The Pentateuch

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 1: Introductory
2. Chapter 2: The Value and Significance of Numbers
3. Chapter 3: Preliminary Questions
4. Part 2: The Books in Detail
5. Chapter 1: Genesis
6. Chapter 2: Exodus
7. Chapter 3: Leviticus
8. Chapter 4: Numbers
9. Chapter 5: Deuteronomy
10. Part 3. Literature on the Pentateuch

Chapter 1: Introductory

THERE can be no doubt that we are justified in taking the first five books of the Bible as forming a group by themselves.
The division of the Old Testament Scriptures into the Law, the Prophets (former and latter) and the Hagiographa or Kethubhim, (the Sacred Writings) has always been recognized and is the division implied by our Lord Himself where He says: “That all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44); the “Psalms” here including the other poetical books.
There can be no question either that these first five books were written by Moses. This does not raise the question of whether other writings more or less connected may have been used by him, for instance in the book of Genesis; but we have evidently there, as a continuous narrative with a distinct object, from the first chapter to the close of the book, that which is the product of one inspired person, whatever material he may have used in the preparation of his work; just as an author now may quote largely and use much material gathered by others in the preparation of a work which is distinctly his own.
The subject, however, of the Mosaic authorship and structure of Genesis would come up in a work devoted more especially to that book. It must suffice us here to point out that our Lord evidently considered the first five books of the Bible as the inspired product of Moses. “He wrote of Me.” “If ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?” (John 5:47.)
1. The Pentateuch as Introductory to the Scriptures as a Whole
We could not think of putting the Pentateuch in any other but its present place, at the beginning of the entire Book of inspiration. Morally, historically and doctrinally, it forms the introduction to all that comes after. If, for instance, we plunged into the history of Israel in Joshua we would be ignorant of the antecedents of the nation, of God’s ways with them, and of the reasons which had led Him to take them up in distinction from all other nations. Similarly, if we placed the Pentateuch at the close of the Old Testament, we would have found that the raining books of the Prophets and Psalms were largely inexplicable. The same may be said of the New Testament. This is too obvious to dwell upon, but it is important to see how the historical and biographical facts, the account of the moral condition and development of the race as a whole, and of Israel as a nation, the nature of the relation of God to man in its inception and progressive character, are all recorded in the Pentateuch, and are absolutely essential to our understanding of what comes after, either in the New or Old Testament.
We must dwell for a moment upon certain details in this connection.
1. Fundamental Truths — Doctrinal
(1) The Work of Creation. Our knowledge of the Being of God as Creator, of His attributes of power, wisdom, goodness and holiness are gathered in the first place from the early chapters of Genesis, which are constantly referred to throughout the entire Scriptures, the New as well as the Old Testament.
(2) The Nature of Man and the Fall. Similarly, our conception of man is based upon the few pregnant sentences in the early part of Genesis which show us his spiritual and moral, as well as his corporeal nature, and which lay the foundation for all further revelations as to his being, responsibility, position and destiny. In like manner, too, the conditions imposed upon him at his creation, his free moral agency and responsibility, together with the fall and its awful consequences, are all presented to us on these early pages of our Bibles. Without the third chapter of Genesis, we could not understand the epistle to the Romans. Indeed, the mission of the Son of God, the whole history of redemption to its ultimate consummation, would all be but partially understood, were we deprived of these first great revelations.
(3) The Person and Work of Christ. The Person of the Son of God and His atoning sacrifice are evidently foreshadowed in the early chapters of Genesis, the promise of the woman’s Seed to crush the serpent’s head, the sacrifice of Abel, the translation of Enoch, the flood, all are not only referred to throughout the remainder of Scripture, but form the great staples of divine revelation.
Enlarging upon this truth, the entire sacrificial code of Exodus and Leviticus is so evidently an anticipation of the work of the Cross in its various aspects, that we will but give it a place here, reserving it for further detailed examination later on.
(4) The Necessity of Faith as the Means of all true Relationship to God. The 11th chapter of Hebrews shows how the principle of faith runs through the entire Pentateuch and reaches on to the last believer who shall be gathered into the family of God. We could not understand that chapter, nor the great truth of justification by faith as unfolded in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, nor in the Gospel of John, had we not these examples of its earliest exercises given to us in the life of Abraham and the patriarchs.
(5) Man a weak and failing Creature at the best. Just as the truth of the existence and presence of sin permeates all Scripture, and in like manner each of the truths noted above (Christ as the Center and object of all God’s thoughts, His sacrificial work and the need of faith to be in relationship with God), so other truths introduced in the Pentateuch permeate the entire Scriptures.
The failures of Abraham, Isaac and Moses, the whole life of Jacob and the entire history of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, bring out this fact which we find repeated in the experience of every child of God and in every dispensation. It prepares us for the utterance of the prophet: “Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils;” of the psalmist: “Every man at his best estate is altogether vanity,” and of the apostle in connection with the full light of revelation: “Our old man is crucified with Him (Christ);” and, “We... have no confidence in the flesh.”
The Pentateuch is not only in accord with this principle, but its narrative is a necessary introduction to that which we find, reached its culmination only at the cross.
(6) The Element of Prophecy. The glory of the word of God is that it ever leads us on to that “far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves.” It does not leave man helpless after the fall. The desolation of the flood is followed by the rejuvenation of the earth with a fresh impetus to our blessing.
The calling out of Abraham is a narrowing of the channel of blessing in order that it may be preserved from absorption in the arid waste of the apostasy of the nations which follows so soon after the flood.
In Joseph, we have a glorious type of blessing to the world under One who is evidently prefigured in the blameless son of Jacob.
In Israel’s shelter and emancipation, with the promise of an inheritance in the land of Canaan, our hopes are led on without stumbling, even through the devious paths recorded in the book of Numbers, while Deuteronomy sounds the whole gamut of national blessing and national failure and reaches on still further even to the uttermost bounds of the everlasting hills, and to a time when the nation, after its repeated failures and having been scattered to the four winds of heaven, is at last gathered, in company with the whole world, in blessing and subjection to God. Necessarily, the glimpse into eternity itself is but momentary. God must veil the full truth from the eye until it becomes habituated to the light which He gradually gives.
But all this will suffice to show us that the Pentateuch is an essential introduction to the entire word of God. It opens up that which is afterward unfolded, and ever leads us on in hope to a consummation which, though distant, is certain.
(7) Genesis and Revelation Compared. A most interesting study in confirmation of what we have just suggested is the comparison of the first and last books of our Bibles. Revelation is manifestly the close of the word of God, as Genesis is its opening. The one gives us the beginning, the other the end. How sweet to remember that He who is the Beginning and the End is One, the blessed Son of God!
We mention a few similarities between these two books so far removed in time and position from each other.
In Genesis we have, “In the beginning, GOD;” and in Revelation, GOD and the LAMB are all in In Genesis we have man and the woman established over the earth. In Revelation, we have “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” associated with Him in rule over the earth and eternal glory in the New Jerusalem.
In Genesis, we have the paradise of man forfeited by sin. In Revelation, we have the Parise of God secured through Christ.
Genesis gives us the tree of life, but hard by it, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Revelation shows us, we might say, both trees blended in one, the tree of life with its varied fruits for constant delight.
Genesis tells us of the waters flowing from the garden out to the world. Revelation shows us the pure river of water of life from the very throne of God and the Lamb.
Genesis tells us of the serpent’s triumph over man. Revelation records his final overthrow, cast out from heaven and from earth into the lake of fire.
Genesis gives us the translation of Enoch. Relation presupposes the rapture of the Church.
Genesis shows us the judgment of the flood and Noah set over the rescued earth. Revelation shows us the sweeping judgment of all the earth and the reign of the Prince of Peace.
These and other correspondences show the essential links between the earliest and latest books of our Bible and justify our former statement that we could not really understand the last if we did not also have the first.
2. The Pentateuch the Model of the Entire Bible — Structurally
This brings us to a further statement for which we trust the reader is now prepared. Not only is the Pentateuch thus an introduction to the Scripture as a whole, but we may say it is the model upon which the entire word of God is written. This is not the place for entering at large upon a subject which will demand an entire book to itself. We must, however, speak of a few general principles in justification of what has been said.
A little later on in this volume, we will take up the five books of the Pentateuch and seek to present the special character attached to each. It is this which will show how the same structure pervades the entire canon of inspiration. It must suffice here to give the briefest outline.
(1) Genesis, the Book of Origins. In Genesis, we have an account of the beginning of creation, of the fall, of the family of faith, of the earth under government, of an elect family, together with the biographies of individuals.
(2) Exodus, the Book of Redemption. In like manner, the book of Exodus dwells upon the bondage of Israel, their shelter by the blood of the Passover lamb, and deliverance from the bondage in which they had been held, and their relationship to God.
(3) Leviticus, the Book of Access and of Communion. Leviticus opens up in detail the whole truth of access to God and of priestly nearness and responsibility.
(4) Numbers, the Book of the Walk. The atmosphere in this book is far different from that of Leviticus, although the two books are closely associated together. We have here the walk of the people of God in the wilderness, and failures resulting therefrom.
(5) Deuteronomy, the Book of Principles applied, and of Prophecy. In Deuteronomy, we have a review of Israel’s past history with application to present circumstances, together with warning and prophecy as to the future.
Here, then, we have an evident orderly sequence, not only historically but morally, which we find repeated throughout the entire word of God.
We might say, indeed, that the Scriptures themselves form one vast Pentateuch, but must qualify this by calling attention to the manifest break there is in the ways of God in connection with the coming of His Son into the world. This makes a twofold division of the book into Old and New Testaments, which we shall see, later on, must always have the preeminence. But there is a sense in which the entire Bible is a vast Pentateuch.
(1) Thus, the Pentateuch of Moses forms a Genesis, a book of origin, of individual and national history, and the establishment of a basis of relationship with God.
(2) The historical books recount the progress of Israel’s history and their emancipation from the bondage of sin in which they were still held; alas, an emancipation which still waits for its completion.
(3) The prophetical books are an evident Leviticus as furnishing the details of divine principles of holiness, of access to Him; and in Ezekiel, for instance, the sanctuary of God itself is opened.
(4) The psalm books are equally a book of Numbers, in which the experiences of the children of God, of failure and weakness, of sin and mercy, of sorrow and joy, are gone into along the very lines marked out in the book of Numbers.
(5) The entire New Testament, with the qualifications already referred to, is a glorious Deuteronomy in which the experiences and lessons of the past are gone over, not now by a Moses who is about to die, but by the true Deliverer of the people of God who brings them, not merely to the verge of the promised inheritance, but into every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Himself. It takes up every principle foreshadowed in the former books, every detail of individual history, of redemption, of access to God, and of power for walk in the world. These are now brought out in their full light, and under the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, a path of blessing is opened which leads into the light of the glory of God’s presence in the eternal state.
This must suffice for a delightful line of study which, as has been said, will be taken un later.
2. The Pentateuch as Introductory to the Entire Old Testament
Much of what has already been said as to the Pentateuch being introductory to the entire Scripture applies in a special way to the Old Testament. As has already been said, the entire Scripture is divided for us in to two great portions marked out by the incarnation of the Son of God, His redemption and ascent into glory. In this way, the Old Testament forms an introduction. It is the book of shadow to which the New Testament is a necessary sequel, supplying us with the substance. It is the book of promise to which the New Testament furnishes the fulfillment of promise. It is the book of the earth and of an earthly people, to which the New Testament furnishes the addition of the heavenly side of divine things. Without the New Testament, the Old would be a fragment — grand, colossal, magnificent, but a ruin, even as the nation of Israel is today a ruin.
It is with this understanding that we look at the Old Testament apart from the New. Thank God, we are not thus shut up to it alone.
The Pentateuch furnishes a necessary introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Its place is so manifestly at the beginning, that few words are needed in justification of this statement. Without the Pentateuch, the book of Joshua, for instance, and the whole subsequent history of Israel, would be suspended in the air, as we might say; a contention indeed which higher criticism has made, following the example of secular histories. With these, indeed, the origin and early development of nations is largely enshrouded in shadow, myths and fables which it is well-nigh impossible to separate from authentic history. If Israel’s history were a mere secular work, no wonder that it should be contended that their origin too is in a haze of myth and contradictory fable in which it is impossible to separate the elements of the truth from the surrounding mass. But if the true historian of the people of God is none other than the Holy Spirit, we may be sure that the method of His work, as well as the contents of the history will be absolutely perfect. With this in mind, how naturally and beautifully the narrative begins in Genesis, with the whole human family in view, but gradually narrowing down to the elect family whose history is also traced through various generations, showing, not merely the antecedents, but the characteristics of the founders of the nation of Israel. These natural traits, as seen in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the twelve patriarchs, are stamped indelibly upon the nation of Israel as a whole.
We do not now speak of those characteristics of faith which are the fruit of grace alone, but of the natural elements of independence as seen in Abraham, the separateness as seen in Isaac, and of an energy, none too scrupulous of method, as seen in Jacob. These characteristics are reproduced in the twelve patriarchs and extend to their descendants. We find them spread abroad upon the entire page of Old Testament history; and without this introduction, we should be left in the dark as to very much of what is recorded in the later historical books, the prophecies, etc.
This view is but a part of what we get from the Pentateuch; indeed, a small part. We sec the great forces which operated in keeping tether and welding into a national whole the race of Israel. What we find in Joshua and the later histories, is a nation which, spite of its division into twelve tribes, is evidently a unit held together by bands so strong that only national apostasy could break them, and even then the broken fragments continued on in parallel streams, evidently one people, until the ten tribes were carried off into the final captivity caused by their apostasy from the true God.
It is the Pentateuch which shows us the formation and establishment of this nation of Israel. Brought down as a family into the land of Egypt, as narrated in the closing chapters of Genesis; enjoying there, under the beneficent protection of Joseph and Pharaoh, the liberty under which they could rapidly multiply; subjected later on to humiliating servitude, with ever-increasing hardships, we see forces at work which would either annihilate them or weld them into a compact whole.
Thus we find in the early part of Exodus, the people are one, not only in blood and race attachment, but held and pressed together by the very persecutions which they endured. Whatever they suffered was a common affliction, which turned them possibly to a common recollection of their fathers, and prepared them for the promise of a common deliverance from bondage and the fulfillment of those promises made to their fathers. The entire history of the shelter by the blood of the Passover lamb and deliverance from Egypt, the people being led out as a flock into the wilderness, tended further to this unifying of the race. We find this constantly alluded to in the subsequent history, and particularly in the Prophets and Psalms.
Every revival recalled the people back to the fact that they had been delivered by Jehovah from the bondage of Egypt. Every appeal to them recalled this common mercy to the nation at large; and on their part, every confession of sin and plea to Jehovah for mercy recalled His delivering hand in the land of Egypt, the pledge of every needed further deliverance. When God by the prophets would recapitulate His ways with them, He always began with these early Pentateuchal histories.
This compacting of the nation proceeded in the wilderness. Had the people been introduced at once into the land of Canaan after their emancipation from bondage, they would soon have been engulfed in the idolatries and corruptions of the nations there, nor would they have had the needed courage and vigor to drive out the foe from their inheritance. Thus the history of the wilderness is a necessary instruction to the later narrative, and is constantly alluded to both by the former and the latter Prophets.
Most evidently the occurrences narrated in the books of Exodus and Numbers were familiar to the nation, and had become a part of their very national being. The same can be said with greater emphasis of the giving of the law, whether we look upon its first enactment at Sai as the pure law of the ten commandments, or its incorporation with the whole system of ritual in the tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices, with which it was associated in the remainder of the books of Exodus and Leviticus.
The law is the theme, we may say, of the entire Old Testament. It is given in the Pentateuch, constantly referred to in the later histories as the inflexible standard, and that from which the people had departed; while both prophets and psalmists constantly referred to it as the constitution of the nation of Israel as a whole. Without Sinai, and all that goes with it, we could not understand the remainder of the Old Testament. Here again the truth of inspiration shows how essential the place of the Pentateuch is in relation to the entire Old Testament.
The book of Deuteronomy especially is closely linked with subsequent history and prophecy. In the closing part of Numbers the narrative brings us up to the borders of the land; and this narrative is resumed, so far as necessary, in Joshua and the subsequent historical books. If these connecting links of history were eliminated Joshua would remain a fragment. So much does higher criticism recognize this, that Joshua too has been relegated to the era of myth, and the early books of the Bible have been called a hexateuch, instead of what they most manifestly are — a Pentateuch.
But we wish particularly to call attention to the prophetic character of the book of Deuteronomy as necessarily introductory both to the subsequent history and to the Prophets as a whole. We may truly say that the Prophets themselves are but a continuation of the great principles enunciated in Deuteronomy, even as that is an enlargement and reiteration of the great basic principles of the law enunciated at Mount Sinai.
Thus the whole fabric of the Old Testament is woven together with the “cunning workmanship” of its divine Author, making a fabric perfect and beautiful as a whole, but which, if rent in any part, is marred throughout its entire length.
Of course all this is but a glance at the contents of the book, which are to occupy us more in detail; but these at least will suffice to show us the essential place which the Pentateuch has as introductory to the Old Testament.
3. The Pentateuch as Introductory to the Historical Books
Before leaving this part of our subject, we might in a similar way show the special relation which the Pentateuch has to the immediately contiguous books of the history and dealings of God with the people in the early history.
We have already alluded to the similarity between Joshua and Deuteronomy; and the same applies to the book of Judges. Little more need be said on this, as we have already seen how connectedly the narrative flows from beginning to end. When we consider the evident purpose of the Spirit of God in thus giving us, blended together, biography, history, law, ordinances, ritual, a priestly class, with all the connecting material which goes to form the subject of the Pentateuch, there can be but one conviction to the student who believes in inspiration: that here we have a perfect and harmonious unfolding of the thoughts of God and His ways with a people through whom He would make those thoughts known.
We have not yet, however, spoken definitely of the one great subject which runs from the Pentateuch into the earlier histories, and through them, in ever-widening and clearer purpose, to the end of the Old Testament page, leaving us there at the close, following the longing look of many a prophet and sage and king as they uttered the cry from yearning hearts, “How long, O Lord?” All points to Him who was in the thought of God from the beginning, and who is so manifestly the theme of the Pentateuch that unbelief alone can shroud it. It is Christ, then, who is the key, not only to the Pentateuch, but to its relation with the subsequent books of the Old Testament. When once this is seen, everything, even apparently contradictory parts, will fall into harmonious setting.

Chapter 2: The Value and Significance of Numbers

WHAT has been said as to the place of the Pentateuch as introductory to the entire word of God, and to the Old Testament in a special way, will prepare us for what it will be well to go into with some measure of care before we take up the more minute examination of the Pentateuch as a whole and in its separate parts.
While the entire subject of the structure of Scripture is reserved for a separate handbook, in which we will endeavor to go into it with something of the fullness which it deserves, it will be necessary for us at this point to take up some of the great fundamental principles of numbers, and their relation to revelation, which, through the mercy of God, have been made familiar to us during recent years.
Numbers are perhaps the most elementary form in which the relation of objects is seen.
The prime digits have here so distinctive a character that they cannot be confounded with each other. We will look at each of these, and gather some of the evident thoughts connected with them.
1. Numbers in Relation to the Godhead.
Number 1. One excludes everything else. It speaks of that which is alone, with nothing else to compare it with. “The Lord our God is one Lord,” “To us there is but one God.” There can be no question that this thought of “aloneness,” of absolute unity, is conveyed as it could be in no other way by this first numeral. Without doing violence to the thought, we have here the exclusion of all others from the place which God alone can occupy. “I am the Lord, and there is none else,” “My glory will I not give to another.”
Satan’s great effort has been to obliterate this thought from the mind of man, and in the multiplication of heathen deities we see him apparently successful; but even in these heathen mythologies there lurks behind all the fantastic, numberless gods, the one supreme Author and Source of all things. Thus the thought is marred indeed and blurred so as to be practically valueless; but God has stamped this for us upon the very nature of man, so that conscience as well as reason cries aloud that it is true. If God be thus alone and with no other, so that He existed before all time, “from everlasting to everlasting,” then it follows that everything else that has been called into being is His work. He is the Creator. This suggests the truth which we gather from the ordinal of one — First.
A first suggests not only preeminence, but authorship. As the First, our God has brought into being the whole universe of material and spiritual existence. The first excludes from its own domain a second, and yet there would be nothing with which to compare it were there no second. All that follows, therefore, is in that sense in subordination to Him that is first.
If God be thus one, alone, He is sufficient unto Himself. He needed not even the glorious creation which in His goodness and power He has called into being. It was not necessary for His happiness to call the universe out of nothing. This thought of self-sufficiency, in its highest, divinest sense, is linked with the very being of God. “He giveth not, to any, account of His matters.” There is no thought of His responsibility, in the human sense. There is no possibility of His being judged: “That Thou mightest... overcome when Thou art judged” must, from the very fact of the case, be true.
Such thoughts as these show us, from the very necessity of the case, that the creature can never intrude into the domain of the Creator. True faith recognizes this with joy. That which the enemy of our souls intruded into the heart of man — a poison to which he had himself succumbed, “Ye shall be as God” — is, to one who knows God, torture unutterable. Who could stand where God stands — who is self-existent, independent absolutely of all persons and things, sufficient unto Himself in all the bliss of a perfectness which is divine? Words fail us here, but the thought is a simple one, and meets with a response from every heart of faith. Who, too, could bear the load of the divine consciousness; could have the weight, if we may use feeble human similes to express that which infinitely transcends our highest thoughts, of the divine purposes and counsels as to His intelligent universe; the plans which He has formed, the power which is for Him no effort, which has not only created all things, but upholds them? The very thought of such things well-nigh crushes the spirit, and we ask, in the language of Scripture, “Canst thou by searching find out God?” “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” And so, with this consciousness right in our very being, we bow at His feet and own Him: “Thou art God alone.”
The significance of the number one, as we have already suggested, is inherent in itself. It is so stamped upon our consciousness that it is impossible to avoid it. The fact is that, in a lesser way, man himself is a unit upon whom this mark has been put of individuality and personality. There is none like him in the whole world where he is. Evolution may do its utmost to link him with the lower creation. It may seem to have succeeded when it says that the body in which he dwells is linked with the beasts that perish; but not only does nature cry aloud that man is not simply one of the higher animals, reason ruses to accept it; and this not from any pride of isolation, but from an inherent consciousness that he is not as that which surrounds him; that his very body is not himself; that the subtlest physical processes are but the activities back of which a living will, a reasoning mind, operates and is in control. Evolution thus stands self-condemned not only as a faulty theory as to man, but as a distinct insult to one who cannot be linked with the creation over which he is head. If this be true of man (as no one can deny who, with that very consciousness of which we speak, which asserts its aloofness from the rest of the creation, is constrained to recognize his own limitations and dependence upon the creation from which he must be separated), in how much fuller way does the truth of the absolute unity of the Godhead hold good?
It is this unity of the individual which, we might say, qualifies man for the apprehension of God. The very fact that he stands out distinct from all else enables him to apprehend the necessity for the same truth in the sphere of the Infinite. He knows what “one” means because he himself is one in the sense we have indicated, and thus in his sphere as a creature the very stamp of the Creator’s being has been put upon him. If man is a person, an individual, so also He who enables him thus to recognize his individuality and to be conscious of it, is a Peon. It is this which gives us one view, at least, of the truth of that sublime statement that man is made “in the image of God!”
When this great truth of the unity and supremacy of God, the self-existent One, is seen, we are enabled in the light of further revelation to gather other thoughts which He has been pleased to make known to us.
These thoughts, we need not say, are not any contradiction to what He has revealed, for the very thought of unity is self-consistency. There can be no contradiction in it; and yet is there not stamped upon the very being of man, along with his individuality, a going out toward that which suggests companionship? He is alone, and yet not alone. We do not mean here that he is made for God, — an essential truth, — but rather that the very faculties of his being call aloud for an association with his equals; a cry which God has met in the blessed relationships which He established in creation, and the infinitely more blessed ones eternally effected through grace.
But this, we almost say, necessity of social intercourse, which is a part of man’s very being, leads us to expect, when once the great truth of the divine unity is distinctly apprehended, that this unity without going outside of itself has a relationship in which its perfections are expressed.
We are treading here upon holy ground. God forbid that we should intrude into those things that we have not seen. Faith ever veils its face, and yet opens its eyes to that which God has revealed. We need to walk humbly, but we need not refuse to walk. It is eternal life to know God, and therefore instead of shrinking from the revelation of Himself which in infinite grace He has made to us, we know that it is our happiness to receive it. The truth of the divine unity, therefore, in no wise contradicts the fact that this blessed God is capable of the enjoyment and the exercise of all His attributes in a sphere so absolutely infinite that our feeble minds only apprehend its truth without fathoming its depths.
We are thus prepared for what we find on the very first page of our Bible. The name for God,
“Elohim,” is invariably a plural here, as it is the chief word for the divine Being through Scripture. There can be no question that this word is a plural. Various explanations have been given of this. It is called “the plural of majesty and preeminence,” much in the way in which a king would speak of himself as “we.” Such a use, however, seems unworthy of Him who is above all need of exalting Himself, who could not multiply His greatness for it is infinite already. His majesty needs no such expedient to set it forth. There must be something more than this. A plurality of persons is here suggested. As we see a little later on, in connection with the work of creation: “And God said, Let Us make man.” Evidently, there is a counsel here, a plan which, while a single one, is the expression of a perfect concurrence of divine Persons.
The Hebrew language, by its very simplicity, is the divinely selected instrument for the expression of a meaning here which we cannot avoid. While the noun, “Elohim,” is plural, the verb is singular. The action is one. The divine work accomplished by the word of the Creator stands alone, and yet it is effected by the Personalities who compose that divine unity. Thus, in the simplest way, God makes known to us the two related truths that He is One — a unity into which the highest created intelligence cannot intrude, a chasm of infinity between the Creator and His whole universe; yet in that ineffable infinity there is a holy companionship, of which our highest conceptions are feeble, where divine Persons in the divine family, if we may be permitted to use such language, find their joy and delight One with Another. Naturally, we can go no further with unaided reason. The stamp upon our own being calls for this much. Other marks also suggest, that which remains for revelation to make known, that this divine fullness is a Trinity. Man himself is that, with distinct departments in his mind, for instance, of knowledge, feeling and will, which we are able to differentiate without separating. He is capable of apprehending; this apprehension affects his feeling, and his will is put forth in relation to what is apprehended; and yet this tripartite character of his mind does not affect his individuality. So, too, in a wider sense, he is body, soul, and spirit, where the very body is recognized as a part of the full revelation of himself. We cannot conceive of man existing as man eternally separated from his body, which is the vehicle, and as we have elsewhere sought to point out, the expression of his whole being.
In like manner, his soul (the seat of desires, appetites, passions, — alas, all perverted in the fallen being) links on one side with the body, and on the other with the higher spirit, including reason and judgment. Thus, there is a relationship within the individual of departments which go to make up his being, and this prepares us, in one sense enables us, feebly indeed but actually, to apprehend the truth of the triune God.
Number 2. This brings us to the consideration of the meaning of the second number. If “one” excludes all others, “two” as equally necessitates another. Where we are dealing with the same class of objects, it in itself suggests equality, — two of the same kind and of equal value. We are already prepared for this in what has been said of the Godhead. There is Another who is not different, of the same kind and essence, God over all, and yet who is as distinct and absolutely a divine Individual, if we may be permitted to use the language of man, as God must be.
But “two” suggests relationship. Passing to the ordinal, a second occupies that relationship to a first. Other thoughts come in here also. The “first” suggests authority and dignity in which the “second” participates, but in the place of second, not exactly subordination, and yet something akin to that. Where will we find this thought of equality, together with relationship in subordination? At every step we have to qualify our expressions, realizing that beyond what God has revealed we are sure to go astray.
But He has given us such a relationship of first and second in nature, and in revelation has used the very language. Father and son are in that relationship one to the other. There is identity of nature and yet a distinctness of two personalities, with the order of relationship and yet not a hint of inferiority. If this is true in the relationship between a human father and son, it is divinely the case between those infinitely blessed Persons whom we are taught to know as the Father and the Son? “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Prov. 30:4.) “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).
These passages, with many others, show the relationship between the first and second Persons of the Godhead, a relationship that speaks of identity of nature, power, glory, and yet where the thought of Fatherhood and Sonship suggests what we have already intimated. In general the exercise of sovereign will, as in election, is ascribed to the Father — “According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).
Similarly, the execution of that will is ascribed to the Son — “By whom also He made the worlds;” (Heb. 1:2); “All things were made by Him,” etc., (John 1:3). This, however, cannot be for a moment taken as hinting that there is any difference in authority or position. Speaking of Himself after incarnation and in view of the coming judgment, our Lord reiterates the essential equality of Himself with the Father:
“That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him” (John 5:23).
Of the holy intimacies, the outflow of divine affections, the delight between the members of the divine family, who can speak? We withdraw into the protection of the language of inspiration as given to us by the Holy Spirit who searcheth the deep things of God: “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth was... Then I was by Him as One brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him” (Prov. 8:22, 23, 30). It is of this relationship that the Lord speaks ever to His disciples in the Gospel of John: “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John z6: 28). “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
The prominent thought here is companionship in relationship, of perfect equality, and yet as we said, the ineffable, inscrutable mystery of Fatherhood and Sonship before which we delight to bow our souls, confessing that while we do not understand, we know it must be true and that the limitation is in ourselves; much of it indeed by our very constitution as creatures, and also much because our eyes are dim.
Number 3. It is this very dimness of the eyes, as well as the limitations of our being, that are themselves the hint as to the necessity of a third element in our knowledge of God. The Scripture already quoted shows us that the mutual knowledge of the Father and the Son is confined to themselves; and yet God has revealed Himself, He has manifested Himself, in such a way that our reason, conscience, and indeed our whole being knows that the revelation is true. This witness has not merely been given, we might say, objectively in the works of God, but is inherent in the very being of man. We have already suggested that man is a trinity in various ways.
There is a certain rhythmic recurrence of the number three that seems to remind us of this triune stamp. There are three persons — only three: first, second, and third; the person speaking, the person spoken to, and the peon spoken of. This includes, as we might say, all that is possible in the way of personality. Without the third person, however, there would be a failure to manifest the fullness of what is. We have already referred to the three dimensions in space, of length, breadth and thickness, which enable us fully to apprehend it. Time is measured in this threefold way, the past, present and future. These and other thoughts of three suggest a full view of whatever may be under consideration, whether of persons, space, or time; and it is this thought of fullness of manifestation which suggests to us both the Peon and work of the Holy Spirit. He it is who is, not objectively, but by His power, the Revealer of God. He does not display Himself, but He brings home to consciousness, reason, and conscience, the reality of that which is put before them. He is the Enlightener. More than that, He is the life-Enlightener. “The Spirit searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God,” and “God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” Thus, we find that while eternal life is the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent, yet there must be a life imparted. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thus our very knowledge of the Godhead is dependent upon Him who, while in the divine family, is the One who reveals in man, in such a way as to make Their fullness known, the blessedness of that knowledge.
“Three” is thus the number of display, and of final display. There can be nothing in the same class coordinated with these three in the way in which we have been looking at them. When God is revealed, as He is perfectly, objectively by the Son, the full revelation has taken place, and the witness of this is the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring it home to the heart in ling power.
Thus, in answer to any suspicion that there yet remained other divine persons to be revealed, faith, as well as the word of God, declares that we have reached the limit of perfection. There can be nothing beyond the third, nothing beyond that which gives us in its length and breadth and depth and height, the fullness of the Godhead.
As we have before remarked and need ever to remember, we are not seeking to compass the Infinite. None but God Himself can understand God. The creature, by the very fact of his being that, knows that he can never reach into the Infinite. This shows the nature of the fall of Satan, an effort on the part of the creature, of superlative excellence indeed, “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty,” to transcend the limits of his creaturehood and pass into the Godhead. The chasm is infinite between them. The most glorious and excellent in wisdom, power, and every attribute of the angels who “excel in strength,” has yet but a creature excellence; and, beyond that stretches just as far the infinity of distance to Godhead. Indeed, this is but a poor illustration. There is a different class, whose confines can never be passed; a class, compared with which the distinctions between the various elements in the earth, or of plant and animal life, are as nothing. God is God, and man is man, and his happiness is to know that this is eternally true.
The thought, then, of the Spirit, the third person in the Trinity is, that He is the One who, as our Lord declares, will guide into all truth. He is indeed called “the Spirit of truth,” as thus revealing it; also, “the Holy Spirit,” as the revelation and embodiment of the essential holiness of God; and yet we have naturally not so much the manifestation of the Spirit as of Christ, who is the display of the divine glory. We do not see light, but that which light reveals; and the Spirit of God is like the light, revealing all things else, while itself invisible.
We have this beautifully in the candlestick in the tabernacle, where the seven lights, symbol of perfection, shed their beams over against the candlestick; as we might say, exhibiting its perfections and beauties. The candlestick is the glorified, risen Christ, and the light is the Holy Spirit who makes these known.
In the New Testament, where only we have the full revelation of God, the full truth as to the personality and Godhead of the Holy Spirit is brought out; there can be no question of His personality. He is spoken of in that way as definitely as the Father or the Son. While, as we have said, His work is that which is prominent; a work indeed which displays the glories of the Son and the truth of God; yet in the very power which thus displays them, we have the witness of His own essential and absolute Godhead, His distinct personality.
Much more might be said upon this most delightful theme, and what mercy it is that we, whose eyes are indeed dim by reason of sin, have been by grace, and the work of this blessed Peon of whom we speak, introduced into the knowledge of the Father and the Son! There is a limitation in all that we have said, but it is the limitation of the creature and not of the glorious subject. There is a fullness here which fills our little capacity, and fills the vast universe, and still is as unexhausted as though that universe did not exist. It is the fullness of God.
In what has been said of these first three numbers, we have confined our thoughts to the revelation of God, His being, His personality in trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. This, however, does not exhaust the subject, but rather encourages us to make a fresh beginning in our researches as to the significance of numbers, and it is this further significance that we will find more prominently before us in connection with the Pentateuch.
We must, however, say a word further now as to the number “four.” As has already been remarked, the number “three” gives a sense of completeness beyond which there can be nothing; a completeness of kind, if we may so say. Thus, in that revelation which, as the apostle declares, completes or fills up the word of God, we have the full display of Himself, beyond which there can be nothing. All that God is is included in what He is as Father, as Son, and as Spirit. The heavenly city itself, in which the glories of God are set forth in their perfection to sight, even as now to faith in the word of God, is a cube, where the length, breadth and height of it are equal, and where God is perfectly displayed.
It has been said that God has been pleased thus far to reveal Himself in three Persons, but that these are only modal displays of Himself, which could be and will be multiplied far beyond this number. This is the fatal error of Sabellianism, an error which is deadly, because it practically robs us of the sense of our knowledge of God, and indeed destroys any true apprehension of the personality of the Father, Son and Spirit. As a matter of fact, Sabellianism does not hold to personality in any true sense. How could it, if our knowledge of God is not yet rounded out? The Son, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit are but modes of divine revelation and not Persons at all! Sabellian-ism, therefore, leads to two opposite errors. On the one hand, it gives us a heartless monotheism, in which the divine personality is removed entirely from our knowledge, and we only have Him in some of the many forms in which He is pleased to make Himself known. It is monotheism, without the hope of ever passing into any true knowledge of God. On the other hand, it opens the way for that dreary pantheism which dissipates all thought of divine personality, and makes God an infinite, indeed, and all-pervasive essence, confused however so completely with His creation that, as a matter of fact, we lose both the thought of the creature as well as the Creator.
It is just this that we wish to show is presented by a true recognition of the significance of the number “four,” in relation to the first three. It is in that sense a new beginning. It is the first of the numbers which is capable of a true division or cleavage, made up as it is of the factors 2 x 2. The first three numbers are prime.
They cannot be further reduced. This in itself is significant, “Four,” then, can be broken up into other elements, as already indicated; and this in itself prepares us for the thought, already reiterated, that we have now Passed from the sphere of the Godhead into that of the creature. This we find abundantly illustrated in Scripture. “Four,” is constantly the number of the earth, of creation, of weakness as contrasted with power, and all that we are necessarily compelled to think of in connection with the creature as contrasted with the Creator. This must suffice to show us that we have reached the revelation of the fullness of God in the first three numbers.
2. Numbers in Relation to Man.
We therefore now resume our consideration of the significance of numbers, but now from the standpoint of the creature.
Number 1. This number naturally links closely with its significance in relation to God. It speaks of His supremacy and power as the self-existent One before all worlds. It is He who has created all things.
“One,” therefore, suggests to us the thought of origin, of beginning, of that time when God spoke and brought into being all that exists. “Through faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). In like manner, the number speaks of the beginning of life, and more particularly of the conscious life of responsible man, the offspring of God, in the sense that he is immortal, and capable of knowing who the Creator is. This suggests also the priority of man as head over creation, and of his spirit by which he is differentiated from creation. We thus reach the individual, and naturally his history as an individual biography rather than a narrative of corporate existence. All this anticipates so completely what is the subject of the book of Genesis, that we need say little more to show how necessarily that must be the opening record of the entire inspired volume. It is the book of origins, showing that God created all things, which gives us also the origin of man as responsible, and which is, throughout its narrative, devoted chiefly to a record of individual life. The entire book is, indeed, after the first few pages which are devoted to the origin of things, a series of biographies. All of these thoughts are suggested in the number “one.”
We are compelled now to add the further sad truth that, when applied to the creature, the number “one” easily gets a sinister meaning. The moment the creature seeks to intrude into the place of the Creator, as already intimated in connection with Satan and his pride, we have the number “one” dragged out of its proper sphere and the attributes of Godhead applied to man.
This is indeed the essence of all sin, — independence, disobedience, self-will; so that we have here in the earliest book of the Bible the narratives of this rebellion, where man listened to the lie of Satan, and was inoculated with the virus of sin: “Ye shall be as gods (God), knowing good and evil.”
Number 2. Evil, when once introduced, does not remain quiescent, and we must be prepared therefore to find that it accompanies as a dark shadow all the primary and proper significance of numerals. Thus, two suggests not merely companionship, but difference, separation, as men say, when alienated one from another, “We are two.” It opens up indeed the whole subject of evil as alienation from God and as bondage. Thank God, this is but one side. On the other, we have the primary significance of the number, as already seen, of companionship, of help, and by implication when evil has entered, of salvation and deliverance. The thought of God in the book of Genesis is largely that which the Lord conveyed to Moses, El-shaddai, “The Almighty,” or Himself in His unity. In the book of Exodus, we have the narrative of the bondage into which the children of Israel were brought, of the enslaving power of evil under which they were, and then of the compassion and delivering power of Jehovah. Exodus is thus distinctively the book of redemption, in which the narrative of the Passover lamb and the sheltering blood closes the chapter of the previous bondage, and opens the one into progress in the knowledge of God and of communion with Himself.
Two then puts its mark upon the book of Exodus and we see that it could not occupy any other than the second place. In it, of course, we have typically prominent before us the Son and His redeeming work by the cross.
Number 3. This, as we have seen, is the number of full display in which God is fully revealed — in His holiness and the principles of divine truth upon which He ever acts. The book of Leviticus strikingly illustrates the significance of this number. In it we have the full manifestation of sin, but blessedly brought out with those sacrificial aspects of the work of Christ by which it is duly dealt with and put away. The entire book has the stamp of the nature of God upon it, His holiness. We might say its theme is expressed in those words, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” The sacrifices, the priesthood, the essential requirements for nearness to God, the service connected with the introduction into His presence, all of these are the consistent theme of the book, which, as we might say, thus introduces us into the full knowledge of God. Of course, all is as yet typical. We need the full light of the New Testament, the beams of the Holy Spirit to illumine all the types and shows of the Old before we could rightly understand those shadows, but this does not alter, only rather confirms, the necessary place of Leviticus as a number three.
Number 4. We have already seen that four suggests division and cleavage in a way which none of the previous numbers would do. It is the first number capable of proper division and if a thing can be divided it suggests a certain measure of weakness in it. If there are seams of cleavage in it, these will locate the place of fractures.
Approaching the significance of this number from the side of Scripture we find that it is that which speaks of the creature, of the earth, as contrasted with the Creator. We have “the four corners of the earth” and “the four winds of heaven.” Multiplied by ten (the significance of which will come before us later) we find that four suggests what is inherent in creation and in the creature — essential weakness.
The creature cannot rightly manifest the end for which he was created if separated from the Creator.
“In Him we live, and move, and have our being” is true of man, and suggests that we must have the revelation of God, and depend upon Him for all if our lives are not foredoomed to utter failure. In like manner, “By Him all things consist” shows that creation itself cannot be thought of apart from Him who has brought it into being and maintains it.
The number “four” is thus the earth number, that which has to do with the creature and his maintenance; and, alas, when the added element of sin is brought in, we may be sure of failure. All of this is so suggestive of the book of Numbers that we need not further dwell upon it. It is evidently the fourth book, in which we have God’s provision for the proper walk of His people through the world on the one hand, but alas, on the other, their failure to avail themselves of these provisions, with the result that they manifest their weakness and unprofitableness. It is thus the narrative of the wilderness joey of Israel, recounting its failures and how the generation which had been brought out of Egypt was shut out of the land of Canaan because of this failure. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Number 5. Proceeding in the ordinary way, five is formed by the addition of one to four. It is a prime number, but its composition is such as suggests a distinct addition to the number four. An illustration may show the two elements which go to make up five. It is distinctively the number of man as to his capacity. There are five senses which link man with the outside world. His hand, the badge of his capacity, has five fingers. These, however, are not exactly coordinated, but the thumb occupies such a relation to the other four fingers that it controls them. It is this indeed which we might almost say distinguishes man anatomically from the beast. The thumb most suggestively points to the presence of a controlling will and personality, and without it there is no true grasp of things. Spiritually speaking, this is most clear, and prepares us for the significance of the number five. It is the creation as laid hold of by a superior power. Of course, in its highest sense, this would be God laying hold upon His creation, and the number five therefore will be found as we look into it to suggest the incarnation of Him who, while He was God, was “manifest in the flesh,” whose name is “Jesus” — “Immanuel,” (God with us).
Applied absolutely to man, the number five suggests the responsibility of the conscious, free agent who takes hold of creation. Man is different from all creatures in that he is responsible, and it is the individuality, the free will of man, that constitutes him thus. These are some of the thoughts that we find in the book of Deuteronomy. Primarily, it is God who through His servant Moses takes up and reviews His people’s past history, spreading it before them and pointing out, as He alone can, the lessons to be learned. They find there the springs of those sad falls narrated in the book of Numbers, and if rightly exercised would thus be brought into God’s presence about their failures. The book further presses upon the people their responsibility to obey God, in view of the past with its lessons, and the future that lay before them. It thus fittingly answers to its place as the fifth and closing book in the series.
Looking on, as it does throughout, to the future, it shows that an end has been reached to the ways of God with man, leading up to his inheritance, that will mark a new beginning in which, in various conditions, the same series will again be gone through with. Our point just here, however, is not to speak of that, but rather to show how Deuteronomy numerically closes the Pentateuch. The wilderness journey is over. Behind us lies the desert; “all behind us lies the darkness, all before the day.” It will be found that the closing book of Scripture is, like the one we are speaking of, a Deuteronomy. It is a recounting of God’s ways — ways not merely with Israel, but with the world as a whole, and which will end in the introduction of the eternal day in that land which is indeed “the glory of all lands,” where the light is that which never falls on sea or land down here, but is reserved for “the inheritance of the saints in light.”
This brings us to the end of what immediately concerns us for the present. For a full discussion of what has already occupied us, and the remaining numbers, we must wait for another place.
We can, however, scarcely forbear saying a word or two upon those numbers which complete the series.
Number 6. This number, in Scripture at least, seems to be a transitional one from five to seven. It has in it certain characteristics of number four, in that it is capable of true division, being formed of the factors 2 x 3. This very cleavage, as we have seen in four, suggests a certain element of weakness, and indeed we find in Scripture an intimation of this in the number six. It falls short of seven, the perfect number, and in that way seems to be specially appropriate in connection, for instance, with the number of the Beast, which is the number of a man, a thrice repeated six (Rev. 13:18).
From the very fact, however, that it is largely used in an evil sense, as, for instance, in the description of Goliath, a type of Satan, we may expect to find also a divine sense in the number which reminds us that God is still Master over evil. Thus, we find that on the sixth day, man is creed and placed in dominion over creation, a type of how Christ is going to reign over the earth and hold all things in His power. It is thus not only suggestive of “man’s day” and of the limit which God puts upon his power and by which He will control it, but dispensationally, it is the number of the Millennium, in which Christ, in association with His Church, will reign over the earth and restrain, although He will not yet banish, all power of evil.
Number 7. This number completes the series. It is so familiar, not only in Scripture, but in nature itself, that few words need be said upon it. It is composed of 4 + 3, the number of the creature combined with that of the Creator. God and His creation gives the thought of that beyond which we cannot go in that direction. There is nothing more. Thus we find that seven is constantly used throughout Scripture as the number of completeness; seven days in the week; seven years; and the constant repetition of this numeral with unvarying meaning, though with many applications, shows that completeness is the thought. But we pause near to return to our immediate theme.

