« PreviousContinue »
obedience, he might have been the happy progenitor of an immortal race, although he rendered himself unworthy of the honour, by having been subdued in the conflict, thus upon Abraham was enjoined a command, apparently more severe and difficult, yet he was found faithful; and upon him was conferred the honour of being the progenitor of the second Adam.
Isaac and Jacob also kept themselves uncontaminated by the profligacies and idolatrous rites of their surrounding neighbours. They manifested a zeal for the worship and service of the true God, and they were associated with their father Abraham in the patriarchal honours.
The chastity of Joseph, the integrity of his moral principles, and his piety towards God, in scenes the most trying and the most distressing, were introductory to the subsequent eminence of his station; which enabled him to save the lives of multitudes, during several years of famine, and to become a blessing and consolation to his aged parent, with his numerous family.
On the other hand, the perverse obstinacy of Pharoah, in not permitting the children of Israel to depart, after the repeated applications of Moses, supported by the manifestations of a miraculous power, was the occasion of the various calamities inflicted. upon the Egyptians; and
the final destruction of himself and his numerous hosts in the Red sea.
When the discouraging reports made by the Spies, which represented the conquest of the country as impracticable, excited a spirit of rebellion among the people, who formed plans of revolt, saying one to another, "let us make a captain and let us return unto Egypt," we are told that the Almighty was incensed against the rebellious race; and as a punishment for their unbelief not an individual of them was permitted to enter the promised land, excepting Caleb, and Joshua their subsequent leader, "Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt, and in the wilderness, have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice, surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers; neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: but my servant Caleb, because he hath another spirit with him, and hath followed ine fully; him will I bring into the land, whereinto he went, and his seed shall possess it."
The destruction of three thousand men, who compelled Aaron to make a golden calf, to go before them in the absence of Moses, and the t plague which followed; the destruction of
Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire, although they were the sons of Aaron; the destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with their dependants, for open rebellion against the authority of Moses, in which not less than "two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, fanious in the congregation, men of renown," were concerned; and other acts of a similar nature, inflicted at different periods, were necessary manifestations how dangerous it is to disobey the commands of God.
Even Moses, the chosen servant, by one act which displeased the Lord, was not permitted to enter that Land, to the borders of which he had conducted the Israelites with such indefatigable zeal. He who had sustained so many conflicts with a perverse nation, and surmounted so many difficulties, in a moment of vanity, arrogated to himself a power independent of the Being in whose name he was appointed to act; and this had a tendency to withdraw their confidence in their sovereign ruler. When commanded to smite the rock in the desert of Zin, “Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch ye water out of this rock?" "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, because ye believe me not to sanctify me in the
eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which gave them."
To the various abominations committed and sanctioned, by that powerful and splendid sovereign Solomon, is ascribed the rending of the nation into two divisions, the total separation of the ten tribes from the house of Israel, and the shameful civil wars which ensued. The idolatrous practices commenced by Jeroboam, who led the revolt against the successor to Solomon, continued and increased by a quick succession of profligate kings, are declared to have occasioned the total destruction of this revolting branch, by their being carried captive into Assyria, and dispersed among the nations.
In relating the numerous events which succeeded to each other, during the space of several centuries, from the first invasion of the inhabitants of Canaan by Joshua, to the Babylonish captivity, one grand object of the sacred history is, to evince that every instance of success obtained by the descendants of Abraham over their numerous and powerful adversaries;―every instance of their defeat ;-all the seasons of their national prosperity;-all their national calami
ties, were perfectly correspondent, either to the degrees of their faith and obedience to the divine commands, or to their unbelief and disobedience. While they preserved themselves secure from being corrupted by the maxims and examples of the idolatrous nations, they were triumphant; nor did the largest disproportion in their numbers, prove an impediment to victory. Their deviations were punished in an xeemplary manner but to repent of their folly was to be replaced under the divine protection.
This subject constitutes so essential a branch of the Jewish history, that it will be resumed in a future section.
It is obvious, from several parts of their history, that it was not enjoined upon the Israelites, in the character of warriors, to deviate from those laws of war which were admitted as just and reasonable, through every part of the world. These san guinary laws allowed, in many cases, of the total extirpation of the conquered countries, if interest or convenience demanded, or a spirit of revenge prompted to the execution. The most severe punishments of retaliation, were not considered as acts of cruelty, but acts of military justice. Every thing dear to Man, wives, children, every species of property, were at the sole