Second Period



§ 15. The New Beginning and the Eemnant of the Old.

THE leading of Abram out from the heathen world may be compared to the separation between the earthly and heavenly waters on the second day of creation. Since the strife between good and evil has entered into the world, a new separation of that which is dissimilar is always the signal of all true progress. Abram's native house lay within the kingdom of Nimrod. Whether at that time the non-Semitic (Kushitish) or the Semitic population was dominant we do not know, but it is certain that both had fallen into polytheism. Because the Shemites had forsaken the God of Shem,1 the blessing of Noah could not be realized in them. God therefore made the point of light, which had not grown dim in Abram, the tenth from Shem, to the starting-point of a new development. Abram, "the one," 1 became the holy root of the good olive tree of Israel. But the national form into -which the salvation now enters is only a means to its end. Melchizedek in doing homage to Abram recognises in him God's chosen instrument, and Abram in subordinating himself to the Hamitic priestly king, whose knowledge of God dates from beyond the separation of mankind into nations, bows himself as the new beginning before the remnant of the old. The priestly stem of Israel bows beforehand in the presence of an appearance outside the law, and it appears, by way of prelude, that the law will find its accomplishment in an end which resembles the beginning, whose remnant is Melchizedek.

1 Josh. xxiv. 2: "And Joshua said to all the people, Thus saith Jehovah, God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the river from old time, Terah the father of Abraham. and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods."

Eemark 1.—In Melchizedek's thanking Abram and blessing him, we have the consciousness of the nations typically portrayed, that they are indebted to the people of Abram for the mediation of salvation; and in the subordination of Abram to Melchizedek the consciousness of Israel is typically portrayed, that it is only a chosen instrument for the salvation of the nations, and that after it has fulfilled its calling it is destined to disappear with its nationality in the redeemed human race.

Eemark 2.—The determination of Terah to emigrate

1 Mai. ii. 15: "And did he not make one? Yet he had the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore the one % Because he was seeking the seed of God," etc. Compare Isa. Ii. 2: "Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone," etc.; Ezek. xxxiii. 24.


to Canaan, which existed before the call of Abram, was doubtless connected with the movement of the Babylonian Shemites from south to north, of which Gen. xii. forms the beginning, and whose continuation is the emigration of the Canaanites (compare Gen. x. 6). The narrative here, however, manifests no interest in the history of the peoples as such, but only as it has a bearing on the history of redemption, and this interest fastens on single individuals.

§ 16. The Ethical Character of the New Beginning.

The call of Abram had in view a family of God, and in this family a people of God, and in this people the God-man. The ethical character of the new beginning is determined by this.

(1) It is a work of grace which is prepared, hence everything proceeds in the history of the patriarchs contrary to nature. The divine name which is peculiar to the patriarchal history is God Almighty. Grace always raises itself on the foundation of the natural after it has first destroyed it; thus the body of Abram must become as "good as dead" (Eom. iv. 19; Heb. xi. 12) before he could become the father of the son of promise.

(2) It is a work of the future which is prepared. The present stands in sharp contrast with this future. The whole life of the patriarchs therefore flows on in hope and against hope. The true domain of their lives is in the time of redemption, to which the divine name Jehovah is peculiar.

(3) It is a work of the world to come which is prepared; a work proceeding from that world, and tending towards it. Hence the divine leading of the patriarchs tends to disgust them not only with the present, but in general with temporal things. They died weary of life, and sought, as is said in Heb. xi. 16, after a better fatherland.

(4) It is God's own work which is prepared, not man's work. That which God demands before all things else of the patriarchs is a state of mind which is receptive for this work of God, which inquires after it, and blends with it; in a word, faith. Abraham believed (Gen. xv. 6), and thus became the father of the congregation of faith.1 His faith became his righteousness before he received and obeyed the command of circumcision. The period of the patriarchs is the period of faith before the intermediate coming in of the law, and hence it is the Old Testament type of the New Testament period of faith after the doing away of the law. To this evangelical character, which is peculiar to the time of the patriarchs, correspond also the modes of God's revelation.

