Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

severely for murdering his brother. He brings a flood upon the earth, because the wickedness of man is great. He is much displeased with the immoralities of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroys them.

Jehovah is just and merciful—the righteous judge of all the earth.He will not slay the righteous with the wicked, if ten righteous shall be found in the city; he will not destroy it for the sake of ten.

“ That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked : and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee : shall not the judge of all the

earth do right ?”Gen. xviii. 25. Jehovah is jealous. He is unwilling that the man he has made shall become immortal, and encroach on the peculiar prerogatives of Deity.

“ And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.''

Gen. iii. 22. Jehovah repents of what he does.

It repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”—Gen. vi. 6. When Noah comes out of the ark, he offers a sacrifice to Jehovah :-Jehovah smells a sweet savour," and it pleases him, and he says in his heart,

“ I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.”

Gen. viii. 21.

Government and Providence of God.

The world is governed at its commencement by Jehovah, together with his Elohim. “ The man is become as one of us to know good and evil.”

Gen. iii. 22. “ For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods (as the Elohim), knowing good from evil.”—Gen. iii. 5. From the history of the Creation, given in this Record, we perceive that, though God is soon transferred to heaven, the earliest notion respecting his abode was, that Jehovah and his Elohim occupied the garden of Eden.

The providences of Jehovah are generally administered by himself, without the aid of intermediate messengers and agents: angels are, however, occasionally introduced in this Record. Before the destruction of Sodom Jehovah sends two angels to that city. The angel of Jehovah speaks to Abraham out of heaven. *

Jehovah watches over his chosen people with great solicitude; he also regards whatever is done upon the earth. He scatters the inhabitants abroad over the face of the world : guides Abraham in his wanderings to the land he will shew him :" gives temporal prosperity, and causes adversity: makes fruitful, and makes barren. All physical evils are punishments inflicted by Jehovah: all temporal blessings are his rewards.

Jehovah enters into covenant with the Patriarchs in a similar manner to that in which men bind themselves to observe certain mutual conditions. Jehovah enters into covenant with Abraham. By his desire Abraham takes a heifer, a she-goat, and a ram, each three years old, divides them in the midst, and arranges each piece one against another : also a turtle dove and a young pigeon; but these he does not divide.

And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram.”Gen. xv. 17, 18. Chap. xvii. 3, Jehovah ratifies the covenant in person. Other nations used similar ceremonies, when they bound themselves by covenant. Those who made the contract passed between the divided pieces of the sacrifice, to signify that whichever party did not fulfil the conditions of the covenant should in like manner be divided in pieces. I Jehovah enters into covenant with Isaac.

And Jehovah appeared unto Isaac and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto

* See Gen. xxii. 11 and 15.
† See Gen. xii. 1, xxxi. 3, xxi. 1 and 2, xxv. 21, xxix. 31.

See Gen. xv. 9-18.

с

Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as
the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these coun-
tries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed ; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept
my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”-

Gen. xxvi. 2-5. The frequent mention which is made of the erection of altars, of sacrifices, vows, and prayers, in worship of Jehovah, is peculiar to this Record. Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all build altars, and sacrifice to Jehovah. *

SECTION III.

The Record Elohim.

The Record Elohim opens with a description of the creation. In grandeur of conception and beauty of expression it is very superior to that given in the Record Jehovah. Many traditions of the creation, which existed among the eastern nations, have been transmitted to us in the Chaldee, Egyptian, and Phoenician fragments, but all are very inferior to the Hebrew cosmogony preserved in this Record; for these were of earlier date, whilst the latter did not receive its present modification till the God of Israel was regarded as the one God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

In the beginning God creates the heaven and the earth. He fashions the earth by degrees, but he does not frame it out of some previously existing material, producing a perfect creation out of a chaotic mass : he creates everything by his fiat. The creation is called into existence by his almighty will, through his almighty power. This is a sublime conception of God's all-creating energy, and the expression, God said let there be .. and it was so," is full of force and beauty

The manner in which God's all-creating wisdom is extolled—“ And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good,"—is very dignified. Here no adverse principle, no Demiurgus with evil intent, is introduced. The conception of a God who performs his

* See Gen. iv. 3, 4,5; viii. 20; xii. 7, 8; xiii. 2, 3, 4, 18; xxi. 33; xxvi, 25.

work after the manner of a human artificer, who is fatigued with his exertions and rests from his labours, is more weak and puerile. God continues his operations on each succeeding day. In six days the creation is completed, wherefore God rests on the seventh day, and blesses and sanctifies it. The division of the creation into six days is peculiar to this Record. It is not improbable* that the rest of the Sabbath instituted by Moses might have suggested this division to our author, and that he makes use of it in order to impress upon his readers the peculiar holiness of the Sabbath. The first four days are occupied with the creation of day and night; of the firmament, the waters, and the earth; of every herb and every tree ; and of the sun, moon, and stars, which rule the day and the night, and mark the changing seasons. The fifth and sixth days are devoted to the creation of every living creature; the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, every beast of the field, and every creeping thing. Then God says, Let us make man," and to man it is given to have dominion over everything that has life, and which moves upon the earth.

This Record does not say that man is formed from the dust : and, instead of the man being created first, and the woman some time after, they are here described as being created simultaneously.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”—Gen. i. 27. The expression, “ God made man in his own image or likeness," is more than once repeated. “ Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Gen. i. 26. “ In the day that Gud created man, in the likeness of God made he him.”—Gen. v. 1.

“Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”—Gen. ix. 6. It is not difficult to point out the probable origin of this opinion. Long before the distinctions of body and soul, of intellectual and moral powers, had been made, man discovered that his strength and reason gave him superiority and dominion over all animate and inanimate objects, and constituted him the lord of this world. To his God, to man's Creator, he would naturally ascribe the same attributes with which he found himself endowed, only in a far higher and greater degree. Man pictured to himself a God more beautiful and more powerful than himself, yet clothed in a human form, and possessed of human faculties. It was not till man had first formed God after man's image, that, when speaking of his own creation, he reverses the order, and says, God made man after God's image.

* See Gen. ii. 3.

Representations of God.

The Creator of heaven and earth, whose “spirit moved the face of the waters,” is represented as a family-God, a patriarchal-God, and a national-God. He descends from heaven, and visits the abodes of men. He converses with Noah, makes known to him his intention of destroying all flesh, and commands Noah to construct a ship in which he and his family shall be saved amid the general destruction. God, like a naval architect, gives particular instructions respecting the height, length, and breadth of this ark, and the manner of its pitching. He tells Noah what animals he shall take with him into the ark, and what food he and the cattle shall eat while confined in it. After the flood has remained sufficiently long upon the earth “ God remembers Noah,speaks with him, desires him to go forth out of the ark, blesses him, gives him permission to eat animal food, and promises never again to bring a flood upon the earth. God likewise visits Abraham, converses with him, promises him a son, and a numerous posterity. These infantine representations much resemble the earliest Greek mythi. Mankind knew not how otherwise to account for the blessings and deliverances they were continually experiencing than by attributing them to the immediate agency of their deities, and the anthropomorphised Gods of that age could not act where they were not personally present.

God also appears in dreams, “ God comes to Abimelech in a dream by night.” The apparition Abraham had, when God commands him to offer his son Isaac, must be considered as a dream, for it is immediately added, “ Abraham rose up early in the morning ;” that is, after he had slept

« PreviousContinue »