither would he have carried it with him into banishment, nor would the Samaritans have accepted from men who treated them as an inferior and mongrel race, a book which, while attaching to them this disgrace, yet claimed their obedience, unless the claims of that book to be Israel’s law were indefeasible. But if so, we really carry the Pentateuch back at once to the date of the divided kingdom. Jeroboam, as was but natural, did his best to weaken the hold of the Mosaic Law upon his subjects; but his method was not the abrogation of it, but the substitution at Bethel and Dan of centres corresponding to Jerusalem, and his calves were imitations of the cherubim in the tabernacle. The placing of the ark at Jerusalem had been the work of David, and probably was regarded with hostility by the powerful tribe of Ephraim, as being an act injurious to that supremacy which they had ever claimed, and of which the placing of the ark at Shiloh had been a symbol. Politically, therefore, they would approve of having national centres of worship, and Bethel, a holy place, consecrated by Jacob’s dream there, and admirably situated on the mountains of Ephraim upon the high road to Jerusalem, and distant only twelve miles from it, was chosen with consummate statesmanship as the site for the rival sanctuary. But so strong was the hold of the Mosaic Law in its exactness upon the people, that not only the Levites, who were displaced by the throwing open of the priesthood to all alike, but all the best of the people, withdrew gradually from the northern kingdom and settled in Judah. These facts are indeed given in the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 11:13-17), which were compiled from old documents after the return from exile, but they account for the subsequent strength of Judah; nor is there any doubt but that the numerous authorities there referred to were records kept by the old prophets, and that the history in the books of Chronicles was copied from them. And thus we find no period between the return from exile and the division of the kingdom, when such an act as the supposed forgery of the Pentateuch could have been committed. For at the one period we find Jew and Samaritan agreeing in receiving it as the book of Divine Law, to which their obedience was due; and at the other we find Jeroboam constrained to set up an imitation of its central worship, but the people divided in their views, some accepting his institutions, but the! more religious portion even abandoning their property that they might go where the Law of Moses was more faithfully kept. Even those who kept the annals of the kings, and who were far less influenced by respect for the Levitical law than the writer of the Books of Chronicles, branded Jeroboam as the man who made Israel to sin, because for worldly policy he violated the religious ordinances of the nation. Though willing to break away from their allegiance to David and his house, large numbers were unwilling to break away from what was far older than David, namely, the Mosaic Law. Between the days of Jeroboam and those of Ezra there never was a time when the rival kingdoms would have agreed to accept as their national law anything that had not been handed down to them as such by their fathers from immemorial times; and there was just as little possibility of this agreement after a rival temple had been set up on Mount Gerizim.

In conclusion, the Pentateuch covers so vast a space of ground, takes us to so many dissimilar countries, and sets before us the habits and manners of so many different races of men, that we know of no man who could have written it except Moses, and of no period in Jewish history when it could have been penned except when Egypt and the wilderness were fresh in the writer’s mind. It is not worth arguing whether Joshua might not have compiled it from records left by Moses, because not only is this contradicted by the testimony of all future times, but it makes Joshua deliberately tell a falsehood in saying that Moses was the author (Deuteronomy 31:24), without the slightest purpose or object to be gained by it. The book would stand on equally sure footing if, as some think, these words refer only to Deuteronomy, and the rest was arranged and completed by Joshua and Eleazar. But I can see little proof of this, though probably these two men would cause transcripts to be made. And as for Genesis, it seems to be entirely the work of Moses; for we have there knowledge indeed beyond the range of his natural faculties, and which tradition would not have handed down correctly, but for the possession of which he satisfactorily accounts for, excepting the first narrative of creation, he describes all the rest as tôldôth, genealogical documents, which he did not compose, but from which, using mainly, as seems certain, their very words, he compiled the history so necessary for his purpose, of the choice of the family of Abraham to be God’s peculiar people: and necessary also for the integrity of Holy Scripture; because without the Book of Genesis we should know neither what was the end and object for which the Israelites were made into a nation, nor what was the blessing which God through them was preparing to bestow upon mankind.

Now these documents, Moses, as the ruler of the nation, would of course have had in his charge. He had, too, at Kadesh abundant leisure for the work. No man besides was so thoroughly permeated with the sense of Israel’s high and unique calling. He had the literary ability and skill. The revelation to him of the name I AM as that of Israel’s covenant God accounts for the importance attached to the name in Genesis, and the discrimination in its use. And, finally, his position as the leader of a discontented people, whom he had brought out of Egypt to brave hardships in the wilderness, required of him the proof that he was accomplishing the original purpose for which Abraham had been called away from Ur, and his race made into a great nation. And if Moses wrote Genesis he would not stop there, but would naturally proceed to digest into a connected narrative the other records of the great events of which he had been the eye-witness, in order that the nation which he had formed might be impressed with the sense of its nearness to Jehovah, and of the work it had to do for him.

These are broad and solid considerations, which far outweigh all the difficulties which critics have brought forward upon the other side. In a book so old there must be difficulties, and we cannot tell what have been its fortunes during the vast period of its existence. We know that God’s providence has not miraculously interfered to preserve for us an absolutely certain text of the New Testament. At this very time a warm controversy is raging as to whether that text is to be settled by the authority of two or three of the great uncial manuscripts, or whether we are to abide substantially by that of Erasmus, founded upon what was the received text of subsequent times. So, too, may scribes have made errors and mistakes in copying a book so vastly more ancient, but none of material importance.

For, as regards the Old Testament, we may claim, on the authority of the LXX., combined with the Targum of Onkelos and the Samaritan Pentateuch and Targum, that we have the Pentateuch such as it was in Ezra’s days. But before this time we have probabilities only, and such slight proof as arises from the collation of the passages in which the Law is referred to with the words of the Pentateuch itself. There is no reason for supposing that there was ever any wilful falsification of the national law; but it has passed through many a trying time, and we do not know how manuscripts were treated in those old days, nor how many of the illustrative notes which we ascribe to Ezra may really have been added long before.

