ABRAHAM'S faith having been perfected by the severe trial to which it was subjected on the Mount of the Lord, the remainder of his sojourn among the living appears to have been no further illustrated by angelic visitations. Sarah had died "at Kirjath-arba, the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan", two years after his removal from Beer-sheba, where he continued to reside for the rest of his days, being a period of thirty-eight years. During this time, "the Lord blessed him in all things", and he became great in the midst of Canaan, though he possessed of it only the field and cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased for a burial place of the sons of Heth. The Lord had given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and camels, and asses (Gen. 24:35); and so gave him an influence and consideration among the surrounding tribes which riches are sure to create.
But in all his prosperity, he did not forget the promises. He had trained up Isaac in his own faith; and in order to preserve him from the evil and corrupting influence of faithless women, and to contribute to the future welfare of his descendants, he took an oath of his steward that he should not take a wife for his son of the daughters of the Canaanites among whom he dwelt; but from among his kindred in Mesopotamia, who appear to have also believed in God (Gen 24:50). The steward, however, thought it possible he might not succeed; but Abraham had no such misgiving. "The Lord God of heaven", said he, "who took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and who spake unto me, and sware unto me, saying, Unto thy Seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before", and prosper thy way.
Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, whom he brought into Sarah's tent. Sarah had now been dead three years. At the end of thirty-five years from this time, Abraham died, being a hundred and seventy-five, having "dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Heb. 11:9), for fifteen years. "He was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah" in a good old age, as the Lord had told him. "He died having obtained a good report through faith, not having received the promises; that he without the rest of the seed might not be made perfect." (Heb. 11:13,39,40) Such is the scriptural obituary of all who die in hope of the kingdom of God.
After Abraham's decease, Isaac broke up his encampment at Hebron, purposing to go down into Egypt in consequence of a famine in the land of Canaan. He had travelled south as far as Gerar of the Philistines on his way thither. But the Lord appeared unto him there, and said:
"Go not down into Egypt: dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee: for unto thee and unto thy Seed will I give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge and commandments, my statutes, and my laws." (Gen. 26:2-5)
In these words, the gospel was preached unto Isaac as it had been to Abraham before him. He also believed the Lord; for on the faith of these promises he proceeded no farther on his way to Egypt, but "dwelt in Gerar". There was no uncertainty in Isaac's mind. He did not look beyond the grave as to "an undiscovered country whence no traveller returns". The future was no mystery to him. "Heaven" was to him a state of blessedness upon earth -- a well-defined, and definable constitution of things. "I will bless thee", said God: and mark the grounds upon which this blessing was predicated: "for", continued the Lord,
As Abraham had died without receiving these promises made to him also; and as Isaac knew they were to inherit together; the promise of "all these countries" to him was equivalent to an assurance that he should rise from the dead; when he would see his father and the Christ in possession of the land; and his descendants increased to a great multitude, and then become a mighty nation exclusively occupying it; and all the nations happy and contented under the dominion of Christ. This was the gospel he believed; and the heaven, and blessedness for which he hoped.
After this Isaac sowed in the land, and received that year a hundred-fold; and "he waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great; and the Philistines envied him". And their king said, "Go from us: for thou art much mightier than we. So he left Gerar, and went to Beer-sheba. After this, he received a visit from the king of Gerar accompanied by one of his friends, and the general of his army. But Isaac did not seem pleased at their coming; for he asked them, "Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?" Their answer shows that they were aware of the relation Isaac sustained to God and to His promises: for they replied, "We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee; we wish therefore to make a covenant with thee that thou wilt do us no hurt"; and they ended by stating their conviction, saying, "Thou art now blessed of the Lord"; that is, Abraham being dead with whom we made a covenant before, the blessing of God promised to him now rests upon thee, from whom we seek amity and peace (Gen. 26:29; 21:23).
When Isaac was sixty, and Abraham a hundred and sixty, Esau and Jacob were born. Before their birth, the Lord said to Rebekah, "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger". Upon this election, the apostle makes the following remarks, saying, "When Rebekah had conceived by our father Isaac -- for the childreen being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom. 9:10-13; Mal. 1:2,3) This election had relation to the purpose of God revealed in the promises to Abraham and Isaac. He purposed to make "a mighty nation" of their posterity, out of whom "He shall come that shall have dominion." (Num. 24:19) This purpose could not be accomplished if left to the undirected will of man. Abraham would have made Ishmael his heir, and Isaac would have elected Esau, both of which, as events have shown, would have defeated, rather than have promoted, "the purpose of God". The wild Arabs of the desert, who have descended from Ishmael; or the Edomites, the posterity of Esau -- both of which races illustrate the moral obliquity of their fathers -- would have been a sorry election in which the purpose of God might be established. The rejection of Ishmael, and the election of Jacob, prove the wisdom and foresight of Him with whom the fathers had to do. He sees the end of all things from the beginning; and perceiving the future characters of the two races, He said to Malachi, "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness".
It may be remarked here that the election of scripture has reference to the purpose of God" in relation to the constitution of the kingdom. He has elected its territory; He has elected the nation to inhabit it for ever; He has elected the king to rule over it; and He has elected its saints to assist him in the administration of its affairs. The election in all these cases has been "of him that calleth". This election, however, is not such as "divines" contend for; nor does it relate to the subjects of which they treat. He does not say to this man, "I elect you from all eternity to be saved from the flames of hell, do what you may"; nor does He say to that, "I predetermine you to reprobation and eternal torture, do what you can". To affirm this of God is to blaspheme His name. The scriptures declare that "He is no respecter of persons"; that "He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way, and live"; and that "He is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (Acts 10:34; Ezek.33:11; 2 Pet 3:9). Such a statement as this is entirely at variance with "theology", whose traditions are the exhalations of the carnal mind of a fierce and gloomy age.
