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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries


- Genesis

by Joseph Exell

General Intoduction to the Old Testament


IT is clear that it would be impossible to use to any good purpose the small space at my command without the most rigid limitation of the object in view. If it were my duty to enter into the masses of literary and critical questions which affect the date and authorship, the unity and special difficulties, of the books of the Old Testament, It would require a much larger space to furnish an adequate introduction to any one of them. In these few pages it would, for instance, be difficult to treat fully of the single question which meets us as soon as we begin to study even the Book of Genesis, namely, what are the true inferences to be drawn from the use of the different names of God — now Jehovah, now Elohim, and now both together, or interchangeably — which we find in the first chapters of the Bible.[1] Jehovah, for instance, occurs in twelve consecutive passages in Genesis 1-9., and Elohim in fifteen consecutive passages. For a brief examination of the subject, see 'Quarry on Genesis,' passim, and the 'Speaker's Commentary,' 1. pp. 21-30. For the discussion of all such questions the reader must turn to the Introductions to the several books, or to other sources. My present task is directly limited by the character of this Commentary as essentially HOMILETIC. I am required to furnish some suggestions respecting the use to be made of the Old Testament, the methods to be followed, and the principles to be kept in view, in dealing with it for purposes of religious instruction.

Now exegesis is one thing, and pulpit exhortation is another. A man may be a most useful preacher — he may have great powers of oratory, and may be enabled to enforce many practical and religious lessons with fervor and acceptance — without any pretence to the learning which is essential to a profound and thorough knowledge of Scripture. And such men are sometimes misled into the supposition that they can speak with authority on the meaning and interpretation of particular passages. The supposition is entirely baseless. Any man may gather for his own use, and that of others, the manna which lies everywhere upon the surface of the ground; but no man can without labor become master of all the hidden treasures which lie beneath. Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. A Christian child, an ignorant peasant, may have a deeper and more spiritual appreciation of all that is most necessary for the inner life of the regenerate soul than is possessed by the greatest master in Israel. But this saving knowledge, though infinitely more important than any other kind of knowledge, does not entitle any one to an opinion of the smallest value on the removal of exegetical difficulties, or on difficult and dubious questions of fact or doctrine. The remark of St. Jerome, that in his day there was no old woman so ignorant and so stupid as not to hold herself entitled to lay down the law on matters of theology, is true in this day; and it applies also to Biblical interpretation. But he who would aspire not only to found upon Scripture texts a moral and spiritual exhortation, but to ascertain and unfold the actual meaning of Scripture, — to decipher the oracles of God as the inspiring light gleams over the letters of the jeweled Urim, — must have at his command a multifarious knowledge. Without this he may be at home in the shallows which the child can ford, but not in the depths where the elephant must swim. Piety and charity are far more important than learning for the sympathetic appreciation of Divine revelation; and prayer is most important of all. Without these a man may know the Bible by heart, and yet possess no effectual, no spiritual knowledge of a single line; but even with these there are many passages which, without study and learning, can never be rightly understood. On such passages no unlearned and untrained person should profess the ability to form an opinion of any value. The discovery of the true meaning of many pages of Scripture, the power of looking at it in its right perspective, is only rendered possible by an acquaintance with the original languages, and with the historic and other conditions under which the Scriptures were written. But, in the last few years especially, the results of accumulated study on all questions connected with sacred literature have been placed within the reach of even the humblest students. To neglect these sources of information is inexcusable in any who really reverence the word of God. Without holiness and sincerity their thoughts on Scripture may be useless for the amelioration of mankind; but even if they possess these spiritual gifts, their teaching, not only on minor matters, but even in matters of extreme importance, will be liable (unless it be very humble and very careful) to be defaced by incessant errors of ignorant misinterpretation, which will be all the more dangerous in proportion as it is more dogmatic. The duty of study, in order to ascertain the true rendering and the original sense of Scripture, cannot be impressed too earnestly on all who are to profit by a Homiletic Commentary. It is study alone which has in any degree rescued the Bible from masses of untenable exegesis, traditionally repeated in dull catenae and biased commentaries. It is study alone which can keep alive and increase the light which has been kindled in recent years.

There are, says Coleridge, some truths so true that they lie in the lumber-room of the memory side by side with the most exploded errors. Now there are two considerations, which are often overlooked from their very obviousness, which are yet of primary importance to the understanding of Scripture. One is, that in reading the Old Testament we must always bear in mind that it is not a .single book, but a collection of books, written by authors very differently situated during a period of nearly 1000 years; that in fact we are dealing not with a book, but with a library and a literature. The other is, that the divisions which we call texts and chapters are entirely modern. There are some readers who may perhaps regard these suggestions as almost impertinently superfluous; but they are made not only under the strong conviction that their steady realization would save us from multitudes of difficulties, but also with the proof historically before us that it is the neglect of these very considerations which has caused many of the worst errors which the misuse and misinterpretation of Scripture has ever inflicted, and still continues to inflict, upon mankind.

I. In the first place, then, the Old Testament is not "a talisman sent straight down from heaven, equipollent in all its parts," but contains the remnants of a library, the inspired fragments of a national literature, preserved for us by God's providence out of much that has passed away. To see that this is the case we heed go no further than the Bible itself, which quotes passages from many books now lost, and in some instances directly refers to them as authorities for the facts which it narrates.[2]As, for instance, the Book of Jasher, Joshua 10:13; the Book of the Acts of Solomon, 1 Kings 11:41; the Book of the Wars of the Lord, Numbers 21:14; and others, 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 20:34, etc. But the extant books of Scripture, in which has been preserved all that is essential for the salvation and enlightenment of mankind, are the diversified record of a progressive revelation, which during 4009 years gave, first to mankind, and then to the chosen people - by slow degrees, and as they were able to bear it - a gradually clearer vision and insight into the eternal relations between God and man.[3]The very name Bible implies that it is a library, for it is derived from the plural Biblia, and means "the books." In Early English literature it is called Bibliopece, as being the great treasure-house of books. St. Jerome, following 2 Macc. 2:13, speaks of the Bible as "the Sacred Library." It is said that the collective term Biblia is first found in the writings of St. Chrysostom.

α. The diversity of this record is a very important element. St. Paul calls special attention to it when he speaks of "the manifold wisdom" of God. The word which he uses is extremely picturesque; it is ἡ πολυποιìκιλος σοφιìα — literally, "the richly-variegated wisdom of God."[4] Ephesians 3:10. The soul of man is as little capable of grasping abstract truth as the eye is capable of gazing on the sun. The sunlight gives its glory and beauty to the world by being reflected in a thousand different colors from the objects around us. And because we should be only wearied and dazzled by a continuance of the intolerable blaze of noon, God's care for us is shown by the manner in which the clouds and the sunset refresh us with the softer glow of reflected and refracted light. Indeed this light is never more beautiful than when its sevenfold perfection and colorless indifference is divided by falling showers, and flung in the colors of the rainbow upon the clouds. It is even so in the spiritual world. God is light. When that light passes in one direct, unbroken ray we have, in his Son, "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;",[5] Hebrews 1:3. Haupt on 1 John 4:8. but even this revelation of the Father passes in part through the medium of human language, and so reaches us in sweet gradations, and softened by gracious shadows of mystery which only faith can pierce. Much more is this the case in the Old Testament revelation. According to the wise saying of the Rabbis — in which lies the germ of all right Biblical interpretation, and which, had it been duly attended to, might have saved the Rabbis themselves, as well as generations of Christians, from grievous mistakes — "the Law speaks in the tongue of the sons of men." Scripture ought always to have been interpreted with direct primary reference to what must have been the original meaning and intention of those who wrote, and of those who received it. It has been for centuries interpreted with reference to dogmatic bias and traditional conceptions. Ignorance of the laws which govern all the highest utterances of human thought and passion; ignorance alike of the "syllogism of grammar" and of the "syllogism of emotion;" neglect of the original languages in which Scripture was written; neglect of the circumstances by which its writers were surrounded; neglect of it as a whole, and of its books as separate wholes, and even of the context which alone gives the due meaning to its isolated expressions — these, and many other forms of theological carelessness, have led sometimes to an unintelligent literalism, sometimes to a spiritualizing extravagance, which, while it could not indeed wholly frustrate the purpose of God by robbing mankind of the broad, main truths of his revelation, has yet inflicted a twofold injury. This injury consists partly in the perpetuation of the virulent prejudices and hard errors of a loveless religionism, partly in the reduction of large portions of the Bible to the condition of a seven-sealed book, to be opened and misinterpreted at random by the most incompetent of mankind. Now, by bearing in mind the rich diversity of Scripture we not only gain elements of the deepest interest, but we are proceeding on the right path for its due comprehension. We are in a better position for understanding the truth of God when we have studied the peculiarities of the language in which it is embodied, and know something of the individuality with which the expression of it is tinged. To the variety of sources from which the revelation comes is due both the inexhaustible interest of the Bible and its Divine universality. In this it is wholly unlike the sacred books of other religions. It has something for all nations. In reading the Koran we can think only of Arabia; in reading Confucius only of China; in reading the Zend Avesta only of Persia; in reading the Vedas only of Hindostan. But in the Bible we meet with all races, from Arabian troglodytes to Greek poets, from Galilean fishermen to Roman consuls. From Nineveh to Babylon, from Babylon to Damascus, from Damascus to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Tyre, and the isles of the Gentiles, and Athens, and Corinth, and Rome, we see the light of revelation ever streaming westwards through the pages of the Bible, and

"The giant forms of empires on their way
To ruin."

fling their colossal shadows across its pages. The Bible is at once a sacred Iliad and a sacred Odyssey. Now its pages ring with the battles of the warrior, with their confused noise and garments rolled in blood; now the sea is dashing in our faces as we traverse it in the ship of Jonah, or toss a night and day among its breakers with St. Paul. It has indeed deep speculations for the philosophic mind, but for the most part it is intensely concrete. There is in it no stifling system, no chilling gloom, no self-centered absorption, no frozen sea of abstractions. The sanctimonious and heresy-hunting formalism of the Pharisee, the selfish asceticism of the Buddhist, the chill uncertainty of the Confucian, find no sanction here; nor are we placed at the mercy of the systematizing refinements of the Schoolman, and the arbitrary tyranny of the Priest. The Bible shows us that religion may be as exquisite as music, as glowing as art, as rich as a gifted nature, as broad as a noble life. It is as universal as our race, as individual as ourselves.

