Being the Substance of Remarks at a Scripture Reading.
Genesis does not begin with any counsels nor even with the existence of God, though both are given in the New Testament.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”: this is the opening of the creation. There is nothing of counsels, but you are before the world, and also get more in the New Testament. Time begins with the responsible earth, the creation of that in which the first Adam was placed; but there is nothing of the plans of God here. Promises and ways come afterwards, and the existence of God is assumed very naturally. His counsels are not brought out. This is not unimportant to notice: the whole plan of God is not here at all. There is the sphere first created in which the man was to be put, and the broad fact that God created everything; but even so we do not get everything, for the angels are not here. Yet we know from Job that, when this took place, “the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy.”
The subject is really the responsible man, though you must have the earth where the man was, and the dust to take and make him out of it. And when we come to know the truth, this is really important. The whole of “our glory” belongs to God’s counsels. We had the two things in the cross: Christ made sin for us, which looked back on the responsible or first Adam; and also the foundation for bringing out God’s counsels laid in the second Man. The first part only, as to responsibility, is here, promises come after. Even of creation it is only in respect of man, and not of angels. We see how different a sphere grace is from the creation, in that God takes up the first creature of the revelation here, and goes down through his sin below any creature, for it is unto death, and then takes him up far above all creatures in His Son, and so makes a totally new and different thing altogether.
What a petty thing is all the Darwinian theory of progress! The author of it goes through all the lowest things up to the highest; God takes man, and puts him (in the person of His Son) down lower than all. This is far more wonderful.
The first fact is, God created the heavens and the earth, that is, the universe. Nothing is said about what then happened.
In verse 2 we get the earth in a state of chaos.
In verse 16 “the stars also” come in by the bye; for God had created them when He made the heavens. Afterwards the earth “was without form and void, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep,” that is, the formative agency of God.
The word “created” (v. 1) is right, that is, originally (though used of “great whales,” and also said of “man,” when it is progressive formation). But in verse 2 the action is only where the darkness was, on the face of the deep. The mention of the darkness sweeps away a whole range of geological infidelity, because they say light began here. But you find ichthyosauri had eyes, and they were created long before. All that is said is that darkness was upon the face of the deep, and not that there was no light; the contrary rather is implied. Where the ichthyosauri were, there must be light: and they are found in strata, which, if you take them for anything at all, would shew that thousands of years had passed since they lived. If you get a thing with eyes, it is fair to suppose that there was light for it. The deep was chaos, an unformed state of things. And this was subsequent to a state of light. I have no difficulty about the light. As for geology, it is not the object of scripture to teach it.
It is not that God formed the heavens and the earth (v. 1) in a chaotic state; but we here find (v. 2) the earth so, “without form and void.” It is not said how long elapsed. However I do not at all believe the dates that are given, though we need not allude to this here.
The scriptures do not tell me about these early animals. Why want the Bible to tell me about fish that eat other fish? There they are; and I can go and see the fossils, if I want it. As for death too, it may have existed long before among these animals; there is nothing to intimate that it did not. If it be urged as the general thought that death came on animals because of sin, the answer is that so it did in this present state of the world.
Geologists pretend that a given sandbank must have taken so many thousand years to form, and so on. Without believing them, one can let them take any length of time they like; and still the word of God is sufficient for the believer. There is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and then, all that scene of them being there left out, this earth is without form and void.
Who could tell what God ought to create?
The passage in Isaiah 45:18, “he created it not in vain” (chaotic), is conclusive that the earth was not created chaotic at first.
The earth got into the state of chaos—it may be by what destroyed the animals; but we know nothing about it: what I do know by faith is that God created everything.
Then follows a detailed account of this earth, as we have it: God makes a place to put man in (Gen. 1:3-31).
Not a word is heard that beasts were created immortal. Rather, I suppose, animals were made to be destroyed, because Peter says they were made to be taken and destroyed. Yet the expression, “beasts that perish,” is merely a fact stated; and Peter may possibly only refer to the present state of animals.
But it seems to me a much more laborious thought that God created all sorts of dead animals lodged in strata and stone, and elsewhere, though I do not care to take up the question myself.
As a general fact there is an order from the positions relatively of these animals, shells, fishes, etc. There is a proof of order in these, though I have no interest in it myself one way or another. Clearly too scripture leaves a gap, and that gap is ample for any such purpose. We find God creates things “good.”
There had been pitch darkness; and then it is not that the evening and the morning make a day, for they would not. But after the darkness, which did not count, we get the light, and then the evening and the morning make the day. The pitch darkness did not count for time. God causes light to be; that is day, and He calls it day: then came the evening and the morning with the light again. In Israel it is clear they counted any part as a whole; if a king reigned as from December 30, they would count in a whole year, and the king that had reigned through that year had that year too, and this creates many difficulties in chronologies. You must count the day first, and then get the evening and the morning to complete the day. The morning is the coming back of dawn. It comes from the revolving of the earth now; but when God said, Light be, it came at once, and that is day, not morning. It is broad day, it lights all up; and it is said, “He called it day.” Light was. The sun is not mentioned here, though
1 have no doubt it was created long before. But as to the earth, there was light before the sun was set to give light by day. This is revealed. Think now, if I had been making a book, should I ever have thought of making a difficulty like this on purpose?
They say by light there is no gold, or silver, or lead in the sun, but plenty of iron and other things. When observing a total eclipse, they were astonished to see like little red mountains round the sun; by enlarging the spectrum they lessened the light as the sun shines, and then they saw all this without an eclipse.
If the question be asked whether God created everything in the earth in maturity, such as the coal measures, I answer that, if God had said it, I should have believed it directly, in spite of all the geologists in the world.
Observe, in verse 20, “and fowls that may fly” should be, “and let fowl fly.” It is not that the water brought them forth, but God formed them out of the ground (see Gen. 2:19).
“The firmament” is the expanse. God made a heaven, so to speak, to this earth.
I believe myself that they were six days of twenty-four hours each, having no scripture reason against it.
Now we get after the six days’ work, in verse 25, “and God saw that it was good”; and what is important for us to notice is, that the creation of that day is finished like the others (except the first two), “and God saw that it was good.” He has done with creation, as creation, and now begins counsels in the most solemn way: “Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness, and let them have dominion,” etc. Thus the creation as the sphere and scene is quite complete, and then God makes man in His own image, and sets him over it all. But you have it in the most formal manner: the subject creation is completed, and then the lord of it is brought forward in this way. I get, over fish and fowl and beast and everything that is created, something in God’s counsels that is lord over all. Man stands quite alone: all is finished; and then he has dominion over it.
“Image” is different from “likeness.” In the image he stands as the representative of God. If I say, image of Jupiter, it is not likeness merely, but the image stands there to represent him. And so did man. He was there the centre of all the affections of the whole world, and he ought to have stood so. You never have an angel set over anything so, but here man is the central object of all, and he represented God too. But he was also made after God’s own “likeness.” He was not righteous and holy, but sinless and innocent. Righteous supposes a judicial estimate of right and wrong, but man had not this at all until he had eaten the forbidden fruit. Till then there was nothing evil in him: when fallen, he got conscience to judge good and evil.
Likeness is moral. Man was made like God morally; he was made upright.
There is a figure here in man and woman before the fall; for the apostle uses it so. But Eve came out as a distinct thing.
It is well to notice that God takes counsel: “let us,” etc. If you make the distinction of the persons of the Godhead, I am not aware that creation is personally attributed to any but Christ and the Spirit. Every operation is the direct work of the Spirit, not that He is an independent Spirit, but God. The three are united in scripture. The Son was working, and He says, “the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works,” and again, “if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils.” But you do not find stated in scripture that the Father created; it says God; and this is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is so far important to see that we have the divine agency. The particular operation of miracles was by the Spirit. “If I by the Spirit cast out”; by “his Spirit garnished the heavens”; and when Christ was raised, He was “quickened by the Spirit.” I can allow nothing, therefore, that attempts to lower our thoughts of the Son and of the Spirit.
Holiness supposes good and evil, and the hating the evil and the loving the good; innocence does not know of evil. In righteousness I see judicial authority about it, but holiness is the nature repelling or delighting in. Righteousness is the judgment formed either in mind or in act.
So God created man in His own image. Verse 27 states the fact, though they were created afterwards. The animals were there, and now God says, I am going to have something higher; and man stood there representing God in the earth, made with no evil in him. He still has that character, though it is all in ruin, i Corinthians n:7 says he is the image and glory of God. James 3:9 speaks of men having been made after God’s likeness.
Then God gives the seeds to man, and the green herbs to animals.
We shall see in chapter 2 that man’s responsibility rested entirely on the forbidden fruit, the eating of which was evil only because God had forbidden it.
“To every beast of the earth I have given every green herb for meat.” This would imply that animals were not carnivorous. There is a difference between cattle and beasts; but in that statement the cattle are left out; the “beasts” are what we call wild beasts. It is perfectly competent to God to have restricted them for the time, or to have changed them.
Chapter 2. It is striking to notice that, except in setting the seventh day apart, you never have holiness mentioned in Genesis, nor do you get it anywhere until redemption is accomplished. And you never get God dwelling with man until then. He visits Adam and Abraham, and no more; but the moment we find redemption, holiness and a dwelling-place for God are spoken of. God created them in innocence, but there is no habitation for Him on earth then. Immediately after redemption, He says, “make me a habitation,” and He did dwell among them. So, the moment the people were redeemed, He says, “be holy.”
Here we have a day set apart to God, to which I attach no small importance, and to what the day means also. In connection with the question, I believe the sabbath-day is an essential part of man’s nature and of his rest in God. I remember saying, outside a town in Germany, when looking at some crows flying, “Well, there is a creature that has nothing to say to God, and to it one day is the same as another.” But the fact that man has something to say to God proves that he must have a day set apart from the remainder. It was God’s rest here, and man was to have part in it. According to the commandment, everything men had was to enjoy that day (Gen. 2:1-3).
Man ought to have enjoyed it before Exodus 16, but did not, because the first thing he did was to sin. The point of this is, that it is the rest of the first creation; and, now that sin has entered in, you cannot have a rest in the first creation. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” How can a holy God have rest in the midst of sin and misery? What kind of rest can God have here? That is Christ’s answer. God could have destroyed them as sinners; but if not, He must work.
If revealed to Adam, he did not enter into it. There are signs of it from Adam to Moses in a way, but no sign that man really kept it. Man had fallen away from God, and all was wrong. There is nothing to shew that he did not know of it.
It is referred to in Hebrews: “As I have sworn in my wrath if they shall enter into my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” Then he quotes this passage, and says after, “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God”; and you get this too, that our Lord says, “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” But then He takes it up in the Gospel of Mark in this way: that He, Christ, was the head of it, and so was not bound by it.
Christ was dead and gone into the grave on the sabbath: this indicates a great deal.
The sabbath is given in Exodus on the ground of creation, but in Deuteronomy because they were brought out of Egypt. Exodus is a typical book, and Deuteronomy consists of direction for what they were to do in the land, Exodus applying only to the wilderness in its latter half.
Then there is a very important thought—God was resting, and man does not enter into it; but still there is a rest. The next point is, God sanctified it; He set it apart from all the rest of time. The reason was God had rested, and, sin having come in, man could not rest in sin.
Now we come to “Jehovah God” (chap. 2:4). Some have made a great talk about the difference between God and Jehovah, His nature as such, and His relationship with Israel. He was specifically revealed to the Jews by that name, because it is a term of relationship, and it was important for the Jews to know that their national God was the eternal true God, and no God beside Him, Jehovah Elohim.
First in creation you have God, Elohim, made this, and that, and the other. Now we find Him having to say morally to a particular part of His creation; and the moment we come to relative things we get Jehovah, as in chapter 2:4. The whole chapter becomes relative now. Read verses 4-7. There is the history of the character of man in his great moral elements— man not made like the beasts of the field, but formed out of the dust of the ground; and when He has done that (and there one sees what death simply is, “dust thou art,” and death is going back to it), then I get something that is not dust, something directly from God, and this makes all the difference.
The beasts were formed out of the earth, and the man is formed into shape first, and then God says, “I am going to connect this with myself,” and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life. By “connect” I do not mean that the man might not fall away from God in will, for he could; but the breath of life which made him a living soul was directly from God; He was capable of dying, but still he had the breath of life from God immediately, which was a thing distinct from every other animal.
