Page images
[blocks in formation]

after OUR likeness:" Gen. i, 26. Again, "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:" iii, 22.

When Isaiah beheld the vision of Jehovah in the temple, the glory of God was displayed to his mental perception; yet, that it was the Son of God whose glory appeared to him, and through whom therefore the Father was manifested, is indirectly asserted by an inspired evangelist: John xii, 41. And that it was the Holy Ghost, from whom the prophet then received his commission, we may learn from the express declaration of the apostle Paul: Acts xxviii, 25. Can we not therefore discern, in the theology of Scripture, a substantial reason, why the Seraphim who then surrounded their Lord, cried, saying, " HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is Jehovah of hosts!" and why Jehovah himself was afterwards heard to say, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Is. vi, 3. 8.

In conclusion, I would invite the reader's attention to the very remarkable and interesting fact, that throughout the greater part of the Old Testament, (that is to say, in upwards of two thousand instances) God is described by a plural substantive, ELOHIM. This plural substantive is very usually connected with the name, Jehovah; and its other adjuncts also, whether they are verbs, adjectives, or pronouns, are almost universally placed in the singular number. Thus, in the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the Hebrew terms rendered, "God created," might be literally represented in the Latin tongue, by Dii creavit. This anomalous mode of expression, which is to be observed, (as I understand) in none of the Eastern

ברא אלחים 2



languages, except the Hebrew, and which is in fact peculiar (as far as its original use is concerned) to the oracles of God, consigned by his own providence to that ancient language, has been the subject of many and large discussions.

Some writers have regarded it as indirectly derived from the heathen, and as maintained by the Hebrews, for the purpose of showing, that in Jehovah alone centred the whole of that power and authority which other nations were accustomed to attribute to their numerous and false deities. When, however, we consider that the oneness of their God was the most distinguishing characteristic of the religion of the Hebrews, and that they were forbidden every the slightest approach, either in word or deed, to the corrupt manners and customs of idolaters, we can hardly conceive it possible, that Moses and the prophets should have given their countenance to so needless and even dangerous a relic of heathenism. Nor can we feel much more satisfaction in the decision of certain critics, that this use of the term Elohim is to be explained by a rule of Hebrew grammar; namely, that nouns expressive of magnitude and power, and relating to an individual, may be sometimes recited in the plural number; for, the instances adduced in elucidation of the rule thus stated, are few in number, dissimilar in various respects from the example now in question, and, for the most part, capable of being otherwise explained.3 On the whole, therefore, I cannot avoid entertaining the

[ocr errors]

3 The rule above alluded to appears rather to have been invented by grammarians for the purpose of explaining the use of the plural name Elohim, than to have been formed on the basis of any solid evidence that so anomalous a mode of speech really appertains to the genius of the Hebrew language. The instances adduced of the application of plural nouns to individuals in order to express magnitude or authority, are far from sufficient, according to my apprehension of the subject, to justify

[blocks in formation]

opinion, that this striking, yet very prevalent anomaly, appertained to the religion of the Hebrews, and was intended to convey some information respecting the Deity whom they worshipped. Of the

the establishment of such a rule. Besides the word Elohim, the plural form of which may be so properly explained on a totally different principle, the only examples given of the supposed rule, which have even the appearance of being in point, are

,Behemoth בהמות,a dragon תנים .Lord אדנים אדני,master בע as used תנים .1

On these examples I may venture to offer a few remarks.

of תנים The

by Ezekiel (xxxii, 2,) to describe a crocodile or water serpent, is evidently to be distinguished from the plural substantive, which, as employed by Isaiah (xxxiv, 13,) and Jeremiah, (ix, 11,) &c. denotes a species of animals dwelling in desert and desolate places-probably the canes feri, or jackals. Ezekiel is in all probability a noun in the singular number, synonymous with a dragon. 23 of Kennicott's MSS. in Ezekiel xxxii, 2, read : vide Pocock on Mic. i, 8.

2. Behemoth in Job. xl, 15, supposed by some persons to be a plural substantive, denoting a single large animal, may signify, as in various other passages of Scripture, the plural Beasts. "Behold now Behemoth (the beasts) which I have made with thee-He eateth grass as an ox, &c." Here the work of creation, as displayed in the formation of the beasts of the earth, is at first adverted to in general terms; and then follows a specification of some particular animal (probably the Elephant) whose name has either been lost from the text, (as Michaelis supposes, Sup. ad lex. Heb. in voc.) or was not mentioned at all by the poet. If we do not adopt this obviously probable explanation of the word, we must construe it with the masculine singular verb, in which case we can no longer imagine it to be a feminine plural noun, and must adopt the opinion of Bochart, the Scriptural naturalist, who considers Behemoth to be a foreign (probably an Egyptian) name—a name which he explains as denoting the Hippopotamus: Hieroz. p. ii, lib. V, cap. 14.

