THERE can be no doubt that we are justified in taking the
first five books of the Bible as forming a group by themselves.
The division of the Old Testament Scriptures into the Law, the Prophets (former and latter) and the Hagiographa or Kethubhim, (the Sacred Writings) has always been recognized and is the division implied by our Lord Himself where He says: "That all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me" (Luke 24: 44); the "Psalms" here including the other poetical books. There can be no question either that these first five books were written by Moses. This does not raise the question of whether other writings more or less connected may have been used by him, for instance in the book of Genesis; but we have evidently there, as a continuous narrative with a distinct object, from the first chapter to the close of the book, that which is the product of one inspired person, whatever material he may have used in the preparation of his work; just as an author now may quote largely and use much material gathered by others in the preparation of a work which is distinctly his own. The subject, however, of the Mosaic authorship and structure of Genesis would come up in a work devoted more especially to that book. It must suffice us here to point out that our Lord evidently considered the first five books of the Bible as the inspired product of Moses. "He wrote of Me." "If ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words ?"(John 5)
I. The Pentateuch as Introductory to the Scriptures as a Whole
We could not think of putting the Pentateuch in any other but its present place, at the beginning of the entire Book of inspiration. Morally, historically and doctrinally, it forms the introduction to all that comes after. If, for instance, we plunged into the history of Israel in Joshua, we would be ignorant of the antecedents of the nation, of God's ways with them, and of the reasons which had led Him to take them up in distinction from all other nations. Similarly, if we placed the Pentateuch at the close of the Old Testament, we would have found that the remaining books of the Prophets and Psalms were largely inexplicable. The same may be said of the New Testament. This is too obvious to dwell upon, but it is important to see how the historical and biographical facts, the account of the moral condition and development of the race as a whole, and of Israel as a nation, the nature of the relation of God to man in its inception and progressive character, are all recorded in the Pentateuch, and are absolutely essential to our understanding of what comes after, either in the New or Old Testament.
We must dwell for a moment upon certain details in this connection.
A. Fundantental Truths-Doctrinal
(1) The Work of Creation.
Our knowledge of the Being of God as Creator, of His attributes of power, wisdom, goodness and holiness are gathered in the first place from the early chapters of Genesis, which are constantly referred to throughout the entire Scriptures, the New as well as the Old Testament.
(2) The Nature of Man and the Fall.
Similarly, our conception of man is based upon the few pregnant sentences in the early part of Genesis which show us his spiritual and moral, as well as his corporeal nature, and which lay the foundation for all further revelations as to his being, responsibility, position and destiny. In like manner, too, the conditions imposed upon him at his creation, his free moral agency and responsibility, together with the fall and its awful consequences, are all presented to us on these early pages of our Bibles. Without the third chapter of Genesis, we could not understand the epistle to the Romans. Indeed, the mission of the Son of God, the whole history of redemption to its ultimate consummation, would all be but partially understood, were we deprived of these first great revelations.
(3) The Person and Work of Christ. The Person of the Son of God and His atoning sacrifice are evidently foreshadowed in the early chapters of Genesis, the promise of the woman's Seed to crush the serpent's head, the sacrifice of Abel, the translation of Enoch, the flood, all are not only referred to throughout the remainder of Scripture, but form the great staples of divine revelation.
Enlarging upon this truth, the entire sacrificial code of Exodus and Leviticus is so evidently an anticipation of the work of the Cross in its various aspects, that we will but give it a place here, reserving it for further detailed examination later on.
(4) The Necessity of Faith as the Means of all true Relationship to God.
The fifth chapter of Hebrews shows how the principle of faith runs through the entire Pentateuch and reaches on to the last believer who shall be gathered in, to the family of God. We could not understand that chapter, nor the great truth of justification by faith as unfolded in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, nor in the Gospel of John, had we not these examples of its earliest exercises given to us in the life of Abraham and the patriarchs.
(5) Man a weak and failing Creature at the best. Just as the truth of the existence and presence of sin permeates all Scripture, and in like manner each of the truths noted above (Christ as the centre and object of all God's thoughts, His sacrificial work and the need of faith to be in relationship with God), so other truths introduced in the Pentateuch permeate the entire Scriptures.
The failures of Abraham, Isaac and Moses, the whole life of Jacob and the entire history of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness, bring out this fact which we find repeated in the experience of every child of God and in every dispensation. It prepares us for the utterance of the prophet: "Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils;" of the psalmist: "Every man at his best estate is altogether vanity," and of the apostle in connection with the full light of revelation: "Our old man is crucified with Him (Christ);" and, "We . . . have no confidence in the flesh."
The Pentateuch is not only in accord with this principle, but its narrative is a necessary introduction to that which we find, reached its culmination only at the cross. (6) Tile Element of Prophecy. The glory of the word of God is that it ever leads us on to that "far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves." It does not leave man helpless after the fall. The desolation of the flood is followed by the rejuvenation of the earth with a fresh impetus to our blessing.
The calling out of Abraham is a narrowing of the channel of blessing in order that it may be preserved from absorption in the arid waste of the apostasy of the nations which follows so soon after the flood.
In Joseph, we have a glorious type of blessing to the world under One who is evidently pre-figured in the blameless son of Jacob.
In Israel's shelter and emancipation, with the promise of an inheritance in the land of Canaan, our hopes are led on without stumbling, even through the devious paths recorded in the book of Numbers, while Deuteronomy sounds the whole gamut of national blessing and national failure and reaches on still further even to the uttermost bounds of the everlasting hills, and to a time when the nation, after its repeated failures and having been scattered to the four winds of heaven, is at last gathered, in company with the whole world, in blessing and subjection to God. Necessarily, the glimpse into eternity itself is but momentary. God must veil the full truth from the eye until it becomes habituated to the light which He gradually gives. But all this will suffice to show us that the Pentateuch is an essential introduction to the entire word of God. It opens up that which is afterwards unfolded, and ever leads us on in hope to a consummation which, though distant, is certain.
(6) Genesis and Revelation Compared.
A most interesting study in confirmation of what we have just suggested is the comparison of the first and last books of our Bibles. Revelation is manifestly the close of the word of God, as Genesis is its opening. The one gives us the beginning, the other the end. How sweet to remember that He who is the Beginning and the End is One, the blessed Son of God!
We mention a few similarities between these two books so far removed in time and position from each other.
In Genesis we have, "In the beginning, GOD ;" and in Revelation, GOD and the LAMB are all in In Genesis we have man and the woman established over the earth. In Revelation, we have "the bride, the Lamb's wife," associated with Him in rule over the earth and eternal glory in the New Jerusalem.
In Genesis, we have the paradise of man forfeited by sin. In Revelation, we have the Paradise of God secured through Christ.
Genesis gives us the tree of life, but hard by it, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Revelation shows us, we might say, both trees blended in one, the tree of life with its varied fruits for constant delight.
Genesis tells us of the waters flowing from the garden out to the world. Revelation shows us the pure river of water of life from the very throne of God and the Lamb. Genesis tells us of the serpent's triumph over man. Revelation records his final overthrow, cast out from heaven and from earth into the lake of fire.
Genesis gives us the translation of Enoch. Revelation presupposes the rapture of the Church.
Genesis shows us the judgment of the flood and Noah set over the rescued earth. Revelation shows us the sweeping judgment of all the earth and the reign of the Prince of Peace. These and other correspondences show the essential links between the earliest and latest books of our Bible and justify our former statement that we could not really understand the last if we did not also have the first.
2. The Pentateuch the Model of the entire Bible-Structurally
This brings us to a further statement for which we trust the reader is now prepared. Not only is the Pentateuch thus an introduction to the Scripture as a whole, but we may say it is the model upon which the entire word of God is written. This is not the place for entering at large upon a subject which will demand an entire book to itself. We must, however, speak of a few general principles in justification of what has been said. A little later on in this volume, we will take up the five books of the Pentateuch and seek to present the special character attached to each. It is this which will show how the same struc-ture pervades the entire canon of inspiration. It must suffice here to give the briefest outline.
(i) Genesis, the Book of Origins. In Genesis, we have an account of the beginning of creation, of the fall, of the family of faith, of the earth under government, of an elect family, together with the biographies of individuals.
(2) Exodus, the Book of Redemption. In like manner, the book of Exodus dwells upon the bondage of Israel, their shelter by the blood of the passover lamb, and deliverance from the bondage in which they had been held, and their relationship to God.
(3) Leviticus, the Book of Access and of Communion. Leviticus opens up in detail the whole truth of access to God and of priestly nearness and responsibility.
(4) Numbers, the Book of the Walk. The atmosphere in this book is far different from that of Leviticus, although the two books are closely associated together. We have here the walk of the people of God in the wilderness, and failures resulting therefrom.
(5) Deuteronomy, the Book of Principles applied, and of Prophecy. in Deuteronomy, we have a review of Israel's past history with application to present circumstances, together with warning and prophecy as to the future.
Here, then, we have an evident orderly sequence, not only historically but morally, which we find repeated throughout the entire word of God.
We might say, indeed, that the Scriptures themselves form one vast Pentateuch, but must qualify this by calling attention to the manifest break there is in the ways of God in connection with the coming of His Son into the world. This makes a twofold division of the book into Old and New Testaments, which we shall see, later on, must always have the preeminence. But there is a sense in which the entire Bible is a vast Pentateuch.
(i) Thus, the Pentateuch of Moses forms a Genesis, a book of origin, of individual and national history, and the establishment of a basis of relationship with God.
(2) The historical books recount the progress of Israel's history and their emancipation from the bondage of sin in which they were still held; alas, an emancipation which still waits for its completion.
(3) The prophetical books are an evident Leviticus as furnishing the details of divine principles of holiness, of access to Him; and in Ezekiel, for instance, the sanctuary of God itself is opened.
(4) The psalm books are equally a book of Numbers, in which the experiences of the children of God, of failure and weakness, of sin and mercy, of sorrow and joy, are gone into along the very lines marked out in the book of Numbers.
(5) The entire New Testament, with the qualifications already referred to, is a glorious Deuteronomy in which the experiences and lessons of the past are gone over, not now by a Moses who is about to die, but by the true Deliverer of the people of God who brings them, not merely to the verge of the promised inheritance, but into every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Himself. It takes up every principle foreshadowed in the former books, every detail of individual history, of redemption, of access to God, and of power for walk in the world. These are now brought out in their full light, and under the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, a path of blessing is opened which leads into the light of the glory of God's presence in the eternal state. This must suffice for a delightful line of study which, as has been said, will be taken up later.
II. The Pentateuch as Introductory to the Entire Old Testament
Much of what has already been said as to the Pentateuch being introductory to the entire Scripture applies in a special way to the Old Testament. As has already been said, the entire Scripture is divided for us in to two great portions marked out by the incarnation of the Son of God, His redemption and ascent into glory. In this way, the Old Testament forms an introduction. It is the book of shadow to which the New Testament is a necessary sequel, supplying us with the substance. It is the book of promise to which the New Testament furnishes the fulfilment of promise. It is the book of the earth and of an earthly people, to which the New Testament furnishes the addition of the heavenly side of divine things. Without the New Testament, the Old would be a fragment - grand, colossal, magnificent, but a ruin, even as the nation of Israel is today a ruin.
It is with this understanding that we look at the Old Testament apart from the New. Thank God, we are not thus shut up to it alone.