“A living soul” means anything that lives by blood and breath. I say this because it says, “whereinsoever was the breath of life, died”; all animals were living souls. Man was, and the animal was; but the essential difference was that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living soul. This might be separated from his body, and the body return to the dust. That is what is referred to in “for we also are his offspring.” As I said to an Annihilationist, Do you mean to call a pig God’s offspring? Neither would Adam have died if he had not eaten of the forbidden fruit. His body is formed first without life, and the way he gets life is by God’s breathing into his nostrils the breath of life; he receives it as a creature, but direct from God. Adam was not made as other animals were.
“This mortal,” or “mortal body,” leaves the soul by implication immortal. “Mortal” is always used of the body; and it is clear that death does not touch the soul, for you have the wicked man in hades after death. I am quite satisfied that it is true to say “immortal soul.” The opposite thought is founded on the words, “who only hath immortality,” spoken of God, of course (that is, who only hath it in Himself); but this does not mean that He cannot communicate it. So the angels are only immortal by God’s making them so, and we the same. If I were immortal in spite of God, then I might do as I like without fear of death. In the rich man and Lazarus is a perfectly clear case: the one goes to torment, the other to Abraham’s bosom, after death. But they say “these are only figures.” “Yes,” I reply, “but figures of what?” I am not going to Abraham’s bosom, but I am to Christ. I asked them this, “Could God give eternal life to a dog?” Yes. “But would the dog be answerable for what he had been doing while he was a dog?” and if he would not be, Christ had not to die for him, and so they destroy atonement. Put it in another way: if I am a mere brute, only a clever brute, until I get Christ as my life, my responsibility is gone.
But man was put in his place of responsibility not to eat the forbidden fruit, a thing in which there was no evil, save that it was forbidden.
And you get a striking thing here, one which has been a question even with heathens, and it is also a ground of discussion between Calvinists and Arminians: the tree of life, which is free gift; and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is responsibility. Man has been trying to unite these in himself, and never can. Man did take the responsibility-tree, and was lost.
Then the promise came to Abraham to shew that grace was really the thing after all—the tree of life; and then came the law, the other tree. People have made the life dependent upon the responsibility-tree, which is utter folly.
But we find in Christ the two principles united; for He is the man who charges Himself with our responsibility, as He is Himself the life. If I have Christ for my life, with whom also I have died, I can bring the two together. But if taken out of Christ, it is impossible to unite the two things, any more than they were one in the garden.
If Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have been an immortal sinner. As he was, we have got the responsibility-man, not the man of God’s counsels; but to faith the first or responsibility-man is set aside for Christ, the Second man. We have Christ as our life, and are bound to live in that life, and not in the old man. When it comes to a question of responsibility and judgment, I say I am not in the old man, but in Christ. And in my actual condition I say, Christ is in me, and I am to manifest Him as my life.
But there is more than this. God took the man, and put him in-the garden to dress and keep it, gave him one commandment, and then said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” So He gives him a wife, and also puts him in the place of authority, which is shewn by bringing everything to Adam to be named. Giving a name is an act of authority all through scripture. And Adam says of his wife, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman.” There we get the institution of marriage, but, above all, Christ and the church. We see dominion which is entirely in Adam, not in the woman. Dominion belongs to Christ; but, being rejected, and accomplishing redemption, He is exalted on high, and instead of dominion He gets the church, which He associates with Himself now, as well as when He is in the dominion. This is the place of the church, which is neither the Lord nor the subject creature, but is associated with the Lord over the creation. God’s plans are here in imagery. Adam was “the figure of him that is to come” (Rom. 5:14). He was head over all things to Eve, who was bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. We have in this relationship two stares, the actual responsibility as created (which Christ was in a certain sense), and then what was historically true, the image of Him that was to come. Christ gave up everything, leaving father and mother (that is, Israel, if you take it as a figure). How often we hear it said, that Christ was bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh! No doubt He did become incarnate; but really it is when He is in glory that we are made bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh; the other is never said in scripture.
Thus we have the responsible man set up, but still a figure of Him that is to come; and as Eve out of Adam, we are all taken out of Christ, in a sense; we are quickened together with Christ when He has gone down into death, and we are set aside in the place He has taken. Just so the deep sleep fell upon Adam, and the rib is taken and made a woman, and is brought to him.
But observe in chapter 3 that the point is not knowledge of good and knowledge of evil, which is a mere blunder. The question of the tree was not conscience. If it had not been forbidden, he was just as free to eat as anything else. Thus we acquire the knowledge of good and evil, and hence conscience. You see it as early as anything in a child. It slaps its mother, say, and you hold up your finger—it understands very well that it has done wrong. God says, “the man is become as one of us”; that is, he has got intrinsically the knowledge of good and evil. If a boy at school steals one of his companions’ marbles, he hides it, for he knows he has done wrong. It is no question of commandments here; though it was by the breach of a commandment that conscience was got.
Adam was enjoying good in the garden, although the knowledge of good would not have been so full. I quite admit my knowledge may be corrupted; still, I do a thing because it is right. I may think I am doing a very good thing to put my father in the Ganges at a certain time of life, because then he will go to Buddha or some one; but it is only the difference of good and evil I know; it is not knowledge of good and knowledge of evil. The thing for Adam was not an intrinsic knowledge of good and evil, which was not required, but only a question of obedience. Man got a conscience by the fall, and he never got a conscience till it was a defiled one. But it may get hardened or seared.
Observe, in the account of the fall, that, before a lust comes in, there is another principle shewn, which is, that Adam, like Eve, lost confidence in God. The devil suggested that God kept something back from her because it would make her like God. “God doth know” —this is the reason you “may not eat this” —you will be as God, “knowing good and evil.” At this suggestion, that the Lord had kept back the very best thing, Eve lost her confidence. But mark, when Christ comes into the world, I see Him walking through the world where all the evil is, to shew to man that, no matter how defiled it all is, we can have the fullest confidence in God. He comes to win back man’s heart to God. There He was reconciling man to God. Were you, a woman, ever such a sinner, who could not shew your face to a fellow-creature, come to Him, and God will receive you. But this loss of confidence is just the same in all of us. If I trusted God to make me happy always, I should always do God’s will. Suppose I do not trust Him to make me happy, then I must turn to myself. This is just what we see: men do not trust God to make them happy, and so they try to make themselves happy. This is the world.
We were speaking of the beautiful character of Christ’s coming into the world in humiliation, God coming to win back man’s heart to Himself. This goes beyond the chapter, but it is produced in souls at times before forgiveness is known. When there is a clear gospel, forgiveness comes out first, but many are like the poor “woman that was a sinner,” who had her heart towards God or Christ, though she did not know forgiveness yet. There was faith in His person. She was attracted by the grace in Him, and broken down about her sinfulness (Luke 7). So many a pious soul now does not know forgiveness.
It is all a mistake to confound trust with faith, though no doubt faith produces confidence. You can hardly separate the two things, but there is this in faith: “he that believeth his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” In Luke 7 it was a living word. But when I have the Spirit of adoption, I am a son. Christ revealed the Father: “I have manifested thy name”; “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.” The moment the Son was there, the Father’s name could be revealed; but it was not until the gift of the Holy Ghost that they had the Spirit of adoption. But in Christ here below, God was coming into the midst of sinners in love, and winning back their confidence; and one sees in the poor woman that was a sinner a heart trusting Him, though His work was not yet completed.
The temptation was, “ye shall be as God,” not gods, “knowing good and evil.” Eve takes, eats, and gives to her husband, who eats: thus their eyes were opened. The counterpart is seen (Phil. 2), and intended as such, in Jesus, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.” That is, Christ in taking the place of the second Adam went exactly opposite to the first one. Adam was in the form of man, and set up to be as God; Christ is not only a man, but God, and did not set up, like Adam, to take what did not belong to Him, for He was God, but, having laid all aside, He became obedient unto death, the death of the cross. He goes down all the way, till He comes right down to death, death, yea, death of the cross—the exact contrast of what Adam did. You see the progress in Eve. When confidence is lost, the woman saw that the tree was good for food: lust comes in. It was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise. Accordingly she eats, and then Adam eats. He was not deceived; the woman Eve was, and so was in the transgression.
The devil came hiding himself in that serpent, using it as an instrument of mischief.
“Dust” means utter and entire humiliation, as “lick the dust”: “Arise ye that dwell in the dust,” and so on. It is constantly used in this way. In Daniel 12 it is the same, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth.” In the text it is used to express the judgment that shall be upon the power of Satan.
It is curious in the olden times that they used to eat serpents to get wise. And it is wonderful how widespread was the idea of wisdom in the serpent. Aesculapius had a serpent in his temple. A serpent with his tail in his mouth was the image of eternity, the whole circle was in that. The Agatho-demon, or good demon, in Egypt was a winged serpent. They found represented in Mexico (though I do not know how far you can trust pictures) a woman under a tree, and the serpent offering the woman an apple. It was found as a picture. There was a great collection of such things: but it is all dispersed now. There were traces of similar things among the Druids, but evidently the Druids came from Persia.
Fallen, they knew good and evil, and that they were naked; they are under the shame of sin; and then we learn how utterly powerless all human means are to hide sin. The moment they hear the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, all the fig leaves are simply nothing. They were used to cover themselves from one another; but the moment God was there, they say that they are naked. Afterwards God made them coats of skins; it was a very different thing when God did it.
We do not know in what words the command was given; it is merely told us generally. It was pressed upon Eve’s mind that she was to have nothing to say to it; she does not give exactly the words of God, “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” It was probably her own impression, not the exact words of God—just the main effect produced on her mind.
It is well to remark that, before ever God turned Adam out, he had got away from God: I do not mean his heart merely, but he had a bad conscience; he went and hid himself in the trees of the garden, and that is the first of it. But the great question, besides what had been done, is, “Where art thou?” This is a far wider question than that to Cain— “What hast thou done?”
There is no history of man in innocence. The first thing we find in the history of man is the fall. Children were begotten after the fall, and all else follows. The fall comes in first both historically and morally; and so it has always been. The first thing Noah does is to get drunk. The children of Israel made a golden calf even before they had really got the law, though they had just promised obedience. It was the same thing with the priests, Nadab and Abihu: they offered strange fire the very first day; and then Aaron was forbidden to go into the most holy place in the garments of glory and beauty. Was not all this serious? It is not a question of the “first day” exactly, but of their first act noted in scripture. And it is just as true of the church. Peter says, “The time is come that judgment should begin at the house of God”; Paul, that “all were seeking their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s”; and then John says, “even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time.” All the apostles tell us so, though they stemmed the torrent while there. So Jude says, “of these Enoch prophesied, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment,” etc. There they are, he says; more morally there, perhaps, than historically.
We see then that man departed from God before ever God turned him out; that is, his conscience drove him away from God, and in the end God drives him out. How God detects everything! “I was afraid because I was naked.” … “Who told thee thou wast naked?” Now it comes to what he has done; the first point was, “Where art thou?” To Cain it was, “What hast thou done?”
As a matter of doctrine, I was led distinctly to notice this in the Epistle to the Romans. There first it is, “all have sinned”; then, “by one man sin entered.” Thus it is our condition: what we have done is proof and fruit of it. Adam cannot be with God at all. Such is his condition; and then God asks, What have you done?
It was God looking for man, perhaps I should hardly say in grace; it was God coming in. Of course God knew everything; but, speaking as to His manner of dealing, He is expecting Adam to have intercourse with Him. God could go and walk there, and, according to the principles of His position, expect that Adam would receive Him as his benefactor. It is, “What has come of you?” so to speak. If one expects a person to be there, one says, “Where are you?” This brings out of Adam what the real state of the case was; and when God asks, “How did that come about?” Adam does a base thing, for he says, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” It is “whom thou gavest.” If you had not given me the woman, I should not have done it! as much as to say, “You may settle with the woman.” And God says, “Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten”: this is what He condemns Adam for. And whenever we make an excuse, this in fact is what we are condemned for. Adam listened to the woman instead of to God. People say, “I was tempted,” and this is true; but why did you yield to the temptation? It was not a lie, in the outward sense of a falsehood; but he had followed the woman instead of God.