God elects saints for His kingdom, not by foregone conclusions which are irreversible; but men are "elect through sanctification of spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2). This reveals to us the means and design of the election in relation to the present time. "Sanctification of spirit" is the means; "obedience and sprinkling of Christ's blood", the end. How this is brought about is explained in these words -- "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit". The manner in which men are brought to obedience and purification by the sprinkled blood, through the spirit, is practically explained in the use of the keys by Peter on the day of Pentecost, and at the house of Cornelius. The spirit, through the apostle, "convinced men of sin, and righteousness, and judgment to come"; and confirmed his words by the signs which accompanied them. They believed and obeyed the truth; and in obeying it were purified from all past sins by faith in the blood of sprinkling. Thus they were "washed, sanctified, and justified by the name of the Lord, and by the spirit of God" ; and after this manner elected according to His foreknowledge and predetermination.
No man need flatter himself that he is one of God's elect, unless he believes the gospel of the kingdom and obeys it, and walks in the steps of the faith of Abraham. A man then knows, and feels, that he is elected; because God hath said, "He that believes the gospel, and is baptized, shall be saved". In the prophecy of Mount Olivet the elect are named in connection with the suppression of the Hebrew commonwealth. It is there written, "Except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" -- that is, no Jew should survive -- "but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt. 24:22). These elect were the servants of the Lord in Israel to whom Jesus had granted power to become the sons of God; as well as the fathers, for whose sake Israel is beloved (Rom. 11:28), and for whose future blessedness and glory the nation is preserved.
This preservation of Israel for the elect's sake is beautifully expressed by the prophet, saying, "Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sake, that I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a Seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains; and mine elect shall inherit it (the land of Canaan), and my servants shall dwell there. And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me." (Isa. 65:8,9) "God", then, "has not cast away his people Israel, whom he foreknew", and spoke of to Abraham and Isaac, before they had any sons. He has chastised them for their sins; but "there is a remnant according to the election of grace". "The election hath obtained the grace, by accepting Jesus as the Seed, and inheritor of the land; and the rest are blinded until this day". But this blindness is not permanent. They will yet become a great and mighty nation, rejoicing in the service of the Lord Jesus and the elect; for "blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:2,5,7,8,25,26); that is, all the twelve tribes shall be reunited into one nation and kingdom upon their own land, and be received into the favour of God (Ezek. 37:25-28; 36:33-38; 39:25-29); they will then have been grafted in again according to the word of the Lord.
In conclusion, every thing in relation to the kingdom is ordained upon sovereign principles. Nothing is left to the will of man. Hence, the apostle saith, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy". The call of the Gentiles to take part in the future kingdom is a striking illustration of the truth of this. Had things been left to the apostles they would not have extended the invitation to men of other nations to become with them heirs of the kingdom of Canaan, and of the dominion of the world. They were running to and fro among their own nation, calling upon them to become the children of the promise who are counted for the seed; but it was not of their will, but contrary to it, that "the word" was preached to the Gentiles, opening the kingdom to them. The invitation to our race, as the apostle truly saith, was "of God that showeth mercy".
Pharaoh of Egypt is another illustration of this principle. God purposed to show forth His power that His name might be declared throughout all the earth. This manifestation was not left to the wisdom or pleasure of Moses. The display was to be according to the divine will. The world was overspread with ignorance and superstition; and Pharaoh was the autocrat of the age. He was totally ignorant of who the Lord was, and therefore refused to obey Him. He was "a vessel unto dishonour" -- an idolater under the dominion of the propensities. Had he been left to himself, he would have continued like all other chiefs of the sin-power, "a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction". His tyranny had come to this crisis, namely, either the Israelites must be exterminated, or the oppressor and his power must be destroyed. The judgment in the case belonged to the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; the result could not, therefore, be for a moment doubtful. He that has power over the clay, had appointed Israel to be "a vessel unto honour", upon whom it was His sovereign pleasure to have mercy. They were, therefore, "vessels fitted for mercy", whom He had before prepared, that on them He might make known the riches of His glory, both then and in a time to come. To effect their deliverance then; to punish Pharaoh and his abettors for their tyranny; and to make Himself known to the surrounding nation -- He stirred up the Egyptian king to show all that was in his obdurate and relentless nature. Upon this view of the case, He elected Pharaoh and his host to a terrible overthrow; while He elected Israel to become His people in the land of Canaan. Thus "He had mercy on whom he would have mercy, and whom he would he hardened" (Rom. 9:14-33).
Such is the doctrine of election as taught in the scriptures of truth. Let us return now to the further consideration of the case of Esau and Jacob.
The boys grew to be men. "Esau was an expert hunter, and a man of the field." The result of these pursuits was to surround himself with warriors, whose power grew into the future kingdom of Edom. When he was ninety-one years old, he was able to march with four hundred men against Jacob, then on his return from Mesopotamia. But Jacob was of a more peaceful disposition. "He was a plain man, dwelling in tents." While they sojourned with their father, Esau was Isaac's favourite; and Jacob his mother's. One day, while Jacob was preparing a pottage of red lentiles, Esau came in from hunting very much overcome with fatigue, He requested Jacob to let him partake of the red lentiles. But Jacob was not disposed to part with it without a consideration, Esau was the elder, and according to the custom of primogeniture, was entitled to certain privileges, termed birthright. Now Jacob, whose name signifies "supplanter", wished to supplant him in this right, that he might afterwards be entitled to the precedence over Esau, which God had indicated in saying, "The elder shall serve the younger". Therefore, before he consented to Esau's request, he said, "Sell me this day thy birthright". Esau reflected on the demand a little; at length he said, "Behold, I am at the point to die; what profit shall this birthright do to me?" "Swear then", said Jacob, "to me this day;" and he sware unto him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob then gave him the red pottage. From this time Esau acquired the surname of Edom, which signifies red, and commemorates the fact that "Esau despised his birthright" (Gen. 25:27-34).
