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THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES,
G E N ES I S.
INTRODUCTION. I.--THE PENTATEUCH. lais ierin is usually supposed to designate the five first books of Scripture, commonly ascribed to Moses. The word is from the Greek levrátevxos pentateuchos, which is compounded of révte pente, 'five,' and teŪxos teuchos, an implement, or volume, i, e. 'the five-fold volume. This collective designation of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is of very remote antiquity, although we have no certain information when or by whom it was introduced. The Hebrew name for the same books is 77ın Npn nuon, " five-fifths of the law ;” or, abbreviated, upin runn, the five-fifths :" and each book by itself was called voin, a fifth. The more common Hebrew name of the Pentateuch was however opinn hat-torah, “the law;" so called because the books contained the civil and ecclesiastical law of the Hebrew nation. The several books constituting the Pentateuch, were probably composed in one continued work; and at this day they form but one rolled volume in the Hebrew manuscripts. We have no means of knowing at what time, or by whom, the five leading portions of the Pentateuch came to be distinguished into five separate books, each bearing a distinct title. As, however, they are designated by their present Greek appellations in the version of the Septuagint, it is certain that the distinction is at least as ancient as the era of that work, and probably much earlier. The names which these books bear in the English Bible are derived from the Septuagint; and they were intended by the Greek translators to indicate the subject or contents of the several books. But in the Hebrew, the first word of each book is adopted as its title, as explained in the following Prefaces to the several books.
The universal and most ancient tradition of the whole church, both Jewish and Christian, has, with unanimous consent, declared the Pentateuch to be the genuine work of Moses. In the early ages of the primitive church, some of the Gnostics, and certain other heretics, did indeed oppose the genuineness of these books; but their efforts were directed chiefly against the divine origin of the law which they contained, and of some of the historical narratives which they recounted. The Fathers of the Church considered the Pentateuch as the original work of Moses, restored through inspiration by Ezra, after its loss during the Babylonish captivity. The notion of this fabulous loss and restoration originated with the Jews themselves.
The suspicion that the Pentateuch contained interpolations, may also be traced to the same source. Isaac Ben Jasus, a Spanish Jew, at the beginning of the eleventh century, suggested the idea that some portions of the Pentateuch originated after the time of Moses. The 36th chapter of Genesis, for instance, he ascribed to the age of Jehoshaphat. Aben Ezra, who mentions this opinion with disapprobation, still admits that some interpolated passages do occur. This learned writer is usually considered the first who called in question the genuineness of the Pentateuch. In later times Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, in his Leviathan, hazarded the conjecture that the first five books of the Bible were called the books of Moses, not because he wrote them, but because they relate to transactions in which he was the principal mover. He concedes, however, that Moses might have written those particular passages which are said in the books themselves to have been written by him-for example, Exod. xvi. 8-14; Num. xxiii., and the like: and also the code of laws in Deut. X.-xxvii. It is unnecessary to mention the opinions of various other writers, such as Spinoza, Peyrere, Simon, Le Clerc, Hasse, Fulda, Nachtigall, Vater, Volney, Bertholdt, Geddes, De Wette, and Gesenius, who all have, in one form or another, questioned the genuineness of the Pentateuch. However great may have been the influence of their productions within a limited time and space, their objections have always been met by solid answers; and the genuineness of the Pentateuch, as the authentic work of Moses, has been so completely and satisfactorily vindicated, that, in the result, it has been more solidly established, rather than weakened, through the attacks which have been made upon it. It has been clearly shown that, in favour of the authenticity of the Mosaical books, we have the unanimous testimony of antiquity, with nothing in the books themselves to discredit it, and with every thing to confirm it.
Then we have the direct testimony of the books themselves, designating Moses as the author, Exod. xvii. 4: xxiv. 4-7 ; xxxiv. 27; Num. xxxii. 2; Deut. xxxi. 9, 19-24.