Then what the woman said was true, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” When the woman of Samaria said, “I have no husband,” it was true; but the object of it was to conceal the truth for all that. It was legally true, but ethically false; true in fact, but truth told to conceal the truth all the while.
It is important to remark here, that all the judgment stated is in this word simply. There is none of the truth that comes out afterwards, when life and incorruptibility are brought to light. Men try to spin this out into what is more (and there is an immense deal more to a spiritual mind): but the actual iudgment is in this world. Thus the serpent is not here cast into the lake of fire; God says, “because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust thou shalt eat all the days of thy life.” There is nothing about the final judgment of Satan, “and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” You may see something more there, figuratively and mysteriously prophetical; but that is no present thing: the actual judgment on the serpent is in the former verse.
Another thing to notice here is that there is no promise to man. As regards a great deal of the Arminian system, much of which is infidelity, all of it is cut up by the roots. There is no promise to man. The promise is a future judgment pronounced on Satan, which has no application to Adam; for it is clear he was not the seed of the woman. Then on the woman it is merely the sorrows of childbirth, and she is made, not simply a companion, but subject, to her husband.
All depends on whether this distinction is made: it is no question of restoring the first man. The promise brings in another man instead of the first. And it was not even by the seed of the man, by any descendant of man as man, though He is the Son of man, but it was by the woman it came in; as we read in Galatians, “made of a woman,” and “under the law” too—the two things, one applicable to man, and the other special to some.
What is here is this: God cast out the man; yet Adam fled away from God before he was turned out. But when God turned him out, this was judicial, and God put cherubim there, and a flaming sword, turning every way to keep the way of the tree of life. That is, Adam was not only going to dust, but could not get at life again; it would have been horrible if he could. He was an outcast from God altogether, and this is everlasting misery. Once partaking of the tree of life would have immortalised.
But it is no question here of judgment being everlasting. It is separation from God. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also, and thistles, shall it bring forth unto thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” What was to happen to his soul, there is not a word about. The question of the inner man is quite untouched. When God drove him out, the soul did not die; neither was it dust to go back to dust, for soul was not made of dust. But to be driven out was eternal misery, though one must have a spiritual mind, in a sense, to know really that it is infinite misery to be shut out from God.
As to original sin, it is well to say what we mean by it, as men’s thoughts differ widely. We read that “by one man’s disobedience sin entered into the world”: there we find that the sin of Adam put him in this position. There are two things in what is commonly called original sin. It does not consist in following Adam, but that I am alienated from God, and also that I have an evil nature. The two go together, just as reconciliation and a new nature go together. My heart is renewed from and to God.
The first is that man departed from God. I have sometimes said, when they have talked about the race damned for eating of the tree, that it is not God shutting man out for an apple, but that man shut out God for an apple. His heart was separated from God, and then he got lusts and self-will instead of subjection. Then follows the judicial part, “Where art thou?” —where? that is, as to my state (not what? a question of my deeds), though men are judged according to their works. When there is spiritual intelligence in me, the first thing that strikes my conscience is my deeds. Ordinary evangelisation takes up what man has done; but this alone never sets one clear with God. A soul still has to learn another thing, and that is where he is; that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. But the preacher who dwells on this does not reach the consciences of people. If I take the “What hast thou done?” and the “Where art thou?” then I have all. From this point of view men as men are alike bad, and the prodigal son was as great a sinner when he just crossed his father’s threshold as when he was eating the swine’s husks, because he had from the first turned his back upon his father. Nor is the work done in a soul, until it finds out how bad it is in itself, the tree bad, the root bad, itself away from God. My works refer on to the day of judgment; but by what I am I am lost already.
Both are perfectly true of every man. It is works rather in Adam’s breaking the law, and still more distinctly in Cain, in whom it is sin against a neighbour or a brother. Adam sins against God. Cain’s terrible act brings the inquiry, “What hast thou done?” But the what or where we are is a great deal deeper in the testimony of the thing than what we have done.
Nothing is more important than to have these two clear before the mind. “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” This is not what I have done. “By one man’s disobedience sin entered into the world, and death by sin”: this, too, is not what we have done; but we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” this is what we have done, that is, it is sins.
The right translation of Romans 5:12 is, “for that all have sinned,” not “in whom.”
The judgment in Genesis 3 was upon Satan, though it was there for Adam to lay hold of. There was no promise to the fallen Adam, no promise to man in sin any more than innocent. Evil came in by the devil; with man, by temptation. God was over it: this is the reason why He suffered evil and the fall—in view of a greater good to come in. My answer to him who asks it is, “why, you foolish man, if you had not been a sinner, you would not have had Christ at all.” And this is a true answer too, because it was in God’s counsels to introduce and reveal Christ in glory ultimately.
God created not merely stones, but moral beings, beings with responsibility; and if responsibility be a fact, there is liability to good and evil, as it means having to answer to Him. To a man in the state described in Hebrews 6 there is no restorability; the passage says so. Again, there is no restorability to angels, because they fell when they were in the good itself. Jude tells us of angels who kept not their first estate.
So Ezekiel 28, from verse 11, is commonly, and, I have no doubt justly, applied to the fall of Satan. It is not the same as the prince of Tyrus, who is judged historically in the beginning of the chapter. “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God: every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” Then in verse 17, “thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness,” and so on. Under the figure of the king of Tyre clearly, but under figure, we see this, which goes far beyond the idea of a mere king of Tyre, and, I doubt not, it is Satan. The prince of Tyre who was there was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. On the other hand, I see no foundation for the king of Tyre representing Adam. Satan “was a murderer, and abode not in the truth,” so that he is a fallen being. The meaning of the word “covereth” refers to a cherub, and gives the idea of protection, I suppose. There is power and beauty in the creature. These precious stones are here in creation, as again in grace in the priesthood, and yet again in glory in the new Jerusalem. All this diversified beauty from God was upon him, and the light shines from the creature as from the precious stones. We have no detail, for God was not teaching men about Satan. He abode not in the truth, he was not kept in dependence by God’s power; and angels fell with him, because it says “the devil and his angels.” Where Adam sinned in the presence of good, it was only natural goodness received from God; he was not in the glory of God in the upper creation.
But other angels fell apart from the devil. Of some scripture says, they are “reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day”; whereas Satan roves all about the world now, and others with him, so that they are not in chains under darkness. Jude says, those that “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day; even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” They, doing evil, are set forth for an example, their condition now being an abiding testimony to their judgment. “In like manner” refers to giving themselves over as the cities did. “The sons of God,” in Genesis 6:2, were angels, just as in Job, “the sons of God” presented themselves before God.
All is confusion everywhere, except what grace has done, whether it be angels or anybody else; no creature stands when left to itself, and so as to angels, we read of “the elect angels.” The good angels are looking on, and therefore a woman is to have her head covered. All creatures have a sphere of responsibility—I do not mean Satan, of course, but moral creatures. Verse 24 is to be taken literally: why not? The infidel would refuse it, and improve man. You do get relief in a way afterwards: so Lamech named his son Noah, and said, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed.” It does not say the curse was taken away; but there was a comfort concerning it. There was a certain testimony to the state of things. The curse is not gone; but it was mitigated in its effect. On the other hand, in chapter 4, Cain was cursed from the earth. He got an additional curse: “The earth shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength.” In the garden Adam did not toil to get food: he ate the seed, and the animals ate the grass; but when driven out, he had to toil to get things to eat— “in the sweat of his face.” Then after the flood seed-time and harvest are secured, agriculture in a way is blessed: not the curse gone, but man comforted, so that I should think it is less work to get things out of the earth now than it was before the flood. It would seem that the end of chapter 8 implies a change; for there is a promise that, though there might be toil and difficulty, yet “neither will I again smite [that is, in the flood] any more every thing living, as I have done: while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” He gives sufficient for agriculture, but the seasons remain. In Israel it was not the labour removed, but the amount of blessing on the labour increased. Adam had to dress and keep the garden, and he might well enjoy it.
In the millennium the labour will continue; but they shall not plant and another eat the fruit, and so on. Still, the works of their hands go on. The labour does not cease, nor will it be in sorrow that they eat. The earth shall yield her increase, but men must toil to get it. Scripture shews that some part of the earth will be barren, as marishes shall be given to salt. The actual judgment goes no farther than death in this world, and no farther than the body—this mortal body. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” The question of the soul is utterly untouched. Those who oppose the truth as to this identify eternal life with immortality; but when we have eternal life in Christ, we do not cease to be mortal. The whole thing is really a stupid blunder.
I consider that Eve is called “living” there as being Adam’s faith, though you may not lay it down as a dogma. It is remarkable, coming in just after the curse and after the judgment on Satan too. After death has come in, she is called the mother of all living, not of the dying. But it was no object of God to tell us whether Adam was saved or not.
The cherubim are connected with a judicial throne and judicial power, and so always judicial. I speak of it practically so—what judges a thing right as well as what judges a thing wrong. The cherub is always God’s judicial authority and power. There were cherubim on the veil in Exodus 26, as over the ark and elsewhere. On the veil it is the symbol of judicial power, so in Ezekiel when he sees them. So it is on the tabernacle: only on the mercy-seat it is judgment for us. It is not merely a throne judging what is wrong, though this is true, but a judgment on my behalf, according to what the blood of atonement is. Law takes up man on responsibility; and this is met for me by Another at the mercy-seat. The difference between them and seraphim appears to be that cherubim are judgment, according to the responsibility of man—judgment from God, of course; and the seraphim have to do more immediately with God’s nature. The only place they are expressly mentioned is in Isaiah 6; and there they cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts.” The only other being that is called a seraph is the fiery serpent in the wilderness. [See Num. 21:6, 8; Deut. 8:15].
There are two elements of judging with God. The first thing is, Have I maintained that which was set up to be? and the other is the Lord’s coming, when I shall be in God’s presence, Can I then stand in the glory of God? can I abide this test then? In Isaiah, we have the first in chapter 5, “What could I have done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?” that is, as a vineyard, what has it borne? And then, in chapter 6, Jehovah is seen high and lifted up, and how could a man stand in His presence? “These things spake Esaias when he saw his glory, and spake of him,” John 12.
In chapter 4 of Revelation, the four living creatures are seen full of eyes before and behind, crying, “Holy, holy, holy,” having the cherubic and the seraphic characteristics too. It is extremely instructive. “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind.” So stood the seraphim. “And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle”; this is cherubic. “And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him, and they were full of eyes within, and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come”: this is seraphic again. Farther on we find the judgment of the beast and of the false prophet, and then God coming out in His holiness at the end. In Israel we have the cherubim all through; and when Nebuchadnezzar comes, the judgment on man according to his responsibility. The only thing in which we see the holiness and righteousness of God in itself is the altar outside in brass, and inside the blood put on the golden altar. Thus we have the two obligations (or measures rather) of righteousness. Israel meets God on the ground of what man ought to be outside at the brazen altar; and then when the blood is upon the mercy-seat, the golden mercy-seat of God, there is the righteousness of God as it is in itself. “The Son of man is glorified, and God is glorified in him.” The two attitudes of righteousness in the cherubim are at the gate of Eden, and then upon the mercy-seat. At Eden they bar the way against Adam in judicial righteousness; whereas God was sitting on the mercy-seat, and, though He was not approachable because the veil was there, yet He dealt with man; and, if righteous, He accepted man there; and when the blood was on the mercy-seat, there was that which met the character of God. Therewith God Himself was satisfied, for this was Jehovah’s lot. There is more known now, because the veil is rent. Christ’s work not only took away my sins, but glorified God in His judicial character. It is His righteousness to justify the believers.
In the garden it was the exclusion of man, but in the cross we find not only the sins borne, but much more; for there is such a work of Christ as glorifies God, besides putting away our sins. There is Jehovah’s lot in full. Towards the poor thief on the cross the Lord will not wait for the kingdom to be set up in grace in the world, but there is a positive going to God where He is. And we have more than sin put away; we have also that which lays the ground for the accomplishment of God’s counsels in bringing us in His Son into His presence. This is no part of responsibility; it is nothing of me—putting me into the glory, but the fruit of God’s counsels accomplished in Christ. Christ does meet my responsibility by dying; but there is a great deal more than that. His delight was with the sons of men, and He is going to have them in the glory with Himself. Christ glorifies God, and the answer to that is that He goes into the glory, and this as our forerunner.