Now if, as there is reason for supposing, this was the autograph copy of Moses that had been laid up beside the ark, we have every probability for the conclusion that the copies of the Law possessed by the exiles at Babylon had a text founded on the original manuscript. Most other copies had perished, and though this was doubtless reverently stored up again in the Temple near the ark, we can see by the writings of Jeremiah that he had diligently studied it, and he would take care that those in captivity, over whose welfare he watched so carefully, would also have transcripts of this great treasure. And thus this narrative gives us the assurance that the Pentateuch has come down to us in an authentic form. No doubt this particular copy perished when the Temple was burnt by Nebuchadnezzar, but not until it had done its work. Nor would other manuscripts be wanting; for as the schools of the prophets arose again from their ruins many an old copy of the Pentateuch would be brought forth from its hiding-place. There may have been insertions here and there which Ezra regarded as authorised additions, because placed there by prophetical hands. But we have no reason to suppose that these were of any great extent or importance; and certainly this copy found by Josiah is our security that we have the work of Israel’s lawgiver much as it left his hands. The idea broached by some that Jeremiah forged the book, and that it was therefore Deuteronomy only, is disproved by the character of the man, and by the local knowledge which is as remarkable in Deuteronomy as in the rest of the Pentateuch.

There are numerous other considerations which all confirm the foregoing conclusions, but to which we can only briefly refer. Such points are the numerous divergences between the blessing of Jacob and that of Moses. The one belongs exactly to the age of the Patriarch, gives vent to his feelings at the misconduct of his sons, magnifies Judah as the future head of the nation, and yet shows no knowledge of the time when, under David, this prediction was fulfilled. In the blessing of Moses, Levi stands well nigh foremost in the abundance of his happiness, while Simeon, who had been classed with him by Jacob, absolutely disappears. Moreover, Ephraim holds the place which was actually his until the days of David; and the relative importance of the tribes is different from that of the sons of Jacob in their father’s eyes. Authentic documents are sure to have these divergences, and if these two are genuine, they were separated by many centuries. If fabricated, such divergences would be avoided.

We find also that the family of the lawgiver ends in obscurity, while that of the brother holds an office of great and lasting power. The headship of the tribe of Levi is bestowed by Moses upon Aaron and his sons, and not upon his own children. His own tribe, too, is represented as lying under Jacob’s curse. This is changed into a blessing but the Levites remain destitute of all political importance; they have no tribal government, and are even left dependent upon the goodwill and religious feeling of their countrymen. the result, Jeroboam’s change of policy drives them away from ten of the tribes in poverty and humiliation. Now this dispersion of the Levites throughout the tribes, and the refusal to them of a share of the conquered territory in Palestine, is absolutely unintelligible upon any other supposition than that they had more than an equivalent in their religious privileges. But these privileges pre-suppose the Levitical law, and represent it as firmly established in the hearts of the people at the time of the conquest of Canaan. Levi would not have abandoned his tribal independence and his share of the conquered lands unless the Israelites had looked upon the Mosaic institutions as the law that was to be permanently in force throughout their territory.

Granting, then, that there are difficulties in the text, as was to be expected in a work written more than three thousand years ago, and difficulties in criticism and interpretation, yet the conclusion seems sure, that we have in the Pentateuch the work of Moses, and that we have it substantially as it left his hands.

THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED

GENESIS.

BY

VERY REV. R. PAYNE SMITH, D.D.

_____________

INTRODUCTION

TO

THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED

GENESIS.

THE Book of Genesis is a record of the highest interest, not only as being probably the oldest writing in the world, but also because it is the foundation upon which the whole Bible is built. As well the Jewish as the Christian religions have their roots in this book, and there is even no doctrine of Christianity, however advanced, which is not to be found, at least in outline, therein. Written in the very infancy of the human race, made subject, as are all the Scriptures, to the external conditions of their times, bearing upon its very surface proofs that the art of writing was in its infancy, and the science of arithmetic scarcely advanced beyond its first principles, it nevertheless contains the germ of every future truth of revelation, while, in accordance with the law which regulates the growth and development of the written Word, it never goes beyond the limits which were afterwards to be reached. No portion of Genesis has to be omitted as inconsistent with the truth which was subsequently to be revealed. Necessarily, the truths it teaches are imperfect and incomplete, for this is the rule of all the Old Testament Scriptures (Hebrews 1:1); but they are the proper preparation for the brightening light that was to illuminate the world.

This consistency of Holy Scripture with itself is made the more remarkable by the fact that in Genesis we have records of an age far anterior to the exodus from Egypt. Though the hand be the hand of Moses, the documents upon which the narrative is founded, and which are incorporated in it, date from primæval times. Upon them Moses based the Law, and subsequently the prophets built upon the Pentateuch the marvellous preparation for Christ. But though given thus “by diverse portions and in diverse manners,” through a vast period of time, and under every possible variety of culture and outward circumstance, the Bible is a book which from first to last is at unison with itself. It grows, proceeds onward, develops, but always in the same plane. It is no national anthology, full of abrupt transitions and violent contrasts, with the writings of one age at variance with those of another, and with subsequent generations ashamed of and destroying what went before. Rather like some mighty oak it has grown slowly through long centuries, but with no decaying limbs, no branches which have had to be lopped away. Christianity has developed, also. Starting from a far higher level, and amid a riper culture, it too has expanded its creed; but all those developments which are more than the arrangement and consistent expression of its first teaching are rejected by the most enlightened portions of Christendom as corruptions at variance with the truth.

Judaism also has had its development in the Talmud, but the development is inferior to the starting-point. and is marred by a curious admixture of puerility. From Genesis to Malachi there is in Holy Scripture a steady and homogeneous growth, advancing upwards to a stage so high as to be a fit preparation for the full sunshine of the Gospel; and in the Book of Genesis we find the earliest stages of this work founded upon pre-Mosaic documents. We read there of the forming of a being in the image of God, of the fall of that being, of the promise given of restoration, and of the first steps taken towards the fulfilment of that promise; and not only is the foundation thus laid for future revelation, but many a pregnant hint is given of the course which that revelation would follow. But though thus preserving for us records of vast antiquity, the Book of Genesis is arranged upon a definite plan. Having set man before us as the goal of creation, but nevertheless as incapable of serving God aright and of saving himself by his natural powers, and thereby attaining to the end and purpose for which he was made, it next lays the foundation for the plan of supernatural religion by the promise made to Eve in the very hour of her punishment, of a Deliverer who should arise from her seed. Thenceforward the fulfilment of this promise is steadily kept in view; and while much valuable subsidiary knowledge is bestowed upon us, yet so directly does Moses advance onward to his purpose, that by the end of Genesis we have the family chosen to be the depositaries of revelation located in an extensive and fertile region, wherein they were to multiply into a nation. So essential is the Book of Genesis to the Bible, that without it Holy Scripture would be scarcely intelligible: with this introduction all is orderly and follows in due course.