β. Hence, to the Homilist and the Preacher, dullness is an inexcusable fault, and one which should be most earnestly avoided. If the preacher is dull — dull to all his hearers — he cannot possibly rouse their consciences or touch their hearts. Dullness might be pardonable if we had no better text-book than the Koran or the Tripitaka, lint it is hardly pardonable when our sacred Book is so intensely and widely humanitarian. Where the human, the concrete, and the individual element is introduced, there hearers must find something to interest and instruct them; for the experience of one heart is more or less the experience of all hearts, and there is no one who does not sympathize with the multitude in the Roman theatre who rose to shout their delighted applause on hearing the line of the dramatist —

"Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto."
To the Buddhist the incidents, whether real or legendary, in the life of the Buddha Sakya Mouni furnish a theme of endless interest; the Chinese is never tired of even the dry and uneventful records of the biography of Kung fog tze; but the Bible furnishes us with thousands of thrilling incidents, and with human experiences under the most varied conditions. Not only so, but it comprises the writings of at least fifty different writers who lived in the most widely separated spheres. The voice which speaks to us is now that of a Gentile sorcerer, now that of a suffering prisoner, now that of a conquering king. Lawgivers like Moses, autocrats like Solomon, warriors like Joshua, historians like Samuel, prophets like Isaiah, priests like Ezra and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, poets like David, governors like Nehemiah, exiles like Daniel, peasants like Amos, fishermen like Peter and John, tax-gatherers like Matthew, rabbis like Paul, have all contributed their quota to the sacred page. We may truly say that it is like the great tree of northern fable, whose leaves were the lives of men. It is for this very reason that nations, like birds of the air, shelter themselves under the shadow of it. It is a vine of God's planting, which
"Reacheth to every corner under heaven
Deep-rooted in the living soil of truth;
So that men's hopes and fears take refuge ill.
The fragrance of its complicated glooms,
And cool impeached twilights."

γ. St. Paul, in the expression to which we have referred, is not the only sacred writer who bids us notice this diversity and progressiveness of Scripture. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews calls most marked attention to it in the elaborately beautiful introduction to his Epistle. "God," he says, "who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." Here we have a striking allusion to the difference between the Old Testament and the New. In the New Testament also there is diversity; but whereas there are only nine authors for the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and the great bulk of it is the work of three, on the other hand, for the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament there are at the very least twenty-seven chief authors, and a very much larger number of minor contributors. The two words rendered "at sundry times and in divers manners" are πολυμερῶς καιÌ πολυροìπως, which might perhaps be rendered "fragmentarily arid multifariously." As regards the latter adverb, we have already seen that it is illustrated by the singular differences of station and circumstances among those to whom God sent his message of inspiration; but it is yet further illustrated by the different ways in which that message came to them, and in which it is delivered to us. It came sometimes in the facts of history, sometimes in isolated promises, sometimes by Urim, sometimes by dreams and voices and similitudes, sometimes by types and sacrifices, sometimes by prophets specially commissioned. It takes the form now of annals, now of philosophic meditation, now of a sermon, now of an idyll, now of a lyric song. Sometimes it expands, through chapter after chapter, the details of a single day in an individual life; sometimes it crushes into one single clause the sweeping summary of the records of twenty generations. At one time it will give the minutest incidents of one event in a single reign; at another it will heap the dust of oblivion over dynasties of a hundred kings. We may compare its course to that of a stream which sometimes dwindles into a tiny rivulet, and sometimes broadens into an almost shoreless sea. But it is a stream whose fountains lie deep in the everlasting hills. Its sources are hidden in the depths of a past Eternity, and its issues in the depths of a future Eternity. It begins with the chaos of Genesis, "vast and void;" it ends with a book which has been called "the majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts with a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies." [6] Milton. But in this diversity, so important and so precious, we are led also to recognize another point of the extremest value for a right estimate of the Old Testament revelations — namely, its fragmentariness; or progressiveness. It was given to us πολυμερῶς — "in many parts." The revelation was not given all at once; it was not perfect and final; but God revealed himself to man part by part; he lifted the veil fold by fold. It is grievous to recall how many a blood-stained page of history might have been redeemed from its agony and desolation if men had only remembered that the law of the Old Testament was as yet an imperfect law, and the morality of the Old Testament a not yet fully enlightened morality. When the sanguinary maintainers of shibboleths defended their outrages by the injunctions of the Pentateuch; when the treacherous and infamous assassinations of kings by a Jacques Clement or a Ravaillae were justified by the examples of Ehud and Jael; when the Crusaders thought that they did God service by wading bridle-deep in the blood of "infidels," because they could refer to the exterminating wars of the Book of Judges; when the examples of Samuel and Elijah were quoted to sanction the hideous cruelties of the Inquisition; when the ruinous institutions of polygamy and slavery were supported by the records of the early patriarchs; when texts extravagantly strained were made the chief buttress of immoral despotism; when thousands of poor innocent women were burned as witches on the authority of a text in Leviticus; when atrocious crimes like the massacre of St. Bartholomew were hailed by Popes with acclamation, and paralleled by the zeal for God of olden heroes; when many another error of darkness was defended by "the devil quoting Scripture for his purpose," — all these follies and iniquities (of which many find their pale reflex and faint analogy even in the present day) could never have occurred if men had studied the Bible in the light of the truths which we have just been considering. And those truths were quite distinctly enunciated not only by St. Paul, the greatest and wisest of the Apostles,[7] As in Galatians 4:9, and passim. but by our blessed Lord himself. In many distinct passages — not to dwell on the spirit and the allusions of many more — he pointed out that the revelation of God was progressive; that even the moral conceptions of the great saints and heroes of the Old Testament were but as the starlight compared to the glory of the risen day.[8] Matthew 5:9.Matthew 5:1-43; Luke 9:55. At the very period when the religious authorities of the Jews were more and more degrading into a dead fetish the letter of their law, and that in its most unessential particulars, our Lord drew the most marked contrast between that which had been "said to them of old time" and that which he said to them then."[9] Matthew 5:21, &c., where the true rendering is "to," not "by," them of old time. At a period when the distinction between clean and unclean meats was becoming the main badge of the Jew, and an impassable barrier between the Jew and the Gentile, he drew the distinction between real and unreal defilement, and "this he said...making all meats clean.[10] Mark 7:19 (in the true rendering). When the washings of Levitic scrupulosity were looked on, not only as a pious and conscientious, but as an absolutely binding development of the laws of ceremonial uncleanness, he openly neglected them, even at the table of a Pharisee.[11] Matthew 15:1; Mark 7:2. Though the Levitical ordinances came under the direct sanction of inspired authority, he gave his direct approval to the terms in which the great prophets had treated them — not only as essentially transitory, and already in part obsolete, but as having always been of an importance absolutely infinitesimal compared with the weightier matters of the Law.[12] Matthew 23:23. He declined to give any personal sanction to the Mosaic law about the stoning of the adulteress.[13] John 8:11. He said in express terms that the Mosaic concession of polygamy was not in itself good, and had merely been granted to the Jews — as a boon evil indeed, but necessary — because of the hardness of their hearts.[14] Mark 10:4. Although the sabbath had become to the Jews the very badge of nationality, and was being more and more identified by them with the essence of all religious observances, he markedly and repeatedly discouraged the tendency to strain its sacredness into a burden or a bondage,[15] Mark 2:27; Luke 13:15, &c. Lastly, when his own nearest disciples, in the very region where Elijah had called down fire from heaven, appealed to the example of that splendid prophet to justify them in their appeal to him to .call down fire from heaven upon those who had insulted his authority, he told them with stern rebuke that the Elijah spirit is not the Christ spirit, and that he had come not to destroy men's lives, but to save.[16] Luke 9:55. If this teaching of Christ be not reverently borne in mind we shall be constantly tempted to that treatment of the Old Testament which runs through whole modem commentaries, and which, by the straining of words and the invention of hypotheses, aims at concealing all semblance of difference between the tone of a Moses and of a St. John, or between the degree of enlightenment in the moral conduct of a Jael or a Mary of Bethany. Nothing but confusion, dishonesty, and retrogression can come of the attempt to elevate the mixed and imperfect conceptions of early Judaism to the dignity of gospel morality. To act thus is to assert that the stars yield as much light whereby to guide our footsteps as we receive from the Sun of righteousness when it has dawned into boundless day. Scripture has itself made clear to us, in words as plain as it is possible to utter, that the degree both of religion and morality which was vouchsafed to the patriarchs was altogether inferior to that which has been granted to us. "By what law would you justify the atrocity you would commit?" asks the young soldier in a great work of fiction. "If thou art ignorant of it," replied Burley, "thy companion is well aware of the law which gave the men of Jericho to the sword of Joshua, the son of Nun." "Yes; but we," answered the divine, "live under a better dispensation, which instructeth us to return good for evil, and to pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us."[17] Scott, 'Old Mortality.'

δ. It will be hardly necessary to warn the Christian homilist that he must beware of recoiling into the opposite extreme. He is not indeed likely to fall into-the error of Marcion, whose famous 'Antitheses' dwelt upon and exaggerated the supposed contradictions between the Old and New Testament with the express object of supporting his heresy — that the old dispensation was the work not of God, but of an inferior and imperfect Demiurgus; — but he may be led to underrate the unspeakable value of the Old Testament Scriptures. The unity of the Old and New Testaments is found in the person and work of Christ. Thus it is that "the Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and the New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man."[18] Article. Nothing is more remarkable in the Old Testament, nothing is a more distinct and irrefragable proof of its inspired authority, than this interdependence of the two dispensations — "the Old Testament containing the germ and nucleus of the New, the New containing the realization and fulfillment of the Old, not as a matter of contrivance, but as a matter of broad and patent history, so that the two parts correspond like a cloven tally."[19]Professor Leathea We must avoid alike the heresy of those Gnostics who saw nothing of the New Testament in the Old, and the error of unwise controversialists who see everything of the New Testament in the Old. But the old rule is true, that "In Vetere Testamento Novum latet; in Novo Testamento Vetus patet." The fact that, from the days of Origen onwards, allegory and typology have been exaggerated to a most artificial extent, and that many events and allusions and customs have been made prophetic of Christ in which nothing of prophecy was intended,[20] The writings of the Fathers — notably of Origen, of St. Hilary of Poictiers, and even of St. Jerome and St. Augustine — are full of the most strained and untenable allegories. must not blind us to the fact that the Old Testament is full of Christ; for the very heart and essence of the Old Dispensation, as its features are exhibited in the writings of historians, lawgivers, and prophets, was the great and unquenchable Messianic hope. In the Old Testament Christ is prefigured; in the New he is revealed. In his teaching we see in all their fullness those constant elements which all religion strives more and more clearly to express — the holiness and love of God, the dignity and brotherhood of man. And so he stands at the center of all history as the fulfillment of all the yearnings of the past, the justification of all the hopes of the future. Apart from him all the deepest elements of the Old Testament become unintelligible. The Law is but the slave which leads us to his school.[21] Galatians 3:21. He is the bruiser of the serpent's head in Genesis,[22] Genesis 3:15. and the Lamb as it had been slain in the midst of the throne in Revelation;[23] Revelation 5:6. he is the Paschal Lamb of Moses;[24] the true star and scepter of Balaam's vision;[25] Numbers 24:17. the promised Son of David;[26] Mark 10:48, &c. Isaiah's rod of the stem of Jesse;[27] Isaiah 11:1. him whose testimony is the spirit of prophecy,[28] Revelation 19:10. and of whom bear all the prophets witness, as many as have spoken from Samuel and those that follow after.[29] Acts 10:43. The due comprehension of this vast hope, and the power of unfolding it, will be one of the highest results which can reward the study of the preacher who desires to fulfill the duty of a wise scribe by drawing from his treasures things old as well as new.[30] But useful for this line of study we may recommend the beautiful treatise of Davison, 'On Prophecy.' By studying the Bible in this spirit we shall make the New Testament an inspired Targum of the Old; the Old Testament will become to us as the New, and the New as the Old.

