Page images

last distribution of it, and that the whole Jewish nation, or twelve tribes jointly as a people, were to enjoy the blessing for ever. But St. Paul endeavours in several places to correct this mistake; and argues very clearly, that the blessing was never appointed to descend according to birth-right or inheritance; for that not the children of the flesh, but the children of the promise are to be counted for the seed of Abraham, who have a title to it, i. e. not those, who by natural descent may seem to have a right, but those to whom God by special design and promise had directed it.' This he proves by instance from Jacob and Esau, that, when Rebekah had conceived them, before the children were born, or had done good or cril, that it might not be said to be owing to any thing they had done, but to the mere de. termination of God's good-will and pleasure, it was said unto her, that the elder should serve the younger. Thus Esau was the son, who by descent might seem to have the right, but Jacob had it by promise. In the same manner, when Christ the promised seed of Abraham was come ; the twelve tribes thought them. selves heirs of the blessings to be received from him ; but in this they erred, not rightly understanding the promise. He was to be the blessing of all men, or according to the words of the promise, in him all the families of the earth," or all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.* And in order to this, God

s Rom. ix. 8.
Gen. xii. 3. xvii, 18.

• Ibid. ix. 12.
* Ibid, xxii.18. xxvi. 4.

[ocr errors]

had determined to call them his people which were not his people, and her beloved which was not beloved;y and to receive the Gentiles into the blessings of the promise. Nor could the Jews justly say, because the greatest part of their nation was rejected, that therefore the promise to Abraham was broken, or had taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, neither becausethey are the seed of Abraham are they all children.? But as Esau received not the blessing, though he was the son of Isaac, so the Jews who fell short through unbelief were rejected, and yet the promise was made good to the sons of Abra. ham, because a remnant was received, a and some of them with the Gentiles made partakers of it. God had not promised that all Abraham's sons should be his children; but only such of them as he should think fit to chuse. I think, if the whole of what I have offered be duly considered, it will appear that the blessing never was annexed to the birth-right at all; nor did it ever descend as the birth-right did; but was always disposed of, either in the whole or in part, just as it pleased God to think fit, according to his own good-will and pleasure. Esau by being eldest son had the birth-right, but he never had any title to the blessing; for before he was born, God was pleased to declare that it should belong to Jacob;' therefore Esau, in selling,

y Rom. ix. 25. · Ver. 27.

2 Ver. 6, 7. Gen. xxv. 23. Rom. ix, 11, 12.


his birth-right, does not seem to have parted with any right to the blessing, for they were two different and distinct things. Esau's birth-right therefore must be his right of being priest or sacrificer for his brethren ; and he is justly termed profane for selling it, because he hereby shewed that he had not a due value and esteem for a religious employment, which be. longed to him.

There was a famine about this time in the land of Canaan, where Isaac sojourned, on account of which he removed as his father had done, and went into the land of the Philistines, and lived at Gerar. Here he denied his wife, pretending she was his sister,

Abraham did formerly; but the king of the country accidently seeing some familiarities pass be tween them, sharply reproved him; apprized his subjects that she was his wife, and declared that he would punish any manwith death, who should offer violence to either of them. Isaac continued for some years in the land of the Philistines, sowing some fields, and reaping prodigious crops from his tillage. He was very prosperous in all his undertakings, and increased his stock and grew very great; until the Philistines envied him, and applied to the king to have him banished their land. Abimelech hereupon ordered Isaac to go from them; for, said he, thou art much mightier than we.d . Abimelech could not mean by these words, that Isaac was really more potent than the whole Philistine people; for we cannot imagine that pose sible. He might have as large a family, and as numerous an attendance as the king of Philistia himself had, and might therefore, if he had a mind, have been able to disturb his government. But the words of Abimelech above-mentioned do not suggest even this to us; for our English translation of this passage is very faulty, the Hebrew words are, cignatsampta mimmenu, not because thou art mightier than we, but because thou art increased or multiplied from or by us, thou hast got a great deal from us, or by us, and we do not care to let thee get any more. The case was, not that the Philistines feared him, but they envied him; e they grudged that he should get so much amongst them, and were therefore desirous to check him. Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave Gerar; upon which he departed, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. After Isaac was removed from Gerar, the Philistines thought him too well ac. commodated whilst he lived in the valley, and their envy and malice still pursued him. The herdsmen of Gerar quarrelled with Isaac's herdsmen, took away their wells, and put them to many inconvenienees; so that Isaac, quite tired with their repeated insults, removed farther from them, and went and lived in the most remote parts of their country towards Egypt, at Beersheba ;& where he hoped to find a place of peace and quiet. He built an altar, and implored the divine favour and protection; and had the comfort to be assured, that he and his should be defended from all future evils. Soon after he was settled here, Abimelech, sensible of the ill usage he had met with from his people, and reflecting upon the extraordinary manner in which God had blessed him, and considering that perhaps in time he might revenge the injuries they had done him, came with his officers, and made an alliance with him. Esau was about forty years old, and had married two Hittite women, very much to the affliction of his parents. The Hittites bordered upon the Philistines near to Gerar; so that Esau most probably married whilst his father sojourned there. Esau was forty years old, A. M. 2208, and therefore about that time Isaac lived at Gerar.

cGen, xxvi.

d Ibid. ver. 16.

i Ver. 17.

Gen. xxvi. 14. 1 Ver. 23.

About nineteen years after this, died Syphis the first of that name, a very famous king of Egxpt. He was the tenth king of Memphis, after Menes or Mišraim, according to Sir John Marsham's Tables; who supposes him to begin his reign about two hundred and twentytwo years after the death of Mizraim, who died, according to what I have formerly offered, A. M. 1943;k and therefore Syphis began his reign A. M. 2164. Syphis, according to Sir John Marsham from Manetho, reigned sixty-three years, and therefore died A. M. 2227 ; and upon this computation I have supposed that Syphis began his reign about eighty years after Abraham's coming into Egypt, and died about forty

Ver. 31, 35.

bo Con. xxvi. 26–20. * Vol. i. b. iv.

« PreviousContinue »