תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

works whereby the prophecy is fulfilled, we find the richest and most suitable food for faith. For, the immediate object of faith is Divine truth. Truth is, in its own nature, absolute; and has no respect to the divisions of time. Now as it is Divine truth, which faith seeks, and in which it rests, it is all one whether it appear in the form of a prediction, or in the form of a historical narrative. We may thus understand how it was, that patriarchs, and prophets, and righteous men, believed, and were saved through Christ, even before he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. He was exhibited to them, as really as he is to us, in the light of Divine truth. And, therefore, seeing that " with the Lord, a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years," they embraced the promises, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”.

The History of the Jews from Moses to the Captivity in Babylon embraces a period of nine hundred years; and readily divides itself into the following periods:- From the times of Moses, to the settlement of Israel in the land of Canaan;—from the settlement in Canaan, to the building of Solomon's temple;from the building of Solomon's temple, to the captivity in Babylon.

In entering upon the first of these divisions, namely, the history of the Jews from Moses to the settlement in Canaan, it may not be without use, to glance at the origin of this people. The history of the Jews properly begins with the call of Abraham, for he is the father of the race; and from him does their distinction from all the other families of the earth date its commencement. In the call of this patriarch out of a land of idolaters, in his ready and cheerful obedience to the call, in the covenant of promise into which he was taken, and in all the peculiar privileges that were conferred on him, we have a striking illustration of the sovereignty of Divine grace. For the prophet Ezekiel, reminding the Jews of their first origin, tells them, Ezek. xvi. 3, “Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite." - So Abraham was not called because he was greater or better than others, but because God loved him; even that God who will be gracious to whom he will be gracious.”—Exod. xxxiii. 19. The covenant made with Abraham was the everlasting covenant, by which Abel, Enoch, Noah, and other patriarchs were saved. But as the promise became more clear and specific in his time, there is frequent reference made to it, as established with Abraham.

In the time of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, the family had increased to seventy souls, who were compelled, by farnine, to remove from the land of Canaan, and go down into Egypt, where, through the influence of Joseph, one of Jacob's sons, they obtained a very comfortable settlement. Gen. xlvii. 27: “ And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew and multiplied exceedingly." The favour, however, which they enjoyed, though of long continuance, at last came to an end. For the king of Egypt, filled with jealousy on account of their rapid increase, began to oppress them, and reduced them to a state of severe and cruel bondage. But this event fell in with the grand design of their history, as it typified the bondage of sin and Satan into which men are reduced; and the consequent need of a great, a divine Deliverer. But, besides, the king of Egypt unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy which had gone before concerning the Israelites. For thus had the Lord spoken to Abraham, three hundred years before, Gen. xv. 13, “Know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years." But though the sons of Jacob were thus grievously oppressed, the time came when they were to experience a remarkable deliverance. For thus had it been predicted, Gen. xv. 14: “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge, and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”

The sacred history accordingly informs us, that the land of Egypt was visited with a series of desolating judgments, terminated by that which proved the most

terrible of all, the death, in one night, of the first-born in every family. In this way did the God of Israel judge that nation, for the cruelty and oppression which they had exercised upon his people. The effect of these judgments was to constrain the king of Egypt to feign submission to Him who rules supreme over all;. and to suffer the children of Israel to escape from the yoke of bondage in which they had so long been held. But the oracles of God had declared, that these slaves should come forth from the land of their captivity with great substance. And accordingly, we read, that they asked of their neighbours jewels of gold and jewels of silver; and that the Lord gave them favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, so that “they spoiled the Egyptians.” Exod. xii. 36.

The very period of this memorable event had been marked in prophecy. And see how exactly the prediction was accomplished: “In the fourth generation they shall come hither again," says the prophecy. Now how runs the narrative, Exodus xii. 40, 41? “The sojouring of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self same day it.came to pass, that the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." The Exodus from Egypt is one of the most memorable events in Jewish history, as affording a signal display of the glory of the God of Israel. For the gods of Egypt lay prostrate before his power; and were proved to be utterly impotent to save themselves or their worshippers. The spirit of a haughty monarch was crushed, and his boasted might utterly overwhelmed; showing that “there is no counsel or might against the Lord.” But it contained, besides, an affecting proof of the Divine favour towards the Israelites, and of his faithfulness to the covenant that he had made with their fathers. On these accounts, “ it is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing out from the land of Egypt.” Exod. xii. 42. In the Exodus, moreover, we see a contribution to the grand scheme of Divine revelation. For it is evi

وو

dent that the signal deliverance then wrought was designed to foreshow the greater deliverance which was to be accomplished by the seed of Abraham. The first promise had declared it, the sacrifice of Isaac had typified it, the history of Joseph had graphically represented it. In the Exodus, however, it is presented still in the obscurity of type indeed, but with greater clearness and fulness than before. And therefore we should miss the main design of this part of the Jewish history did we not see in it the goings of the Redeemer in his majesty as he triumphs over Satan, the god of the Egypt of this world, and over every enemy that may arise to enslave and oppress his people. “Now,' said Jesus, in the prospect of his sufferings, his bloodshedding as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John xii. 31, 32.

But whither were the tribes of Israel when ransomed from captivity to bend their steps? The word of prophecy will answer the question, Gen. xv. 16; 6 In the fourth generation they shall come hither again,” were the words of the Lord to Abraham. Accordingly, so soon as they left Egypt, they proceeded, under the conduct of Moses—who again was under the special guidance of the Angel of the covenant-towards the land of Canaan. The journey thus begun was, however, likely to be soon terminated, and that in a very disastrous manner. For, following the command of God, they were brought into a situation of the most imminent danger. They saw the Red Sea rolling its waste of waters before them, and the hosts of Egypt, led by Pharaoh in person, in hot pursuit behind them. The circumstance that they had been brought into this position, not by their own counsel, but by the counsel of God, might have quieted every fear, and assured them that he would open a way of escape; but as yet they knew little of their divine and gracious Deliverer, and of the way in which he leads his people; and therefore they gave up all as lost, and yielded to the most heartless despondency. But the word of the Lord had been spoken, and it behoved to reach its accomplishment. To Canaan they must go, despite of all their enemies." The arm of the Lord, therefore, opened a path for them in the midst of the sea; and by the same means prepared a watery grave for their enemies. For no sooner had the Israelites passed over to the opposite shore than the sea returned to its strength and swallowed up the whole host of the Egyptians. Well might Israel exclaim, in the triumphal song composed by Moses on the occasion, Exod. xv. 11, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

The people were thus left to pursue their journey without molestation from the Egyptians; but new troubles awaited them. These, however, just served as occasions for displaying the wisdom, and power, and love of their divine Redeemer. We need not follow them through the successive stages of their journey in the wilderness. Only, as prophecy had pointed out one place in particular to which they shoutd come; and as, besides, the events which there occurred are of peculiar moment, it is necessary to notice it. The Lord had said unto Moses at Mount Horeb, Exod. iii. 12," And this shall be a token unto thee that I have sent thee; when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.? To Mount Sinai accordingly the people of Israel did come, and in

a very remarkable

way

did there worship the Lord their God. In their deliverance out of Egypt they had been identified with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and virtually associated with them in the provisions and blessings of the covenant of promise. But it seemed good to the wisdom of God to recognise and establish this relation in a more public and solemn manner. In infinite condescension and mercy, therefore, the Lord did, at Sinai, take them into covenant with himself, promising to receive them as his people and to be to them

« הקודםהמשך »