II. But, to turn to the second point which I mentioned as one of primary importance, every preacher is certain to be led into constant errors who makes a habit of using texts without a faithful study of the context from which they are taken. Thousands of readers attach an entirely erroneous meaning to isolated expressions from forgetting that their true bearing can often only be understood in connection with the train of thought to which they belong. The sacred writers never contemplated the splitting up of their writings into these multitudinous and often arbitrary divisions. Those divisions are mere conveniences for purposes of reference, and owe their origin to the exigencies of the concordance.[31] See on this subject the article Bible in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' No one who has not looked into the subject can be at all aware of the multitudes of "texts" which are habitually employed in senses which they never originally bore; or of the absolute recklessness with which they are constantly misapplied, even by professed divines. Sometimes this misuse is so far harmless that the truth into the service of which the text is impressed finds abundant support from other passages; but even in that case the habit springs up of the preacher using the words of prophet or evangelist, not in their proper sense, but as a sort of mask through which more authoritatively to utter thoughts which are not those of the sacred writer, but are his own[32] I have illustrated this danger in two papers on 'Wresting the Scriptures' in the 'Expositor' for July and August, 1880. I cannot more directly illustrate this fact than by showing that even the very texts which are often used to enforce rules of sound Biblical interpretation are in several instances misinterpreted or misapplied. We should attend, it is said, to the spirit, not to the letter, for "the letter killeth." We should interpret "according to the proportion of faith." We should imitate the Divine method by teaching "precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." We should remember that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God." Now these remarks and suggestions may be true and wise, but in every one of these instances the text is misapplied, and a glance at the context will show that it is so. The expression "the letter killeth,"[33] 2 Corinthians 3:6. applies primarily to the sentence of death passed upon transgressors by the Mosaic law. The use of the expression "according to the proportion" (or analogy)"of faith" as a rule for the exposition of the Scriptures, is only a secondary and incorrect application of it; for "the faith" spoken of is not faith in the sense of the system of religion, but is subjective faith, and St. Paul is speaking of preaching within the limits of the spiritual gifts which we have received.[34] Romans 12:6. "Line upon line, precept upon precept," is so far from being an inspired description of the method of God's revelations, that it is a taunting mimicry of Isaiah's manner,[35] Isaiah 28:10. used to ridicule him by the drunken priests of Judah. Lastly, "all scripture is given by inspiration of God" is a translation which is so far from certain that it has been regarded as untenable by a very large number of orthodox and learned commentators from the days of Origen down to our own, and both the Syriac, St. Jerome, and Luther render it "all inspired scripture is useful also for doctrine," &c.[36] 2 Timothy 3:16. It was so taken by Origen, Clement Alexandrinus, Tertullian, and most of the Fathers and by the Peshito, Arabic, and Vulgate; by Luther, &c. The misuse of this little group of texts, all referring to one subject — and that the very subject of the' right method of Scriptural interpretation, which should surely not be formulated in terms of Scriptural misinterpretation — will at least serve to show the need for carefulness. For indeed the necessity for such carefulness is much greater when important doctrines are made to rest their main support on such texts as, "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint;"[37]Isaiah 1:5. or, "which of us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?"[38] Isaiah 33:14. or, "in the place where the tree falleth there it shall be;" or, "cursed be Canaan;"[39] Genesis 9:25. or indeed in a multitude of other texts which, as is proved by the context, have not, and could never have been intended to have, the controversial significance which has been attached to them. It has indeed been an unauthorized superstition, and one which has been prolific of error, to assert that "every passage of the Bible looks backward and forward and every way, like lights from the sun." It is a dogma which does not find in Scripture itself the faintest shadow of authorization; it is due to that irreverent reverence which ends in superseding in favor of its own arbitrary fancies the professed object of its devotion; its final result is to hand over the Bible to the autocratic manipulation of prejudice and fancy, instead of demanding the toilsome and unbiased discovery of its true meaning. Texts have been compared to those flints which, when struck open by the hammer, reveal a Drusic cavity full of crystals of the color of amethyst, "purple with a dawn such as never was on land and sea." The comparison is as true as it is beautiful; but such rich contents will never be found — though they may be invented and imagined — by any student who does not study each text in its due place and under its proper relations.

III. After having endeavored to show the importance of these broad principles of interpretation — and I have signaled them out as the most neglected and the most important on which I could touch — it may now be useful to give a brief glance, from a homiletic point of view, at the great divisions of the Old Testament Scriptures.

The earliest trace of a classification of the Old Testament books is found in the Prologue to the Book of Ecclesiasticus, where we are told that Jesus, the son of Sirac, "had much given himself to the reading of the law, and the prophets, and other books of our fathers." In 2 Macc. 2:13 we are told how Nehemiah, "founding a library, gathered together the acts of the kings, and the prophets, and of David." This is clearly analogous to the division referred to by our Lord in Luke 24:44, "in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms." More frequently, however, the Jews, when speaking generally, comprised the Old Testament Scriptures under the head of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:25). When entering more into detail they added "the writings" (Cethubim or Hagiographa). The Law (Torah) comprised the five hooks of the Pentateuch. The Prophets were divided into two classes-earlier and later. Under the head of Earlier Prophets the Jews placed the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. Under the Later Prophets they placed the three major prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel — and the twelve minor prophets. The Cethubim, again, were ranged under three divisions, of which the first, called Emeth ("truth"), from the initial letters of the three books, comprised Psalms, Proverbs, and Job; the second, the Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, which were called the five Megilloth, from being written on separate "Rolls" for use at particular festivals; the third division contained Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.

If we were entering on a critical introduction to the books of the Old Testament, this division — especially the position occupied in it by the Books of Daniel and Chronicles — would be found very important and suggestive. But for our present homiletic purpose it will be more convenient roughly to divide the books of Scripture into —

(1) the Law,
(2) the historic books,
(3) the poetic books,
(4) the prophetic books, and
(5) the philosophic books.

The division is only meant to be a general one for purposes of convenience; for some of the historic books contain prophetic passages, and some of the prophets contain historical sections; and, again, some of the poetic books are also prophetic, and large portions of the prophets are written in strains of the loftiest poetry, as also are parts of the books which we may term philosophic. The general divisions are, however, well marked and easily discernible.

1. The five books of the Pentateuch are partly composed of a history — first of the world, and then of the chosen family — up to the time of the entrance into Canaan, and partly of the system of Mosaic legislation.

α. We no sooner open the Book of Genesis than we are met by whole volumes of controversy as to the relations between science and religion, and the supposed contradictions between the results of the one and the declarations of the other. Do such controversies lie within the ordinary sphere of homiletics? We should say decidedly not, and that for many reasons. In the first place, few are competent really to deal with the question, and nothing is more irritating to men of science than to see obvious ignorance assuming the airs of infallibility, and demonstrating the impiousness of proved conclusions, the very elements of which it does not understand. The clergy in so many thousands of instances, in age after age, have so conclusively proved their entire incompetence to decide upon points of science, — they, have been so repeatedly forced to modify their interpretations of Scripture in accordance with finally demonstrated and universally accepted truths, — that it is best to rest on the certainty that though exegesis may be erroneous, the scientific results which have rewarded centuries of labor have not in a single instance clashed with any truth of religion. How can they clash, seeing that truth must be truth, and that God reveals himself in the facts of nature no less surely than he reveals himself in his word? If the clergy desire to enter into scientific controversies, first let them acquire the requisite knowledge, and then let them urge their views in the press, or in places where they can be fairly met and criticized. The pulpit is not meant to be a place for doubtful disputations, but for the furtherance of the ends of revelation, which is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."[40] 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:17. The first nine chapters of Genesis are singularly rich in moral and spiritual lessons. They summarize the history of at least 2000 years in the progress of mankind. In the pulpit, at any rate, we search them not for earthly wisdom, but for heavenly knowledge. Of the physical truths which the finger of God has written on the stars of heaven or carved upon the rocky tablets of the world; of the bands of Jupiter, or the ring of Saturn, or the snowy poles of Mars; of the extinct monsters which once trampled the forests or tempested the seas — a child may now know more than was dreamt by the wisest man of old. But, on the other hand, the nations of the world might have been saved from millenniums of error — not only from Fetish-worship and Devil-worship, but from Pantheism, and Atheism, and Polytheism, and Manicheism, and Materialism, and forms of error compatible with the most advanced culture — by that single verse of Genesis, speaking calmly as a voice out of the depths of eternity: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

β. In the story of the Creation the same truths are prominent, and the truths on which all may fix their thoughts are those of a loving Omnipotence and a glorious world. Similarly, in the story of the Fall of Man, while it would be possible to raise any number of perplexities which are incapable of present solution, it would argue a singular blindness if we missed the truth that the fall of Adam and Eve points the lesson of the fall of every man and woman brought into a sinful world. Be it a history or be it an allegory, we are in any case intended to read in it the causes of the loss of innocence, the certain consequences of retribution, and the Divine remedy for sin. And in the promise to Eve of that seed of the woman who should break the serpent's head we hear the first utterance of prophecy, and catch the first gleam of that light and hope which was to brighten into the perfect day. Have we not here the great elements which run through the whole Bible — "law and prophecy; the denunciation of sin and the promise of pardon; the flame which consumes and the light which comforts;" and is not this the whole of the covenant?

γ. We find the same truths repeated, with striking variations, in the story of Cain; and then we see the origin, on the one hand, of polygamy and a godless civilization in the family of Lamech, and, on the other hand, of religious worship in the family of Seth. This salt of goodness was not, however, sufficient to save the world from moral corruption; and in the narrative of the Deluge we read the great moral truth that there is a point at which nations can fill no fuller the cup of their iniquity — at which God's wrath against corruption must express itself in retributive justice. Yet here again we find the beautiful symbols of mercy and of safety — the saving ark, the dove with the branch of olive plucked off in her mouth, the promise that God will no more smite every living thing; above all, the bow in the cloud as a pledge of mercy. With the family of Noah the story of man begins afresh, and begins with an awful warning against the curse of drunkenness; but the rainbow, which was made to him the sign of a new covenant, flashes and fades throughout the whole of Scripture, and even amid the often terrible visions of the last book of the Bible we catch our last glimpse of it, spanning the throne of God, and "in sight like unto an emerald"[41] Revelation 4:3.

δ. After the remarkable genealogy of nations in the tenth chapter of Genesis, and one glance at the first colossal empires of the East, we are told of the ruin of an attempt to establish an universal dominion. That story of Babel is the Divine sanction of nationality. From that point, through forty chapters, the sacred historian leaves the history of the world to dwell on the records of three biographies. For not only is the individual life sacred to God, but those three patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — were the fathers of the chosen people. They lived peaceful and, for the most part, uneventful lives in their pastoral tents; they were but men; they were not sinless; they sometimes fell into acts of cruelty, meanness, and deceit. But even with all their human weaknesses they were men eminently good, and their one great distinguishing feature was faith in God. It is this which, more than anything else, differentiates one life from another. We are helped to grasp the lesson by the striking way in which each one of them is silently contrasted with another who has his good things in this life — Abraham with Lot, Isaac with Ishmael, Jacob with Esau. Few lessons are more instructive than those which spring from drawing out this contrast in its details and in its results. But the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews points out to us the great lesson that it was faith which lit up their characters with every virtue and every grace; it was like one sunbeam brightening jewels of many colors.