When Esau was forty years old, he married two Hittite women, who were a grief of mind to both his parents. About thirty years after this, when Isaac was one hundred and thirty-one, he determined to bestow his blessing upon Esau, although he had sold his birthright. But the faithful vigilance of Rebekah circumvented it. The elder was to serve the younger, and she intended that Isaac's blessing should take that direction. Accordingly, in blessing the supposed Esau (for his eyes were too dim to see accurately), he said, "God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed he every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee". Here was a blessing, contrary to the will of Isaac, pronounced upon Jacob, whom God had predetermined to bless to the same purpose. Truly, "it is not of him that willeth, but of God that showeth mercy".
Esau had fully calculated on the blessing, although he had bartered away his birthright, seeing that Isaac had promised to bestow it upon him on his return from the field. When, therefore, he entered to receive the blessing, and announced himself as the real Esau, "Isaac trembled very exceedingly" when he found that he had been imposed upon; nevertheless, he confirmed what he had done, saying, "Yea, and he shall be blessed". When Esau discovered what had happened, "he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, saying, Bless me, even me also, O my father!" And he lifted up his voice and wept. But the thing that was done could not be revoked, for the hand of God was in it.
The apostle cites the case of Esau as a warning to believers lest any of them should "fail of the grace of God." All who are Abraham's seed by being in Christ have obtained the birthright; and are thereby entitled to the blessing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that hereafter "people should serve them, and nations bow down to them; and that they should be lords over their brethren". But, if for some temporal advantage they should "sin wilfully", and thus barter it away, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:26-37). There is no scope afforded to such for repentance, for they have placed themselves precisely in Esau's position. Hence, the apostle exhorted his brethren to look diligently to it, that none of them proved to be "a profane person", as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright: "for," said he, "ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no possibility of a change of (Isaac's mind) though he sought it carefully with tears." (Heb. 12:15-17) God is merciful; but He is also jealous; and "will by no means clear the wilful". If His children sell their birthright to the world for anything it can tempt them with, His mind, like Isaac's, is immovable; and transgressors cannot change it, though they may seek carefully to do so with tears, and prayers, and with great and exceeding bitter cries.
Jacob having been involuntarily appointed heir of the blessing by Isaac, Esau conceived a hatred of him, and was overheard to threaten him with death when their father was dead. This determination was reported to Rebekah, who, having sent for Jacob, informed him of Esau's malice, and advised him to escape into Mesopotamia, and remain awhile with her brother Laban at Haran, until his brother's fury should subside. It was necessary, however, to get Isaac's consent, that no breach might be made between him and Jacob, for Esau was his favourite son. Rebekah knew well how to manage this. Isaac as well as herself was sorely annoyed by Esau's wives, whose demeanour appears to have been very disgusting to them. She complained to Isaac of the grief they were to her, and declared to him that if Jacob were to take a wife from among the daughters of the land, her life would be of no value to her. This being also Isaac's feeling in the case, he fell into her views immediately; and having called Jacob, he blessed him, and charged him, saying, "Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan". He then directed him to go and take a wife of Laban's family; and said, "God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy Seed with thee: that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham" (Gen. 28:1-4). Such was Isaac's understanding of the blessing in regard to the time of its accomplishment. He did not expect it until the Seed, or Christ, was manifested; but when he appeared in possession, they, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would be blessed with him. Let us proceed now to the consideration of
On the night after his departure, while asleep under the canopy of heaven, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. In the vision he saw, as it were, "a ladder set up on the land, and the top of it reached to heaven and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed. And behold, I am with thee, and will protect thee in all places whither thou goest, and I will bring thee again into this land for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." (Gen. 28:10-15) Thus, in the blessing that now rested upon Jacob, as well as upon Abraham and Isaac, God promised
The exact time, I say, was not specified in the promise. Jacob, however, was given to understand by the representation in the vision that it would be a long time after the epoch of his dream. As the apostle says, "he saw the promises afar off, and was persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that he was a stranger and pilgrim in the land". He saw the fulfilment of the things promised afar off in point of time; but not afar off as to place: for the place where they were to be fulfilled was Bethel, about fifteen miles from Jerusalem. He was at the place; and so well did he understand this that he termed Bethel "the gate of heaven".
Now the interval of time between the giving of the promise and the fulfilment of it was represented to Jacob by a ladder of extraordinary length, one end of which stood at Bethel, and the other end against the vault of heaven. Here were two points of contact, the land of Judah and heaven; and the connecting medium, the ladder, between them. This was a most expressive symbol, as will be perceived by considering the uses to which a ladder is applied. It is a contrivance to connect distant points, by which one at the lower end may reach a desired altitude. It is, then, a connecting medium between points of distance. Now if, instead of distant localities, distant epochs be substituted, the ages and generations which connect them will sustain a similar relation to the epochs as a ladder to the ground on which it rests, and the point of elevation against which it leans. The ladder, then, in Jacob's vision was representative of his seed in their generations and appointed times. One end of it was in his loins; the other, in the Lord Jesus when he should sit upon his throne, reigning over the land upon which Jacob was asleep.