Chapter 3: Preliminary Questions

BEFORE going into the distinctive features of each of the separate books which form the Pentateuch, we will take a brief glance in the present chapter at the contents of the entire division, and here a number of preliminary questions may be raised.
1. The Authorship of the Pentateuch.
It has been around this ground that the great battle has been waged between higher criticism in all its forms and the faith uniformly held by the people of God from the beginning, a faith we are assured which the word of God itself leads to. Until the attacks of infidelity, no one ever thought of questioning the universally accepted belief that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. At first it might seem as though the only question were as to his authorship of the book of Genesis, which covers the periods of time from the creation to the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. All of this, as having occurred before the birth of Moses, need not necessarily have been recorded by him; but it has been found that higher criticism, another name for infidelity, is never satisfied with assailing one portion of revelation; it reaches out until all has been brought under the blight of its margin influence. Thus when it had claimed that the book of Genesis was made up of various documents and fragments, it passed on to the other books about which there could be in the mind of the believer in the word of God no question that Moses was the author, and here all this was denied. It was said that the book of Exodus, with its varied ordinances and narratives, was composed long after the time in which Moses lived; indeed, it was declared boldly for a long time, until the very stones rose up and cried shame upon them, that writing was an art practically unknown in the days of Moses. It remained for Archeology to set aside this glaring falsehood, by showing that, so far from this being the case, the age before Moses was a time of intense literary activity and, the remains of this are now open to the inspection of the world.
Likewise, Leviticus and Deuteronomy were supposed to have been written in the interests of a special priestly class, and with a view to enhance the dignity and importance of the Levites and the tribe of Judah. Into all this we have not room to enter, beyond showing how such a question as authorship is bound up with the fuller, deeper one of the integrity of the books which are assailed. If the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, if it is the product of a later age, it is upon its very face stamped as untrue and an imposture, therefore utterly unworthy of belief. Thus the enemy would seek to destroy the foundations, well knowing that if these are removed, the whole superstructure must fall to the ground.
The only possible question as to the Mosaic authorship is necessarily confined to the book of Genesis and the closing chapter of Deuteronomy. If the book is authentic at all, it declares again and again that it was the production of Moses, a contention borne out by the rest of the Old Testament, and substantiated by the infallible authority of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Just here, therefore, we confine ourselves to a thought or two about the book of Genesis.
In claiming the Mosaic authorship of this book, it is not meant that no records were kept before the time of the great lawgiver. There is nothing contradictory to the truth of inspiration or the thought of Moses’ authorship in the possibility, we may say probability, of genealogies having been kept, and possibly also narratives more or less full, of persons and events which took place prior to the time of the Exodus. But what historian can write a narrative of former times without making large and liberal use of the material at his disposal? Thus there is no contradiction in the thought that Moses made use of whatever lists and narratives there may have been in existence before him. There is, however, something to be said even upon this side of the subject.
When we see the place of Genesis as introductory to the entire Pentateuch, and indeed to the whole of the word of God, as it has often been called, “the seed-plot of the Bible,” we see a divine plan and purpose running through the book, leading up to and connecting closely with that which follows. Genesis is in this way a necessary introduction to Exodus. It has evidently passed under the eye of the person who writes that book. The whole narrative of the patriarchs, from Abraham down, is with reference to the Pentateuch, and in confirmation of the promises of God made to him and fulfilled to his descendants in the land of Egypt. This points most unmistakably to the unity of authorship. It shows us that the entire five books are really one, and that while they are essentially distinct the one from the other, each is a consistent part of this division of Scripture. No thoughtful, careful student who looks beneath the surface can fail to see this. The purpose in Genesis is absolute, and from its earliest chapters to its close, it most evidently is preparatory to the narrative of the book of Exodus.
We thus come back with renewed assurance to the common faith of the people of God from the beginning, that the entire Pentateuch is the product of Moses. It was he whom God chose to be the appointed vehicle for carrying out His purposes and promises made known to Abraham and the fathers, and he is fittingly the historian of that great redemptive work recorded in the book of Exodus, together with the anticipative histories which are absolutely necessary to the right understanding of the narrative of Exodus itself.
We pass now to one scripture which sets its seal upon the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch: “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for He wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?” Most significant indeed is this. It is unbelief which has assailed the authorship of the Pentateuch, and unbelief not merely in Moses’ writings, but in Him of whom Moses wrote. We have similar confirmation by our Lord in the expression: “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.” Here the whole Pentateuch is again ascribed to Moses. In the face of this, we cannot afford to entertain the slightest doubt as to the authorship of the entire Pentateuch. It is one harmonious work, the author of which is not only declared upon its face to be Moses, but our Lord confirms that statement.
It will therefore be found that wherever unbelief expresses a doubt as to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, these statements of our Lord have to be explained away. It is said that He simply adopted the general belief of the time and would not destroy the commonly accepted theory that Moses wrote the books. Further blasphemy goes on, however, to declare that as He had emptied Himself of the divine knowledge, He shared in the ignorance common to the Jews as a whole, and Himself believed that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. Yes, He did thus believe, but it was not human ignorance — an awful blasphemy — but divine knowledge which declared: “He wrote of Me.”
As to the last chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, there is scarcely need for a word. No one conceives it as being in the least contradictory of the Mosaic authorship of the entire book, that Joshua or some other inspired narrator should give us the account of the close of the life of the great lawgiver. This fittingly is put at the close of his last book, and captious indeed would be the criticism that would make evil use of it.
2. The Inspiration of the Pentateuch.
Back of the question as to the Mosaic authorship of the five books ascribed to him, is the more fundamental one of their inspiration. It would be indeed of little value to us whether these books were the product of one author or of many, of one period, or the outgrowth of long lapses of time. What interest could all this have for us if the contents of the books had not upon them the stamp of divine, infallible accuracy, and absolute authority?
It is beautiful to see how a question like this merges into the one we have just been considering. It suggests at once that grace which stoops to use the human instrument, and is a foreshadow of that grace of the eternal Word who was made flesh. Just as in the person of our Lord, when once the truth of His deity is accepted, we cannot be too clear as to His actual humanity; so, too, in inspiration, we have here the human instrument whom God has been pleased to use, Moses or one of the prophets, as the case maybe; but it must first ever be granted that God is the absolute author of the revelation which He has been pleased to make to us. We must reserve to another place and time a full discussion of the subject of inspiration.
A few thoughts will only be suggested here. The Bible is a complete whole, and is in reality a revelation from God to man, in which each part has its divinely given place; every apparent digression is but a further tributary to the mass of truth which is accumulating in ever greater volume, until the whole bursts forth in the display of the full counsels of God manifested in the Person, work and present position of His beloved Son, together with the unfolding of those purposes kept secret from the foundation of the world, which now by the Spirit of God are being carried out in and through the Church. The thought, therefore, of inspiration must be absolute. The mind must also be freed from all hampering thoughts as to the human instrument who has been used in connection with any part of the work.
As a matter of fact, God could have made use of a number of authors in the composition of the Pentateuch, had He so chosen; but the superintending and ordering of all things by the Holy Spirit is never inconsistent with the most natural and orderly human arrangements. We repeat, however, that our great concern is to see the Mind that is back of it all, and to have that assurance in the absolute infallibility of every jot and tittle of the Word which shall bring us with confidence to dwell upon its slightest statements with the conviction that here we have truth, as much as in the larger and apparently more prominent parts. We need this assurance, in order to approach apparent contradictions and difficult places, not with the suspicion that here we have two parallel and slightly contradictory accounts, or that we see the bias of certain individuals expressing itself in undue emphasis, but rather that all is divinely ordered, and that every element which will go to make up a harmonious picture is here present. Unbelief, as we have already said, has lingered over the opening pages of Genesis, has endeavored to rend asunder the seamless robe of this portion of the book, and to give a portion to one and another of the unknown authors who, they say, composed the contradictory accounts.
Even the unity of authorship would not entirely settle questions like this, for it could be said that he had simply made use of previous documents and woven them together with more or less skill, in which., however, certain elements of contradiction were present. Here inspiration steps in with its “still, small voice,” assuring us that the faintest whisper of the Spirit of God is as infallible as the thunderings from Mount Sinai. Unless this is the conviction of the soul, and is acted upon by the student, there can be no assurance that he will gather the true meaning and purpose of the first pages of the Bible. When once absolute inspiration is accepted, every loophole is closed, and we are shut up to the necessity of accepting every word that God has uttered. We will not be unduly occupied with unimportant questions as to how this or that knowledge was gained, or how the author wove together the whole into one consistent narrative.
Seeing that God is the Author of all, we will simply, as in all His other works, ask the all-important question, What has He said, and why has He spoken, in just the way He has? What lessons are we to gather from the two accounts of creation in the early part of Genesis? What thought is prominent in each? We will, indeed, the more familiar we become with the perfect revelation of God, be less and less occupied with an effort to explain and to harmonize apparently contradictory portions. Our one object will be to assure ourselves that we are giving a place to all that He has said; that we are not leaving out any elements of the inspired Book which He has put into our hands. Harmony is the work of the Spirit of God. It is indeed the master Mind alone which can hold in its divine compass the full reach of His wondrous revelation; and it is only as by the Spirit of God we enter into His thoughts, that we shall be able to apprehend the length and breadth and depth and height of that which is for us, the fullness of God. As we go on to know Him in “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” we shall find increasingly that truths, which seemed not exactly to blend together, now fall into their true place and are in perfect accord one with the other.
A word of illustration may make clearer what we mean. The truths of divine sovereignty and of human responsibility are evidently both revealed in the word of God. If we attempt, with our poor little logic, to crush them together, we will mar the effect of each. If, however, we reverently bow and own that both are fully true, together with all else that God has revealed, we will find as we go on to know more of Him, of His ways and thoughts, that these truths blend harmoniously together. It is this which the mercy of God has given us in the inspired volume. It is a book which produces exercise by the very startling character of its statements. The very fact that much of what it says is not on its face at once understood in relation to other statements, so far from being a proof that it is not perfect, shows that the imperfection lies with ourselves. At the risk of repetition, therefore, we press this great truth of the inspiration of the Pentateuch. It is of special importance in connection with the introductory book of the Bible that we settle at once and forever this question.
3. The Object of the Pentateuch.
The question of its absolute inspiration hang been fully settled, we are left free, indeed shut up to the consideration of but one fact: Why has God spoken as He has in this portion of His revelation? What is the object He has in view? We may not at once recognize this object. Indeed, we may say that it will grow clearer to us as we go on through life to know the Lord; but it is helpful even at the very outset of our systematic study of His word, to catch, if we can, the manifest purpose of the divine Author in taking up and treating the subject which He is pleased to reveal to us in the way He does. We have already anticipated, in part of what we have said as to the Pentateuch being introductory to the whole Scripture and to the New Testament, something of the object for which it was written. Possibly a little of what is now to be said may seem a repetition. At any rate, it will be found to have its place here as well as there.
We open our Bibles at Genesis and ask ourselves, Can we see the object God had in giving us the account He does, no more and no less, of the work of creation: why He has presented certain details of what took place before the flood and omitted all others; why, later on, He dismissed the whole history of the repopulation of the globe by the family of Noah in a few brief summaries, and narrowed the narrative to a single family, and in fact to one individual in each generation of that family. One thing meets us at the very outset. We have here, not a book to answer curious questions, or merely to furnish us with interesting historical information. Every sentence was uttered with a distinct purpose, not to give us lessons in Geology and other sciences, nor to furnish us with a history of the human family in the earliest times, but rather to bring us face to face with the purpose of all relation, which is to know God and to be brought into harmony with His character and thoughts.
Thus we find that the creation of the heavens and earth is dismissed in one verse, which, hover, establishes the stupendous fact that God is God, and Creator of the whole universe. Endless cosmogonies of heathenism have wallowed in a mire of their own ignorance, folly and superstition, and given us grotesque, repulsive, and foolish thoughts. God simply presents Himself in the midst of His immense creation, and declares that He is the Author of it all. The very omission of all detail brings out the sublimity of the scene. Here we stand, with our attention riveted, not upon His marvelous works in been and earth, but rather upon Him who has brought them all into being.
So too with the narrative of the six days’ work which follows after the statement of the original creation. There is a manifest purpose throughout all this six days’ narrative, which is to lead our thoughts on to the great object which God had in view in preparing this earth for the abode of man. All that He pronounces “good” is the prelude to that final declaration that “God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good.” Thus, all nature as we know it upon earth, and the sun, moon and stars in heaven, are seen in their relation to man. Evidently, God had a purpose in His creation which reached a climax in that final act. We anticipate a moment the final purpose of God, as accomplished in the book of Revelation. There, at its close, He looks upon “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness;” and there we see again, as the eternal climax of all His thought, the Man and His wife.
“The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.” God is seen there in the eternal repose of a creation which can never be disturbed by sin, in the midst of the work of His hands and of His heart, and there we find Christ as the Center and the Crown, the embodiment and fulfillment of all His purposes. But this is what is foreshadowed to us in the brief account we have in the first chapter of Genesis. Everything else is omitted. Much that might engage our powers, that would call forth wonder and delight, is left for reverent, patient study, a study which is ever rewarded; and we are shut up to the one great object which God had in giving us the revelation of those six days’ work.
Further we are also here supplied with a divine, perfect key, which shall open the door to all knowledge. We take the first chapter of our Bible, and we fearlessly approach the great problems which Geology, Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Botany, Zoology have to present.
Christ is the key which is to unlock these. They are but parts of the one vast purpose which God has “to head up all things in Christ” (Eph. 1). If we forget this, we will lose the thread of the narrative which God Himself has given us. Little wonder, then, that science has groped in the midst of untold riches of truth poured out before her gaze in nature, and, if at enmity with God, only ended in excluding Him from the very works which cry aloud of His wisdom, power and goodness. Faith gladly holds the key, and ever remembers the manifest purpose of God in His works, which is not to display human skill nor to satisfy human curiosity, but to bring man into the place where he can enjoy all in the presence of God.
When we come to the second great narrative in connection with the origin of man upon the earth, we find quite a different thought. As the first narrative brings out divine sovereignty, so the second accentuates human responsibility. Here, evidently, man is seen not merely as the crown upon a creation which was perfect of itself, but as one who, entrusted with dominion over it all, was himself under authority in an absolute way, but whose tenure of headship over the creation depended upon his subjection in absolute obedience to the One who had made him head. Here, too, all is narrowed down to the one central point. We cannot linger amid the groves of Eden, “the garden of delight,” where everything was “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” We get glimpses of all this, vistas which speak of entrancing delight, which waited upon obedience, as it would fulfill the purposes of God.
We are, however, hastened to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, from which depends not only the fruit, but the whole destiny of man, as the responsible head of creation. All rests upon his obedience. It must do so. There can be no distinction between man and the beasts of the field unless the immense fact of responsibility is fully accepted. The object of God then in giving us this narrative is seen all the more clearly because it is divested of numberless details which we might desire to look into. We are left with the one great fact of our accountability. It is this which shows us our essential immortality, our God-given faculties, which link us with eternity, and with no passing framework of a creation prophetic still of one that is to come. Here too, without doubt, we have a foreshadow of the accomplishment of the purpose of God to bring man into responsible relationship to Himself, where at last He will, not in a childhood innocence which cannot be tested, but after all the outcome of sin and rebellion, find his home in the midst of the paradise of God, where he can enjoy without stint every pleasure spread before his adoring gaze, because he is now linked with One who is the truly responsible Head of it all, the Christ of God.
Thus is the purpose of the narrative of the third chapter of Genesis evident. Multitudes of questions press in vain for answer here. They cannot be answered until the one great, tremendous fact stands out in all its dark and hideous reality, that man with open eyes rebelled against the commandment of God, and forfeited eternally his place as head of the creation so lately put under his care. How blessed to see that God would not shroud the solemn fact by any multiplicity of details. Doubtless there are hints, suggestions which faith can reverently take up and trace in many different directions. As a matter of fact, we see how the deception of the serpent and the credulity of human affection, where unchecked, have come in; but that which God evidently intends should be emphasized and pressed upon us is this: “By one man, sin entered into the world and death by sin.” This, however, thank God, is but the prelude to that other purpose which is put side by side with our fall. The light of the wondrous promise of the woman’s Seed is given in connection with the very loss of man’s place, and shows the ultimate triumph of God over something more than the mere blind forces of nature — even the malignant and desperate plot of the enemy, who was determined to overthrow the throne of God itself in His universe. Details are not multiplied, but the promise of the woman’s Seed, who shall crush the serpent’s head, shows us again that God had Christ before His heart; and His one great purpose in the narrative of sin was to show its hopelessness apart from Him who would overthrow all the plotting of the enemy of God and man.
Here, then, we have a skill beyond human thought, which yet we are enabled to apprehend. It is the skill of a divine Author, who would introduce into His narrative only those elements which will enable us simply and rightly to get the point of view which He desires us to take in order that we may understand all the further development of His ways, and the unrepenting, resistless purpose which He has formed to bring in blessing, in the only way in which it can be brought in, through Christ.
We might go on similarly to speak of the meagerness of the narrative of the times before the flood. The brief genealogical table of our antediluvian ancestors can scarcely be called a narrative, save indeed a narrative of birth and of death; but does not this in itself show the one object for which God has given us the record? It establishes the truth of succession, and the inheritance of a nature and responsibilities flowing from our position. These could not have been so clearly brought out were the narrative more diffuse. The sentence, too, upon man, unswervingly carried out, save with one striking exception, emphasizes the truth: “Death reigned from Adam to Moses;” while, standing out clearly even before this, we have the narrative of the offerings of Cain and of Abel, and the sequel which, by its very horror, impresses us with the absolute necessity of a true approach to God by way of sacrifice alone.
These illustrations must suffice to establish the thought that there is a definite purpose underlying the very form in which the inspired record is given to us, a purpose which already we can partially apprehend; and we shall go on to learn more fully its distinctness and unity, as we fall into the current of the thoughts of God as given to us in each portion of His precious Word.
Passing on more rapidly, in the narrative of the flood we again have the evident purpose not to give a world history, but rather to show how judgment must fall upon those who depart from God. So too after the flood, in the history of Noah, we see from the very meagerness of the account of the nations established through his descendants, that God’s purposes cannot yet come out in worldwide blessing. They must be narrowed in the line of Abraham, called out from the nations, to the compass of the house.
hold of faith; and so, while yet in the first half of the book of Genesis, the unerring skill of the divine Author has by the very omissions, as well as what is dwelt upon, fastened this in our mind — all blessing comes through Christ alone on the ground of His sacrifice, and outside of Him is nothing but death and judgment. These blessings can be enjoyed only by faith which takes God at His word.
We have doubtless here also the groundwork of those great dispensational ways of God as to the world which were to characterize His dealings with man throughout the subsequent ages. Thus, as the sources of a mighty river are found in the comparatively insignificant rivulet rising in some far-off hidden spring, so too the purposes of God have their manifested source in these small beginnings.
Taking up the life of the patriarchs, we see this divine purpose more and more definitely manifested in various details. The history of the life of Abraham, for instance, shows the character of faith; that of Isaac, largely typifies the self-surrender of obedience; while Jacob’s varied experiences suggest that chastening of the Lord whose end is for blessing; in Joseph we see how all centers in Christ.
Coming next to Exodus, and endeavoring to trace this divine purpose, we find now the family has grown to a nation; a nation, however, in bondage and subject to judgment. Here evidently the purpose of God is to furnish His earthly people Israel not merely with the history of their bondage and deliverance, but of those principles which underlie it. The constant recurrence to the early part of Exodus, throughout the entire Old Testament, shows the prominent place God would have it to occupy in the minds of His people. Had they but learned the lesson there, they would not again have been delivered over to bondage to be carried captive by their enemies.
The remainder of the book of Exodus shows us still further the working out of the divine purpose. All is centered about the giving of the law, so far as the people’s responsibility was concerned, and the establishment of the tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices in connection with the mercy of God which would go out to them, in spite of their disobedience and failure. The close of the book of Exodus leaves the people with the tabernacle of God in their midst.
In Leviticus, the principles of holiness which are necessary for the enjoyment of the divine presence are dwelt upon. The purpose of God in giving this book after Exodus is manifest. In Numbers, the thought is widened out. It is not so much access to God, as power in the world. We might say, Leviticus gives us “a holy priesthood,” and Numbers, “a royal priesthood.” Alas, in the practical walk of the people they failed to show forth the praises of Him who had called them out of darkness into His marvelous light, and so the narrative is one of sin and failure, and the necessary chastening of divine judgment which results from it.
In Deuteronomy, God’s purpose is further seen. He Himself not only gives the history, as in Exodus and Numbers, but goes over it, reviewing it with His people and gathering the special lessons which He would impress upon them.
Thus we see that a manifest purpose is running through the entire Pentateuch. Its object throughout is to show the parallel lines of divine and sovereign grace and human responsibility, each leading, and as we know converging, as they must, on to that Cross which proved the utter failure of man in responsibility, and the grace of God which meets him there. This must still be worked out in the successive books of the Old Testament, but its principles are opened up in the Pentateuch.
4. The Method of the Pentateuch.
We have already anticipated something of this part of our subject in what we have said about the divine purpose which evidently runs through the entire five books. A few further thoughts, however, will not be out of place in connection with the method of presenting the thought of God which we have here. In looking at the significance of numbers, we have already seen that each of the first five has an evident spiritual meaning. We need not be surprised, therefore, to find that where the five great truths which are to be before us in the Pentateuch are brought out, God should put each subject under its appropriate head. There is a method here which corresponds beautifully with God’s revelation of Himself.
Man is a reasoning creature, and in proportion as his mental faculties are under control, he will express his thoughts in a systematic and orderly way. They will not only be distinguished the one from the other, but will be presented in a cumulative way, so that the effect of what he has to say will be increasingly greater as his thoughts go on toward the conclusion. On the contrary, where there is indefiniteness and lack of purpose, the thoughts will wander in a loose, aimless way — many useful and true things may be said, but they are disjointed and we never know whether we are at the beginning or the end. No definite conclusion is reached, no great lesson is inculcated, no appeal to conscience, heart, and will, can be made with all the weight of what has been increasing in volume from the beginning to the close of the address. If this is true with regard to human works, shall we expect to find aimlessness, vapidity or deviousness in the revelation of God? If the Holy Spirit has been at pains to make the revelation, inspiring every jot and tittle of it, shall we not do Him the honor to believe that He had a dine purpose at the beginning? that each portion of narrative, type, revelation, individual history, national development, all followed one upon the other in ever increasing clearness and conclusiveness? While this is true of the Pentateuch as a whole, and is sufficient answer to the question why it is composed of five books, we can dwell a little longer upon other thoughts of the divine work.
Great simplicity characterizes it throughout, and this is particularly manifest at the beginning, where the human race is seen in one sense in its infancy. The narrative is brief, clear, and all the more definite because of its vivid, pictorial character. Special truths are connected with the lives of special individuals. No doubt there were men of faith before Abraham, even as Hebrews 11 would show us, but God links with the life of each character of His people some one feature which stands out in special prominence. This method is so admirable that we pause only to admire it. Had He dwelt upon the faith, for instance, in Enoch, and given us further details of his life, or some other antediluvian, our interest would have failed before we reached the special character in whom these traits were to be brought out in their fullness.
Let us notice, too, the beautiful method in which the narrative passes from biography into history. The second half of Genesis is biographical, and of intense interest. Already, however, in Joseph, we find a link with the Egyptians, which shows a broadening out of the narrative, and prepares us for what we find in the opening of Exodus. We do not yet, however, see a nation, but rather a race, a family of Israel, subject now to the oppression of the Egyptians. The narrative goes on in the simplest way, with the biographical details of the life of Moses, linking with the men of faith who preceded him, but with a character of work peculiar to himself, and which necessarily lifts him out of the intense individuality that marked the patriarchal biographies, into headship over a nation.
Thus, amidst the throes of persecution and affliction, a nation is born — beautifully typical of the latter day glory, when a nation shall be new-born in a day, and out of the affliction and bondage of the Great Tribulation, look with faith upon Him whom they pierced and rejected, and find in Him their Deliverer.
So, we find ourselves now in the full flow of a national history, a race no longer of bondmen, but of Jehovah’s freemen, who have been raised to the dignity of a nation before Him. It is fitting then that, as such, laws should be given to it, and a great national ideal be established, at which they are ever to aim. Here, as already intimated, we have the parallel lines of divine purpose and human responsibility, and much that needs careful attention if it is to be rightly understood. We speak here of the giving of the law as a historic event. In our detailed examination of the book of Exodus, we will note the distinctive lessons in connection with it. We speak now simply of the method of the inspired narrative, which brings us thus into consideration of the national constitution and the enactment of those laws which characterize the books of Exodus and Leviticus, and, with the explanations already given, Numbers and Deuteronomy as well.
The manner of closing the entire narrative is grand in its simplicity. The wilderness has been traversed, and the people are at last gathered on the banks of the river Jordan, looking forward to soon entering upon the possession of their inheritance. Moses, their aged leader and lawgiver, with eye undimmed and natural force unabated, gathers them about the Lord, to recount His ways of faithfulness, mercy and greatness, and press upon them the lesson, which surely they should have learned ere this, of their own waywardness and the need of a special fear of the Lord, if they were to enjoy the blessings into which they were so soon to be brought.
The time covered by the entire book of Deuteronomy is probably only a few days. It is doted largely to this review, together with certain special laws adapted to the occupation of the land of Israel’s inheritance. It closes with the most solemn and dreadful warnings against disobedience, together with promises for them if they walked in the fear of God. Then, with prophetic eye, sweeping the future beyond the immediate horizon, beyond all the certainty of failure and departure from God and all else, the seer reaches on to that time when God will yet have His way, and they shall be brought in peace and enduring blessing into the enjoyment of that heritage which now was, because of their unfaithfulness, to be but a temporary and partial thing. The prophetic song and the final words of blessing having been spoken by the lawgiver, he lays down his scepter, committing the leadership to him whom God had chosen, and passes out of sight into a better country, that is, a heavenly.
Thus the method of the book, a blending of biography, history, law, type and prophecy, results in the most complete and resistless argent for the faithfulness and goodness of God and the blessedness of obedience, with the necessity of faith, together with the glorious truth that mercy will end in triumph, and that in the hands of Him who was separated from His brethren, the true Joseph, the nation as well as all His people in heaven and in earth, will be brought into eternal blessing.