As regards its contents, it consists of an account of creation given in Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3, and, as we have shown in Excursus D, of ten histories, called in the Hebrew Tôldôth, or genealogies, written each in its own style, and with a distinct local colouring, but with evident marks of arrangement for a settled purpose. To account for these differences of style numerous theories have been devised, one of which especially has exercised the ingenuity of a large number of writers, among whom the best known in this country is Bishop Colenso. Discarding, or not observing, that the book itself asserts that it consists of eleven parts, the beginning of each of which is carefully noted, these commentators have attempted to divide Genesis into portions according to the prevalence in them severally of the names of Elohim and Jehovah. With this theory they also combined attempts to settle the dates of the Elohist and the Jehovist, generally bringing them down to a late period, and endeavouring to find in Holy Scripture some person or persons who might be credited with what was virtually a forgery.

The Chaldaic records extend to the end of Genesis 11:26, though much light is also thrown by our enlarged knowledge of Chaldean history upon the invasion of Palestine by Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14). From Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 37:1, the surroundings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are those of Arabian sheiks. From Genesis 37:2 to the end the colouring is in the main Egyptian, and in all three sections it is not only the general aspect that is thus Chaldaic, Arabian, or Egyptian; but even the minuter points are true to the time and place. And the result of our increased knowledge is that numerous difficulties are now cleared away. They used to be difficulties only because of our ignorance, but it seemed to give a triumph to the sceptic if the believer could only answer,—We have no sufficient knowledge, and must be content to wait, resting our faith meanwhile upon those parts of revelation where contemporaneous knowledge has been vouchsafed. Nay, even the believer has often been restless and discontented because questions have been asked which were not easy to answer; or, what is worst, because well-meaning defenders of the faith have given answers evidently insufficient, and savouring more of the controversialist than of the seeker after truth. Even now our increased knowledge has not removed all difficulties, nor is it to be expected that there ever will be a time when our faith will have no trial to undergo. But in this trial, it is an aid to our faith if we find that increased knowledge lessens our difficulties; and, as a matter of fact, nothing so profits by each fresh discovery as the Bible. If Galileo cleared away many a mistaken gloss put upon Scripture to make it accord with the Ptolemean solar system, so have the astronomers and geologists of the present day enabled us at last to see something of the grandeur and majesty of the Biblical account of creation. And our increased knowledge of the country where Abraham and his clan so long sojourned, and of the land where his descendants grew into a nation, is like sunshine illuminating a region where before we had only twilight and shadow.

We shall gain a better idea of the nature of the book, as well of the difficulties with which it abounds as also of the light cast upon them by our increased knowledge, if we pass, at least, the two first portions of which it consists somewhat fully in review before our eyes, concluding with some general remarks.

The first narrative is the history of creation, as told in Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3. It consists of eight parts, of which the first, after affirming that God is the Creator of all things, and consequently that matter is not eternal, describes the first stage of creation as a void and formless waste. Chaos is a Greek notion, arising out of their theory that matter was uncreated and eternal. Now no language can convey a notion of a state of existence destitute of all shape, order, and arrangement; but it is sketched with marvellous beauty as an abyss, a depth without bounds, veiled in darkness, but in which the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters to quicken them with life. Without moisture life on our planet cannot exist; but we must not put any commonplace interpretation upon these abysmal waters. They were still void, empty, formless; but the words show that God had called into being in this dark abyss the matter out of which the universe was to be shaped, and that His power was present there to mould and quicken it. Upon this noble preface, which annihilates most of the dogmas of heathenism, of Greek philosophy, and of pseudo-Christian heresy, follow the six creative days, and the day of holy rest.

In the division of our Bible into chapters, with a carelessness only equalled by that perversity which has formed the ninth chapter of Isaiah out of the end and the beginning of two incongruous prophecies, the seventh day’s rest is separated from the account of the six working days, and thus the very purpose of the narrative is concealed. Slowly and gradually we see in it the earth passing through successive stages, until it becomes the abode of a being made in the image of God. Mechanical laws are first of all imposed upon created matter, and as gravitation draws the particles together, the friction produces electricity, and with it light and heat. In union next with chemical laws, they sort and arrange the materials of this our earth, and break it up into land and sea. On the third day, the creative energy for the second time manifests itself, and vegetable life is called into being; and on the fourth day there was apparently a long pause, during which the atmosphere was purified by means of vegetation, till the sun and moon shone upon the hardening surface, and made it capable of bearing more advanced types of plants, quickly followed on the fifth day by the lower forms of animal life. Finally, when the work of the sixth day was far advanced, and the mammalia had been called into existence, the Creator takes solemn counsel, and by special intervention man is created to be the ruler and governor of all that had been made. From the first he is set forth as a religious being, made in God’s likeness; and on the seventh day God rests, to hallow for man his weekly rest. We are now living in this seventh day of God, and it will go on until the advent of the day of the Lord. During this day of rest the creative energy pauses, and no being higher than man is called into existence. We know not how long it may continue, nor what may follow it; but we know that God’s days are not as our days. The record is not a geological treatise, but a hymn of praise to God, magnifying His mighty works, indicating man’s high relation to Him, and hallowing the weekly Sabbath, which is man’s day of rest, just as the whole period of time which has followed upon the creation of man unto the present time is God’s day of rest. In it He creates no new being, fashions nothing higher than man, but He still protects and maintains all created things: for in the work of providence and grace God resteth not. (See John 5:17.)

Other minor purposes are, indeed, kept in view. The teaching that God made the sun and moon, and that they are placed under servitude for man’s use, coupled I with the scarcely grammatical insertion of the words “the stars also,” in Genesis 1:16, reading like a marginal note thrust into the text, all this had plainly for its object” the prevention of the idolatrous veneration of the heavenly luminaries. And it succeeded. Everywhere else the sun and moon and planets were worshipped with Divine honours. Even we Christians call the names of the days of the week after them. The Jew, better taught by this first chapter of Genesis, never fell into this error. To him the heavens declared God’s glory, and the firmament displayed His handywork (Psalms 19:1).