But upon this ladder of ages and generations, with Jacob at the bottom and his seed, the Shiloh, at the top, "the angels of God were seen ascending and descending". This represented to him that the affairs of his posterity, natural and spiritual, in all their relations with the world, would be superintended by the Elohim, who would pass to and fro between earth and heaven, in the performance of their work. Hence, the apostle styles them, "All ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14). Israel and the nations are under their vicegerency till the Lord Jesus comes to assume the sovereignty of the world. When he appears in his kingdom, the land of Israel especially will be no longer subjected to their superintendence. The apostle includes Palestine and Syria, when the Hebrew commonwealth is reconstituted upon them, in "the future habitable" (Heb. 2:5). When he wrote this, these countries were inhabited by Israel under the Mosaic constitution, mixed up with, and in subjection to, the Gentiles.
Under this arrangement their affairs were superintended by the angels of God. But with the future habitable it will be different; for the apostle says, "God hath not put it in subjection to the angels": but "when he brings the first-born back again into the habitable he says, 'Let all the angels of God do homage to him'." This return of the Lord to the habitable cannot be referred to the epoch of his resurrection; because he had not then left it, Indeed, he never left it but once before his resurrection, and that was involuntarily when Joseph and Mary carried him into Egypt. He said himself that he had not been to the Father before rising from the dead (John 20:17). He was in the habitable, only asleep in death. But when he ascended then he departed into a far country to receive the kingdom; and when he had received it, to return. But he has not yet received it, or he would be at this time reigning in the future habitable land. Till the Lord Jesus, however, sits on his throne as "King of the Jews" (John 18:33-39; 19:12-19), the providential direction of human affairs is committed to the Elohim; who are termed the angels of the little ones who believe in Jesus (Matt. 18:3-6,10); because they minister to their profit, in causing all things among the nations to work together for their ultimate good.
When that remarkable change in the constitution of things is brought to pass, when Jesus having received the sovereignty, the angels shall do homage to him, there will be a great national jubilee throughout the earth. The nations which are now groaning under the blood-stained tyrannies of the world, and imprecating curses loud and deep upon the heads of their destroyers, will send up to heaven a shout "like mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluja: for the Lord God, the Omnipotent, reigneth" (Rev. 19:6). Paul evidently had a view to this period of blessedness, when he quoted the saying, "Worship him, all gods." He quoted this from the ninety-seventh psalm, (see note in chapter 2, section "Man in the image and likeness of the Elohim") which celebrates the epoch of the reign in these words: "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad. Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightaings enlightened the world; the earth saw and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded he all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves in idols: worship him, all ye Elohim. Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Lord. For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth; thou art exalted far above all the Elohim." Such will be the manifestation when the Father shall bring the Lord Jesus back again to the habitable. At present the Elohim are ascending and descending the ladder, so to speak, between the Lord Jesus, who is at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, and the earth: but, when "he reigns on Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, before his ancients gioriously" (Isa. 24:23), heaven and the habitable will be one; and the Elohim will ascend and descend upon him. Heaven will then be open to the eyes of his saints, and they will behold the wonders of the invisible. For such is the doctrine taught by the Lord himself; who, when Nathanael recognized him as the Son of God, and King of Israel, because he revealed his secret actions, said to him, "Thou shalt see greater things than these. Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (John 1:51). Then will the future habitable have been subjected to the Son.
The ladder of ages and generations, as I have said, connects the commencing and terminating epochs of a long period of time. Of this interval, nearly four thousand years have elapsed. A few more years only remain, and the top of the ladder will be attained by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and by all others with them who shall be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God. They will have reached to heaven; not by flying thither as ghosts upon the wings of angels, but by heaven being brought down to earth, when the Lord Jesus shall descend in glory.
Jacob sojourned with his uncle Laban twenty years (Gen. 31:38). While residing in Mesopotamia, eleven sons were born to him. The twelfth, named Benjamin, was born of Rachel, the mother of Joseph, at Bethlehem Ephratah, where she died and was buried. Now, as Joseph was thirty-nine when Jacob went down into Egypt, being at that time a hundred and thirty years old (Gen. 41:46,47; 45:6; 47:9), it follows that Jacob was ninety-one when Joseph was born, and seventy-seven when he fled to Haran. After the birth of Joseph, the angel of God appeared to him, and said, "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out of this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred". He obeyed. Having secretly collected together all his substance, he fled from Laban, taking up his route "to go to Isaac, his father, in the land of Canaan". Having crossed the Euphrates, he arrived at the river Jabbok, which flows into the Jordan about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Not very far from the confluence of these rivers "the angels of God met him", and on this account he named the place Mahanaim -- that is, God's host. Having sent messengers to Esau in the land of Seir to propitiate him, and got over all that he had, he remained on the north side alone. It was here that he wrestled with one of the angels, who blessed him; and changed his name from Jacob to the more honourable one of Israel, which signifies a prince of God. As a memorial of this honour, the angel touched the tendon in the hollow of his thigh, and caused it to shrink. So that Jacob became lame, "and halted upon his thigh".
