The command to the nation of Israel at the very beginning was to keep
the way of the Lord very particularly as to marriage. They were by no means either
to give their daughters to the sons of the Canaanites, or take the Canaanites’
daughters of their sons. "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter
thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto they son"
(Deut. 7:3). If they did so, it would be on the pain of being no longer owned of the Lord.
"...If ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations....and
shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you; know for a certainty
that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but
they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your
eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you"
(Josh. 23:12,13). According to this, the apostate days of Solomon are marked by
disobedience to this very thing (1 Ki. 11); and afterwards, no real recovery to God could
be admitted,without a return to the observance of this principle in their marriages (Ezra
10; Neh. 10:28-30).
Obedience, therefore, in this thing was a peculiar test of the state of
the nation. And it is thus in the earliest book of Genesis. For though divine law was not
then published, divine principles were then understood. It may be regarded as the witness
of the state of family religion then, as it was of the state of national religion
Abraham, in this matter, eminently keeps "the way of the
Lord"; and so Eliezer, one of his "household"; and so Isaac, one of his
"children". For Abraham sends a special embassy into a distant land, in order to
get a wife "in the Lord" for his son - Eliezer goes on that embassy with a ready
mind - and Isaac in patience waits for the fruit of it, not seeking any alliance with the
nearer people; and, though sad and solitary, keeps himself for the Lord’s appointed
helpmeet. Like Adam, he waited for a helpmeet from the Lord’s own hand, though it
cost him patience and sore solitude.This his meditation in the field at eventide shows. He
might have got a daughter of Canaan; but he endured. He will rather suffer the sickening
of his heart from the deferring of his hope, than not marry "in the Lord", or
take him a wife of any that he may choose. And all this was very beautiful in this first
generation of this elect family. The father, the servant, and the child, each in his way,
witnesses how Abraham had ordered his house according to God, teaching his children and
his household the way of the Lord. "For I know him, that he will command his children
and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and
judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him"
But we notice a course of sad decline and departure from all this.
Isaac, in his turn and generation, becomes the head of the family. But he is grievously
careless in this matter, compared with his father. "And Esau....took to wife Judith
the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, which
were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah" (Gen. 26:34,35). He does not watch
over his children’s ways, to anticipate mischief, as Abraham had done. Esau his son
marries daughters of the Hittites. Isaac and Rebekah are grieved at this, it is true; for
they had righteous souls which knew how to be "vexed" with this; but then, it
was their carelessness which had brought this vexation upon them.
Jacob, however, declines still further. He neither anticipates the
mischief, like Abraham, nor does he, like Isaac, grieve over it when it occurs. But with
an unconcerned heart, as far as the history tells us, he allows his children to form what
alliances they please, and to take them wives of all whom they choose. There is no joy for
the heart here, as in the obedience of Abraham; there is no relief for the heart here, as
in the sorrow of Isaac and Rebekah.
But Judah afterwards goes beyond even all this in a very fearful way.
He represents the fourth generation of this elect family. But he not only does not
anticipate mischief, like Abraham, in the ordering of his family, nor grieve over mischief
when brought into it, like Isaac, nor is he simply indifferent about it,whether it be
brought in or not, like Jacob, but he actually brings it in himself! For he does nothing
less than take a daughter of the Canaanites to be the wife of his son Er (Gen. 38)!
This exceeded. This was sinning with a high hand. And thus, in all
this, in this history of the four generations of Genesis-patriarchs, we notice declension,
gradual but solemn declension, till it reached complete apostasy from the way of the Lord.
But if this be serious and sad, as it really is, is it not profitable
and seasonable? Can we not readily own, that it is "written for our learning"?
How does it warn us of a tendency to decline from God’s principles! What took place
in the same elect family, generation after generation, may take place in the same elect
person, year after year. The principles of God may be deserted by easy gradations. They
may first be relaxed, then forgotten, then despised. They may pass from a firm hand into
an easy one, from thence to an indifferent one, and find themselves at last flung away by
a rebellious one. Many have at first stood for God’s principles in the face of
difficulties and fascinations, like Abraham - then, merely grieved over the loss of them,
like Isaac - then, been careless about their loss or maintenance, like Jacob - and at last
with a high hand, broken them, like Judah.