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Jehovah's resolve no more to curse the earth for man's sake,' with Jehovah's initial comprehensive covenant with Abram: "Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.""
Ethics of Patriarchal
An idealizing people may look to the ancient time for groups of facts which shall embody a more perfect ethical sequence of cause and effect than current life affords. The narratives of the patriarchs set Religious forth ancient tradition; but they gained a deeper truth from Israel's further thought as Narrative. to her own beginnings; for now she was seeing the meaning of these ancient facts and through them all the hand of God. The narrative of Abraham is a story of Jehovah's care. Abraham is a righteous man, just and magnanimous,' a ready helper, hospitable to those whom he does not know to be Jehovah's angels, most persistently interceding for the city where his nephew dwells,* in every way a prince of the earth's foretime. The summit of his righteousness consists in belief and obedience; Abraham believed Jehovah, and it was counted to him for righteousness; believed Jehovah, confided in his faithfulness and in his power to consummate his promises; so Abraham would obey his commands even to the sacrifice of his only son. Belief and obedience-qualities which when perfect necessarily imply each other-constitute Abraham's side of the covenant, and so this covenant, like all true covenants, is mutual.
1 Genesis, viii, 21.
* Genesis, xii, 1-3. Repeated Genesis, xxii, 17, 18, and substantially to Isaac, Genesis, xxvi, 4, and to Jacob, Genesis, xxxv, 11, 12.
Likewise the history of Isaac tells of Jehovah's care, which appears perfectly set forth in the narrative of the happy sending for Rebekah, a story showing lucidly the providential ways of Jehovah with his servants.' So again does Jehovah's providence guide the complex life of Jacob, and work itself out through a father's tears for his beloved son thought to be torn in pieces, but in reality preserved "to save much people." The intricate self-deferring yet surely self-accomplishing providence of Jehovah is the palpable matter of Joseph's marvellous career, as after Jacob's death he sums it up in reassuring words to his fearful brethren: "And Joseph said unto them, Fear not, for am I in the place of God? And as for you, ye meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."
But Jehovah's mightiest act in the long fulfilment of his covenant with Abraham was the deliverance from
The Consecration of Deliver
Egypt. As Israel through the centuries, dwelling in the land which Jehovah sware unto her fathers, looked back on this deliverance, it appeared so merciful and loving, so complete and so exclusively of God, and withal so significant and purposeful, that she felt herself set apart as holy as Jehovah, devoted to him and forbidden other service; and then holy too as consecrated to a God whose nature was righteousness and mercy and love, and whose service could consist only in righteousness and mercy and love.
According to the narrative, the consciousness of this consecration was given Israel on reaching Sinai : “And there Israel camped before the Mount. And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel, Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle's 1 Genesis, xxiv. * Genesis, 1, 19.
wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which Jehovah commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that Jehovah hath spoken we will do.'
With Moses himself the consciousness of Israel's true vocation was present always, as may be understood from the anguish and wrath which comes on him at Israel's backslidings, and once at least he is recorded to have spoken out in words of reprimand his own heart's hope. Joshua would have him jealously forbid the elders prophesying,-seeing for themselves and speaking out for others Jehovah's will. Says Moses: "Art thou jealous for my sake? Would God that all Jehovah's people were prophets, and that Jehovah would put his spirit upon them."'' And just as clearly, though less spiritually, was this severance and consecration disclosed to him who was a prophet of Jehovah only by compulsion and bore Israel no free good-will, that strange witness from an alien race, Balaam the son of Beor. He cannot go beyond the word of Jehovah his God,' nor curse those whom God has blessed and severed to himself:
"Lo, it is a people that dwell alone,
And shall not be reckoned among the nations."
The children of Israel were human, they were not all prophets; even under the very present deliverance of Jehovah, they murmured and complained, sought to go backwards, distrusted his ability or will to help them,
1 Exodus, xix, 2-8 (E.).
• Numbers, xi, 29.
3 Numbers, xxii, 19. "Numbers, xxiii. 9.
Its Permitted SelfAssertion.
lusted after things outside his will, sought other gods, and sinned in every way. So retribution comes from Jehovah. He is represented as in thought to destroy them all, yet-gracious, faithful God! -lets himself be reminded of his covenant and again and again pardons after punishment. These desert sins of Israel, in the minds of the old narrators, were a lack of steadfast trust and a weak disobedient following after other things than those Jehovah had set forth as good. Israel's eyes were not always set on her true aim, declared by Jehovah, accepted by herself. It was no sin, but rather virtue, the stern way in which she executed Jehovah's commands; no sin, but rather virtue, the strong graspingness with which she set herself to seize the land her God had promised. Her virtue for the time was to lie in self-assertion, assertion of the ends and welfare of Jehovah's people; was to take no thought for many centuries of the rest of the covenant-" and in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." With all her strength and cruelty, when it was called for, Israel was to seek what Jehovah had sanctioned to her. Though unconscious of the final end, she was shaping herself as an instrument. And this same permitted selfseekingness is reflected in some of the stories of the patriarchs, most prominently in the stories of Jacob. So the end be one sanctioned by Jehovah, Jacob seeks it with eye single thereto, with selfishness, with guile if needs be, but always in recognition of Jehovah, in discernment of his will and obedience to his commands. With utmost selfishness, taking advantage of his foolish brother's need, he gets the birthright; then by sheer deceit he gets his father's blessing; and so with guile he circumvents the overreaching Laban. Through it all he knows Jehovah, recognizes him, follows him, promises obedience, and puts away strange gods,' and ever with enlightened self-seeking he wrestles on, nor will let go 1 Genesis, xxxv, 2.
until Jehovah bless him. Jacob's strong purposeful striving gets its reward and is commended: "Thou shalt be called Israel, for thou hast striven with God and with men and hast prevailed.
Joseph's character is finer; but in him too is seen this wise self-seekingness when permitted by Jehovah; for it is in this spirit that is displayed the human skill with which he guides the affairs of Pharaoh for the king, and gains for him his people's land and cattle. Jacob had known Jehovah's will and had obeyed it. Joseph knows it with loftier discernment, sees it to consist in forgiveness, sees it clearly to consist in refraining from sin,-so he tears himself away from Potiphar's wife: "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" Always and far back of Joseph, conceived as reaching to the time of Adam, Jehovah demanded obedience and punished disobedience; so he demanded right conduct and punished sin, as the divine words come to Cain, not yet a murderer: "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door. And for the increasing wickedness of men Jehovah sends his flood, saving only Noah for his righteousness, and again brings to naught the wills of men, and scatters them over the earth. Thus was he ever to treat mankind and most of all his people, punishing them for disobedience and blessing them when righteous. He brought the guiltless children into the promised land, though he made Israel to "wander to and fro, in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of Jehovah was consumed."*
1 Genesis, xxxii, 28. ? Genesis, xxxix, 9 (J.). 3 Genesis, iv, 7 (J.). If the Hebrew story of the flood had its original in the Babylonian account, it is interesting to notice how the Hebrew inspiration transforms what it takes from other peoples, even as Greek genius transformed its borrowed models and foreign suggestions. How very early is to be placed the time of the influence of Babylonian myths on Hebraic thought, see Gunkel, Schöpfung and Chaos, pp. 114-170.
'Numbers, xxxii, 13.