Eemark 1.—When God says (Ex. vi. 3) that He appeared to the patriarchs as God Almighty {El Shaddai), and was not made known to them by His name Jehovah, the meaning is that they experienced divine acts, which in the midst of the contradictory

1 Rom. iv. 16: "For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."


present ensured the fulfilment of the promise, but that this fulfilment remained for them at a remote distance. Eemark 2.—With regard to the significance of the mention of faith in connection with the Old Testament history, see Michael Baumgarten on Gen. xv. 6, Theologischer Commentar zum Pentateuch, Kiel 1843-1844.

§ 17. The Divine Modes of Eevelation.

God spoke to the patriarchs in the depth of their spirits, but He revealed Himself also in manifold other ways; in dreams, in ecstatic sleep (noriPi), in prophetic beholding while they were awake, or it is simply said that He appeared to them (Gen. xv. 17). That, however, which is new and characteristic of the period of the patriarchs is the manner of revelation which is mediated through angels. What Jacob saw in the dream of the ladder reaching to heaven is from that time on the characteristic of the history of redemption, and occurs in the time of the patriarchs more frequently than elsewhere, according to the law of redemptive history that there is a predominant intensity in every beginning. The appearances of the angel of Jehovah or of God form the culminating point of all these angelophanies, which first enter after the conclusion of the covenant (Gen. xv.), and whose object and end are to be judged by this commencement (terminus a quo). On the one hand this angel is even called Jehovah and God,1 and he

1 Ex. iii. 4: "And when Jehovah [compare ver. 2 : the angel of Jehovah] saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him," etc.

calls himself God ;1 on the other hand, he cannot be the sender himself, but the sent (=IN? is equivalent to W, Gen. xxiv. 7; Num. xx. 16). He is, as the prophecy in Zechariah2 and the New Testament regard him, a real angel,3 yet one of a thousand through whom God chose to reveal Himself personally, as later in the man Jesus, hence in a manner prefiguring and preparing His incarnation, which was the end of the covenant. And since the angel appeared in human form, this mode of revelation was especially familiar and evangelical.

Eemark.—Even just after the fall of man a theophany is related (Gen. iii. 8 sq.); but the narrative purposely avoids the expression which commonly occurs in the later theophanies, "and he appeared," which we first meet in Gen. xii. 7. It should here be observed: (1) That it is only related of the patriarchs, but not of any of their contemporaries, that God appeared to them. (2) Such divine appearances are narrated— (a) without any closer indication of the time and condition, Gen. xii. 7, xxvi. 2, xxxv. 9; (&) with an indication of time, "by night," Gen. xxvi. 24; (c) with an indication of the condition, "in a vision," Gen. xv. 1, compare Num. xxiv. 4, 16, that is, in a condi

1 Gen. xxxi. 11, 13 : "And the angel of God spake unto me. ... I am the God of Bethel;" Ex. iii. 6: "And he [ver. 2 : the angel of Jehovah] said, I am the God of thy father," etc.

2 Zech. iii. 2: "And Jehovah [compare ver. 2 : the angel of Jehovah] said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee," etc.

s Jude, ver. 9 : "But Michael the archangel, when, contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."


tion of prophetic beholding; or (d) in "a dream," compare Gen. xxviii. 10 sq. with Gen. xlviii. 3. This is the only case where God appears to a patriarch in a dream. Otherwise the dream is the medium through which the future appears in images, Gen. xxxi. 10 (to Jacob); Gen. xxxvii. (to Joseph); especially to the heathen, Gen. xl. xli. (to Pharaoh and the prisoners); and where it is said that God revealed Himself to them in a dream, the narrative does not state that He appeared to them, but that He came to them, Gen. xx. 3 (to.Abimelech), xxxi. 24 (to Laban); that is, that He caused them to feel His nearness overpoweringly.

§ 18. The Promises.