ε. It is needless to dwell on the rich symbolism of the historic narrative which runs through the remaining books of the Pentateuch. The burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the drowning of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, Marah and Elim and Kibroth Hattaavah, the darkness and splendour of Sinai, the pillar of cloud and fire, the smitten rock, the brazen serpent, the grand episode of Balaam, the zeal of Phinehas, the death of Moses, the doom to forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the conquest of Canaan — these are events which arrest our attention, and we can hardly miss their lessons. It is different with the judicial, ceremonial, and political law of the Jews, which occupy so many chapters in these books, and are too much neglected. They were intended to train Israel, and through Israel to train the world, in the knowledge of God as one God, as a Spirit, as eternal, as ever near us, as a God of holiness and justice, and above all as a God of love. The one utterance round which the entire law of Moses may be said to cluster is that in Exodus 34:5-7, which is the great proclamation of the name of God after the shameful apostasy of the people. The moral law — on the unequalled majesty and Divine originality of which we need not now dwell — was meant to reveal his will, and the aim of the ceremonial law was to habituate the people to the conception that they must be holy as God is holy, and pure as he is pure. This is the one main object of all the laws about clean and unclean meats, intended to keep Israel as a separate people; and of the long chapters about ceremonial uncleanness, which was meant to be a type of moral, mental, and spiritual uncleanness. This too was the meaning of all the ordinances of worship, which, like the laws of the fringes and the phylacteries, were meant to teach Israel that God was among them, and that therefore they must be pure in heart and obedient in life. If the student will carefully consider the thirteen long chapters of the Book of Exodus which are occupied with details about the tabernacle and the dress of the priests, he will see that there is hardly one of those details, whether of substance, material, or color, which is not demonstrably symbolical, and which did not tend to the one purpose of witnessing to the presence and holiness of God.[42] See on this subject Bahr's 'Symbolik,' and Kalisch on Exodus. This is still more the case with the whole system of sacrifices, of which the meat offerings were eucharistic, the sin offerings propitiatory, and the burnt offerings typical of self-dedication. Although Moses makes no mention of prayer as a part of public worship, yet these sacrifices were preparations for prayer, and were themselves "prayers without words." They said to the Israelite, Show thy thankfulness to God; make thy peace with God; dedicate thy life to God. In the chapter which gives the method of declaring the purification of the leper (Leviticus 14:0.), and the magnificent ceremonial of the day of atonement, the student will see in its highest development the rich significance of the Levitic law as symbolizing man's relationship to God, and God's restoration of fallen man.[43] Leviticus 16:0.

ζ. But, further than this, we see in many regulations that in the Old Testament, as in the New, love is the fulfilling of the law. In spite of concessions to rude times and hard hearts, there is a singular tenderness in the spirit of the Mosaic code. There is tenderness to slaves, whom in every way it sheltered from oppression;[44] Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 12:18, &c. to the accidental homicide, for whom it provided the cities of refuge;[45] Numbers 35:13. to the poor, whom it protected from cruel usury;[46] Deuteronomy 23:19; Deuteronomy 24:6, &c. to the depressed toilers, whose lands it restored in the Sabbatic year;[47] Leviticus 25:4, &c. to the destitute, in whose interest it forbad the hard stripping of the fields, the mean exhaustion of the gleaned vineyards, or the niggardly beating of the topmost olive boughs.[48] Deuteronomy 24:20. There is even tenderness to the dumb animals. To show that God cared even for the falling sparrow and the dumb cattle, the great legislator was bidden to lay down a rule that the heedless boy should not take the mother-bird when he took from the nest her callow young;[49] Deuteronomy 22:6. that the oxen were not to be muzzled when they trod out the corn;[50] Deuteronomy 25:4. and that the ox and ass were not to be yoked together at the plough, that the burden might not fall on the smaller and weaker beast.[51] Deuteronomy 22:10. Even the thrice repeated rule, "Thou shalt not seethe the kid in its mother's milk,"[52] Exodus 23:19. betides the deep warning which it conveys of the horrible sin of destroying human beings by means of their best affections, was rightly interpreted as a reprobation of unfeeling cruelty, because it looks like a hard mockery, an offence against the mercifulness of nature, to seethe the youngling in the very milk which nature had designed for its sustenance; — for "God's tender mercies are over all his works."[53]Psalms 145:9.

2. Turning from the Law to the historical books of the Bible, how rich in all moral lessons is the great narrative which unfolds before us the story of the chosen people. One grand lesson runs through it all — that neither for men nor for nations is there any true life apart from God. There, as in no other books, shall we find the true statesman's manual and the true philosophy of history. It is related that when King Frederic William I. of Prussia asked one of his chaplains to give him in one sentence a proof of Christianity, the chaplain replied, "The Jews, your Majesty." An entire system of evidences of religion lies in that answer. The whole history of Israel may well be called the history of a prodigal — of a prodigal terribly punished yet freely forgiven. "When Israel was a child God loved him, and out of Egypt he called his son. The son grew up. In the days of prosperity he did not choose to keep God in his remembrance. The days of sorrow came, and he flung himself with sincere repentance into his Father's arms."[54] Munk. But even over his repentance crept the insincerity of formalism. In the days of his idolatry Israel murdered the prophets; in the days of his Pharisaism he crucified the Christ. Yet through all that long dark tragedy, in which Jehovah and his people were the actors, God's will was being accomplished. The vineyard had been given to the husbandmen for the blessing of the world. They proved unworthy, and were cast out;[55] Matthew 21:39 but "if the casting away of Israel was the reconciling of the world, what shall their receiving be but life from the dead?"[56] Romans 11:15.

α. No lessons could be more instructive for the homilist than those which he may find abundantly in the scenes and characters of the historic books; but among them the lesson of the history as a whole should not be overlooked. What conceivable explanation is there of the history of the Jews, with their inextinguishable vitality, and the fulfillment again and again of their unquenchable hopes, except the truth that God had chosen them, and that God was with them? They had no righteousness, but were a stiff-necked people. They had no splendid territory, but a strip of barren, narrow, ill-watered land. They had no grand genealogy — a Syrian ready to perish was their father. They were not powerful enough of themselves even to conquer their own small land. They were not united; Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim. They were not free, but became the prey of nation after nation. They were not a maritime people, for their strip of sea-coast was mostly harborless, and not their own. They had no commercial industry like Venice or Holland; no art like Greece; no arms like Rome; no colonies like England; no philosophy like Germany. They were constantly starting aside like a broken bow. Yet no power has ever been able to crush, no persecution to destroy them. They have influenced, taught, pervaded mankind. Their sacred book is the sacred book of humanity, their religious ideas are becoming more and more the religious ideas of the race. What explains it all, and alone explains it? Nothing but the truth that

"God showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation, neither have the heathen knowledge of his law."

β. The period of desert wanderings was to the Jews a special training for their future history. It was meant to transform them from a nation of full-fed slaves into a nation of warriors. With the entrance into Canaan their proper national history begins. In the Old Testament it falls into three epochs — that of the Judges, that of the Kings, and that of the Exile and return. The epoch of the Judges, so rich in heroic incidents, was a period of apparent anarchy, but of secret growth. The lesson which it was designed to teach them was that apart from God the Israelites were helpless and contemptible, but that with God they were happy and strong. Amid wild stories of crime and repentance, of raids and reprisals, of barbarity and generosity, we see, and not least in the exquisite story of Ruth, that the nation was gradually learning its appointed lesson. Then arose one of the greatest men in Jewish annals, the Prophet Samuel. The time for political unity had come, and, acting under God's permission, he reluctantly gave them a king. After the first tentative, which was a failure owing to the character of the passionate and unstable Saul, began the splendid career of David, the true hero of the monarchy and the darling of the people, whose personal ascendancy stamped a type of character on the nation's history. He gave them an army, he gave them a temple, he gave them a Psalter, he gave them a capital. The reign of his son Solomon was but the gorgeous commencement of a real decadence. It produced the revolt in the reign of Rehoboam. Israel and Judah split asunder forever. The ten tribes apostatized into calf worship and Baal worship, and for 250 years, through a list of six unhappy dynasties and nineteen unhappy kings, of whom not one was good, their story dragged itself on, through revolts and assassinations, through foreign defeats and civil tumults, with little beyond the grand missions of Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets to shed a gleam on that long agony.[57] Hosea 2:4-17; Amos 9:7. Then Assyria carried them away captive, and they disappear among the nations. Judah had twenty-one kings, but they were all of David's house, and some of them, like Hezekiah and Josiah, were conspicuously faithful. But their reformation came too late. The Jews murdered the prophets, and slew those that were sent unto them, and were carried captive to Babylon. Then came the Exile. In Chaldaea they were cured for ever of the temptation to apostasy, and nothing but their hopes, their promises, and their religion could have preserved them from final obliteration. Babylon fell; Persia prevailed. The Jews returned to a land desolated by war, famine, and disease; but they returned settled in the faith, and so "with the irresistible might of weakness they shook the world."[58] Milton. The history of Israel has four main heroes — Moses, Samuel, David, Ezra. Moses gave them their freedom and their law. Samuel their order and unity; David their poetry and their power; Ezra gave them a collected literature and a religious education. If David was the founder of Israel as a monarchy, Ezra is the founder of Israel as a Church. But the lesson of the Old Testament history is mainly this — that, whether as a Kingdom or as a Church, the true Israel had but two sources of power and permanence — the law of a Divine holiness, the grasp of a Messianic hope.

3. Poetry is found throughout the Bible, from the song of Lamech in Genesis 4:0. to the Apocalypse. All who wish really to understand it must of course make themselves acquainted with the general features of that parallelism or "balance," — the rapid stroke as of alternate wings, "the heaving and sinking as of the human heart,"[59] Ewald. roof which there are three main forms — cognate, contrasted, or synthetic.[60] On this subject see Lowth 'De Sacri poesi Hebraeorum,' and Kerdu, 'Geist der Hebr. Poesie.' A good sketch of Hebrew poetry by Mr. Wright may be found in Smith's 'Bible Dict.' It is the rhythm both of thoughts and words. Thought corresponds to thought in repetition, amplification, contrast, or response; like wave answering to wave, each wave different, yet each swayed by the same setting tide of emotion. It is not easy to define the epochs of Hebrew poetry, because of the still unsettled date of certain books, like the Book of Job and the Song of Solomon. We can see that there was a great poetic outburst both at the Exodus and during the period of the Judges, which produced in the song of Deborah one of the most splendid and impassioned poems in the world. But David was pre-eminently the sweet psalmist of Israel. He found Hebrew poetry a wild flower, but "he planted it on Mount Zion, and nurtured it with kingly care." It never quite died away, and even the Exile and return produced some psalms of remarkable sweetness. The Bible contains poems of nearly all kinds. In the Book of Job we have its single drama of unequalled sublimity; in the songs of Moses and of Deborah the grandest paeans to liberty which were ever sung; in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes didactic and philosophic poems of great beauty and wisdom; in the Song of Solomon an exquisite pastoral; in the Lamentations a most pathetic elegy. Epic indeed there is none, but Hebrew history is itself a Divine epic, and in the intense utterances of the prophets and the sweet songs of the psalmists we have as it were the ivy and the passion-flowers which twine around its bole. But it is in lyric poetry that the Hebrew genius most characteristically displayed itself, and in its songs we have, as Luther said, "a garden in which the fairest flowers bloom, but over which there blow tempestuous winds." And of all the characteristics of Hebrew poetry, its fresh simplicity, its stainless purity, its lofty purpose, its genial cheerfulness, its free universality of tone, none is more remarkable than the fact that it is intensely religious, that it is full of God. What the son of Sirac says of David is true of all the Hebrew poets: "In all his works he praised the Holy One most high with words of glory; with his whole heart he sung songs, and loved him that made him."[61] Ecclus. 47:8.