It is only in the kingdom, I take it, that the cherubim pass on into any connection with the church. We get inside the heavenly city; what is judicial would be outside. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it, that is, they dwell in their own glory; but the nations of the millennial age walk in the light of it. We inside, we have the glory of God lightening us; and they outside walk in the light of the city itself. Christ is glorified in His saints, but they who are outside will never see it as we see it inside. So, in the transfiguration, the disciples fear when they see Moses and Elias enter into the cloud (Luke 9:34).
To understand better Psalm 99, which speaks of sitting between the cherubim, let us look at the Psalms from 93 to 100. They are descriptive of the bringing in of the First-begotten into the world. It is a most beautiful series from the commencement in Psalm 93 to the accomplishment in Psalm 100. Psalm 93 gives the thesis. In the rejection of Christ there was judgment in Pilate, and righteousness in Christ. Taking the world as such, we find the one righteous man absolutely on one side, and judgment in the place of authority on the other; but when Christ comes to reign (Ps. 94:15), judgment returns to righteousness, and they go together. Then it is asked, “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” There is the cry of the remnant then. In Psalm 95 is the summons to them to return while it is still called “to-day.” In Psalm 96 the heathen are summoned. In Psalm 97 He is coming. In Psalm 98 He is come. He hath shewed His righteousness, He hath remembered His mercy. In Psalm 99, having come and made known His salvation, He sits between the cherubim, taking His place in Jerusalem. Then Psalm 100 summons the nations to come up and worship in peace. Moses being the lawgiver, and Samuel the first prophet, the psalmist takes the originators of things in Israel to call upon the name of the Lord.
Notice the psalms also that go before. Psalm 90 opens with “Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.” Israel goes back to Jehovah, having been their care-taker all through. In Psalm 91 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “Most High” was first stated to Abraham. It is God’s millennial name. So what the psalm says is really that, if you dwell in the secret of Abraham’s God, you shall have all Abraham’s blessing. It is a beautiful conversation, so to speak, in the psalm.
In Proverbs 8 it is the wisdom of the counsels of God. “Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was; when there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water, before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth, while as yet he had not made the earth nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world; when he prepared the heavens I was there, when he set a compass upon the face of the depth, when he established the clouds above, when he strengthened the foundations of the deep, when he gave to the sea his decree that the waters should not pass his commandment, when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by him as one brought up with him,” (as His own beloved nursling), “and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” Wisdom personifies Christ there. In Luke the heavenly host say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in man”: the proof of this was that His Son became a man. We could not have a part in counsels until redemption was wrought, but when it was, we are brought in. Now in Proverbs we see Him always rejoicing in the habitable parts of His earth before the earth was made; and so when He comes He does not take up angels, but sons of men.
But in Genesis it is not what wisdom was before the foundation of the world, but the foundation of the world, and man put in his responsibility. In Proverbs 8 His delight was not in creation itself and (therefore we have “habitable”); it was in the men themselves. But we have no counsels brought out until Christ died. In the first seven chapters are good and evil, corruption and violence; and then in chapter 8 God’s wisdom in His counsels. And in the former chapters you have too the divine mind expressed in the relationships that God has formed; it is “my son, hear my voice,” and so on. It is remarkable it is nearly always Jehovah in Proverbs, while you do not find Jehovah in Ecclesiastes at all.
When fallen, Adam got Christ for the tree of life. So Augustine exclaims, “Oh, happy fault!” that Adam sinned. God never would have been known as He is if it had not been for sin. There would have been no need for grace, redemption, righteousness, that is, as to man. But now all that God is has been displayed, and this in the cross, righteousness of God against sin, the holiness of God, and the love of God. These would not have come out at all if man had not sinned; and they are the things that the angels desire to look into.
“Prudence,” in Ephesians 1, is wisdom in putting it all together.
God does not shut the man out until He has covered his nakedness—sovereign grace at the very beginning. It is the intimation that God covers him in mercy.
I have no doubt that death had come in, because it is “skins,” and animals must have been killed; how, it is not said, but this is the case with many things, because it is not the object of revelation. They had made themselves aprons of fig-leaves, and still were conscious that they were naked as ever, for they hid themselves in spite of it. But God clothed them, and then they were not naked at all. It was grace coming in, but only, of course, the sin thereby covered. And I think there was faith too, because it comes immediately after Adam calling his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living.
But we read, “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life”; because God would not let him take of it and live for ever: that would have given him life in sin. Man might have attempted to countervail the whole thing, and to set up the old man thoroughly.
Thus the turning out of the garden was more than judgment; it was mercy, when we come to think of it. It could not be allowed that man should not die in spite of God. So it was judgment, but mercy at the same time in another way. There would have been no possibility of a flood to destroy, or anything else to put an end to man’s wickedness.
Now came Cain and Abel (chap. 4). The question is early raised, whether a man can worship God without Christ. Cain was a wicked person; but, as appearance went, he was doing what was right in paying what he owed to God. But really it was bringing the sign of the curse; it was going to God as if nothing had happened; it was the most perfect hardness of heart, because, if I come to God at all, why have I such toil and labour? why give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul, except I am away from God, and something has happened? The whole thing tells its own story. Mar has been driven out, and he cannot come to God on the samt footing as if he had not been put away. When in the garden there was any feeling of God, he goes and hides himself; but now, when outside, he goes hardened to God. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” But how did he know that this was right? He knew of these beasts slain for skins, and he may have had more for aught we know. “By which Abel obtained witness that he was righteous,” was by sacrifice as well as by faith. Both are in the verse, “God testifying of his gifts”; but sacrifice is the least thing referred to. We see that the man is pronounced righteous. In Hebrews the point is not God giving a thing to us, but faith carries Christ in hand figuratively, and God says, “you are righteous.” What is the value and character of my righteousness? I say, Christ. Abel is pronounced righteous: but the measure and character of his righteousness is Christ.
Cain came as the expression of horrible hardness of heart; to him and to his offering God had not respect. So Cain was wroth, and Jehovah says, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? “
Should it be “sin,” or “sin-offering,” lieth at the door? I am disposed to think it a sin-offering; only that the sin-offering is never mentioned historically until we come to Leviticus, under Moses. It is in this kind of way, “If thou does well, shalt thou not be accepted? and unto thee shall the desire of thy younger brother be, and thou shalt rule over him; but if thou failest to do well, there is a remedy, and therefore thou oughtest not to be wroth.” “Lieth at the door” means crouching. It is not the expression, “It is at your door,” as we say; and therefore I was inclined to take it, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (“and if thou doest not well,” there is a remedy, in parenthesis) “and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” I have no quarrel with the other view, because sin did lie at his door.
“And Jehovah said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? and he said, I know not: am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? “It is not only now the testimony of sin against us, to say what have we done as sinners. But we hear from God, “Where is Christ?” The Holy Ghost is come, and convinces the world of sin, but more than this. He comes and says to the whole world, on God’s part, “Where is my Son? “Then there is haughtiness too in Cain’s reply, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” as though why should God ask?
Besides this and more, another important principle comes out—the practically self-righteous man rejecting Christ is then turned out; he leaves the presence of the Lord, and dwells in the land of Nod (that is, “vagabond”) where his son is called Enoch, and he builds a city, calling it Enoch too, after his son. Thus he stretches himself in the world, and gives a family name to the town, and the history shews us artisans, and arts, and sciences, all in the train. He goes out from God, and settles himself in the place of judgment, to to his best with it, in open defiance of God. God neglects nothing, and Cain cannot get out of the reach of His hand, of course; but in his own will he was entirely outside. Cain sets to work to make the earth as comfortable as he can without God; Adam did not want all that in paradise.
As to lake dwellings, and caves with stone hatchets, and many similar things, we have to remember that in New Guinea people are doing the same thing now: how would London like to do so? In Switzerland and Italy they have been finding, covered with bog, and in the lakes, a hundred villages, and all kinds of remains—what the people were eating, and what clothes they wore, as round the Lake of Geneva and elsewhere. And they have learnt the natural history of those times. There was a stone in a hole that they could not make out, and at last found it was what they wove with. Occasionally they have discovered a thing that came from Phoenicia, which was civilised at the very time these villages appeared to have flourished. In North America, lying under some magnificent trees, seven hundred years old, was a piece of native copper, or a square cradle, put ready to be carried away, with other distinct marks of an earlier civilization than the present.
Civilization does die away in places; but I know of no case of light from God going away, and bringing in barbarism.
It was God’s providential government when Satan made the Chaldeans go and take Job’s goods. If we refer to the sentence on Cain, there was no direct government at all in that, it did not kill him. Man is now left to himself until we come to the second world. God protects him, putting a mark on him, lest any finding him should kill him. This I believe to be a figure of the Jews unto this day.
Cain is “I have gotten,” Abel is “vanity,” because he went to nothing. Eve fancied she had gotten this man from the Lord—that this was the promise, while it was only from nature. Cain means “gotten,” Seth means “appointed,” and Abel means “the dying man.” Eve thinks she has the man that can inherit the blessing. It was not so, as we well know. If you take flesh, the Jews were [Cain] the men from the Lord, and it only resulted in their killing the Lord; first that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual.
Chapter 4:23 may be taken historically, and it is true; but typically it refers to the Jews at the end. There is self-will in it every way. Typically it is the remnant of Israel in the last day; but we must not dogmatise about that. Cain is a figure of Israel having killed Christ, and made a vagabond on the earth. At the end the remnant of Israel will own, like Lamech, they have killed this man to their wounding. In the historical sense he kills somebody, and says, “I have been touched, and I will be avenged.”
If one disputes this sense I do not contend for it. A man once took me to task about a parable, and said, “What proof do you give me of its meaning so-and-so?” My answer was, It is like honey, which is given you, and you ask me to prove that it is sweet! If you cannot taste, I cannot prove it.
Seth is the man appointed instead of both Abel and Cain: God hath appointed, in contrast with I have gotten, as Eve said of Cain. So now, Seth from God.
Calling “on the name of the Lord” (v. 25) was dependence; but Cain’s family would not own the Lord at all, the appointed man and his family would. In short, it is the same dreadful truth as to Cain there as in 2 Thessalonians 2. Only it will be final by-and-by. And what is noticeable is that Cain was settling himself in that place without God; it was not so much resistance as independence.
After Seth the appointed man comes in, they began to own Jehovah specifically. This is the meaning of “then began men to call on the name of Jehovah.”
As to the discrepancy between the Hebrew and the Septuagint, as to the years in chapter 5, I say nothing, save that there is a curious fact in this, that to each of these hves the Septuagint adds a hundred years. Thus “Adam lived 230 years, and begat,” instead of 130. This adds fourteen hundred years to the time of the world, the Samaritan Pentateuch more still.
It is not a casual mistake, but done on purpose, for it is to each, and it is only carried down to the point where, if they had gone one more, they would have pushed it over the flood; but there it stops. In Matthew the genealogy is a copy of Jewish records. I do not doubt myself, though it has been disputed since the second century, that Luke’s is Mary’s genealogy. Luke takes it back up to man, but Matthew from David and Abraham, because his reference is to promises. In the Talmud they have got Mary the daughter of Eli.
Then we get afterwards the length of years pretty much the same, except Enoch, where stands the important fact that heaven is brought in for anybody that has faith to look at it. God had men for heaven in the midst of all the confusion; as with Elijah, He had seven thousand left that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Enoch is a figure of those caught up, Noah of the remnant of the Jews that go through the tribulation. In Noah the world is comforted, the figure of the millennium.
As to any consecutive meaning in these names, certain people have made something out of them; but I think nothing of this and the like spinning of webs out of the imagination. We must look for scriptural warrant, at least for the principle; and this is lacking here.
We are coming to the world we have been reading about destroyed by the flood. Hitherto it has been the old world with a wonderful series of principles in it, which is the character of Genesis, especially at the beginning.
Man is seen in his original responsibility (but with a number of figures in it) before God began to deal with him. It is a distinct principle of condition that there were no specific dealings, no government, no nations, no law, no promises, no covenant. There was the revelation or prediction of the Seed of the woman; there was Enoch with a prophecy; but no dealings of God. No miracles are stated.
Afterwards we find government put into the hands of man; then the law; and last, Christ Himself.