So in Genesis 1:21 there is a protest against the worship of the crocodile, the animal especially meant by the word translated whales. Now here we have one of the many indications of the hand of Moses. If it was this record which kept Eber and his race free from the debasing superstition of star-worship, and which made Terah and his family quit their home at Ur of the Chaldees, so by the insertion of these words Moses protected the Israelites from the animal worship so prevalent in Egypt. Equally they needed protection from the attractions of star-worship (Amos 5:25-26), and found it where the patriarchs had found it of old.

The history of creation is, however, never expressly called a document, as are the other ten portions of the book, and it may have been entirely revealed to Moses. Such was long my own opinion, but there are two considerations which seem to tend in a contrary direction.

For, first, this narrative seems essential as the ground-work for the faith of the patriarchs. Not necessarily in the form in which we now have it, and which was given it by the hand of Moses, but in some form. And as it must have been inspired, if it was to be the foundation for man’s faith, we may well believe that Moses, being guided by the same Divine inspiration, would not make any other changes in it than such as would render it more fit to do God’s work in all succeeding times. If, then, the patriarchs possessed this narrative mainly such as it now is, they had a document of so great weight and authority as would account for their rejection of idolatry and their persistence in the belief of one sole Deity. For it is not, like the Oriental cosmogonies, a speculative attempt to solve the great difficulty of creation, namely, how a Being perfect and infinite, “with whom can be no variation” (James 1:17), changed from the passive state of not willing the existence of the universe, to the active state of willing it; and how, with almighty power and boundless goodness, He called into being a world imperfect, and marred by sorrow and sin. It is no subtle device of thinking that we find, but absolute knowledge given with authority, and of which the one purpose is to show that man from the first stood in a near relation to God, was made for converse with Him, and must set apart a portion of his time for his Creator’s service. Such a narrative stands outside the physical sciences, in which man is to attain to knowledge by his own exertions. But whenever truth is reached, either in physics or in metaphysics, we could not believe a book to be inspired which was incapable of being shown to be in accordance with truth. In every age the Bible speaks to men according to their knowledge, and our increased knowledge of astronomy and geology has shown that there are profound verities in the Biblical account of Creation, concerning which even the ablest commentators without this knowledge spake with stammering lips and unintelligent tongue.

As then such absolute knowledge could have been given only by inspiration (see Job 38:4), it would be a document, whenever bestowed, that must from the first have been highly prized and religiously preserved. And if it was essential to the faith of the patriarchs it would be bestowed upon them, and probably, from early times, was a treasure in the family of Shem. Even long before the Flood, Enoch was a prophet who attained to a remarkable nearness to God, and foretold a day of judgment (Jude 1:14-15). There were also other inspired men through whom God spake, and whose words would probably be recorded; and their teaching, carefully preserved, would account for the purity of the religious belief of the Semitic family as a whole, and especially for that of the race of Eber. God has made it the law of His working that He ever employs secondary causes, and the chastened monotheism of Abraham’s faith must have had something to produce it. Subsequently he was himself the recipient of revelations, but these were vouchsafed to him because he was fit for them. If he possessed this narrative of creation, his pure creed, his noble character, his trustful abandonment of his home, all become intelligible. And living in a highly-civilised, though heathen, community, and in an age when the commonest transactions of life were inscribed on tablets and cylinders of clay, there is no difficulty in believing that Abraham had the record in writing, and that it was preserved until the days of Moses. And Moses, instinct with prophetic power, has placed it upon the forefront of revelation, and being himself a prophet, would record it in such a form as would make it fit for the permanent use, first, of the Jewish, and then of the Christian Church.

To one of these we must next briefly call attention. The narrative of the invasion of Palestine by Chedorlaomer has called forth much satirical comment on the part of critics. What could be said in defence of a story which described a king of Elam, a sort of Switzerland lying south and east of Assyria and Persia, as carrying his arms through a region so difficult as that which lay to the north of Babylonia, and onward to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea? Moreover, this mountaineer is represented as having among his vassals a king of Shinar, so that Babylon must have been subject to him. But we have now ancient documents deciphered for us which show that about the time of Abraham the kings of Elam were the paramount power in Asia, and that the plain of Babylonia was parcelled out among numerous towns, whose petty kings were subject to them. According to the Assyrian records the Elamite supremacy lasted for several centuries, and was not finally overthrown until B.C. 1270; and about Abraham’s time one of their kings named Kudur-Mabuk actually claimed the title of “Lord of Phœnicia,” or Palestine (see Excursus E), so that we have the most complete corroboration of the Biblical narrative. The names also which occur in the history are all explained by what we now know of the language of this ancient people; and we probably have in Genesis 14 a contemporary record, carefully preserved from Abraham’s times. As the title “Lord of Phœnicia” attests the victories of Kudur-Mabuk, we conclude that he it was who imposed upon the cities of the plain the tribute which Kudur-Lagomar endeavoured to enforce.

First, then, the creative words in the opening record of Genesis are laws. God speaks, and not only is it done, but the law is immutably settled for all future time. The law given on the first day apparently was that grand universal law of gravitation, giving rise, as the result of the closer cohesion of matter, to electrical and chemical forces, whence spring most of the phenomena of existence. The law given on the second day was not a new departure of creative energy, but simply marks a point reached by the law given on the first. Accepting the nebular hypothesis as the only theory which satisfactorily accounts for the phenomena of Creation, there was a vast period of time during which the condensation of matter produced mainly heat and light, and only at last would our planet be so far advanced as for there to be an open “expanse” around it, and solids and fluids beginning to cohere within this ring. On the third day a further stage is reached. The strata formed by gravitation are broken up, partly by chemical and partly by mechanical forces, and dry land appears. This is followed by a new creative act, calling vegetable life into existence, and giving it its laws. For the higher forms of vegetation were not reached until man appeared on the earth, when “God planted a garden,” and made not only fruit trees, but also all the nobler vegetation, described as “every tree that is pleasant to the sight,” to grow out of the ground (Genesis 2:8-9). After the pause of the fourth day animal life is created, extending through two Divine days, until man finally appears. As on the fourth day so on the seventh. there is no new creative energy displayed, but the laws previously given move on in their mighty power. And they are immutable, because they are the ever-present will of the immutable God.

