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twenty-five acres to each, according to the different estimates made of the extent of Judea (Numb. xxvi. 53). This land they held, independent of all temporal superiors, by direct tenure from the Lord Jehovah, their sovereign ; by whose power they were to acquire their territory, and under whose protection only they could retain it. On this principle, the lands so distributed were inalienable. “ The land shall not be sold for ever; for the land is mine, saith the Lord : ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev. xxv. 23. See 1 Kings xxi. 3, Naboth).
As to the legislative part of their government, God was the author of their laws. No authority was vested in any one man, or body of men, in the Jewish government, not even in the whole nation assembled, to make new laws or alter old ones; their sovereign, Jehovah, reserving this power to himself (Deut. iv. 1, 2; xii. 32).
As to the executive part of their government, the judges and kings were His viceroys, enjoying only a delegated authority, to which they were required constantly to refer :
they were merely instruments employed by God to facilitate the regular administration of his extraordinary providence" (Numb. xxvii. 15, &c.; Deut. xvii. 15; and 1 Sam. ix. 16, the circumstances of the appointment of Saul ; and chap. xv., the cause of his rejection).
It is obvious that such a form of government would be a continual proof, a constant appeal to their senses, that the gods of the heathen were no gods; but that the Lord God of Israel was God alone of all the kingdoms of the earth. (See 2 Kings xix., Hezekiah's prayer when threatened by Sennacherib; whose whole history, as recorded in the Bible, is a remarkable illustration of what is here said. Refer to Isai. x. 5, &c.)
§ ii. Their Laws. As an assistance to our better understanding the government of the Jews, their laws have been divided into three parts ; moral, judicial, and ceremonial. The moral, contained in the Ten Commandments; judicial, regulating their civil government; ceremonial, determining their religious worship.
It is a remarkable feature of these laws, that all their political institutions were made entirely subordinate to their religious; thus suggesting to the rulers of the world, in every age, on what alone the prosperity of any nation really depends (Prov. xiv. 34). As has been already hinted, p. 15, reliance on Providence, in the path of obedience, was the foundation of their civil government, the spirit and the principle of their constitution. (See Graves on the Pentateuch.)
But the laws of the Jews being in many respects so different from those to which we are accustomed, the following hints may be useful, as shewing, that, amidst the minute details to which they descend (even to the colour of the fringes of their garments, Numb. xv. 38), may be traced the wisdom of their appointment; and the germ of those principles which were afterwards fully developed in the Gospel
Observe, then, with reference to the Mosaic Law,
1. Its adaptation to the circumstances of those for whom it was made.
The wisdom of a law appears in its adaptation to the character and circumstances of those for whom it is made. The Jews to whom this law was first addressed were only just delivered from the most abject slavery. To the great ignorance necessarily consequent on such a state was added, as their natural character, great stubbornness. They were a stiff-necked, a disobedient and gainsaying people, (Deut. xxxi. 27; Rom. x. 21) ever disposed to walk in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts. (Isa. lxv. 2.) The law that should govern such a people must have reference to such ignorance and such stubbornness.
Such a people would require to be treated very much as children, to whom it is not enough to give a few general rules, but we must descend to minute particulars, that by repeated acts of obedience in these little things, habits of obedience might be formed, and at every step some restraint on disobedience imposed by a positive prohibition. This is evidently the view given by the Apostle, Gal. iv.
2. The moral object of its rites and ceremonies.
As such a people would require, as children do, minute directions ; so would they also require frequent appeals to their senses ; a law abounding in rites and ceremonies, to fix their attention and affect their heart : and such was the Mosaic law. Of the moral object of those rites and cere
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monies more immediately affecting their religious worship, notice has been taken already in page 51. 120, &c. ; but the moral object of those regulating their conduct as members of Society, may also be easily shewn. Thus Numb. xv. 38, the reason of the direction as to the ribbon to be put on the fringes of their garments, at once explains the moral object for which such a direction was given by God; “ that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them.” That, distinguished by dress from the heathen world around them, they might, wherever they were, be reminded of the object for which they were so distinguished to be a holy people to the Lord. Thus dressed, it was impossible they could join in any idolatrous festival without having all eyes drawn to them.
Again, as evil communications corrupt good manners, the minute directions as to their food, what animals might or might not be eaten, &c. (referred to Lev. xi. &c.) operated as a constant check on idolatry, by restraining their intercourse with their idolatrous neighbours. It will be seen from these directions, as Bishop Patrick remarks, that the Jews killed for sacrifices and food whatever were sacred animals to their neighbours; and such as were unclean to the Jews were accounted holy among the heathen ; as swine were considered sacred to Venus, an owl to Minerva, a hawk to Apollo, an eagle to Jupiter, and a dog to Hecate. Many reptiles also were held sacred by the heathen, all of which were unclean to the Israelites. (Rom. i. 23.)