Part 2: The Books in Detail

WE have now reached the point when we can without distraction take up each book and seek, as far as we are able, to gather its contents in some systematic way. We have already, once and again, anticipated this in our different surveys of the Pentateuch as a whole; but here our object is to seek with some measure of fullness to examine the contents of each book, and see their inherent character, as well as the suitability of their position in connection with what precedes and follows.

Chapter 1: Genesis

1. This book is divided into two parts; and indeed we might say the entire Bible falls into these divisions: First. The origin of the universe, the earth and man (Gen. 1 and 2).
Second. Salvation through the woman’s Seed, illustrated in the life of faith (Gen. 3-50).
The first division stands by itself, distinct from the entire word of God, we may say, except in its typical character and in the final fulfillment which we find in the closing part of Revelation, where the new heavens and the new earth take the place of that which had been marred by sin.
This first division sub-divides into two parts:
(1) The origin of all things as created by God (Gen. 1-2:3).
(2) Man in responsible relationship to God (Gen. 2:4-24).
Sub-Division 1. (Gen. 1-2:3.)
The first sub-division has again what we can hardly call a new division, but something that should at least be noticed. The first verse evidently stands alone in its statement. It is not a part of the first day’s work, but rather a statement of the abstract fact of the creation, in this way introductory to the entire word of God; and more particularly introductory to the seven days which follow. Bearing this in mind, we will make no further division of this portion, but speak of this introductory statement.
We are not told here of the method of divine creation. How could we enter into that method by which Omnipotence expresses itself? Science tells us of unlimited periods of time in which the earth has passed through various stages of progress. Faith has endeavored to link these with the periods suggested in the seven days. Of this we will speak a little later. Just at present, it is well to remember that God’s first statement of creation has no modifications. He does not speak of time or methods, but simply of that omnipotent act by which all things were brought into existence.
The second verse need not be taken as describing the necessary condition of the universe after its creation, but a state into which it fell through causes more or less clearly understood. A passage in Isaiah 45:18 tells us that God did not create the earth “without form.” This may refer to the ultimate outcome of the new creative work, which we see in the preparation of the earth as the abode of man. It does not necessarily mean that the earth did not pass through successive stages, thus gradually reaching its present condition. What is dwelt upon in the second verse, however, is the fact that after the original creation in which all things were brought into being, the earth was in a condition of formless chaos. It has been the custom, and we think rightly, to say that in this general statement we have abundance of room for the vast geological ages which a careful study of the earth calls for. We need not think of the first act of creation being futile as to the earth on one side; nor on the other, look for a primeval state of order which was later followed by chaos as the result of some untoward event.
Before going further, we must say a word as to the spiritual and typical meaning of this chapter. We speak for those who are prepared to receive the evident truth that we have many types throughout the word of God. Few indeed are those literalists, if any, who would deny that the ark is a type of salvation through Christ; the Passover lamb, of shelter from judgment through the blood of the Lamb of God, and so on. Indeed, Scripture itself applies these and many others. We cannot here argue the question, which will come up in another connection for more direct treatment in the handbook on “The Types of Scripture.” The interpretation must justify its own truth; and without further argent, but remembering what we have said of the definite purpose of God in this narrative, we will proceed to speak of the typical application of the seven days.
We have, first, of course, the literal meaning of the narrative, and then two or possibly three typical interpretations of it. The narrative itself is not, as we have already suggested, an amplification of the statement of the second verse, “The earth was without form and void,” but shows how God laid hold of that waste condition of the earth and brought it up into its place in successive stages of divine work of creation. The study of nature and of Scripture shows us a close correspondence between the two, and we are not left to our own conjecture that the first creation is a type of the new: “If any man be in Christ, it is new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” “In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” The literal work in the six days is a figure of that work of new creation in the soul, reaching on from its beginning to its completion and the rest of God. In addition to this, God’s ways in the world dispensationally are clearly suggested and illustrated in the successive stages which lead us on to the sixth day. Further, we seem to have here in germ, the biographical history of the entire second part of the book of Genesis in which the cycle is again brought before us.
Lastly, we need not be surprised if we have also an outline of the previous geologic periods of the earth’s history given in the work of these successive days. Truth is, we might say, in concentric circles, and this is justified and illustrated in these few verses at the opening of Genesis. We will therefore speak of these various meanings as we take up each day’s work.
First Day — Light. Science no longer smiles at the thought of light before the sun. The latest discoveries in this department confirm the simple, non-scientific, but not unscientific statement of our chapter. Light is the result of some unascertained motive power, producing vibrations of inconceivable rapidity in the ether which pervades the entire universe. At present, this is connected with the combustion going on in the sun, and indeed with any source of light, great or small. Back of this, however, science demands a further explanation somewhat in accord with that just given. What this mysterious force is which thus puts into motion the waves of ether, it does not say. Faith however, with these precious words before it, has no difficulty. God said: “Let there be light, and there was light.” It is Omnipotence that manifests itself in the all-pervasive effulgence that floods His universe with this manifestation of Himself. “God is light.” How grand the thought, how glorious, how divine! Brooding over a shapeless wreck that welters in impenetrable darkness, God manifests Himself!
We touch so closely here to the great spiritual truth of new birth, that the transition is easily made. Over a wrecked life, lying hopeless in gloom that so far as its own efforts are concerned must be eternal, the Spirit of God in brooding love flashes forth the knowledge of the presence of God Himself: “God, who command the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts.” The light here shows nothing but itself in which God can find pleasure: “God saw the light that it was good.” He can only divide it from all that is not light, calling the one “day” and the other “night.”
In the history of the work of God in the soul, this illumination is often accompanied and indeed marked by the deepest sense of utter sinfulness. God’s presence manifests that as nothing else would. There is, however, coupled with this sense of sin, the light of what God’s grace is, which is prophetic of the work which that grace is going to accomplish in a creation upon which He has now laid His hand. Thus the literal and the spiritual significance of this first day’s work is clearly established.
Dispensationally, it suggests that time when, after sin had brought ruin into the world, we have the light of God’s promise shining over the troubled scene of the earth’s history from Adam to Noah, when the earth was uncontrolled by human authority, and yet faith had the light of God’s promise to guide it ever forward to the good things that were yet to come. Indeed, how beautiful it is to see in this the first of God’s new creation, the pledge of its final consummation. The light of the heavenly city itself is seen in this its first introduction here. It is the pledge of that glorious day when there shall be no night there, when God who is light shall be all in all. This is ever the mark of a divine work. It carries within it the promise and the potentiality of the consummation. When once this is grasped, the feebleness and foolishness of the view that God’s work can fail, that His people must exert themselves or be “cast as rubbish to the void,” is seen. As well might we expect, after the introduction of light on the first day, to find all falling into darkness and ruin. True, the night does come again for a little season, but the day follows, and indeed it is that which is last, for “the evening and the morning were the first day.” So, when we reach the seventh day there is no evening. All ends in eternal light.
No doubt this first day suggests the earliest geologic age — the Azoic, in which nothing was manifested except the light.
In the biographies following, we also have, evidently, the promise as connected with Adam given to our first parents before they were bashed from Eden. Thus it was not into darkness they were banished, but with the light of a promise which would shine more and more unto the perfect day.
Second Day — The Firmament, or expanse, is here seen, which spreads between the earth-heavens and the waters beneath. As yet, nothing is upon the surface of the world except the waters covering all. God makes a division now between these waters and the vapors above. There is marked distinction between them. The waters upon the earth are the salt, bitter waters of the ocean; while those above, though drawn from the ocean, are perfectly fresh. It is beautiful to see how these waters in vast and inconceivable volume are suspended in those “balancing clouds” which lift them above the earth and yet hold them in connection with it, ever ready to pour down in beneficent rain the treasures which they hold. Science here again has ceased to sneer at the wondrous exactness and beauty of all this. It is a true picture of what the expanse of the atmosphere is, a separation between the waters on the earth and in the heavens, not a hard and fast line; indeed, one that can be filled, it may be, with vapor, and yet which in general arches itself above us, making a true separation, as Scripture here describes it.
The spiritual meaning of this is not difficult to ascertain. We saw in the first day the light manifesting an ocean of chaotic ruin. In this second day, we have manifested the separation that exists between the ruin of the fallen nature and the new life which is from God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Here we have the two natures which are in the believer. The fallen one, dead, unproductive, at enmity with God; but lifted up, distinct from this, and yet in connection with it we have a new life which has, we might say, been constructed through divine alchemy from the world, lifted up above it now to control and pour out its beneficence upon the new man, making him fruitful. Fruitfulness is not yet apparent, but God sees the result of His work. If this truth is seen, difficulties otherwise inexplicable are solved. The extravagant claims of perfectionism are seen both to be impossible and unnecessary; while the undoubted presence of evil still remaining in the child of God is fully accounted for. The old nature is not eliminated. It is, however, not that which characterizes the newborn soul.
Further, in their position above the earth, the waters would suggest the supremacy of the Spirit in the life. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh.” “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
Dispensationally, this second day points to the time when God made a separation between the lawless elements of a fallen humanity and those principles of control which one day are to govern all. It was effected, we might say, literally out of the waters of the flood; for, under Noah, we have this elevation of divinely given authority in government over the lawlessness of the human family; and from the time of Noah to the present, there have always been the powers that be, ordained of God, which govern more or less distinctly; and though, alas, with constant admixture of human tyranny and unrighteousness, they yet are evidently beneficent and distinct from the raging waves of the sea, which again and again Scripture speaks of as the lawlessness of unrestrained self-will. This is the dispensational application of the second day.
In the subsequent part of the book of Genesis, it seems to refer more particularly to the life, for instance, of Seth and his family, who are distinct from the descendants of Cain. In Cain, we have the waters beneath, lawless, unrestrained, self-willed, reaching up indeed to the giants, and fathering all kinds of inventions that make life tolerable and enjoyable, while ever away from God. In the family of Seth, we have that spiritual seed lifted up above all this, reaching its climax in Enoch who “walked with God” and who passed into the heavens, for which his new nature had already fitted him.
The geologic period suggested by the second day is doubtless that condition of the earth when its heavily charged vapors subsided more into the water, and a true atmosphere, not exactly as we know it now, but quite similar, was established, in which the vast waters above the world were separated from those beneath. This touches so closely on the literal narrative, that there can be no difficulty in understanding it.
Third Day — The Earth. Here at last, the dry land emerges from the sea. The waters are gathered in one place, forming indeed by far the larger part of the surface of the world, and yet giving place to the dry land, which soon begins to smile with its coat of many colors in grass and flower and fruitful plant and tree.
There are thus two parts to the work of this day, both of which are pronounced “good.” This gathering of the waters into their own place marks the great epoch of the earth’s history in which we still are. With the exception of the flood, when all was temporarily submerged, the dry land has ever appeared, and, as we have already seen in connection with the waters above the firmament, given character to the surface of the earth. It will be noticed that God’s work from the beginning was of a separative character. Light was separated from darkness; the waters above the heavens from those death, and here again the dry land is separated from the engulfing waves, which prevented its manifestation.
Applying all this to the history of the new creative work, the meaning is beautiful and clear. God’s gracious work is of this separative character. The light of life is separated from the surrounding death. The new nature is distinct from the old, and this new life is now to manifest itself in the earth as well as above it in a way that shows its power. Thus the “dry land” appears.
It will be noticed that this takes place on the third day. “Three,” the number of manifestation, of divine fullness, and thus of resurrection, suggests the power of the new life manifested as a true resurrection. It is in connection with this that the fruits of the new life make their appearance. And how beautiful are these fruits! If the earth would be unsightly without its grass and herb, its tree with blossom and fruit, how desolate too would appear a life in which, while it was the true work of God, there was no fruit for His eye to rest upon! Indeed, this would be impossible, and so we find that the fruit is closely connected with the emergence of the dry land.
Space will not permit more than this glimpse at the fair field of the new creation. May it be ours to witness more and more the reality of that life which now is manifested: “Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
Dispensationally, the third day speaks of the emergence of a nation from the surrounding heathenism which supervened so soon after the flood, and which took its place definitely as such when Israel entered into the land. This marks an epoch in God’s dealings with the world. Noah and his successors give us the second great period of human government, but from Abraham on, and as we have said more particularly in the Jewish nation in the land, we have a distinct separation between the earthly people of God and the surrounding nations. This people was formed to bear fruit for Himself. God brought a vine out of Egypt and planted it in a fruitful hill. He looked that it should bring forth grapes. This was His purpose. We see indeed the fruit in the life of every man of faith from Abraham on to Samuel, David, and the prophets, with countless others who were “the quiet in the land,” and yet who presented many a modest flower or luscious fruit to the eye of God. Alas, the nation as a whole brought forth wild grapes; yet the purposes of God were established and manifested, as was just said, in the life of individual faith. Thus the third day, dispensationally, speaks of the time from Abraham to the coming of Christ.
In the biographies of the book of Genesis, we can scarcely fail to see that Noah, emerging with his family from the flood, would speak of this period when the dry land appeared. God establishes a definite testimony upon the earth which, as in the case of Abraham, manifests itself in fruitfulness of life. It has been pointed out elsewhere (see notes in Numerical Bible, Introductory to Genesis), that in this connection, Abraham is linked both with the second part of the third day, as already suggested, and with the fourth, to which we are now coming. This will be noticed as we proceed further. It is simply to be remarked that we thus have for the remainder of the book of Genesis, two sets of divisions; one which makes Abraham a third, and the other, a fourth. This will also give his successors a twofold position, in each of which there is a distinct and appropriate meaning.
In the geologic history of the earth, we have now reached the place where its various strata begin to take permanent place. In the rising of the dry land from the waters, we may have the first appearance of those earliest continental areas as seen in the Laurentian rocks. Connected with these, too, is that character of life which is seen in the earliest forms of algae and other kinds of vegetable life. The periods which are linked with this will give us in ever-increasing measure the establishment of vegetable life upon the earth during the various ages which followed, more particularly the carboniferous, in which vegetation seems to have reached a climax of greatness, thus serving the twofold purpose of absorbing the vast, limitless amount of carbonic acid gas which would have rendered the atmosphere unfit for animal use, and at the same time laying up in store those great seams of coal which were a prophecy of the man that was to come.
Fourth Day — The Heavens. The sun is now seen in its place in relation to the earth; the moon as well. Here again, science adds its assent, which faith had not needed, to the order which suggests that the sun as we know it now had not previously its established and definite place and purpose. Without going too deeply into astronomic theories, it is admitted by scientists that the earth, as the smaller body, might well have taken its form prior to the shrinking of the inconceivably great mass which now forms the sun into that definite body. Be this as it may, there is no question that the narrative, while couched in the language of everyday speech, is strictly accurate. The sun, as we know it now, the great light which rules the day, came into this place on the fourth day.
Spiritually, we have here that which gives definiteness, character, and power to the whole life of the new man. From the beginning, God saw all blessings centered in Christ; but until after He had, not merely appeared upon the earth, but had accomplished by the sacrifice of Himself the great work of redemption, and taken His place in the heavens as risen and glorified, His preeminent position was not seen. It is Christ, the risen man at God’s right hand the One who has sent down the Holy Spirit as His representative and agent upon earth, who is the power of that new life by which we now live to God. “If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” He is the Sun who illumines our day. We have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. He it is also who controls and orders all things; and, as we know, the moon shines with but a reflected light, so the Lord’s people as lights in the world shine by virtue of that light which falls upon them from Christ in glory. The stars show the heavens in their complete order.
In the soul’s spiritual history, all this is most important. We are not merely to be fruitful upon the earth, but be marked as a heavenly people.
Dispensationally, we need hardly say, the epoch which follows after Israel’s national history is characterized by the Sun in the heavens. It is Christ in glory who shines upon this earth, making the present or Church period the most remarkable in the world’s history. This epoch extends from Pentecost on to the coming of the Lord; it is the fourth stage in God’s ways with the world. The Church is seen here as the moon, in one sense, reflecting the light of her absent Lord. It is not a contradictory, though somewhat different thought, to speak of the moon as Israel, and so we find that in their history God made special provision for the blowing of the trumpets on the new moon. The light of the moon wanes as it turns away from the sun, so that at the close of each lunar month there is a period of darkness. Then the new moon reappears, a type of Israel’s shining again, and this is signalized by faith’s recognition of it. The Psalms speak of this, the blowing of the trumpet on the new moon. The longing cry of faith asks Him who is the Sun for Israel to begin this new period: “Turn us again, O God, and cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.” “There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us.”
The present or Church period is the time of Israel’s darkness. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel,” and the vessel of testimony, the lesser light that rules the night of this present period, is not Israel, but the Church.
As to the application to the geologic history of the world, we have evidently now reached the time when the full effects of the shining of the sun introduces those periods when conditions of life began to be similar to the present, the atmosphere purified, and therefore vegetable growth becoming more and more conformed to what we know it at present.
Fifth Day — The Waters. The waters now teem with life, and birds fly in the air. Here again science adds its confirmation, grudgingly enough, but it could not be withheld. The order is evidently the correct one. How beautifully, too, is seen the action of God’s goodness in all this! He first creates an environment in which it is possible for His creatures to exist. For instance, plant life requires the dry land upon which to be established. That, therefore, is first brought up out of the waters. Animals need vegetable food, and this is first supplied in abundance before these creatures are brought into being. God’s whole work, as we have already remarked, is thus ever prophetic of the good things to come.
How blessed it is to be a part even of His material creation, and to find that He never introduces us into a sphere which He has not first prepared for us. It is thus even that the apostle speaks of the good works of the believer. We are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained (prepared) that we should walk in them.” They are made ready to our hand, rather than the result of any effort of our own.
Science, as we were saying, declares that animal life in the waters began before that upon land. The earliest forms of animal life are aquatic, and to this day the waters are the home of by far the larger part, numerically, of all forms of life. The waters still literally swarm with life. The birds also are the first in order of the warm-blooded vertebrates, and those are appropriately in the fifth day.
Spiritually, the sea, as we have already found, speaks of that restless, fallen nature which is in man, and of the world too in which we are, which is like the troubled sea. It is through exercise in connection with the surging and struggling of the old nature that the child of God produces fruit for Him. The tribulations through which he passes in the world, the opposition of evil, the being in the strange element where all is contrary to a life of faith, is the environment in which certain characteristics of the divine life are manifested. “Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience.” It is true in the history of every child of God that the time when he has seemed to be most tried, are the occasions for a special and higher character of spiritual growth than he had heretofore manifested. Just as animal life is an advance upon vegetable, the latter requiring a fixed and quiet abode, while the former flourishes under more adverse circumstances, so the spiritual life is developed in what we may call the more manly virtues, by the very oppositions through which we are called to pass.
Dispensationally, the period which will succeed that of the Church upon the earth is that brief but troublous time which forms so large a part of the narrative of the book of Revelation. It is the time of the Great Tribulation, when the sea and the waves thereof are roaring, and when all seems ready to engulf any testimony for the truth of God. It is out of this fearful time of trouble that the faith of Israel, in the feeble remnant which turns in penitence to God, will reach a definiteness and energy which perhaps were not known even in Israel’s palmiest days. In those days the men of faith frequently were, from their very position, in more or less authority over the earth-power; but during the last week of Daniel, “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” there will be fearful oppression, a time of tribulation such as has not been since the world was, “no, nor ever shall be;” and yet, out of this surging opposition of evil will arise that poor and afflicted people who shall be marked by the faithfulness, for instance, of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and who, though many of them shall be put to death, love not their lives unto the death, and therefore shall receive a better resurrection. Out of this period of turmoil will arise a spiritual life in Israel such as they never had before, a life which in the birds flying in the open firmament of heaven suggests a liberty and a power that augur well for the glories of the succeeding dispensation.
As we have said before, this is both a fourth and a fifth division. Abraham, as we saw, is a third, along with Noah, suggesting the resurrection side of things. He is also a fourth, as showing us the walk of faith upon the earth. He is the true pilgrim, who embodies in himself the characteristics of both the numbers three and four. In his life, he is linked with the resurrection. In his walk, he is linked with the earth.
In this way Isaac is also a fourth and a fifth. In the lowliness and subjection of his life, we are reminded of the place of dependence, as well also of his being a type of Christ risen, the true Sun in the heaven. As a fifth division in the book, it shows us the fruitfulness that comes from his typical death and resurrection. His union with Rebecca follows his sacrifice.
Jacob, in like manner, is a fifth and a sixth, with characteristics of both numbers; the fifth suggesting the exercise and tribulations through which he passed, and the sixth, the victory which God gave him and the deliverance out of all his trouble. His history emphasizes for us the discipline through which the people of God are caused to pass; a discipline which produces in them the peaceable fruits of righteousness. So we find with Jacob personally. It is significant that the tribulation itself is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble;” and, as in the case of Israel, it can also be added: “He shall be saved out of it.”
The geologic periods are now those of the Cenozoic, the earlier Eocene and more recent forms of animal life, the Pliocene, in which life approaches more and more to its present conditions. It is needless to say that during this period, all forms of marine life arc in abundantly full evidence.
The Sixth Day — The Earth Peopled. On this, the last day of the Divine labor, the scene is transferred from the sea to the dry land, and beasts of every kind are brought forth from the earth. Details are not given. There are however, here as everywhere else, suggestive intimations which can be followed out by reverent study. It will be noticed that each creature is “after his kind,” as in the previous days plant and marine animals were similarly created. This establishes the fixity of species. Of course, what these species were is not definitely declared, nor the general limits within which variety might be subsequently developed. As a matter of fact, in many animal species this variety is so great as to be scarcely believable, did we not have the clearest evidence for it. This may give us a hint that these varieties would include many apparently different species. One thing, however, is certain, that “after his kind” puts its stamp of individuality upon each class of plant and animal life. Evolution, therefore, meets with no encouragement from this Scripture, though as we have just said, we must be careful in any reaction from the extreme of infidel theory not to fall into the opposite one of making endless classes. A common unity underlies all animal creation. There are special adaptations in each class for work to be done. Just as distinctly, however, are the classes separated one from the other by barriers which cannot be transgressed.
It will be noted that the work of the sixth day is also divided into two parts, as was that of the third, and the fifth as well, where fish in the sea and fowl in the air are not as closely connected together as our ordinary text would lead us to think. It should rather read: “Let fowl fly above the earth, in the open firmament of heaven.” The second part of the sixth day is doted to the creation of man; and here, for the first time, we have those expressions of the Divine counsel which give us glimpses into the wondrous depth of the ineffable relationships of the persons of the Godhead.
It may be as well just here to remind the reader that throughout the entire first chapter, as indeed throughout all Old Testament Scripture, the name “Elohim” translated “God” is plural, while the verb of which it is the subject is singular. This indicates plurality of Persons, but one God. Here we have the same thought of plurality of Persons taking counsel together. Other scriptures show us that the active agent in creation was “The Word” (John 1:1-3) — the Son, by whom and for whom all things were created. This, of course, does not mean that He was alone in the work, but it was through Him that the full results of the divine counsel were carried out. The Spirit too was unquestionably present, as we read in the second verse of our chapter. It seems suggestive, as we are reminded constantly throughout this chapter, that the work of creation was by the word of God. Thirty-one times is the expression repeated “and God said.” Thus we have not merely the thought of a plurality of divine Persons, but of the Trinity itself — Father, Son and Spirit.
There is an evident pause ere man is introduced into the scene. Of no other creature do we find anything like such language as is here used, although, as we know, he has an animal existence in common with other creatures, and can, as to his material organism, be classified with the rest. There is, however, that which so absolutely differentiates him from the lower orders of animal creation, that he stands absolutely and impassably alone.
“Let Us make man, in Our image, after Our likeness.” This “image” constitutes man the representative of God upon the earth, and the “likeness” shows, as the apostle says, quoting from the heathen poet: “We are also His offspring” — a likeness of moral and mental faculties which give man the capacity to know God and to enjoy Him.
Alas, we are soon confronted with the awful ruin which sin has brought in, and which has stamped ignorance of God upon the very being who was created in His likeness. We know also that man at his best estate is altogether vanity, and that being in honor and understanding not, he is “like the beasts that perish;” for, when he knew God, he “glorified Him not as God,” and thus has fallen lower than the brute creation over which he was appointed as head.
All this, however, would come in later and is aside from the main point here, which is that man by his intellectual, moral and spiritual constitution, is in the image and likeness of God, as in the New Testament he is declared to be “the image and glory of God.” “Glory,” as we know, is manifested excellence. How solemn and amazing is the thought that man was created to be the display, in creature measure, of the excellence and the glory of God. At once, the mind leaps forward to the Second Man in whom this display in its perfection exists, One who was and is “the image of the invisible God,” and who, coming into the creation which His own power had brought into being, takes His place as Head over it, with dominion over all things. This reminds us again that it is Christ who is ever bore the mind of God, and in whom alone His counsels can be fulfilled; of whom alone, in perfection, all that is here said of the supremacy of man is true.
But space does not permit us to enter here into the full discussion of this most attractive and important department of divine truth; we may say, of that which is at the head of it all. It must suffice us to remember that the creation of man thus declares his spirituality, uniqueness and supremacy. Other truths are suggested here which will come up when we speak of the details of the creation as brought out in the next chapter. Male and female remind us of the link between man and other creatures, and suggest that establishment of the human family upon the earth which is in itself a shadow of the blessed companionships in the Divine family and a foreshadow of those companionships in grace which God has established both in heaven and upon earth.
Man, then, is the crowning work of God, and is established over the fair creation which divine wisdom and skill have prepared for his enjoyment.
Passing to the spiritual application of all this in the history of the soul, as has already been said, the mind leaps forward to that day when the Second Man shall be displayed in all His glory, Head and Lord over all things; and associated with Him is a redeemed company which no man can number of those who have been washed in His precious blood and made meet by new creation to be the partner of His glory in His headship over all things: “And gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness (or complement) of Him that filleth all in all.”
Here, then, is the ideal of manhood in the image and likeness of God, an ideal reached alone in Christ, with whom alone His Church could rightly share the place which never could be held by any other than the Firstborn. This already suggests the goal toward which all things tend.
Individually, in the soul’s progress, it speaks of that blessed time, in relation to each believer, as expressed by the apostle: “Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark (or goal) for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus.” No development of character, even of the new man, no fruitfulness of life here, can ever be mistaken for “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” which is the consummation of all God’s thoughts and purposes; thus, most suggestively, the culmination of highest individual blessing merges in the corporate, where each individual will not only be perfectly blessed, but be in absolutely harmonious relationship with the whole family of the redeemed.
Dispensationally, the sixth day points forward to the re-peopling of the world with the nations who shall be brought through the period of trial which shall try all them that dwell upon the earth, spoken of in the fifth day. It is suggestive, thus, of the order and peace of the millennium. Significantly, it is divided into two parts, as giving us the twofold thought of a ransomed earth, which is also under the headship of the Second Man with His bride. As we have it in the last of Revelation, the bride city, the Lamb’s wife, is seen in association with Himself in connection with dominion over the earth. Thus the promise is fulfilled to the overcomer, that he shall with Christ sit down upon His throne and rule the nations.
Coming to the division of the book of Genesis, the life of Jacob, as has already been said, is both a fifth and sixth; the fifth recalling his tribulation, and the sixth the victory which God gives him. His closing days are peaceful, and we see him basking in the honors heaped upon his beloved son Joseph, who thus comes before us fittingly as the sixth, a type of the Second Man, who with His Gentile bride, is placed in dominion over the earth; typical of which, he has been the Saviour through the time of “Jacob’s trouble,” the period of the famine.
As is common in the Scriptures, the lights blend together, and we pass from the exercises of Jacob into the even deeper ones of Joseph, out of which he was brought and placed upon the throne. Here all is in beautiful accord.
Little need be said as to the sixth geological period. We are at last brought into the Pleistocene age and modern condition of things which has gone on undisturbed, save possibly by a glacial submergence, and an evident cataclysm of which there are abundant evidences, showing that a flood came upon the earth after man was established on it.
The Seventh Day. We have thus reached the end of the works of God. “In six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day, and hallowed it.” After labor comes rest. We may say, in the language of man, that God has rested from His works since their completion. He has no longer been putting forth the labor which is suggested in the work of creation. This sets aside the thought entertained by some, of subsequent creatorial acts. Physically speaking, we have been living in the Sabbath of God, so far as His cessation from creative labor is concerned.
Of course this is the lowest view of rest — a view which Scripture does not much dwell upon; for as our Lord said, “My Father worketh hitherto and I work,” which shows that there was still need that His Sabbath rest should be disturbed. We know what brought in this disturbance, and what has started a fresh course of divine labor of a far more toilsome character than the bringing of worlds and creatures into existence. “There remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God” — a rest which they can share only with Himself. This rest yet waits for its accomplishment, when all things shall have been subjected, and when at last the Son Himself shall deliver up all things unto God, even the Father, and God shall be all in all; when the tabernacle of God shall be with men and “He will dwell with them;” when there shall be a new heaven and new earth “wherein dwelleth righteousness” — an infinite advance upon even that reign of righteousness which shall be during the millennium.
Nothing more will then remain to be done. All the purposes of God will have been fulfilled; blessing will have been established, not upon the unstable foundation of the fallible first man, but upon the eternal righteousness and accomplished work in redemption of the Second Man. He is also the last Adam, the head of the redeemed human family, who are the “many sons” brought to glory with Himself.
The Sabbath, thus, is a type of the eternal state. Fittingly, therefore, all lines converge here. The spiritual history of the individual here reaches the same goal as the dispensational destiny of the whole creation, and the very “new heavens and new earth” themselves speak of the bringing in of a new geologic order, which shall not witness of the past throes and convulsions of this poor earth, but rather of a scene of bliss, when the creation itself “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption” and brought “into the liberty of the glory of the children of God;” when the vast universe itself shall be the fitting expression and display of the mind of God; and, even as now the body of man is not only the vehicle, but in a certain sense the expression of his personality, so the whole universe shall be both the vehicle of the display, and itself in a very real way the manifestation of the glory of the Second Man and His redeemed people. For this rest we wait — in divine company with the Father who still looks out upon a seething mass of evil, out of which is emerging, little by little, that which alone can abide, all the rest of which must be forever banished from His presence;―
In company with the Son, who, while now receiving foretastes of the glories of His redeeming work in the salvation of individuals, still waits for that Day when “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied” in fullness, and when that joy which was set before Him shall be fully entered into, the joy of bringing back and laying at the feet of the Father a once revolted but now restored creation, never, never again to rise against infinite goodness, love and blessing; — In company with the Spirit, who from the beginning has been brooding over ruined nature and quickening souls; who has been leading on and on into the ever-brightening light of the coming Day; who is at present dwelling in each believer and also forming the Church, the body of Christ, linking it with Himself in heaven; and dwelling in the temple, the house of God, which is growing up into a completed building, spite of all the failure and ruin which for the time being has come in through the faithlessness of man; but who still yearns and longs for the coming of the Bridegroom — “the Spirit and the Bride say ‘come;’” who will find His rest not even in the millennial period when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea,” but who will at last, with the Father and the Son, enjoy the bliss which His own grace has made possible — the rest of God, in the new heavens and the new earth.
In this divine companionship we wait. Surely, our home, our rest can be nowhere else than there, with the family of God. As we think of this, with all the longing implanted in the heart by the Spirit of God for such a rest, we cannot linger here, nor let the fairest scenes of earth deceive us for a moment, even though a millennium lay before us. We still hear a Voice saying, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest.”
Sub-Division 2. (Gen. 2:4-25.)
We have necessarily somewhat anticipated what belongs to the present sub-division of our subject, which we have entitled, “Man in responsible relation to God;” nor can we dwell upon the details before us as much as we have in our rapid glance at the seven days. Several salient features, however, must be noticed.
First — The Name of God. “Jehovah-Elohim,” translated “the LORD God,” has been taken by unbelief, as we know, to indicate a difference of authorship. It seems strange that sensible men should not have thought of a far more obvious explanation — that here we have a different subject. We can think of a person in two or more different connections. As an official performing public duties, he would be designated, for instance, as a judge; while, as the head of a family, his acts in the home would necessarily not be spoken of as those of a judge, but of a father. Thus, we would not be in the least surprised to read in the biography of some noted jurist, “In this divine companionship that such evidence was not admissible,” and on a succeeding page, when his son asks some favor of his father, to find the same person spoken of as his father. This simply illustrates that of which Scripture is full, a delicate accuracy in the use of the divine titles. It is so with the names and offices of our Lord Jesus, which are never used in a haphazard, careless way.
What then is suggested by this twofold name, “Jehovah-Elohim?” “Elohim” links with what has gone before, and shows us that He who is now spoken of as “Jehovah” is none other than the “Elohim” of the preceding narrative. This establishes a continuity which prevents all heathen thought of a multiplicity of deities with diverse and sometimes contradictory interests.
“Jehovah” is full of the deepest and tenderest suggestions. Etymologically, it means “The One who Exists,” perhaps in the simplest way in which it could be expressed, declaring the eternity of God, in contrast with His entire creation, sentient and inanimate, which is finite. It is the self-existent One, the Absolute, who Himself is the Cause, Author and End of all things; the “Alpha and Omega,” “the First and the Last,” by whom and for whom are all things — the One who “is, and was, and is to come;” the One of whom the Psalmist says, “From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” There is, however, in this name “Jehovah” an etymological suggestion of futurity hinted at by the presence of the first letter Yodh, the New Testament “jot” of Matthew 5. It might be rendered “The One who will be,” as though suggesting a revelation of Himself in far fuller measure than was enjoyed when first His name was declared. Indeed, God reminded Moses that the revelation of Himself as “Jehovah,” in the significance of this name, was something new.
To Abraham, who knew the literal name “Jehovah,” as doubtless his predecessors did, God was known rather as El-shaddai, “God Almighty,” His omnipotent power, wisdom, etc., being suggested; but to Moses, was made known the true, inward significance of the name “Jehovah” as the God of covenant relationship, the eternal and unfailing One who would surely bring to pass all His promises. Thus, He was revealed not exactly “by” His name “Jehovah,” but according to that name. This encourages us to expect a still further revelation of the significance of that title. We are not surprised, therefore, to find that in “Immanuel” (God with us), His name is declared to be “Jesus” (Jehovah the Saviour). Here at last is the full shining forth of that name which God, in the typical salvation of Israel out of Egypt, made known to Moses in part; as He says, His back parts seen, but now to us revealed in all the effulgence of the glory of the moral character of His beloved Son, and in all the wonder of the grace of that redemption which He has wrought for us by His cross. Thus the pledge suggested in the sign of the future is made good, and in Jesus, “Jehovah the Saviour,” we have the full thought of the covenant of God, to whom we have been brought into relationship.
Thus we may well say that the very first mention of “Jehovah-Elohim” has upon it the mark of futurity, telling us that all the depths of that name would not be known until “God was manifest in the flesh.”
Second — “Generations, Toledhoth.” In Genesis 2:4, we have for the first time this characteristic word, which introduces ten more or less clearly marked divisions of the entire book of Genesis. Indeed, these have been taken to indicate certain original documents which go to make up the book, and they are said to show that Moses simply edited these documents, incorporating them into the one book. We have already spoken sufficiently upon this point. We do not believe, indeed, that they necessarily at all indicate separate documents, but rather, as has already been suggested, separate topics.
These “generations” speak of certain moral characteristics of the portion they introduce. The word “generation,” from the root “Yaladh” meaning “to bring forth,” suggests the natural order and relationship and community of character in what is being described. Thus, the first use of the word in the verse we are considering has been taken to look both backward and forward, unlike its use in any subsequent passage, where it has always been placed at the head of the passage introduced. Here it has been thought to refer to the work of the six days as well as to that which follows, the establishing of man in moral relationship to God. We are not disposed to deny this application; we merely suggest that it is not absolutely necessary; but that we may have in the six days’ work that which stands out by itself, and then in the succeeding section we begin that which continues throughout the entire book, the narration of events in their moral order and significance. This we think is rather more in accord with the truth and subsequent use of the expression.
“Generations” then suggests nature, character, and the responsibility that is associated with these. “The generations of the heavens and of the earth” suggests their relationship to dine order and their evident prophetic connection with man, who had not yet been created. This indeed is what immediately follows. Plant life, as has already been said, which would fit the earth for the abode of man when he was brought into it, is spoken of in just this anticipative way. God prepared all things for the future head and master of creation. Then in verse seven, in simple but most dignified manner, we have certain details of the creation of man. He is formed of the dust of the earth, thus linking him, as we have said, with material creation. It does not exactly say, let it be noted, that man’s body was formed of the dust of the earth. His body is a part of himself and cannot be separated from his individuality. This suggests at once the permanence, in some form, of the human body; a permanence which is fully established for His people in blessing by the resurrection of Him who has become the first fruits of them that slept.
As the formation of man’s body links him with material creation, so the breathing into his nostrils the breath of life links him directly with God. He is thus the offspring of God. This inbreathing surely cannot mean of the mere bodily life which man has in common with the beasts. It suggests those mental and moral faculties with which he has been endowed, of knowledge, will and affection, which link him in nature with God. This is a direct, definite act. Many questions might detain us here, the answers to some of which we certainly could not give. It is not amiss, however, to ask these, if in a reverent spirit.
What, for instance, we may ask, exactly corresponds to this inbreathing into the nostrils of Adam, in the case of every person who is born into the world? How is his individuality, personality, imparted to him? In one sense we may say by heredity, which is perfectly true. In another, we must guard against the mere thought of multiplication of the species apart from divine act. While the inbreathing is only spoken of in connection with the first man, yet is there not in connection with each individual that is born into the world something that answers to this unique individuality, this personality stamped upon each human soul? Solemn, in one sense dreadful, that God Himself imparts to every responsible being that which is the pledge and the necessity for an eternal existence of joy or woe unutterable, according to the way he meets the thought of God in grace.
Third — The Garden of Eden. The whole universe, in one sense, is the garden which the Lord has planted; no doubt, in future ages to be enjoyed in the company of the Second Man as He looks out upon that goodly heritage, “the new heavens and the new earth,” which has been given Him to share with His ransomed people, in headship over all things.
In another sense, the whole earth is the garden of the Lord, and during the millennial age it will doubtless blossom as the rose, and be a scene where the Lord God can walk and enjoy counion with His beloved people.
The literal Garden of Eden was, however, a certain portion of the earth prepared especially for the abode of our first parents. Just as the present geologic state of the earth is marked off in separation from all those preceding stages when the earth indeed flourished in all the luxuriance of vegetable and animal life, and yet was manifestly unfit to be the abode of man; so too the present earth, stretching out in its vast extent from pole to pole, was too wide, and we may say, uncultivated an area for the untried human family. What thoughtful tenderness, what goodness and love unite with divine skill, as suggested by the word “planted!” Here we have the first husbandman, none other than the living God Himself, in tender solicitude for His offspring, man His creature, preparing an abode where all that was needed and pleasant for food and for enjoyment would be made ready to his hand.
Our attention is then directed to the two trees which were there: the tree of life, of which little is spoken, for the very significant reason that it was so soon to be forfeited, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This last is distinctly spoken of, and it is just here that the cardinal point is reached. Is man to be simply a child of larger growth, unthinking, irresponsible, without that which will fit him to enjoy communion with God? If so, he cannot be the highest thought or purpose in the Divine mind; just as no father, however much his heart is delighted with his infant child, would rest satisfied with his remaining in infancy. That which is a joy and a delight in the early days of the little one, becomes a sorrow and burden if as the days go on it is seen that its intelligence is limited, its affections similar to those of a domestic animal, and its powers so cramped that it will never, with the flight of years, be anything but an infant. Pathetic indeed are those who thus remain in infancy; a dwarfed spiritual condition, of which the apostle speaks in connection with the Corinthians, who were failing to go on in the enjoyment of their privileges and in meeting their responsibilities, and whom, therefore, he characterizes as babes and carnal, whom he must thus feed with the milk suited only for infants, and not with the food which is the proper enjoyment of the matured man. “Every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” Likewise we may well say, had man been without the responsibilities that flow from a necessary free agency, he would have been a perpetual dwarf, utterly incapable of entering into the thoughts of God, or of answering to that yearning of the Divine heart for companionship with creatures who were capable of entering into His desires, purposes and affections.