The Pentateuch furnishes a necessary introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Its place is so manifestly at the begfnning, that few words are needed in justification of this statement. With-out the Pentateuch, the book of Joshua, for instance, and the whole subsequent history of Israel, would be suspended in the air, as we might say; a contention indeed which higher criticism has made, following the example of secular histories. With these, indeed, the origin and early development of nations is largely enshrouded in shadow, myths and fables which it is well-nigh impossible to separate from authentic history. If Israel's history were a mere secular work, no wonder that it should be contended that their origin too is in a haze of myth and contradictory fable in which it is impossible to separate the elements of the truth from the surrounding mass. But if the true historian of the people of God is none other than the Holy Spirit, we may be sure that the method of His work, as well as the contents of the history will be absolutely perfect. With this in mind, how naturally and beautifully the narrative begins in Genesis, with the whole human family in view, but gradually narrowing down to the elect family whose history is also traced through various generations, showing, not merely the antecedents, but the characteristics of the founders of the nation of Israel. These natural traits, as seen in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the twelve patriarchs, are stamped indelibly upon the nation of Israel as a whole.
We do not now speak of those characteristics of faith which are the fruit of grace alone, but of the natural elements of independence as seen in Abraham, the separateness as seen in Isaac, and of an energy, none too scrupulous of method, as seen in Jacob. These characteristics are reproduced in the twelve patriarchs and extend to their descendants. We find them spread abroad upon the entire page of Old Testament history; and without this introduction, we should be left in the dark as to very much of what is recorded in the later historical books, the prophecies, etc.
This view is but a part of what we get from the Pentateuch; indeed, a small part. We see the great forces which operated in keeping together and welding into a national whole the race of Israel. What we find in Joshua and the later histories, is a nation which, spite of its division into twelve tribes, is evidently a unit held together by bands so strong that only national apostasy could break them, and even then the broken fragments continued on in parallel streams, evidently one people, until the ten tribes were carried off into the final captivity caused by their apostasy from the true God.
It is the Pentateuch which shows us the for-mation and establishment of this nation of Israel. Brought down as a family into the land of Egypt, as narrated in the closing chapters of Genesis; enjoying there, under the beneficent protection of Joseph and Pharaoh, the liberty under which they could rapidly multiply; subjected later on to humiliating servitude, with ever-increasing hardships, we see forces at work which would either annihilate them or weld them into a compact whole.
Thus we find in the early part of Exodus, the people are one, not only in blood and race attachment, but held and pressed together by the very persecutions which they endured. Whatever they suffered was a common affliction, which turned them possibly to a common recollection of their fathers, and prepared them for the promise of a common deliverance from bondage and the fulfilment of those promises made to their fathers. The entire history of the shelter by the blood of the passover lamb and deliverance from Egypt, the people being led out as a flock into the wilderness, tended further to this unifying of the race. We find this constantly alluded to in the subsequent history, and particularly in the Prophets and Psalms. Every revival recalled the people back to the fact that they had been delivered by Jehovah from the bondage of Egypt. Every appeal to them recalled this common mercy to the nation at large; and on their part, every confession of sin and plea to Jehovah for mercy recalled His delivering hand in the land of Egypt, the pledge of every needed further deliverance. When God by the prophets would recapitulate His ways with them, He always began with these early Pentateuchal histories.
This compacting of the nation proceeded in the wilderness. Had the people been introduced at once into the land of Canaan after their emancipation from bondage, they would soon have been engulfed in the idolatries and corruptions of the nations there, nor wpuld they have had the needed courage and vigour to drive out the foe from their inheritance. 'Thus the history of the wilderness is a necessary introduction to the later narrative, and is connstantly alluded to both by the former and the latter Prophets.
Most evidently the occurrences narrat:ed in the books of Exodus and Numbers were familiar to the nation, and had become a part of their very national being. The same can be said with greater emphasis of the giving of the law, whether we look upon its first enactment at Sinai as the pure law of the ten commandments, or its incorporation with the whole system of ritual in the tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices, with which it was associated in the remainder of the books of Exodus and Leviticus.
The law is the theme, we may say, of the entire Old Testament. It is given in the Pentateuch, constantly referred to in the later histories as the inflexible standard, and that from which the people had departed; while both prophets and psalmists constantly referred to it as the constitution of the nation of Israel as a whole. Without Sinai, and all that goes with it, we could not understand the remainder of the Old Testament. Here again the truth of inspiration shows how essential the place of the Pentateuch is in relation to the entire Old Testament.
