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SUMMARIES OF THE BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
GENESIS. The Beginning of the inhabited world in man's epoch. I. The Creation, Fall, and antediluvian history of man, including the First Covenant. II. The Deluge, Second Covenant with Noah, re-peopling of the earth; the Dispersion, and confusion of language. III. The Call and history of Abraham and his sons, to the third generation, ending with the death of Joseph (2,369, or, according to some, 3,619 years). The general subject of the book is the creation, and decline of humanity through sin, and its capability to be reclaimed by communion with God its Maker. Hope is kept alive and faith engendered by a chosen few, who under obedience to God become heirs to promised blessings, which are continually postponed, with mercy to those who are sinful, and a deepening of faith in those who are righteous.
EXODUS.The Going out or Departure of the chosen people—descendants of Abraham—from bondage in Egypt to a promised land, illustrating, in the history of a tribe, the general dealings of God with His people, and their pilgrimage through temporal life in a probationary state. There is declension, both moral, political, and religious, till the cry of the degenerate, in its conscious misery, is raised to heaven, when Divine help appears, working supernaturally through human means, till deliverance is effected by "shedding of blood," the Passover Lamb being typical of the redeeming blood of the promised Saviour. In brief, the book gives a sketch of the early history of Israel as a nation—(1) enslaved, (2) redeemed, and (3) set apart, through the blending of its religious and political life, and consecrated to the service of God. The Code of Moral and Civil Law, promulgated in this book, has been the foundation of all laws in civilised States, the former being unalterable, because it springs from the natural law engraved in the human heart
It embraces a period of 215, or 400, years, and includes events from the birth of Moses to the erection of the tabernacle. The chief of these are:—the early life of Moses, and his call to be the Prophet of Israel; the ten plagues, and deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery; the institution of the Passover, and dedication of every firstborn male to God's service; the passage of the Red Sea; miraculous food and drink; victory, by means of prayer, over Amalek; the promulgation of the Moral Law; instructions for making the tabernacle, ark, and other accessories of worship, with the consecration of the family of Aaron to the priesthood, and of their vestments; the stricter obligation of the sabbath, and punishment for making a visible representation of the Deity (e.g. the golden calf).
LEVITICUS.The book of laws and ceremonies regulating the service of the sanctuary by the sacred tribe (Levi), as substitutes for the firstborn male of each family, its natural priest. It is closely connected with Exodus at its beginning, and with Numbers at its close; for, while the order for consecration of priests is given in the former, the ceremony itself is recorded in Leviticus; and the exemption of the Levites from military service, and their special functions, are given in Numbers. But it has a distinctive character in the general exclusion from it of historical narrative (the exceptions being the Consecration of Priests, Death of Nadab and Abihu, Stoning of the Blasphemer). It contains the history of only one month. Its contents are:—1. Laws for the Altar (to the people and the priests). 2 Consecration of Priests, and death of those offering unbidden incense. 3. Laws of clean and unclean food. 4. Purifications. 5. Leprosy. 6. Day of Atonement. 7. Slaughter of animals. 8. Unlawful marriages and lusts. 9. Precepts on duties of the people and holiness of the priests. 10. Victims for the Altar. 11. Convocation days. 12. Weekly offerings of oil and bread. 13. Punishment of blasphemer. 14. Sabbatical year and Jubilee. 15. Promises and warnings. 16. Vows.
Offerings. The general name korbân is equivalent to oblation, including everything given to the service of God, e.g. firstfruits, tithes, contributions to the maintenance of the sanctuary, priests, worship, and all kinds of sacrifices.
Offerings for the Altar were animal (1. Burnt-offerings, 2. Peace-offerings, 3. Sin-offerings) and vegetable (1. Meat and drink-offerings for the great altar in the Court, 2. Incense and meat-offerings for the altar in the Holy Place). Every burnt-offering and peace-offering was accompanied by a meat-offering and drink-offering, in proportion to the victim, thus:—
|With a bullock||3/10 ephah.||1/2 hin.||1/2 hin.|
|With a ram||2/10 "||1/3 "||1/3 "|
|With a sheep or goat||1/10 "||1/4 "||1/4 "|
These offerings were (1) Public sacrifices, at the cost and on behalf of the "whole congregation" (e.g. daily morning and evening sacrifices, and those on festivals); (2) Private sacrifices, enjoined by law on particular occasions, or by voluntary devotion of the worshipper—as thank-offerings. Besides these, there were special sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, Passover, &c. A trespass-offering was a sin-offering, accompanied by a pecuniary fine.