Thus the tree of knowledge of good and evil was no arbitrary or cruel test applied to an unsuspecting, guileless being. It was absolutely essential, if man was to be man in any true sense of the word. He was to be bound to God, not by the rigid links of a blind necessity over which he had no control and to which he could not say aught. He must be left to the exercise of the freedom of a will which separates him from the beasts about him. These indeed may and do act in accordance with the instincts implanted within them, may devour flesh or feed upon the herb according to their natural endowment, but they are irresponsible because devoid of that individuality and freedom of will which distinguishes man from them; for, as a matter of fact, it is not merely reason which distinguishes man from the lower animals, but that moral endowment which enables him to choose, which makes him to a certain degree the master of his surroundings and of his future.
Solemn and dreadful thoughts cluster here. We may easily, especially under the leadership of “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” ask why God has brought such creatures into being, why He has endowed man with free agency, knowing that he would abuse it and forfeit the blessing connected with it? Our one and all-sufficient answer is, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” “Hath the clay power to say to the potter, Why hast thou made me thus?” Intelligent faith is content to bow and accept absolutely what God has done as perfection. Nay, more; as we have already suggested, we can even now understand the necessity of man being what he is. We can thank God for the creation of beings whose destiny to a certain extent is in their own hands, even though the fall has come in; for this very fall has been the occasion for the establishment of a relationship in grace with the Son of God who became flesh, a relationship which does not rest upon an untried, if unfallen, creature, but upon the eternal God Himself, who has in grace linked Himself with flesh and blood; and in the perfection of a will as free as that of Adam, and yet eternally incapable of evil or disobedience, yielded Himself up without spot to God, in obedience unto death, that He might bring us to Himself, not as unwilling captives, nor in the perpetual infancy of a dwarfed humanity, but with the full intelligence which goes on developing in ever greater measure — of intelligent, moral, responsible free agents, whose joy it is to recognize their absolute dependence upon perfect grace and almighty power; who never again will dream of a freedom apart from God, and who will sing in the joy of new creation bliss, “We know no higher liberty than that of being bound to Thee.”
Man, therefore, must be tried, must be left to himself to decide the momentous question, Is God God for him; and is he the creature dependent upon and obedient to every command of that God? And yet how carefully God hedges about His creature from anything that would encourage him to depart from the simple path of obedience! About him, all speaks of the goodness, care and kindness of his Creator. The Garden of Eden in which he is lacks nothing to make it a place of sweetest joy; his companionship with an equal, yet dependent fellow-creature who shares in his thoughts, enjoys and reciprocates his affection, and is the companion in the highest sense of all that is noblest and best in him, is a safeguard which cannot be overestimated. There is not idleness in the garden, but the fullest opportunity for the development of all his physical and intellectual powers. He is not merely there to enjoy, but to till the garden, to keep it in order, as well as to partake of its fruits; thus, by implication, to understand the endless variety of plant and tree and fruit spread out before him, to find his tastes cultivated, and to see a link between the tiniest blade of grass beneath his feet and the almighty Creator of the universe above him.
So also with the animal creation. He is established as its head, and must use his intelligence to recognize the various classes into which the animal world was divided. All of this suggests not toil and weariness, but an activity of body and mind, while the affections, as we have already said, go out to a companion who is an equal, immeasurably separated from the brute. Above all, the Lord God is present, in some way making known His will and His command; and, as a little later we see Him walking in the garden in the cool of the day, it suggests, in some measure at least, a communion with the creatures whom He had formed.
Notice, there is but one command given. Man is not confused by a multiplicity of prohibitions, nor burdened with a load of work to be done. As we have said, that work is rather suggested than put into his hand, save that he understands it is his duty. But the absolute command of God is centered in one single word. Neither is it something hard or difficult to understand. It raises but one issue; that is, obedience. One command will do this far more effectually than ten, and in the very fact of being one, concentrates all obedience upon a single point. No room here for forgetting or giving undue emphasis to one command over another. Likewise with the consequences of disobedience, these are not enlarged upon. There would come, of course, the forfeiture of the garden; labor would be changed into toil and the sweat of the face; sorrow, trial of every kind would come in, but these are not mentioned. One solemn, awful, final result will come from disobedience — death. There is to be no further trial, no other opportunity. The whole fabric of the first creation rests upon this one pivotal point. If man fails here, the whole structure comes crashing down, and in his disobedience of this one simple commandment, we see the ruin of nature, the crash of worlds, the very lake of fire itself, and the rolling together of the heavens with a great noise. All is blackness where the creature is disobedient.
Space remains only to notice that the Garden of Eden — the paradise of man — is a type, as has already been said, of the Paradise of God, the final dwelling place of redeemed men. The first paradise is evidently a type of the last, and so referred to in the book of Revelation where we cannot fail to see the correspondence between the two. The two trees, of which we have already spoken, together with the river flowing out in its four branches in every direction, and the presence of jewels and gold, all speak of the joy and blessedness of the eternal state. There is but one tree in the midst of the Paradise of God. We may say the tree of knowledge of good and evil has been merged into it through that other “tree” upon which our Lord bore our sins in His own body. That indeed was where good and evil were fully manifested — all of the evil of Satan’s malice, of man’s rebellion and hatred against God, but the good of His love, of the sinless obedience unto death of His Son, through which the very evil has but furnished the occasion for the display of the good. Truly it is “of death and life the tree.” Thus in the midst of the Paradise of God nothing is left but the tree of life, which in itself witnesses to the eternal triumph of good over evil, and which in its twelve manner of fruits suggests the endless fullness and sweetness of the results of Christ’s death and present life for us.
It has been suggested that in the tree of knowledge we have typically parental overnight and divine control, pointing to the Father; while the tree of life similarly reminds us of the Son, and the flowing forth of the river of water of life speaks of the Spirit. Thus the true God is manifested, which is surely true when we think of the final Paradise. How sweetly, too, does the river remind us of that fullness of the Spirit which shall flow forth from the throne of God and the Lamb throughout the whole creation! No part will be unvisited then; and even now how good it is to trace the flow of that river of water of life from its source in God, springing up in the heart of each believer, a well of water, flowing forth in rivers of service and refreshing in this earth until it is again merged into its own native Source at home!
Heaven is described as a city of gold and jewels, just as here we have the gold of the land of Havilah which is “good;” bdellium and the onyx stone, precious jewels, foreshadows of that final display when God at last shall be free to let shine forth all the effulgence of His glory to His ransomed creatures. Here also we find the bride, the Lamb’s wife, of whom the first bride was a type. We merely mention the deep sleep from God which fell upon Adam — the very death of Christ is looked at as from the hand of God rather than what the malice of man was permitted to accomplish. Out of that death is fashioned of Himself a new creature, to be the companion, the bride of Him who “loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
We have dwelt at greater length than was intended upon this earliest portion of our Bible, and even now must leave it with what is still a meagre notice of its wondrous fullness of detail. This will suffice, we trust, at least to incite to a livelier interest in this portion of God’s word, and stimulate to that reverent and believing search which is always rewarded.
Division 2. (Gen. 3-51).
Salvation through the woman’s Seed, illustrated in the life of faith.
We pass now to a more rapid glance at the second portion of Genesis, which includes the remainder of the book.
We reach an absolute division in the third chapter. A breach has taken place between man and God, as complete and absolute as it could possibly be. Death is stamped upon the first creation — a death which, while physical, is also moral, and points forward to the second death, unless there is a sovereign intervention in grace.
This whole second part of Genesis has been divided into seven different portions, and at these we will look briefly.
Sub-Division 1. (Gen. 3.)
Life in a Scene of Death. It is blessed to see that parallel with the fall, we have the grace of God working from the very beginning, and it is this which gives character to all subsequent revelation. We may be sure if there were nothing but darkness and evil to be recorded, without hope of deliverance, God would not have troubled Himself to have given us an inspired record of the corruption and rebellion of the human heart. This may suggest why we have so little about the serpent, and indeed why, throughout Scripture, we have but glimpses of Satan’s previous exalted position and privileges from which he fell by pride. God gives us just sufficient to show the hopelessness of persistent and defiant sin, in order that we may turn from it unto Him through whom deliverance is accomplished.
Satan is not permitted to assail us as a superior, but must come in the form of one of the lower creatures which has already been put under the dominion of man. Whatever influence he has must be of a moral character, rather than by overpowering will. He approaches the woman, the one who had been put in the place of dependence upon her husband, and whose highest happiness was to defer to his judgment and to be subject to him. The springs of departure from God are suggested here in the alienation, though all unconsciously, of the woman from her husband. She is deceived, is encouraged to use her own reason and judgment, and in doing so falls under the power of the enemy’s deception. The man apparently is with her during this trial, and instead of resisting for her, suits to her leadership, taking, as we are distinctly told in the New Testament, not because of deception, but intelligently, that which he knew was in absolute disobedience to God. Satan is a liar as well as a murderer, and he misrepresents God entirely, insinuating doubts of His goodness and a denial of His truth, with an intimation that man can reach a plain of equality with and independence of Him.
Who that reads this narrative and knows his own heart, can fail to see the divine accuracy of all here? Although we have not sinned “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” we have been inoculated with the virus of his sin, and, alas, are quite capable of recognizing in ourselves that distrust of God, that doubt of His goodness and that unbelief in His righteous retribution which marks the entire fallen human family. We see the blind, deceived heart, as the apostle says: “We ourselves also were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived.” We see the ambition to be equal with God, and, alas, we see too that open-eyed clinging to the creature rather than the Creator, even when we know that the end is destruction. Truly, the fall is with us yet in all its awful consequences, intensified by the very multiplication of detail in both the individual and humanity at large. It surely is nothing but willful unbelief that closes the eyes to the inspiration of these few verses which record the fall.
God comes upon the scene. Oh, how blessed it is to see that in the midst of the shame, the ruin and havoc of sin, God has come down! In this we have in type the incarnation of the Son of God, who “was manifest in the flesh,” “God with us,” “to seek and to save that which was lost;” for evidently it is upon no errand of vengeance that the infinite God enters the garden, that He calls aloud to our terrified parents who shrink and hide in vain amidst the trees; that He probes their hearts and consciences and brings from them the confession of their shame and of their sin.
The whole story is brought out into the light. It is not glossed over. The man’s accusation of the woman and implied reproach on God Himself for giving her to him is not allowed to cloud the true point at issue, which is disobedience to God. The women in vain casts the responsibility upon the serpent for deceiving her. Upon the serpent there can be nothing but judgment; yet out of this judgment, in the Seed of the woman who was deceived, comes the promise of One who should crush the serpent’s head and gain the victory over him for the fallen sons of men. Here we have the cruse of salt placed at the fountain-head of the bitter waters of sin, a pledge that the very source of evil shall be purged and the author of it eternally judged.
There can be no doubt that our first parents received the promise of life in connection with the judgment of their sin which had brought in death. The promise of the woman’s Seed is given in connection with the serpent’s judgment, and Adam calls his wife Eve, “life.” How beautiful that faith can thus rise into the thoughts of God and see a life given to the very one in connection with whom death had come in! She is the “mother of all living,” not only the entire human race, but particularly of Him who was “made of a woman,” the true Seed of the wan who has life in Himself and who gives life to every one that believeth on Him.
So also in the coats of skin which God Himself provided, necessarily through the death of the animals whose coverings had been taken, we see provided a divine covering through the death of a Substitute. The fig leaves of human righteousness, all forms of religious expedients, are futile; but who can say aught to those who have been clothed by God Himself? Surely, we see here the joy of the Father as He says,
“Bring forth the best robe and put it on him.” Thus we have in this chapter the overthrow of Satan, the giving of life, the provision of a perfect righteousness, all through the death of the woman’s Seed.
Of the governmental consequences of the fall we need not say much. Grace does not set government aside. The garden has been forfeited and our parents must be thrust outside, while the cherubim guard the entrance to that forfeited paradise. How good it is to remember that those cherubim — as seen in the tabernacle — have their attention riveted upon the mercy-seat and the sacrificial blood sprinkled thereon, which speaks of righteousness fully met, so that man is introduced into and welcomed by the very righteousness of God, not back to his forfeited inheritance, but to an infinitely better one, the paradise of God!
Outside, man must now bow to the pressure of the load which he has put upon himself. His life is to be one of toil, a toil which is indeed a blessing in disguise — for what can be worse for fallen man than to let his heart feed in idleness upon evil? — while the woman in her sorrow and pains is ever reminded, not only of her sin, but of Him, who through a deeper sorrow and pain, is going to deliver her from the results of her evil. Thus at the very outset is implanted in the bosom of the woman that desire for the promised Deliverer.
Sub-Division 2. (Gen. 4 and 5.)
The two Seeds, the Flesh and the Spirit. The two lines of evil and of good, of nature and of grace, are now laid down before us in the contrasted seeds of Cain and Abel succeeded by Seth. The first son is the child of nature, and has in him only instincts of the fallen creature; while the second, Abel, by his name, “vanity,” suggests the sense of nothingness which is the precursor of the knowledge of grace. The two men are distinguished by the character of their offerings. Cain ignores the curse which has come upon the earth and presents the fruit of his toil to God; while Abel presents that which God had so evidently revealed in the coats of skin, a sacrificial substitute. He is saved on the ground of his gifts, while Cain is rejected for what he was. The enmity comes out, and the first recorded sin, after that of our first parents, is murder, as though God would show how every form of evil is immediately due to the original disobedience.
The incorrigible nature of the flesh is here seen; Cain goes out from the presence of the Lord professing that the burden of punishment is greater than he can bear, yet builds himself a city, makes himself a name, and establishes the whole order of civilization which has gone on ever since. This is the “way of Cain,” the way of the flesh. It begins with the denial of sin, a refusal of the sacrifice, and goes on to stain the earth with innocent blood, and to surround itself with comfort and pleasure away from God.
God raises up another to take the place of Abel; in Seth and his seed we have the line of faith, which is brought out in the succeeding chapters.
We do not dwell here upon the significance of the names of these descendants of Seth. unquestionably, all has meaning, and in its very brevity is pregnant with many suggestions. Enoch blossoms out in the midst of the genealogy which records death, and shows the presence of that life which triumphs over the very presence of death. We see in him the fitting result of being sheltered by the blood of the sacrifice.
Sub-Division 3. (Gen. 6-11:9.)
The flood and the new world established. The flood gives us God’s judgment upon the line of Cain, together with all that is mixed up with it. It shows us also the end of the course of this world and the necessity for inevitable judgment upon man who is away from God. At the same time, we see the provision of grace again in the ark, a type of Christ, wherein is safety not only for the chosen seed of Noah and his sons, but the material for the restoration of things upon the earth after the flood has gone. We have here a type of the Great Tribulation, with provision for the introduction of blessing during the reign of righteousness over the earth in the Millennium.
Human government is now established; a government, alas, which shows its incapacity, not in the authority which has been bestowed, but in the feeble hands to which it has been entrusted. Noah fails to govern himself, and thus becomes a type of the failure of all government, an intimation, however, that One is coming who shall reign in righteousness and bring blessing through His reign.
The nations are here seen established after the flood, and in Babel we have again the rising of human pride and ambition, which will assert itself in the imperial idea which has ever since allured man onward in the path of ambition. Nimrod with his Babel tower seeking for universal rule, only finds the discord which pride brings in, whether in the family, the professing church, the community, or the world at large. The nations are scattered, and the whole history of the world since that time has been an illustration of the same principle — pride and ambition, only bringing the confusion of Babel.
In Noah and his descendants we have the world at large with its national sub-divisions and groups, marked not only by geographical and political boundaries, but by racial and linguistic distinctions. In this account we have at once the unity of the human family recognized, with its diversities explained. The study of language itself indicates this. There is evidently underlying all human speech, to be traced with greater or less clearness, a common mother tongue from which the others have sprung. The interesting researches of comparative philology bring this out and show an essential bond of union between the great eastern and western families of languages, which becomes more and more clear as we look at the cognate groups of those which have been more closely associated together.
The study of language might well form the subject of a special handbook, for the lessons to be gathered from it are rich with spiritual meaning. We dare not begin to speak of what would carry us far afield — how the Hebrew and the Greek are by their very character, structure, etymology and grammar, technically fitted as the vehicles of inspiration for the special portion of the word of God which is given to us in them. If all language is the speech of man, broken, inarticulate, and apparently contradictory — how He who is the Word of God, the true Language embodying all thought in its perfection, is the key which will unlock these mutterings of a disordered humanity and give true interpretations to the longings which seek for utterance from the stammering lips of fallen man!
Sub-Division 4. (Gen. 11:10-21).
The pilgrim walk as seen in the life of Abraham.
We pass from the consideration of the world at large to the elect family. For God is interested in giving us, not the history of nations, but the history of His purposes as worked out through faith. The narrative rapidly narrows down, therefore, to those descendants of Shem, the son of Noah, who are the forerunners of the line of faith of which Abraham is the great head. Evidently, idolatry had taken possession of all. Even Abraham himself seems not to have escaped the universal superstition which had lost the knowledge of the true God. Idolatry is not human ignorance blindly groping upward out of darkness into the light, seeking after the true God, eventually to find Him. It does not represent man with his face to the light groping toward it, but rather with his back turned upon the revelation which he once had, going off to ever-deepening gloom.
Unquestionably, Noah had the knowledge of the true God, and his descendants as well. In Ham we see all the impiety which goes on into godlessness, and fittingly he is the head of the first great civilization after Noah, of the builder of Babel, and the progenitor of the great world-powers of that day.
Japheth wanders off into the Gentile regions, to be heard of no more in connection with God, save as he is brought back in sovereign grace; while Shem (Name) suggests that knowledge of the true God who is revealed in His name, which is preserved by sovereign grace.
Idolatry, therefore, is apostasy. The only development that Scripture records is a development away from God. “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” Notice the order here. Idolatry makes progress, but it is in degradation. First, man who was made in the image of God is deified; then birds of the air, four-footed beasts, down to the groveling, creeping insects, show the progress of degradation. Thus, in the magnificent temples of Egypt, where architecture reached its culmination of grandeur, we have stately avenues leading up to grand temples with their outer court and inner sanctuary, but enthroned in the innermost recess of this magnificence is a hideous scarabæus, a creeping thing, as though Satan delighted to insult God by such a similitude.
It is out from all this idolatry that God in sovereign grace calls Abraham. “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham,” sang unto him: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee” (Acts 7:2).
We will briefly note the various divisions in the life of Abraham exemplifying the full pilgrim walk, as they have been given to us.
1. The call of God and the obedience of faith (chaps. 10-14). Faith ever separates from nature, not necessarily geographically, but in heart. As we saw at the beginning, when God works he effects division; light is separated from darkness; the waters above from the salt waters of death; the dry land from the sea, etc.; and so it is with His work of grace. Abram is called out from his country, where the Shemites dwell, from his immediate family of the Hebrews, and while for the time being he carries his father’s house with him (Terah accompanying him as far as the land of Haran, and Lot going still further), yet eventually he is separated from all that speaks of mere nature. Faith must walk alone with God. He is brought into a land of which he is given none in possession, but all in promise. This shows us the pilgrim character of faith. Outwardly it has nothing in present possession. It looks forward to its inheritance in the future. It does have its tent hover, as we see in Abram, speaking of this pilgrim character, a sufficient if temporary protection; and its altar which shows its access to God and the enjoyment of communion with Him on the basis of sacrifice.
Abram thus comes into the land; but a famine proves too much for his faith, and he passes on down to the land of Egypt where God permits him to see the result of declension in his denial of his wife. Egypt, the world, is no place for faith to settle down in. If it does, it will deny its true connection with grace, the connection of absolute unity.
In mercy God recovers Abram (chap. 13), and he is brought back to Canaan with much wealth indeed, gathered in Egypt, with Hagar also, the bondservant of whom we hear later. Lot has thus far followed Abram; but now at last the test is applied which separates between the two. It is the willing choice of nature to settle down in the fruitful plains of Sodom, where sight finds much to attract, but faith sees only evil. A righteous man himself, Lot loses his testimony because of the feebleness of his faith, and fails to walk in that separation which alone can honor God. He is therefore carried captive by the powers of the world, from which he is only restored by the man of faith from whom he had separated.
Beautifully, in the closing part of this portion (chap. 14), we find Abram brought into counion with Melchizedek, King of Salem, a type of God’s High Priest, who abideth such in the power of an endless life. He it is who blesses Abram and spreads the communion feast of bread and wine for him, while Abram acknowledges his greatness by giving him tithes of all. In the power and energy of the communion thus enjoyed, Abram can face the king of Sodom, the prince of this world with all its greatness, and refuse to take a single thing from him. Has he not feasted in the presence of the King of righteousness? How can he then enjoy the spoils of the king of Sodom?
2. The promise fulfilled to faith (Gen. 15-21). In this portion of the life of Abraham, we have the great example, upon which the apostle dwells in the New Testament, of justification by faith without works. The sentence of death had practically come in upon Abram and his wife Sarai. In view of the utter helplessness of nature, he counts upon the faithfulness of God, who, pointing him to the heavens with their countless stars, declares: “So shall thy seed be.” This is the kind of faith which ever glorifies God, an example for the sinner and the saint. One who comes to God with no righteousness of his own, and who takes His word of promise in the gospels, is justified with believing Abram. It is this which characterizes the household of faith throughout all dispensations. They believe in God against sight, counting Him faithful that promises. This is the general subject of chapter 15.
In the next chapter (16), we see the restlessness even of the children of God, who would seek for fruitfulness apart from His promise. Thus, the bondwoman Hagar is brought in, and we are left in no uncertainty as to the significance of this, from the epistle to the Galatians. The two covenants are here represented, and the word comes as clearly to faith, with reference to the law, as it did to Abram with reference to the son of the bondwoman: “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”
3. The Seal of the Covenant (Gen. 17). This part of the life of Abram gives us the seal of God’s covenant, — circumcision, “a seal of the righteousness of the faith (obtained through faith) which [Abraham] had being yet unsurmised.” It is in connection with this, that God reveals Himself as the Almighty, and renews the promises to Abraham as to the earthly greatness of his descendants. His name is changed from “Abram” to “Abraham” (father of a multitude). The seal of circumcision is typical, doubtless, of what the apostle calls in Colossians “the circumcision of Christ;” that is, it is the sentence of death put upon the natural man. Of course, Israel made a carnal use of this, so that circumcision became distinctively a badge of the first covenant and of the law. If any man be circumcised, “he is a debtor to do the whole law.” But, for Abraham, there was a special significance in the seal of circumcision as connected with his faith in God.
4. The Intercessor (Gen. 18). We next see the man of faith in separation from the world, as to an intercessor for it. The scene is beautiful in its dignity and simplicity. God can humble Himself to become a visitor at the pilgrim-tent of the man of faith, and here He will not merely make known afresh the promises of blessing to faith, but the certainty of judgment upon the ungodly. Faith has ever to hear this two-fold declaration of the divine purpose. It is beautiful to see Abraham in heart separate from all the defilement of Sodom, yet interceding for that guilty place. It is to be noted that God responds so long as His servant pleads.
5. The End of Lot (Gen. 19). We have here a solemn contrast to the simplicity and dignity of the communion of faith. We see Lot, a child of God evidently, one who “vexed his righteous soul at the filthy conversation of the wicked,” and yet who remained a citizen and a ruler amongst them, sitting in the gate of Sodom. With the instincts of courtesy, he finds the heavenly visitants greatly reluctant to accept his proffered hospitality. The contrast with Abram is marked and the reason as well. Here we have no intercession, nothing but the solemn declaration of immediate judgment, the necessity for which is apparent in the manifested wickedness of the men of that guilty place. Lot is saved “as by fire;” his poor wife, whose heart still lingered there, partakes of the judgment which fell upon the ungodly. Solemn warning to all who would linger in heart-fellowship over a Christless and wicked world.
6. In the Philistine’s Country (Gen. 20). We have next Abraham’s experience in the land of the Philistines where, most remarkably, we see the second failure of faith in a most crucial point. How strange — did we not know our own heart and history — that twice, in the same way, the man of faith should act with such contemptible cowardice as to deny his own wife! Hover, the mercy of God is better than the measure of our faith; and Abraham, while the shame of his fault is exposed, is recovered from the snare into which he is fallen.
7. The Birth of Isaac (Gen. 21). Lastly, we have the culmination of Abraham’s life in the birth of the long-promised seed, the child of joy, Isaac (laughter). God makes good His promise, and Abraham has practical proof that it is not a vain thing to count “Him faithful who had prosed.” Sarah too shares in the joy as she had shared in the faith, and the sweet word of praise which she utters may well be taken up by the lips of everyone who knows the spirit of sonship — “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream; then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”
This closes the life of Abraham in its distinctive character. What remains is so closely identified with Isaac, that it falls under that portion the narrative.
Sub-Division 5. (Gen. 22-26:33.)
Sonship in obedience and self-surrender as seen in the life of Isaac (Gen. 22-26:33).
(Gen. 22.) It is very beautiful and suggestive that the first narrative we have in the life of Isaac is connected with his offering up. As an evident type of God’s only begotten Son, it is fitting that this should stand out in the prominence which its position gives.
As has already been said, Abraham is also prominent here. We are engaged both with the surrender of faith as seen in him who would give up his only begotten son as a burnt offering in obedience to God, and the response in that son of meek and willing surrender to the will of his father. Here the veil between type and fulfillment is so transparent that we can easily discern the reality under the figure; and what a view it gives us of the love of the Father, the self-sacrifice which would give up the Son of His bosom to satisfy claims of infinite righteousness and holiness! How, too, we see the obedience of the Son yielding Himself up to be bound with the bonds of obedient love to His Father’s will, to the very cross itself! How the restoration of Isaac from the very dead, “in a figure,” points to the resurrection of the Son of God, which thus confirms “the blood of the everlasting covenant” as the basis of blessing which can never be shaken!
(Gen. 23.) Sarah, the pattern holy woman, next passes from the scene. As the mother of Isaac, she is the type of Israel as the nation of whom Christ came, and who nationally pass out of view. Thus in her death we are reminded of the passing of that which is natural, in order that God may perfect His wondrous plan regarding the mystery which He had kept secret from the foundation of the world, the calling out of His Church to be the bride of Christ.
Before the call of Rebekah is recorded, Sarah passes away. How simple and lofty is the whole scene connected with the burial of this holy woman! Abraham, in all the dignity of his bereavement, would secure even in death that separation from the world which their life had maintained. He would not bury his dead in the choicest sepulcher of the men of the land, for faith looks onward to resurrection and the obtaining of an abiding inheritance. The tomb must be purchased, suggestively with the money later on used as a type of redemption. How good it is to remember that the grave is purchased, and so far from being a mere scene of desolation, the trees with their blossoms and fruits, the blessed hopes and assurances of immortality and a glorious resurrection, flourish around it. So too for Israel, for the present buried, there are still the trees of promise growing all around the field of her burial, declaring that the Lord will yet visit His people, bring them up out of their graves of national dispersion and restore them in blessing to the land.
We are now free to follow the history of Isaac as seen in the calling out of Rebekah to be his bride and companion, taking the place of his mother.
(Gen. 24.) It is most suggestive, as already intimated, that the call of Rebekah succeeds both the offering up and restoration of Isaac as from the dead, and the death of Sarah. The call of the Church, beginning at Pentecost, follows after the cross, where the foundation of eternal blessing was laid, and confirmed in the resurrection of our Lord; Israel, for the time being is set aside as a vessel of testimony. The details in this chapter are interesting and exact. It is the father who takes thought for a bride for his son, even as it was God who at the beginning declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an helpmeet for him.” The servant who is engaged to carry out the will of the father and to bring a suited bride for his son is manifestly a type of the Holy Spirit, who ever hides Himself from view, for it is His one work to glorify Christ and to win souls for him.
The bride must not be an alien, nor taken from those in the land. Our Lord laid not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham; and yet in the call of Rebekah there are such manifest reminders of the ministry of grace which reaches out to those who are far from God, that we cannot fail to remember that while grace first saves and then seals, the two acts are consecutive. The scene at the well, where the fair virgin Rebekah is espoused, reminds us much of that later scene, when another weary Traveler sat by the well and won for Himself the heart of a poor wanderer away from God.
The betrothal and the consent of Rebekah follow, and then her immediate going forth under the leadership of the servant to meet her lord. How suggestive is that word of diligence: “Hinder me not.” So also the Spirit in us would ever say to anything that would detain our hearts upon earth, “Hinder Me not.” Under His blessed guidance we go forth to meet the Bridegroom.
In the next portion we have a brief glimpse of what follows the present or Church period — the blessing to the nations of the earth (Gen. 25:1-18). Abraham’s children through Keturah are suggestive of the Gentile nations as to whom God made promises to Abraham; while in Ishmael we have the figure of the earthly people Israel, in connection with whom those blessings are bestowed.
We follow on now with the life of Isaac, and see it merging into that of his sons Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:59-34). In these two sons we have a representation of the two seeds, with the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. That is first which is natural, “afterward that which is spiritual.” The strange contradiction which the believer finds in his own heart, the conflict of two natures, is here given to us in type, with the promise, thank God, of the subjection of the flesh to the spirit and the ultimate triumph of the latter. In Esau, we see the profanity of nature which despises the promises of God, while even the planning of Jacob has in it at least the redeeming feature of a faith that sets value upon that which God has promised.
In Genesis 26:1-22, the weakness of Isaac’s faith is manifested. He would, like Abraham, have gone down to Egypt in the time of famine, had not God restrained him, and shows a similar weakness to that of his father in the denial of his wife. Together with this, we have the faithful mercy of God which recovers and gives abundant blessing. This portion of the personal life of Isaac closes with the account of his dwelling at Beersheba, “the well of the oath,” where again the Philistines, as in Abraham’s day, are compelled to own his greatness and his favor with God
Sub-Division 6. (Gen. 26:34-37:1).
The discipline and chastening of God, leading on to final victory as seen in the life of Jacob.
In some respects Jacob is the most human of these characters, in whom perhaps we find more that corresponds with ourselves than in the lives of Abraham and Isaac. It has been pointed out that in these three, to whom God gives special promises of blessing, linking His Name with them as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we have a suggestion of the Trinity. Abraham as the father of Isaac suggests as we have already seen, the Father; and in like manner Isaac, the Son in His sacrifice and obedient submission. In Jacob, we have one who is subjected to discipline and sifting, suggesting those exercises which the Spirit of God produces in order to deliver us from the power of the flesh. Thus in his discipline, we have suggested the work of the Spirit, which again is in fitting accord with the Spirit’s self-effacement. He is seen in His work rather than directly or personally.
The life of Jacob may be divided into three main portions, connected respectively with his history in the land (Gen. 26:34-28: 22); his sojourn in Syria (Gen. 29-31); and his recovery to the land (Gen. 32-37:1).
We must look at each of these briefly. There is nothing to attract in the wretched deception itself, practiced upon his blind aged, father by Jacob with the help of his mother. Deceit and falsehood cannot be condoned, no matter by whom practiced, and yet even here, as in the previous case when he defrauded his brother, Jacob indicates that he prized above all things the birthright and the blessing. Esau is a profane man who manifests it in his whole course and in forming those links with the Canaanites which Abraham had distinctly forbidden for his son Isaac. We need not seek to justify Jacob in his deception. He suffers abundant chastening at the hand of God for it, in which his mother shares, being deprived as she was of her favorite child throughout the closing years of her life.
Jacob is obliged to flee from the presence of his outraged brother. In the scene at Bethel we have a beautiful contrast between the grace of God which gives unconditionally, and the results of man’s seeking to obtain the promises in a fleshly way. It is, under different circumstances, a repetition of Abraham’s efforts through Hagar to secure the promise of God. How beautiful is the scene as the poor, homeless wanderer lies asleep with his head upon a stone! God makes His promises unconditional, but Jacob wakes up to add his faithfulness to God’s promises! We feel that it is an intrusion, which God Himself will later eliminate to show that all depended upon Him alone.
The second part of Jacob’s life is spent in comparative exile in Syria. Here indeed he is fruitful and experiences the blessing of God in a remarkable way, while at the same time the chastening of God in government because of his untruthfulness is evident. He is the victim of deception, and finds that others besides himself can drive hard bargains; yet in spite of all this there is a manifest faith which attaches the man to the promises of God. His very prosperity does not cause him to lose sight of this, and when Joseph is born — a type of Christ in a marked and distinct way, as we shall soon find — the longing to be back again in the land of promise where the covenant-blessings of God are to be bestowed, and where God Himself had engaged to give him his inheritance, takes possession of Jacob, and he sets his face, in some little way like Abraham at the beginning, toward the land which God would show him.
The last portion of Jacob’s life is largely spent in the land of his fathers. He too, as Abraham, is to have his name changed; and in connection with this, he is to have an experience of his own nothingness, even as Abraham had learned his, although in the case of Jacob the struggle is pronged.
At Mahanaim, we have most significantly, an apparent duality of interests: Mahanaim (two camps), the hosts of God and his own camp. They are not here identical. The angels may indeed encamp about him and deliver him, but they are external to himself. His brother Esau, also, comes to meet him with a hostile force. Here again there is a division of interests. He then divides his own company into two camps, as though realizing his weakness and inability to cope with his brother, hoping at least that one of the companies may escape. But a further division must take place. He must separate himself from all his possessions, even his family, and is left alone while his entire company passes on before. The division, however, is not yet complete. Jacob must realize that he is not at one with God, nor indeed with himself, and in the struggle which follows we see the efforts of nature to win a blessing for itself by its own strength, until God shrivels all this up, and in perfect helplessness at last Jacob is made to realize that God must be all in all — self, nothing. Thus Mahanaim (two camps), in which diversity, division, alienation and weakness are manifested, is changed to Peniel (the face of God), where all is brought into harmony and blessing because the Lord has His true place. Thus are discords ever overcome by the power of God alone; discords in our own hearts, in our relationship with one another, and above all, in our attitude toward God. It is as we bow and confess our own nothingness, that we become as Jacob, “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” A new name is given. It is the name of victory, a “prince with God.”
Jacob is now in the land, and we find him exposed to the especial danger of Lot. Prosperity is a sore trial to the people of God, more dangerous in many ways than adversity. In his extremity, when apparently bereft of all his possessions, Jacob clung to God; but as he settles down, building booths at Shechem, purchasing an inheritance with his own money, he lays himself open to the shame and humiliation of the scenes that follow, in which his sons again exemplify his own restless energy in taking the case into their own hands, and bring upon themselves the governmental judgment of God which their father pronounces upon his death-bed. If Jacob is to enjoy blessing in the land, it must be on the basis of pure grace; the grace that found him a wanderer and made unconditional promises to him of blessing, is that alone in which he can be secure.
Thus, how sweet and comforting is the word: “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there,” a word for every Christian heart that has in any measure departed from its first love.
As a postscript to the life of Jacob, we have the contrast of Esau, who rises to prominence and earthly greatness while yet his brother is but a pilgrim, dwelling in tents. All this is most significant. We are living now in man’s day, and need not be surprised if the flesh and its works have a place and importance in the eyes of the world far above the lowly pilgrim testimony of the people of God.
Sub-Division 7. (Gen. 37:2-50).
The full display of Christ’s glory following His suffering and rejection as seen in the life of Joseph.
As it was in the case of both Abraham and Isaac, the closing part of Jacob’s life is merged in that of his son. It is significant indeed that the generations of Jacob (chap. 37:2) introduce the narrative of the life of Joseph. God would in this way manifest the unity of that divine life which He has been tracing from its beginning in Adam, and show that in each succeeding character there is an enlargement of what existed in the former one. Thus, in the well-known septenary series of 2nd Peter, it is not simply an addition which is suggested, but each course is to be characterized with the qualities of that which follows. “Have in your faith virtue (or courage).” Courage is to characterize the faith, just as knowledge is to characterize the courage, and so on. Thus, in Joseph, we have, we may say, the outcome of all the exercises through which Jacob passes. If the lesson we learn from him is the nothingness of the flesh, it ends, not in disaster, but rather in the display of Him who takes the place of the flesh. Thus, Joseph from his very position, as the culmination of the whole of the biographies of Genesis, suggests the full perfection which we find in Christ; and we need not therefore be surprised at the marked exactness of the typical features of his life.
There are three main divisions in the life of Joseph, corresponding to a certain extent with those of his father Jacob. For our present purpose we will group the events under these three divisions, without refusing, however, the more exact and complete six fold division given to us elsewhere.
We have:
1. Joseph in rejection (Gen. 37:2-40).
2. Joseph exalted over the land of Egypt (Gen. 41).
3. Joseph’s restoration to his brethren and kindred (Gen. 42-50).
We see him first as the object of his father’s special favor: separated in spirit from his brethren who already look with suspicion upon him, and when sent from the vale of Hebron — a glimpse of the place of “communion” which the Son had with the Father, and from which He came forth into the world seeking those who had wandered from God — his brethren plot against him, cast him out, deliver him to the Ishmaelites, a type so evidently fulfilled in the rejection of our Lord and His being delivered up to the Gentiles, that it needs little comment. In Egypt, under the authority of the Gentiles, Joseph is put in prison, suggesting how, not only His own people, the Jews, but the world itself conspired against our Lord. While Joseph was in the prison, in contrast with his faithfulness and uprightness we have the sin of his brother Judah, bringing out again the lesson which is stamped upon the entire word of God, that human excellence is an empty thing, that we must cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils. It is while in the prison that Joseph is the proclaimer of deliverance to the butler and of judgment to the baker, suggesting how, through the cross of Christ, blessing comes to the believer and judgment to the unbeliever.
In the next stage of Joseph’s life, he is brought before Pharaoh, declares to him the meaning of the twofold dream he had, and outlines the plan for providing for the time of famine which was soon to come. As “the revealer of secrets” and the “Saviour of the world,” Joseph is exalted to the place next to Pharaoh, and in this we see a figure of our Lord’s exaltation after His rejection and death to a place where all things are put beneath His feet. It was here that Joseph received his Gentile bride, as it is in the time of His rejection by Israel that our Lord has given to Him the Church who is to be His companion in glory.
The later and larger portion of the narrative of Joseph’s life is taken up with those touching scenes with his brethren and his father. Here righteousness and faithfulness are blended with love and tenderness in a way which cannot fail to stir the heart, and to give us a glimpse of those divine ways in righteousness and grace in which Christ deals with the sinner, and brings him into His presence forgiven; or, in a national way, how the Lord will deal with Israel and bring them to repentance, and so introduce them into the blessing which awaits them. It is their need which brings Joseph’s brethren to him. The hour of trial which will “try them that dwell upon the earth” is going to test those who still cleave to their national name and claims as “Israel.” It is this which Joseph makes his brethren give up. If they are to be brought into blessing, it is not as those who deserve it, but as those who have forfeited everything, to receive it as a matter of divine grace. Thus, in the latter day, Israel will be brought in upon the ground of the pure, unmerited mercy of God — not because they can claim a right to the blessing as being descendants of the fathers. They come in even as the Gentiles, as we see abundantly illustrated on many a page of history and prophecy.
Jacob’s hopes have centered in Benjamin since the presumed death of Joseph, and with all the fervor of love which cannot sacrifice its last hope, he refuses to put the child of his old age into the hands of this unknown, apparently cruel, and yet God-fearing ruler of Egypt; but he must place, even as Abraham did of old, the child of promise into the hands of God, to receive him back again not merely as he delivered him up, but as associated with his long-lost, but never-forgotten son through whom all the glory and blessing were to be secured. Thus, Israel must sacrifice their national hopes of greatness and glory, as typified in Benjamin, into the hands of a righteous God, and find that these hopes and claims are made good to them through the very One whom they had rejected and cast out. How accurately and beautifully all brings out the ways of God, whether in connection with the individual sinner or with the nation of Israel as a whole.
And so Jacob reappears in prominence toward the close. He is brought down to Egypt, his beloved son is made known to him, and he finds his true victory, not in his own greatness, but in the greatness of Joseph, who cares for him and all his father’s house with a devotion and a wisdom of which Jacob would have been incapable. All this heads up in Christ, who becomes the Nourisher of His people and the Saviour of the world at large, having title to it and to all who are brought through the Great Tribulation into millennial blessing, so that the reign of righteousness which He establishes upon the earth is one in which His absolute claim upon the very persons of those whom He has spared is recognized.
The book closes with the final blessing of Jacob for all his sons, and the scenes connected with his and Joseph’s passing away. In the blessing upon Ephraim and Manasseh we see again that reversal of nature which God constantly emphasizes for us. The younger is blessed above the elder, Ephraim above Manasseh; while in the blessing pronounced upon his twelve sons, Jacob gives us a prophetic outline of the ways of God with Israel from the beginning to the final consummation.
In this recapitulation of Israel’s history, we find the excellence of the flesh set aside at the very beginning. Reuben cannot obtain the preeminence. In Simeon and Levi we have suggested the violence and evil which culminated in the rejection of Christ; while in Judah, we have the coming of the Messiah, who, as the true Shiloh, shall reign; and yet there are intimations of His rejection, and the fact that there must intervene a period of exercise and suffering for the people ere full blessing shall eventuate, in Joseph and Benjamin. Thus we find in those sons following Judah, until Joseph, a submission to Gentile dominance, an apostasy even, with suggestions of the faithfulness of God in preserving His people until, as we said, in Joseph all brightens out again, and Jacob narrates the suffering, the rejection and the subsequent glory of his beloved son, a glory which is linked with the final judgment typified in Benjamin.
Thus we have the whole outline of Israel’s history, and their blessing seen in connection with Judah and Joseph. All centers for them, as it does for us as well, in Him who was rejected and separated from His brethren, but exalted by God.
Thus we reach the close of Genesis. We have the end of Jacob, a beautiful, quiet sunset, so strikingly different from his former troublous life. The aged patriarch can bestow his blessing upon Pharaoh, upon Ephraim and Manasseh, upon his twelve sons, and then quietly bowing his head, as he leans upon his staff in worship, he yields up his spirit into the hands of the faithful God his Saviour.
With this deathbed and that which quickly follows it, the death of Joseph, who can question the reality of the faith in these men of God, which still looked for the city which hath foundations? Both Jacob and Joseph demand that their bones shall be laid in the land of promise.
Both were looking forward to a better resurrection, and in the hope of that, would rest quietly until God should fulfill His every word.
We have now traced the divine life from its beginning in Adam till its culmination in Joseph. If on the one hand, the book ends with a coffin in the land of Egypt, on the other, faith shines out brightly as we see the promises still claimed and held fast to, which shall be fulfilled in their appointed time. We are thus prepared to enter upon a new department of God’s ways, which fittingly belong to another book in this main group.