There are then but three acts of creative power, of which the first is the calling of matter into existence, as recorded in Genesis 1:1. Matter is next made subject to laws by which it is so arranged and combined as to form an orderly world, in opposition to the waste and empty abyss through which it was at first dispersed. The next creative act is the bestowal of vegetable life, narrated in Genesis 1:11. The third and final act is the bestowal of animal life, recorded in Genesis 1:20. To this I would venture to add the creation of the human reason, and of the spiritual nature of man. All the rest is but arrangement; but in these four acts we attain to results which no force of mechanical or chemical laws could produce. When some time ago it was argued that life might have come to our earth from an aërolite, scientific men thereby confessed that there was nothing upon this our globe to account for it. But as the materials of aërolites are much the same as those of the earth, and as they are in fact parts of our solar system, we must go outside them: and ever onwards until we find it where alone it is to be found, and where Moses placed it, in God.

But if thus the cosmogony in the Book of Genesis sets before us a gradual advance in creation, giving us its successive stages, and its immutable laws, and marking the introduction from time to time into the abyss of new forces, and especially of life, are we to accept evolution as the best exposition of the manner in which God wrought? I answer that the theologian has nothing to do with such questions. The unwise disputes between science and theology almost always arise from scientific men crying aloud that some new theory just hatched is a disproof of the supernatural, and from theologians debating each new theory on the ground of scriptural exposition. It is but just to the author of the theory of evolution to say that he never made this mistake. Really, every scientific hypothesis must be proved or disproved on the ground of science alone; but when the few survivors of the very many theories which scientific men suggest have attained to the rank of scientific verities, then at last the necessity arises of comparing them with Holy Scripture: for we could not believe it to be the Word of God if it contradicted the book of nature, which also comes from Him. God is truth, and His revealed Word must be true.

Now evolution is very far from having attained to the rank of a scientific verity; it is at most an interesting and ingenious theory. But should it ever win higher rank, the second account of creation is in its favour. While in the first Elohim appears in all the grandeur of the Divine majesty, creating, first, matter by a word, and then life, and finally the rational soul; in the second He appears as the Divine artificer. All is slow and gradual. He forms man, builds up the woman, plants a garden, makes trees to grow. The two accounts undoubtedly are meant to supplement one another, and it is remarkable that while the second compresses the whole of creation into one day, it nevertheless represents it as a patient and lengthy process; and when Adam was placed in the terrestrial paradise vegetable life had reached the fruit tree, and animal life had advanced to cattle—animals, that is, fit for domestication. And we have another mark of duration of time in the fact that the waters had not only formed channels for themselves, but that these had become so fixed and settled that two of the rivers of Eden exist and bear the same names at the present day.

Unfortunately for its temperate discussion, evolution is now enwrapped by many of its partisans in the ugly pellicle of materialism, and for this there is in the Bible no place. While, therefore, I am content to leave all the processes of creation to those who make the material universe the object of their intelligent study, I object to their crossing beyond their proper limits, which they do in arguing that our enlarged knowledge of matter and its laws militates with a belief in a governing and law-giving mind: for material science can penetrate no farther than to the phenomena of nature. It is the noble teaching of the Book of Genesis that creation was the work of an All-wise and Almighty intelligence, and that the Infinite Mind, which we reverently call God, even called matter into being, and gave it those laws which scientific men study so wisely. I am content to believe everything which they prove in their own domain; but when they make assumptions in regions where they are but trespassers, it is mere waste of time to dispute with them. But I cannot say this without at the same time acknowledging the immense obligation under which theologians lie to the masters of the sciences of astronomy and geology; for they have enlarged our ideas, brushed away many a crude popular fallacy, and enabled us to understand more and more of the perfect ways of God.

Leaving, therefore, the theory of evolution to be proved or disproved on scientific grounds, we must next observe that much light is thrown upon the Biblical account of creation by our increased knowledge of the literature of Babylonia. We have seen that the form of the narrative and the arrangement of the work of creation into six days had for one main object the hallowing of the seventh day’s rest. We are now aware that the division of time into weeks of seven days, and the weekly day of rest, is of extreme antiquity. Accadian tablets of very early date show that the Sabbath was strictly observed in times anterior to those of Abraham. The Babylonian story of the flood gives to the number seven as marked an importance as is assigned to it in the narrative in Genesis. There is, however, this striking difference. In the Accadian tablets the seven days of the week are connected with the sun, the moon, and the five planets which were all then known. Our own days of the week, as mentioned before, bear testimony to the general prevalence of this idolatry of the heavenly bodies. So, also, the Babylonian narrative of the flood is intensely polytheistic. In the Book of Genesis we have the purest monotheism, without a trace of even the most ancient and most seductive forms of heathenism.

In the second narrative, Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 4:26, creation appears only as a subsidiary part of the history. For following the rule usual in the tôldôth, it is the description of that which follows upon the name given in the title. The tôldôth of Adam is the history of his descendants up to the flood; that of Terah is the history of Abraham; that of Jacob is the story of Joseph. So the tôldôth of creation is the narrative of the lives of Adam and Eve until their posterity was divided into the two lines of Seth and Cain. Naturally, therefore, creation appears as the work of a single day, though the stages recorded are all slowly reached, and have reference to the care taken by God of our first parents. If the mist period is referred to, when the ball of the earth was so hot as to drive off from it the water in the form of vapour to the far side of the expanse, this is in contrast with the cool garden, shaded by forest trees, planted with choice kinds of fruit, and watered by rivers running in settled channels. Precious products of the earth are also mentioned, gold and pearls, and precious stones, because such things adorn civilised life. Beasts and birds, too, are there, because upon them Adam exercised his budding intelligence. But even in Paradise Adam is not represented as being possessed of high metaphysical powers; on the contrary, he is described as in a very rudimentary state, and with his intellect undeveloped. He does not even know the difference between right and wrong, one of the very first things a child learns, though a child generally learns it in much the same way as Adam did, by doing something wrong and incurring punishment. But neither is he without use of reason, for he studies the animals, and names them after their peculiar gifts or ways. He holds, too, a simple communion with God, who walks with him in the garden; and thus, again, man appears from the very first as a religious being, capable of and actually having intercourse with the Deity.