Having crossed the Jabbok to Penuel, and joined his company, he had an interview with Esau, who received him with apparent kindness, though with evident mistrust on the part of Jacob. A reconciliation ensued. Esau accepted a liberal present, and pressed upon Jacob the unwelcome protection of his warriors. Jacob, however, persuaded him to depart without him; and he would follow "softly, until", said he, "I come unto my lord unto Seir". But as soon as Esau was well on his way Jacob pushed on to Succoth. Having halted there for a time, he crossed the Jordan and pitched at Shalem, in the land of Canaan. After his sons had taken vengeance upon the city on account of Dinah, their sister, God appeared to him again, and told him to go and dwell at Bethel, and erect an altar there to God, who appeared to him when he fled from the face of Esau. The gods of Laban were still in the possession of his family. In obeying the voice of God, therefore, he ordered his household to put them away. This they did, and surrendered their ear-rings with them, and Jacob buried gods and jewels under an oak near Shechem.
When he arrived at Bethel, he built the altar as God had told him. And God said to him there, "I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply: a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins: and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee will I give it, and to thy Seed after thee will I give the land" (Gen. 35:12). In this renewal of the promise the additional idea was revealed to Jacob, that the nation constituted of his descendants, would contain a plurality of nation -- that is, be a national association of tribes. He was to inherit the land with them, and with the Seed, or Christ; and as he knew they were to be oppressed by another nation till four hundred years, after which that nation would be judged, and his children would come out with great wealth, this blessing at Bethel reminded him that he would rise from the dead with Abraham, and inherit the land for ever with his Seed. Having left Bethel, he journeyed towards Bethlehem, on the way to which Rachel died. After her death he spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar, on Mount Zion. From thence he came to Hebron, where his father Isaac dwelt. Twenty-nine years having elapsed after this re-union from Jacob's departure from Laban, Isaac died, having attained the age of one hundred and eighty years; and his sons, Esau and Jacob, buried him (Gen. 35:29).
A parable is the setting forth of a certain thing as a representative of something else. Hence, it is a comparison, or similitude. It may be spoken, or acted. In the former case, fiction is used to illustrate that which is real; while in the latter, real actions on a smaller scale are representative of remoter and grander events. Whether spoken or acted, parables are dark and unintelligible to those who are not skilled in the things of the kingdom; but when once they come to comprehend these, the things they resemble immediately appear. To allegorize is to represent truth by comparison. For certain features of the kingdom of God to be illustrated parabolically is to speak, or act, allegorically; and is a mode of instruction more calculated to keep up the attention, and to impress the mind permanently, than a set discourse, or formal disquisition. The scriptures are constructed after this ingenious plan, by which they are made so much more interesting, and capable of containing so much more matter, than any other book on the same subject, and of the same size. They are a study of themselves; and no "rules of interpretation", or of "logic", are of any value to the understanding of the things which they reveal.
A parable was enacted by Abraham in offering up Isaac. The things transacted were real, but they were also parabolic, or figurative, of something else, even of the sacrifice and resurrection of the Seed, or Christ. After the death of Isaac, and when Jacob was waxing old, Joseph was selected from among his sons by the arrangements of God to be the typical representative of the future Seed, through whom the promises were to take effect. Hence, the life of Joseph became a living parable by which was represented to Jacob and his sons, and to believers afterwards, what was to be transacted in the life of Christ. In itself the story of Joseph is an interesting and moving history; but when we read it as though we were reading of Christ instead of him, the narration assumes an importance which highly commends itself to the student of the Word.
Jacob had resided seventeen years in the land of Canaan after leaving Laban: Joseph was then seventeen, and Isaac one hundred and sixty-eight. It was, therefore, when Jacob was one hundred and twenty, and twelve years before the death of Isaac, that Joseph had his remarkable dreams. These are the first examples on record of symbolic prophecy. They represented to Joseph that he should be lord over his brethren; and when repeated to them, they as clearly understood them to indicate his supremacy and their subjection, as though it had been ever so literally predicted. I mention this to show that prophecy by symbols and symbolic action is as intelligible as prophecy in the plainest words.
Joseph was the beloved of his father, and the envied and hated of his brethren, whose conduct caused him to give his father an "evil report" of them. He dreamed that he and they were binding sheaves in the field, and that his sheaf stood upright, and theirs also round about, and that they made obeisance to his sheaf. When he told them his dream, they caught at the meaning at once. "Shalt thou", said they, "indeed reign over us? or, shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams and for his words." In his second dream, "the sun and the moon, and the eleven stars, made obeisance to him"; which Jacob interpreted, saying, "Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him: but his father observed the saying."
Now in these little incidents we read, not only Joseph's exaltation, but the treatment Christ would afterwards receive from the sons of Joseph's brethren and his subsequent exaltation to reign over them, when Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and his family shall bow down before him to the earth. Jesus gave an evil report of his brethren, who saw that he was beloved of God; he troubled them with his parables and reproofs; and they envied him and hated him for his words. The fate of Joseph awaited him; for as the eleven conspired against Joseph to kill him, and actually sold him to the Ishmaelites of Midian for twenty pieces of silver, so was the Lord Jesus sold for thirty, and subjected to a violent death by the rulers, thinking thereby to falsify his words, and extinguish his pretensions to lordship over them.
Joseph, having become the property of the Midianitish merchants, was "separated from his brethren", and as good as dead to them. They lost sight of him entirely, and at length forgot him altogether. Their conspiracy to all appearance had perfectly succeeded; they had got rid of "the master of dreams"; and had imposed upon Jacob the falsehood that he had met with a violent death from a savage beast. But "God was with him" and though they had made everything sure, their sin was certain to overtake them.