4. In turning to the sixteen directly prophetical books Of the Bible we are dealing with its most distinctive element. They do not fall into isolated masses, but interpenetrate one another, and form one organic whole. Prophecy — by which is mainly intended impassioned moral teaching, which insists on the certain vindication of great principles by the issue of events overruled by God — runs all through the Bible. "As we watch the weaving of the web (of Hebrew life) we endeavor to trace through it the more conspicuous threads. Long time the eye follows the crimson: it disappears at length; but the golden thread of sacred prophecy stretches to the end."[62] Kuenen, 'The Prophets.' The constant references to the prophets in the New Testament[63] Especially in Matthew's Gospel. the marked approval of their teaching by our Lord[64] Matthew 9:13, &c. his express statement that they prophesied of him[65] Luke 24:45. give the Books of the Prophets an immense importance.

To foretell was one of the functions, but was not the main function, of the Prophets. A mere glance at their writings is sufficient to show that they were the moral and spiritual teachers of the people, the interpreters of God's will, the forth-tellers of Divine truth, far more than the foretellers of future circumstances. The horizon of their vision indeed, and especially its Messianic hope, extended even to the distant future; but it was not like the view of a plain outstretched before them, but like that of a mountain chain, towering range after range and peak beyond peak to the crowning glory of one eternal summit — the view of aeon after aeon, all tending to the one far-off Divine event — the kingdom of God and of his Christ. The Hebrew Prophets were patriots, statesmen, reformers, leaders of the people.
"In them is plainest taught and easiest learnt
What makes a nation happy and keeps it so,
What ruins kingdoms and lays cities flat."[66]'Milton, 'Paradise Regained.'

Their great characteristics — those which give them such an eternal value — are their heroic faith, their unquenchable hope, their inflexible righteousness, the manner in which they rose superior to the petty ritualisms of sacerdotal formalism, and made holiness the test of sincerity in worship.[67]Hosea 6:6, &c. All who would escape the average — all who would feel the sacredness of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice — must learn of them. In them, as in the moral truths which they enunciated, they were the true forerunners of him of whom they prophesied; and he has given his eternal sanction to the truths which they have taught us: "to live and to struggle; to believe with immovable firmness; to hope even when all is dark around us; to trust the voice of God in our inmost consciousness; to speak with boldness and with power."[68] Kuenen, 'The Prophets,' ad fin.

5. It only remains to touch for one moment on what may be called the philosophic books of Scripture. It has been a subject of much discussion whether the Jews could be said to have possessed a philosophy or not, and it has been differently decided by different inquirers. But we may venture to give the name of philosophic books to those which specially discuss the perplexed problems of human existence. Of these the three chief are the Books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. All three might be also classed under the poetic books of Scripture, and the problems with which they deal are also touched on in several of the Psalms;[69] Psalms 73:3, &c. but they belong more directly to that practical wisdom which the Hebrews called chokmah.

α. The Book of Proverbs contains many of the most valuable results of human experience put into a terse, striking, and often antithetic form. Its earlier and more consecutive chapters (1-9.) are strikingly beautiful, and are aglow with the enthusiasm of lofty thought. In the two next sections (Genesis 10-24., and 25-29.) the form is more apothegmatic, and the maxims, especially in the earlier division, move at times on the lower level of prudential advice. The thirtieth chapter is ascribed to the unknown Agur, son of Jakeh, and the thirty-first to King Lemuel, respecting whom we have nothing but conjecture. The book concludes with the famous eulogy on the virtuous woman, which, like some of the later Psalms,[70] E.g. Psalm 25., 34., 37., 111., 112., 115., 145. is written in the form of an acrostic — a sure sign that, however beautiful, it belongs to the less spontaneous and impassioned order of poetry. But the whole book in its diversified elements is a noble product of Hebrew thought, and furnishes us with a mine of instructive teaching for all classes, but especially for the young.

β. The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most singular books of the canon, and one which presents us with problems which have not yet been finally solved. It is invaluable as the faithful record and confession of a life which had been taught by evil that good is best; of a career which had struggled through luxury, sensuality, cynicism, and speculative despair into a firm conviction that to fear God and keep his commandments was the whole duty of man.

γ. Lastly, in the Book of Job, whatever may be the ultimate conclusion as to its date, authorship, and unity, we have a drama of inexhaustible interest, and one which has attracted the attention of many of the greatest thinkers, ancient and modern. The problem of the sufferings of the good does not indeed find in this book its final solution, for many of the best and noblest of mankind have not been restored, as Job was, to their old prosperity, but have died in anguish, loneliness, and apparent failure. But to the Book of Job we owe, among many other lessons the most splendid vindication ever written of innocence against the uncharitable suspicion of those who see it overwhelmed with suffering, and the most majestic description of that power and majesty and love of God which are displayed in the works of his hands, and which make us involuntarily exclaim that "though he slay us, yet will we trust in him."

In the celebrated chapel of King's College, Cambridge, the huge windows of stained glass are filled on one side with subjects from the Old Testament, and on the other with subjects from the New; and often on summer days the student who walks on one side may see the windows nearest to him blazing with sunlight which stream through them from the other side. "Whenever," says an ingenious writer, "I thus saw the gospel story shining through the Old Testament story, I thought that it was a figure of what we see in the Bible." And so in truth it is. Both in the Old and the New Testament we have type and symbol, narrative and precept, parable and miracle; but the sunlight, which can alone interpret and glorify their highest meaning, must come from him who is the Light of the world and the Sun of righteousness. It can only come from God in Christ; and he who Would understand and interpret Scripture duly to the enlightenment and salvation of men must often breathe the prayer of one of the greatest of earthly thinkers: "To God the Father, God the Word, God the Spirit we pour forth most humble and hearty supplications that he, remembering the calamities of mankind, and the pilgrimage of this our life, in which we wear out days few and evil, would please to open to us new refreshments out of the fountain of his goodness for the alleviating of our miseries. This also we humbly and earnestly beg, that human things may not prejudice such as are Divine; neither that from the unlocking of the gates of sense and the kindling of a greater natural light anything of incredibly or intellectual might may arise in our minds towards Divine mysteries; but rather that by our minds thoroughly cleansed and purged from fancy and vanities, and yet subject and perfectly given, up to the Divine oracles, there may be given unto faith such things as are faith's."[71] Lord Bacon, 'The Student's Prayer.'


1. Its title. Like the other four divisions of the Pentateuch, the First Book of Moses derives its title in the Hebrew Scriptures from its initial word, Bereshith; in the LXX., which is followed by the A.V., it is designated by a term which defines its contents, Γενεσις (Genesis). Γενεσις referring to the source or primal cause of either thing or person, the work to which it has been assigned as a descriptive appellation has been styled the Book of Origins or Beginnings (Ewald); but since the LXX. employ Vedette as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Tol'doth, which signifies not the causes, but the effects, not the antecedents, but the consequents of either thing or person (vid. 2:4: Exp.), the writing might be more exactly characterized as the Book of Evolutions or Developments.

2. Its contents. As a Book of Origins or Beginnings, it describes the creation or absolute origination of the universe, the formation or cosmical arrangement of this terrestrial sphere, the origin of man and the commencement of the human race, while it narrates the primeval histories of mankind in the three initial ages of the world the Antediluvian, the Postdiluvian, and the Patriarchal. Subsidiary to this, it depicts the pristine innocence of man in his first or Edenic state; recites the story of his fall through the temptation of an unseen adversary, with the revelation of Divine mercy which was made to him in the promise of the woman's seed, and the consequent establishment on earth of a Church of believing sinners, looking forward to the consummation of that glorious promise; traces the onward course of the divided human family, in the deepening impiety of the wicked, and the decaying godliness of the righteous, till, ripe for destruction, the entire race, with the exception of one pious household, is wiped out or washed off from the face of the ground by the waters of a flood; then, resuming the thread of human history, after first sketching the principal features of that appalling catastrophe, pursues the fortunes of this family in its three sons, till it sees their descendants dividing off into nations, and spreading far and wide across the surface of the globe; when, returning once more to the original center of distribution, it takes up the story of one of these collateral branches into which the race has already separated, and carries it forward through successive stages till it connects itself with the later history of Israel. Or, regarding the work in the other mentioned aspect, as a Book of Evolutions or Developments, by which the standpoint of the writer is changed and brought round from the historical to the prophetic, from the a posteriori to the a priori, after sketching in a preliminary section the original creation of the universe and the arrangement of the present terrestrial cosmos, in ten successive sections it relates the Tol'doth or generations, i.e. the subsequent evolutions or onward developments of the cosmos which lead down to the point of departure for the history of Israel narrated in the ensuing books. The main divisions of the Book, according to the principle just stated, am indicated by the formula: "These are the generations of...." The following tabular view of these successive sections will afford an idea of the wide range of topics comprehended in the First Book of Moses: —

Section 1. The beginning

Genesis 1:1-2:3

Section 2.

The generations of the heavens and the earth

Genesis 2:4-4:26

Section 3.

The generations of Adam

Genesis 5:1-6:8

Section 4.

The generations of Noah

Genesis 6:9-9:29

Section 5.

The generations of the sons of Noah

Genesis 10:1-11:9

Section 6.

The generations of Shem

Genesis 11:10-26

Section 7.

The generations of Terah

Genesis 11:27-5:11

Section 8.

The generations of Ishmael

Genesis 25:12-18

Section 9.

The generations of Isaac

Genesis 25:19-35:29

Section 10.

The generations of Esau

Genesis 36:1-37:1

Section 11.

