Project Canterbury


Talks on
The Old Testament


By the
Canon and sometime Dean of
Saint Paul's Cathedral, Fond du Lac


Fond du Lac, Wis.


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012


The Two Stories of Creation

The Book of Genesis, which opens the Bible is the most interesting story book ever written. It tells us, as its name implies, how everything began. It describes the origin of men and women, of marriage, children and family life. It tells the beginning of agriculture, and architecture, of civilization and government, of poetry and song, of crime and sin, of religion and worship. It tells of the great flood which nearly wiped out humanity and of the emergence of the various races and languages which spread over the whole world. It even goes back of human life and tells of the creation of the universe itself; all of this in the first eleven chapters of the book.

These early creation stories are current in the folklore of all Semitic people. The Babylonian mythology is similar to that of Genesis. The Bible stories however have been written from the point of view of a pure monotheism, and a high morality, both of which are conspicuously lacking in the Canaanitish and other Semitic myths. The Hebrew people were surrounded by peoples whose gods and forms of worship were frankly immoral, bloodthirsty and murderous. It is the distinctive feature of the Old Testament even from its first chapters that in striking contrast to this debased background, it presents the lofty ideal of a pure and spiritual concept of the Deity, and an equally high moral ideal for human conduct.

[4] Let us now turn to the story of creation in the opening Chapter. When we open our Bibles we read, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Then follows a very impressive and majestic moving picture, a story of the gradual creation of the world in six successive days, followed by a seventh day of rest, which thus becomes the Sabbath, a day of rest for God and man alike.

We note that there is a gradually ascending process in creation which corresponds remarkably with modern scientific teaching. Of course none of the writers of the Bible knew anything about evolution. They were not writing a college text. The great geological periods are forshortened into the days of the week but there is an onward unfolding urge. At one time Bible critics ridiculed the creation of light before the creation of the sun, but we are now told by the latest science that light is the primeval stuff or energy that matter is made of. The creation of light first is absolutely scientific: then there gradually emerged the land and water, the rolling back of the clouds revealed the sun, moon and stars, then came the emergence of plant life, the lower forms of animal life, first in the water and then on land, the gradual progress upwards of fishes, reptiles, birds, mammals, and last of all man himself who is made in the image of God.

William Jennings Bryan wrote a book against the theory of evolution which he thought overthrew the book of Genesis. He called his book, "The Image of God". He was mistaken in his assumptions. [4/5] No intelligent Christian thinks that evolution overthrows the Bible, and singularly enough Mr. Bryan never told us what the Image of God is. As this is important, we may pause for a moment to consider it. It is quite evident from this first chapter of Genesis, that God is described without any physical image at all. He is purely, a spiritual being, without any body, parts, or passions. If man is made in the image of God then it must be the spiritual part of man rather than his physical frame that resembles his Creator. It is man's spirit, soul or mind, as it is variously called, that is the image of God. Man's ego, his inner self is an invisible spirit that differentiates him from the beasts. This Ego has a mental, emotional, and volitional life. It has the power to think, to feel and to will. So God in whose image we are made, is the great Master Mind, who knows all truth, He is infinite Love which is the motive for all the divine activity, and He is both almighty and free of all limitation outside Himself. It is the purpose of the Bible and of the religion which it reveals to us, to make it possible through divine help for man to achieve the full measure of the divine life which God gave him in his creation, and to enjoy it both for time and eternity.

The story of Creation ends with the Sabbath rest, which God hallows on the seventh day of the week. As we go on, with the fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, we find a new and completely different story of creation. God is different, his method and order of creation are different, and it all transpires on one day instead of six. This is evidently a much older story and is very graphic and [5/6] naive. God now has a name, Jehovah, and whereas in the first chapter creation is the result of God's spoken word, here Jehovah himself acts. He first of all makes man out of clay, breathes into his lungs the breath of life and makes him a living soul. There were no plants or animals before man, for there was no one to take care of them. Then Jehovah makes the trees, plants a garden, sends the rain to water it, and makes the animals out of the earth, as he made the man, and brings them to Adam to give them their names. Last of all he makes Eve out of one of Adam's ribs, and she becomes his wife. There were four rivers in the garden, and many trees for fruit, but two mystical trees that Adam and Eve must not touch, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This takes us to the beginning of the next chapter which introduces the serpent and the remarkable things which befell Adam and Eve. It is evident that these two stories are quite distinct and must have come from separate sources. The second story, as we have said is evidently much older, and cruder in its concept of the Deity, but it is more graphic and much more interesting.

The key to the difference in these two accounts is the different word for God. In the first chapter we have the Hebrew word El or Elohim. In the second chapter we have the word JHVH which we call Jehovah. The ancient Hebrew was written without any vowels. It consisted of consonants only. The name of God was so sacred that it was never spoken, so its true pronunciation was forgotten. The word "LORD" was substituted whenever the sacred JHVH [6/7] occurred. Whenever in the old Testament we find the word "LORD" printed in small capitals, there in the Hebrew is the unspoken name JHVH. However in combination with other words and especially in proper names both of these words were freely used. Elijah means El is Jah. Joel means Jah is El. Jah in a common ending for proper names, Abijah, Isaiah, etc. So El. Beth-el, house of God. Samuel, asked of God etc. Scholars tell us that the name El was used more in north Israel, and the name Jah in South Israel or Judea. Each part of the country originally had its book of history and story. The Judean account used the name Jah and the Ephraimite narrative used the name El. These two accounts were the sources from which the present book of Genesis is compiled. This would account for the parallel stories which we find, with slight variations. Thus the El story of the flood tells us that Noah took the animals into the ark two by two. The Jah story tells us that he took seven clean animals and two each of the unclean. Both of these stories are found side by side. The Jah narrative calls the mount of the law Sinai and the first month of the year Nisan. The El story calls the mount Horeb, and the first month Abib. There are innumerable peculiarities of this sort, noticed only by the scholar, but for us it will suffice if we look out for the word "LORD" printed in small capitals, for that is the unpronounceable name. We find the same distinctions in the Psalms, also, as we shall see later.

At the middle of the 11th Chapter we begin the story of the Patriarchs, the ancestors of the Hebrews. From now on the Bible is concerned with the [7/8] Chosen people. If foreigners are mentioned it is only because the Hebrews are concerned with them. The progenitor of the Hebrews was Abraham, or Abram as he was first called. He comes from Ur of the Chaldees and with his father Terah emigrates to Haran, to the north of Palestine. Here Abram is called of God to migrate to the South, into Palestine, and is promised all this land as the home of his future descendants. There are towns and cities here, but also open spaces of pasturage. Abram's wealth was in flocks and herds and there was room for migration as in the western part of our country fifty years ago. Abram's name which means Father of a multitude is changed to Abraham, the Father of the Faithful. He has a beautiful wife, but no children. Sarah gave her handmaid to Abraham for a wife and Ishmael is born to Hagar. At last Sarah bears Isaac, in her old age. The name Isaac means laughter, because his mother laughed when first told that she should bear a son. There is jealousy between Sarah and Hagar, and Hagar and Ishmael are sent away.

Human sacrifice was common in Canaan, and Abraham is tempted to sacrifice Isaac. The Lord restrains him, and Abraham offers a ram instead. This closes the door against human sacrifice for all future time, but Abraham is commended for his sincerity. The covenant of Circumcision was established which henceforth became the mark of separation between the Jew and Gentile. Lot, Abraham's nephew, is permitted to escape when Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed in a great natural catastrophe which created the dead sea. The story of Abraham entertaining the Angels, [8/9] the argument with Jehovah over the destruction of Sodom, the ceremonies accompanying the purchase of the burial ground, the visit of the two chieftains, all of these bring us the atmosphere of the East, which travelers tell us is unchanged today.

Before Abraham's death a bride is secured for Isaac. The wooing of Rebecca by Abraham's servant for his master's son is a story of indescribable charm. (Gen. 24) Isaac and Rebecca are the only monogamous pair among the patriarchs and so were upheld as an example in the Marriage service. Rebecca bears twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob is the favorite and when old age dims Isaac's eyes, Rebecca contrives that he receives the blessing of the first born from his father. This initiates a feud between the brothers, and Jacob prudently goes away from home and enters into the service of his uncle Laban, his mother's brother. No greater contrast can be imagined than that which is shown between these twin sons of Isaac. Esau is brave and headstrong, easy going and self indulgent. Jacob is far sighted, self denying, patient, industrious and not without a considerable admixture of guile. He cheats others and is himself cheated time and again. He pays bitterly for his deception. He serves seven years for Rachel whom he loves and is given Leah instead. He serves seven years more for Rachel, and six years more for his flocks and herds. After twenty years of service with his uncle Laban, he escapes by stealth, only to encounter his dreaded brother Esau. Esau however has forgotten all about it, and the brothers are reconciled after 20 years of separation. [9/10] Jacob now settles in Canaan. He has now four wives and twelve children. His name is changed to Israel, and with his twelve sons, whose descendents were to become the twelve tribes of Israel, he can see the coming of a future nation. It was not for four centuries later however that the nation was to be born.