3. The nouns (Baal) master, and ¡178 (Adon) Lord, when in statu constructo, sometimes, but not universally, assume a final. This, however, is a circumstance by no means peculiar to these substantives, but is often to be observed, as in the examples thy servant, thy word, &c. &c. Even the prepoare sometimes written with a final `; which, in the whole of the cases now cited, may fairly be regarded, not as marking the plural number, but as added for the sake of a smooth and easy sound. upon Genesis i, 1; and so the words ",,

,על אלעד sitions

"" says Aben Ezra TV:" vide Gussetii Comm. p. 57. The Hebrew Scriptures afford no example of the plural employed to denote an individual. The plural is supposed to relate to a single person, in I Kings xxii, 17, and in the parallel passage, II Chron. xviii, 16; also in Isa. xix, 4; but in each of these passages the reader will find, on a reference to them, that may be rendered as plural, without violence to the sense of the text. So the Targum in I Kings xxii, 17, the Vulgate in II Chron. xviii, 16, and the Sept. Syr. and Vulg. in Isaiah xix, 4. In Malachi i, 6, the plural TN, like the plural, unquestionably represents an individual; but that individual is JEHOVAH.

With respect to other nouns indicative of authority, such as

מלך,aux שליש


rex, &c, &c., it is on all hands allowed that when they relate to an individual, they are never recited in the plural number. Even, therefore, if it be allowed that the substantive 17, Lord, in a very few instances presents



nature of that information (if this is the true state of the case) it is by no means difficult to form a judgment; for of all those phrases in which the plural Elohim is connected with the name Jehovah, or with other adjuncts in the singular number, the obvious import-I might almost say the literal translationis plurality in unity. Now if we are led to inquire what is that plurality which subsists in the one indivisible Jehovah ? the New Testament answers in explicit terms, "THE FATHER, and THE SON, and the HOLY GHOST.'

[ocr errors]

On reverting to the heads of the present essay, the reader will recollect, First, that there are a variety of passages in the New Testament, from which we learn that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Ghost is God-Secondly, that in other parts of the Gospels and epistles, the doctrine is plainly unfolded, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whose deity is thus separately declared, are the united

such an anomaly, (which appears to me very doubtful, though I by no means intend to assert the contrary) I would suggest that a single example, and one so very limited, cannot justify the formation of the grammatical rule now under discussion; or afford any reasonable philological explanation of that extraordinary use of a plural name to denote the One God, which may be described as one of the most prevalent and most distinguishing characteristics of the Hebrew Scriptures.

As an objection to the commonly received theological explanation of the plural Elohim, when used to represent Jehovah, it is sometimes remarked that this term is occasionally employed to describe an individual false God; and further, that there are passages in the Old Testament, in which it especially represents the Son. Now since Elohim, according to the general and almost universal usage of the term, denotes the true God, we may conclude that this alone is its proper meaning; and that in the few passages of Scripture in which this name is given to any false God, it is used (to adopt a grammatical phrase) impropriè. I conceive that Chemosh is styled the Elohim of the Moabites, Milcom the Elohim of the Ammonites, and Baal Zobeb, the Elohim of the Ekronites, not because any one of these idols was in any proper sense of the term Elohim; but because they were severally to their respective followers, that which Elohim was to the Hebrews-i. e. the god whom they worshipped: see I Kings xi, 33. That there are passages in the Hebrew Scriptures in which this plural name has an especial relation to the Son of God, cannot be reasonably disputed: see Isa. xxxv, 4. xl, 3; Ps. xlv, 6. But this fact may surely be explained without any subversion of the doctrine that Elohim denotes a plurality in the divine essence; for in that divine essence there is also a perfect unity; and wherever the Son of God is manifested, there is manifested the Elohim. "He that hath seen me," said Jesus, "hath seen the Father."

[blocks in formation]

sources of our regeneration, redemption, sanctification, and salvation; the common and equal objects of our belief and devotion; yet so that they are first, second, and third, in order, and are revealed to us as severally fulfilling distinct offices in the divine economy; the Father as originating, the Son as mediating, the Holy Spirit as completing. Thirdly, that in the Hebrew Scriptures, also, there is much which accords with this doctrine, and which appears to indicate, in no ambiguous manner, a plurality in the divine essence -in the ONLY TRUE GOD.

And now I would finish this essay, as I began it, with a plain declaration of my full reliance on that essential and unalterable principle of Christianity, that God is ONE-that there is no other God but JEHOVAH. That principle is indeed weakened and contradicted by those religionists, (if such are still to be found,) who hold that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not God—but gods; objects of faith, worship, and spiritual allegiance; and yet created beings, of a nature inferior to that of the Father. Such a sentiment, is utterly at variance with the scope and tenour of the Bible; and is in no slight degree assimilated to the corrupt and degraded heathenism of ancient Greece and Rome. But in the doctrine, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are God-the true God— Jehovah-the Supreme Being-the Maker and Governor of the universe; or in other words, that God has been pleased to manifest himself to us, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-there is nothing which really contravenes his unity: nothing which can, in any degree, involve our partaking in the errors and sins of an idolatrous system.

God is an infinite and unsearchable Being. The

« PreviousContinue »