Chapter 2: Exodus

THE book of Exodus, as we have already seen, recounts the history of the bondage and deliverance of the children of Israel, tether with their being brought into relationship with God as a redeemed people. There are several distinct contrasts with the book of Genesis, suggested in the number and position of the book.
Genesis deals with origins and individual life; Exodus deals with salvation and national, cooperate life. This will appear at large as we make a survey of the book. It is divided into two main parts:
Division 1. God as Jehovah, fulfilling His promises in power and grace (Ex. 1-18).
Division 2. A people redeemed by blood and by power, brought to God and put into covenant relation with Himself (Ex. 19-40).
Each of these divisions contains a number of different subjects which bring out the characteristic thought of each portion. We will look at these consecutively.
Sub-Division 1 (Ex. 1-4:17)
The condition of the people and the call of a deliverer. The narrative is linked with the closing part of Genesis by the repetition of the names of Jacob’s family who came down into Egypt. Next, we have the multiplication of the people from a family into a race. As long as Joseph and his brethren live under the beneficent favor of Pharaoh, who had experienced the blessing of God through Joseph, the people prosper. After that generation has passed away, however, another king tyrannizes over Israel, and we see the smoking furnace which God promised would come in the vision which he gave to Abraham (Gen. 15). There is an evident twofold tyranny over the people. Lest they should be exalted into the place of primacy in the land on the one side, or, on the other, escape entirely and so the Egyptians lose their service, the edict went forth that all their males were to be slain. Thus the nation would be kept in servitude, unable to escape, and yet furnish slaves to do the work of the Egyptians. Their oppression and misery cause them to cry aloud under the distress, while the faith of individuals that lays hold of God and refuses to obey the king’s commandment shows how God works through His people who count upon Him.
The bondage in Egypt is not only national, furnishing the background upon which the entire subsequent history of the children of Israel is projected, but typically shows the bondage of sin under which the whole human race is. Egypt is in a special way a type of the world, in contrast with Canaan the heavenly place. It is an exceedingly fruitful country which is apparently independent of the rain of heaven. It receives its nutrition through the river Nile, which comes to it from the unseen sources far back in equatorial Africa, and which at stated times overflows its banks, spreading fertility and life wherever it reaches. Its river was its god.
So with the world today. Its very prosperity and progress seem, in the eyes of those who are citizens of earth, to be independent of God. “Natural causes” explain all the wondrous progress and prosperity and growth of the human family, so that the world is quite content, in both its business and pleasures, to ignore the God who is so far off that He need not be considered as worthy of regard.
All this strikingly suggests the character of the world and the king who is in it. The principle which controls is clearly seen; a rebellion and alienation from God which refuses to know Him, bringing into bondage the sons of men. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” There is also an active agency, a living person who presides over the whole course of this world. It is Satan, “the prince of the power of the air;” but we do not see him prominently in Exodus. He is rather connected with the power of evil in the land of Canaan; while in Egypt the main theme is the principle of sin which brings men into bondage, and their responsibility as yielding themselves to serve it, together with the grace of God which meets that responsibility and delivers from that bondage.
Satan is, to be sure, the prince of this world, and for that reason we cannot ignore his participation in all that goes on here; but, as we have said, he does not seem to be personally prominent in the types of Exodus.
The elect people of God are in bondage in the world. By their very birth and place in it, they are servants to sin. This servitude, however, while coming from a nature inherited, is also a responsible, because a willing service. The end of all such bondage is death; even the pleasures of sin are but “for a season,” and the solemn sentence, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” and “The wages of sin is death,” remind us of the edict of Pharaoh that all the male children should be cast into the river — an edict which suggests in its cruelty the hardness of the servitude of sin; while back of that is the necessary judgment of God.
A more pitiable condition could not be imagined than the condition of Israel. Their very numbers aroused the fear of Pharaoh; their very abilities only served to tighten their chains more completely. The very development and growth of Egypt under their toiling hands was the pledge of the hopelessness of any escape. So it is as we look at the world today. The increase of population so much boasted in, the development of arts and sciences, the multiplication of inventions, the building of great cities and establishing of vast organizations in the commercial and financial world, all these are so many argents against the thought of God’s intervention for the deliverance of man from the bondage to sin in which he is. The world as constituted cannot afford to release the toiling sons of earth from their bondage. Each must contribute his quota to the building up of that vast system which disowns God and refuses the knowledge of Himself; and yet in the midst of bondage like this, as of old the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters, God still has His chosen people through whom He works. Faith is not altogether wanting, and the very misery brought by the tyranny of sin causes souls to cry aloud, a cry which has reached the ear of God.
In the midst of this scene of wretchedness, we see the sovereign election of God in calling out a deliverer. He is one of the people, who is yet separated from them early in life and eventually returns to them to lead them out of their bondage. The birth, youth and subsequent history of Moses seem to furnish us with a twofold type of God’s ways of grace with the individual soul, but more particularly of Him who is the true Deliverer of the people of God. Evidently, in the birth of Moses and the care which surrounded him, we have illustrations of the sovereign grace of God, and a suggestion of that same providential care which presided over the birth of the Babe at Bethlehem.
For the time, Moses has a home in the very palace of the king, but when of age, refuses all this and identifies himself with his people. His first presentation of himself to them meets with ignominious failure. Evidently, while the desire for their deliverance was working in him, he was undertaking it in his own strength. All of this is personal history, and yet Stephen evidently makes use of it as a type of Christ, who, when He presented Himself to His own people as their Deliverer, was rejected. Indeed, the flight of Moses into the land of Midian is a marked type of the present position of our Lord with refence to Israel and the world. Rejected by His own, He has withdrawn; and during this present period when Israel knoweth Him not, He has, as Moses, found a bride amongst the Gentiles; and those Jews who now come under the grace of God lose their national status; for in Christ Jesus “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” But, like Moses, our Lord will return for the deliverance of His earthly people as Moses returned from the land of Midian and led out Israel.
In the personal side of this portion of the history, we see how God prepared His servant Moses and called him for his especial work. In this, of course, there is no typical application to our Lord. Having proved his own unpreparedness, as well as the people’s, for deliverance, Moses has to learn in the school of God, during those forty years of isolation, his own insufficiency and the power of God. He is brought face to face with Him and learns that God is mindful of His covenant, knows the sorrows of His people, and will send him back as His chosen instrument to set them free and bring them out into the place promised to Abraham.
Moses’ previous precipitancy now gives place to a timidity which would shrink from the responsibility laid upon him; but, at last reassured, he returns to his brethren according to the flesh. God thus manifests Himself in His sovereign grace, as One who is mindful of His promise and can never forget the oath which He made to the fathers.
Sub-Division 2. (Ex. 4:18-11).
The covenant recognized which separates the people of God from the world under judgment.
In the first part of this portion, we again have the covenant recalled and its recognition by the people in a feeble way, together with the tracing of the lineage of Moses and Aaron, the delivers. Thus all is seen to be in connection with the covenant promises of God made to the fathers. It is very significant that the genealogy of the tribes is given only until Moses and Aaron are reached (Ex. 6:26); so Christ is the one object before God, the only Deliverer of His elect.
In the signs given to Moses to show to the people, one of which he also gave to Pharaoh, we have, suggestively, an illustration of the twofold deliverance of the gospel which, if rejected, will be followed by necessary judgment. The rod turned to a serpent and brought back again to a rod, shows that all departure from God results in the dominion of Satan. Sin is thus Satan’s vicegerent; while God can set aside this dominion when He takes His own power again.
Moses’ hand becoming leprous when put next his heart, shows the sinfulness of the heart of man which communicates its defilement to his works. Divine power alone can cleanse the source and thereby render the fruits pure.
In the turning of water into blood, we see that if the deliverance from the power and defilement of sin is not sought, nothing but judgment remains.
This last sign is the first of those ten plagues which fall upon Pharaoh. Each of these is a type of the judgment which awaits the refusal to bow to God. The details of these ten plagues cannot be entered into here, though of the greatest profit and importance. It will be seen in general that the plagues increase in severity until the culmination is reached in the death of the firstborn. They thus suggest the inevitable character of the judgment which awaits the sinner, while the cessation of each stroke intimates God’s willingness to withdraw His hand from judgment, and shows it to be His strange work. Pharaoh hardens his heart not merely by refusing to bow under the plagues, but persisting in his course when in answer to his cry the plague was remitted. Thus, neither the severity of God in inflicting the plague, nor His goodness in remitting it, have any effect upon one whose heart is fully set in him to do evil.
We have, no doubt, in these plagues a foreshadow of those which we find in the book of Revelation, also symbolic, and which point to the time of the end when God’s people, Israel, shall be delivered from the bondage of the rules of this world by the sorest judgments poured upon the ungodly. The plagues, like many of the judgments of God, are not only inflicted strokes, but show the retributive character of indulgence in sin, which brings its own penalty. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee. Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord” (Jer. 2:19). These judgments indicate the course and end of the world, and to those who bow under them, show the utter emptiness of the world to afford any sustenance or shelter. All that is in it is exposed to the judgment of God, and indeed corruption is bred in its most fertile spots.
All nature thus comes under the ban. The river is turned to blood; the means of life and refreshment becomes a witness of judgment (Ex. 7:14, etc.), Out of the river come unclean frogs; the source of refreshment spreads defilement (Ex. 8:1, etc.). The very dust, the soil yielding fertile crops, produces lice, the loathsome corruptions which flourish in connection with the world’s prosperity (Ex. 8:16, etc.). The plague of flies is similar (Ex. 8:20), and shows how all that the world values, if separated from God, will eventually turn into plagues.
Next, the plague falls upon those animals need for the service of man (Ex. 9:1, etc.), while the boils breaking out from the dust of the furnace show that God will leave man to his own corruption if he persists in his rebellion (Ex. 9:8, etc.). If the earth away from God is thus turned into a scene of corruption and desolation, heaven also will frown upon it, and in the plague of hail we see the result of this despising of God. Hail is rain chilled into ice. The very mercies of heaven despised are changed into pitiless judgment (Ex. 9:13, etc.).
The hail had destroyed the cattle which were not sheltered from it. The next plague of locusts devours the growth of the fields (Ex.10:1, etc.). The last plague, before the final stroke, points to the withdrawal of God and leaving man to himself (Ex. 10:21, etc.). God is light; and where the heart refuses the light, it is left to its own darkness, a premonition of that outer darkness which shall mark the eternal banishment of man from the source of light and blessing.
All this detail of judgment doubtless establishes the people in their separation from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Indeed, their exemption from what falls upon their oppressors is a foretaste of that complete deliverance which they are soon to enjoy. On the other hand, in Pharaoh we see the gradually increasing hardness of heart which turns the very mercies, as well as the judgments of God, into fresh occasions for despising Him. The apparent relenting’s in which he cries for mercy are followed by a fresh insult, while his proposals to grant Israel a partial emancipation are in reality followed by rewed determination not to do so. The demand of Moses was for emancipation. God’s message was, “Let My people go that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.” Three days’ journey was to separate them, all of which was typical of the breaking of the links between themselves and Egypt — of the full deliverance which was to be effected. Pharaoh evidently saw that if such a breach was made, it would be followed by the complete emancipation of the people from his sway.
From time to time Pharaoh seems to consider this question. First of all, the people will be permitted to serve the Lord in the land (Ex. 8:25, etc.). Moses refuses this. All true worship of God means separation from the world. The sacrifice of Christ, the atonement which is the basis of all worship, is an abomination in the sight of the world.
Next (Ex. 8:28), Pharaoh relents further. They can go a little way, but not very far. How often does the world seem thus to countenance a worship of God, provided it is not too distinctly and completely separated from itself.
Next (Ex. 10:10), Pharaoh would profess to let the people go, while retaining their little ones. A more cunning and preposterous suggestion could not be made. What more effectual way of bringing the people back to Egypt than by holding fast their families in bondage? Alas, how many a testimony and complete separation has been marred by the allowance of the dominion of the world in the home!
Lastly (Ex. 10:24), Pharaoh would keep his hand upon the flocks and herds. One’s business, his secular calling, can still be exempt from the claims of redemption. Wherever this is the case, we may be sure emancipation is only in name.
All now points to the hour of deliverance which is drawing near. As things grow dark for Egypt, they become brighter for the people; but the last plague must fall; and the people, hitherto exempt from most of them, must learn that such exemption is in no way due to themselves, but is part of salvation’s deliverance which is being wrought for them. Bound up with the death of the firstborn, we find the great truth of redemption brought out.
Sub-Division 3. (Ex. 12-15:21).
Full salvation by blood and by power. As has been said, the shelter of the blood of the Passover lamb was necessary if the people were to escape the judgment which was to fall upon all Egypt. It is the blood that makes the difference between the world and God’s people — of “the Lamb without blemish and without spot.” From this time forward how completely does the blood of the Passover lamb furnish the basis upon which all God’s ways of grace and mercy, and even of government, rest. It is indeed “the beginning of months,” the spiritual birthday of every soul who passes out from under the judgment of the world into the place of safety, to be led on in the ways of God.
In the deliverance of the Red Sea, we have a different aspect of the death of Christ. It is no longer that which merely shelters from judgment, but which delivers from the power of the oppressor. This also is effected by our Lord, who through His death and resurrection has opened the way for His people to pass out of servitude into the blessed liberty wherewith He makes free.
The deliverance described in the seventh chapter of Romans is here typified, where the bondage of sin, with all its claims upon the soul, is broken by the blessed fact of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the passover, Christ died for us. In the Red Sea, we died with Christ and are risen with Him; thus, under the guidance of the Spirit, passing on from the place where we were sheltered from judgment, through the barren wilderness, to the inheritance that remains. All through this journey, the Spirit of God, under the type of the pillar of cloud and of fire, leads the way.
As has been frequently remarked, the song of triumph (Exodus 15) does not begin until the deliverance out of Egypt. Mere shelter from judgment, with the sense of the enemy’s power still upon us, will not set the soul free to worship and to praise.
Sub-Division 4. (Ex. 15:22-18).
Mercy by the way. It is beautiful to see in this portion of the book how the same grace, manifested in the blood of the Passover lamb and deliverance out of Egypt, provides for every need of the people. The trials of the wilderness follow, as they ever do, the delivering grace of God; but here also we prove His all-sufficiency. “Tribulation worketh patience.” Marah’s bitter waters are sweetened by the tree, while in the wells of Elim we have suggested the abounding, up-springing refreshment of the Spirit of God throughout the wilderness.
Bread from heaven is given (Ex. 16); manna, a type of Christ humbled unto death, who becomes the food of His people in their wilderness journey. Water also is given, flowing from the smitten rock, another type of the death of Christ. How constantly we are thus reminded that our every blessing flows from the cross! Victory over the lusts of the flesh is also assured through our ascended High Priest, as typified by Moses and Aaron on the top of the mountain, while through His intercession we are “more than conquerors” (Ex. 17).
In the visit of Jethro (Ex. 18) we have suggested the millennial nations who shall be brought to behold the wondrous work of God in the deliverance of His people. This closes the first portion of the book, in which the grace of God unlimited and untrammeled, has its way. What a marvelous change from the beginning has been effected! A groaning race of slaves assured of the care and love of God for them, witnesses of His mighty power in judgment, a judgment which they have escaped — not a feeble one in all their tribes — and brought to be worshipers and pilgrims passing on in victory, their every need supplied by Him who had made them His own.
Division 2. (Ex. 19-40).
A people redeemed by blood and by power, brought to God, and put into covenant relation with Himself.
Sub-Division 1. (Ex. 19-31).
The giving of the law and provision for the tabernacle. In this portion of the book, we have two apparently contradictory thoughts, which in reality are not so. This raises the whole question of the law, its object and effect, as dwelt upon in chapters 19-24. Unquestionably, in the history of the nation of Israel, we shall find the law having a place different from what it occupies under grace. Law and grace, as principles, are contrary each to the other. First of all, let it be said that the law, which was 430 years after the promises made to Abraham, could not set aside that grace which God had declared, and according to which He had been acting during the whole history of Israel up to Sinai. Whatever the occasion for giving it, it could not set aside those gifts and calling of God which are without repentance. The nation as a whole, however, had to be put under a probation which would manifest the absolute necessity of the grace of whose perfection they were still ignorant.
Thus the law was given to them as a covenant, into which they voluntarily entered, but the effect of which was to prove throughout their subsequent history their utter incapacity for obedience. This widens out to embrace in its results the entire human family. God would show, in a people under specially favorable circumstances, that man as a whole is incapable of obedience through the law. Thus, while directly addressed to those who were put under it, the effect of the law is that every mouth is stopped and the whole world becomes guilty before God. Therefore it has a place not merely dispensational, but essential in the development of the ways of God, and is a justification of the necessity for the sacrificial and emancipating work of our Lord, which brings out into the place where the believer is not under law, but under grace.
The law can only work wrath and bring a sense of bondage. All this is enlarged upon in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians. When this great truth is seen, that man, in order to bring forth fruit unto God must not be under law, but under grace, it will be found that the law itself, even the ten commandments issued from Mount Sinai, with their enlargement in the immediately succeeding chapters, is a type of the grace of which those commandments show the necessity. They also suggest the fruits of that grace, to be manifested in the obedience of a people who have been delivered from its bondage. Thus, a most delightful and profitable study of the ten commandments in detail would bring out, not only the fact of man’s condemnation, but the perfections of Christ as illustrated in them; and, further, the fruits of grace producing in obedient lives that righteousness “which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.” To one who follows intelligently, in the current of the Spirit of God, these parallel streams of truth will be seen as not contradictory; and this must suffice for the present to justify us in saying that this second division of the book of Exodus not only gives us the law in its pure requirements, which could only condemn a man, but suggests the relationship of grace which effects an obedience through which the people will enjoy communion with God.
This is beautifully suggested in the prescriptions for the erection of the tabernacle which follow the details of the law (Ex. 25-31). In the provision for the tabernacle, all starts from the ark, the Holy of holies as we might say. It begins in the presence of God and goes on outward until the entire structure is described and the priests are seen ministering.
The fact that this forms a part of the sub-division of the law suggests what has already been intimated, that pure law found its only perfect expression in the person of Christ, which as we shall find a little later on, is typified in the entire tabernacle. There is no contradiction in the close association of the person of the Son of God with the perfections of a law which condemns all the sons of Adam. He could say, “Thy law is within My heart,” and therefore the first description of the tabernacle gives us the ark, a type of Christ, containing the law within itself. When, however, the tabernacle is to be erected, as we shall find in a subsequent sub-division, the order is changed and the ark comes in later. All this is most instructive. We will, however, proceed with the sub-divisions of the book, in order that we may be able more clearly to grasp the significance of what we have been looking at.