To this interesting combination of intelligence, perseverence, craft and skill which marks Jacob's descendents forever after, there was added a surprising spiritual quality, a religious strain that we should not have suspected. Jacob had a clear spiritual insight. He believed in God. He saw visions of Angels. He dreamed of a ladder up to heaven. He wrestled with spiritual antagonists and prevailed over them. He was genuinely religious, and his religion was his salvation. We do not admire Jacob. He was too much like ourselves.

The last quarter of the book of Genesis is made up of the story of Joseph, for a number of years the youngest son of the family. He too was clever and spoiled and his father was unwise in his favoritism. At first a blood feud is threatened, but finally Joseph is sold as a slave and carried down to Egypt. Here his charm and intelligence captivate his master. Unfortunately it captivates his master's wife as well, and Joseph under a false accusation is cast into prison. It is the same again even here. Joseph is the favorite of the jailor and of the other prisoners. He interprets their dreams and by this was at last brought to the attention of Pharaoh. Pharaoh also [10/11] has a dream, the seven lean cattle eating up the seven fat ones. Joseph interprets. It is seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. What shall be done about it? Why said Joseph, "Build barns and granaries and store up the surplus against the years of famine." Who can carry out such a plan. Why obviously the man who has wisdom to suggest it. So Joseph is taken from prison, and made next to Pharaoh the highest ruler in Egypt.

Now we go back to Canaan. The famine has come there and the old Jacob sends his ten sons to Egypt to buy food. Here we have the ironic situation. The tables are turned. The wicked brothers come as suppliants and stand before Joseph. They do not know him but he recognizes them and in his questioning discovers that he has a younger brother Benjamin, born after his departure. The brothers are treated with a bewildering combination of severity and kindness and sent back home without discovering Joseph's identity. However, he has exacted a promise that Benjamin is to come with them when they return, as he knows they must.

A year passes by and the famine continues in Canaan. Jacob tells his sons they must go again into Egypt. They flatly refuse to go unless Benjamin goes with them, and Jacob at first refuses to let Benjamin go, recalling his loss of Joseph. However, there is no choice in the face of starvation and at last Jacob gives his consent. "If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." So the eleven brothers stand again before Joseph. There is a great feast and all are mysteriously seated according to their [11/12] birth-right. They are on their way home again when officers pursue them and Joseph's silver cup is found in Benjamin's sack. Then they all return to Joseph and he makes himself known to them. There are yet five years of famine. Send for your families and your father and I will nourish you here in Egypt. The aged Jacob, when he sees the wagons that Joseph has sent exclaims, "Joseph my son is yet alive, I will go and see him before I die." So they all go down to Egypt and live happily ever after.

Joseph was the flower of the family. There are serious moral blemishes in the characters of all of the other sons, but Joseph was without reproach. He was pure in heart, cheerful in misfortune, and unspoiled by success. When his brethren feared his revenge, after the death of their father he said, "Do not be afraid. Ye devised evil against me, but God meant it for good to save much people as it is this day." Like his father and grandfathers before him, Religion was the secret of his character.


The Law

The first five books of the Bible are spoken of as the Books of Moses, or the Books of the Law. The Jews divided their Bible into two parts, the Law and the Prophets. The law consisted of these first five books, the Pentateuch, and the rest of the Old Testament was called the Prophets. Sometimes a threefold division was made: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, or Holy Writings. See S. Luke XXIV. Ordinarily, the expression "The Law and the Prophets" included the whole body of inspired writings. "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" i. e. the whole of revealed religion.

The Jews regarded the Law as the most sacred part of Holy Scripture. In fact the Sadducees held it to be the only part that carried divine inspiration.

The Law is enshrined in four narrative books which cover a period of 120 years, the lifetime of Moses. The Book of Exodous begins with the story of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, the birth of Moses, and his education as the son of Pharoah's daughter. At the age of 40 years, he kills an Egyptian in attempting to protect a fellow Hebrew, and flees into the desert of Arabia for another 40 years. At the age of 80, God speaks to him out of the burning bush, reveals himself as Jehovah, the God of his fathers, and calls Moses to lead the Hebrews out of captivity and back to the land of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses' protests are unavailing, [13/14] and together with his brother Aaron, who is four years older than himself, he undertakes the arduous task of breaking a nation loose from bondage. This he accomplishes by a series of plagues or natural calamities which come in quick succession upon Egypt, but leave the Hebrews untouched. The last and most appalling of these plagues was the death of the first born in every Egyptian home, from that of Pharaoh to that of the least of his servants. A mighty cry of fear and anguish arose throughout Egypt and the people thrust out the Hebrews in haste. A religious ceremony marked the eve of the Hebrew departure. It consisted of killing a lamb and sprinkling the blood on the doorposts of the house. When the angel of the plague went through the land that night, he passed over those doors that were marked with blood, and did not enter in to slay the first born. The lamb was roasted and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, immediately after which the Hebrews set out on their journey. The Egyptians repented of their acquiescence and pursued the escaping slaves. The Hebrews fled through the wet sands of the Red Sea. The wind changed and the pursuing Egyptians were drowned. It was the final and overwhelming deliverance which the Hebrews were never to forget.

They were as yet only a disorganized mob, so Moses led them into the desert of Arabia, to the slopes of the volcanic Mt. Sinai, and here the people encamped until Moses could effect some sort of organization. He frequently went up into the mountain and brought back God's commands for the people. These were chiefly embodied in the Ten Commandments, [14/15] which we shall consider later. Through many trials and tribulations and with much discontent and rebellion Moses led that motley throng through the wilderness and up to the borders of the Promised Land, only to have them refuse to go in and possess the land when they finally arrived. Then Moses knew the truth. This band of slaves would never have the spirit or the courage to make a successful army of invasion. Only their children who grew up in the wilderness and were accustomed to its hardships and dangers were competent. He must wait for the old generation to die off, and a new one to grow up before the conquest could be made. Accordingly they settled down in the wilderness at Kadesh Barnea to wait for the propitious time. Moses was then 120 years and did not himself enter Palestine. The leader was Joshua whom Moses had trained for the task.

The narrative of Exodus carries us to Sinai and the wilderness. Leviticus is almost completely occupied as its name suggests, with legal enactments, and Numbers carries the tribes to the border of the Promised land. Deuteronomy, which means the second law, gives what purports to be the final discourses of Moses, and describes his death on the mountains of Moab. It stands apart from the other books of the Pentateuch.

The two most interesting stories of the book of Numbers are those of Korah, and of Balaam. In its present form the story of Korah is probably of exilic origin, for it is based on a differentiation of the priestly offices and grades which was never recognized [15/16] until after the return from the Exile in 444 B.C. The story of Balaam is that of a prophet of Jehovah who was not a Hebrew. When Israel drew near to the land of Midian, Balak the king sent for Balaam to curse Israel in order that he might defeat him. Balaam is offered rich rewards but returns the smooth answer that he cannot go unless Jehovah commands. Balak sends more honorable messengers and larger gifts. Balaam still hesitates. Then he starts out and is rebuked by the dumb beast that he is riding speaking to him. However he proceeds on his way. Then follows the dramatic scene of Balak and Balaam building seven altars and offering a bullock and a ram on every altar. Balaam takes up his parable and opens his mouth and speaks words not of cursing but of blessing. Balak is bitterly disappointed but takes Balaam to another place and asks him to curse Israel from thence. Again the sacrifices are repeated and again comes the unwelcome blessing. For the third time and in another place the sacrifices are again offered and this time Balaam exclaims "How can I curse whom God hath not cursed and how can I defy whom the Lord hath not defied. Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his." Balaam however died in battle, fighting with Balak against Israel.

At last the Hebrews come to the promised land and the ten spies go through the country, bring back the great cluster of grapes but give a discouraging report of the giants who inhabited it, so the people refuse to go in. As a result they are led by Moses back into the wilderness, where they encamp for forty years, [16/17] the old generation dies off, and the new which has grown up in the hardships of the wilderness go in to the conquest.


We must now turn our attention to the Law which is enshrined in these five or rather four books of the Pentateuch. We cannot exaggerate the sacredness and veneration with which it was esteemed by all Hebrew people. Even our Lord endorses this attitude. "Verily I say unto you one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass away until all be fulfilled." It came to be regarded as so sacred that every word and letter was directly inspired. In fact this attitude was largely held by Christians as well as Jews for many centuries, and is held by people who call themselves Fundamentalists at the present day. Let us examine this law.

The heart of the law was the Ten Words or the Ten Commandments which God gave Moses in the Mount. This contained the principle of obligation to God and neighbor. However it was necessary to apply this law, to specific cases. Accordingly people would bring their disputes to Moses. He would give a decision and that became a "Torah", a statute or judgment. It was written down, and so the Law began to formulate itself. In the wilderness most of these torahs had to do with property rights and injuries inflicted by man or beast. The law was based on the principle of strict justice, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There was also a religious [17/18] law. Altars were to be made of earth or unhewn stone. The Sabbath was to be strictly kept. So the Law of Moses began to grow, and like all law it continued to grow. But as conditions changed the law changed too. First it was for pastoral people. Then for those engaged in settled agriculture. Then for urban dwellers, and finally when the people lost their civil liberty, it was chiefly concerned with religion and worship. However it was always called the law of Moses. Just as Webster's dictionary is today still Webster's dictionary, though it contains many times more words than Noah Webster ever knew, so the Law was the law of Moses, and in later times men supposed that he actually wrote every word of it.

