« AnteriorContinua »
About the time of the birth of Isaac, the merciful acceptance given to the intercession of Abraham for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah afforded a memorable proof of the condescending goodness of the Supreme Being; and was graciously adapted to encourage the faithful servants of God to earnestness of supplication in behalf of themselves and of others, by teaching the consoling truth, which we learn also from the apostle, that “the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." * The preservation of Lot from the general destruction evinced that the hand of Providence discriminates in the present life between the upright and the wicked.
In process of time it pleased God to “tempt " Abraham; that is to say, to try him, to put his obedience to an additional test. The trial appointed was most severe. The father was commanded to take his son, his only son Isaac, (his only son by Sarah, and the child of the promise,) whom he loved, and to offer him as a burnt-sacrifice in the land of Moriah upon a mountain which was to be pointed out to him. Abraham, strong in faith, immediately proceeded on the journey. He knew that whatever God commanded it was his duty to perform. He knew by long experience the power and the truth of the Almighty. He knew that the promise which he had received of an innumerable posterity, and one of them the Saviour of the world, by that very son Isaac who was now to be slain on the altar, would assuredly be accomplished. He confided that God, in return for this demonstration of unreserved obedience and entire dependence, would speedily restore his son to life. t The willing mind
Eph. vi. 18, 19.
* James, v. 16. See also Acts, xii. 5, &c. Philip. i. 19. Philem. 22. Heb. xiii. 18, 19.
+ Heb. xi. 17-19.
was sufficient in the sight of God. The fatal injunction, at the very moment when it was about to be executed, was countermanded by the voice of an angel. The full approbation of God was announced to Abra
former promise made to him and to Isaac was solemnly reiterated and confirmed. It is evident that the sacrifice of Isaac was a type of the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And the mountain on wbich the transaction took place is by many conceived, and on no improbable grounds, to have been the identical mountain on which Christ suffered
Jacob, the younger of the two sons of Isaac, was afterwards pronounced by the Supreme Being to be the person in whose line the great promises made to his grandfather and father * were to be continued. † And his mother Rebecca, instead of implicitly depending on God for the fulfilment of his own word, had recourse to a very unwarrantable step in order to secure to him the patriarchal blessing accompanying the right to those promises ; a blessing which she apprehended that the partiality of Isaac, now far advanced in years, would assign to his first-born Esau, in contradiction to the purpose of Heaven. Jacob, flying from the resent nt of his brother Esau, who deemed himself defrauded of his right; a right, however, which while he had imagined it to be in his power he had profanely slighted and renounced ; received from God a full assurance of protection, and of the fulfilment of the original promise in himself and his posterity. § After many years, when he returned into the land of Canaan with his wives and children and * Gen. xxvi. 1-4.
+ Gen. xxv. 23.
great possessions, the promise was again repeated; and as a signal mark of Divine favour, his name was changed to Israel ; a term denoting a person who had power with God. *
He returned in time to pay the last offices of duty to his father Isaac; and experienced the kindest reception from his reconciled brother Esau.
After dwelling somewhat more than thirty years, yet still as a stranger, in the countries occupied by the Canaanites, Jacob removed with all his family into Egypt. For this event God had prepared the way by the sale of Joseph as a slave into that kingdom; by having bestowed on that young man, as a reward for his signal virtue, the power of interpreting the prophetic dreams of his fellow-prisoners the servants of Pharaoh, and afterwards the equally prophetic visions of Pharaoh himself; by having raised him to be the second person in the kingdom, possessed, in fact, of the full exercise of sovereign authority ; and by having thus enabled him to provide for his father and his repentant brethren an asylum during the continuance of the general famine. When Jacob was now commencing his journey, he was encouraged with this assurance from the Almighty : “I am God, the God of thy father. Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation. I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee” (thy posterity, at the end of the time predicted t to Abraham) “ up again : and Joseph shall put his hand
thine eyes.” I At the end of seventeen years Jacob died in Egypt; and was carried into the land of Canaan, according to the solemn charge which he had given to Joseph, and buried in the sepulchre of his fathers. Foretelling on his deathbed the appointed fortunes of his posterity, he bestowed on Judah a decided pre-eminence over his other sons; and intimated that he should be the immediate ancestor of the promised Messiah ; and that until the Saviour should appear, the descendents of Judah should remain in possession of a national habitation and an established form of government. * Joseph in his turn confirmed to his brethren, at the time of his death, the certainty of their future departure to the promised land : and enjoined them to carry his bones thither with them. +
* Gen. xxxv. 10, &c. + Gen. xv. 13, 14. # Gen. xlvi. 3, 4.
Other kings, who had not known Joseph, now arose successively in Egypt. Alarmed at the vast and still increasing number of the Israelites, they harassed the unhappy strangers with the severest bondage ; condemned them to be incessantly employed in the construction of cities and public works ; and ultimately commanded that every man-child which should be born unto the Hebrews should be cast into the Nile. Moses, the chosen instrument for the deliverance of this people, was miraculously preserved from destruction, and educated in the court of Pharaoh. When arrived at the age of forty years, he slew an Egyptian who was smiting an Hebrew. He trusted that from this transaction the children of Israel, “his brethren, would have understood that God by his hand would deliver them. But they understood not.” I Compelled, therefore, to save his life by flight from the resentment of Pharaoh, he retired into the land of Midian. There, after about forty additional years, while feeding the flocks of his father-in-law on Mount Horeb, in the wilderness enclosed between the two northern points of the Red Sea, his attention was at* Gen. xlix. 8-10.
+ Gen. 1. 25. | Acts, vii. 23—25.
tracted by the appearance of a conflagration raging in a thicket, by which, however, the thicket was not consumed. God, who thus manifested himself to Moses, commanded him to return into Egypt; that, in conjunction with his brother Aaron, he might bring forth the children of Israel from captivity, and conduct them into the land of Canaan to possess it.
After some culpable hesitation arising from timidity, Moses obeyed; and thenceforth executed with undaunted resolution, resulting from steady confidence in the promised assistance of the Almighty, the commission with which he was charged. His countrymen, convinced by the miracles which God enabled him to work, received him as their leader and deliverer. Tamed by ten successive judgements, closed by the death of all the first-born in Egypt, the hardened heart of Pharaoh sunk within him. The children of Israel, loaded by the Egyptians, who now trembled at their presence, with the most valuable gifts, designed to procure their forgiveness for the cruel oppression which they had sustained, departed in triumph from the land of bondage. But Pharaoh speedily relapsed into obduracy. Enraged at the loss of six hundred thousand slaves, (for to so great a multitude were the men of Israel, exclusive of women and children, increased,) the king of Egypt followed them at the head of his armies; and continued the pursuit into the midst of the Red Sea, which God had divided that it might afford a passage on dry ground for his people. The waves at the Divine word returned to their place; and not a single Egyptian survived.
The departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, after a residence there of two hundred and fifteen years, took place about fifteen hundred and fifty-one years before the Christian era. It was signalised by