Sub-Division 2. (Ex. 32-34).
The sin of the golden calf, the breaking of the tables of the law, and their restoration on a basis of mercy. With the thunders of mount Sinai echoing in their ears and the promise of implicit obedience to all the Lord had commanded scarcely cold upon their lips, the people, growing restive under the absence of Moses for forty days upon the Mount, demand a god whom they can see; and the whole disgraceful apostasy of the golden calf is enacted under the leadership of Aaron.
The gold had been brought from Egypt, and evidently, so far as the people were concerned, had not as yet the stamp of redemption upon it, for it is used in the manufacture of one of those golden calves, the sacred animals of Egypt which had been the objects of idolatrous worship. In vain does Aaron seek to link the holy name of Jehovah with this idolatrous feast. This enhances the insult done to God, as all compromises do, by linking His holy name with the corruptions which He condemns. Thus Israel broke the first three commandments before ever the law written on the tables of stone was brought into their midst. Therefore, under pure law, the people were absolutely condemned. So far as the relationship which it established was concerned, based upon the promise of the people to obey, all was lost.
The intercession of Moses comes in beautifully here as a type of the prevailing intercession of our blessed Lord, and it will be noticed that Moses puts before God the promises which antedate the law, the covenant which He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On the basis of this intercession and in recognition of His unchanging purpose, God spares the people, but inflicts sore chastening upon them. Those tables of the law, of unyielding stone, which by their very texture suggest the pure and perfect requirements of a holy, inflexible law, cannot go into an idolatrous and godless camp without bringing absolute judgment upon the people.
Moses therefore casts them out of his hand and they are broken, even as the people had already broken them by their sin.
Now comes, however, the chastening of God which falls upon the people; the direct idolaters, the ringleaders, are slain. The tribe of Levi, already apparently somewhat conscious of their special place of nearness to God, which was subsequently to be brought out — a nearness intimated by the fact that Moses and Aaron were of this tribe — identify themselves with the Lord and execute judgment upon their brethren who have apostatized from Him. The golden calf also is burned and ground to powder, and the people are obliged to drink the result of their own wrong doing.
However, in the midst of all, God remembers mercy and reveals Himself to Moses as the leader of the people in a new way, not merely as the giver of a perfect law, nor yet even in the glorious perfections of Christ as seen standing all alone, but in a grace which, while He will not clear the guilty, is longsuffering and merciful, forgiving transgression and iniquity and sin. Surely, we know the meaning of this apparent contradiction. In the person of our blessed Lord Jesus, and through His work, we see all the glory of God, not merely His back parts as Moses under the law, but fully revealed in the cross and resurrection of our blessed Savior. Here a glory shines which is eternal, not in correction with the ministration of death and of condemnation which the law still was until it had effected its holy purpose of bringing men to Christ, but the glory of a grace, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ. No need, thank God, for a veil here. Moses might put a veil upon his face to hide the reflected glory of the presence of God in connection with the law, for it was a glory that could only condemn and bring death to a people who were found guilty before God; but now, in the face of the risen Son of God the veil is removed and we can behold there, without terror, all the perfections of divine righteousness, for they are mingled with the lineaments of love which add a glory and blessedness to the holiness of God which the law could never give.
Sub-Division 3. (Ex. 35-40).
The tabernacle erected; the glory of God manifested. How beautiful it is to see that the purposes of God are not thwarted by sin; that while the responsibility of man is in no way relieved, and judgment upon the impenitent necessarily must follow, yet the very evil which reached its climax in the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus furnished occasion not only for the display of the righteous judgment of God, but of a love which in that righteousness and judgment effects eternal redemption for the very sinners who had raised themselves in rebellion!
Thus after the awful episode of the golden calf, God resumes His ways with His people, and under the direction of Moses they carry out the construction of the tabernacle. Most suggestive, however, is the change of order already alluded to. Instead of beginning now with the ark and the Holy of holies, in which the perfections and glories of Christ from the side of divine sovereignty are displayed (that which is a type of the throne of God), the curtains which form the tabernacle and its other coverings are first described. These give us the person of Christ historically, as in the veil we have a type of His flesh. God thus shows how practically His tabernacle and the way of approach to Him have been secured. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt (literally, tabernacled) amongst us” (John 1:14). This, therefore, is first. There could have been no true knowledge of the glory of God, no entrance into His presence, had not His beloved Son humbled Himself to the lowliness suggested in these curtains which show how God had come down to dwell amongst men. The delightful truths of the tabernacle can barely be glanced at. The tabernacle is made from the people’s freewill offerings of the materials used in its construction. All these refer to some aspect of Christ. Gold is the glory of divine righteousness; silver is redemption; brass speaks of the unwavering judgment of God; blue is the color of heaven; purple, of royalty; scarlet, of the glory of the world in subjection to Christ; fine linen, of His personal purity; goats’ hair, the expression of Him who came to be the sin offering; rams’ skins dyed red, the devotion of our Lord unto death in obedience to God; badger or sealskins, His separation from the world in which He walked as a stranger; shittim or acacia wood, His incorruptible human nature; oil, the Holy Spirit who illumines the whole truth as to Christ; spices, the sweet fragrance of Christ; onyx stones and other jewels for the breastplate, the lights and perfections of the glory of God as displayed in Christ.
These materials were brought by willing people. How sweet it is to remember that our practical enjoyment of communion with God is connected with our apprehension of the varied perfections of His beloved Son, and that in this sense we can bring to Him these offerings and thus enjoy fellowship with Himself!
The curtains, as has been already said, speak of our Lord’s perfect humanity, His life of dependence. The number and dimensions of these curtains and the manner in which they were joined together, all have spiritual meaning. Each curtain was four cubits wide and twenty-eight long, and suggests the dependence of Him who had taken the place of weakness (4), in which, however, His perfection (7) is an essential factor and is fully displayed. There are ten of these curtains, divided into two of five each, suggesting the two tables of the law in which our Lord perfectly exemplified His loving obedience to God and love to man. In every relationship He was perfect. These curtains were not detached the one from the other, while clearly distinct; just as each command would meet with its perfect exemplification in the character of our Lord. All, however, is bound together by the loops of blue — our Lord’s heavenly character — and the golden clasps, divine righteousness.
The materials which form the tabernacle, we have already spoken of. They are all woven together, so as to form a harmonious whole; while the cherubim into which they are fashioned suggest that full display of divine righteousness and judgment which can be entrusted to God’s beloved Son.
Next, we have the covering of goats’ hair over the curtains of the tabernacle. The number here is 11, united in two parts of five and six, suggesting the victory over evil in the meeting of sin by One who could responsibly do so. All of this is suggested in the goats’ hair. We have, as well, in the hairy covering thus provided, an intimation of our Lord’s prophetic testimony which He uttered throughout His holy life.
Next come the rams’ skins dyed red, typifying His devotion unto death; and the final covering of sealskin, telling of His separation from the world in which He was, suggesting also by its somber color the fact that He was without form or comeliness in the world.
Next come the boards resting upon the silver sockets. The materials of which they were made speak of the incorruptible humanity of our Lord overlaid with the gold of His divine nature, a reminder of His perfect humanity and Godhead. These boards, resting as they do, upon the silver sockets, are a type of our Lord’s people who rest upon the redemption price which He has paid by the sacrifice of Himself, and thus have a perfect standing before God. (See Exodus 30.) Thus the tabernacle is built together into an abode: the bars passing through the rings and compacting all together, suggesting Christ as the bond of His people. This is further illustrated in the corner boards, where they are united together into one head. “Ye... are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone... in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Next follow the articles of furniture within the tabernacle. The ark, as already suggested, speaks of the throne of God — a throne made possible for sinful men only through our Lord Jesus. He it is who had the law in His heart, and thus righteousness and judgment are the foundation of God’s throne, as suggested in those golden cherubim which speak of His attributes, overshadowing the mercy seat. This mercy seat, however, is the divine covering for that law which could only condemn sinful men. It was here that the witness of the sacrifice of Christ (the blood of the sin offering), was placed before God, and thus the requirements of His holy throne are shown to have been fully met; the very cherubim of glory which barred the way to the Garden of Eden here find their gaze riveted upon the atoning sacrifice, and are witnesses of the way of approach to God on the ground of the blood of atonement.
The table in its materials again presents to us Christ, but now as the One through whom food is provided for His people, and thus communion with God is established. It is the bread of God presented upon the table. Christ is this. God finds His food in Him; but, wondrous to say, He shares in this with His people. In the 12 loaves they too are seen as one in Christ before God; a similar thought is suggested in the one loaf of the Lord’s supper — His people’s unity in Him.
The golden candlestick with its seven branches speaks of the sevenfold perfection of the illumination of the Spirit who is come as the witness for our risen Lord. The form and pattern of the candlestick all speak of divine glory in resurrection, but the light itself is that of the Spirit, who glorifies Christ, taking of His things and manifesting them. Thus the light of the candlestick sheds its luster upon the entire tabernacle.
As the last article of furniture inside, we have the altar of incense, where again Christ is seen as the Medium and Maintainer of worship. “By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.” This praise, hover, is but the confession of the fragrance of His name; the ingredients of the incense all speaking of some special characteristic excellence and fragrance of Christ.
Coming to the outer court, we have the brazen altar, a type of the cross where our Lord made atonement. It was distinctively the place of sacrifice, and there could be no approach to God apart from that. Its dimensions, where five is prominent, suggest responsibility met, and the grate in the midst reminds us that Divine wrath against sin burned down to the very heart of our Lord.
In the laver, between the altar and the door of the tabernacle, we have that emblem of the word of God by which new birth is effected once for all, and then a daily cleansing by the application of the Word for those who would enjoy communion with God.
The hangings of the fine white linen of the court speak of that spotless purity of Christ which marks off the way of approach to God, a purity which His people should display according to the full standard of Christ. In the hangings at the entrance of the court and the tabernacle, as well as the veil of which we have already spoken, we are reminded of Christ who is the Door, the way of approach to God. Significantly, it was through the rending of the veil, the giving up of the life of Christ, that the way into the Holiest was made manifest.
The priestly garments (Ex. 39) bring out again the various aspects of the work of Christ; their material, and color, suggest the truths that we have already dwelt upon. The ephod is the distinctive priestly garment, which is the badge of a service upon which our Lord has entered, never to lay it aside, to make good for us all the blessed results of His redeeming work. Thus the materials of the ephod are those of the curtains which form the tabernacle, with the addition of gold threads, while it is fashioned into a garment held fast upon the shoulders by the onyx stones which tell us of the glories of God, and bound about by a girdle which speaks of the unremitting service of our blessed High Priest.
Linked with this girdle and to the shoulder pieces of strength, is the breastplate with its twelve different jewels, upon each of which is engraved the name of one of the tribes of Israel. All this speaks of the glory and perfections of God as displayed in Christ, and His people eternally linked with that glory which has been secured by the work of Christ. All rests upon the Rom of our blessed High Priest, and declares a love which can never change, as the names upon the shoulder pieces speak of power which will hold us up forever.
“The robe of the ephod,” worn beneath it, was all of blue, telling of the heavenly sphere in which our Lord exercises His priesthood. It is a seamless robe which cannot be rent, speaking of the full perfection which is in Him. About the skirt, the golden bells and pomegranates speak of the divine witness and fruits of the Spirit as manifested in our Lord’s people as the result of His position on high. Thus, brethren dwelling together in unity display the fragrance of that ointment which runs down to the skirts of the high priest’s robe (Psa. 133).
The coats of fine linen, of spotless white, speak of the personal character of our Lord as perfect Man. It was worn next to the person, and suggests the character which fits Him to be the Priest of His people.
The plate or holy crown with its inscription, “Holiness to the Lord,” fastened by a lace of blue to the priest’s miter, tells of a divine dedication of Himself to an office in which we are presented to God in the eternal perfections of what our Lord is for us on high.
Thus nothing is wanting for the maintenance of a communion which is established in grace. The tabernacle is set up, and the glory of God fills the abode. The cloud of the divine Presence rests upon it, never to be removed throughout all the wilderness journeyings of the people. God abides in the company of His redeemed ones in the person of Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 3: Leviticus