The important thing however for us to remember, is not that it was the law of Moses, but that it was the Law of God. In this it differed from the codes of the nations. There was the code of Hammurabi, the Laws of Solon, the edicts of Justinian. They were the result of worldly wisdom and experience, but here we have the law of God himself. Man's duty as revealed by the Creator, and as a result it has a fullness and clarity that is entirely lacking in other systems of ethics. Take for example the Greek ethic. It taught people to observe the four Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Temperance, Fortitude and Prudence. But it leaves unanswered the question, What is Justice, and what is Prudence. Take the Buddhist Eightfold Noble Way. Right thinking, right speaking, right acting, etc. But here again the question rises, What is right thinking, acting, etc. There is no moral content in these systems.

[19] Moreover there is one feature lacking. They tell us nothing of duty to God, which Christ tells us is the first and great Commandment. Let us now take the Ten Commandments. We have man's duty clearly defined and divided between obligation to God, first, and then to his fellow man. The obligation to God is faith, love, obedience, worship. Duty to man involves the respect of certain definite rights as reputation, property, life, family, etc. It is a plain and definite scheme of conduct that covers all of man's relationships.

Unfortunately, there grew up in Israel schools of legal interpretation. It was their purpose to protect the law, to build a hedge about it. It was so sacred that it must be protected by many restrictions. For example, you could not reap your grain on the Sabbath day. Therefore it was a sin to pick an ear of wheat. You could not thrash your grain. Therefore it was a sin to rub off the chaff as the disciples did when they went through the wheat field. You could not carry a burden on the Sabbath. Therefore if a tailor stuck a needle into the lapel of his coat and forgot to take it out on the Sabbath, he was carrying a burden. And so it went on even after the time of Christ until there were so many laws that even a rabbi who studied them all his life could not even know them all. At last a famous Rabbi Akiba who lived 150 years after Christ decided that if anyone would keep 51 per cent of the law he would be saved, and everybody sighed with relief. We can understand what St. Paul meant in Galatians about being delivered from the burden of the Law. He did not mean exempt from moral responsibility, but [19/20] free from the ceremonialism which burdened the Jew. Christianity by the way is the only religion that does not impose certain tabus in meat and drink.


We must now consider the last book of the Pentateuch. It is so called because it represents Moses giving the law a second time just before his death. The people have come to the border of the promised land. The 40 years have expired. The time of conquest has arrived. Moses himself cannot go in. He is to die on the east of Jordan. He speaks marvelous words of farewell counsel. He gives them again the law of worship. It is one of the most spiritual and beautiful of all the books. If Israel will keep the commandments and statutes of God then He will be their God and they will be his people. He will bless them in their basket and their store. They shall lend to other nations and not borrow. They shall be the head and not the tail. They shall be blessed above all people. But if Israel does not obey and goes after other gods, then evils of all kinds will come upon them.

It was probably this book that was found in the temple in the 18th year of king Josiah, in 621 B.C. that resulted in such drastic changes in the religion of the Jewish people, as we will shall see in our next chapter. One of the important provisions in Deuteronomy is that there shall be but one sanctuary for [20/21] the offering of sacrifice. The consequences of accepting the Book without question were fatal for Josiah. However, Deuteronomy remains one of the most spiritually minded books of the Old Testament.

Its morality does not go outside the chosen people, but within those bounds, it breathes the pure air of a noble religion.

It ends with the death of Moses. We cannot forbear quoting a verse of the poem by Cecil Frances Alexander.

By Nebo's lonely mountain
On this side Jordan's wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab
There lies a lonely grave.

And no man knows that sepulchre,
And no man saw it e'er,
For the angels of God upturned the sod
And laid the dead man there.


Story and History

The first five books of the Bible are called the Pentateuch. They are also called the Book of the Law, or the Law of Moses. Next follow twelve books of narrative or story. They vary much in character and interest.

The first of the narrative books is Joshua. This continues the history of the Exodus and describes the entrance of the twelve tribes into the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Scholars tell us that it is from the same group of authors that produced the Pentateuch, and should be included in this group of books. It describes the invasion of the Promised Land, and the division of the land among the tribes.

Forty years have elapsed since the exodus. The old generation of Egyptian slaves has died off, and their children only, who had grown up in the wilderness and were used to its hardships, its free and untrammeled life, went in and began the conquest. Only one other man beside Joshua himself, Caleb the other good spy, was permitted to go over Jordan. The conquest began with the siege of Jericho. Notice the important part played by the Priests. They marched around the city for seven days and on the seventh, blew the trumpets and the walls of the city fell. We note also the dramatic story of Rahab, a woman of easy virtue who had the intuition to see the future of her native land and allied herself with [22/23] the invaders. She is commended by later writers for her faith. She married one of the leaders of the tribe of Judah and was one of the ancestors of David and so also of our Lord. She is one of the three women mentioned by S. Matthew in his geneology of Christ.

Another illuminating story is that of Achan. It illustrates the religious and moral ideas of the Hebrews at this period. Joshua had promised the destruction of all the Canaanites and their property as an act of dedication to Jehovah. As the Hebrews were the people of Jehovah, so the Egyptians were the people of the gods of Egypt, and the Canaanites were the people of the gods of Canaan. The destruction and plagues on Egypt was a visitation of Jehovah upon the gods of Egypt. Similarly the destruction of the Canaanites was a visitation upon their gods. Jehovah had no interest in any except his own people. This idea was still held 400 years later by Samuel, when he hewed Agag to pieces before Jehovah. Achan secreted a wedge of silver and a Babylonish garment under his tent, Jehovah was insulted and the Hebrews lost the battle against Ai. Joshua discovers the sin of Achan and he, his wives and children, and all his possessions are stoned and burned, and then Jehovah gives him the victory. This story illustrates the sacredness of a vow or act of dedication to Jehovah. It also illustrates the solidarity of both the nation and the family. The sin of the one man is the sin of the nation, and the punishment of the one man is the punishment of his family as well. It was not until many centuries later that the Prophet Ezekiel could write, "Ye shall no [23/24] longer say this proverb, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.' Each man shall answer for his own sins. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father nor the father the iniquity of the son. The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

The latter part of Joshua describes the division of the land.


The next book is that entitled Judges. It covers a period of three to four hundred years between the first invasion, and the organization of the Hebrew monarchy under Saul, when the historic period of the nation begins. Prior to the founding of the monarchy, the tribes were scattered throughout the land like the Scottish clans. There was no central government and each man did that which was right in his own eyes. Then the people forsook their God and went after the gods of the heathen. As a punishment, God sold them into bondage. In their tribulation they repented of their sins and turned again to Jehovah for help. Jehovah heard them and raised up a deliverer who led their armies to victory and the land had peace. This lasted until the people fell into idolatry again, and were led into bondage. Then the same cycle is repeated. Idolatry, bondage, despair, repentance, the heroic leader, victory, peace. This is the formula of the Book of Judges. There are four super heroes that stand above all others, and one of them is a woman, Deborah, Gideon, Jeptha, Sampson. [24/25] Then there are a number of others, who play the same role but with less dramatic eclat. This is the hero period of Hebrew history. It is not alone by military prowess that Israel wins but craft largely enters into the picture. Sisera is killed by a woman while he is asleep in her tent. Gideon throws the enemy into a panic with his breaking of pots and blowing of trumpets and the sudden flaming of hundreds of torches. Sampson's strength alone is not enough to win a decisive victory, and so in spite of his wonderful power he dies a captive in the midst of his enemies. It was a period of wild individualism, of great heroes, of mighty deeds, and of lawlessness and crime. After 400 years of this experience the Hebrews were ready for better things.


The Book of Ruth follows the bloody story of the Judges with the other side of the picture, the simple sweet life of a Moabitish maid who married into the family of Judah, and also became an ancestress of our Lord. In spite of war and pillage, the rites of industry, and peace go on for the great majority of mankind, and even in these troubled times we see the life of a simple village where people live and love and marry and bear children and sow and reap, and gather in their grain, and sit in the gate and talk with their neighbors. After all, life in Bethlehem was very much as it is in America today. If as is supposed, this story was written after the return from the Exile, its purpose is that of a counter-foil to the exclusive racialism of Nehemiah, who was so [25/26] insistent on the putting away of foreign wives. Ruth the Moabitess was a foreigner, yet made a very good grandmother for the great king David.


With the First Book of Samuel we begin the history of the Hebrew Nation. The people are emerging from the tribal period to that of national self consciousness, and the symbol of nationalism is the King. Hitherto the tribes had been ruled by Judges, more or less local in their sphere of influence, and now we see them passing into a more unified life under a national leader, the king. This transition takes place under the guidance of the last of the judges, Samuel, who was a prophet as well. In our next chapter we will discuss more at length the unique position of the prophet in Israel. His was the highest moral authority. His voice was the living expression of Jehovah himself.