God’s prolonging man’s life at that time acted instead of writing the word; we see God’s wisdom in it so. At the flood we get life shortened by half; and by half again, when the earth was divided and portioned out to the people. It would not do, in the way the world is now, for men to live 900 years.
Noah was a just man, and did know God.
The two grounds of condemnation are found in Romans 1: the one is, the visible world in its witness; the other is, men’s having known God previously. For (1) “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” Then comes (2) “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God.” These are two distinct things. They did not heed creation: and they gave God up when known. But Enoch walked with God, or “pleased God,” as in the New Testament it is said. It never says so of Adam, because he walked away from God, and did not please Him.
In Genesis 6:3 the Spirit is said to strive with man in the testimony God had given by Noah; He preached by Noah to the spirits, now in prison, of men drowned at the flood.
God gave men 120 years to repent. It was no question of age. Man never got 120 years as a fixed portion, though life was thus long in Moses’ time.
Enoch’s prophecy was preserved, but we know not how. It exists in tradition; but only in scripture have we it given us as it really was. It is preserved in books, and was well known in the second century; indeed they talk about Job borrowing from it. Bruce brought three copies of a book of Enoch from Abyssinia; of course this was an apocryphal book. There is a regular system in it by which the Lord judges, and so on. I have no doubt the book was written just after the destruction of Jerusalem, and against Christians. The writer sees the “tower of the flock,” as he calls it, destroyed; and he could see no farther. He was a Jew writing in favour of the Jews, and talks about perverse men, who were Christians. It has reference to the history of times before the flood; and it has a kind of vision which Noah relates to his posterity, or an angel tells him things. He makes the flood come to the earth because it got a tilt. Enoch’s prophecy was preserved traditionally and incorrectly. It is a testimony to shew how really the coming judgment was looked for. Bruising the serpent’s head is given in a way as coming to destroy the power of Satan.
In chapter 6:11 are the two general characters seen in man; the earth was corrupt before God, and filled with violence. So it will be at the end: Babylon is corruption, and the beast is violence. So with ourselves, we find plenty of the corruption and of the violence too.
But “Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah,” that is, divine favour rested on him; personally righteous doubtless, but all through grace of course. Moses says, “If I have found grace in thy sight”; it is a common expression. In the next chapter God says of Noah, “Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” But the earth was completely filled with violence. Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually; if sin comes in, it is sure to ripen up.
God changes His mind, but only as to creation (v. 6) or the like—never when there is a purpose. It is, if the thing totally changes, that God judges differently about it. So it was now, and therefore God would destroy man. It is not as if some change took place in God, but the aspect of His mind is changed towards an object that has itself changed.
“All in whose nostrils is the breath of life” included man and beast; all go together in that kind of language. Then at the right time God takes Noah with his family, and all enter the ark, “and Jehovah shut him in.”
As to the number “forty,” it seems to me to have the sense of endurance in it. Forty stripes save one is thirty-nine; for they need a three-thonged rod, so that they could only give thirty-nine by the law, not to exceed forty. It is a length of duration and trial in that way, testing and patience and endurance. So Moses in his three periods of life. Again, Ezekiel lay forty days on his right side for Judah, as a sign, a day for a year, according to the years of Judah’s iniquity (Ezek. 4). Jonah’s proclamation was yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown; though they did not yet come under the penalty, they were tried. Elijah had been forty days apart, as Israel of old in the wilderness forty years. Here it was till the ark floated.
As to the “two of every sort” in chapter 7, and “seven clean “in verses 2, 3, the first were male and female, to keep them alive; when they were clean beasts, he took fourteen. I have no doubt the “clean” were what were customarily given for sacrifices. Who would offer a ravenous wild beast in sacrifice to God, but sheep or oxen? This difference of a provision for the race and for sacrifice is bound up with the different use respectively of God (Elohim) and of the Lord (Jehovah).
The fountains of the great deep were all broken up, and the windows of heaven opened, that is, above and below, all together broken up: in what way we cannot tell, but they were. Then we hear of a raven, an unclean thing, which could fly about in this world without difficulty, whilst the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot.
Tisri was the first month, that is, part of September and October. The fourteenth day of Abib was the end of March, as Abib began in the middle of our March, and went on to the middle of our April. It was five months that the waters prevailed; and after the end of the 150 days the waters abated, and the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, the waters being two months and a half in running off.
I believe the flood was all over the earth, wherever man was. There is no mistake. People have called the universality in question, using general terms, as if it only covered the inhabited earth. But scripture says, “the mountains were covered,” “and the tops of the mountains were seen,” and so on; this looks like universality. You must let in a miracle in any case: and so it is all one after all. Suppose Mount Ararat, fifteen or sixteen thousand feet high, in northern Armenia, was covered; well, if the waters were not all round, and away too, they would have run off, and covered somewhere else; there must have been a miracle anyhow. The universality of the flood, absolute universality, seems to me to be positively meant and intended, because of destroying the world that then was. God puts an end to the whole system of the world. It was as complete a judgment of the earth and all that was on it, on the part of God, as it will be presently by fire. Everything in the whole order and system of the world that had life perished, “the earth standing out of the water and in the water, whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished”: so Peter tells us, and anything that enfeebled it I should not admit: all mere physical things are consequent upon it. Either reject the word of God, or else Mount Ararat was covered. As to universal destruction, everything in the world was put an end to. The world that then was is distinct from the world that now is; and this is of immense moral import to us. God says He will never do it again, but the next time it will be by fire.
We see (chap. 8:20) that offerings were usual, as they had been from Abel; and it was an act of faith. These were sweet savour offerings; the burnt-offering involves sin, but not so exactly sins. It is not a guilty conscience which brings a burnt-offering as such. Christ comes and offers Himself a sacrifice for sin, gives Himself up to absolute obedience to glorify God; and, the blood being shed, atonement is made; but the burnt-offering is the perfectness of His obedience in suffering everything for God’s glory. Sin-offerings were not a sweet savour. The burnt-offering was the glorifying God in that place, taking up the righteousness of God against sin. In the sacrifice of sin-offering I see positive sin laid upon the victim.
It is not exactly thanksgiving here, which would be more the character of a peace-offering. It was offering to God a full acknowledgment of Himself, as the basis of renewal after judgment. This is how Noah offered. Through the eternal Spirit Christ offered Himself without spot to God, to be a sacrifice. Many want to make out that He bore our sins up to the cross; but when He offered Himself, He was a spotless One, and the Lord laid our sins upon Him. In the two goats on the day of atonement the bringing up of Jehovah’s lot was in order to the slaying; but the slaying followed; and when once it was slain, the blood could be taken in. So I find, after the gift of Himself, He is made sin, or the sins are laid upon Him. Besides the meeting of our responsibility, God was dishonoured about sin, and Christ stands in that place of dishonour for God’s glory, not merely to put away my sins.
Now it is this that gives the great character to Noah’s act. He did not come with a sin-offering, as that would have been going to God for his sins, but with a burnt-offering, and Jehovah smelled a sweet savour. Of course there was no -possible ground for any blessing except upon the footing of the sacrifice of Christ. Now we have, what we find in the case of Moses, the general coming in of sacrifice, in its result, as a ground of blessing. In chapter 6 “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, and it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Now in chapter 8, when Noah offers, Jehovah smelled a sweet savour, and Jehovah said in His heart, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done.” The moment the sacrifice has come in, God says, as it were, “If I am to smite the people and to curse them, I must always be cursing them! “Now therefore He goes on the ground of sacrifice, because (this is the point) man is so bad. Previously the evil was before God, bringing His judgment. Now it is before Him, and through sacrifice, a reason for not cursing the ground any more.
It was so in the case of Moses and the people. “Jehovah said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them,” Ex. 32:9, 10. And then in Exodus 34:9, Moses pleads, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Jehovah, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us, for it is a stiff-necked people.” And we know, I know, that sin in me is the ground of my being lost; and yet sin in me is the very ground of my going to God to keep me, now that sacrifice has come in. It shews a wonderful character of grace, its overflowing fulness, to give, as the ground of God’s being with us, what was the ground of judgment; that is, when once sacrifice has come in.
What is often said of Noah’s carpentry is man’s imagination. Yet if he had plenty to do, he had plenty of time. But let us bear in mind that, as to preparing the ark, it is not necessary to suppose that he and his sons did it all by themselves. Such things are not much if no doctrine be founded upon them.
In chapter 9 it is said to Noah, “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea.” This was not said to Adam.
In Noah it was more power than what is called natural authority, as in Adam. After the ruin of Israel, in Nebuchadnezzar it is another kind of thing, it is rule wheresoever the children of men dwell, another sort of authority (nothing about animals and fishes and birds there): he had dominion where his empire reached, though he never made it all good, any more than Solomon did.
Then it is found that, God having saved the sons with Noah, men of the second race were brought into blessing. But the life of man slain by a beast, “at the hand of every beast will I require it.” We thus see that God maintains His title to life, even a beast’s life. They must come and offer the blood to God. Man had no flesh to eat before He gives it to man. We all know that many are seeking to do away with capital punishment; but what do they care about God? The whole order of God is broken up now. Even a beast killing should die. Verse 6 gives the reason: “In the image of God made he man “; so that it is always true up to the end. Men only think of what fits men; but we as Christians have nothing to do with that.
Even Christians who take a very prominent part in the advocacy of the abolition of slavery go along with the world.
Man’s life was going to be shortened and the whole system was changed. I am very glad that the appointment of God is seen to be there, so that it be not turned to Jewish principles.
“In the image of God made he man.” It was despising God’s image to kill man. Again, a man was free if he caught a fox to eat it then, not a Jew after the law was given.
It does not necessarily follow that clean and unclean were known, though there is some distinction when Noah was taking the animals into the ark. There we see that some were reckoned clean and some reckoned unclean. Cattle and beasts of the field were distinguished to Adam, and we find Abel a keeper of sheep. When Leviticus comes, it limits the offerings to sheep, goats, bullocks, and so on. It may have been instinct in man in a way at first, and that God put His positive sanction en it when He gave the law.
And now He establishes His covenant, and His bow is set in the cloud, the token of the covenant. This, I take it, is the reason that the rainbow is round about the throne in Revelation 4. It is the covenant with creation seen there, as of old in Genesis. Only it is “like unto an emerald.” The presence of the bow in Revelation means that God’s covenant with creation is remembered that there should not be a flood again. The bow is given to be for a token of the covenant rather than that it was created then. God might, of course, have put plenty of clouds above the earth without a rainbow. He says, “I do set my bow.”
The moral point at the end of chapter 9 is that the blessing given him is abused to destroy all his competency to govern. Noah gets drunk: this is not exercising authority. Afterwards comes in the wickedness of Ham; and then “blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.” In contrast with this He cursed Ham in Canaan, that is, in his family. Everything went by families now. Shem was the root of God’s family, with the name of Jehovah even then attached to it, whose lot it would be to judge the races of Canaan and to take their place.
In verse 27 the “he” is Japheth, who “shall dwell in the tents of Shem,” and Canaan shall be Japheth’s servant as well as Shem’s.
The family of Japheth pushed out far and wide, and did dwell in the tents of Shem.
As to the colour, especially black, I do not pretend to account for it in mankind. The Egyptians were not black; they are always painted red in the hieroglyphics. Their pictures in Nubia are seen with prisoners all black. What Livingstone found in Africa was, that if there was a wet country along with heat, there the people got black. The Portuguese are black in certain hollow islands. As to what people have stated about races, I have no hesitation in saying that there is nothing solid about it whatever.
We have had in a certain sense the whole history of the new world as regards Noah and his sons, the altar, his drunkenness, and so on. In chapter 10, n, you get a statement all by itself, before you come to God’s dealings with the world as now commenced afresh.
We have first the history of Noah’s generations.
In verse 21 Japheth is stated to be elder son. In verse 5 you have “by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families in their nations.” There you get “nations” which is an immense thing; then the sons of Ham, who stretched from the Euphrates to the Nile and got hold of Canaan somehow; the sons of Shem come last.
Chapter 10 is not history, but a survey of the whole earth. There were no tongues or nations at all till Babel; if you try to put this chapter into time, you will go all astray.
Then in Ham you have another principle, and that is a royal conquering power. “Cush begat Nirnrod,” who began to be a mighty one in the earth, with beasts first and then with man. He was a mighty hunter, wherefore it is said, “Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar.” Then Asshur goes out and builds Nineveh. These are the first great monarchies.
