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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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This was looked upon as reproachful among the Greeks and Romans, but more particularly so among the Jews; which may be accounted for by the constant expectation of Messiah, and the hope that every woman had, that she might be the mother of the promised seed. This constant hope of the speedy coming of the great "Seed of the woman" serves also to account for many circumstances in the Old Testament history. "Couple it," says the Rev. J. J. Blunt, "with this consideration, and I see the scheme of revelation, like the physical scheme, proceeding with beautiful uniformity: a unity of plan ‘connecting,' as it has been well said by Paley, ‘the chicken roosting upon its perch with the spheres revolving in the firmament;' and a unity of plan connecting in like manner the meanest accidents of a household with the most illustrious visions of a prophet. Abstracted from this consideration, I see in the history of Moses details of actions, some trifling, some even offensive, pursued at a length (when compared with the whole) singularly disproportionate; while things which the angels would desire to look into are passed over and forgotten. But this principle once admitted, all is consecrated; all assumes a new aspect; trifles, that seem at first not bigger than a man's hand, occupy the heavens; and wherefore Sarah laughed, for instance, at the prospect of a son, and wherefore that laugh was rendered immortal in his name; and wherefore the sacred historian dwells on a matter so trivial, whilst the world and its vast concerns were lying at his feet, I can fully understand. For then I see the hand of God shaping every thing to his own ends, and in an event thus casual, thus easy, thus unimportant, telling forth his mighty design of salvation to the world, and working it up into the web of his noble prospective counsels, Genesis 21:6 . I see that nothing is great or little before Him who can bend to his purposes whatever he willeth, and convert the light-hearted and thoughtless mockery of an aged woman into an instrument of his glory, effectual as the tongue of the seer which he touched with living coals from the altar. Bearing this master-key in my hand, I can interpret the scenes of domestic mirth, of domestic stratagem, or of domestic wickedness, with which the history of Moses abounds. The Seed of the woman, that was to bruise the serpent's head, Genesis 3:15 , however indistinctly understood, (and probably it was understood very indistinctly,) was the one thing longed for in the families of old; was ‘the desire of all nations,' as the Prophet Haggai expressly calls it, Haggai 2:7; and, provided they could accomplish this desire, they (like others, when urged by an overpowering motive) were often reckless of the means, and rushed upon deeds which they could not defend. Then did the wife forget her jealousy, and provoke, instead of resenting, the faithlessness of her husband, Genesis 16:2; Genesis 30:3; Genesis 30:9; then did the mother forget a parent's part, and teach her own child treachery and deceit, Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:13; then did daughters turn the instincts of nature backward, and deliberately work their own and their father's shame, Genesis 19:31; then did the daughter-in-law veil her face, and court the incestuous bed, Genesis 38:14; and to be childless, was to be a by- word, Genesis 16:5; Genesis 30:1; and to refuse to raise up seed to a brother, was to be spit upon, Genesis 38:26; Deuteronomy 25:9; and the prospect of the promise, like the fulfilment of it, did not send peace into families, but a sword; and three were set against two, and two against three, Genesis 27:41; and the elder, who would be promoted unto honour, was set against the younger, whom God would promote, Genesis 4:5; Genesis 27:41; and national differences were engendered by it, as individuals grew into nations, Genesis 19:37; Genesis 26:35; and even the foulest of idolatries may be traced, perhaps, to this hallowed source; for the corruption of the best is the worst corruption of all, Numbers 25:1-3 . It is upon this principle of interpretation, and I know not upon what other so well, that we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, who have made those parts of the Mosaic history a stumbling-block to many, which, if rightly understood, are the very testimony of the covenant; and a principle which is thus extensive in its application and successful in its results, which explains so much that is difficult, and answers so much that is objected against, has, from this circumstance alone, strong presumption in its favour, strong claims upon our sober regard."

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Barrenness'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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