Joseph was carried into Egypt when he was seventeen years old; and he was thirty-nine when he was made known to his brethren at their second interview; hence, he was separate from his father's house for twenty-two years. During this time his fortunes were varied, but always tending to the promotion of God's purpose through him. The word to be accomplished was to plant the Israelites in Egypt, that they might be strangers in a land not theirs, and serve them, and be afflicted, until the time should arrive for their oppressors to be judged, and their deliverance effected to the glory of Jehovah's name. God works by human instrumentality in the affairs of men. Hence, He selected Joseph, as He has since done the Lord Jesus, whom He has also "separated from his brethren", to be the honoured agent in the developing of His purpose in regard to Israel in relation to their own destiny, and the judgment, and subsequent blessedness, of the nations.
The second chapter of the Josephine parable begins with Joseph in the house of Potiphar. Being there the victim of a false accusation, he was immured in the State-prison. But even here he found favour, as he had in Potiphar's house before; for Joseph was a righteous man, and God was with him. He had been in prison two full years, when the King of Egypt had his dreams of the kine, and the ears. The report of his correct interpretation of the chief butler's, and the chief baker's, dreams, while in durance, caused him to he brought before Pharaoh to interpret his. It was then believed that "interpretations belong to God" (Gen. 40:8); that is, when He causes men to dream prophetically, He reserves the interpretation of them to Himself. This is illustrated in the case before us, and afterwards in that of Nebuchadnezzar. Pharoah consulted all the magicians and wise men of Egypt, but there was none that could interpret his dreams. But God revealed their interpretation to Joseph, who exhibited to the king a luminous exposition of them as indications of what God was about to do; and offered him such advice in the emergency as convinced Pharoah that Joseph was "a man in whom the Spirit of God was", and that "none was so discreet and wise as he." "Therefore", said the king, "thou shalt be over mine house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled; only in the throne will I be greater than you."
When Joseph was thirty-seven years old, the famine began in Egypt. It extended to all the surrounding countries, and was sore in the land of Canaan. Hearing that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob sent "Joseph's ten brothers" to purchase some. Now Joseph, being governor, was the man who sold the grain. This caused the sons of Israel to appear before him; and, as he had predicted, "they bowed themselves before him with their faces to the earth". Joseph knew them; but they did not recognize him. He affected to believe they were spies, and put them in ward for three days; but afterwards released them, retaining one as a hostage, for their re-appearance with their youngest brother; and then sent them back loaded with grain for their father's house. The harsh treatment they experienced from Joseph brought to their recollection the manner they had treated him two-and-twenty years before. Their consciences accused them; and not knowing that Joseph understood Hebrew, for he spoke with them through an interpreter, they confessed their guilt to one another in his presence, saying, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us".
Having visited Egypt a second time, they were introduced into Joseph's house, when Simeon was restored to them. On Joseph's entrance, "they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance." They were placed at table in regular order, from the eldest to the youngest; and they ate, drank and were merry with Joseph, still supposing him to be an Egyptian. Having departed on their return to Canaan, Joseph caused them to be pursued, and brought back, under pretence of having stolen his drinking cup. At this second interview, Judah made supplication for his brethren; and confessed that God had found out the iniquity of himself and brethren; and that they were now fairly the servants of the Lord of Pharaoh's kingdom. Judah having finished, Joseph could refrain no longer, but wept aloud, and announced himself as their brother, whom they had sold into Egypt. They were greatly troubled at his presence; but he tranquillized their fears, and assured them that it was all of God, who had sent him before them into Egypt to "preserve them a posterity in the earth, and to save their lives by a great deliverance".
Jacob having received information of all that had been transacted, proceeded to break up his encampment, and to go down into Egypt as Joseph and Pharaoh had invited him to do. Isaac had been dead ten years, and Jacob had attained the age of one hundred and thirty. Having arrived at Beer-sheba on his way thither, he offered sacrifices to the God of Isaac. On this occasion, God spake unto him, and said, "I am God, the God of thy father; fear not to go down into Egypt: for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes." In this promise Jacob was re-assured of a resurrection to life. The action of putting the hand upon the eyes represents death; for this was one of the last offices of the nearest relations. Hence, to tell Jacob he should die, and yet that he should be brought up again, was telling him in effect that he should rise from the dead again to possess the land.
Seventeen years having passed away after his arrival in Egypt, the time drew nigh that Jacob must die. This residence in the land of Ham had not at all diminished his attachment to the land of Canaan. When, therefore, he found his end approaching, he took an oath of Joseph, saying, "Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place". And Joseph promised to do as he had said. But why was Jacob thus anxious? Surely it could make no difference to him where he should crumble into dust! Nor would it, if Jacob had been a faithless Gentile; or a religionist whose mind was perverted by Platonism. He would have cared nothing about his body; all his solicitude would have been about his "immortal soul". But in Jacob's death-bed scene, he expressed no anxiety about "his soul"; all his care was for his body after death, that it might be duly deposited in the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah were sleeping (Gen. 47:29-31; 49:29-33). This was equally the case with Joseph; for although Egypt had been the theatre of his glory, and he was venerated there as the saviour of the country, in which he had also lived ninety-three years, yet his last thoughts were upon the land of Canaan and the disposal of his bones. "I die", said he: "and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of Egypt unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob"; and he took an oath of them, saying, "Ye shall carry up my bones from hence".
Why, I ask, is all mankind's anxiety now about their "souls", and a heaven beyond the skies, when the friends of God, who had all their pilgrimage been the honoured subjects of His fatherly care, manifested no such carefulness; but on the contrary exacted oaths of their survivors expressive of their love for Canaan, and of their concern that their bodies should moulder there? The reason is that the moderns have no faith in the promises of God. Neither Protestants nor Papists "believe on God". They have a system of faith which bears no affinity to the religion of God; and hence they hope for things which He has not promised; and consequently the most pious of them die with a lie in the right hand. The faith and hope of Protestantism are not the faith and hope of "the fathers", whom God has constituted the "heirs of the world".