But amongst numerous points of surpassing interest in this second narrative, one of the most remarkable is the name given to the Deity. In the first narrative God is Elohim, a term expressive of universal might. Elohim is God in His omnipotence. In the second narrative it is Jehovah-Elohim. Now the name Jehovah holds a mysterious place in Revelation. It is, if we may reverently so speak, the personal name of God. It is no general title drawn from His attributes, but something individual, representing God, first as a person, and secondly as holding personal relations to man. The Israelites correctly expressed this when they said to Joshua, “Jehovah is our God” (Joshua 24:18). It was no abstraction which they worshipped, but a definite being, who stood to them in a fixed and definite relation.

Strangely enough, the only name compounded with Jehovah, which occurs before the time of Moses, is that of Jochebed (“Jehovah is glory”), his own mother (Exodus 6:20). There may, of course, have been others, for the names of very few persons have been preserved. But the existence of even this one name shows that the title Jehovah was in use, and was highly honoured, and perhaps even that it was becoming more common. But the difficulty is apparent rather than real, and disappears upon an examination of the right meaning of the words in Exodus 6:3. For if we turn to our Bibles, and examine the manner in which the word “name” is employed there, we shall find, as has been pointed out in innumerable places by commentators, that in Hebrew the name stands for the thing. What is really intended by the passage in Exodus is that the peculiar use of the name Jehovah, which had long been in process of formation, was now fully established; and whereas the Deity had hitherto been El-Shaddai, the Mighty One, henceforth, as their covenant-God, He was to be addressed as Jehovah. It had always been a title round which loving memories clustered, and which had been used with a deep sense of its importance. God had now brought out the meaning of the name in a way in which it had never been interpreted before. Eve had used it of her child, calling him “He shall be” (Genesis 4:1); but she had been bitterly disappointed. God now applies it to Himself; for when asked by Moses what was the special epithet by which he was to proclaim Him to the Israelites in Egypt, He answered “I shall be that I shall be “(Exodus 3:14). It was a name pointing onward to a future manifestation of Himself, and mysteriously indicating that the fulfilment of the promise in Genesis 3:15 would be by an incarnation of Deity. Jehovah is the third person of that which God spake in the first person, and henceforward it was to be the peculiar title of the Deity in His covenant relation with Israel, because in it were mysteriously summed up all those Messianic hopes which the prophets were to unfold. Israel’s covenant-God was one “who would become” the Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh.

The words, then, in Exodus 6:2-3, indicate that a great culmination had been reached. The Elohim of their fathers (Exodus 3:13), who had been worshipped under various titles, but who had chiefly been known as the Omnipotent, is henceforward to have a special title, indicative of a close relation between Him and His people. They were at length a nation, and were to have, in a few years, a country of their own; and instead of the general monotheism of the patriarchs, they were to worship still one God, but under a title that set-forth, not some special attribute, but that He would manifest Himself more clearly and fully to them m time to come. It is the theocratic name, and could reasonably be given only when the theocracy was about to be constituted. And thus the care and discrimination so clearly shown in Genesis in the use of the names Jehovah and Elohim is explained, and is a strong argument for the Mosaic authorship. Had we a mere jumble of extracts from a Jehovist and an Elohist, no such exactness would have been possible; for it would have been a mere matter of chance which name was employed. As it is they often appear in close juxtaposition, but each correctly used. And in this second narrative of creation, the reason for the unusual title Jehovah-Elohim is plain. God is no longer the Omnipotent, calling matter and life into existence, and giving them laws which cannot be broken; He is a loving being, arranging and providing for man’s good and happiness, taking care of the most perfect of His creatures, and revealing Himself to him as his Friend. Even more important is it to notice that in this narrative the foundation is laid for the Gospel, and that the special office of Jehovah, and the reason of the name, are indicated in Genesis 3:15. And they are given in relation to all mankind; for this is a distinguishing point of the Book of Genesis, and one that indicates most plainly that its origin was prior to the giving of the Law, that while it prepares for the theocracy, it ever represents God as the God of all the world. There is none of that exclusiveness of view which grew up subsequently in the Jewish Church: the very noblest form which is presented to us is that of Melchizedek, the king-priest of a Gentile town, and who on that account is the fit type of Christ, in whom once again the bonds of union with God’s Church became as wide as the world.

The remaining tôldôth have been, I trust, sufficiently considered in the notes. I would only, in conclusion. warn the reader against expecting that all difficulties can be cleared away. If our view be true, that Moses had before him ancient written documents, some of which had even been carried by the family of Eber to the rich and civilised city of Ur, while others, like the tôldôth of the patriarchs, were recorded in their tents, then we possess in Genesis the oldest and most venerable literature in the world. There is no reason for sup. posing that the patriarchs could not write. Abraham came from a place where writing flourished; nor were the Canaanites an uneducated people. It was they who carried letters to Greece, and we still use in the main their alphabet. Nor are there wanting indications of this in their history; for the town Debir, to the west of Hebron, was called Kirjath-Sepher—i.e., Book-town—by the Canaanites (Joshua 15:15); and Kirjath-Sannah (Joshua 15:49), a word hard to interpret, but which many explain as meaning that some material for writing was prepared there. But independently of this, Abraham would not readily lose an art well known to him; his son and grandson were both men of domestic habits; and before Jacob’s death the Israelites were settled in learned Egypt.