“Before the Lord” means just that he was very great; as Moses was fair or beautiful “to God,” and in Hebrews “exceeding “fair. So too, in Jonah 3, “Nineveh was an exceeding great city” is a city “great of God” (in margin and literally).
Then we learn how the dispersion came.
I suppose Eber (verse 21) is mentioned because the Hebrews came of him. There is another fact in verse 25: in the days of Peleg the earth was divided, and at that moment man’s life went down to just half at one bound. You see it in the next chapter. Eber lived four hundred and sixty-four years, and Peleg lived two hundred and thirty-nine. Here, so far then, we have the history of the world: the world is settled, and it is all regulated in its general principles with all the races still going on; then in chapter 11 it goes back to the races, “and the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” And they set to work to build a city and a tower, that they might make a name: not out of the reach of another flood, as some say, for this is the greatest nonsense possible; it was to be a great central temple to their own name. Babel was in principle apostasy, for it was a name for themselves instead of God. It is man uniting for himself. They say, Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad. They wanted to concentrate themselves there so that they should be all one. And this is just the great idea of the present day. But then the Lord comes down and confuses them, and they are all scattered.
This is followed by the specific generations of Shem, until you come down to Abram and a totally distinct line of things. We have had the generations of Noah, a genealogical history; and the generations of Shem are a specific thing besides. In it you find the shortening of life we spoke of, when the earth was divided.
They went to the East and got a name, they were the direct descendants of Eber. God did not call them Hebrews j it was the other nations. Some take it from Arba in Hebrew, for the word means to come over, because Abraham came over the river.
Languages do blend, though kept apart, and I do not doubt providentially too. We cannot say much about it in England; for we have two or three languages together, Latin, and German, and so on.
Then we go on to Terah. Abram comes first, not because he was oldest, but because he was the important one. All that we have got thus far is the fact that the whole world is parcelled out into nations, and this comes from the judgment of Babel because man would not be scattered. And you hear nothing of Noah in all *his: his power is gone, though he was alive all the time. He lived to Abram’s time if you take the Hebrew computation. Shem lived to Isaac’s time, who was twenty-eight when Shem died. Noah died a few (twelve) years before Abram’s time.
We have seen how the world was settled, and, after Noah has gone from the scene, the nations divided, and the fact of God’s judgment confounding their language. The languages we know come, I believe, from Sanskrit or Zend. Latin and Greek, they say, were sister languages, and not mother and daughter (and they call them now Aryan), and all the languages of Europe except the Basque, and so all the northern languages of India. Then there is the Shemitic and that class of languages, the Turanian, the North American languages having been Shemitic made up since. Scythian or Assyrian they cannot read yet. They have made out the Shemitic and Aryan, but not the Turanian. Such are the great roots of what has covered the world.
There was nothing to hinder Moses from speaking Hebrew: the Jews all spoke it among themselves. It is a very child’s tongue, not an elaborately formed language at all. Besides, God may have made him know it perfectly. They have found an inscription put up by Mesha, king of Moab, the sheep-master, in an old Phoenician character. The Samaritans still keep nearly the same. When the Jews came back from Babylon, they had only the present Hebrew characters.
Thus the old world is done with, and certain great principles shewn, and then the new world is set up, being split up into these nations; and with that the beginning of what will be the beast’s (that is, in Babel) empire was set up in Nebuchadnezzar, but the germ of it is here. And we have the sphere in which God’s plans and purposes come out.
Then as soon as we have the world parcelled out into nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues, God’s providence doing it, the first thing He does is to tell a man to leave it all. “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house into a land that I will shew thee,” Gen. 12.
Providence is never the guide of faith. God may govern by providences, He overrules things, and so on; and I may be forced to use a circumstance, or it may come and stop me because I am like a horse or mule that must be held in by bit or bridle; but providence is never the guide of faith. In the case of Moses, was there ever anything more providential than that Pharaoh’s daughter should come and take him up just as he was exposed in the river, to be brought up as her own son? But this is not the guidance of faith. I may be controlled by circumstances; God may use them so, He will lead the blind by a way that they know not, yet this is not seeing.
But the principle here is, that He calls one out—Abram. The first dealing of God, when He had put the framework of the world to work in, is calling one out to work by. And there is another principle; when He does call him out, Abram is the father of the faithful. As we had a bad race in Adam, we have a race of God now. The Jews were the fleshly seed of Abram, but Abram is the head of God’s people at large. There is another thing, and that is what all hangs upon: election, calling, and promise, belong to this family, and to nothing else. God takes Abram out: this is election. He calls him, and the God of glory reveals Himself to him, giving him the promises. It is not church ground here, but it is grace, in election, calling, and promise. These are the first three things.
“Election” means choosing. And the calling is of those whom He has chosen; it is the making good their election. In “many are called but few are chosen,” the two are in opposition, not as here where they go together.
Then Abram is to go out by faith; the necessary consequence when he is called. There is trust in God, believing His word; and so we get upon a new footing altogether.
It is not the old world with just a testimony of Enoch, but God positively dealing in the new world. As the apostle reasons, the first thing after the world is settled is grace, then law after; but now we get into the direct dealings of God, which is an immensely important thing. There was no dealing of God before, except the flood, and this finishes that state. There was a revelation of important principles, sacrifice, and so on, but no dealings of His.
Abram did not go out at first, or rather he went out, but did not go in; he left his country and kindred, but not his father’s house. “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abraham’s wife; and they went forth from Ur of the Chaldees to go into the land of Canaan, and they came unto Haran and dwelt there.” Stephen says in the Acts, “after the death of his father,” whilst chapter 12:4, says, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken unto him, and Lot went with him, and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran, and Abram, and Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.” In Joshua 24:14, 15, you find the occasion on which God called Abram out—the worship of other gods. All the world had gone into idolatry, and the nations into which God had separated it.
The God of glory had revealed Himself to him, and it becomes quite a new scene. It is all on the earth of course: you get nothing of heaven here, but the land and earth.
I believe Abram went afterwards to heaven, but here it is, “I will make of thee a great nation” (not you shall go to heaven), “and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
In 2 Peter 1:3 it is by glory and virtue (it is the dative of the instrument there, not “to”). He says, There is My glory, and you must have the courage to cut your way through to it. In Abram’s case the God of glory appears to him; but what He calls Abram by is the land. In the second epistle of Peter the principle is the same exactly. Only, as we have Christ in the glory above to whom we are called, so Abram was called to go and possess the land. Clearly the force of the word “virtue” there is moral courage.
As soon as Abram had got to the place that God had called him to, he was obliged to look higher still, or did so however. Our calling and our place are identical; but with Abram, he went forth to go into the land of Canaan and came there, while God did not give him so much as to set his foot on. And so it was he had to look for something else: not that he ever gave up the land.
The city for which Abram looked stood very much as the glory in Peter practically, but his calling was to the land. Abram found he had to look for something else by being in the land where he had no city, no possession, and he had even to buy a grave in it—that was all. He had a tent, and he had an altar there, but no more. In that sense it is the picture of the life of faith. God says, “I will make of thee a great nation, and thou shalt be a blessing.” He puts him as a centre of blessing: “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee”; and then you get the thing that is insisted on in Galatians (chap. 3): “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” though we have nothing about the seed here stated: the great nation is the fleshly seed. Abram is the root of the tree of promise.
There is no promise to Abram and his seed as to our blessing; there was to be a seed of his like the stars for multitude, but this is not “one.” What you get in chapter 22 is, “because thou hast done this thing,” when Isaac was offered up, “and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.” The promise was given to Abram and confirmed to Christ the Seed: it was never given to Abram and the seed, but confirmed to the seed. The offering up of Isaac was the occasion, for then the promise was given in resurrection, and it is confirmed to the seed. You do get Abram and his seed when you come to the land. In Galatians 3 change the order of the words, “Now to Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed,” and he says, “If it be a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto,” etc. He insists that you cannot have the law along with Christ: “Now to Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed,” which is Christ; and the promise which was confirmed before of God to Christ, the law, which was 430 years after, cannot annul. When God has confirmed it, you cannot disannul it, nor can you add to it. You must take the promises as they come: this is true of man’s covenant, much more of God’s.
Another thing is, that the promise was absolutely without condition. The law brought them under conditions: there were two parties to it. But there are not two to this covenant— it is an absolute promise without any condition whatever. “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken unto him, and Lot went with him,” and so on. “And the Canaanite was then in the land, and the Lord appeared unto Abram and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land, and there builded he an altar unto the Lord who appeared unto him.” There we see another thing: not only God appeared to him and called him, but God reveals Himself to him in the place of promise; and this makes worship. He is in the place promised, though he had not got it yet; and there he builds an altar. Then he goes about to a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west and Hai on the east, and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. There we have Abram’s history as the child of faith and the father of the faithful. The rest of the chapter is his failure as the child of faith, and what comes of it. “And Abram journeyed going on still towards the south, and there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there.” He has not consulted the Lord; but he tells Sarai to say that she is his sister—a kind of picture of the way in which the church has denied her Lord.
I think I have found that typically viewed the woman represents a condition, and a man rather the action in the condition or conduct if you please.
The church is Christ’s wife, but has denied its real place and gone into Pharaoh’s house. But you will find another thing: the Lord delivers Abram and Sarah, but judges Pharaoh.
“And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south, and Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold, and he went on his journeying from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai, unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” Down in Egypt we have no altar, and no calling on the name of the Lord: God takes care of him, and watches over him; but Abram is no worshipper there, nor until he gets back. He goes down to Egypt, forced, as people say, by circumstances, not in the place of dependence or communion: it is the character of the position. You find the same thing in Jacob, only he came back to Shechem.
Where you get “all the families of the earth,” it applies to us, although it will be really made good in the millennium in another way. Galatians 3:8 says, “The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed: so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham,” and thus we come in.
The promise in somewhat different terms is given to Isaac and Jacob; but in Abraham is the root of the olive tree, and therefore all the great general principles are found. In Isaac the reason is, “Because Abraham obeyed my voice,” whilst in Jacob we see God’s dealings with Israel, that is, as to mere general principles. And so about Isaac you have very little given except that he is heir of all his father has, and he is brought up and takes a wife. In the case of Jacob after Sarah’s death, it is an earthly picture; there is no resurrection glory or the like.
Now you see Abram had been snared a little in going down into Egypt. It looks like providence and provision. But when he gets back, we come to another principle: a person that had been walking with Abram not by his own faith, but by Abram’s, is before us, and that kind of thing cannot go on for ever; that is Lot. And they could not dwell together in the land, so Abram gives up everything. Lot chooses the world; he is a believer, but he sees “the plain of Jordan that it was well watered everywhere before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as thou comest unto Zoar: then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan.” There Lot goes and settles and loses everything he has, because he was a believer. But in Abram’s case, the moment Lot has left him, God says to him, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever, and I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth,” and so on. It is very striking and definite.
Abram did in the famine slip a little into what was not the life of faith, but Lot went quite astray, and he vexed his righteous soul from day to day. Yet it was no thanks to him that his soul was vexed; if he had not gone there, he would not have been vexed. And he is no witness either. They tell him presently, “This fellow came into sojourn, and must needs be a judge.” He had no business to be a judge in Sodom; and he calls them his brethren. “I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly.” His whole place was wrong.
Then again, “Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.” There he is living the life of faith, sojourning, and building his altar where he goes.
Next, we see in Abram power over the world. Lot has been taken prisoner. The four kings beat the five and Lot was carried off. Abram arms his servants, comes upon the kings, gets the victory and Lot’s things back. But he will not take from a thread to a shoe latchet; he will have nothing to say to it at all. Here then we get Melchizedek, and a millennial picture. You have the heir of faith beating his enemies entirely, and then, looking at it as the accomplishment of victory, Melchizedek comes forth to meet him, and says, “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the Most High God which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand.” It is the final triumph in that way, looked at typically, with Christ as Melchizedek coming out to bless upward and bless downward: just what Christ will be in that day. Thus viewed Abram represents Israel, I have no doubt, in that day; but Christ will come with the armies of heaven. The history of Lot comes in here by the way, just shewing that the believer, if in the world (or with it rather), has no power against it.