As this revelation of Jehovah in His angel was determined by the form of the New Testament future which was to be prefigured, so the words of the promise concerning the future, which was to be prefigured, were determined by the form of the present. Unity based on consanguinity, community ordered by law, and the firm possession of a country, are the three things which make a multitude of mankind into a people and a state. Hence the promises to the patriarchs have their primary reference to the future possession of the land in which they are pilgrims, to the propagation of their race, and to kings.1 Abraham

1 Gen. xvii. 6: "And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee;" and Gen. xxxv. 11.

is to be the ancestor of a people of God, an ancestor of many peoples connected with them by blood; but the promise of the blessing of the nations in the seed of the patriarchs, which is given thrice to him, and once each to Isaac and Jacob, gives him even for the wider circles of the non-Abrahamic nations a central significance. The nations' desire for a blessing will turn to Abraham and his seed, and so the fulness of blessing which he possesses will become a source of blessing to the nations. Paul appends (Gal. iii. 16) to this expression "in thy seed" the explanatory expression of the history of fulfilment, " which is Christ." Even the author of the Messianic Psalm (lxxii. 17) proceeds from the same presupposition. He who is the personal end of the "seed of the woman," that is, of the human race, is for the apostle as well as the psalmist the personal end of the seed of Abraham, that is, of the people of Israel. And with reason, for the history of redemption progresses gradually, but in every element of its progress that which it will ultimately bring to light is already contained as in process of becoming.

§ 19. The Prophecy.

Abraham is indeed called a prophet (Gen. xx. 7; Ps. cv. 15), yet we nowhere read of divine revelations through him to others. But we have benedictions of Isaac and Jacob, which consist in the appropriate announcement and application of future things prophetically seen. The blessing of the first-born (Gen. xxvii.),


which Jacob obtains through artifice, bestows on him Canaan, renders the more remote as well as the consanguineous nations subject to him, and conditions the blessing and curse of men by the relation which they hold to the one who has been blessed. The benediction which Esau subsequently receives is only the shadow of a blessing, but a shadow which dimmed the history of Israel until the time of the final catastrophe of Jerusalem. The blessing of the first-born which Jacob then bestowed upon Judah (Gen. xlix.) is none other than the one received from Isaac.

Descending from the three (Eeuben, Simeon, Levi) who in age were next entitled to it, he makes him the prince p^J), while the birthright ('"TM3?)> that is, the twofold inheritance, falls to the double tribe of Joseph, the saviour of the house of Israel (1 Chron. v. 1). The turning-point from tribal dominion to the dominion of the world is marked by the coming to Shiloh1 (Gen. xlix. 10; compare 1 Sam. iv. 12, 1 Kings xiv. 4).

This is the return of Judah to his people after victorious conflict, for which Moses in his benediction prays in behalf of the tribe (Deut. xxxiii. 7). Judah until this coming to Shiloh was the leader of the tribes, and continued to be so even until the beginning of the time of the Judges. But the real fulfilment of this benediction became this, that the kingdom of the promise was transferred to Judah, and that he was the 1 See Delitzsch's Messianic Prophecies, Edin. 1880, p. 34 sq. D

chosen royal tribe of Israel, out of which the first and the second David went forth.1

§ 20. The Triad of Patriarchs and the Types.

Three is the number of a completed process. The third member is the sum of both the others, and as the end is stronger than the beginning, so, as a rule, the middle is weaker than the beginning and end (-^-)- Thus the history of the patriarchs moves to its goal. Isaac's character is as passive as his 'name, which does not express his own, but Abraham's act. In almost all that is related of him, Abraham's history repeats itself. On the contrary, Abraham's history is a new, high, energetic beginning. His life, in spite of many eclipses, is a progress from faith to faith; and Jacob's history, in spite of many shadows, is wonderfully guided by God's loving-kindness and truth. His life makes the total impression, that salvation is "not of M'orks" (Eom. ix. 11), and it attains in Peniel as high a point as Abraham's on Moriah. Not the blessing of the first-born secured from Esau by cunning, but that obtained from God by wrestling, becomes the basis of the nation which bears the name Israel, born of the labour of prayer and repentant tears (Hos. xii. 5).