Many of the difficulties that have been felt in the narrative refer to numbers and matters of chronology. Now God did not bestow upon men a perfect system of numeration, but left it to them to discover it for themselves. And neither Hebrews, Greeks, nor Romans did discover it; but the Arabs, comparatively a few centuries ago, invented for us that simple but accurate method which we now employ. The Hebrews at the present day express numbers by letters. Thus Aleph is put for one, Beth for two, Yod for ten, Koph for one hundred, and the highest number they can thus indicate is four hundred by Tau. Above four hundred they can only add letters together, or try to make them express higher numerals by dots. But we do not know when this system began, nor even when their alphabet attained to its full complement of twenty-two letters. In what way numbers were previously indicated is an entire mystery, and probably the earlier genealogies of mankind were of the nature of a memoria technica, and had to be explained by oral teaching. Moreover, the great object of these lists of names was not chronology but genealogy. To this the patriarchs attached the highest value, and their justification lies in the genealogy of our Lord. From the call of Abraham it is possible to construct a chronology that cannot be far wrong, difficult as it may be to make 1 Kings 6:1 accord with Acts 13:20. Previously to that date all is uncertain, and while in a religious point of view we have everything that we want, it is as impossible to construct a scientific chronology of the world from the records in Genesis, as it is to construct from those same records a scientific geology or astronomy. The Bible refuses to be put to purposes for which it was never intended.

Of numerous interesting points which remain, I will notice but one, namely, the morality of the book of Genesis. And here we must start with the acknowledged principle that there is progress throughout the Bible, and that as the light of revelation was gradually given, so with it was there a growth in morality. The least in the kingdom of heaven is in this respect greater than John the Baptist, just as he in his moral level was higher than all who had gone before (Matthew 11:11). If then we look for a morality in the Book of Genesis as pure as that of the Gospel, we shall look in vain; and in doing so must reject our Lord’s contrast in the Sermon on the Mount between His teaching and that of the great and good of old times. Yet the morality of the Book of Genesis is absolutely high, and is also such as would lead on to higher stages. Note how from the first the idea of the family, which many regard as quite modern, is the root and centre of the patriarchal life. Polygamy, that great curse of the Oriental home, is from the first discountenanced. In the earthly paradise we have but one loving pair, and the woman is described as the man’s counterpart (Genesis 2:18), and so as his equal. The law of marriage is given in terms so stringent and binding (Genesis 2:24) that our Lord could add nothing to them, though He draws out their force (Matthew 19:5-6). When polygamy appears it is in a Cainite family, marked by arrogance and cruelty. If Abraham takes to him a concubine, it is at his wife’s suggestion, and for the purpose of having offspring, and not for lust. Isaac, though long without offspring, remains faithful to his barren wife. And, subsequently, when Jacob marries two sisters, though his conduct falls far below the level of Christian morality, yet he regarded Rachel as his lawful wife unjustly withheld from him; and while he had little love for Leah, and took greatly to heart the fraud practised upon him, and to which she had lent herself, yet he did not cast her away, but took care of her, treated her with honour, and finally, it would seem, reciprocated her affection. And so as regards the handmaids, while the picture is even offensive to Christian feeling, we again notice that the dominant idea was that of offspring, and that it was the act of the wives at a time when each considered herself barren, and had for its purpose the increase of their family. There is nothing in it of a low and sensual character, and it seems even then to have been regarded as abnormal; for Jacob’s sons return again to the practice of monogamy. In all the pride and power of viceroyalty, Joseph is content with one wife.

As regards slavery, Abraham receives gifts of slaves from Pharaoh (Genesis 12:16), in addition to those which he had brought with him from Haran, and has so large a household as to be able to take with him for the battle with Chedorlaomer three hundred and eighteen trained servants born in his own house (Genesis 14:14). Apparently, too, there was even a trade in slaves (Genesis 17:27). Such was also the case when the New Testament was written, and the apostles were content to provide for the kind treatment of the slave, while enunciating principles which naturally led to the stern disapproval of it in course of time, though its suppression was long delayed by human greed. Now in the Book of Genesis we find nothing like the predial slavery which has disgraced modern times. The slave, whether “born in the house or bought with money,” was to share in all the religious privileges of his master. The express command was given that he should be circumcised, and admitted into covenant with his master’s God (Genesis 17:13). Undoubtedly a large mass of the Israelite nation was sprung from those who had thus formed the families of the patriarchs; and we can imagine nothing that would more alleviate the lot of the “servant,” would increase his own self-respect, and insure his kindly treatment, than the feeling that he thus worshipped the same God as his master, and was bound up with him in the same religious brotherhood. We do not wonder after this at finding that not his nephew Lot, but a home-born slave was next in authority to Abraham over his tribe, and his prospective heir if he had no son (Genesis 15:2-3). Nor does it surprise us that Sheshan, a highborn descendant of Hezron, should give his daughter in marriage to a slave (1 Chronicles 2:35); nor that his slave, Ziba, should have been the representative of the house of Saul until David called Mephi-bosheth, the son of Jonathan, out of obscurity, and restored him to his rank (2 Samuel 9:2, &c.).

In the denial of their wives both Abraham and Isaac fail as regards truthfulness. It is undoubtedly the case that wherever men occupy a position of danger, they are too apt to have recourse habitually to artifice to insure their safety. In the East to this day it is well-nigh the universal rule to give false answers, not merely to escape from peril, but even simply to conform to the supposed wishes of the questioner. We may well suppose that the few men of the Semitic race, surrounded by an overwhelming number of Elamites and aliens at Ur, and in the plains of Babylonia, were exposed to this temptation; and probably truthfulness in the face of danger and death is a heroic virtue which we have learned from Christian martyrs. But while we thus find the patriarchs deficient in this high quality, the two narratives condemn their want of faith. In both cases their ruse involves them in danger and difficulty. They are reproved by heathen mouths, and learn that truthfulness would have been their wisest policy.

Finally, the sacrifice of Isaac by his father has often been condemned in unmeasured terms. We have here, they say, the father of the faithful tempted to commit a crime, which every dictate of a pure conscience would have condemned. Human sacrifice is the blackest outcome of fanaticism and morbid superstition, and no supposed revelation would justify a deed opposed to the laws of natural religion, and absolutely wrong in itself. A command requiring the commission of a crime ought in all cases, without exception, to be disobeyed. But, first of all, the supposed effect of a justification of human sacrifice never as resulted from the patriarch’s example. No Jew ever derived from it the conclusion that there might be circumstances under which a father might offer his child to God. The conclusion which they deduced from the occurrence was “that God would provide” the great sacrifice (Genesis 22:14, see Notes). How can an act be immoral from which no immoral consequences have resulted, and which has ever been so interpreted as to condemn the very practice which these critics supposed that it favoured? But in sober truth, there are far higher considerations involved in this history. The Bible must and always will be the object of constant attack from those who stand outside it, but what, may we ask, has been the view of Abraham’s conduct inside the Church? We may safely say that there, by Jew of old, and Christian now, it has ever been regarded as the crowning act of Abraham’s life. To it we believe that our Lord referred when He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). For there the whole mystery of God’s redeeming love was set forth, and while only the great facts were recorded as a parable, for men to muse over until the interpretation came, we may conclude from our Lord’s words that to Abraham was revealed the interpretation of the solemn mystery in which he had taken part. We have repeatedly pointed out that in the Book of Genesis we have the germ of every future doctrine of revelation. This would not be true if we had not in this narrative the anticipation of the teaching that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16).