The generations of Jacob

Genesis 37:2-50:26


I. Its sources of information. That writings of an earlier period may have been employed in the compilation of the present narrative, however alarming the idea was when first propounded, and notwithstanding the fact that it is still frequently advanced in a hostile spirit, is now seen to be a comparatively innocuous hypothesis, at least when considered in itself. That the author of the Book of Origins should have availed himself of pre-existing materials in the composition of his great historical work seems no more an unreasonable suggestion than that the four evangelists should have drawn upon already circulating memoirs of our Lord's life and work in the construction of their respective Gospels. Nor does any sober critic or intelligent student of the Bible now believe that such a supposition is fatal to the claims either of the Pentateuch and the Gospels to be received as canonical Scriptures, or of their writers to be regarded as inspired teachers. Accordingly, the documentary hypothesis, as it is now familiarly styled, counts among its supporters not a few of those who maintain the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and therefore of Genesis, as well as the vast majority, if not all, of those by whom that authorship is assailed. The germ of the theory appears to have suggested itself so early as the seventeenth century to Hobbes, who wrote in his 'Leviathan' "that the Pentateuch seems to have been written rather about than by Moses" ("Videtur Pentatcuchus potius de Mosequam a Mose scriptus"), though doubtless it was based upon originals from his hand. About the beginning of the eighteenth century Vitriuga, in his 'Observationes Sacrae,' propounded the view that Moses had employed sketches written by the patriarchs: "Schedas et scrinia Patrum (or ὑπομνηìματα Patriarcharum) apud Israelitas conservata Mosen opinamur, collegisse, digessisse, ornasse, et ubi deficiebant compilasse, et exiis priorem librorum suorum confecisse." Plausible and probable as this conjecture was, it seems to have attracted little attention to the subject of the composition of the Book of Genesis beyond causing written sources to be assumed by one or two subsequent writers, such as Clericus and Richard Simon. In 1753 the well-known theory of two principal documents, an Elohistic and a Jehovistic, was broached by Astruc, a Parisian doctor and professor of medicine, who believed ten additional but smaller memoirs to have been also employed by Moses. A few years later substantially the same view was espoused and recommended to public favor by the German scholar Eichhorn. In the hands of Ilgen and his follower Hupfeld the two original or primary documents were subdivided into three, a first Elohist, a second Elohist, and a Jehovist, all of which were manipulated and pieced together by an editor or redactor. In 1815 Yater, and in 1818 Hartmann, adopted the idea that the Pentateuch, and in particular Genesis, was composed of a number of disconnected fragments; but this was so obviously erroneous that in due time it was followed by the supplementary hypothesis of De Wette, Bleek, Stahelin, Tuch, Lengerke, Knobel, Bunsen, Delitzsch, and others, which recognized two documents, of which the older and the principal, that of the Elohist, was a continuous narrative, extending from the creation to the close of the conquest as recorded in the Book of Joshua; while the other, that of the Jehovist, was the work of a later writer, who made use of the earlier as the foundation of his composition. The latest form of the theory is that of Ewald, who claims for the Great Book of Origins at least seven different authors (thus reducing the Pentateuch, as Keil observes, into atoms), and assigns the Book of Genesis, in its present state, to an author whom he designates as "the fourth or fifth narrator of original history," who must have lived in the eighth century in the kingdom of Judah.

The supposed basis of this hypothesis of supplements is —

1. The alternate use of the Divine names Elohim and Jehovah: e. g. Genesis 1:1 — Genesis 2:3; 5:1-29a, 30-32; 6:9-22; 7:11 — 8:16a, 17-19; 9:1-17, 28, 29; 10.; 11:10-32; 12:5, 6, 8a; 13:18; 17.; 19:29; 20:1-17; 21:2-32; 22:1-13, 19-24; 23.; 25:1-20, 24-34; 26:34, 35; 27:46; 28:1-12, 17-21a, 22; 29.; 30:1-13, 17-24a; 31:4-48, 50-54; 32:1-12,14; 33; 36; 37:2-36; 39:6-20; 40-50., are distinguished by the employment of the first of these Divine names, and are supposed to belong to the Elohistic document; while Genesis 2:3 — 4:26; 5:29b; 6:1-8; 7:1-10, 16b; 8:20-22; 9:18-27; 11:1-9; 12:1-4, 7, 8b, 9-20; 13:1-17; 14-16.; 18:1 — 19:28, 30-38; 20:18; 21:1, 33, 34; 22:14-18; 24.; 25:21-23; 26:1-33; 27:1-45; 28:13-16, 21b; 30:14-16, 24b-43; 31:1-3, 49; 32:13, 15-32(?); 37:1 (?); 38; 39:1-5, 21-23, are constituent parts of the supplementary or Jehovistic document, being characterized by the use of that particular name for the Deity.

2. Contradictory accounts of the same event: as, e.g., the narratives of

(1) the Creation (cf. Genesis 1., Genesis 2:4-25);

(2) the Flood (cf. Genesis 6:9-22 with 7:1-10, and in particular note the apparent discrepancy between the numbers of the animals to be taken into the ark;

(3) the boundaries of the promised land (cf. Genesis 15:18 with Numbers 34:1-12).

3. Variations in the same legend or story: as, e.g.,

(1) the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Genesis 15:0. with 17., 18.);

(2) the taking of Sarah (cf. Genesis 12:10-19 with Genesis 20:1 and Genesis 26:1-11);

(3) the story of Hagar and Ishmael (cf. Genesis 16:9-21 with Genesis 21:9-21);

(4) the covenant with Abimclech (cf. Genesis 21:22-34 with Genesis 26:26-33);

(5) the successive consecrations of Bethel (cf. Genesis 28:18, Genesis 19:0; Genesis 35:14, Genesis 35:15);

(6) the story of Esau and his birthright (cf. Genesis 25:27-33; Genesis 27:1-40).

4. Diversity of language and ideas in the two documents — the Elohist generally depicting the simple and inartificial manners of primeval times, and the Supplementer or Jehovist moving in a circle of ideas that belong to the era of Mosaic laws and Levitical institutions. Cf. for Elohistic ideas, the longevity of the patriarchs, 5.; the consecration of pillars, Genesis 28:18f; Genesis 35:14f; the giving or setting up of a covenant, 6:18; 9:9, 11, instead of the cutting of a covenant, as in Exodus 24:8; and for Elohistic words and phrases — "possession, property," Genesis 17:8; Genesis 48:4; "kind, sort," 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25; 6:20; 7:14; "in the self-same day," 7:13; 17:23; "the land of wanderings," Genesis 17:8; Genesis 28:4; — for Jehovistic ideas, 4:17-24 (the arts and handicrafts of civilization); Genesis 3:8-24; Genesis 18:1 (Theophanies); Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:4; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 15:9 (sacrificial worship); Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 21:33 (the erection of altars); Genesis 7:2, Genesis 7:8; Genesis 8:20 (the distinction between clean and unclean animals); 5:29; 9:25-27 (the prophetic element); and Jehovistic words and phrases — יָער 2:7, instead of בָרָא Genesis 1:1; אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוׄ. 7:2, instead of זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה 1:27; the inf. absol, for emphasis, Genesis 2:16,: Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:4, Genesis 3:16; Genesis 16:10; Genesis 30:16; the suffix מוׄ Genesis 9:26, Genesis 9:27; the Divine name עֶלּיוׄן Genesis 14:18-20, Genesis 14:22. But, without replying to these so-called arguments seriatim, it may be answered, as against the entire hypothesis, that it is —

1. Unnecessary, not being required for a perfectly satisfactory elucidation of either the use of the Divine names, or the so-called contradictions, variations, and peculiarities that have been detected by the microscopic criticism to which the Book has been subjected (via. the exposition of the text in the body of the work).

2. Unproved.

(1) As to the existence of the documents,. — though admitted to be probable, the use of such writings by the author of Genesis is at the best inferential and problematical.

(2) As to the supposed evidence in support of this conjecture, — it is impossible to apportion the narrative into Elohistic and Jehovistic sections, so that even the former shall compose one continuous narrative, without the expenditure of a vast amount of ingenuity, and the exercise of a high degree of arbitrariness in first disintegrating the body of the Book, and then recombining the pieces, with the assistance of sundry self-invented supplements — the so-called contradictions in event and legend existing solely in the imagination of the critic, not in the work of the author, and the alleged peculiarities in thought and diction of each document having parallels in the other, except in cases which admit of easy explanation.

3. Incomplete; that is to say, not accounting for all the facts of the case that require to be explained, as, e.g. —

(1) The employment of the name Jehovah Elohim in 2:4; 3:24.

(2) The omission in the fundamental or Elohistic document of sections that are indispensable not only to the continuity of the narrative, but to the right apprehension of its meaning, as, e.g., between Genesis 2:3 and Genesis 5:1, the incident of the Fall, thus rendering Genesis 6:9-13 an enigma; between 5:32 and 6:9, the corruption of the human race, without which the Deluge remains inexplicable; between Genesis 6:22 and 7:11, the Divine communication which advertised Noah of the exact moment when the Flood should commence; between Genesis 17:27 and 19:29, the story of the destruction of the cities of the plain, which alone renders the latter verse intelligible.

(3) Allusions in the fundamental document to events and incidents recorded in the Supplementer, as, e.g., Genesis 5:3 to 4:25; 5:29 to Genesis 3:17; Genesis 17:20 to Genesis 16:10; Genesis 19:29 to 13:10-13; 18:17-32, and 19:1-25; Genesis 21:9 to 16:5. If these difficulties are not sufficient in themselves to discredit the hypothesis of documents altogether, they are at least of weight enough to show that, while the original conjecture of Vitringa may be true, the modern critical theory of an Elohistic and a Jehovistic author of the Book of Genesis has not yet been placed beyond the region of debate.

II. Its authorship. Principally on the ground of certain traces of a later age

1. The formula "unto this day" — Genesis 19:37, Genesis 19:38; Genesis 26:33; Genesis 32:32; Genesis 35:20; Genesis 47:26.

2. Statements that seem to presuppose the occupation of the land — Genesis 12:6; 13-20 36:31; Genesis 40:15.

3. The Palestinian standpoint of the writer — 12:8; 50:11.

4. The explanation of ancient names of cities by the introduction of names of a later origin — Genesis 14:2, Genesis 14:8, Genesis 14:7, Genesis 14:17; Genesis 23:2; — Genesis 5:19.

5. The mention of usages and customs that are alleged to belong to a later period — Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:4, Genesis 4:14; Genesis 7:8; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 17:26; Genesis 24:22, Genesis 24:30; Genesis 25:22; Genesis 37:3, Genesis 37:23), the claims of Moses to be regarded as the author of the Book of Genesis, and indeed of the Pentateuch generally, have since the Reformation been vigorously assailed. Prior to that profound theological and religious awakening, it is but fair to acknowledge that certain grave doubts had been expressed as to whether the great Book of the Law should be attributed, either in whole or in part, to the Hebrew lawgiver. Ptolemaeus, the Valentinian, in the second century, ascribed only a portion of the work to Moses; the Nazarenes, an ascetic sect spoken of by John Damascenus ('De Heraesibus,' ch. 19.), rejected the entire composition as spurious; while, according to the Clementine Homilies (3:47), the present Pentateuch was written after Moses' death. There does not appear, however, to have been any serious questioning on the subject of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch as a whole, or of Genesis as a part of that larger work, until the sixteenth century, when it began to be insinuated by Masius, Spinoza, and Anton Van Dale, that not Moses, the Hebrew lawgiver, but Ezra, the priest-prophet of the Restoration, was the first composer of those parts of sacred Scripture. The publication of Astruc's views in 1753 gave a decided impulse to the science of historic criticism, which in course of time resulted in the widespread acceptance by Biblical scholars of the opinion that, while containing a slight substratum of Mosaic legislation, the present Pentateuch is not the work of the Hebrew lawgiver, but of an unknown writer belonging to a later period who made use of pre-existing documents, of which the principal were the Elohistic and Jehovistic memoirs already referred to. At the present moment this view extensively prevails in both England and Germany. At the same time, consistency requires it to be stated that, in the minds of those who have rejected the Mosaic authorship of the Book of Origins, the most hopeless perplexity reigns as to the person to whom that honor should be assigned. It is vain to look for anything like unanimity of sentiment among modern students of the higher historic criticism concerning the authorship and date of composition of the two principal documents or source writings (Quellenschriften), as Bleek designates them, out of which the first fifth of the Pentateuch was manufactured. In the judgment of Astruc and Eichhorn, the documents referred to were pre-Mosaic, and the Book of Genesis was the handiwork of Moses; but so safe and reasonable a solution of the authorship of Genesis has long been left behind by their scholars, the composition of the earliest or fundamental document being assigned by Stahelin to an unknown writer in the times of the Judges (Colenso suggests Samuel as the anonymous Elohist), by Bleek to a historian who flourished in the time of Saul, by Killisch to a contemporary of David, by Ewald to a brilliant Levite in the age of Solomon, by De Wette to an author in the time of the Kings, and by Bohlen to a literary artist who wrote as late as the captivity, or even later — the Jehovist or Supplementer in each case writing at a period considerably posterior. Accordingly, where such diversity of sentiment exists, the Biblical student may fairly hesitate to reject the pre-Reformation doctrine of the Mosaic authorship of Genesis, and all the more that it is still supported by such excellent names as those of Sack, Hengstenberg, Havernick, Ranke, Dreschler, Baumgarten, Kurtz, Keil, and others, and is not so entirely destitute of evidence as is sometimes alleged.

1. Without attaching that importance to the direct testimony of the Pentateuch to its Mosaic authorship which it seems to possess in the eyes of some apologists (Exodus 17:14, 24:3, Exodus 17:4, and Numbers 33:2 can scarcely be pressed to mean more than that Moses composed the different writings of which they speak; while Deuteronomy 17:18, Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 28:58, Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 29:19, Deuteronomy 29:20, Deuteronomy 29:27; Deuteronomy 30:10; Deuteronomy 31:9-11, Deuteronomy 31:24-26 do not appear so conclusively to asset the composition by Moses of the entire law, as understood by Jewish tradition, as to preclude the opinion that the passages in question only refer to the Mosaic legislation proper), it may be maintained that the number and character of the direct references in the subsequent Hebrew Scriptures to the Pentateuch as the work of Moses are such as to involve the truth of his claim to be regarded as its author. In every one of these Scriptures there is a clear recognition of the Pentateuch as having been in existence at a time prior to their composition, i.e. from the days of Joshua onward; in which ease its only conceivable author was the celebrated lawgiver of the Hebrews.

2. It is allied to this to say that the historical development of the theocratic nation is inconceivable except upon the hypothesis of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and therefore of Genesis. To imagine that the complicated system of the Mosaic institute gradually took shape, and perpetuated itself through several centuries, working itself in, by slow degrees, to the national life and conscience, without any accredited historical documents, in such a way that when at length the history of the nation came to be written, it should by every separate writer be judged necessary to misrepresent the facts of the case, by promulgating the belief that their great national institutions were the outcome of a previously-recorded writing from the hand of Moses, rather than that that writing (so-called by Moses) was the free historic product of their institutions — to accept this as the true solution of the inter-relation between Hebrew literature and Hebrew life is to make a far greater demand upon the historic faculty than to believe that the Pentateuch came first from Moses, and the national character and life were framed and molded by the Pentateuch.

3. Then there is the fact that the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and therefore of Genesis, was universally recognized by Jewish sects and parties — by Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Essenes; by Alexandrian as well as by Palestinian Jews; and by the Samaritans as well as by the inhabitants of Judaea.

4. The testimony of Christ and his apostles lends its weight to this conclusion. Even Bleek with sufficient candor admits that this was the view entertained at the time of Christ and his apostles, as Philo and Josephus expressly testify; and the force of this admission is not rendered nugatory by the oft, quoted dicta that neither Christ nor his apostles came into the world to teach criticism (Clericus), and that faith in Christ cannot set limits to critical inquiries (De Wette); for, as Hermann Witsius justly observes, it is quite true that neither Christ nor his apostles were critical scholars in the modem acceptation of the term; but they were certainly teachers of the truth who did not come into the world to fortify popular errors by their authority.

5. An additional argument may be derived from the internal unity of the Pentateuch, and in particular of the Book of Genesis. It is true that in one sense this is the very question in dispute, whether Genesis is the work of one or morn authors; but, as its (alleged) composite character is always paraded as an argument for its non-Mosaic authorship, it seems both reasonable and fair to claim any traces of internal unity which the writing may possess as supporting the opposite conclusion. Now one obvious mark of unity which belongs to Genesis is the exact chronological thread running through it from the beginning to the end; and another is the interdependence of all its parts, of which no section of any length can be removed without introducing into the narrative an inexplicable lacuna; while a third is the similarity of language which pervades it throughout, no one, as Keil observes, having been able clearly to establish a twofold usus loquendi in its pages. And this being the case, it is only a legitimate inference that such internal unity is more likely to have been impressed upon it by the hand of Moses than by that of a late redactor. And, 6. in proof of the Mosaic authorship of Genesis there is the insufficiency of evidence in support of every other hypothesis.


1. Its method. On this point, after what already has been written, a few words will suffice. The most cursory reader of the Book of Genesis cannot fail to discern that, so far from its being open to the charge of incoherency and want of arrangement which has been brought against it by some of its less scrupulous assailants, it is all through constructed on a simple, perfectly intelligible, and well-sustained plan. After the initial section, in which the sublime program of the Divine cosmogony is unfolded, it divides itself into ten successive books, in each of which the story of human history is advanced a stage, till the period of the first captivity is reached. While possessing to each other the very closest of relations as parts of the same connected composition, it is observable that these successive subdivisions have the appearance of being each in itself a complete piece or monograph on the subject to which it relates. The cause of this, however, is not that each has been a separate document prepared without relation to the others, possibly at a different time and by a different hand, as is so commonly suggested; it rather seems attributable to the peculiar genius of Hebrew composition, which, being governed less by logo than by dramatic interest, advances more by sketching tableaux of events and scenes than by presenting a detailed narration of each historical incident exactly in its proper time and place. A remembrance of this will go far to account for the appearance of repetition and prolixity which in some parts the narrative exhibits. Then it is deserving of attention that, while treating of the fortunes of the human race, the record, almost instantly on starting, confines its regards, in the earlier portion, to one particular section (the line of Seth), and, in the later, to one particular family (the children of Abraham, in the line of Isaac and Jacob), and deals with the other branches of the human family only in so far as they are needful to elucidate the story of the chosen seed. And still further it is noticeable that, in the elaboration of his plan, the author is always careful to keep the reader's eye fixed upon the special line whose fortunes he has set himself to trace, by dismissing at the outset of each section with a brief notice those collateral branches, that nothing may afterwards arise to divide the interest with the holy seed, and the narrative may flow on uninterruptedly in the recital of their story. "The materials of the history," writes Keil, "are arranged and distributed according to the law of Divine selection; the families which branched off from the main line are noticed first of all; and when they have been removed from the general scope of the history, the course of the main line is more elaborately described, and the history itself is carried forward. According to this plan, which is strictly adhered to, the history of Cain and his family precedes that of Seth and his posterity; the genealogies of Japheth and Ham stand before that of Shem; the histories of Ishmael and Esau before those of Isaac and Jacob; and the death of Terah before the call and migration of Abraham to Canaan;" and "in this regularity of composition," he further adds, "the Book of Genesis may be clearly seen to be the careful production of one single author, who looked at the historical development of the human race in the light of Divine revelation, and thus exhibited it as a complete and well-arranged introduction to the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God."

2. Its purpose. Consideration of the plan naturally leads to an examination of the purpose of the Book. And here it is at once obvious that Genesis was not designed to be a universal history of mankind. But just as little was it written (by a post-Mosaic author) with the special view of glorifying Judaism by tracing back the roots of its institutions to a hoary antiquity. It had indeed an aim which may be said to have been Jewish, but it had also a design which was cosmopolitan. As an integral part of the Pentateuch, it was intended to unfold the necessity and nature of the new economy which was about to be established; to show how the theocratic institutions of salvation had been rendered indispensable in consequence of the fall and the entire corruption of the race so signally punished by the Deluge, and again so strikingly displayed by the tower-builders of Babel; and to make it clear that they were not a new departure on the part of God in his efforts at redemption, but only a further development of the line he had pursued from the beginning. As the opening volume of revelation in which the history of salvation was to be recorded, it was designed to exhibit the primeval condition of the human race, with its melancholy lapse into sin which first of all rendered salvation necessary, and to disclose the initial movements of that Divine grace which ever since had been working for man's restoration, and of which the theocracy in Israel was only a specific manifestation. Thus while the Book of Genesis could not fail to be possessed of undying interest to every member of the Hebrew Church and nation, it is likewise a writing of transcendent value and paramount importance to every scion of the human race, containing as it does the only authentic information which has ever yet reached the world of the original dignity of mankind, and of the conditions under which it commenced its career on earth; the only satisfactory explanation which has ever yet been given of the estate of sin and misery in which, alas, it all too plainly finds itself today, and the only sufficient gospel of salvation that has ever yet been recommended to its attention and acceptance.


Of the exceptionally rich and varied literature on Genesis, the principal works may be classified as under: —


1. Foreign. Bleek: Introduction to the Old Testament, Berlin, 1865; London, 1875. Bohlen: Introduction to Genesis, Konigsberg, 1835; London, 1855. De Wette: Introduction to the Old Testament, Berlin, 1817; Boston, 1844. Ewald: History of Israel, vol. 1., Tubingen, 1843; London, 1869. Havernick: Introduction to the Pentateuch, Erlangen, 1837; Edinburgh, 1850. Hengstenberg: The Genuineness of the Pentateuch, Berlin, 1831-1839; Edinburgh, 1847. Keil: Introduction to the Old Testament, Dorpat, 1868; Edinburgh, 1869. Kurtz: History of the Old Covenant, Berlin, 1853; Edinburgh, 1859. Oehler: Theology of the Old Testament, Tubingen, 1873; Edinburgh, 1874.

2. English. Colenso: The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua critically examined, London, 1862-1871. Davidson: Introduction to the Old Testament, London, 1862. Home: Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures, London, 1856 (tenth edition). Hamilton: The Pentateuch and its Assailants, Edinburgh, 1852. Macdonald's Introduction to the Pentateuch, Edinburgh, 1861. Quarry: Genesis and its Authorship, London, 1873.


1. Patristic. The writings of Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Theodoret, Jerome, Chrysostom, and Augustine.