The book begins with the story of Samuel's birth in answer to prayer. His name means "Asked of God". We have the beautiful story of the child, brought to the temple, and given to God. Of his hearing the voice of God calling to him in the darkness, and instructed by the priest to reply to the call, "Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth." The message is one of dire import to Eli the priest, for the unreproved wickedness of his sons, Hophni and Phineas. In spite of repeated warnings, they continue in their evil doing, and at last, in battle with the Philistines, the two sons of Eli are slain, the sacred Ark is captured by the enemy, [26/27] and many people are killed. It is true that the Ark is soon returned to Israel, but it failed to bring victory, and so was neglected by prophet and people alike until the reign of David, when it was brought into the new Capital, Jerusalem. Samuel's sons seemed inclined to follow in the steps of those of Eli, and finally the clamor became so insistent that Samuel chose Saul and anointed him as their King and military leader. Saul was physically fitted for the office. He was tall, strong and commanding, and an able man of war. His son Jonathan was also an able soldier. Unfortunately, Saul did not have the gifts of personality required in a leader of the people. He was stern, morose, suspicious, jealous, taciturn. He was fighting a hard battle against uneven odds, and he suffered defeat as well as victory.

Now there comes into the picture a new military figure, David. David possessed all the qualities that Saul lacked. He was sunny and frank in disposition, generous, unselfish, thoughtful of others and forgetful of self. He was also equal with Saul in military prowess, in fact the damsels sang "Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten-thousands". One story introduces David as but a lad when he first comes into the army and kills the giant Goliath with a sling stone. He soon becomes a leader, the boon friend and companion of Jonathan, Saul's son, and eventually marries Michal, Saul's daughter. Although David is loyal to Saul in every way, the jealousy of the King is aroused against him, Saul throws his javelin at him and drives him from his presence. David thus becomes the leader of a band of [27/28] 600 outlaws. He is like Robin Hood. He protects the poor. Saul marches against him with an army, and David at last is driven into exile, outside the bounds of his native land, and he becomes a vassal of the Philistines. Here he conducts himself with great prudence, and while giving his masters the impression that he is the enemy of his people, he is in reality in communication with the elders of Judah, his own tribe, and sending spoil to them from time to time. Finally Saul and Jonathan fall in battle, and the Hebrews suffer a crushing defeat. Just before his death, Saul consults a woman who has a familiar spirit, or as we should say today, a medium, who tells him of his impending death. So we come to the end of the first Book and the beginning of Second Samuel as it is called. The news is brought to David, and he lifts his voice in lamentation. Read David's Elegy, II Samuel, I, "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places, how are the mighty fallen! Saul and Jonathan were lovely in their lives and in their deaths they were not divided. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished." This is good poetry, and reveals not only the genius of David as an artist, but the strength and depth of his attachment for those he loved and his ability to overlook and forgive injuries done to himself.

From now on we have the history of David. He is at once elected king of Judah, and reigns at Hebron, whereas Saul's son succeeds his father as king over northern Israel. While the northern Kingdom is independent at last, David at Hebron, is still a vassal to the Philistine princes. After seven years, Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, is assassinated, and [28/29] David becomes King over the whole kingdom. And now things begin to happen. In the first place he attacks and conquors Jerusalem, and makes it the capital of the Kingdom. This act is throwing down the gauntlet to his old masters, the Philistines, and the war rages until not only the Philistines, but all the remaining Canaanitish tribes are subdued, and David is the undisputed ruler over the whole land. For the first time the Hebrews are an independent nation. David is a splendid organizer and leader and he builds up a very strong military organization with the efficient help of his nephew, Joab.

The Hebrew people were surrounded by a group of small nations less numerous and powerful than themselves. The Philistines to the west and the south, the Amonites to the south east, south of the Dead Sea. The Edomites and the Moabites to the east. The Syrians at Damascus, to the northeast. These were a more powerful people than the Hebrews, and were generally the aggressors. To the north on the coast were the Phoenicians, at Tyre and Sidon, devoted not to war but to the arts of commerce and navigation. They were generally on friendly relations with Israel, and their neighbors and prospered accordingly.

After the conquest of these neighboring nations, David brought the Ark into Jerusalem and thus made his new capital a sacred shrine that in later days supplanted all the other holy places of Israel.

Now follows the sad part of the story, the sin of David and the long train of evil consequences that followed. David, popular with women as well as men, [29/30] chanced to see Bathsheba the beautiful wife of Uriah. He took her into his harem and caused Uriah to be killed in battle. The Prophet Nathan rebukes David, and David repents, but evil consequences follow which darken the remainder of David's life. First there is the death of Bathsheba's child. Then follows the rape of Tamar, his daughter, the murder of Ammon, David's oldest son, the flight and exile of Absolom, another son. This is followed by the grief of David and the return and rebellion of Absolom. David is driven out from Jerusalem. The rebellion seems successful at first, but due to the strategy of David and his advisors, the final combat is delayed until the king has time to rally his forces, and Absolom's army is scattered, and Absolom himself is killed by Joab as he hangs by his hair in an oak tree, his mount having run out from under him. In the very graphic account of this rebellion the real character of David is brought into the lime light, and it is easy to understand the love and devotion of his friends as we see revealed the King's sacrifice, humility, thoughtfulness, forgiving spirit and meekness. It is a vivid revelation of the heart of David, and yet at the same time reveals his marvelous prudence, strategy, finesse, daring, intrigue, which made him so successful. Even after David's return, there are still mutterings of rebellion in the north. The book ends with a plague which is attributed to a census which David ordered. There had been other numberings of the people before and after this one, but this alone had a singular tabu attached to it. However, the incident is of significance because it designates Mt. Moriah as the place of an accepted sacrifice, and this became the site of the great temple [30/31] that was to be built in the near future, doubly sanctified by the appearance of the Angel who stayed the plague, and also by the presence of the Ark symbolized the abiding presence of the Deity.


The book of Kings begins with the glory of Solomon, and ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Nation, four hundred years later. A court intrigue hastened the enthronement of Solomon during the declining years of David, and the new monarch brought the nation to its acme of glory and prosperity. The forty years of Solomon were years of peace, magnificent buildings were erected in Jerusalem, commerce flourished with foreign nations, and the crowning achievement of the period was the erection of the great Temple, which exhibited both the glory of Solomon, and the devotion of the people to the God of Israel. Solomon was famous for his wisdom as a ruler and the proverbs which he spoke. However his very magnificence had within it seeds of decay, and at his death the kingdom fell apart and was never reunited. Henceforth there are two kingdoms, the southern Kingdom of Judah, including a minor part of the tribe of Benjamin, and the northern Kingdom of Israel comprising the remaining ten tribes. Each of these kingdoms had nineteen kings, Judah being governed by the descendants of David, and Israel by a number of different dynasties, rebellion and assassination frequently entering into the picture. The first king of Israel, was Jereboam [31/32] "who made Israel to sin" according to the prophetic author of the book, because of his setting up new altars in the Northern Kingdom. This is of course the point of view of the author who wrote the history several centuries after the time of Jereboam. Thereafter history of the Northern Kingdom is a rather dreary recital of domestic intrigue, foreign invasions, and international politics. It is however relieved by the fine stories of two remarkable men, Elijah and Elisha, prophets who played a deciding part in preserving the worship of Jehovah in the face of serious lapses into idolatry on the part of kings and people alike. The stories are replete with miracles and wonders. In fact these two characters monopolize most of the miracles of the Old Testament. No doubt these miracle stories did not diminish as the centuries went by, but the real influence of these men rested not in their miracles but in their moral integrity and the power of their personality which stood out above kings and multitudes alike, and preserved the faith in the God of Israel.

The kingdom of Israel came to an end in 722 B.C. with the conquest of Samaria by Sargon the Assyrian, who carried the people into captivity and transplanted to their territory numerous heathen tribes. These people accepted the worship of Jehovah, and became the Samaritans of New Testament times. The original inhabitants were known as the "Lost Tribes."

Judah was more protected than the Northern Kingdom. It was mountainous country, and the tides of commerce and of battle alike swept by from Egypt [32/33] to the Euphrates and back, without touching the little mountain kingdom. Its history was much like that of Israel. It had, however, the authentic Davidic dynasty, the great Temple, and the old capital of Jerusalem. At last it was drawn into the eddy of world politics and in the struggle between Egypt and Chaldea it espoused the side of Egypt and was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the temple and city were destroyed, and the people carried into captivity. Here ends the story of the Book of Kings.


First and Second Chronicles is a priestly history written about 300 years B.C. It depends on the Book of Kings for the facts which it narrates, often in identical language, but in addition gives long geneological tables which come down eight or ten generations past the time of Ezra, and thus date the book.


It will be seen if you read the last verses of II Chronicles and the first verses of the Book of Ezra, that the latter is a continuation of the former book, and by the same hand. Ezra lived 150 years after the fall of Jerusalem. The captives began to trek back to their native land about 540 B.C. and at once set up an altar, and began rebuilding the Temple. Their leader was Zerubbabel, and their prophets Haggaii and Zechariah. People wept, those who had seen the former temple in its glory, but Haggaii predicted, [33/34] "The glory of the latter house shall be greater than that of the former, and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts". For some unknown reason, perhaps the hostility of the surrounding heathen, the work was stopped for about fifty years. Then in 444 B.C., Ezra arrived with a newly revised book of the Law (probably Leviticus) and stirred up the devotion of the people. With him was Nehemiah, the King's cup bearer, who became governor of the province. He rebuilt the walls and insured the safety of the city against hostile attack. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were zealous for the strict separation of Jews from Gentiles and insisted on the putting away of all Gentile women. Read the last chapter of Nehemiah for a picture of the situation and a revelation of his sacrificing devotion to the cause of his people.

There is one more narrative book in this series, the book of Esther. It tells the story of a modest Jewish maid who became the Queen of Ahasuerus; of the dark plot of Haman to destroy the Jews, of the manner by which it was frustrated by the courage of Esther, and the thankfulness of the Jews for their deliverance. For this escape they instituted the Feast of Purim. Although the book does not contain the name of God, it is full of dramatic incident, and illustrates the Old Testament belief in Divine providence.


The Religion of the Old Testament

In our last chapter we took a hurried survey of the history of the Hebrew people from the time of their entrance into Canaan, to the return of the nation, and the rebuilding of the city and Temple, after the Babylonian Captivity. Here the Old Testament story stops 400 years before the coming of Christ, but the intervening period is covered by the books of the Maccabees, which are found in the Apocrapha. Let us go back and trace the development of Hebrew religion during this period. In former days, and in fact by Christians who call themselves Fundamentalists today, the Old Testament was regarded as verbally inspired, and every word and command an infallible revelation from God. This created a difficult problem, as many sayings and commands are attributed to Jehovah which are quite inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. "It hath be said unto you, ....but I say unto you." The new law of Christ is in sharp contrast with the old law of Moses. We have learned to think of the Old Testament as the story of a people who were above all else desirous of finding God and their search was rewarded with a growing experience and knowledge of Spiritual truth, and of God himself. Let us then briefly trace this progress in religion.

Jehovah reveals himself to Moses as the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who has [35/36] come to redeem his people from bondage in Egypt and bring them back to the promised land. Him only are his people to worship. They are not to worship the gods of the heathen. "Thou shalt have no other gods but me." The plagues of Egypt were a visitation not only upon the people but their gods as well. When Jephtha was reproached for invading Ammon, he says to the king of that country, Do you not take what Chemosh your god gives you as spoil of battle? So will we take what Jehovah our God gives us. The gods of the heathen were as real to the Hebrew people as was Jehovah. They were continually forsaking Jehovah for some other god. This continued until the Babylonish captivity. Then, after they had seen what real heathendom was, they had no more stomach for it. Jehovah was from then on the only God, He was the creator and ruler of all the nations, but his chief interest was still in Israel. Jehovah was a holy God, in which he differed from the gods of the heathen. He was pleased with sacrifices. A sacrifice was at first a joyful gathering of the people before Jehovah. Food was offered, and animals were killed, the sacred blood was offered with fat, on the altar, and the rest of the food was consumed by the worshippers in joyous fellowship with their deity and with one another. It was sacred hospitality, raised to the highest degree. Thus Samuel would go from place to place, especially set sacred places, and hold a sacrifice. The passover was of this character.

There were also other sacrifices of propitiation. Jehovah on one occasion is about to kill Moses when Zipporah his wife acts promptly and her husband is saved. [36/37] David pleaded with Saul who is seeking to kill him, "If Jehovah has stirred you up against me, let him smell an offering." When there was famine in the land for three years, Jehovah was appeased by hanging seven of the sons of Saul. Samuel hewed Agag the king of the Amorites to pieces before Jehovah in Gilgal. As explained in the last chapter, the early Hebrews believed that Jehovah had no interest in the heathen, but was rather pleased at their destruction. Human sacrifices however were not a part of Hebrew religion, as they were of the surrounding nations. The sacrifices were chiefly of joy and fellowship. On special occasions David and Solomon offered thousands of sheep and oxen, that number being required that the multitude might participate. There were sacred days for worship, new moons and sabbaths. There were sacred hills, and trees and rocks, where Jehovah had appeared, and there grew up a class of priests whose duty it was to offer sacrifice. There were certain things that were tabu; certain foods that could not be eaten, certain ways in which food was to be prepared, certain things that rendered a person ceremonially unclean. These were incorporated into the ritual law, and the priests of the various holy places were skilled in the required ceremonies of purification. There were sacred songs and prayers recited by the people and the priests, which we shall learn about in our next chapter.

Jehovah's original dwelling place was thought to be Mt. Sinai in the Arabian desert. Here he met with his people under the leadership of Moses, and made a covenant with them. He accompanied them through the wilderness in the pillar of cloud and fire, and [37/38] entered with them into the Promised Land. Henceforth this was his abode. However in later days we find Elijah going back to Horeb (Sinai) to meet him. When David is exiled he is driven out from the presence of Jehovah, and Naaman the Syrian takes with him two mule's burden of the soil of Palestine on which to worship the God of Israel.

A common method of ascertaining the will of the Lord was by casting lots. Not any kind of lot would do. There were two sacred stones called Urim and Thummim, which were kept in the priests ephod or sacred vestment. When David wished to enquire of the Lord, he went to the priest and asked a question which could be answered by yes or no. Then the priest would shake the vestment until either Urim or Thummim would fall out. It is interesting to recall that the Twelve Apostles resorted to this method in the choice of a successor for Judas.

In the eighteenth year of Josiah, B.C. 621, a remarkable change occurred in the religion of the people. The Northern Tribes had been carried into captivity, and all that were left was the tribe of Judah, so the people were henceforth known as Jews. A book of the law was discovered in this year in the Temple, which is believed to be our present book of Deuteronomy. This was read first to the king and then to the people in the streets of Jerusalem. It produced a tremendous change in the religious customs of the people. In this book it was written that sacrifice should not be offered in every place, but only in one place where Jehovah would establish his dwelling. This of course meant Jerusalem. [38/39] Accordingly, all the other altars and holy places with their furnishings were destroyed, and sacrifice was henceforth offered only at the temple in Jerusalem. Judea was not so large but that one could go from any part of it to Jerusalem on foot, in perhaps a day's journey, but it made a tremendous difference in the religious habits of the people. It was required that they go at least three times a year to the Temple on the occasion of the great feasts. Even the Passover, which had been purely a domestic feast must now be killed in Jerusalem. We can scarcely imagine the change this made. The old joyful fellowship of the local sacrifices disappeared, and the worship became serious, solemn, impressive and ritualistic, with much more emphasis laid on sin and purification.

This religion which we have described was similar to that in all other nations, who worshipped their own gods with sacrifices and offerings in the same way as did the Jews. There was however one feature of Hebrew religion that made it different from all other religions and of this we must now speak. There existed among the Hebrews the Prophets. They were a class of men devoted to the service and worship of Jehovah, and were his spokesmen. The distinguishing feature of the prophet was that he was a messenger of God. God used him as a spokesman. And it was the belief of these people that their God was constantly speaking to them. Nothing could make a people more vividly conscious of their religion than this belief in a God who constantly spoke words of advise, of counsel, of reproof, of comfort, and encouragement. This belief made the [39/40] Prophet a man of great influence. He was the real leader of the nation. He was above kings. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Abijah, made and deposed kings. God was the real king of the people, and the prophets were his spokesmen. The prophets were not priests. Occasionally they offered sacrifice, in the early days when sacrifice was offered everywhere, but their general attitude was one of indifference to sacrifice, or at least to putting too much emphasis on it. They were primarily interested in morality, in righteousness, in right attitudes of character and conduct.

The prophetic attitude toward sacrifice is expressed in the following texts. Samuel says "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams." Micah says, "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?" Isaiah says, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices? I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hands?" Jeremiah says, "I spake not unto your fathers nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this thing I commanded them, saying: Obey my voice and I will be your God and ye shall be my people." And the familiar psalm, which is one of many, says, "Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee, but thou delightest not in burnt offerings."