EXCURSUS D: ON THE BOOKS OF GENERATIONS.

The most cursory reader must be struck by the manner in which this phrase frequently occurs in the Book of Genesis, and never again till the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel. After the magnificent and Divine opening of Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3, the rest of the book is a series of “generations,” in each of which there are peculiarities of diction and style, but also plain marks of a master-hand, which has moulded them into a continuous narrative. These generations, or tôldôth, are ten in number, namely:—

Chap

Genesis 2:4

Genesis 4:26,

the tôldoth of heaven and earth.

Genesis 5:1

Genesis 6:8,

,,

,,

Adam.

Genesis 6:9

Genesis 9:29,

,,

,,

Noah.

Genesis 10:1

Genesis 11:9,

,,

,,

the sons of Noah.

Genesis 11:10

Genesis 11:26,

,,

,,

Shem.

Genesis 11:27

Genesis 25:11,

,,

,,

Terah.

Genesis 25:12

Genesis 25:18,

,,

,,

Ishmael.

Genesis 25:19

Genesis 35:29,

,,

,,

Isaac.

Genesis 36:1

Genesis 37:1,

,,

,,

Esau.

Genesis 37:2

Genesis 50:26,

,,

,,

Jacob.

Now, first, modern discoveries have shown that there is no difficulty, as some have supposed, in believing that the patriarchs could read and write. Ur of the Chaldees, whence Terah emigrated, proves to have been a famous seat of learning, and Mr. Sayce (Chald. Gen., p. 24) says that the earliest inscriptions of any importance which we now possess belong to the time of a king of Ur, supposed to have lived three thousand years before the Christian era. These inscriptions, he adds, consist of texts on bricks and on signet cylinders, and some of these latter may be, he thinks, of even greater antiquity. Even the daily transactions of business were in Abram’s time perpetuated with the utmost punctuality and decorum by means of those contract, and sale, and even loan tablets of terra cotta which are still existing; and it is now known that in Chaldea among the Accadians, as in Egypt, papyrus was used as a writing material as well as clay, and more rarely, stone (Tomkins, Studies on the Times of Abraham, p. 45). So far from losing, the Book of Genesis gains infinitely in value and importance, if not on its divine, yet on its human side, if we find reason for believing that we may have in it the contents of bricks and cylinders carried by Abraham from Ur to Haran first, and thence to Canaan.

Next, the only reverent way of interpreting Holy Scripture is, not to make it bend to human theories, but to make our views bend to what it says of itself. Here, then, it represents the Book of Genesis as composed out of documents already existing. “We have no right to assume that these documents were less inspired because pre-Mosaic. Enoch, Noah, Abraham are all represented as men very near unto God. Others, such as Shem, Jacob, Joseph, were scarcely less so; and there are peculiarities in the tôldôth of Jacob which suggest that a narrative written by Joseph was at least the basis of that history. Now, had Genesis been the work of one inspired pen, surely it would have proceeded onward with steady purpose, and, as is the invariable rule of Holy Scripture, the writer would have preserved his own style and individuality throughout. As it is, the narrative which begins at Genesis 2:4 is as diverse from the history of creation as it could possibly be; and apparently that history (Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3), which is not a tôldôth, was given in order to guard against the errors which might easily have arisen from misunderstanding the account given in the second narrative. Now, the history of creation must have been directly inspired. We cannot, indeed, tell how the knowledge it contains was communicated, whether by a series of visions in a trance or by ideas impressed upon the writer’s mind; but obviously it was intended to represent creation as developed in an orderly progression by the promulgation of Divine laws, following at successive intervals, one upon another, and culminating in the Sabbath of Elohim. In the second narrative creation is but a secondary subject, and is described simply in contrast with the Garden of Eden.

But the author of the Book of Genesis—and we know of no one whose claims stand on such strong grounds as those of Moses—also shows his individuality, and arranges his materials on a settled plan. Divinely inspired, as we believe, he would nevertheless make no unnecessary change or alteration in the documents before him; nay, he does not even care for verbal accuracy (witness Genesis 28:9, compared with Genesis 36:3). In the Chaldean Genesis we have a document far older than the time of Moses; and in the account of the flood, in the sending out of the raven and dove from the ark, in the sacrifice offered by Noah, and the choice of the rainbow as a sign of reconciliation, there is much that is common to the inspired and uninspired narratives. But the perusal and comparison of the two is most instructive, and leaves the mind impressed with the infinite superiority of the Bible narrative.

The writer’s plan was this. After giving us an account of creation, in which man appears as God’s master work, and then of the Paradise, in which man is shown to be the especial object of Jehovah’s love, henceforward his one purpose is man’s restoration, and the selection successively of Seth, Shem, Abraham, and Jacob as the persons through whom the promise of a Deliverer was to be fulfilled. He does not actually exclude all such portions of the patriarchal records as had no direct bearing upon his subject, but after a passing notice omits the mention of them for the future. Thus in the second narrative he gives the temptation, the fall, its outcome in Cain’s sin, and then a brief history of Cain’s family, with particulars of their advance in the arts of civilisation, in refinement, in luxury, and in pride; and then he drops them for ever. We know nothing more about the Cainites, but henceforward the narrative is occupied with Seth and his posterity. The same rule is followed again and again; and thus, while the Book of Genesis is full of most interesting information about the ancient world, we nevertheless feel that its one main purpose was to show that the redemption of mankind by the bestowal of a Saviour was no after-thought, but the very starting point of God's revealed message of love to His fallen creatures.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Genesis:4 Overview". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/genesis-0.html. 1905.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology