Page images

3—12). Within these boundaries, it will be seen, the country east of the Jordan is not included. The two tribes and a half had already taken possession of that country; and it was not necessary to speak of it, in assigning the boundaries to the inheritance of the other nine tribes and a half. The country east of the Jordan is immediately afterwards mentioned, with the tribes that had received it for their inheritance, as a separate item, (vs. 14, 15). The general representation of the Scriptures includes expressly this eastern country also. “From the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” “ From the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea, shall your coast be,” (Deut. 11:24). From the wilderness of Zin and Edom on the south, to Lebanon and the entrance of Hamath on the north, and from the Euphrates on the east, to the Mediterranean on the west. Now it is insisted, that this land has never, the whole of it, been possessed by the descendants of Abraham; and that, therefore, they must return, and be reïnstated there in their national capacity, in order that the promise may be fulfilled to them. There is a necessity for their literal restoration, and a reorganization of their polity, that the whole of the land described, may be subjected to them, and enjoyed by them. Without such restoration, in this respect also the covenant of God fails.2 III. It is argued, that there are

See also Joshua 13: 5, and Judges 3: 3, where mention is made of the “entering into Hamath” as the north border.

? It has been contended by some, that “the river of Egypt," mentioned in the covenant with Abrahain, and in describing the boundaries of the land, in Numbers, is the Nile; and that, therefore, a half of Egypt itself is included in the promised land. See Keith's Land of Israel, p. 81, etc. But of this there does not seem to be sufficient proof. Joshua speaks of the river “ Sihor, which is before Egypt," (13: 3); i. e. which runs, on the borders between Egypt and Palestine. Jeremiah speaks of this river, and says: “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor ?" (Jer. 2: 18). What more natural, in the inhabitants of Palestine, than to call this the river of Egypt, dividing, as it does, Egypt from their own territory?

Moreover, where is the evidence that any of the patriarchs, or any sacred writer, ever considered Egypt, or any part of it, as belonging to the promised land ? When Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there, because “there was a famine in the land,” he does not appear to have done it as one going to another part of his own promised inheritance, but to the inheritance of another people; and when the famine had subsided he returned again to his former place, (Gen. xii. xiii). When Jacob was about to die, he said to Joseph : “ Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place,” (Gen. 47: 29, 30). He considered Palestine as his home, and the place where he ought to

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

many express declarations of Scripture, giving explicit and unquestionable assurance, that the seed of Abraham, once possessors of Palestine, shall be restored, and possess the land again, and enjoy there again their former national polity. This branch of the subject is one of much importance, and shall receive due attention. IV. There are several important circumstances connected with the Jewish people, it is contended, which favor their literal restoration, and their exalted and long continued national glory in their ancient land. It is congruous, it is thought, with the distinctions they have already enjoyed, that they should be also greatly distinguished in future. “ Their past exaltation, their present degradation, and their future glory," presuming the future from the past,“ are events unparalleled in the history of nations," (Frey's Judah and Israel, p. 249).

p “The wonderful preservation of the Jews) as a distinct nation, is another argument in favor of their (literal] return to their own land. No people have continued unmixed so long as they have done." Ib. pp. 291, 292. "Another argument, is the general expectation of the people to return to the land of their fathers. This desire is interwoven in all their prayers from day to day, and more particularly so in the prayers for the festivals, especially on the feast of the passover, where it is said repeatedly: • This year we are here, at the next year we shall be in the land of Israel.'” Ib. p. 293. Again : “ A most remarkable circumstance and strong argument in favor of the people's returning again to the land of their fathers,” is, " that they are so situated that at the shortest notice they are ready and able to depart as easily as when they came out of Egypt." " They have no landed property, or civil or other connections, to detain them. Their possessions, consisting in movables, may easily be conveyed with them.” Ib. 294, 295. Moreover, it is said, the land seems, in the providence of God, to be specially preserved for them, not being inhabited, except very sparsely, by any other people; and the way seems, even now, preparing, by the breakrest

. And so Joseph when he was about to die, “ took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence,” (Ib. 50: 25). He, too, felt that, not Egypt, but Palestine, was the appropriate burying place for him. And the reason he expressly assigns in the preceding verse : “ God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, into the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob," (v. 24). Egypt, then, was not the land which God sware to these patriarchs. Palestine was the land; and Egypt, not any part of it, was included within its borders. * The river of Egypt," therefore, was not the Nile, but the river that is before Egypt, in the way of Egypt,”-the river that divided the two countries.

ing up of the Ottoman power, for their return. Ib. pp. 296, 297. With these things, additional to the others mentioned, in favor of the doctrine of a literal restoration, who can doubt, it is demanded,

' that a literal restoration will take place? • The denial of it may well seem to be an impeachment of the truth of God, in regard to the very thing on which he hath staked his faithfulness." Keith, p. 56.

Such is the substance of the argument, so far as we have seen it stated, in favor of the literal restoration, and the future earthly glory, of the Jewish people.

We come now to the examination of the different branches of this argument. And here we do not hesitate to express our conviction, at the outset, that they are not valid, for so much as their friends would make of them. We confess we incline to the belief, that prophecy assures us only of the conversion of the Jews to Christ, in common with other nations, and of their participation in the blessings of his reign, on earth and in heaven, leaving their outward earthly condition to be determined by circumstances, and by general providences, in the same manner as that of all other nations is determined.

It is proper to be observed here, that those who take this latter view of the case, do not pretend to determine that the Jews will not, in the

progress of events, returi, in some numbers, to Palestine. They may do so; and possibly, under mistaken notions, endeavor to reëstablish their polity and worship. What they will do, it may not be for us to say, any more than it is, what any other nation will do. The question is, Whether the Scriptures, rightly interpreted, do in fact teach any such thing as this literal restoration and reëstablishment of their institutions; whether this doctrine of literalism, as to them, is to be taken as a true and veri. table part of Christianity, and Christianity is to be made responsible for the carrying out of the scheme it contemplates ? Is this, in fact, the development into which Christianity is to unfold? Is this the great form it is to assume? Or is the work which Christianity is to perform in the earth, of a different character ?

I. The argument supposed to be found in the covenant with Abraham, called “an everlasting covenant," and giving to him and his posterity the land of Canaan “for an everlasting possession,” which covenant was renewed to Isaac and to Jacob, and is recognized in subsequent Scriptures.

The argument here presented contains two points to be considered. Its validity turns, first, on the import of the word “ever.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


Use of the Word Everlasting."


lasting,as used in this connection ; whether it means, here, a full and absolute eternity; or whether it is modified by the subject to which it relates, and is to be interpreted of a protracted yet lesser duration; and, secondly, on the question, whether, if there be in the covenant a deeper element, rendering it strictly eternal, that element has reference to the literal Canaan, or to something of which the literal Canaan was a shadow and a figure; whether, as, in the progress of things, the covenant is fulfilled, it will not gradually throw off its earthly appendages, and rise and disclose a spiritual good, of which all figures and shadows in this world are but the faint illustration.

The expressions, “everlasting covenant," "everlasting possession," are, in themselves, capable of either of these two interpretations. They may mean a covenant, a possession, absolutely without limits, strictly eternal; or they may mean a covenant, a possession, of an enduring character, for a long, yet limited period, circumstances requiring such limitation.

Of this latter use of the word “everlasting,” or its equivalent, in the Scriptures, we have numerous instances.! God says of the rainbow, that it is token of “the everlasting covenant between him and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth ” (Gen. 9: 16), a covenant of very long duration, the meaning is; though, according to the common doctrine, the time will come when the arrangement will cease, as the world itself will be de. stroyed, though not by flood. Again, he said to Abraham respecting circumcision : “ And my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant,” (Gen. 17: 13). Yet circumcision is abolished, no one, probably, supposes ever to be revived as an ordinance in the church of God. Of the passover it was said: Ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever,” (Ex. 12: 14). Yet the passover has ceased. “ Christ our passover,” the SUBSTANCE, " being sacrificed for us ” (1 Cor. 5: 7), the shadow has fled away. Of the servant who wished to remain with his master, it is said : “ His master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever” (Ex. 21: 6.), perpetually, that is, as long as he lives, though not literally without end. The priesthood of Aaron was called “an everlasting priesthood” (Ex. 40: 16); yet the priesthood of Aaron has ceased. Of the great annual atonement among the Jews, it was said : “ This shall be an everlasting statute unto

[ocr errors]

* The original word most usually employed is big, either alone, or in some of its combinations; though occasionally some other expression is used.


[ocr errors]

you,” (Lev.16: 34); yet that annual atonement has ceased. The house, sold in a walled city, not redeemed in a year, it was decreed, "shall be established forever to him that bought it” (Lev. 25:30); not for a literal eternity, but while the house endures. Of servants bought of the heathen, it is said: “They shall be your bond-men forever” (Ib. v. 46); shall not go out, that is, at the year of jubilee, but remain during life. The blowing of trumpets, it was said to the Jews, “shall be to you for an ordinance forever" (Num.10:8); not eternally, but while the Jewish economy should endure. The heap of stones at Jordan, Joshua said: "shall be a memorial unto the children of Israel forever” (Josh. 4: 7); a memorial of long continuance, onward through the ages before them, was the meaning. It has ceased. Of Samuel, about to be left at the taberuacle, it was said :

“ that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever” (1 Sam. 1: 22); not absolutely, and in the highest sense, forever, but perpetually, during his natural life. Achish said to David : I will make thee keeper of mine head for ever” (1 Sam. 28:2); not any longer, certainly, than they both should live. Abner said to Joab: “Shall the sword devour forever?” (2 Sam. 2:26); shall our wars and strifes be protracted still ? Solomon said of the temple : “ I have built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever” (1 Kings 8: 13); and God said in reply: “ I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever" (Ib. 9:3); yet Solomon's templelong since ceased. The elders who counselled Rehoboam to listen to the requests of the people, added : “ then they will be thy servants forever" (1 Kings 12: 7); not longer, certainly, than they all should live.

And these are but specimens of a use which is frequent in the Bible. If it be inquired, how we shall determine, in different cases, whether the expressions, “everlasting," “ forever," and others of equivalent import, are to be understood of a very long time, or of absolutely unlimited duration, the answer is, the subject matter of the discourse, and the connections of the passage, must furnish the rule of judgment. Nor is this a far-fetched rule, to serve a purpose. The whole genius of language rests upon this principle. Words have different meanings. And the particular meaning, in a given case, must be determined by the subject of the discourse, and by the connections in which the word stands. The expressions, “everlasting," " forever," in the passages above mentioned, must be thus limited by their connections, and the subjects of the discourse in which they are used. An absolute necessity

« PreviousContinue »