Melchizedek’s priesthood is special; but we have had an altar before. There is no establishment of a family priesthood yet. Abram as the head was the natural person in the family to be priest, and they were all living in families: whoever was head would offer. Abel was not the head of a family, but he offered as Noah did; and Melchizedek also.
Here we have immense principles: a person justified by faith, called out from the world, having no altar while in Egypt, and, when back in the land, no possession, but only a tent, and with that an altar—great principles of the life of faith; and in chapter 14 a typical expression of what has yet to come on earth, a royal priest at once in Melchizedek.
In chapter 15 we find Israel. There is the sacrifice in full first, and then the covenant of Jehovah with Abram, and the communication of special features in Israel’s history, the Canaanitish nations to be judged, and limits of the land, besides the prophecy of the deliverance from Egypt. “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge, and afterwards shall they come out with great substance; and thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace, thou shalt be buried in a good old age; but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”
We may notice that all that comes out to Abram after Lot is separated is, I will give thee the land, and thy seed shall be innumerable. Next, in chapter 15, after Lot takes the world, and Abram gives up everything, he then gets the promise a great deal clearer. Abram, having refused the world, brings in God saying, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” He had in God the two things he would not take from the world. “I am thy reward,” says God; and then Abram says, “What wilt thou give me?” Whatever you think of the request, still the Lord allowed and bore with it, answering him most graciously; just as Peter was the occasion for the Lord to bring out blessed revelations, though Peter was not very brilliant in some respects.
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.” There you find the great principle of God’s ways, stepping in chapter 15 right into Israel’s position by faith and death. Abraham has no heir. God says his seed shall be as the stars of heaven; it is a numerous seed; and the land again, but more follows. And he gets it all by faith, and by faith righteousness too.
It will be seen as to faith, if one go through carefully all the uses of the Greek word, that with the dative in the New Testament it is believing in a person, and eis or en gives the ground of confidence. In the case before us faith is counted to Abram for righteousness; it is the general broad fact that it is imputed or reckoned.
But the ministration of imputed righteousness is a monstrous proposition. If you take it as the value of something imputed, it is the value of faith—just the way Roman Catholics take it. If not so, you must take it that God has counted righteousness because of it, which is the principle; but if you try to make it so much made up and imputed, you must make it faith that is imputed. Abel is counted righteous according to the value of his gift. Romanists say that faith is counted for righteousness, but charity is greater still—man’s love, not the love of God in Christ.
There was practice, of course, but there was no righteousness revealed in the Old Testament. It was prophesied of, but it is now revealed in the gospel. All that is stated in the end of Romans 3 is “the forbearance of God”; and if you ask why He did forbear with these person’s faults, I can tell now, because it is all revealed.
Again, now there is another character that they had not, and that is, “accepted in the Beloved”; and more, as we may learn in the Epistle to the Ephesians, etc.
This is the first time faith is mentioned, though no doubt it was there before, as Hebrews tells us; but it is the first time it is brought out. And then, too, I find death—God binding Himself by death. We know by Jeremiah, and other means, that death was used to ratify a covenant. So here God binds Himself by bringing in death, but the power of death passes, in a sense, on Abram; it is when a deep sleep comes upon him that he gets the blessing. I see a peculiar character here, because God comes in as by a smoking furnace and a burning lamp. That is, it is light that shines, and also a furnace that burns and consumes the dross, just as we talk of a fiery furnace. Now will God take His place. He tells Abram about his seed, and signifies that He will lead them by a lamp, and purify them by fire. Abram came under a deep sleep, and a horror of great darkness fell upon him. That is, he came under the power of death as to his own condition; it was not actual death, of course, but the shadow of it—the type. So we must die with Him. Death must pass upon any flesh in order to inherit the promises.
He says here, “In the fourth generation they shall come hither again,” while in Exodus 12:40 they sojourned in Egypt 430 years; yet Galatians says the law in the wilderness was 430 years after the promise.
But Exodus does not say in Egypt only, but their sojourning was 430 years; the Samaritan Pentateuch and others give “in Canaan and in Egypt.” From the promise to their going down into Egypt was exactly half the time. The words in verse 13, “shall afflict them four hundred years,” is a general statement in this place. Egypt is the great thing. And the “come hither again” refers to the land clearly.
Verse 12 may illustrate “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” Practically it is the same thing, though here it is the general principle, and more like Romans 6. It is death passed upon him. Flesh (as such, I mean) could not inherit a promise; nor even will Israel in the millennium, except through death and resurrection.
The fowls, in coming down, came to defile it, if possible— that is, the activity of life. It is a mystical scene. Abram keeps it all pure and clean. The broad fact is to keep the sacrifice untouched, the foundation of everything. It was the valley of the shadow of death Abram had to go through.
We have had the seed promised in a general way; and now Abram wants to get it according to his own will in the flesh, and he takes Hagar (chap. 16). Ishmael is “he that is born after the flesh,” which is really of the law, an attempt to get the heir on legal ground, and take the promises. It was an attempt to get the heir by the flesh, which all came to misery and confusion. Hagar gets turned out, that is, the old covenant.
But when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and there was no hope of seed naturally—his body was now dead— God reveals Himself by His name to him, “I am the Almighty God.” He had never given His name to him before, but now He gives it, taking up in it the character of the dispensation, and then brings in Christ later on. God had reserved Himself, so to speak. We have not Christ in this scene, but the one who is the figure of Christ comes afterwards. God Almighty, El-Shaddai, is the name by which God appeared to the patriarch, the first of His three names—Almighty, Jehovah,-and Father. We were speaking of them before.
Chapter 16 is a kind of parenthesis. Abram has got a promise, and tries now to make it good independently of God. But when Abram is set aside, his body now dead at ninety-nine years old, God reveals Himself, and says, I am going to give you a numerous seed, and you must circumcise them, and so on. That is, now that you are viewed as dead, I can do something with you.
God’s name is Almighty; but He waits until Abram was virtually dead, and then He has him circumcised, which was the seal of the covenant he had got. Then he gets the promise of the seed, personal seed, really Christ. “And I will bless her [Sarah], and give thee a son also of her.” Abraham falls on his face and laughs, “and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety-nine years old, bear?”
Abraham’s was the laughter of joy, I believe; but Sarah was ashamed of her laughing, because it was unbelief. And the getting a promise of a seed of his own makes Abraham think of Ishmael, that he might live before God.
Next Jehovah comes with the two angels (chap. 18). The world must be judged where Lot is, and where, in fact, the fleshly seed is. The promise of the seed is renewed. Abraham has intercourse with the Lord, hearing the promise of the seed come into this world to be heir of the world: so the apostle says. Then in what follows is the confirmation of the promise, God visiting Abraham, and the promise is immediate of Isaac— of his appearing; and an immediate promise that God will return at the time of year. Then Abraham has communion with Jehovah at the top of the mountain, while the others, the angels, go down to judge the world.
We have the world and Israel in Sodom and Lot, while Abraham looks down upon it all. He is in intercourse with God, and God is there talking with Abraham about what He is going to do with the world. Abraham is called the friend of God, and here it is seen. I talk about my business and what has to be done with my friend, but not of what T am going to do for him until it is all arranged. God does not tell Abraham what He is going to do with Abraham. But the person who has the seed promised completely and immediately coming in is in full intercourse with God about what He is going to do with other people.
It is beautiful to see the Lord does not judge Sodom until it has all got so bad that there were not even ten righteous persons there. If there had been ten, God would have spared the cities. Abraham goes on interceding until this is shewn out.
The Lord was there incognito, as we say, until the tent scene is over and the angels are gone, and then it is all open. While in the tent, Abraham addresses Him with full deference, but the Lord does not come out with the secret until He gets alone with him. Read chapter 18:1-5. Abraham says, My lord, not My lords; he has perfect consciousness that One is superior, and his faith evidently sees through it all. In verses 10, 14, it is, “I will return”; in verse 17, “Shall I hide? “and so on. “And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom, but Abraham stood yet before the Lord “(v. 22). He sends on these two angels, and we find them at Sodom directly afterwards. Then Abraham calls Him “the Judge of all the earth.” He addresses Him as Adonay (in verses 3, 27, 30, 31, 32), but it is Jehovah. It may be the administering power; but Abraham sees who the administrator is. I believe myself that all the appearances in the Old Testament are the Son’s.
If Abraham goes as far as he dares, God judges the whole thing, but spares the righteous. He was in the church’s place, as Lot in the Jew’s place was saved so as by fire. So Noah was in the Jew’s place, but Enoch gives the church’s place in the earlier history.
In what follows we see the origin of the people of the land whom the Israelites were not allowed to destroy—Moab and Ammon.
It is striking here to notice the incapacity for anything definite in unbelief. The very place where Abraham was talking with Jehovah, Lot had looked at as most barren and desolate; but when he sees the cities of the plain burning, he would like to go to the mountain, the place of faith, though first, he says he cannot go there. When in the world, you are afraid of God’s judgment there; and so is Lot, till at length he slips off to the mountain, the place of faith, obliged to get there at last.
In chapter 21 Abraham is seen planting a grove (a kind of boundary of the land, as I suppose), and there we hear of “the everlasting God,” because God was there, the One that secures the land for ever to His people. Jehovah is the everlasting God, and when He gives a promise, He is sure to make it good at the end. I believe the everlasting gospel is the Seed of the woman that shall bruise the serpent’s head, that is, the declaration that the Lord shall destroy with power when He comes in judgment. It is the announcement that the hour of His judgment is come, the unchanging good news right from the beginning and onward. From the first Christ was to bruise the serpent’s head. The Christian has the special relationship—union as associated with Him who is going to bruise the serpent’s head—being thus identified with the King of the kingdom.
As we come to a break now, it may be well to run over the chief great principles of what has been before us. Genesis is an important book in this way, that it contains the principles from which all start; a great deal of instruction as to ways and life and so on comes afterwards, but here is the framework of the thing. First, there is creation itself; this seems very simple, but in a way it is not, for it is only by faith we know it. None of the heathen knew it, and infidelity now is going back to their darkness, for infidelity is but modern heathenism. In John’s Gospel we go before all that even, for we can say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him.” It goes back beyond creation.
As soon as the fact of creation is set out in chapter 1, you see the world as the sphere in which God is going to put man, and in which all moral relationships are to be brought out: here stands first the responsible man; then his naming the animals; then his wife is given (chap. 2). There is thus the creation of this world and of what is in it, creatures and so on, and man, as a centre and lord of it, in God’s image, the world fashioned for the purpose, and the rest of God, which man never entered into. Then follow the relationships in which God set man, to Himself, to the inferior creatures, and to his wife (in which the church is typified). Next man’s responsibility is tried by temptation, and we see his utter failure, but the judgment on Satan, the serpent, with a promise to the Seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent’s head (chap. 3). But the first manls driven out from God, and then he becomes the head of a fallen race, though Eve hopes to get the promise in the flesh, saying that she had got a man from Jehovah. Alas! man completes sin by killing his brother, and the world is set up without God; but God gives another and an appointed seed, Seth (when men called on the name of Jehovah), in lieu of the slayer and the slain. Christ was slain; the world slew Him; but He is coming again in glory; this is what all that typifies (chap. 4). Then comes the genealogy of the race of Seth, and one walks with God who is transformed and taken away to heaven (chap. 5). Last comes the total corruption and wickedness of man up to the flood, with Noah preserved through it, man and animals too (chaps. 6-8). This closes the history of the first world. Next Noah founds the relationships of the new world upon sacrifice; but he fails himself entirely: and, having given the prophecy of the world’s establishment in his three sons, his history closes. God gives a promise not to bring in a flood any more, but there is no great principle in this that I know of. Government was set up to restrain; but this fails, and it closes Noah’s history (chap. 9).
Then we see the settling out of the world in nations from the three sons of Noah (chap. 10). There is the world in nations and families, and this happening by the judgment of God upon their setting themselves up to be independent of God at Babel, making themselves a Shem or name. Then we see Abram brought in by Shem’s genealogy, which is merely a peg to hang it on, as it were (chap. n). But he is an elect one, called out, and the promise is given him to be the head of God’s race in the earth. Then he, having followed the calling of God, is in the place of promise, a stranger and a worshipper: through pressure of circumstances he gets out of that place, loses his worship, gets into the power of the world, but is delivered out of it (chap. 12). We have then his entire abnegation as to the world, and a full revelation of the sphere of promise, or subject of promise (chap. 13). Then we see Abram’s victory over the world, and the revelation of Melchizedek as priest, when the victorious kings are defeated (chap. 14). Thus millennial blessedness is brought in, and this closes that part of the history, when we have come to the royal priest blessing Israel, and God the possessor of heaven and earth. The broad abstract principles finish with chapter 14.