Feasts. The weekly festival was the sabbath (commemorating rest from creation, and deliverance from bondage in Egypt); the monthly festival was the day of the new moon, on which rest was not enjoined, but additional services. The new moon of the seventh month Tisri (October), or Feast of Trumpets, began the civil year, and that of Abib (March) the ecclesiastical year. The great festivals were (1) Passover, on the eve of the 14th of Abib, which lasted to the 21st; (2) Pentecost (the fiftieth day after), or feast of weeks, on completion of the harvest; (3) Tabernacles, from the 15th to 23rd of Tisri, commemorating the ingathering of all fruits. The people lived for a week in booths, to remind them of their desert wanderings. The last day was "the great day" (John vii. 37). This feast was preceded by the Day of Atonement. Every seventh year was sabbatic, when the land had rest. Every fiftieth was a jubilee, when slaves were freed, land sold reverted to its original owner, and mortgages were cancelled.
To these were added Purim, 14th or 15th of Adar (March), in remembrance of the deliverance by Esther; and the Dedication of the Second Temple (December 25).
Fasts were the Day of Atonement (10th of Tisri), the Siege of Jerusalem (Dec. 23), Capture of the city (June 25), Burning of the Temple (about July 15), Complete devastation (September 15).
NUMBERS. This book is so named from the two numberings of the people, at the beginning and end of the wanderings. It relates the history from the completion of the Law-giving, "the first day of the second month of the second year" of the Exodus, to the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year; i.e. a period of thirty-eight years, three months. Its contents are: (1) The breaking up of the encampment at Sinai; 13 arrangement of the army, and the service of the priestly tribe, with an inventory of their charge; the parting service and blessing. (2) The march upon Canaan, and its repulse. (3) Rebellions; confirmation of Moses and Aaron in authority; condemnation of the people to death in the wilderness. (4) Various events in the forty years' wandering. (5) Events of the last year, e.g. deaths of Miriam and Aaron; Balaam's mission; Moabite corruption; laws of inheritance, and of certain sacrifices, solemnities, and vows; summary of journeys; boundaries of Canaan, and Levitical cities.
DEUTERONOMY, the repetition of the Law, consists mainly of three addresses by Moses to the people who had been born in the wilderness, and had not heard the original promulgation of the Law. To these are added some of the final acts and words of the lawgiver, viz. the appointment of his successor, his funeral ode, and final blessing, to which was appended (probably by Joshua) the account of his death.
The first address is introductory, reminding the people of their deliverance from bondage, of God's guidance and protection in their wanderings, and their frequent ingratitude, closing with a warning from the past, and an exhortation to obedience in the future, so as to secure the inheritance now within reach. The second is a practical exposition of the whole Law, beginning with the Ten Commandments, more particularly applying the precepts of the First Table; followed by the enforcement of particular regulations in three main groups, viz. (1) laws concerning religion; (2) concerning administration of justice; (3) concerning private and social rights. The third address is the solemn renewal of the covenant, with an impressive recital of the blessings upon observance, and the curses on neglect of the Law. The delivery of these speeches, of the song, and final benediction, together with the closing scene of Moses' life, could not have occupied more than ten days (the first ten of the eleventh month of the fortieth year). Their aim is that of a solemn exhortation, their style earnest, impressive, and heart-stirring, with a review of the past, and a glowing appeal to the future career open before his hearers on the other side of the Jordan. Moses vividly pourtrays to those who had not seen it the divine delivery of the Law at Sinai. He recalls much that had been forgotten, or remained in abeyance from want of opportunity to exercise it in the wilderness; but all of which would now be the code of laws under which, as a settled people, they must be governed. His hearers are only partially conversant with the Law; hence some things are assumed, others are dealt with in minute detail, and even supplemented by new regulations to complete the Mosaic system (chaps, xii.—xxvi.). These later civil institutions are promulgated by God's command, and so have the same Divine sanction as those relating to religious worship. In this book Moses comes forth as a prophet, enunciating some of the most notable predictions in the Old Testament. Hence our Lord's quotations from the Law are taken from Deuteronomy.
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