Page images
PDF
EPUB

Story of the Flood exhibits this corrupt world destroyed by water. But Noah, "a righteous man,” is instructed to make an ark to float upon the waters; and in this ark himself and his family, and representatives of all kinds of living creatures, are preserved. When Noah emerges from the ark, thus a second ancestor of all mankind, God enters into a new covenant with him; the rainbow (as a bridge of light between heaven and earth) is made the perpetual symbol of God's covenant with all mankind.

One more historic stage belongs to this introductory section. As men multiply, and overspread the earth, they gradually fall apart from one another by diversity of speech.

Story of Babel And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do: and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore was the name of it called ‘Babel’; because the LORD did there 'confound' the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Thus is brought out the rise of diverging languages, which imply diverging nations, with their separations and hostilities. All this must precede what is the theme of the Old Testament itself: how one particular nation is called out from the other nations,

chosen that in them all nations of the earth may be blessed. That is, one nation is chosen to the high purpose of bringing the other nations to the knowledge of its God.

THE PATRIARCHS: THE CHOSEN PEOPLE AS

A FAMILY

The true starting point of the Old Testament is the Call of Abraham. In this story is briefly narrated the most original step in all history: how Abraham is summoned by God to be the founder of a nation that will be distinguished, not by geography or ethnological relations, but by a spiritual mission. The Book of Gennomadic life prevails largely in early society; in ac- esis (from ch. cordance with this Abraham, and his large house- 12) hold of relatives and servants, set out on a pilgrimage. They make temporary settlements in one place after another of what in the future will be the land of the Chosen Nation. And wherever they settle, Abraham builds an altar to the Lord.

It will be long before the descendants of Abraham can be a nation: in the intervening period they constitute a Patriarchal Family. Abraham has many children: only one of them, Isaac, born in his father's old age, is to be ancestor of the coming nation. We then have the Story of the Offering of Isaac. Abraham is called by God to place this son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice; the sword is lifted to slay him, but is suddenly arrested. Thus symbolically is presented the Chosen People, yet latent in their ancestor Isaac, as a people devoted to a mission; unlike the human sacrifices of the ancient world this is to be a "living sacrifice.”

Great care is taken to guard purity of descent for the Chosen People. The task of securing a wife for Isaac is embodied in an idyllic story of patriarchal life.

Story: The Wooing of Rebekah And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said unto his servant, the elder of his house, that ruled over all that he had:

I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac. And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again. The LORD, the God of heaven, that took me from my father's house, and from the land of my nativity, and that spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence. And if the woman be not willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath; only thou shalt not bring my son thither again. And the servant sware to Abraham concerning this matter.

And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed; having all goodly things of his master's in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made the camels to kneel down without the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water. And he said, O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, send me, I pray thee, good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand by the fountain of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: and let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master. And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder: and the damsel was very fair to look upon. And she went down to the fountain, and filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Give me to drink, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher. And she said,

Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw, and drew for all his camels. And the man looked stedfastly on her; holding his peace, to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold; and said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee. Is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who hath not forsaken his mercy and his truth toward my master: as for me, the LORD hath led me in the way to the house of my master's brethren.

And the damsel ran, and told her mother's house according to these words. And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the fountain. And it came to pass, when he saw the ring, and the bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the fountain. And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels. · And the man came into the house, and he ungirded the camels; and he gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the men's feet that were with him. And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on. And he said, I am Abraham's servant. And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and menservants and maidservants, and camels and asses. And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all

that he hath. And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell: but thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son. And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me. And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way: and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house: then shalt thou be clear from my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give her not to thee, thou shalt be clear from my oath. And I came this day unto the fountain, and said, O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: behold, I stand by the fountain of water; and let it come to pass, that the maiden which cometh forth to draw, to whom I shall say, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink; and she shall say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master's son. And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the fountain, and drew: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also. And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the ring upon her nose, and the bracelets upon her hands. And I bowed my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter for his son. And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left. Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the Lord hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself down to the earth unto the LORD. And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and

« PreviousContinue »