Then in chapter 15 we see righteousness connected with faith for the first time, and also the promise of the seed, a covenant founded on death, with details of the land. Then in chapter 16 we see a fleshly attempt to have the seed in the flesh. But in chapter 17 grace acts. God reveals Himself by His dispensational name to Abram, giving him promise of the seed, and the seal of circumcision on it. “A father of many nations have I made thee.” Confirmation is given, followed by Abraham on high in communion with God, and when the world is to be judged, he is a prophet interceding inside with God. Peter’s comment on this is, “the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” This is down below. So we have Enoch, the heavenly man, and Noah, the earthly remnant; now we have Abraham the heavenly man, and Lot the earthly remnant. This is a second witness.
Now in chapter 20, though I have a little more difficulty in my own mind about it, Abraham is seen failing, in respect of those that were strictly the vessel of promise, to Abimelech who was within the land. The Philistines have always that character, it would seem, those who were professedly within. It is failure before those who are outwardly in the place of promise, the denial of the truth of the church of God. Abraham says, “she is my sister,” and not my wife. It is only in David’s time that the Philistines were rightly dealt with and put down ultimately.
As Lot by going to Zoar saves himself in a little city, being afraid to go to the place of faith; so we have in chapter 20 a rebuke put upon Abraham in respect of Sarah, the vessel of promise. The world knows very well that the church ought to be for the Lord.
In the next chapter (21) the son of promise is born, and legalism, or the legal covenant, with the child of flesh is cast out, that is, Hagar and Ishmael; now Abimelech, or the Philistine, who is in the place of promise, the son being born, becomes subservient to Abraham. The borders of the land are given. Abraham figuratively takes possession of the land of promise, and worships. He plants a grove too—the only time he ever does so. He was only in a tent before; now he plants a grove, which was Abraham’s act, but had specific reference to the seed and taking possession of the land.
After chapter 14 is the place of the break really, because there we get to the millennium; then come the details in connection with Abraham’s conduct and the promise of the seed.
Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac at Mount Moriah begins a new series (chap. 22), which gives us thereon the promise confirmed to the one Seed, not to the numerous seed, but the promise of blessing to all nations (in chapter 12) confirmed to the Seed; and this after death and resurrection, which furnishes a completely new principle. Abraham has given up the promises according to life here, and taken them in resurrection, “accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure,” Heb. 11. All was taken up in resurrection, founded upon sacrifice to God.
Then in chapter 23, we see the old vessel of promise dies. Sarah is not the church now in any sense, but the Jews; the vessel dies, that is, Israel is really set aside.
Isaac being the heir of everything, Abraham sends down what represents the Holy Ghost—Eliezer—to get a wife for his risen son. Isaac is on no account to go back to the old land; he represents the risen Christ. So Abraham sends down his chief servant to get a wife out of the place of his own family for the heir of promise. Eliezer confers gifts on her, and brings her out, all things being given to the son and heir. Abraham sends his other sons away, but Isaac’s wife is brought into the place of the vessel of promise, Sarah’s tent. This is all the history of Isaac (chap. 24).
The Jews were the vessel of promise, and now the church is become so.
When we come to Isaac old and blind, the history leans really on Jacob. We have done with all the first great principles of faith, and the risen one, Isaac, and we find the Jewish history in Jacob. It is the history of Christ, in a way, all through, but the history, of the heir in connection with the earthly promises; whereas Isaac was figurative of the heavenly ones. Jacob gets a wife in Padan-aram, the house of Bethuel, his mother’s father, but Abraham tells Eliezer, “Beware thou, that thou bring not my son thither again.”
Then we get Jacob, who is a poor sample anyhow, but who values the promise, though for the earth, while Esau does not, but forfeits his birthright. It is by grace Jacob comes in, because he had no title; Esau had title, but in the election of grace the elder was to serve the younger. In point of fact it comes about by the profanity of Esau, while Jacob does value it, though the means by which he got it were evil.
That is a great lesson. We now have to do with the means. God secures the result, and all we have to consider is the right means. Isaac could have crossed his hands, or in many a way have acted under God’s control, just as Jacob did afterwards with his own grandchildren, without his going and listening to his mother, and deceiving. Then we have the renewal of the promise to Isaac; at the same time he is forbidden to go down into Egypt. He has never anything to say to the world in his Isaac character. He is not to go into it himself, but his wife is to come out of it. Alas! he follows his father’s example, and denies his wife, not in Egypt, but in the place of the Philistines. It was his failing in the place of promise. I think you get Isaac upon lower ground altogether: he digs up again the wells his father first dug, which the Philistines had stopped, and then surrenders them. You get decay, besides denying his wife; but when he comes into the place which God had given as a limit, to Beersheba—there they have to own him when he is within his limits. Before, it was a contention with the spirit of the world where he was, and he has to yield.
Now we get Esau and Jacob, and Jacob gets the blessing as he got the birthright, still by deceit. As we saw before, Jacob goes down to get his wife himself. I have no doubt that Leah represents the Gentiles, and Rachel the Jews. And we are down upon the earth, we find Jacob looking for blessing here, and he promises tithes (chap. 28:22). And God does take care of him, but this is not enough. He goes acting with duplicity towards man. It is worse than earthly ground indeed here, though God still takes care of him.
If Jacob at all represents the Lord here, it is not in his conduct. He loves Rachel, who represents the Jews, but he gets Leah instead of Rachel, and is there paid in his own coin. At the present time Gentiles are being blessed instead of Jews. God blesses Leah, but then you must mark all the wretched course of the low state of faith. Laban cheats him, and he cheats Laban. There was faith in a sense, but faith going through a thoroughly carnal way to get the blessing. Then Jacob runs away. God does take care of him, and brings him back to the land, as He will bring back Israel. After he had been a slave twenty-one years, He brings him back with his children. You get Mizpah, or Jegar-sahadutha, or Galeed, and much instruction in it all, for the Lord takes care of the believer; but where he walks in this low carnal way he is chastened through and through; twenty-one years a slave-cheat, and is cheated; he believed, and got to be believed, but his means were carnal, and it was discipline in every possible way, because he walked carnally. Then Esau is coming, and poor Jacob again lies, sends all the troops before him, flocks and so on; God sends two hosts of angels to meet him; but how little of real faith! He sees God’s hand, and says, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which thou hast shewed unto thy servant: for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.”
You see the arrangements; you see all the weakness of this carnal system, though he did trust God in the main. It was all a low kind of life. God does not allow Esau to touch him, yet he says, I cannot overdrive the cattle a day or they will all die, “let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant, and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me, and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord to Seir.” Yet he had not the most distant idea of going to Seir. Then having sent away the cattle he remains behind (chap. 32:23, 24). “Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled a man with him until the break of day.” God, who would not allow anybody to touch him, takes him in hand Himself, wrestles with him, gives him grace to overcome, but will not reveal Himself, and makes Jacob halt all his life. It is all discipline, though there is blessing. Jacob gets blessing because he believed in the promise.
It is very hard in Jacob’s story not to get into detail. You get a great deal more experience in one who is walking badly than in one who is walking well; you have not a bit of all this in Abraham. But it always is so: in ups and downs is a great deal more of what you call experience, if not walking well. The other’s life is much simpler. All was given in a few words in Enoch’s case: “He walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Mark the difference again between Abraham and this: Abraham is up on high interceding with God for others, and Jacob down at the brook wrestling for himself. Jacob was a prince with God, and prevailed; but it was God wrestling with him and would not reveal Himself. Abraham intercedes for others and wrestles for nothing for himself; whereas Jacob has to contend for himself to get the blessing. He did get the blessing, for there was power through grace. Then another thing: he goes and builds an altar, making another blunder, buys a piece of land, and so on. Abraham bought a sepulchre: that was all. Jacob settles in the place: then these wicked people propose to marry and go on together. The altar he built he called El-elohe- Israel, God the God of Israel, with difference from his former altar. God had given him strength to prevail, but He did not reveal Himself to him; there was power given in the conflict, but no revelation of God. And then come all the affairs of Dinah and Simeon, and so on, all bad together; whereon God says to him, Do you go up to Bethel: this was where he started from.
God says, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.” The moment God says so, out comes what Jacob knew all the time he had never done with: there was a quantity of idols in the house, and now he thinks of it. It is not that he did not know of it, for he did; but there is no real putting away of idols until we get into the presence of God. Observe, when the idols are buried, the first thing God did was to tell him His name. He did not before, but now that is the first thing: “God appeared unto him, and said unto him, I am God Almighty,” the name He had given Himself to Abraham. And then, though the intercourse was short, and there was no intercession for others, God went up from him just as He did from Abraham. You do not get here as much bright blessing, but God does reveal Himself now and talks with Jacob and does not wrestle with him.
This brings us back to the history of Israel. Jacob goes through humbling discipline, and at last God is revealed to him; then in Rachel’s dying who represents Israel (she had borne Joseph, figure of Christ) we have Benjamin, that is, Christ going to the right hand of God. Rachel called him Benomi, son of my afflictions; but his father called him Benjamin, son of my right hand. When this man was born, then Israel (Rachel) was cut off, but his father takes him as son of the right hand of God. Israel is ended in that character entirely.
Next, the world is seen set up in power before God’s people are (that is, Esau): no want of kings and dukes there. That closes the history of Jacob really.
Now we have the history of Joseph, that is, in the main. His brothers, Jacob’s sons, were a good-for-nothing set as ever were; and Joseph with all his dreams, interpreting, gives us “the wisdom of God,” but himself a despised one. Soon after we get him manifested as the “power of God.” He is a distinct figure of Christ, rejected by his brethren, sold to the Gentiles; he shews himself there, the patient godly one and having the wisdom of God, while he is the delight of his father too; and then he is exalted to the right hand of power.
It is a well-known history. Everything in the world (Egypt) is ruled by him, and in that character he receives back his repentant brethren, and puts them into the first place in the world; that is, Israel. In the midst of all that you get Judah going on with wickedness in chapter 38: really it is the genealogy of the Lord Himself in flesh. And that is the whole history until you come to Jacob going down to Egypt, and that type closes (never run one type into another), and there he dwells in the land of Goshen. Still Jacob looks to the land as the place of inheritance to be buried there; and, remark, Joseph becomes the first-born, the heir: the birthright is his. It is Christ in that character. It is said so in terms in i Chronicles 5, that the birthright was Joseph’s.
In chapter 48 Jacob crosses his hands to put the sons of Joseph rightly in their place; as in chapter 47 you see how he could bless Pharaoh, though without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. Thus Jacob blesses the highest king of the earth in that day.
Then you find the blessing of the children of Israel, and I think that of Jacob is a general view of Israel. The blessing of Moses is much more historical. This is general, and down to Dan; with the exception of Zebulon, you get present blessing. The place of strength and power was in Judah: though it goes on after all with failure, Judah was in the place of power, and that is judgment in one shape or another; and then in Dan you find the power of evil. Outwardly Dan lost his place and had no place. I suppose the apostasy is connected with it. The Jews had a tradition that Antichrist will be of his tribe.
All is failure in Israel until you come to “I have waited for thy salvation, O Jehovah.”
Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are corrupt and violent; Judah is connected with God’s purposes as to the royal stock; Zebulon a haven of ships, and Issachar a strong ass burdened, are linked with prosperity in commerce with the nations, or Gentiles; then Dan is to judge his people. Thus when Israel joins with the Gentiles in that way (Zebulon and Issachar), you get the serpent brought in; and then Gad is overcome, but overcomes at last; and then all is power and blessing after that in Asher and Naphtali, in Benjamin and Joseph.
It is the history of the tribes of Israel divided into two parts. All is failure first, and then abundant blessing.
At the end (chap. 50), whatever power and magnificence Joseph had, his heart is in Israel; and he waits for his bones to be taken up when they should go back to the land, for they had buried Jacob in the land, and he passes in faith over the Egyptian bondage and looks on to their return to Canaan.