The last thoughts of these holy men were on "the exceeding great and precious promises" which are to be manifested in the land of Canaan; where their posterity will yet become "a great and mighty nation" under Shiloh and his saints as the Lords of Israel and the Gentiles. Seeing this, then, though afar off, they gave expression to their faith by giving commandment concerning their bodies; as it is written, "By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel: and gave commandment concerning his bones" (Heb. 11:22). He was, therefore, embalmed, and put into a coffin; and at the end of one hundred and fifty-four years his bones were carried out of Egypt by Moses; they accompanied Israel in all their journeyings through the wilderness; and were finally deposited by Joshua in the cave of Machpelah, where his fathers slept (Gen. 50:24-26; Exod. 13:19; Josh. 24:32). When professors believe the truth, they will have as much interest in Canaan, and the disposition of their bodies, expressive of their faith, as we find testified of Israel and Joseph by those who are high in the favour of their God. We must believe the promises concerning Canaan, if we would be immortal of body in the kingdom of God.
Jacob being a hundred and forty-seven years old, and about to die, called his sons together to tell them "what should befall them in the last days." From what has been already advanced on "the end of the world," the reader will understand to what period the prophecy of Jacob principally refers. But, lest any should have forgotten, I will repeat that it relates to events which were to happen in the last days of the Hebrew commonwealth, under the constitution from Mount Sinai. It sketches the political fortunes of the twelve tribes which, with the blessing on Joseph's sons, it now constituted; touches upon the peculiar features of the several portions of Canaan which should be allotted to them; and reveals certain principal events in connection with the tribes of Levi, Judah and Joseph.
It will not be necessary for me to do more than to point out these special incidents as bearing upon the kingdom of God. After Reuben, Simeon and Levi are conjoined in the prophecy. They had slain Hamor and Shechem, and all the males of their city. This circumstance is taken as a characteristic of their tribes in the last days. "Instruments of cruelty", said Jacob, "are in their habitations." Foreseeing the part they would play in relation to the Seed, he exclaimed, "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly (Psalm 22:16; Matt. 26:14), mine honour be not thou united". But why not, Jacob? For in their anger they slew a man (Matt. 26:57,59), and in their self-will they digged down a wall, that is, overthrew a city (Gen. 34:25-29). "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce: and their wrath, for it was cruel." The verification of these things will easily be recognized in the history of the tribe of Levi at the era of the crucifixion. It was the priests who sought and at last accomplished the death of Jesus, to whom Jacob refers and to mark his sense of their conduct, he said, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." This was fulfilled in giving Levi no cantonal inheritance in the land, and in including Simeon's portion within the limits of the canton of Judah (Josh. 19:1,9). From this arrangement Levi, Simeon, and Judah became the tribes principally concerned in the transactions of the last days.
Having spoken of the death of Christ by Levi and Simeon, he then proceeded to speak of things connected with Judah alone. Of this tribe he affirmed:
Such are the points into which the members of Jacob's beautiful prophecy concerning the things of the Kingdom, in connection with Judah as the royal tribe, are resolvable when converted into literal, or unfigurative speech. But it is very clear from the past history of the tribe that the prophecy is only partially accomplished. Judah is now "stooping down, and couching as an old lion"; and in view of his present prostration, Jacob inquired, "Who shall rouse him up?" Yes: who shall do it? Who shall start him to his feet again, that he may rend and tread down, and devour the enemies of Jerusalem? Who but the Shiloh, whose goodly horse in the battle Judah is appointed to be? (Zech. 10:3-5; 12:6; 14:14)
Two appearances of the Shiloh are indicated by Jacob; first after the departure of the sceptre from Judah; and secondly, at the attainment of the tribe to the dignity of giving laws to the gathered people. The sceptre had departed from Judah before the appearing of Jesus; but neither Jesus, nor the tribe, have promulgated a code of laws to Israel or the Gentiles. Moses was a lawgiver, not of Judah, but of Levi; but when Shiloh comes as the lawgiver of Judah, then "the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:3).
The blessing on Judah contains in it the hope of Israel. It shows what views Jacob had of the promises made to him and his fathers. His faith was of things substantial and definable, He looked for a kingdom and an empire, whose royal domain should be the land of Canaan, and especially that part of it allotted to Judah (Ezek. 48:8-22); and whose imperial ruler should be the Giver of Peace, descended from his loins in the line of Judah. The Spirit of God in Jacob marked him out to wield the sceptre and to give laws to the world, possessing the gate of his enemies, and blessing all the nations of the earth. It is generally supposed that Jacob saw the sceptre depart from Judah. This is implied by the English version, "Not depart until Shiloh come," which is as much as to say, when Christ appears it shall depart: which is not in accordance with the facts of the case.
Having blessed Judah in the terms recorded in scripture (Gen. 49:8-12), he passed over Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, with a brief notice, and then dwelt with emphasis upon Joseph. He described in general terms the fertility of the cantons of Ephraim amd Manasseh, and invocated blessings of every kind upon his posterity. Recalling Joseph's history in the past as indicative of his descendants' in the future, he predicted that they would be sorely grieved by their enemies, and separated from the other tribes. Nevertheless, their bow, though unstrung, should abide in strength, and they should be made strong again "by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob, who should help them", and bless them above what their progenitors enjoyed before they were carried away into captivity. He saw that they would be a royal tribe, and that at some period of their nationahty, "the everlasting hills" unto their utmost bound, should bow to his sceptre who is destined to rule them (Hab. 3:3-16).