AS the first part of the book of Exodus is similar in character to, and links closely with, the closing part of Genesis, so also the end of Exodus, in which the tabernacle and priesthood are described, prepares the way for the opening of the third book of the Bible. As a third, its place suggests the full manifestation of God, the way of approach to Him in His glory, and the corresponding holiness which must result from this. It will be found that the contents of the book bear this out, and at these we will now look in their order.
Division 1 (Lev. 1-7).
The foundation of all approach to God — the sacrifices.
At the beginning of the second part of Genesis, which recounts the history of God’s dealing with His people, we have the sacrifice of Abel, evidently furnishing the example for his successors, as we saw for instance in Noah, and later in Abraham. Similarly, in the book of Exodus, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is at the beginning of their whole redemption history. In Leviticus, the entire first division of the book is devoted to this subject, enlarging that of which partial views are given in the earlier books.
We see here the prominent place occupied by sacrifice in the mind of God. There is perhaps in no other portion of Scripture so full and detailed a description of this great fundamental necessity. It is, of course, the one perfect sacrifice of Christ which is typified throughout. He was the antitype of Abel’s offering, of Noah’s burnt sacrifice and of Abraham’s. He was the true Passover Lamb whose blood was shed for us, and His sacrifice alone is set forth in all its varied aspects, perfections and adaptations as we have it here. There is, of course, no direct doctrinal teaching. All is in the language of shadow and type; this does not mean that there is inaccuracy of detail however, or that we cannot glean precious truth from every element of what God puts before us in the type. This will appear as we take up each of the different sacrifices.
There are five of these offerings, one of which, however, the meat offering, is not an animal sacrifice, and is always considered in conjunction with the burnt offering: “The burnt offering and its meat offering.” These have been divided into two general classes, called the “sweet savor” and the “sin offerings.” In the first, the thought prominent is of God being glorified through the death of Christ; in the second, of sin being met.
The Burnt Offering (Lev. 1). We saw in the provision for the tabernacle that God began with the ark, symbolic of His throne; so here the sacrifices begin with that which is more directly connected with God Himself and His acceptance of the work of Christ. The burnt offering was the chief of the sweet savor sacrifices, being offered up completely to God, and going up in all its savor to Him. Primarily, it was wholly for Him, although the offerer could see in it the measure of his own acceptance. It typified Him who offered Himself to God for a sacrifice, “a sweet smelling savor.” It gives us that aspect of the death of Christ in which He is seen in the full obedience of a love which would glorify His Father in all things, presenting Himself in death to God. There would, of course, have been no possibility, no necessity for this apart from our sin. Therefore it was with reference to sin that the offering was made, and yet sin is not directly spoken of in it, but the devotion of a love strong as death. Thus the measure of Christ’s obedience was “unto death.”
There were three classes of the burnt offering, giving us three aspects of the death of our Lord in thus offering Himself to God. The offering could be of the herd, a bullock; of the flock, a lamb or goat; of birds, a dove.
The bullock suggests the full strength of a service which spent itself even unto death. The lamb or ram of the flock suggests not so much the strength, but the complete yieldingness which marked our blessed Lord, who was “led as a lamb to the slaughter;” while the bird speaks rather of His heavenly character, “the Son of Man who is in heaven,” One who came down to do the will of God through the offering up of His body “once for all.”
This last aspect of the sacrifice of our Lord, while in some sense higher than either of the other two, is from this very fact, necessarily not capable of such complete analysis as the other two kinds of burnt offering. There were certain details common to both the sacrifice from the herd and that from the flock. Each one unquestionably has its fulfillment in Christ. The offering was to be a male, suggesting headship, responsibility and strength. It was to be of the first year, in all the vigor of a life in which there was no sign of decrepitude or of hardness. It was to be “without blemish,” for that which typifies the Son of God must emphasize the fact of His absolute and intrinsic holiness.
The offerer laid his hand on the head of the victim, thus identifying himself with it, and henceforth all that the victim passed through was as his substitute. Faith, of course, is the identification of the sinner with Christ, who thereafter takes the place of the offerer, both in the sufferings through which He passes and in the infinite sweet savor of His sacrifice before God. The animal is then slain, for death must come in. No dedication to God, no perfection of personal obedience on the part of Christ could set aside the awful fact that sin had made an impassable separation, and it this chasm were to be bridged, it must be by the bearing of the identical penalty which the sinner deserved.
The blood is then sprinkled upon the altar, in token of God’s acceptance of the sacrifice which has been presented to Him. The animal is flayed, its outer covering removed, just as our Lord’s inmost motives were laid bare before the holy eye of God in His cross. The pieces were then laid in order upon the altar. There was to be no confusion here. The head, the fat, the inwards, the legs, were all distinguished the one from the other. The sacrifice was divided into its parts. No mutilation was to take place “a bone of Him shall not be broken,” but everything was distinguished. Its head, the thoughts, which were only those of obedience; the legs, the walk; the inwards, the affections, desires and secret motives, all were discerned and recognized by God, who could find nothing but that which perfectly glorified His every attribute in each department of our Lord’s life.
The washing of the inwards and legs with water suggests that perfect testing of all things by the word of God to which our Lord was subjected. At death, all had to be done “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” There is no intimation that these parts needed cleansing — none in the Antitype, of course, for all was essentially pure; but our Lord ever subjected Himself to the fullest tests of the holy word of God, thus proving that “in Him was no sin.”
All was then burnt with fire upon the altar; the fire of divine holiness consuming completely the sacrifice. So our Lord not merely presented Himself to God, but in His death the fire of righteous judgment consumed all; all went up in eternal fragrance unto God, declaring forever that His beloved Son had in Him absolutely nothing that was not perfectly glorifying to infinite holiness, righteousness, wisdom, truth and love.
In a similar way the offering from the flock was treated. It is notable that the fat is particularly spoken of in each of these, typical of that energy of the will which in man is so often arrayed against God — “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked” — but which in our Lord was willingly yielded up to God in death.
In the sacrifice of the bird, as has been said, we have not the dividing of the offering into its parts. All that would be in any way suggestive of earthly food or connection was first removed, that the type might thus speak exclusively of Him who came down from heaven. The bird was partly cloven, as laying bare its inward parts, but not divided, for the reason already suggested. Its blood was pressed out against the side of the altar. How wondrous to think of Him, every drop of whose blood coursed through His veins for His Father’s glory, having all wrung from Him at the cross; still, however, infinitely acceptable — never more so to the One who had laid upon Him this great work to be accomplished!
Two points of the compass are mentioned in connection with the burnt offering which it may be well to notice, as details, every detail, should have a voice for us. The offering from the flock had to be killed on the side of the altar “northward before the Lord.” The north is literally “the hidden,” as being that part of the sky in which the sun is not directly visible. It is thus in contrast with the south, which always lies under the full rays of the sun. It suggests the withdrawal of the light which we find at the cross. It is not emphasized here by absolute darkness, but shows that judicial feature of our Lord’s death which could not be lacking even in the burnt offering. In the offering of the bird, the crop is put with the ashes on the east side of the altar, the side nearest the gate, for the tabernacle faced eastward. The ashes are the witness that the fire has done its work completely.
In the 20th psalm, suggestively near to the great sacrificial 22nd (the sin offering psalm) we have the expression, “Remember all thine offerings and accept thy burnt sacrifice.” The word “accept” is, literally, “turn to ashes.” Here, also, the word for “ashes” is a peculiar one, different from the suggestion of barrenness in the ordinary word, as for instance, “He feedeth on ashes — a deceived soul.” In connection with the sacrifice the word is really “fat ashes” — suggesting the richness of that of which they speak. In looking upon the ashes, one could say, “The fire has fully done its work;” so in looking upon the death of our blessed Lord, we can say, All is finished; divine justice can ask no more; therefore, fittingly, this witness of a perfect work is placed on the east side of the altar, toward the sun rising, suggesting that nothing remains now after the cross but our Lord’s resurrection, which is also the dawning of a new eternal day for all who avail themselves of the infinite value of His finished work.
When we come to speak of the sin offering we shall find that special emphasis is laid upon the different grades, a distinction of which we have not spoken directly in the burnt offering, although there is an evident gradation in the sacrifices from the bullock down to the bird. The bullock is in one sense the chief, superior in many ways to the lamb, which in its turn exceeds the bird in value. Thus while each aspect of the death of Christ is perfect in itself, and has a preciousness all its own which must not be allowed to suffer by comparison with some other aspect, yet there is a gradation in order, suggesting the kind of apprehension in the offerer corresponding to the aspect of each class of sacrifice. A full measure of apprehension will include all three classes of these sacrifices.
The Meat Offering (Lev. 2.) This bloodless offering was always associated with the burnt offering or some other animal sacrifice. It typifies that aspect of our Lord which, while not including His atoning death, must ever be linked with it. It speaks thus of His life, which throughout furnished a fit accompaniment to the infinite value of His atoning death. Details here are many and significant. The more general are first spoken of, then the various classes of meat offering are described.
It was to be of “fine flour,” showing that subjection of the “corn of heaven” to the grinding action of the stones to which He submitted here. Truly our Lord humbled Himself in order that He might become our food; yielding that perfect life of His to every form of trial which would reduce it to proportions easily apprehended by us and thus capable of assimilation by faith. The fine flour was ground to a uniform consistency in which no unevenness was to appear. So was our Lord’s entire life uniform. There were no undue prominences in it, in which one characteristic predominated over another.
Oil was poured upon it, suggesting the presence and power of the Holy Spirit; and the frankincense speaks of the fragrance to God in His earthly life. All this fragrance went up to God along with the burnt offering, and a portion of the meal and oil also. The remainder was the priest’s. This is all in harmony with the typical teachings already gathered from the burnt offering. In our Lord’s death we see the culmination of the perfect fragrance of His entire life; the Spirit of God witnesses to this in His death, while the details of His life in the power of the Spirit are for priestly faith to feed upon.
A word must suffice as to the various classes of the meat offering when prepared in the form of food. If baked “in the oven,” it was made of cakes, literally, “pierced cakes,” suggesting the opening of His inmost heart to the action of the heat; “mingled with oil,” speaks of our Lord’s perfect humanity as conceived by the Holy Ghost; while the “wafers” or cakes, rolled out by pressure, and anointed with oil, suggest that anointing of the Spirit in whose power He went through His ministry.
The “oven” suggests the heated atmosphere of the scene into which our Lord came in grace. The whole world was to Him an oven, in which the heat of trial to which He was subjected was a strange atmosphere to One who had always lived in the freshness of heaven. His entire life here was spent in the oven.
The “pan,” literally, “frying pan,” seems to speak of the more direct action of the fire to which our Lord was subjected, more particularly during His public ministry. Here, the pressure of circumstances rolling over Him, and the fierce flames of opposition and persecution to which He was subjected, manifested a special excellence in Him which the Spirit of God declared was well pleasing to the Father.
In the “frying pan,” or more correctly, “caldron,” we have the action of boiling water upon the flour, suggesting that the very perfection of His obedience to the word of God in circumstances like those through which He passed, exposed Him to special trial and persecution. In whatever way He was tested — by His very presence in the world, by the opposition of men, or the testing of the word of God — all brought out the perfection of our Lord’s human nature.
No leaven was to be mingled with any meat offering offered to God. Leaven speaks of the corruption of the flesh, which had no place in Him. Neither was honey to be put in, for it speaks of a mere natural amiability which can easily ferment into its opposite, if subjected to the heat of trial. Salt however was not to be lacking; for “salt is good” and speaks of that energy and faithfulness, the savor of which characterized the covenant of our God, and is the very opposite of the honey.
The offering of the first fruits suggests the resurrection, Christ being the first fruits of them that slept, the Head of a new race which, while begun here, shall enjoy throughout eternity all the freshness of that which He who went through the heat and trial of this life secured for us by His death upon the cross.
The Peace Offering (chap. 3). The peace offering differs from the burnt offering, in that a part of it only was consumed upon the altar, while another part was reserved for the priest, and the offerer himself had a share in the sacrifice which he had presented. The word is a plural, as though suggesting various aspects of peace. In the shedding of His blood, we are reminded how peace is effected by the blood of His cross. This peace, however, includes our nearness to God, and communion, which we are now privileged to enjoy, a communion of which Christ is the theme; for true communion is a joint participation in, and enjoyment of a common object. We are apt to think of it in its effects upon us, of joy, worship, etc.; but these are not the basis of communion. If I am feeding upon Christ, I am sharing in the thoughts of God, and thus have communion with Him, a communion which surely will express itself in delight, worship and thanksgiving.
These are thoughts suggested by the peace offering, and at once we find an enlargement in the character of the offering. It can be either a male or a female of the herd or of the flock, provided it is “without blemish.” The details are similar to the burnt offering, and their significance need not be reiterated. We speak simply of what is distinctive.
As the male suggested headship, strength and responsibility, the female suggests nature and dependence. Our Lord was the woman’s Seed, “made of a woman, made under the law.” In His genealogy in Matthew, the four women who are spoken of are in one way or another connected with the presence of sin in the world, either personally or by their relationship. Thus our Lord as the peace offering, and as we shall see more fully in the sin offering, was willing to be “made sin” for us. He would also take the place of absolute dependence upon God relinquishing any rights of his own. Thus, while the female may suggest a lower grade, as being of less value, there are special features peculiar to it which could not have been conveyed by the higher aspect suggested in the male.
The part that was offered up to God was the fat within — all the energy of a perfect will, which was not lacking, but willingly offered up to God; the vital, inward organs, also suggesting, as we have already seen, an inward devotion to God, were also offered to Him in sacrifice. Special attention is called to the kidneys, “the reins,” our Lord’s inward judgment and refusal of all evil. This could be laid upon the altar in token of His perfect sinlessness, while “the caul above the liver” (possibly the diaphragm which separates between the lungs and the liver, what we might call the nobler vital organs as distinct from the viscera, those connected more with earth) was removed and consumed, as though suggesting there could be no such distinction in the holy life of our Lord. With Him, there was no separation between sacred and common. He was as much for God in the lowliest details of life as in His very breath and the beating of His holy heart of affection for Him. These were distinctively the Lord’s portion in the peace offering.
Fat and blood were ever prohibited, the blood as the life being poured out to the Lord in death, and the fat consumed upon the altar. The other portions of the peace offering were shared by the priest and the offerer, and this is enlarged upon in the law of the offerings which comes a little later.
The Sin Offering (Lev. 4-5:13). We now come to the sacrifices which speak more particularly of atonement, man’s need met rather than the sweet savor offerings in which the death of our Lord is looked upon as devotion to God. Here at once we are introduced into a fullness of detail suggesting the grace of God which would meet man’s need in whatever measure he had apprehended his sinfulness. There are, therefore, many grades of the sin offering, not indeed of God’s apprehension, but of the offerer’s. One remark covers all these grades: they show the exceeding sinfulness of sin. The lowest form that is mentioned, the sin through ignorance, reminds us that ignorance is never an excuse which could be pleaded with the infinite holiness of God. Of course, presumptuous sins are, in man’s judgment, more heinous; and, significantly, under the law, there was no provision for these; but sin is essential alienation and separation from God, which requires the atoning sacrifice of Christ if man is ever to be brought back to the One against whom he had revolted.
The first aspect of the sin offering gives us the fullest view of sin in its separation from God. It is the sin of the priest, reminding us that man was intended for priestly nearness to God, and that by his sin he has forfeited this. Our Lord in His death has met the guilt of this; and in the offering provided for it, the highest, a young bullock, we see how perfectly His sacrifice has met the heinousness of our sin.
Details here arc significant. The blood is sprinkled seven times before the Lord, before the veil, while some of it is put upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense, showing the basis of our access to God and of worship before Him. The remainder poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering shows how the blood of the cross has effected all this. The fat and other portions that were offered upon the altar in the peace offerings are burned, but the remainder of the body is removed without the camp and burned in the place of distance, showing God’s wrath against sin which puts at a distance from Himself.
The next grade is sin of the whole congregation, in which the details are the same. Our attention is more particularly called to the fact that it is the entire congregation who have sinned. In the first grade, it was the priest himself. Here we see, as it were, our Lord taking His place before God as the confessor not merely of His people’s sins, but in a certain sense as their Representative, centering in Himself the entire responsibility that was theirs. Thus we find in the 69th psalm He says: “My sins are not hid from Thee.” He is therefore the Priest seen as the Surety for His people. This explains why the sacrifice for the entire congregation is similar to that for the priest. It gives us just the other side of this truth. Surely our Lord could not answer for sin which He did not have; so when He says, “Mine iniquities” (Ps. 40:12) it is as our Surety alone that He speaks. The whole congregation are those for whom He is the Surety; we thus have a twofold view of the sin offering in its highest characteristics.
The next is the sin of the ruler, where a thought similar to that of the priest is expressed, but now rather in administration than in counion. Priesthood is a higher thought even than rule. Christ is here again the Surety for the sin in administrative order, of which all men have been guilty. Here we have that which is perhaps the most distinctive sin offering, in that it speaks of the highest form of what is most common, man’s failure in government. The goat by its energy and will suggests, as we find throughout Scripture, the thought of independence. Here, that which recalls the independence and insubordination of man is seen in the lowliness of perfect abasement, bearing the consequences of sin. Our Lord was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin.”
The blood of this sacrifice goes no further than the altar of burnt offering, suggesting the lower view of sin already intimated; while the disposition of the remainder of the body is entirely different from that of the bullock of the sin offering.
In the fourth grade of the sin offering, we come to the sin of one of the people. That is the view of sin which is, alas, common to each individual. Here again the blessed fact of substitution is ever present, and of atoning death by our Substitute. It is again a goat, reminding us of Him who was “made sin;” now a female, recalling what we saw previously.
The sheep furnishes another grade not far roved from the previous one which it resembles in every detail. In the sheep we are reminded rather of the submission and meekness of the Offerer than the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
The remaining grades of the sin offering are marked off in distinction from those at which we have already looked, suggesting an evident poverty of apprehension of the true nature of sin or of the full value of that which has put it away. This last indeed is not manifest in the sacrifice offered, but rather in the nature of the sin which he has committed. It is not looked upon in its true essence, which has effected a separation from God, but rather in its detail. Indeed, there is so much of the trespass offering about it that it has been thought by some to have been simply a trespass offering. Its position, however, forbids this thought, and we are evidently reminded that there is a view of sin which is far less complete and radical than God knows it to be. We think of the guiltiness connected with isolated acts, or with some form of trespass. Thus the soul fails to reach the deep seat of sin; he judges rather its fruits than the root. How good is the grace of our God in showing that the sacrifice of Christ meets sin not according to our conception, but according to His knowledge of it.
In the next sin offering, we have a still feebler apprehension. The bird furnishes the special aspect of the lowest grade of the burnt offering; in a general way, it presents Christ as the One come down from heaven to meet our sin in His cross. How few rise above this general thought of the sacrifice of our Lord.
Lastly, a still feebler apprehension both of the sin and that which alone puts it away is seen in the meat offering which is presented without oil or frankincense, and a memorial of it burnt upon the altar. As we saw, the meat offering was never to be used alone; but here we see divine grace providing for a poverty of apprehension. Thus, a soul may not realize the meaning of the cross; there may be a consciousness of sin and need, and the general belief that the Lord Jesus is the Saviour of sinners. How many are in this state of spiritual poverty — failing to apprehend the fullness of the provision of divine grace!
The Trespass Offering (Lev. 5:14-6:7). We come now to the last offering, whose significance we have already seen. Here, sin is looked at more as injury; thus the thought of restitution is prominent, as well as expiation. Probably, in most cases this is where God begins — His work awakening the conscience to a sense of wrong done; it may be, perhaps, wrongs to our fellow men, or the failure to have rendered to God His due. It is, as we have said, the fruits of sin rather than the root that are here before us. In the trespass offering, therefore, we have not only the provision of atonement, but the restitution of that which has been taken away. How blessedly has our Lord, as in the 69th psalm, become not merely the sacrifice for our trespass, but restored that which we have wrongfully taken away! In His confession of His people’s sin, He says, “Then I restored that which I took not away.” Apart from this feature, the trespass offering is doubtless like the sin offering already considered.
The remainder of this division of the book (Lev. 6:8-7) stands somewhat by itself, forming a kind of supplement to the first part under the general title of The law of the offering,” where certain details are presented referring more particularly to the disposition of those parts of the offering which had not been specified before. In general the priest’s portion is what is emphasized. The perpetuity of the burnt offering (Lev. 6:8-13), referred to in its continual burning, reminds us of the eternal efficacy of the work of Christ. Whenever an Israelite turned his eyes toward the altar during the whole year, he could see the glow of fire which reminded him that the sacrifice was ever before God. So is our Lord’s sacrifice — of eternal value. There is never a time when the holiness of God ceases to be satisfied by that which Christ has offered.
In the meat offering (Lev. 6:14-18), the priest’s share in it is presented. Our Lord’s life is for the enjoyment of His people, although the memorial of that life went up in sweet savor to God upon the cross. When the meat offering is the priest’s alone (Lev. 6:19-23), it is all consumed. Thus our Lord offered up his whole life to God, reserving nothing to be enjoyed by Himself apart from His Father.
The law of the sin offering comes next (Lev. 6:24-30), in which the participation by the priest is emphasized. Again and again we are reminded that it is “most holy.” How God would guard the sin-bearing by His Son from any thought of inherent evil in Him, and would bear witness also how perfectly His holiness has been secured through that sacrifice! All that it touches is “holy.” The earthen vessel wherein the flesh of the sin offering was prepared, which the priest had eaten, was to be broken; and if a metal vessel were used, it had to be rinsed and scoured. The sacrifice of Christ stands out unique. It is for God alone, and cannot be applied to any other use. Solemn indeed is the thought that man should use the sin offering of our Lord as a mere salve to his conscience to enable him to go on carelessly in the world again.
Details as to the trespass offering (Lev. 7:1-10) show its similarity of treatment to the sin offering, the priest here partaking of that which is not presented to God. The priest gets the skin of the burnt offering, together with the meat offering, as we have already seen. The skin of the burnt offering seems to speak of the outward manifestation of the life of our Lord as it appeared in all its perfection to God. The priest, typical of the offerer now in the place of nearness to God, apprehends this perfection outwardly, which is known in its inward depths perfectly by God alone. How sweet to think we stand, as we might say, covered with a perfection whose depths God realizes perfectly.
Under the peace offering (Lev. 7:11-38), we have certain details which emphasize the fullness of the communion into which our Lord’s death has brought us. There seem to be two general kinds of peace offering; one a thanksgiving, all of which had to be eaten the day it was offered, in this resembling the roast lamb of the Passover; while a vow or a free will offering might remain until the morrow, although the third day any remnants were to be consumed with fire. The thought seems to be here that those apprehensions of our Lord which stir the heart to gratitude are matters for immediate enjoyment alone, while in those apprehensions of Him which are connected with a purpose of heart we have what is of more lasting enjoyment. Thus, for instance, the praise that springs to the lips from some sudden view of our Lord’s love and work ceases with the occasion which brought it forth, while a constant feeding upon Him insures a more abiding communion. This however cannot be taken for granted, for there must be perpetual freshness in the peace offering. Thus even a constant habit of mind cannot be taken as a guarantee for communion. On the third day all must be renewed afresh.
It is also in connection with the peace offering that uncleanness is shown to debar from communion with God; neither fat nor blood were to be allowed the offerer; Christ’s devotedness and His atoning work were for God. The priest’s portion in the peace offering is also dwelt upon. This is more particularly the wave breast and the heave shoulder; the breast speaking of the affections, and the shoulder of the strength of Christ. It is as in priestly communion we share in the thoughts of God, that what has been waved before Him in its wondrous perfectness, “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” is ours to enjoy, and that strength which supports His feeblest ones can never fail.
Division 2. (Lev. 8-15).
Priestly fellowship, its nearness, hindrances and responsibilities. This portion of the book, as we are constantly seeing, is intimately connected with the closing part of the former division. First (Lev. 8, 9), we have the rites connected with the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priestly office. They are seen in the closest association — Christ as Head of the priestly family, with those whom He is not ashamed to own as brethren. The garments of glory and beauty which have been described in the book of Exodus, together with the special sacrifices, show us our Lord before God as His people’s representative in all the varied and full value of His work and of His person. Thus we find blended together the sin offering and the consecration, which is also a peace offering, all to be enjoyed by the priestly family. In connection with all this, the sin offering for the people is presented, and as a result, Aaron comes out with blessing for them (Lev. 9:22-24).
The sin of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10) follows in solemn contrast with all this, reminding us somewhat of the sin of the golden calf, though different in character. They presented strange fire, that which the Lord did not command, and therefore the fire of His holiness which had not fed upon the sacrifice which they ought to have presented, falls in judgment upon them.
The prohibition against using strong drink immediately following, suggests that these misguided men, the eldest of the sons of Aaron (for the firstborn frequently stands for the failure of the flesh), were under the influence of strong drink. The stimulus and exhilaration of nature has no place in priestly worship. It can only meet the chastening hand of God. On the contrary, the privilege of the priest to feed upon his portion is emphasized. He can even identify himself with the sin of others, in feeding upon the sacrifice which has put it away.
The second part of this division dwells upon the conditions of the fellowship indicated in the place of priestly nearness already shown. Chapter 2 gives us the distinctions between clean and unclean beasts, the details of which furnish many a valuable lesson at which we can barely glance. In general, clean beasts were such as both chewed the cud and divided the hoof. That which produces inward exercise and outwardly affects the walk must combine in what truly feeds us. This is seen in its perfection in Christ alone; and it is as we feed upon Him that these characteristics are reproduced in us.
As to fish, the scales and fins which marked the clean ones suggest that separation of life and energy in pressing onward which marked our Lord, and which a true feeding upon Him will also produce in us. Similar thoughts are suggested as to the birds and creeping things, though here the classification is less distinct. In general, birds of prey or manifestly unclean ones are prohibited, as also is the case with insects.
The necessity for absolute purity, both in nature and practice, is seen in the provisions made in connection with birth, and the plague of leprosy (chaps. 12-14). Leprosy indeed is a complete type of sin, and so is gone into in marked detail, with the rules for its detection and isolation, and the rites connected with the restoration of the leper after his cleansing. It must suffice to say that it requires priestly discernment to detect the disease, sometimes under an apparently harmless blemish, and at other times suspected where it does not really exist. Banishment from enjoyment of communion with God and His people is the necessary treatment for this loathsome disease, and it is only divine power which can heal the leper. Leprosy dauntless is a type of sin in the believer as well as in one who has never known God. Indeed, sin is sin wherever manifested, and if we go back far enough, there is but one remedy for it in saint and in sinner alike.
As to the restoration, as has been said, there are many most profitable lessons. All speaks of the sacrificial work of Christ, the cleansing of the water by the Word, and the keen, unsparing self-judgment suggested in shaving off all hair, one’s honor laid in the dust; while in the recovery the blood first applied with the oil put upon it speaks of the seal of the Spirit upon the sacrifice of Christ, in connection with the apprehension of the fullness of the value of that sacrifice seen in the subsequent offerings. All furnishes most rich and profitable material for entering into the reality of what true communion is.
Leprosy in the garment, which follows, speaks of a defilement which has not as yet directly laid hold of the person, but rather upon the details of the walk. It suggests those questionable employments and habits in which the child of God may engage, perhaps, before his conscience is involved. These must be subjected to the testing action of the word of God, and if aught is found which is a spreading leprosy, it must be rent from the garment, and if this does not correct the trouble, the whole must be burnt with fire. The spiritual application is obvious.
The leprosy in the house carries the same thought to the wider questions of association and corporate responsibility. The teaching here has marked and distinct value in connection with the responsible relationships of fellowship with others. Here again all must be detected by priestly communion, indeed by the one great Priest who, with “eyes as a flame of fire,” walketh in the midst of the candlesticks. Here, evil which can be checked and controlled is not leprosy; but where it permeates a portion of a company, the evil person must be put away; and if a fretting leprosy still continues, as, for instance, false doctrine amongst a company of professed Christians, the whole house must be pulled down, fellowship is broken, and those who are true to the Lord will depart from iniquity. Even here, however, souls are not to be needlessly considered as defiled; the open vessels in the house must all be covered up before the priest enters.
Another aspect of defilement and cleansing is before us in chapter 15. The humbling fact that from an unclean source nothing but uncleanness can come is here emphasized. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders,” etc. Thus, God would close this part of the subject by pressing upon us the great lesson that holiness becometh His presence, and there can in no wise enter there that which defileth. How all constantly leads up to the great central necessity of the sacrifice of our Lord, in order to open the way for sinful men to draw near to God!
Division 3. (Lev. 16, 17).
Access to God in the Holiest, by the blood of Jesus. Perhaps nowhere in Scripture is the great truth of access to God brought out more distinctly than in this portion. The veil, as we saw, separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy, where were the ark and the mercy seat shadowed by the cherubim of glory, typical of the throne of God. We might in one sense say that this third division is a contrast to, as well as a type of, the way to God. The veil remains down, and as we learn in the epistle to the Hebrews, the way into the Holiest of all was not made manifest, the high priest alone entering in once every year with the blood of bulls and goats. Indeed, the epistle to the Hebrews, occupying a third or sanctuary place in the epistles of Paul which speak of relationship, reminds us of this third division of the book of Leviticus, speaking of access into the presence of God.
The high priest draws not nigh in the garments of glory and beauty speaking of his official character and prerogatives, but in that simple white garment which tells of His spotless purity. The bullock for the sin offering, the rain for the burnt offering, and the two goats for the children of Israel for a sin offering, all show that the entrance was to be “not without blood;” while the incense tells of the fragrance of Christ which was ever before God. In the sin offering, first for himself and then for the people, we have perhaps a combination of the two thoughts which have been already gathered in the sin offering for the priest and the whole congregation on the one side, and on the other a contrast to the reality; for surely our Lord needed not to offer first for Himself and then for the errors of the people. The whole imagery is, of course, directly applicable to Israel, and those truths which apply more specifically to us as Christians are not so prominent.
Thus, after Aaron had carried the blood of the sin offering for the people within the veil, he came out with a benediction for them. Israel stands thus, we might say, between the time when our Lord entered into the Holiest as Priest and when He shall come forth with blessing for them; but meanwhile we have boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, and see there how perfectly God has accepted His sacrifice as typified by the sprinkling of the blood once upon the mercy seat, showing how God is eternally glorified by the death of His Son; and seven times before it, showing the perfection of that standing which we have on the ground of the blood of Christ. Both the body of the bullock and of the goat of the sin offering were carried without the camp and burnt — emblematic of the banishment of our Lord from the presence of God when He was made sin for us, as expressed in those awful words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Thus, His suffering without the gate, in the outer darkness, has opened the way for us into the innermost presence of God, as typified by the rending of the veil at the time of His death. The scapegoat, upon whom the sins were confessed, putting them away, although it had apparently been spared from judgment by the lot which had fallen upon its companion who was sacrificed in its stead, furnishes an additional figure of the complete results of the atoning work of Christ. The sins of the people are roved into a land of forgetfulness. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Thus, in this wondrous service of the day of atonement, we have the various aspects of the work of Christ presented; God’s wrath borne; the way into His presence opened, and the sins of His people eternally put away.
Connected with the service of the day of atonement, we have (in chapter 17) the essential sacrificial nature of all blood-shedding, reminding the people that the service which once a year was enacted in the holy place was suggested whenever they shed the blood of an animal to be used as their food. God would have us remember, not merely the one great sacrifice by which we draw near to Him, but that in every blessing we enjoy we recall the fact that it has been purchased for us at the cost of the death of His beloved Son, and that it should be enjoyed in priestly communion with Himself.
Division 4. (Lev. 18-22).
The walk resulting from priestly communion.
As we approach the book of Numbers, we find anticipations of its character in the close of the present book. The walk must result from the standing — never the reverse. There are many details here into which we will not enter. We are reminded of the multiplicity of exhortations in the fourth division of the epistle to the Romans (Lev. 12-16), corresponding to this section of our book.
Chapter 13 speaks of that purity which separates the people of God from the corruptions of Egypt and of Canaan. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Chapter 19 dwells upon those gracious activities and responsibilities flowing from our relationships. How truly, if we realize that we are members one of another, shall we manifest a godly care one for another!
Chapter 20 speaks of the certainty of punishment upon iniquity, something much forgotten in these easy-going times. God will manifest however the certainty of it, whether it be in the chastening of His people or the judgment which is to fall upon the ungodly.
Chapters 21 and 22 speak more specifically of holiness of walk amongst the priesthood. By their position these have a special responsibility, greater than that of the common people. Both responsibilities, while distinct, are merged for us who are both “a peculiar people” and “a holy Priesthood.”
Division 5. (Lev. 23-27).
Looking forward to the end, promises and assurances. As the fourth division suggested the book of Numbers with its provision for our walk through the wilderness, so the fifth gives us a foretaste of the book of Deuteronomy, dwelling, as it does, upon the fulfillment of God’s ways and the responsibilities which rest upon His people.
Chapter 23 carries us forward to the end. We have the feasts of Jehovah, beginning and ending with the Sabbath. Here we have the whole course of God’s ways with His people set forth. How blessed it is to see that He begins and ends with the Sabbath! All is in view of the rest of God. It is this which governs all.
Next, we have the set times or special seasons which stand out in marked distinctness throughout the year typifying it all. Here we have first the Passover, emphasizing the great truth of redemption, which is God’s beginning (Lev. 23:4-8).
Linked with this is the feast of unleavened bread to be kept for seven days, typical of that holiness which is to mark the people of God throughout their entire earthly walk.
Next (Lev. 23:9-14) we have the feast of first-fruits, typical of the resurrection of our Lord; and 4n connection with that, there is the personation of the sacrifice upon which it was based.
Following this, we have (Lev. 23:15-22) the feast of weeks or Pentecost, when the meat offering of a new beginning is presented to God. We cannot fail to remember its remarkable antitype, the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down and vast multitudes of souls were saved. In the two loaves which were waved before the Lord, baked with leaven, we have a marked suggestion of the presentation of the Church to God, composed of Jew and Gentile, in both of whom indeed is the leaven of the old nature, but who are presented to God not in themselves, but in connection with that perfect sacrifice which is typified in the seven lambs, one bullock, and two rams which are offered as a burnt offering to God, and the sin offering of the goat, together with the peace offering. This multiplication of the offerings in connection with the presenting of these two loaves with leaven is most suggestive.
In connection with the service of the feast of weeks we have the gleanings of the harvest which are left for the poor. The Gentiles, dung the whole of the present period, have indeed profited wondrously by the harvest left by Israel. This bounty still goes out to the nations in the period succeeding the Church, and it is of this that we have a glimpse in the latter part of this portion.
We pass next (Lev. 23:23-44) to those feasts which have more specific reference to Israel nationally. Here, in the blowing of trumpets in the seventh month, we have the set time to favor Israel. Connected closely with this, is the great day of atonement — in one sense, we might almost say, a repetition of the Passover, but with specific features which were associated with the service already described in the third division of this book, the entrance of the high priest into the holiest. It is here alone that Israel sees her sins put away by Him who, though offered long before, has hitherto been rejected oy her during all the ages of the present period; but after that she has been called to repentance, they look upon Him whom they pierced. Thus it is that the way is opened for the feast of ingathering, when the people can enjoy to the full the triumph of grace and see the consummation of all God’s ways with them in the great feast of Tabernacles. This closes the cycle of time which fittingly merges into the final Sabbath. The Millennium thus is succeeded by the eternal rest of God.
In chapter 24, we are introduced again into the sanctuary, where we are reminded that the light and the shewbread are perpetually preserved. This suggests what we have already seen in the feasts of Jehovah, that the gifts and calling of God with respect to Israel are without repentance. Meanwhile, however, evil must be judged, and especially that apostasy which results from the mixture of the professed people of God with the world.
Chapter 25 is one of great interest, being evidently of a prophetic, as well as of a typical character. In the Sabbath of rest for the land and the jubilee Sabbath at the end of fifty years, we have the evident provision of God for the Millennium. God’s eye is upon His inheritance. If His people fail to let the land enjoy her Sabbaths, typical of the rest of God in His inheritance, He Himself must intervene, as we see later, in chastening. The land however is never to be finally alienated from those to whom it has been given. The provision for the year of jubilee, the year of release, shows this. Liberty throughout the land is to be proclaimed on the great day of atonement; when blessing comes forth from the presence of God through the Priest, the people’s inheritance will be restored to them. God will remember His covenant and remember the land. So also where bondage has come in, and through poverty one has sold himself to another, this bondage is to be removed in the year of jubilee. There is also the right of release and recovery of property, all of which is of intense interest. The prophet Jeremiah carries out some of the provisions of this law of redemption when he purchased, in the very face of the Chaldean occupation of the land, his inheritance in Anathoth (see Jer. 32).
Provision having thus been made for both the inheritance and the people, we have (chap. 26) the promises for obedience and solemn warnings if the people depart from God. There is even here however, the assurance that forgiveness will follow their repentance. Thus we have prophetic intimations of what had evidently been in the mind and heart of God from the beginning.
The closing chapter shows how God provided for the failure of Israel under the first covenant — they having utterly failed to keep their vow of obedience to God by which they were bound. In this chapter God gives intimations of His provision for them in grace, not for the setting aside of the vow, but a redemption from it by the payment of the divine estimation. We know well who has paid that pledge which they had engaged to render, but utterly failed to do. Throughout the entire chapter, this truth of redemption by substitution for dedicated objects of person or property is emphasized. Only one dedicated thing could not be redeemed, for the precious reason that it was the type of Him who set His face like a flint and would accept no exemption, who could say in the anguish of His holy soul, as He looked forward to the payment of that awful vow which He had taken upon Himself in love to man, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Thus the book closes with the seal of redemption upon it, and in a different form reiterates the precious truth of substitution which so largely occupied the opening. Truly, sanctification to God must rest upon the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Chapter 4: Numbers

WHEN a right relationship with God on the basis of redemption, and the principles of holiness flowing from that are entered into, we are then ready, not before, to take up the wilderness walk. This is the general theme of the fourth book; its number speaks of the earth, as the third does of the sanctuary. It speaks of testing’s to which we are all subjected upon earth, and alas, of failure wherever the grace of God is not counted upon to uphold.
The book of Numbers therefore gives us the wilderness walk of Israel, after the legal covenant at Sinai had been confirmed and, most suggestively, after the elements of mercy had been added consequent upon the failure and apostasy at Horeb. The sacrificial features of the tabernacle service were emphasized in the book of Leviticus, as we have seen. In fitting accord with this, Israel’s relation to the sanctuary is taken up, in the opening of the present book. This will appear as we proceed.
Division 1. (Num. 1-10:10).
The camp gathered in order about the Tabernacle. We read that when the people came out of Egypt, a mixed multitude (literally, “a great mixture”) followed them, composed, no doubt, of Egyptians or half-breed Israelites. It was these who fell a lusting, and very likely started those murmurings which brought God’s chastening upon the people. In this book we see that such a mixture is not contemplated in God’s thought. Provision is not made for them. If the wilderness journey is to be taken aright, there are two great features which must control. First, there must be a divine center, about which the people are gathered in order and subjection; second, there must be a separation from all that would be inconsistent with such a Presence. Therefore our walk through the world is to be governed by these two principles: our individual and collective relationship to God’s center, and our corresponding separation from the world.
The first of these is given in chapters one and two, and supplemented by chapters three and four. The full census of the people is taken according to their tribes and their families. A prince of each tribe is selected who presides over the enumeration of that tribe. This enumeration is to include only the men of war, for it is in view of the dangers and trials of the journey that the census is taken. We have here, then, at the very outset, the thought of order emphasized. Not one Israelite warrior is to be omitted, but he finds his place in subjection to his tribal prince, while all are ranged as will be later seen, with reference to the tabernacle. This grouping around the sanctuary is most interesting. Space will permit only the briefest glance at that which down to its minutest details furnishes most suggestive instruction.
The twelve tribes are divided into four camps, each composed of three tribes with their respective leaders. The prominent tribe in each camp gives its name to the group, and these are stationed one on each side about the tabernacle. The tribe of Levi, set apart to the service of the tabernacle, is not included in this allotment. Its place is made up by the dividing of the tribe of Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh.
We must condense what we have to say about the significance of these various camps, their position and their march, within the compass of a few words, which will, we trust, stimulate the interest of the reader to seek for the full orderly detail which can be found elsewhere.
The camp of Judah was stationed in the front, toward the east. There are two words for the east — “that which opposes,” and “sun-rising,” typical of what meets us in our wilderness joey, the opposition in the world, and the blessed hope of the coming day of the morning without clouds.
Judah means “praise.” The prince is Nahshon, the son of Amminadab. Nahshon means “a diviner;” Amminadab, “the people of the willing giver.” Associated with Judah are Issachar and Zebulon, whose princes are respectively Nethaneel, the son of Zuar, and Eliab, the son of Helon. Issachar means “hire,” and his prince Nethaneel, “the gift of God,” whose father is “little.” Zebulon means “dwelling,” and his prince Eliab, “God is a Father,” the son of Helon, possibly “the mighty one.”
Here then we have the suggestion of the power which is to meet the opposition in the world and lead God’s people victoriously onward to the coming day. The spirit of praise must be first — praise which comes from a knowledge of all the grace that has been shown and will be continued. Here, as ever, the singers are to be in the forefront of the battle. This is the true spirit of divination in the right sense, for he who knows God can foretell the future: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” From Judah, too, He has come who is the true diviner, our Lord Jesus, the leader of our praises, the captain of the Lord’s host. Truly, we are “the people of the willing giver,” who has given us thus His blessed Son.
Associated with the spirit of praise, is the sense of responsibility suggested by Issachar, “hire,” reward for faithfulness; yet his captain suggests also that which is to control the thought of reward; it is Nethaneel, “the gift of God,” the son of Zuar, “little.” Truly, there must ever be the sense of our littleness, and that the very grace to make us faithful is God’s gift. So Paul could say: “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given.”
In like manner, Zebulon, “dwelling,” speaks of abiding communion with God, which must be present if the spirit of true praise is to continue and the sense of responsibility to be kept in its rightful place. His captain, Eliab, “God is Father,” the son of Helon, “the mighty one,” speaks of that Spirit of adoption which is at once the power and the pledge of an abiding counion. “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Thus the camp in front of the tabernacle is established and sets out first in the order of march, leading the way for the hosts of the Lord to follow on.
Reuben — “See, a Son” — leads the camp stationed on the south, “the right hand.” Although displaced from the leadership because of his instability (see Gen. 49: 4), he has here the place of dignity and responsibility beautifully maintained, not by a fleshly energy which fails, but by divine stability through true sonship. His captain is Elizur, “my God is a rock,” the son of Shedeur, “the Almighty is fire.” Associated with Reuben, are Simeon, “obedience,” whose prince Shelumiel, “at peace with God,” the son of Zurishaddai, “my rock is the Almighty,” emphasizes the same truth; and Gad, “increase,” whose captain Eliasaph, “God hath added,” the son of Reuel, “known of God,” shows the principle of true increase: “The Lord knoweth them that are His” and “The Lord added daily to the Church,” etc. Thus the camp on the south which sets forth second is established, furnishing stability and the assurance of increase in connection with the spirit of obedience.
The tabernacle with its attendant Levites comes next in the order of march. We will glance, however, at the two remaining camps before speaking of the Levites.
Westward, Ephraim accompanied by Manasseh and Benjamin, the children of Rachel, are grouped. The west, the opposite of the east, is “toward the sea,” the place of storm, but also of refreshing showers from it. Here Ephraim, “fruitfulness,” has his place, characterized by his captain, Elishama, “God hath heard,” the son of Ammihud, “the people of majesty” — fruitfulness comes from God. Manasseh, “forgetting,” whose prince Gamaliel, “God is a rewarder,” the son of Pedahzur, “the rock hath redeemed,” encourages us to forget the things that are behind and to seek our fruitfulness from the Rock who hath redeemed us. Benjamin, “the son of my right hand,” tells of the dignity of our position which is to be characterized by the prince Abidan, “my father is judge,” the son of Gideoni, “the feller, or cutter down,” where we have the sense of adoption and that godly fear which will remove pride from us. This is the true spirit of fruitfulness, which can gather out of the very trials of the way material for spiritual increase.
Lastly, on the north, and forming the rearguard on the march, we have the camp of Dan; associated with him are the tribes of Asher and Naphtali. There is a military ring about some of these names appropriate to the place they occupy; for those who bring up the rear must guard against stragglers and such sudden assaults as, for instance, that of Amalek, who inflicted loss upon the rearward of the children of Israel.
Dan, “judge,” his prince Ahiezer, “the brother of help,” the son of Ammishaddai, “the people of the Almighty:” these names combine the thoughts suggested of alertness, power and helpfulness. Associated with him is Asher, “happy,” whose prince, Pagiel, “the event of God,” son of Ocran, “afflicted,” shows us the paradox which grace alone can interpret, that affliction under the stroke of God produces a happiness which is not that of the world, but is a fitted safeguard against assaults from the rear. With him is Naphtali, “the wrestler,” another militant name, characterized by his prince Ahira, “brother for evil,” the son of Enan, “open-eyed,” suggesting that “Brother born for adversity,” whose eyes are ever watchful against the foe. Thus the camp is duly ordered and prepared for the march. The tabernacle, whether the people are at rest or on their journey, is surrounded by these men of war, all in due order.
It still remains to note briefly the place of the ministering tribe of Levi, who occupied positions immediately about the tabernacle, between the armies and the sacred dwelling (Num. 3, 4). In front, is Moses and the priestly family of Aaron, thus in immediate relationship with the tribe of Judah. Priesthood and praise go together. Levi takes the place of the firstborn of all the tribes spared in Egypt. They are
“joined” to the priesthood as a connecting link between worship and warfare, suggesting the ministry which links these two together. Their service was connected with the tabernacle and had to do with the care and carrying of its different parts through the wilderness. The tribe was divided into three families, of Gershon, “stranger;” Kohath, “assembly;” Merari, “bitterness:” their care respectively was the curtains; the holy vessels; and the boards, sockets and pillars of the tabernacle. Their places in the camp were, Gershon on the west associated with Ephraim, the ministry of Christ in His separation from the world; Kohath was on the south, the objective ministry of Christ as seen in the holy vessels; Merari on the north, the ministry of the truth of His people’s completeness in Him and standing upon Him with the responsibilities flowing out of this.
Thus the whole camp is ordered. As we have seen, all gathers about the center, the dwelling-place of God, which we need hardly say is the fullest type of Christ, in and through whom we draw near to God.
The second thought, of separation from evil, is brought out in the following chapters. Evil must be put out (Num. 5) and holiness maintained, while chapter 6 gives us in the familiar type of the Nazarite that separation which is to mark the people of God in their wilderness joey. We need to remember that Christ is the only true Nazarite, and it is only as His Spirit controls us that we shall be actually separated unto God.
The last part of this first division gathers up details which show how complete the provision is for the way. An exceedingly interesting chapter (7) is devoted to the gifts of the twelve princes, which they offered on successive days at the dedication of the altar. How beautiful to see that all this clusters about the work of Christ!
These gifts were identical in the case of each prince, but they are described in extenso. When we see the significance of the gifts, we are not surprised at the repetition of their enumeration as well as the total sum given at the close of the chapter. All here speaks of Christ in some one of His many aspects. There was one silver charger and a silver bowl. These suggest redemption price (see Ex. 30), and both were filled with fine flour for the meat offering, reminding us that the apprehension of Christ’s person is immediately connected with the truth of redemption by His blood. The golden spoon reminds us of our Lord’s deity, and this appropriately is filled with the incense, for there can be no true worship of Christ which ignores His divinity.
The sacrifices speak of the various aspects of our Lord’s work. The burnt offering of one bullock, one ram, one lamb, speak of the perfection of the one offering of Himself to God in death. The sin offering is present, but a single kid shows, we may say, the comparatively subordinate place which it occupies in God’s thoughts of Christ. Truly sin is put away, but the devotedness of Christ far outshines this effect of His death; while in the full complement of the peace offering with its numbers two and five, we see how God longs for communion with His people.
The chapter fittingly and beautifully closes, after this record of the perfections of Christ of which God never grows weary, with Moses going into the tabernacle and hearing the Voice speaking to him. That Voice (Num. 8) reminds him that the light of the candlestick must be undimmed in order that the beauties of the candlestick may ever be displayed. It is as though God would say to Moses and to us, “See to it that nothing dims your apprehension of the perfections of My beloved Son!”
In chapter 8 we see how the Levites are set apart for their special service of ministry. All is connected with sacrifice and purification.
Chapter 9 is interesting as showing the provision for the Passover to be kept by those who through defilement were prevented from observing it at its proper season. By such, it was to be kept in the second month, as we see it was done in Hezekiah’s time. We may be assured that whenever we allow defilement to relegate the redemption of our blessed Lord to a secondary place, even in His recovering grace God must show us that we have done so. Thus, the very grace which restores to God’s thoughts reminds us of our failure.
Lastly, the presence of God is seen throughout the entire journey. The cloud was to lead them and the silver trumpets were to declare the will of God for every stage. Thus there is full provision for the way.
Division 2. (Num. 10:11-16:35).
Moral separation and departure from God manifested in the people’s history. This portion is in sad contrast with the order and the grace emphasized in the first division. There, Christ was the center and the supreme object, and all grouped in order about Him. Here we have the actual history of the people. At the very outset of the journey, although set forth after the due order, Moses himself fails to realize the sufficiency of the Lord as a true leader. He asks Hobah to be eyes for them in the wilderness, apparently forgetting that God was their leader. Jehovah, in grace, silently rebukes this thought by letting the ark of His presence go before them in three days’ journey to seek out a resting place. The ark and the cloud are the true and only leaders through the wilderness (chap. 10).
If the leader fails, we need not be surprised that the people, instigated by the mixed multitude, begin to murmur. The sweet, wholesome manna becomes wearisome to these, just as Christ in His infinite perfections palls upon the worldling, and the food of Egypt growing rankly in the mud from the river Nile, its leeks, onions, garlic, its melons and cucumbers, together with the fish from the river, eclipse in their thoughts “light bread” which God supplied. The lesson is solemn and obvious. If our journey through this world is to be for God, there must be feeding upon His food, Christ. The food of Egypt will never make pilgrims or warriors. God interposes through the spirit of prophecy, and in patient grace spreads a table for the people in the wilderness: the quails are sent, but He sends also leanness into their souls, and the graves of those who lusted show how lust after the food of this world brings low those who refuse to feed upon Christ.
Next (chap. 12) we have, more dreadful yet, the failure of Miriam and Aaron; moved by envy at the association of a Gentile bride with Moses they speak against him. This is a foreshadow of the subsequent rebellion so soon to be noted when the people openly apostatize from Jehovah’s leader. God marks His judgment upon Miriam with the plague of leprosy. She and Aaron, however, repent and are restored.
In chapters 13 and 14, we have the great refusal of the people to enter into their inheritance. The spies are sent up and bring back an evil report, while admitting the wondrous fertility and desirability of the land. Caleb and Joshua alone stand out for God. Caleb, “wholehearted,” a type of complete devotion, and Joshua as the subsequent leader of the people, a type of Christ in them, alone urge the people to go into the land; and these alone, of all that company, enter forty years later. The people in their hearts turn back into Egypt, and thus show the unfitness of that generation to take up their God-given privileges and responsibilities.
The next chapter (15), by the very abruptness of its contrast to the wretched failure of unbelief, shows the unrepenting grace of God and the secret of true overcoming in the face of unbelief. It is the provision for the meat and drink offerings which are proportioned to the various classes of burnt offerings. “When ye be come into the land” shows that, in spite of Israel’s unbelief, God will bring His people into their inheritance, and this will be due to no power of theirs, but to the sacrifice of Him whose perfect life recorded no such failure as that of the people here. This chapter thus makes full provision for failure and for sin, while in the stoning of the open defier of God, we see judgment which is withheld only for those who avail themselves of the grace of God. These latter, too, are to be marked by the tassels of blue, reminding them of their heavenly character and destiny.
The narrative now returns to the people and we see the culmination of their unbelief in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram (chap. 16: 35). In Korah, of the tribe of Levi, we see the intrusion of those who had been granted a place of nearness in ministry, into the unique prerogatives of the high priest. This is a complete denial of the necessity of the priesthood of Christ, fittingly associated with open rebellion against His authority, as in Dathan and Abiram of the dispossessed tribe of Reuben. Nothing but judgment, instant and final, can be meted out to such wickedness. So, too, in the day that is coming, will God cause the Antichrist, the false prophet who would usurp the place of Christ, to be cast into the lake of fire.
Division 3. (Num. 16:36-24).
Priestly power in resurrection. Again in this portion God turns us from the weakness, failure and rebellion of the flesh, to His perfect provision for His feeble people. This is mingled with the history of judgment inflicted upon them to bring them to a sense of their own nothingness and of God’s supremacy. The censers in which the Levites had sought to show their priesthood, but had found only the fire of judgment, were put as a perpetual memorial upon the altar of burnt offering, emphasizing the fact that Christ alone is Priest. In Aaron’s rod that budded, this is shown from the side of divine power. All the tribes present each their rod, a stick cut down and dead. Among them all Aaron’s alone buds and bears blossoms and almonds, a type of the resurrection of Christ which proclaims His eternal priesthood (Num. 18). Thus, His supremacy in priestly grace is maintained.
The prerogatives and responsibilities of this priesthood are dwelt upon in the rest of the chapter (18), while chapter 19 shows the priestly functions carried out now in maintaining the people in communion with God through the water of separation, with the ashes of the red heifer. This reminds us of the gracious advocacy of our blessed Priest.
Following this (Num. 20, 21), the journey is resumed; but again we are reminded that no confidence can be placed in man. Miriam dies, and again the people murmur for lack of water; and here, solemn indeed, Moses himself breaks down utterly at the crucial moment. He, too, fails to sanctify Jehovah by presenting the testimony of Christ undimmed. In smiting the rock twice with the priestly rod, he denies at once the previous smiting, type of the one sacrifice of Christ which is eternally sufficient to secure the supply of every wilderness need, and mars the perfections of the risen Lord by using the rod with its fruit and blossoms in a way not intended. For this, he is governmentally debarred from entering the land.
The wearisome journey around Mount Edom shows that we cannot overcome the flesh, but must flee from its lusts which war against the soul. How often does the opposition of the flesh occasion a long digression in what should be a straight course from earth to heaven.
Next, Aaron passes away; his priestly garments of glory and beauty are transferred to his son Eleazar, who is a type of Christ in resurrection, the only power for true priesthood. It is the risen Lord who is our Priest.
In the brazen serpent, we have perhaps the last record of these failures. The weariness of the journey around Mount Edom frets the people again to murmuring against God, and the fiery serpents speak of the power of Satan which assails through turning away from God. In the serpent of brass lifted up, we have the well-known gospel of the uplifted Son of Man upon the cross, the remedy for all Satan’s blight, the pledge of forgiveness of every sin.
Fittingly following this, we draw near the confines of the land and a little song, unheard since the triumphant celebration of Moses at the Red Sea, again breaks forth. It celebrates the faithfulness of God in the very supply of the water which their murmurings had previously doubted. The enemy is then overthrown, and the victory begins on the east side of Jordan.
This division closes with the futile attempt of Balak, king of Moab (Num. 22-24) to bring a curse upon Israel through the false prophet Balaam. This lover of rewards is willing enough to curse, but is restrained by a power which he dare not defy. God’s ways with Balaam are a striking illustration of how He would throw every restraint upon evil to win man to obedience, and how, when the heart is fully set upon its own course, He overrules its purposes. Balaam beholds the people from three points, first from Bamoth Baal, “the heights of Baal,” where he beholds them at a distance. Here, however, in the presence of the seven altars, bearing witness of the perfect sacrifice of Christ, he has to declare that the people stand unique before God, and instead of a curse, he must pronounce a blessing. The people are looked upon from the top of the rocks. Who can curse those whom God ever beholds from the top of the rocks? — “That Rock was Christ.”
Next, Balaam looks upon them from the field of Zophim in the top of Pisgah, where a more complete view of the people is obtained. Here, however, he can but confirm his previous testimony.
God cannot repent. He has brought a people out of Egypt, and the shout of a king is amongst them. The third point of view is Peor, with its sinister associations soon to be noticed. “Toward the wilderness” would suggest that the people of God even in this present world have an order and a place which God would not allow to be permanently disturbed. Here, Balaam is again forced to pronounce a blessing.
“Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.” Balaam closes with the pronouncing of judgment upon the enemies of Israel in connection with the coming Star out of Jacob, looking forward of course to the, coming reign of Christ.
Division 4. (Num. 25-27).
Israel’s breakdown. How utterly worthless is the flesh! God has borne with the people time and again, recovering them from their wanderings, bearing them on eagles’ wings, refusing to allow the enemy to pronounce the slightest curse upon them, and yet, when left to themselves, they go on in worse shame and dishonor, if possible, than ever before.
Balaam having signally failed in his efforts to curse, makes the suggestion to Balak to attempt to corrupt the people. This succeeds in an awful way, and the illicit link with Moab shows again the terrible character of that which God speaks of throughout His word as spiritual adultery. Again the priesthood, as we have found throughout this entire wilderness book, shines forth. Phinehas, “the mouth of brass,” in the execution of judgment gains an abiding priesthood for himself. Our great Priest, in His inflexible judgment of the evil into which His people fall, shows His perfection and sufficiency for His glorious office.
The remainder of this division fittingly concludes the narrative of the wilderness experience by giving a second enumeration of the people at the close of their journey. A comparison of the numbers of the various tribes offers many suggestions as to the varying effect of the passage through this world upon different persons. This enumeration is, however, with reference to the coming inheritance. There is a solemn connection between the wilderness walk and the measure of capacity for the eternal inheritance. Each one will inherit all that he is capable of enjoying, but capacities are formed in this present world. The daughters of Zelophehad are appointed a portion in Israel, although their father left no sons. Faith knows neither male nor female, and feebleness is no barrier, sometimes the opposite, to entering into the portion God allots us.
Division 5. (Num. 28-36).
Closing instructions and lessons. The close of the wilderness journey is at last drawing near; the people’s faces are set forward, with their backs to the desert. This closing division therefore, as is common, partakes largely of the character of Deuteronomy, being indeed a Deuteronomic section to the wilderness book.
We have first (Num. 28, 29), a delightful detail of the various sacrifices appropriate to the set feasts of Jehovah. The details here are exceedingly interesting, but with the light already gathered need not much enlargement, for which we have not space here, and they can be found elsewhere. It will be noticed, however, that the burnt offering predominates here. It is the normal, characteristic offering of all, having in itself the elements in a certain measure of all the others. Closely connected with it is the meat offering. The person of Christ must never be separated from His work, and we get in the burnt offering the highest apprehension of that work in its aspect Godward. This includes the fact that it is for sin, in that death must come in, and that we share with God in it from the fact that it is we who present the offering.
Thus, throughout these feasts, it is the burnt offering which predominates. This was to be offered daily, morning and evening, to be doubled on the Sabbath, and at the beginning of each month to be multiplied, as well as on the Passover and other stated occasions. In the feast of tabernacles, at the close of the year, this multiplication of the burnt offering is emphasized in a marked way. How precious must Christ be to God when the Spirit thus dwells again and again upon the individual perfections of that sacrifice which went up as a sweet savor unto Him! In the light of that sacrifice, how petty are all legal vows! Well may we bless God that, under grace, such vows have been annulled. The only One competent to make them is He who has fulfilled His vows and has paid them in the presence of the Lord’s people (Ps. 116:14-18).
Next (Num. 31), in the conquest of the Midianites, we have a foreshadow of the victories in Canaan, an intimation also of the judgment that shall fall upon all corrupters of the people of God as well as upon His open enemies. Phinehas, the former executor of judgment, is fittingly here the leader of the avenging host. Balaam, the false prophet, falls here with the enemies whom he had advised in their corruption of Israel. How empty is the prayer of the wicked, while going on in sin and unbelief; “Let me die the death of the righteous.” The spoil is divided. What a wealth accrues to the saints of God in connection with the judgment upon their enemies!
The inheritance of the two and a half tribes on the east side of Jordan offers matter for sober reflection. Significantly, the tribes of Reuben and his associate, Gad, choose their inheritance on the east side of Jordan. Reuben, as having been displaced from his rights as firstborn, suggests a coming short of the full purposes of God in the calling of His people. Manasseh, “forgetting,” may remind us of the same. Half of that tribe also finds its lot eastward. It will be noticed that it is the cattle of the two tribes which keep them thus east of Jordan, on the wilderness side; we might say, bordering closely on the world. How often do business and earthly interests hold the children of God from entering fully and practically into their heavenly calling!
On the other hand, faith can lay hold of even the present life, using this world as not abusing it, and there is not an absolute condemnation of these tribes for choosing their portion thus. The ideal, as expressed in the millennium, was a portion on both sides the river, and this indeed Manasseh has, half the tribe being in the land and the other half in Gilead. The very fact, however, that the desire of these tribes raises questions both with Moses, and later on with the whole congregation, indicates the danger connected with such a position. Wherever one’s interests raise questions amongst the people of God, they should be carefully scrutinized. Moses guards, as far as possible, against any future rupture between the tribes, or failure on the part of these of whom we speak to enter into the reality of the oneness of their inheritance with the rest of Israel, by demanding that they shall bear their full share of the warfare, and only enter upon the actual enjoyment of their eastward possessions after the rest of Israel is installed in the land.
(Chapter 33.) We have next Israel’s itinerary from the beginning in Egypt to the borders of the land by Jordan. A whole volume might be written from this retrospective chapter. Every name doubtless has a special meaning which, together with the associations of many, would recall the whole wilderness journey. What a day will it be when at the judgment seat of Christ, He will review all our pathway with us, pointing out our failures and His faithfulness!
“Through scenes of strife, by graves of lust,
Our desert path hath been;
But here, O Lord, we’ve learned to trust
And love Thee, though unseen.”
Looking forward now into the land, we have (Num. 34) a still further Deuteronomic strain in the command to destroy all evidences of idolatry. The land thus purged is described in its borders, north, south, east and west. Here again each name conveys a thought which helps to mark out the grand lines of demarcation between the inheritance of the people of God and that which this world has as its portion.
The inheritance having been described, the portion of the Levites, who as a tribe have no territory, is allotted to them in the forty-two cities scattered throughout Israel, which is at once an illustration of the inflexible judgment of God, “I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel,” and of His grace which rejoices over judgment and turns it into a means of blessing; for the Levites thus scattered through the land and linked with God’s center at the tabernacle would answer to the significance of their name; and, as “joined” to all the tribes, unite them into one whole.
In addition to the forty-two cities of their inheritance, there were six cities of refuge, three east and three west of the Jordan, and these emphasize the same truth, with the added thought of redemption. Thus, throughout the entire inheritance, the people were reminded by these cities of refuge that they were a sheltered people, and that their whole land was thus marked by redemption defense. In view of their future guilt, already foreseen by God, in procuring our Lord’s death, how wondrous is the grace which by that very death provides shelter for those who were guilty of it!
One further provision closes the book (chap. 36). The inheritance assured to the daughters of Zelophehad must not pass from the tribe of of Manasseh to which they belong. Otherwise, the boundaries and integrity of that tribe would be affected. Thus, God assures the perpetuity of the portion of every one of His people and the integrity of their possession. Blessed close indeed to the shameful record of our wanderings in the wilderness, our manifold departures, our waywardness and unbelief! Ever onward, and faithfully, leads our blessed God to that inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.