The eating of blood, so pointedly forbidden to the Jews (Lev. xix. 26—28), was very common in heathen feasts and sacrifices. It would thus appear that the Jews could scarcely ever eat and drink with the heathen, and thus one great snare to idolatry was removed; for, as has been well remarked, “ intimate friendships are in most cases formed at table, and with the man with whom I can neither eat nor drink, let our intercourse in business be what it
I shall seldom become so familiar, as with him whose guest I am and he mine."
Besides these, there were many other prohibitions referring to the same object, namely, to keep them as far as possible from the religious practices of the heathen : thus Deut. xxi. 9, it was an idolatrous rite to sow barley and dried grapes together ; by which they signified that their vineyards were consecrated to Ceres and Bacchus, and recommended to the protection of those heathen deities. Lev. xix. 27, refers to customs which we know, from the testimony of profane authors, as Homer, &c., as well as from Scripture (Jer. xvi. 6; 1 Kings xviii. 28), were religious rites of the heathen. Honey was probably forbidden for the same reason, and seething the kid in the mother's milk (Exod. xxiii. 19).
3. Its spirituality.
That is, it regarded principally the thoughts, and not the outward conduct only ; requiring obedience from an inward principle.
The Tenth Commandment, “ Thou shalt not covet,” &c., clearly shews this. It was by the right understanding of this commandment (Rom. vii.), Paul was led by the Holy Spirit so forcibly to feel his need of a Saviour. 4. Its principle.
The great inward principle it required, that on which all the law and the prophets hung, was love to God with all the heart, as the first and great commandment (Deut. vi. 5 ; xi. 13; xxx. 6); and the second is like unto it, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev. xix. 18). The poor, the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, were to be especially the object of their regard. Enemies were to be the objects of their kindness (Exod. xxiii. 4, 5). They were particularly forbidden to abhor even an Egyptian, though the Egyptians abhorred them, and were the most cruel of their oppressors (Deut. xxiii. 7).
A merciful temper towards brutes was urged upon them as one of the conditions on which they were to expect the divine blessing on themselves in the land of promise (Deut. xxv. 4. xxii. 7).
5. Its impartiality.
Again and again Moses declares, God is no respecter of persons (Deut. x. 17). The idolatrous Hebrew city was to be given over to the same destruction as that denounced on the nations of Canaan. (Deut. xiii. 12, &c.)
As the love of God was the great principle every where enforced, so the want of this love, Moses forewarns them, would cause their rejection : “See, now, I have set before thee,” &c. ; “ love the Lord,” &c.; 6 but if thine heart
turn away,” &c.,“ perish,” &c. (Deut. xxx. 15, &c.) And again : "As the nations,” &c., "so shall ye perish,” &c. (Deut. viii. 20.)
6. Its subserviency to the Gospel.
It made no alteration in the mode of man's acceptance with God. We are informed, that it was added, not to set aside the promise, but “because of transgressions” (Gal. iii. 19). In the awful circumstances of its promulgation (Exod. xix. xx.; Heb. xii.), and in the general severity of its enactments (Numb. ix. 9—13; Levit. vii. 20, 21, &c.), it forcibly pointed out man's exposure to the wrath of God, and the insufficiency of any thing which he could do to atone for sin ; and thus, by deepening men's convictions of the evil of sin, it became a schoolmaster to lead to Christ (see Gal. iii. 24, and Epist. to Hebrews). Its perfection chiefly appears in its adaptation to this object; which having accomplished, like the morning star it gradually disappeared before the rising light of the Sun of Righteousness.
$ üïiThe Sabbatical Year, and the Jubilee, as illustrating
their Government and Laws. These institutions place the peculiarity of the constitution of the Jewish nation in a very striking point of view.
The Sabbatical Year.
1. The ground was to remain uncultivated in every respect; neither ploughing, sowing seed, planting, nor pruning the vineyard, &c., being permitted. What the ground produced of its own accord was to be devoted to charitable purposes (Exod. xxiii. 11). God, however, graciously promised, on their obedience to this command, so to bless the sixth year that it should yield fruit enough for three years (Levit. xxv. 2—21). Thus while the kind consideration of the stranger, the poor, the fatherless, the widow was enforced, they were reminded that their land was His property, and that His providence, and not their fruitful soil, was their security for its preservation.
2. Debts were to be remitted (Deut. xv. 1, 2).