On the other hand the prophets were very insistant on truth and virtue and kindness, and charity. [40/41] They were not interested simply in individual acts of virtue, but in social conditions, in the oppression of the poor by the rich, in denouncing the exploitation of the working people, by the employer classes. They were also politicians in the best sense of the word. They were keenly alive to public affairs, and were vigorously opposed to all foreign entanglements. The constant tendency of the Hebrew kings was to enter into foreign alliances with the nations about them. To every form of foreign alliance the prophets were strictly opposed. The people belonged to Jehovah. If they trusted him and served him, then He would protect them against every foe. But if they trusted in horses and chariots, if they leaned on the strength of Egypt, if they said, we have made a covenant with death, and with hell we are at agreement, then they would be swept away, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. This was uniformly the teaching of the prophets up to the time of the Babylonish Captivity. The Book of Deuteronomy, which is one of the most beautiful books in its teaching, gave them a false security. Its doctrine was that if Israel kept this law, then it would be secure. It would be the head and not the tail, and would be prospered in basket and store, in sowing and harvest, in all good things. Very well, Josiah accepted the conditions. He kept the law. He destroyed all the other shrines, he centralized the worship in Jerusalem. He made an enthusiastic effort to carry out all the requirements of the new Law. And then confident in the divine protection, he went out against Pharoah Necho, and was slain in battle. Jeremiah wrung his heart in anguish and counseled submission. Faith in the Law was lost, faith in God's protection [41/42] which Isaiah had so persistently proclaimed. The Jews fought to the stubborn end, against the great world power of the Chaldeans, and finally the holy city was wiped off the face of the earth, and the people transported to the banks of the waters of Babylon. Their nation was destroyed, their Temple, their religion, all wiped off the face of the earth! And then came a marvelous discovery. Their religion was not destroyed at all. It was better than ever. For the first time they understood its meaning.

First of all they had their fill of heathenism. They saw it from the inside and they were sick of it. It was heartless, cruel, obscene, and stupid. Nothing can exceed the scorn of the prophet Isaiah in his description of the idolator. "He taketh a tree and burneth it, he roasteth flesh and eateth it, he warms himself and says, Ha, I am warm, I have seen the fire, and of the residue thereof he maketh a god. He falleth down to the stock of a tree." Again and again we find this ridicule heaped upon idolatry.

Secondly, They found that God was in Babylon as well as in Palestine. "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" the first captives mourned. But they soon found that they could, and that God would hear their prayers and songs anywhere. So they began now to re-edit their songs and sacred writings. The ceremonial of worship had been traditional, handed on from father to son. It was a matter of custom. But now that the ritual could no longer be performed, it was set down in written rules and rubrics for the first time, and so we have what was probably the final edition of the Law, [42/43] which Ezra brought back to Jerusalem. Also all the fragments of history, of law and of poetry were collated and the Old Testament began to take shape as a book.

And now came a change in the prophetic attitude toward ceremonial worship. Without changing the emphasis from ethic, they saw the necessity for the outward ritual of religion to hold together the nation and to center the loyalty of the people, so from now on the prophets were zealous for the rebuilding of the Temple, and the restoration of its worship, as the rallying place of the nation. Again they had enlarged ideas of their place in the world. They saw that their religion was immeasurably superior to that of the nations, and so their mission dawned upon them, to teach the nations. God had sent them his truth, not for their own private benefit but that through them all the nations of the earth should be blessed. There is the splendid vision of righteousness and peace and the knowledge of God flowing out from Jerusalem to all people. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.

All of this came out of the experience of the Captivity. They went back with great hopes for the restoration of their city and religion, and the fulfillment of their destiny. But alas, the reality was not the fulfillment of their vision, instead of leadership, they found hate and persecution. They drew more and more within themselves for self protection, and a hard and fast formalism, like the hide of an armadillo cut them off religiously and racially from all [43/44] other people. Instead of becoming the teachers of the nations, they isolated themselves from all spiritual contacts and became the most exclusive religion in the world.

However, out of this changed attitude, there came one further development in their religious faith. In disappointment at the attitude of the world, and in the anguish of bitter persecution, 165 years B.C., the book of Daniel was written. In this emerges the vision of a Heavenly Kingdom. Man has failed in all his efforts, so God himself will appear. The Ancient of Days will come. He will call all the nations to judgment. He will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. And now for the first time there appears the clear and triumphant faith in the Heavenly life. Those who have suffered and died shall not lose their share in this triumph. They shall arise to immortality and have their part in the glory of the Kingdom and reign forever and ever.

The book of Daniel is called an apocalypse. It is similar to the Revelation of St. John which closes the New Testament. Its intricate visions and symbolism cannot always be explained, but one thing is clear. God still triumphs over evil, sin and death shall be destroyed, there will be a new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, and all of God's people who serve him faithfully shall share the Victory!


The Sacred Writings

We now come to a distinct class of Old Testament books called the Sacred Writings. The common expression in the New Testament for the Old was "The Law and the Prophets". In the latter category was included the historical books which we discussed in a former chapter. Let us consider a group of books distinct from both the law and the prophets. They are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. We will briefly consider first the last three of these, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, all traditionally attributed to Solomon, but actually written or compiled at a later date.

Solomon was reputedly the wisest of men, and no doubt a collection of his wise sayings forms the basis of the present book of Proverbs. They are not a philosophy, but keen observations on life. He observes the bargain hunter, "It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer, but when he goeth away, he boasteth." Keep your credit good, "Say not to thy neighbor go and come again and tomorrow I will give, when thou hast it with thee." Wealth does not insure domestic tranquility, "It is better to dwell in the corner of a house top than in a broad house with a quarrelsome woman." He warns against the gossip, "A tale bearer revealeth secrets, but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter". He counsels Temperance, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whoso is deceived thereby is not wise."

[46] These and many similar observations abound, but there runs through the whole the contrast between wisdom and folly, the wise man and the fool. Wisdom and folly are personified by women, the pure virgin and the strange woman, the strumpet. Both reveal their charms. The wise man follows the enticement of wisdom, and the fool goes to the house of the strange woman, whose abode is the mouth of hell. There are 31 chapters in proverbs, and it would be well to make it a daily reading for a month.

Ecclesiastes is a philosophy of life put into the mouth of Solomon by a later writer. It deals with the vanity of human ambition, and concludes with the text, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man, for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." The last two chapters of Ecclesiastes are among the most beautiful prose poems of all literature.

The Song of Songs is a love poem, which has been given an allegorical interpretation.


The Book of Job is a dramatic poem with a prose prelude and conclusion. Job is a righteous man who dwells in Uz. Satan persuades God to destroy his riches, and then to afflict him with sore boils, in order to test his integrity. Job sits down on a heap of ashes to bemoan himself, and his three friends, [46/47] Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar come to comfort him. For seven days they sit in silent sympathy, and then begins the Dialogue. Job himself begins with a lament on his unfortunate state. Then each in turn speaks, and each is answered by Job. So there are six speeches in each cycle and there are three cycles, the last one incomplete. After Job's last speech in the third cycle, a new character, a young man, Elihu a bystander, breaks into the discussion, and proceeds at considerable length. At the end of Elihu's speech Jehovah appears in a whirlwind, and answers Job, in a speech setting forth the glory and power of the natural world. Job is speechless in the presence of the divine majesty, and repents in sackcloth and ashes. In the final chapter Job is vindicated and we see his wealth restored, at exactly twice the sum of his previous possessions, and his three daughters are the most beautiful in all the land.

The subject under discussion is, "Why should a righteous man be afflicted? In other words it is "the problem of evil" which is the great problem of the Christian religion, as it was also of Judaism, and has never had a final solution. It must be said that the religion of the Bible is the only one that has this problem to contend with. In other religions, such as Budhism and Hindoism, evil is no problem at all. They do not believe in a divine providence. They believe in fate. This fate is retributive, and whatever happens to any man is the just retribution for his sins either in this life or in some former incarnation. Therefore in Budhism and Hindoism there is no doctrine of relief for the afflicted. That is man's Karma, and if you interfere with it by assisting him [47/48] in his misfortune, you are only interfering with his karma, and adding to his future suffering. In contrast with this belief, is the Bible teaching of a personal Father in Heaven and loving providence that watches over all his works.

The natural inference from such a doctrine would be that if you are good then you will be happy and prosperous. That is the doctrine of the Book of Deuteronomy. If you serve God, then he will bless you in your basket and your store. You will lend and not borrow, you shall be the head and not the tail, you shall have length of days and riches and honors, provided you serve the Lord and keep his commandments. This doctrine is pretty generally believed by Christian people today. Now we have the background for the discussions of Job. Job was a righteous man. He served God and kept his commandments; why then did all this affliction come upon him? There is only one point of view of his three friends. The affliction came, therefore you must have done some evil. Job protested that he had not, and the more he protested, the more the three friends were convinced in their own mind, and the more they tried to convince Job, that it must have been because he deserved it. Thus the argument goes back and forth until Job silences them at the end of the third cycle. Then Elihu comes into the argument and he suggests, what we know to be actually the case, that afflictions are of the nature of a trial, and that only through affliction do we attain to the strongest heights of character. Then God appears. He does not [48/49] argue. He reveals his power and wisdom in the manifold phenomena of nature. In the face of this majestic revelation, man is silenced. He bows down in dust and ashes.

There is one text in Job that is used in the Burial Service. "I know that my Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God whom I shall see for myself and not another?" In the greatness of his agony there came the vision of a future vindication and a vision of God, after this life. There were moments when the Old Testament worthies rose to this faith in a future life, but it remained for Christ to bring eternal life and immortality to light. Christianity has the definite and unswerving faith that this light affliction, whatever it may be, worketh for us a more exceeding weight for glory. We look not at the things that are seen but at the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.