Chapter 5: Deuteronomy

THE number five, as already seen, suggests in its composition of four and one, the creature with the Creator, man with God. It is thus the number of Emanuel, “God with us,” who humbled Himself and took a servant’s form. Speaking also as it does of human responsibility and those exercises which God produces in His people, it suggests thoughts appropriate to a review of our earthly path. It is cheering to remember that the review of our journey with the records of its failure, is made by the One who is not ashamed to call us brethren, and that our manifestation is at the judgment seat of Christ, who will have already raised us up in His own likeness and presented us there, not as criminals at a tribunal to learn their fate but, in glory like Himself, to learn abiding lessons for eternity.
These are the thoughts we gather from Deuteronomy, both from its numerical position and the place which it occupies in the Mosaic narrative. It has especial reference to the responsibilities upon which Israel is about to enter in the land of their inheritance; and in order that these responsibilities may be rightly appreciated, there is a review of Israel’s past history, while the spirit of prophecy leaps forward far beyond the immediate future into those final ages when indeed Israel shall be gathered in millennial blessing under their own vine and Figtree, and the actual inheritance of the land in final blessing will be enjoyed. Thus we have, we may say, a look at the past, the present, and the future, and the book is divided into three departments doted to these periods.
The first few verses, we might say, give us the setting of the scenery of the entire book. Grand indeed it is. In the plains of Jordan, with Pisgah rising near, from whose summit he is so soon to take faith’s survey of the inheritance from which his failure has debarred him, the great lawgiver and leader of the people throughout the wanderings of forty years in the wilderness — he who has borne with them, interceded for them, refused personal exaltation for them — gathers the nation about himself to recount their past ways with God, and God’s ways with them, to lay before them those principles of righteousness, truth and holiness inculcated by the law, and to declare the certain results of failure, together with the fixed purpose of God in their final blessing. The lawgiver’s undimmed eye sweeps over the whole history of the past, searches into the special needs of the people and adaptations of God’s law to their inheritance, and glances forward to the bright light which falls upon the scene. At the close, he bursts forth into a song — “the song of Moses,” celebrating the faithfulness of God in the very judgments which fall upon His people, as well as in their final blessing. What a theme for an orator! What an aggregation of facts and mass of responsibilities, of incentives to action and a sense of ultimate triumph filled and thrilled his soul as, gazing upon the upturned faces of the countless multitudes before him, he spoke for them, their home, and their God! How puny is all human oratory compared with this! May we indeed catch something of the fervor that throbbed in his bosom, and be carried forward in the exultant certainty of ultimate triumph, until we shall burst forth in the song of victory sung even now in anticipation of that glorious day.
Division 1. (Deut. 1-4:43).
Retrospect and exhortation to obedience. Israel had taken forty years for their journey. The object of the statement, “There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea” is evident. It is a silent comment upon the tortuous path we make for ourselves. Unquestionably, other thoughts are present also. In his retrospect, Moses fittingly begins with Horeb where the people had put themselves under a legal covenant, which we may say accounts for the character of much of their subsequent journey. He recalls how, at his earnest request, judges had been granted to them to lighten the burden for himself and thus reach more intimately the needs of the people.
The great refusal at Kadesh-barnea is next recorded, with its consequences. Chapter 2 recounts the wanderings in the desert and the passing by Edom, Moab and Ammon which were to be spared, while the territories of Sihon and of Og were to be taken. Thus, the eastern territory had been subdued. Most touchingly does Moses entreat, that having had a foretaste of the glorious victories to come, he might be permitted to enter the land. How solemnly God reminds him of the inflexible nature of His chastening:
“Speak no more unto Me of this matter.”
Thus, having rapidly surveyed their history, the lawgiver presses upon the people the importance of obedience, and again and again we find these words, “take heed,” “hearken,” “obey.” They are particularly warned against making any image or representation of the invisible God. Idolatry is the badge of apostasy, and paves the way for all subsequent abominations. Therefore they were particularly warned against falling into the sin which characterized the nations whom they were to dispossess. And who, indeed, could be compared with God as He had revealed Himself to them? — in the glories and majesty of Sinai, in the perfections of a law which re-echoed in their own conscience and proved itself to be divine, as the shining of the sun proves it to be the orb of day.
This division closes with the apparently remarkable digression of the provision of the three cities of refuge on the east side of Jordan. We cannot fail to see the divine appropriateness of pointing to the refuge for a people whose past history so much emphasized their need of it.
Division 2. (Deut. 4:44-30).
The law recapitulated, amplified and enforced. This division gives its name for us to the entire book of Deuteronomy, “a repetition of the law.” It is not, however, a mere repetition — which we never find in the word of God. There are indeed certain apparent contradictions, or at least enlargements and modifications which unbelief has not been slow to seize upon and use for its purposes. Faith, however, has learned to see in such apparent contradictions but fresh illustrations of divine wisdom, and finds its profit in the very difficulties which God permits us to ponder over. How good He is, thus, to give His people problems which shall both develop their spiritual faculties and make all the sweeter those answers which we are sure to find hidden beneath them.
Nor let it be thought for a moment that we are apologizing for apparent discrepancies. There will be found an absolute and essential consistency in every portion of God’s word with all the rest, even in the matter of verbal accuracy. We rise from the study of difficult portions of Scripture with the added conviction that not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Thus, the sermon on the mount is, we might say, our Lord’s Deuteronomic review of the law itself, and in the explanations and applications of its divine principles shows us at once the partial character of the original revelation and its essential spirituality when properly applied.
These general remarks will suffice as an instruction to this division of our book. Into its details we will not here enter minutely, noting merely the main sub-divisions and their correspondence with similar portions of the legal covenant originally given.
Sub-Division 1. (Deut. 4:44-11).
We have here first the recapitulation of the ten commandments given at Mount Sinai, tether with the effect upon the people which necessitated the establishing of mediation through Moses (Deut. 4:44-5). Next we have the restatements and applications of the principles emphasized under these commands. This is given in the summary of the first table of the law. “The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy might.” This was to be kept in memory, and to absorb their entire life, at home, abroad, in every circumstance, as frontlets between the eyes and memorials upon their gates and doors. These testimonies are to be passed on to their children also (Deut. 6). In the light of this command, they are to wage relentless war against the seven nations whom they are to dispossess.
The names here, as everywhere, are doubtless significant. They suggest those powers of evil which preoccupy and would prevent our enjoyment of our God-given inheritance in Christ. The Hittite, “child of terror” — how spiritual dread makes cowards of us all! The Girgashites, “dwellers in clay;” alas, we are prone to settle down in the dust of earth, instead of rising to our heavenly portion. The Amorite, “the talker,” rather than the doer of the Word. The Canaanite, “the trafficker,” companion to the talker, who turns the very truth of God into merchandise. The Perizzite, “he countryman,” suggesting perhaps the thought of great power, nobility, false pride; and the Hivite, “the villager,” suggesting the opposite, a false humility; while the Jebusite, “the treader down,” never rests until all divine things are put beneath the feet. All these are to be cast out. Any alliance with them is to be utterly refused. Their region and their ways are to be abhorred. They are not to be feared because of their greatness, but relentlessly are they to be overthrown (Deut. 7).
They are next (Deut. 8-10:11) reminded of the Lord’s care through their wilderness journey, how they were fed, although suffered also to hunger, that they might learn the lesson which our Lord so fully exemplified: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Indeed, we might remark in this connection, that in His conflict with Satan after the forty days’ fasting in the wilderness (in which our Lord perfectly manifested His obedience, as Israel did their disobedience in their wilderness experience), our Lord meets all the temptations of Satan by quotations from the book of Deuteronomy, thus putting especial honor upon that book which higher criticism has particularly assailed.
Having glanced at the wilderness, their thoughts are led forward to the land in contrast — its fountains, valleys, hills, its grains and fruits, its mineral wealth and abundance of every kind, all typical of the fullness of blessing that is ours in Christ in the heavenly places. They are then further reminded that all this care, both in the wilderness and rich provision in the land, is not because of their righteousness, but rather in judgment upon the wicked nations, and the fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers.
God’s electing love is put side by side with the humbling narrative of the people’s rebellion; their apostasy at Horeb, with the further provocations at Tabersh, Massah, Kibroth-hattaavah and Kadesh-barnea. The intercession of Moses is suitably put in connection with the provision of the ark in which the law could be placed, a type of the great Intercessor who kept the law within His heart (Deut. 9:25-10:11).
Again their responsibility in view of all this is pressed upon them. They are the objects of God’s delight and love, who should imitate Him and love Him in the obedience of practical holiness, as they remember His judgments upon His enemies. Thus would all the blessings and glories of their inheritance be preserved to them, and their years be prolonged even as the days of heaven upon earth. The entire land was to be given to them, but only so much as their feet should tread upon would be practically theirs.
Sub-Division 2. (Deut. 12-26).
Special application of the law Godward and manward. God’s center is first established (Deut. 12). All was to be done with reference to that. The subsequent history of the people in setting up high places which became centers of idolatry shows the divine wisdom in this provision. Any departure from God, on the part of an individual, no matter how near the relationship, or of an entire city, was to be punished with the extreme penalty (Deut. 13).
They were to be holy in their ways, refusing imitation of the abominations of the heathen as to their person, their food, and their religious services (Deut. 14). The Spiritual lesson is clear, as to the people of God, their spiritual food and their worship.
Next follow (Deut. 15) the provisions which were given at large in Leviticus 26, here explained in certain directions in greater detail. Chapter 16 in a similar way gives us the outline of the feasts of the Lord, now in three groups, of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. It will be remembered that three and seven each stand, the one for fullness, the other for completeness, and the feasts can be looked at from both points of view.
Next follow the provisions for righteousness and judgment, looking forward to the time when the King shall reign (Deut. 17). The care for those who minister in holy things is expressed in chapter 18, along with God’s judgment upon Spiritism. The true Prophet, as well as the true King is coming. Thus we see the undertone in the book speaks of Christ.
Chapters 19-21 dwell largely upon the commandments of the second table — duties and responsibilities to man. Here again, as several times before, provision is made in the city of refuge for the protection of him who is unwittingly guilty of his brother’s blood; sufficient witness must be had before any suspected wrongdoer can be convicted. Provision is made for warfare; courage and mercy are to characterize them, although unsparing judgment must be meted out to the enemies in their own inheritance. Again we recur (Deut. 21) to the possibility of manslaughter. How God has thus placed all along the way in these allusions to the city of refuge and blood-guiltiness, sign posts pointing, as it were, to Christ. Thus, Peter could say: “Now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers,” and then points them to God’s refuge. Mercy and uprightness are to mark their ways in dealing one with another. Various details in chapters 22-25 would call for special examination. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy,” and, “Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children” will be recalled in this connection.
Chapter 26 is familiar, with its beautiful ordnance of the basket of first fruits. How the memory of grace in the past and the confession of present blessings are to stir the heart to worship and praise!
Sub-Division 3. (Deut. 27-30)
Blessings and curses as the law is kept or disobeyed. Chapter 27 provides for the erection of a pillar upon Mount Ebal in which the terms of the law are to be written, giving, we might say, Israel’s title-deeds to the enjoyment of the land. Let it be noted, however, that only curses, and not blessings, are provided for.
Chapter 28 then gives, first, the blessings in every department of life for obedience (Deut. 28:14), and at far greater length the dreadful curses which shall come upon disobedience (Deut. 28:15-68).
The whole of this portion closes with a recapitulation in which again the dreadful curses are pronounced upon them, and yet provision is made for their restoration (Deut. 30). It is from this portion that the apostle adapts those words, so often referred to, in Romans 10, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart.” The commandment was near to Israel, but righteousness could never be by the law. Thank God, the gospel is nearer still, with its message of assured grace: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Thus, at the close of this reiteration of the law, blessings and curses are laid before the people, and they are exhorted to choose life and blessing rather than death and cursing.
Division 3. (Deut. 31-34)
The prophetic outlook and the close. Moses is drawing near the close of his great plea for God. Before ending, Joshua is pointed out, as he had been before, as his successor. The law as written by Moses is delivered to the priests, with instructions that it shall be read at the close of every seven years to the assembled nation. God predicts the future declension of the people; the book of the law at the side of the ark is to be a witness against them.
They are now to hear in the words of his closing song the testimony to their perfidy and God’s faithfulness. It is proclaimed in the form of a song, for the spirit of praise must permeate the most solemn denunciations of evil. Thus the entire book of experience, the Psalms, is written in poetry, and the same is partly true of the Prophets. It is as though the contemplation of evil, the very degradation of man, his rebellion and hostility to God, and the foolishness and waywardness of His own people, are not to be so dwelt upon as to oppress the soul, but rather to be viewed with Moses in song, celebrating and declaring God’s victory over all evil, and His ultimate triumph for His people as well. This is the theme of the prophetic song which sets forth in magnificent detail the faithfulness of God. Heaven and earth are called upon to lien to the story. Jehovah’s name is proclaimed and His faithfulness; the waywardness too of His people; His care and patient mercy with them, and their rebellion and apostasy; the governmental results of this departure, with the final triumph in the chastening of the people and bringing them out into the glories of that millennial scene when God shall be exalted and His people blessed (Deut. 32).
In the same connection, we have the blessing of the twelve tribes immediately preceding the closing scene of all. Here the great lawgiver reviews the future history of the people, and their ultimate blessing as exemplified in the recompense given to each of the twelve tribes.
Reuben is to live, but with few men, reminding us that the excellency of nature must be set aside.
Judah will be brought to his people, the full restoration of the twelve tribes here suggested.
Levi’s faithfulness is dwelt upon at length, and the special love to Benjamin and to Joseph, who was separated from his brethren, comes next.
Zebulon and Issachar shall reach out in blessing toward the Gentiles, and Gad and Dan speak of the martial victory which shall result in Israel’s supremacy; while Naphtali and Asher close the prophetic review with blessing.
These blessings of the individual tribes doubtless bring into prominence the special features connected with each; yet this individual blessing is shared by all. All these blessings are headed up in the ascription of praise to the God of Jeshurun, the Helper of Israel, who is the refuge of His people and whose everlasting arms sustain them, who shall drive out their enemy from before them and give them the land of corn and wine. The heavens above shall look down upon the smiling earth where all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
As we contemplate the glorious picture spread out before us, we may with the apostle exclaim in worship: “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.”
The great plea for God is closed; the life-work of Moses is ended; nothing remains now but for him to witness, in his end, the inflexible justice of the law of which he had been the mediator and the exponent. He must himself come under its rigor, and in his exclusion from the land of promise exemplify the fact that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.”
But while governmentally debarred from the land, faith links him with a higher blessing. He is also permitted to look out over the whole goodly inheritance, ere he closes his undimmed eyes, and he sees that goodly Canaan and Lebanon on which the eye of the Lord rests from the binning to the end of the year. Then the faithful servant lays down his charge with his life. He falls asleep, his great work done, and rests from his labor. None amongst the sons of men know his place of burial; the rude intrusion of a false superstition which would do homage to his body, a thing which Satan apparently was eager to effect and which the archangel resisted, is guarded against. God keeps the secret to Himself until the day when Moses shall be seen in all the luster of the glory of the Son of God. Indeed, we have a glimpse of that very glory on the holy mount, where, in company with Elijah, the great lawgiver is seen in the effulgence of that glory which shines in the Son of God.
May we not say that the postscript of his great book, is as an epitaph inscribed upon his monument — the record of his great life!
“And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel.”

Part 3. Literature on the Pentateuch

WHILE many books have been written on this portion of Scripture, we call attention to those which we know to be of special value, and which, by the absence of false or distorted views of truth, can be confidently recommended.
We give them somewhat in graded order, begging with those suited for a beginner and passing on to more advanced works.
Works on the Pentateuch as a Whole
1. Notes on the Pentateuch by C. H. Mackintosh — six volumes, 2470 pages.
These simple and unpretentious books have been the key which has opened to multitudes of God’s people not only the stored treasures of this portion of His word, but the great mass of evangelic and Christian truth revealed in the New Testament.
Written in a singularly lucid and attractive style, the reader hitherto unacquainted with the typical and spiritual teachings of the Pentateuch finds himself in a new world. “Things new and old” are spread out before him in so delightful and attractive a way that he is led on unconsciously to himself. It is scarcely necessary for us to speak of these volumes in detail; one each being devoted to the first four books, and two to Deuteronomy.
In Genesis, we have perhaps the simplest presentation of the gospel of the grace of God, together with the unfolding of His ways as seen in the lives of the patriarchs.
Exodus presents in a most striking way the great fundamental truths of redemption, and dwells at large upon the sacrificial work of Christ.
Leviticus similarly enlarges upon its distinctive theme; and in Numbers, the dangers of the wilderness joey and God’s sustaining mercy are brought out.
A feature of the two volumes on Deuteronomy is the strong insistence upon the absolute inspiration and inerrancy of the word of God and the responsibility of His people ecclesiastically, as well as individually.
The method of treatment throughout is the same. The author does not attempt to indicate the divisions of the book, but taking up each chapter, comments upon it in an attractive, lucid and helpful manner. An admirable characteristic of this work is that it furnishes and prepares the student for further study and search into this portion of Scripture. Indeed, Mr. Mackintosh has that best of all requisites for the teacher — he leads his scholars to do without his further assistance. How many have been enabled after a perusal of one of his volumes, to go on in a similar way in their study of God’s word! These books, already well known, are unhesitatingly commended as an introduction to the whole subject.
2. “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible” by J. N. Darby, five volumes, 2778 pages.
This work covers the entire Scriptures. We refer, however, only to the notes on the Pentateuch contained in the first half of the first volume. The contrast between Mr. Darby’s work and that of Mr. Mackintosh is great. In matter, method of treatment and style, he differs entirely from the latter. His style to many seems somewhat involved and obscure — which it certainly is, compared with the limpid flow of words from the pen of Mr. Mackintosh. There is, however, a lucidity of thought, a grasp of the salient outlines, and a rapid flow which the spiritual reader cannot fail to recognize as the product of a mind in the current of the Spirit’s thought and purpose in each book. Mr. Mackintosh gathered most of what he learned from the teachings of Mr. Darby, and the latter’s writings can be fully appreciated by those who have been prepared to enjoy them by the elementary instruction of the “Notes.”
Other writings of Mr. Darby upon this portion of Scripture, to be found in various articles in his “Collected Writings,” will furnish additional material for the student. If one is going on to the deeper apprehension of the word of God, he must not omit from his studies, the “Synopsis.”
3. “Lectures Introductory to the Pentateuch,” by W. Kelly.
Midway between the elementary teachings of the “Notes” and the deeper current of the “Synopsis,” we have these lectures, going into more detail than the latter, but not so full as the former. They are a sober, helpful presentation of the subjects with many profitable comments in a lucid, scholarly style, characteristic of all the writings of this prolific author, a man of great accuracy and much spiritual discernment.
4. “The Numerical Bible,” Volume I, “Genesis to Deuteronomy,” by F. W. Grant.
This volume occupies a unique place, as does indeed the whole work of which it forms a part. It is difficult to characterize its admirable qualities in the compass of a few sentences. Embracing the breadth and depth of the “Synopsis,” with a minuteness and accuracy of detail far beyond the “Notes,” it offers in its comments an exposition of the Pentateuch by far the most valuable written. This is particularly true of the last four books. When the notes on Genesis were first written, the beloved author did not expect to be enabled to go so fully into his subject as he did later on. It was always his regret that he could not rewrite Genesis. However, the Notes, though brief, are concise and luminous, and show a grasp and understanding of the position of the first book, which enables us to go more fully into its study for ourselves.
The characteristic feature of this work is its recognition of the divinely indicated divisions into which each portion falls. It will suffice here to say that all that is of value in the present handbook owes its origin and largely its details to the “Numerical Bible.” The writer can claim no originality here, and would thankfully own his indebtedness to this work.
Mr. Grant believed absolutely in verbal inspiration to the last letter, an inspiration which extends to the form in which the books were written, as well as to their contents. His faith was richly rewarded, for he was granted to see details of wondrous beauty and importance, reaching down to the minutest portions of the written Word. Nor was he lacking in wideness of reach. His outlines of the entire Bible, as well as the sub-divisions of each book, show this.
Particular attention can be called also to his use of Hebrew etymology. The significance of names, both of persons and places, is brought out, and the student rises from the perusal of these pages with a depth of conviction perhaps never had before, that the word of God is a priceless revelation of Himself in every detail. Little more need be said. We would simply urge upon the student of Scripture the necessity for including this book in his studies.
Separate Works Upon Single Books of the Pentateuch
1. “The Patriarchs,” by J. G. Bellett.
Mr. Bellett possessed a rare gift of keen spiritual insight and analysis, coupled with a lowly spirit of worship which imparts a fragrance to what he wrote peculiarly its own. Marked as he was by a deep apprehension of grace, and an adoring love for and worship of the Son of God, his book on the Patriarchs occupies a necessary place in helpful works on the book of Genesis.
2. “In the Beginning,” by Mr. Kelly, is a treatise upon the first chapters of Genesis, in the author’s usual helpful manner.
3. “Genesis in the Light of the New Testament,” by F. W. Grant, takes the place to some extent of the work the author hoped, before his lamented death, to write. It unfolds the spiritual teachings of the book, dwelling particularly upon the lives of the patriarchs in their individual and dispensational applications.
4. “Creation in Genesis and Geology,” by the same author, dwells upon the creative work, in refutation of evolution.
5. “Typical Teachings of Exodus,” by E. Dennett.
This is a helpful book, particularly the latter portion, where the teachings as to the tabernacle are unfolded.
A number of books have been written upon the subject of the Tabernacle, from which we select a few.
6. “Foreshadows,” by E. C. Pressland. This little work is especially good in showing the way of approach to God.
7. “The Glories of Christ as seen in the Tabernacle,” by H. F. Witherby, brief but lucid.
8. “Christ in the Tabernacle,” by F. H. White, a good gospel exposition.
9. “The Tabernacle,” by Samuel Ridout (in preparation). A more minute and detailed study than the others.
10. “The Priesthood and Sacrifices,” by Mr. Kelly, and
11. “The Day of Atonement,” by the same author, are devoted to the book of Leviticus.
12. Helpful notes will be found in that part of “The Atonement,” by F. W. Grant, which dwells upon this doctrine as unfolded in the Pentateuch.
These must suffice for the individual books. There are helpful pamphlets on portions of Numbers and Deuteronomy, but nothing covering those books as a whole that we would speak of here.
“The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch,” by W. H. Green; “Moses and the Prophets,” by the same author; and “The Unity of the Book of Genesis,” by the same. These will furnish a scholarly, thorough and devout examination of the claims of higher criticism, leaving the reader more convinced than ever of the folly and underlying enmity in those attacks upon the word of God. It might be well to mention that they are for the more advanced student.
It remains only to refer to a few works of general reference.
The Commentaries by Murphy on Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are commended for their soundness and scholarly character, while lacking somewhat in the spiritual insight which marks the books first referred to.
Doubtless there are many other works which could be mentioned, but we think that these will give what will be found sufficient to furnish the student for his own research. It still remains true here, as throughout the entire word of God: “There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”