The book of Deuteronomy especially is closely linked with subsequent history and prophecy. In the closing part of Numbers the narrative brings us up to the borders of the land; and this narrative is resumed, so far as necessary, in Joshua and the subsequent historical books. If these connecting links of history were eliminated Joshua would remain a fragment. So much does higher criticism recognize this, that Joshua too has been relegated to the era of myth, and hexateuch, instead of what they most manifestly are - a pentateuch.
But we wish particularly to call attention to the prophetic character of the book of Deuteronomy as necessarily introductory both to the subsequent history and to the Prophets as a whole. We may truly say that the Prophets themselves are but a continuation of the great principles enunciated in Deuteronomy, even as that is an enlargement and reiteration of the great basic principles of the law enunciated at Mount Sinai. Thus the whole fabric of the Old Testament is woven together with the "cunning workmanship" of its divine Author, making a fabric perfect and beautiful as a whole, but which, if rent in any part, is marred throughout its entire length.
Of course all this is but a glance at the contents of the book, which are to occupy us more in detail; but these at least will suffice to show us the essential place which the Pentateuch has as introductory to the Old Testament.
III. The Pentateuch as Introductory to the Historical Books
Before leaving this part of our subject, we might in a similar way show the special relation which the Pentateuch has to the immediately contiguous books of the history and dealings of God with the people in the early history.
We have already alluded to the similarity between Joshua and Deuteronomy; and the same applies to the book of Judges. Little more need be said on this, as we have already seen how connectedly the narrative flows from beginning to end. When we consider the evident purpose of the Spirit of God in thus giving us blended together, biography, history, law, ordinances, ritual, a priestly class, with all the connecting material which goes to form the subject of the Pentateuch, there can be but one conviction to the student who believes in inspiration: that here we have a perfect and harmonious unfolding of the thoughts of God and His ways with a people through whom He would make those thoughts known.
We have not yet, however, spoken definitely of the one great subject which runs from the Pentateuch into the earlier histories, and through them, in ever-widening and clearer purpose, to the end of the Old Testament page, leaving us there at the close, following the longing look of many a prophet and sage and king as they uttered the cry from yearning hearts, "How long, O Lord?" All points to Him who was in the thought of God from the beginning, and who is so manifestly the theme of the Pentateuch that unbelief alone can shroud it. It is Christ, then, who is the key, not only to the Pentateuch, but to its relation with the subsequent books of the Old Testament. When once this is seen, everything, even apparently contradictory parts, will fall into harmonious setting.
The Value and Significance of Numbers
W HAT has been said as to the place of the Pentateuch as introductory to the entire word of God, and to the Old Testament in a special way, will prepare us for what it will be well to go into with some measure of care before we take up the more minute examination of the Pentateuch as a whole and in its separate parts.
While the entire subject of the structure of Scripture is reserved for a separate handbook, in which we will endeavour to go into it with something of the fulness which it deserves, it will be necessary for us at this point to take up some of the great fundamental principles of numbers, and their relation to revelation, which, through the mercy of God, have been made familiar to us during recent years.
Numbers are perhaps the most elementary form in which the relation of objects is seen.
The prime digits have here so distinctive a character that they cannot be confounded with each other. We will look at each of these, and gather some of the evident thoughts connected with them.
i. Numbers in Relation to the Godhead.
One excludes everything else. It speaks of that which is alone, with nothing else to compare it with. "The Lord our God is one Lord," "To us there is but one God." There can be no question that this thought of "aloneness," of absolute unity, is conveyed as it could be in no other way by this first numeral. Without doing violence to the thought, we have here the exclusion of all others from the place which God alone can occupy. "I am the Lord, and there is none else," "My glory will I not give to another."
Satan's great effort has been to obliterate this thought from the mind of man, and in the multiplication of heathen deities we see him apparently successful; but even in these heathen mythologies there lurks behind all the fantastic, numberless gods, the one supreme Author and Source of all things. Thus the thought is marred indeed and blurred so as to be practically valueless; but God has stamped this for us upon the very nature of man, so that conscience as well as reason cries aloud that it is true.
End of this extract
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