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And this is confirmed by the subsequent historical books, which constantly refer to the books of Moses as well known and familiar to the whole nation, from the time of the death of Moses to the termination of the Old Testament history. See Josh, i. 7, 8; xxiii. 6. Compare Josh. xxiv. 26 with viii. 32, 34. See also Kings ii. 3; 2 Kings xxii. 8; 2 Chron. xxxiv. 14. To show that such references are made to the very same books of Moses that we now possess, nothing more is requisite than to make a careful comparison of the passages in the historical books with the passages alluded to in the Pentateuch. Compare 2 Kings xiv. 6, with Deut. xxiv. 6: 2 Kings xxiii. 2-25; and 2 Chron. xxxv. 1.19 with Lev. xxvi. 3-45, and Deut. xxvii. 11, to xxviii. 68: Ezra iii. 2-6 with Lev. vi. 7: Ezra vi. 18 with Num. iii. 6-45: viii. 11, 14; Neh. i. 7-9 with Lev. xxvi. 41, and Deut. iv. 26, 27 ; xxviii. 64; xxx. 3-5. Thus every allusion in the historical books has its corresponding passage in the Mosaical books; and there is no discrepancy in this series of incidental and unbroken testimony, commencing with Joshua, immediately after the death of Moses, and extending through a period of more than a thousand years.
The prophetical books also afford conclusive evidence both of the existence and identity of the five books of Moses. This may be shown by comparing the allusions of the earlier prophets to the Mosaical law with the Pentateuch as we now have it. Joel lived 650 years after Moses. Compare Joel i. 9, 13 with Lev. ii. 6; Num. xv. 4, 5, 7 ; xxviii: 7, 14; Deut. xii. 6, 7; xvi. 10, 11.
Amos lived 660 years after Moses. Compare Amos ii. 9, with Num. xxi. 21, 24: iv. 4 with Num. xxviii. 3, 4: iv. 10 with Exod. vii.-xi. : iv. 11 with Gen. xix. 24, 25; ix. 13 with Lev. xxvi. 5.
Hoseu lived 670 years after Moses. Compare Hos. ix. x. with Num. xxv. 3 : xi. 8 with Gen, xix. 24, 25 : xii. 4, 5 with Gen. xxxii. 24, 25 : xii. 12 with Gen. xxviii. 5; xxix. 20.
Isaiah Jived about 690 years after Moses. Compare Isa. i. 9-14 with Gen. xix. 4, and with various precepts; xii. 2 with Exod. xv. 2; li. 2, with Gen. xii. 2; xvii. 2; liv. 9 with Gen. viii. 21, 22.
Micah lived about 700 years after Moses. Compare Mic. vi. 5 with Num. xxii.-xxv. : vi. 6, with Lev. ix. 2, 3: vi. 15, with Lev. xxvi. 16; Deut. xxviii. 33. The same process of proof might be carried through the remainder of the prophets ; but these examples will suffice.
The testimony of Christ and his Apostles is also very distinct, as may be seen in Matt. xix. 7; Luke xvi. 29; xxiv, 27; John i. 17; vii. 19; Acts iii. 22 ; xxviii. 23; Rom. x. 5; and many other places. The quotations from and references to these books in the New Testament, are also exceedingly various and extensive. Indeed so constant is the reference in the following Scriptures, and so exact the coincidence, that if the books of Moses were entirely lost, the substantial contents of them might be gathered to a great extent from the subsequent parts of the Bible. Yet so different is the style and manner in these subsequent books as to prove that they must have been written by a succession of different men, in distant ages, of different habits, and in circumstances altogether diverse.
The impossibility of any imposition in this case is the more apparent when, in addition to this weight of direct and indirect testimony, we come to consider that the whole fabric of the civil history and the political institutions of the Hebrews, rests upon the authority of these books, and demonstrates that they emanate from Moses.
Taking all these things into account, it is not too much to say that we have all the evidence for the authenticity of the Pentateuch which the nature of the case admits, and tenfold more than that which satisfies us in regard to the writings of Homer and Herodotus, or even more than we have for the genuineness of the most distinguished writings of a former age in our own language.
Of the inspiration and canonical authority of these books, no doubt has ever been entertained by the Church. Moses “ conversed with God face to face as man speaketh unto his friend," Exod. xxxiii. 3; he was privileged to address God at all times, Exod. xxv. 22; Num. vii. 89; ix. 8; and was intrusted with the power of working miracles. He affirms that what he delivered was by the command and at the suggestion of the Almighty; and the sacred writers of the New Testament uniformly acknowledge the inspired authority and divine legation of Moses. The book of the law immediately after its composition was deposited by the ark in the tabernacle, Deut. xxxi. 26; it was read every Sabbath day in the synagogues, Luke iv. 6; Acts xiii. 15, 27; xv. 21; and in the most solemn manner every seventh year, Deut. xxxi. 10-13; the sovereign or chief ruler in Israel was obliged to copy it out, Deut. xvii. 18; xxvii. 3; the people were commanded to teach it diligently to their children, Lev. x. 11; Deut. vi. 6-9; and it was preserved by the Israelites with the most vigilant care, as the divine record of their civil and religious policy. Its being thus guarded as a sacred deposit is the surest guarantee that it has descended in an uncorrupted condition to us.