This is the Christian solution, or rather God's solution, for the problem of evil.


We now come to the most read and used book of the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms. The Book of Psalms was the prayerbook and the hymnal of the ancient Church, and so valuable is it as a book of devotion that today, after nearly three thousand years, it is still used more than any other form [49/50] of devotion. The book is ascribed to David, because he doubtless wrote the first psalms, and many of them refer to him. There are however many of them of a much later date. For example the Psalm beginning, "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion," dates itself during the Exile. The Hebrew Psalter is divided into five books, and from the fact that some of the psalms appear twice, it is evident that the book is a compilation, like many other books of the Old Testament.

Let us note the characteristics of Hebrew poetry. It is not rhyme or scansion as in English poetry and therefore keeps the form of poetry in our English translations from the Hebrew. It is parallelism of expression, a reiteration of the thought, or a related statement growing out of the first part of the verse. Thus the two parts of the verse balance each other. There are four ways in which this is done:

1. The second part continues and completes the first part.
2. The second part restates the same thought in different terms.
3. The second part intensifies the first.
4. The second part contrasts the first. Here are examples of these four forms:

Of the first: What reward shall I give unto the Lord* for all the benefits that he hath done unto me?

[51] Of the second: Praise him all ye angels of his, *Praise him all his host.

Of the third: Sing unto the Lord a new song *sing praises lustily unto him with a good courage.

Of the fourth: But the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous * and the way of the ungodly shall perish.

It is sometimes asked, "Why do we not use the Psalms as they are in the Bible? Why is the Prayer Book version different? The answer is that the Prayer Book is an older English version. The Prayer Book was translated into English in the second year of Edward VI in 1549. The Psalter was taken out of what was known as "The Bishop's Bible" which had been translated and published in the time of Henry VIII; while the King James version which is the Authorized Bible of the Church today was not published until 1611. As the People had grown accustomed, through two generations to the Prayer Book version, which by the way has a more flowing rhythm and is better adapted for reading and chanting, the Psalter was not changed, though the Epistles and Gospels were. The "Comfortable Words" are still from the old version.

The first book of Psalms 1 to 41 uses the word LORD (that is JHVH) 272 times and the word "God" 15 times. In the second book. Psalms 42 to 82 uses LORD 30 times and God 164 times. In Psalms 90 to the end of the Psalter, the last two books, only LORD is used. This shows that the Psalter is made [51/52] up of different compilations. The Middle section being the Hymnal of the Northern Hebrews; the Jehovah sections, that of the Jerusalem Temple.

Psalm 14 is the same as 53, Psalm 70 is the same as the last six verses of Psalm 40. Psalm 108 is made up of parts of Psalms 57 and 60.

There are three things about the Psalms which people criticise. They are archaic. They have primitive ideas, they speak of other gods as though they were real. "He is a great king above all gods" we say daily in the Venite. 2. They are anthropomorphic. They attribute to God not only human qualities, but a material body. His ears are open to them that seek him. His arms are stretched out over his people. His voice shakes the wilderness. 3. There are expressions of anger and resentment, "O daughter of Babylon, blessed shall he be that serveth thee as thou hast served us." This is not in accord with the spirit of the New Testament. In reply to these criticisms, the Psalter is old, and so it has perspective. It is the religion of the ages. When we sing "He is a great king above all gods," it takes us back thousands of years. And there are parts of the world today, such as India and Japan, where there is just as much point to such expressions as when they were written. Anthropomorphism is a figure of speech. We need to learn that the Hebrews were poetic and imaginative people. When they said "My times are in thy hand" they were using a figure of speech, just as they were when they said "We are the sheep of his pasture." 3. The third difficulty is more serious. Our Lord points out the different moral standards [52/53] of the Old and New Covenants. The Prayer Book provides that the imprecatory parts of the Psalms may be omitted in the services. If they are read, they are to recall to our minds the bitter experiences through which the Church has passed, and we are to apply all such expressions to our spiritual foes, the deadly sins which are the true enemies we contend against. The Gloria is said after each psalm to show that we interpret in the spirit of Christ.

When all has been said, the Psalter remains the most vivid, the truest, the most varied expression of religion that the world has ever produced. No other writings have such a vivid sense of the nearness of God in nature, in human life, in the moral law, in sorrow and misfortune and adversity, in penitence and sin, in pain and suffering, in joy and gladness, in private devotion, and in public worship. The Psalms are full of the consciousness of God. He is real, he is near. He is loving and of tender mercy. He is bountiful and provides for all his creatures. He regards all our actions, and judges every man according to his works. He hears the prayer of the needy, and hearkeneth to the complaint of the poor. He is a righteous judge, and loves not oppression. His voice is in the thunder, He rides upon the clouds. Day and night to him are both alike. He is omnipresent. "If I fly up to heaven thou art there, If I go down to hell thou art there also."

The Psalms also have vivid pictures of the Church, the heavenly Zion, where the tribes go up to testify unto the Name of the Lord. They find satisfaction and enthusiasm in the worship of God. "I had rather [53/54] be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness."

The Psalms were the Prayer Book which our Lord Himself used, and at His last moments He repeated words from the Psalter.

The Psalms were written to be sung to musical accompaniment. It would be desirable if we used them more in this manner in our Church services.


The Writing Prophets

The final section of the Old Testament is made up of the Prophetic writings. This includes the last 17 books. The group is often divided into the four major and the twelve minor prophets. The first four books being longer than those that follow. Another classification would be the chronological one, which we shall follow.

The earliest writing prophets are those of the Eighth Century B.C. and in order they are Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah. The prophets of the seventh century were Zepheniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah. The prophets of the Exile in Babylon were Ezekiel and the second Isaiah. The prophets who followed the exile were Haggai, Zacheriah, and Malacai.

This leaves undated, Jonah, Joel, and Obidiah. There is nothing in them to indicate the period in which they were written, but they are probably late exilic. This leaves Daniel unaccounted for. We have [54/55] already considered his book, in a preceeding chapter. It belongs to the classification of Apocalypses and was probably written about 16 B.C.

These writings are the personal experiences and thoughts of their authors, and often throw a new light on events as found in the historic records which were completed at a different date.


The earliest writing prophet was Amos, a herdsman from the south of Judea who was called to preach to the northern kingdom. The middle of the eighth century was a time of great prosperity both for Judah and Israel. It rivaled the days of Solomon. There was peace and abundance. Heathen worship had been abolished, and the worship of Jehovah was popular with all classes, king and people alike. They attributed their prosperity to this fact, and sacrifices were multiplied at all sanctuaries. However, there was another side of the picture. Great wealth brought poverty as well. In a commercial civilization, there are the exploiters and the exploited. Small farmers were brought to despair. There was much social injustice throughout the land, however men thought that God would not notice that if there were plenty of sacrifices. At this time Amos begins his ministry. Let us imagine him appearing suddenly, before the multitude at a great religious festival, and speaking the first five verses of his prophesy. "Did you hear the new prophet," men asked one another, "he hit the nail on the head about Syria!" The next day he delivers the prophesy against Gaza; the next day against Tyre. The people are enthusiastic. [55/56] "Will you be there tomorrow? He is certainly telling us. What will he say next?" Then in turn come Edom, Ammon, Moab, and finally Judah. "Well, Judah has it coming to her." And then, horrors, Israel gets the worst. "They have sold the righteous for a piece of silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes." It is very strong preaching. Oppression of the poor, commercial dishonesty, sensual luxury, and extravagance, hardness and inhumanity were the sins of 27 centuries ago, in Palestine, as they are in America today.


Hosea is a younger contemporary of Amos and also prophesied in the Northern Kingdom. It was when the destruction predicted by Amos was near at hand, and conditions were chaotic. The message of Hosea is based on the domestic tragedy of his own life. His wife was unfaithful to him, but still he loved her and continued to plead with her until he won her back to her home again. This revealed to him the love and sorrow of God for his people. Israel was as an unfaithful spouse. She had gone after other gods. But Jehovah still loved her, and would woo her back to himself. Hosea anticipated the New Testament doctrine that God is love.


Contemporaneous with Hosea and Amos in the Northern Kingdom were Isaiah and Micah in Judah. Isaiah prophesied in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

As the most gifted of all the prophets, we will consider the time in which he lived and the part he [56/57] played. He was probably related to the royal family, and on intimate terms with the king. With the passing of Uzziah, Judah was becoming more and more involved in world politics, and the king and people did not know which way to turn. Judah was tributary to Assyria, but Egypt was on the horizon, and a possible deliverer. Isaiah's message was, "avoid entangling foreign alliances, trust in God." Hezekiah broke with Assyria, and this brought the Assyrian army about Jerusalem. Judea was ravished, but Jerusalem held firm, a pestilence broke out in the army of the besiegers and the siege was raised.

There are three leading points in the teaching of Isaiah: 1. The Steadfastness of the Holy One of Israel, and the impregnability of Zion. 2. The Messianic Prince who will lead his people into the way of peace. 3. The doctrine of the Remnant, the evil and the good shall be separated, God will judge his people and only the Remnant shall emerge.

Let us now look at three familiar passages in Isaiah. 1. Chapter VI, The vision in the Temple and the call of the prophet. The whole story is told in a few verses, the vision of God, the song of the seraphim, Holy, Holy, Holy, which has entered into the Church's liturgy, the dismay and penitence of the prophet, his cleansing by the coal of fire from the altar, his voluntary enlistment as the Messenger of God. In Chapter VII we have the prophesy of the birth of a Prince, (Hezekiah). Judah is threatened by invasion from Syria and Israel. Isaiah advises the King of Judah, Ahaz, to trust in God, and offers to give him a sign. Ahaz politely declines the sign. He will not commit himself to the Lord, as he [57/58] has already committed himself to Assyria. Then Isaiah prophesies, "Behold a virgin, (or young woman) shall bear a son and call his name Emmanuel. Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land which thou abhorest shall be forsaken by both her kings." Chapter IX. The birth of Hezekiah is greeted as follows, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, . . . . Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." 2. This exaggerated form of expression was common in addressing royalty. A common salutation we find in the Bible is "O King, live forever," but when we admit all this, there is still something to be accounted for. The prophet sees in the birth of the infant Hezekiah the birth of the greater prince that is to be. The eternal Kingdom that shall be established in righteousness and peace, and of whose rule there shall be no end.

Hezekiah played his part, not unworthily, and passed away, but the glory of Isaiah's vision and the music of his words lingered in the hearts of men, until the fullness of time was come and God sent forth his Son, to fulfill the vision of the ancient prophet. In sublimity of thought and majesty and beauty of expression, none have surpassed or even equaled this seer of the 8th Century, B.C.


A younger contemporary of Isaiah, but associated with him, was Micah. He follows Isaiah in denouncing the oppression of the poor and the small land holders, proclaims the ultimate supremacy of Jerusalem over all the nations, predicts the place, Bethlehem, of the Messiah's birth, and sets the moral law [58/59] above the ceremonial worship in the immortal words, "What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"


With the death of Hezekiah, Manassah his son came to the throne, in 686 B.C. and there was an immediate reversal to heathenism. Prophets were persecuted and slain, and 45 years elapsed. Then Josiah, a child, came to the throne in 640 B.C. Assyria was losing power and Babylon was rising on the horizon. Three prophets of the seventh century prophesy of the destruction of Assyria, and the coming of the Day of Jehovah, the day of judgment upon the nations. In this climax Judah had a tragic part to play.


The great prophet of the time was Jeremiah. Unhappily, while other prophets were recognized and honored, to a certain extent, Jeremiah was ignored throughout his whole ministry. He saw the impending destruction of the kingdom, and warned of its approach, but entirely without avail. This was due in part to a new religious force which arose in Jeremiah's time which entirely diverted the minds of the king and people alike, and made them oblivious of all external powers and conditions. This was the discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy in the 18th year of Josiah's reign, the finest and most spiritual book of the Pentateuch. Its central theme was one God and one Sanctuary. If the nation observed this [59/60] law, then God would bless them and give them prosperity, long life, abundant crops, and victory over all their enemies. King and people alike enthusiastically gave themselves up to establishing this covenant. All other altars were destroyed and the worship was centralized at one Temple. Jeremiah warned in vain against this false confidence. "We are wise, Is not the Law of the Lord with us?" Pharaoh Necho came up from Egypt to attack Assyria. Josiah trusting in the inviolability of Judah, went out against him, and fell on the battle field. Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zephaniah succeeded one another in quick succession. Jeremiah advises submission to the Chaldeans but the nation was led on by a false patriotism, and was finally carried away captive to Babylon. When the calamity came which he had foretold and striven in vain to avert, Jeremiah spoke words of comfort and encouragement, and predicted the return of the captivity after 70 years.


The book called the Lamentations of Jeremiah are poetical compositions, bemoaning the desolation of Jerusalem, and are in his spirit, if not written by his hand.


The first captivity was composed of the better elements of the nation. In this group was Ezekiel. His first chapter tells of his vision and his call. His first message is a warning against those who thought the Captivity would soon end and the Temple be immediately restored. He then goes on to emphasize the importance of religion from the standpoint of the individual. [60/61] Heretofore Religion was a relationship between God and the Nation. Now the nation is destroyed, it is seen that it is a matter of God and the individual soul. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The father shall not bear the iniquity of the son, nor the son the iniquity of the Father. They shall no more say this proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge." Each soul is responsible for its own sins only. The latter part of the book is made up of an ideal pattern for rebuilding the Temple. It was not the pattern of the Temple that was, nor yet of the one that actually was rebuilt, but was wholly in the mind of the prophet himself. It was an intermediate pattern between the old that was, and the new that was to be. For example the old temple, the Temple of Deuteronomy has one class of priests; the priests, the levites, they were one and the same. Ezekiel in his ideal pattern separates them in two orders, the Priests and the Levites. The Temple as rebuilt had the Levites, the Priests and the High Priest, a threefold order as established by Ezra, 200 years after Ezekiel.

Why did the prophets go back to the ceremonial of the Temple ritual? Because they learned in Exile the need for the outward symbolism of public worship. It was necessary to tie the nation together. There must be a focus for their loyalty. The elaborate ceremonial emphasized the holiness of God.


Isaiah completed his ministry in the days of Hezekiah. 150 years later the Jews were led into [61/62] captivity as predicted in the 39th Chapter of the prophet. Beginning with the 40th chapter, we have an entirely new picture. The Jews are now in captivity, and the Prophet is predicting their restoration. He mentions Cyrus by name as the Lord's anointed, to be the instrument of the nation's redemption. (Cyrus was the Persian monarch who overthrew the Babylonian dynasty.) The period of the captivity as we have already seen was a period of marvelous development in religion and spirituality for the Hebrew people. They learned that God was universal, that his truth was for all nations. Then why restore the Temple and the national life at Jerusalem? In order that Jerusalem might instruct all the nations in the law of God. This was Israel's true vocation. Jerusalem was to be restored, that the Nations might learn of her. Such was the message of the unknown prophet whose writings are found in the 40th and following chapters of our book of Isaiah. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, her warfare is accomplished, etc. Nothing is more inspiring than the wonderful picture which the prophet draws of peace and kindliness through the earth. The lion shall lie down with the ox. They shall learn war no more. The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. Alas, how different was the realization! The remnant that returned found only stubborn indifference and hate. But they could not forget the vision, and after four more centuries of weary waiting, Simeon could say, "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."


The prophets of the post-exilic period were Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The former two accompanied the first exiles on their return. They encouraged the laying of the foundation of the second temple, and when the old people wept who remembered the glory of the first Temple, Haggai comforted them. "The glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former saith the Lord of Hosts." Zechariah also encouraged Zerubbabel and Joshedech the High priest. However, some unrecorded occurrence stopped the work, and it was not until 100 years later that Ezra the priest arrived with the new books of the Law, and the worship of Leviticus was at last established. Malachi in his four short chapters speaks of a time of neglect of religion on the part of priests and people alike. Tithes and offerings were neglected and as a result, Jehovah's blessings were withheld. It seems to represent a time between the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel and the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah.


There still remain three of the minor prophets whom it is difficult to date. Obidiah is one short chapter of 21 verses denouncing Edom, for its part in the destruction of Jerusalem. In the exilic psalm we have the verse "Remember the children of Edom how they said, 'Down with it, down with it even to the ground.'" Obidiah's prophesy seems to be associated with this event.

Joel utters a strong and spiritual cry for a religious revival and a period of Penitence in the face of a foreign invasion. It may have been the Assyrian [63/64] invasion, or one of the later invasions after the exile. The book has a deeply spiritual tone, and a chapter forms the epistle for Ash Wednesday.

Jonah is the last book of the Old Testament which we have to consider. Jonah was a prophet of northern Israel in the days of Jeroboam, but the book was evidently written after the Exile. It is a short narrative of four chapters and is generally taken in an allegorical sense. Jonah is sent to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah. These people, by the way, were those who afterwards carried Israel into Captivity. It is a new thought that Jehovah should concern himself about the repentance of the Ninevites. In fact it is so novel to Jonah that he runs away and takes a ship to Tarshish. Jehovah pursues him, he is cast out of the ship and swallowed by a great fish. Jonah repents and prays, and the whale casts him up. Then Jonah goes and preaches to Ninevah. Ninevah repents and is spared. Jonah is disappointed, and the Lord sends a gourd, which is destroyed in a night. Jonah has pity on the gourd. Why not on Ninevah, its people and its cattle? Israel is Jonah. The whale is Babylon who swallows Israel. Israel is cast up and returns to preach repentance and salvation to the nations. It is a spiritual book, and sees God not simply the father of one nation, but the saviour of all nations and peoples.

The Hebrew Prophets were men whose ears were open to the voice of God, and because they were open God spoke to them, and through them to us. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. By them the minds of men were prepared for the full and perfect revelation of the New Testament.

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