But in the blessing of Joseph, Jacob gave a very remarkable intimation concerning the Shiloh. He styles him "the shepherd and stone of Israel" (Isa. 28:16). In his blessing on Judah, he foretold his descent from him; but in the blessing of Joseph, he declares he is from the God of Jacob, and (being thus spoken of in connection with Joseph) after the parable of his history. In other words, that the Seed should be both son of Judah and Son of God; and that his relation to the tribe of Israel should be after the representation of Joseph's to his brethren. "The archers should sorely grieve him, and shoot at him, and hate him; but his bow should abide in strength, and his arms be made stronger by the God of his fathers, who should help him; and cause all blessings to rest upon his crown, who should be long separated from his brethren."
After the death of Joseph, which occurred two hundred and seventy-six years after the confirmation of the covenant concerning Christ, Levi and his sons Kohath, Amram, and Moses, may be regarded as the more especial conservators of the faith with which God is pleased. Many of Jacob's family in the period which elapsed between the death of Joseph and their glorious exodus under Moses, had given themselves up to the service of Egypt's gods (Josh. 24:14). This, however, was not the case with all. Some still kept the promises of God before them; and we find it testified of Moses when only forty years old, and before he fled from Egypt, that "he supposed that his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them; but they understand not" (Acts 7:25). This was forty years before their deliverance, and one hundred and fourteen years after Joseph's death. Seventy-four years after this event Moses was born to Amram the grandson of Levi. The supposition he entertained concerning his brethren's spiritual intelligence is an indication of his own; for he evidently judged them by his own understanding of the divine promise.
Although "he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" this did not divert him from the faith. He had been indoctrinated into this in his tender years by his parents. For it is testified that "by faith they hid him three months, not being afraid of the king's commandment" (Heb. 11:23); thus becoming heirs of the righteousness which is by faith of the promises. This testimony to their faith shows that, however delinquent others might be, "the faith," the one faith of the gospel, dwelt in them. They instilled this faith into Moses, on the fleshy table of whose heart it was so indelibly inscribed, that not all the blandishments of the court of Egypt could efface it. The result of the parental instruction he had received was that "by faith when he came to years he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect to the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." (Heb. 11:24-27)
From this testimony, then, we learn that the faith in Amram's family was concerning Christ, and the recompense of the reward; that this was so little sympathized with, that those who embraced it were subjected to reproach, and called upon to endure on account of it; and that the things connected with Christ were esteemed by those who understood them, as of greater value than the most enlightened, wealthy, and powerful of kingdoms, possessed in all its glory. Now, as the faith of Amram's family is the "faith without which it is impossible to please God" in any age, it will be of advantage to us to have as distinct a view of it as possible. Omitting, then, the general principles of religion, stated at the end of the fifth chapter of this work, in which all the faithful were instructed, I shall present in this place a summary of the things which were "all the salvation and all the desire" of Abraham's family, though for a long time "God made it not to grow". I shall begin the enumeration with the most elementary principle, and ascend to the more complex in the order of their development in the promises of God. They believed, then,
In the exposition of the things of the kingdom, as unfolded in "the promises made of God to the fathers", the following points have been fairly established:
These five points, however, do not comprehend all the things concerning the kingdom of God. Shiloh, or the Anointed One of God, was promised in the line of Judah; but the question remained open from Jacob's decease for many centuries after, as to the particular family of the tribes of Judah he was to descend from. Besides this, there is nothing said respecting the constitution, laws, and ecclesiastical institutions of the kingdom. It will, therefore, be necessary for us to look into these things, that we may fully comprehend the system of the world to be established by the God of heaven, when all other dominions shall have passed away.
It may facilitate a clear and distinct conception of the contents of this chapter to bring the dates quoted into a tabular form; I shall, therefore, conclude this part of my subject by presenting the reader with the following chronology.
|CHRONOLOGY OF THE AGE BEFORE THE LAW.|
|Shem begat Arphaxad, and lived afterwards 500 years.
Terah aged 70; and Abram born.
Noah died; Abram 58 years.
Abram leaves Haran, aged 75.
The promise concerning Christ confirmed on the 14th day of Ahib at even; Abram 85.
Circumcision instituted; Abraham circumcises all his males.
Isaac born; Abraham 100 years. Sojourns in the Philistines' land.
Terah dies, aged 205; Abrahara 135; leaves Philistia after a residence there of 35 years.
Sarah dies at Hebron, aged 127.
Isaac marries Rebecca; Abram 140.
Esau and Jacob born; Isaac 60.
Abram dies, aged 175; Jacob 15 years.
Esau marries, aged 40.
SHEM, or Melchizedec, disappears. Jacob 50; Isaac 110.
Jacob leaves Isaac; sees the Vision of the Ladder: arrives at Laban's, aged 77.
Jacob leaves Laban, having served him 20 years, aged 97. Isaac 157.
Joseph sold into Egypt, aged 17. Jacob 108 years.
Isaac dies. aged 180. Jacob 120.
Second year of the great famine. Jacob 130; removes into Egypt Joseph 39 years.
Jacob dies. aged 147. Joseph, aged 56.
Joseph dies, aged 110 years. From confirmation of covenant 276 years.
Moses born. Aaron 3 years old.
Moses flies from Egypt.
The Israelites return from Egypt 430 years from the confirmation of the covenant.
Moses 80 years.