2. Rabbinical. The works of Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and David Kimchi.

3. Reformation. Luther: Enarrationes in Primum librum Mose, Wittemberg, 1544; republished by Hengstenberg, Berlin, 1831. Calvin: Commentarii in Genesin, Geneva, 1563. Mercerus: Commentarius in Genesin, Geneva, 1598. Drusius: Ad loca difficiliora Pentateuchi, Franeker, 1617. Grotius: Annotationes ad Vetus Testamentum, Paris, 1641. Clericus: Translatio librorum V.T. cum paraphrasi perpetua, Comment. philol., dissertt, critt., &c., Amsterdam, 1693-1731. Venema: Dissertationes ad Genesin, 1747. Dathius: Pentateuchus ex recensione Textus Hebraei, Leipsic, 1791. Amongst Roman Catholic writers should be mentioned Pererius: Commentarii et disputationes in Genesin, Lugduni, 1594. Amongst English works, Willet's Hexapla, London, 1632; the Critici Sacri, London, 1690; and M. Poll, Synopsis Criticorum, London, 1699, in which the opinions of the Reformers and their successors are collected.

4. Modern.

(1) Foreign. Exegetical: — Delitzsch: Commentary on Genesis, third edition, Leipsic, 1860. Keil and Delitzsch: Commentary on the Pentateuch, Leipsic, 1861; Edinburgh, 1864. Lunge: Commentary on Genesis, Bohn, 1864; Edinburgh, 1868. Rosenmuller: Scholia in Genesin, Leipsic, 1821. Theological: — Baumgarten: Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil, 1843. Popular: — Von Gerlach: Commentary on the Pentateuch, 1801-1849.

(2) English: — Ainsworth: Annotations on the Pentateuch, Edinburgh, 1843. Alford: Genesis, and Part of Exodus, for English Readers, London, 1877. Browne (Bishop of Ely): Vol. 1. of Speaker's Commentary, London, 1871. Inglis: Notes on Genesis, Edinburgh, 1877. Jamieson: Vol. 1. of the Critical and Experimental Commentary, Edinburgh, 1863. Kalisch: Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, London, 1858. Macdonald: Creation and the Fall: a Defense and Exposition, London and Edinburgh, 1856. Murphy: Commentary on Genesis, Edinburgh, 1863. Patrick (Bishop of Ely): A Commentary upon the Historical Books of the Old Testament: London, 1727. Wordsworth: The Holy Bible, with Notes, London, 1864. Wright: The Book of Genesis, London, 1859.

(3) American: — Bush: Notes on Genesis, New York, 1838. Jacobus: Notes, Critical and Explanatory, on Genesis, New York, 1865. Turner: Exegetical Commentary on Genesis, New York, 1846.

III. HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL EXPOSITIONS. In addition to the well-known Commentaries of A. Clarke, M. Henry, and Thomas Scott, to this department may be assigned: — Bonar: Earth's Morning, or Thoughts on the First Six Chapters of Genesis, London, 1875. Candlish: The Book of Genesis expounded in a Series of Discourses, Edinburgh, 1868. Exell: A Homiletical Commentary on Genesis, London, 1875 (incomplete). Fuller: Expository Discourses on the Book of Genesis London, 1836. Gray: The Biblical Museum, London, 1876. Hughes: An Analytical Exposition of the First Book of Moses, 1672. Ness: History and Mystery, London, 1690-1696. Robertson, F.W.: Notes on Genesis, London, 1877. White: A.

Commentary upon the First Three Chapters of Genesis, London, 1656.

IV. GENERAL LITERATURE. Blunt: The History of Abraham, London, 1842. Bonnet: The Exile from Eden; Meditations on the Third Chapter, London, 1839. Bouchier: The History of Isaac, London, 1864. Dawson: The Origin of the World, London, 1877. Dykes: Abraham the Friend of God, London, 1877. Grant: The Bible Record true in every Age, London, 1877. Hengstenberg: Egypt and the Books of Moses, Edinburgh, 1845. Kitto: Bible Illustrations, Edinburgh, 1855. Lawson: Lectures on Joseph, Edinburgh, 1807; new edition, 1878. Overton: The Life of Joseph, London, 1866. Rawlinson: Ancient Monarchies, vol. 1., London, 1871. Roberts: Oriental Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures, London, 1835. Records of the Past: Biblical Archaeological Society, London, 1875 (publishing). Robinson: Biblical Researches in Palestine, London, 1841. Sandys: In the Beginning, London, 1879. Smith: Assyrian Discoveries, London, 1875. Smith: Chaldean Account of Genesis, London, 1876. Smith (Thornley): The Life of Joseph, Edinburgh, 1875. Stanley: Sinai and Palestine, London, 1856; Lectures on Jewish Church, London, 1866. Tristram: The Land of Israel, London, 1865; The Land of Moab, London, 1873. Thomson: The Land and the Book, London, 1870. Wilkinson: Manners of the Ancient Egyptians, London, 1847.

For a more detailed account of the literature of Genesis, the works of Kurtz, Lange, and Rosenmuller may be consulted.


§ 1. THE BEGINNING. Genesis 1:1-2:3.

1. The creation of the universe, Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:2.
2. The six days' work. Genesis 1:3-31.
3. The institution of the sabbath, Genesis 2:1-3.


1. The paradisiacal state of man. Genesis 2:4-25.
2. The history of the fall. Genesis 3:1-24.
3. The story of Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:1-15.
4. The development of the race. Genesis 4:16-26.

§ 3. THE GENERATIONS OF ADAM. Genesis 5:1-6:8.

1. The first genealogical table, Genesis 5:1-32.
2. The degeneracy of the antediluvians, Genesis 6:1-8.

§ 4. THE GENERATIONS OF NOAH. Genesis 6:9-9:29.

1. The building of the ark. Genesis 6:9-22.
2. The narrative of the Flood. Genesis 7:1-8:14.
3. The Noachic covenant, Genesis 8:15-9:17.
4. The destinies of Noah's sons. Genesis 9:18-29.

§ 5. THE GENERATIONS OF THE SONS OF NOAH. Genesis 10:1-11:9.

1. The ethnological register, Genesis 10:1-32.
2. The confusion of tongues at Babel. Genesis 11:1-9.

§ 6. THE GENERATIONS OF SHEM. Genesis 11:10-26.

§ 7. THE GENERATIONS OF TERAH. Genesis 11:27-25:11.

1. The migration of the Terachites. Genesis 11:27-32.
2. The history of Abraham, the son of Terah. Genesis 12:1-25:11.

(1) Abram is called, Genesis 12:1-3;
(2) enters Canaan, Genesis 12:4-9; descends to Egypt, Genesis 12:10-20; returns to Canaan, Genesis 13:1 Genesis 13:4; separates from Lot, Genesis 13:5-18; pursues the kings, Genesis 14:1-16; meets with Melchisedeck, Genesis 14:17-24; is justified, Genesis 15:1-6; and taken into covenant with God, Genesis 15:7-21; marries Hagar, Genesis 16:1-16; receives the sign of circumcision, Genesis 17:1-27; is visited by Jehovah at Mamre, Genesis 18:1-8; and obtains the promise of Isaac, Genesis 18:9-15; intercedes for Sodom, Genesis 18:16-33; which is soon thereafter destroyed, Genesis 19:1-38; sojourns in Gerar, Genesis 20:1-18; rejoices in Isaac's birth, Genesis 21:1-8; casts out Ishmael, Genesis 21:9-21; covenants with Abimelech at Beersheba, Genesis 21:22-34; offers up Isaac on Moriah, Genesis 22:1-24; is bereaved of Sarah, whom he buries in Machpelah, Genesis 23:1-20; commissions Eliezer to find a bride for Isaac, Genesis 24:1-67; enters into a second marriage with Keturah, Genesis 25:1-6; and ultimately dies, Genesis 25:7-11.

§ 8. THE GENERATIONS OF ISHMAEL. Genesis 25:12-18.

§ 9. THE GENERATIONS OF ISAAC. Genesis 25:19-35:29.

1. The birth and early history of Isaac's sons. Genesis 25:19-34.
2. The subsequent career of Isaac. Genesis 26:1-35.
3. The blessing of Jacob by Isaac. Genesis 27:1-46.
4. The fortunes of Isaac's heir. Genesis 28:1-35:26. Jacob departs to Padan-aram, Genesis 28:1-35:26; sees God at Bethel, Genesis 28:10-22; arrives at Haran, Genesis 29:1-14; marries Leah and Rachel, 29:15-35; serves with Laban, Genesis 30:1-43; flees from Laban, 31:1-55; is met by angels at Mahanaim, Genesis 32:1-12; sends a message to Esau, Genesis 32:13-23; wrestles with an angel, Genesis 32:24-32; is reconciled to Esau, Genesis 33:1-20; hears of his daughter's defilement, Genesis 34:1-31; revisits Bethel, 35:1-15; is bereaved of Rachel, Genesis 35:16-20; returns to Isaac at Mamre, Genesis 35:27.
5. The death of Isaac. Genesis 35:27-29.

§ 10. THE GENERATIONS OF ESAU. Genesis 36:1-37:1.

§ 11. THE GENERATIONS OF JACOB. Genesis 37:2-50:26.

1. The wickedness of Jacob's sons. Genesis 37:2-38:30.

(1) Joseph hated by his brethren, Genesis 37:2-36.
(2) The sins of Judah and Onan. Genesis 38:1-30.

2. The fortunes of Joseph in Egypt. Genesis 39:1-41:57.

(1) His imprisonment by Potiphar. Genesis 39:1-23.
(2) His advancement by Pharaoh. Genesis 40:1-41:57.

3. The famine in the land of Canaan. Genesis 42:1-45:28.

(1) The descent of Jacob's sons to Egypt without Benjamin. Genesis 42:1-38.
(2) The second journey to Egypt with Benjamin. Genesis 43:1-34.
(3) The stratagem of Joseph to detain Benjamin. Genesis 44:1-34.
(4) Joseph's discovery of himself to his brethren, and invitation of his father to visit Egypt. Genesis 45:1-28.

4. The descent of Jacob to Egypt. Genesis 46:1-47:10.

(1) The departure from Beersheba. Genesis 46:1-27.
(2) The arrival at Goshen. Genesis 46:28-34.
(3) The presentation to Pharaoh. Genesis 47:1-10.

5. The settlement of Jacob and his family in Egypt. Genesis 47:11-26.

6. The last days of Jacob in Egypt. Genesis 47:27-49:32.

(1) The charge given to Joseph. Genesis 47:27-31
(2) The blessing of Joseph's sons. Genesis 48:1-22.
(3) The last prophetic utterance. Genesis 49:1-28.
(4) The charge concerning his burial. Genesis 49:29-32.

7. The death of Jacob in Egypt. Genesis 49:33-50:14.

(1) The mourning for Jacob. Genesis 50:1-7.
(2) The funeral of Jacob. Genesis 50:7-14.

8. The last of Jacob's sons. Genesis 50:15-26.

(1) The fear of Joseph's brethren. Genesis 50:15-21.
(2) The death of Joseph. Genesis 50:22-26.