In its climaxes, the history of the patriarchs takes

1 Heb. vii. 14, first clause: "For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah." Rev. v. 5: "Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah," etc.


on a typical form. The type, however, hastens on before the prophecy. At the end of the history of the patriarchs, prophecy designated the tribe of Judah as the starting-place of the future Christ. But the ground-tone of his image is only of a royal character. The transaction on Mount Moriah, however, is a type incorporated by God into the history, a type of the sacrifice of the only begotten Son, which the Father will at length bring for the human race, and at the same time of the self-sacrifice of the Son, who goes willingly to death. Also, the struggle at Jabbok is typicaL Peniel and Moriah stand related to each other like Gethsemane and Golgotha.

Eemark 1.—Instead of the names Abram and Sarai, the narrator, after the epoch indicated in Gen. xvii. 5, 15, uses without exception the names Abraham and Sarah—similarly as in Acts the name Saul after xiii. 9 disappears. On the contrary, the name of Jacob, in spite of the change into Israel, is retained, and the name Israel is used only as a variation for it. For the names Abraham and Sarah indicate a new position, by which the former become antiquated. On the other hand, the name Israel indicates a spiritual conduct, determined by faith, beside which the natural conduct, determined by flesh and blood, still continues. The patriarch who bore the names Jacob and Israel is therein a prototype of the people which sprung from him.

Eemark 2.—The type is, on the one hand, the work of God, the framer of history; on the other, it is the self-announcement of the coming One, like the shadow

which accompanies the Christ throughout the Old Testament in His process of coming. The type is prophecy in deed (vaticinium reale), and is distinguished from prophecy in word (vaticinium verlale) by this, that it takes place outside of the sphere of human consciousness and human freedom, and that it is only recognised through the medium of God's word, which explains it, or by looking back from the standpoint of the goal upon the preceding history.

§ 21. The Covenant and its Sign.

The next tendency of the redemptive history in this second period, toward effecting a separation in the mass of the nations, finds expression in the covenant with Abraham (Gen. xv.) and in the sign of that covenant. The covenant with Noah concerned the human race, which was still undivided, and had respect to the most universal presuppositions in the realization of salvation, namely the foundations of the natural and social life. But the call of Abraham has its goal in a redemptive people, and also the covenant ■with Abraham concerns only mediately mankind; it has first to do with Israel. Abraham perceives (Gen. xv.) that the course of his posterity to the promised elevation goes through deep humiliation. One act of deliverance places his seed in possession of that which has been promised, namely the deliverance from the land of bondage. And the sign of the covenant of circumcision is designed to assure Abraham, THE COVENANT AND ITS SIGN. 53

and all who belong to his family or enter it, that although they are impure by nature, yet that their nature is sanctified, and that they are to be the origin of a people with a sanctified nature. As God by means of the firmament divided between the waters above and beneath, so He now divided between the redemptive people and the peoples of the world, until the time when the heavenly water of baptism takes the place of circumcision, which breaks through this national wall of partition, and not only sanctifies the nature, but also through regeneration lays the foundation for a radical change in it.

Eemark.—The Old Testament religion begins with the sanctification of the natural life, and makes this a tutorial means (Gal. iii. 24), which tends to sanctification of the personal life. The New Testament religion, on the contrary, begins with the sanctification of the personal life, creating in the centre of man the principle of a new life, whose object is to bring also the natural life under his sway. It belongs to the peripheral character of the Old Testament religion, that it takes common, human, heathen customs into its service, and re-stamps them, as even circumcision, which is a divine ordinance, connected with a usage already existing; for the old civilised nations, especially the Egyptians, as also yet many negro and Indian tribes, regarded the removal of the foreskin as necessary to purity of body.