The five books of Moses are written in pure Hebrew, with some variety of style, naturally arising from the diversity of the subjects of which it treats; but throughout with the utmost simplicity, combined with the utmost force and vividness of expression. Notwithstanding the early date of these books, the Hebrew language appears already a few minutiæ excepted—so fully developed in them, that for many ages after, or till about 700 B.C., we can trace few changes in it. This may be owing to the simple structure of the Hebrew and other Shemitic languages, which renders them less change
able than others of greater development; to which is to be added, that, in that period, the Hebrews did not experience those influences which materially affect a language; they did not advance much in civilization, were never long subjected to nations of foreign tongue, and lived almost entirely separated from all nations, especially from nations of foreign language. Thus their language advanced too little in development, and also suffered too little from corruption, to render the style and language of these earlier books materially different from those of much earlier. There are, however, in these books certainly some important differences, which afterwards disappear; and many differences of the kind have become less distinguishable to us, because the more modern punctuation has treated all words according to one standard, and that the standard of the language at a later period. See Ewald's Hebrew Grammar, by Nicholson, sect. 4. And on the subjects touched on generally more copious information may be found in Rosenmüller, Prolegomena in Scholia in Vetus Testament. ; Jahn, Introduction to the Old Test., trs. by Dr. Turner; Hengstenberg, Die Authentie des Pentateuches, Berlin, 1836 : Havernick, Einleitung in das Alte Test., Erlangen, 1836; Stowe, Introduction to the Bible, Cincinnati, U.S., 1835; Graves, Lectures on the Pentateuch ; Faber's Hore Mosaicæ ; Blunt, Veracity of the Five Books of Moses.
The best commentaries on the Pentateuch are involved in general commentaries on the whole Bible. But there are several separate commentaries on this portion of Scripture, and other important works thereon, besides those which have just been named. Such are the Jewish Commentaries of the Rabbis Isaac Abarbanel, Solomon Jarchi, and Moses Mendelssohn; Ainsworth's Annotations upon the Five Books of Moses, Lond. 1621; Bonfrere, Pentat. Moysis Comment. illustr., Ant. 1625, Osiander, Commentar in Pentateuch. Tübing. 1676, 1677; Vater, Kommentar über den Pentateuch, Halle, 1802-1805 ; Kidder, On the Pentateuch. Parker's Bibliotheca Biblica, 17201728, although intended as a Commentary on the whole Scripture, did not extend beyond the Pentateuch, on which it is an excellent exposition, drawn from the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers prior to 451 A.D. In like manner Geddes' designed translation of the whole Bible reached only to Chronicles, and of his Critical Remarks, 1809, annexed thereto, only the first volume, devoted exclusively to the Pentateuch (on which it is thus a Commentary), appeared.
There is a considerable number of works on particular passages, and on the difficult places, of the Pentateuch. They cannot be liere enumerated; but their titles may be found in Walch’s Bibliotheca Theologica; Calmet's Bibliotheca Sacra; Winer's Handbuch der Theologischen Literatur ; Orme's Bibliotheca Biblica ; and in the bibliographical list in Horne's Introduction.
II.-GENESIS. This book derives its name from the history of the Creation, in Greek Séveris, with which it begins. Like the other books of the Pentateuch, this one is named by the Jews from the word with which it commences, n'ux BERESHITH, “ in the beginning."
This venerable monument, with which the sacred literature of the Hebrews commences, and which forms its substantial basis, is composed of two principal portions. The most ancient history of the human race is contained in the eleven first chapters; and the remainder is occupied with the history of the ancestors of the Israelites—the patriarchs. There is a more intimate connection between these parts than might at the first sight appear; the earlier portion having a more definite reference to what follows, than the cursory reader would be apt to imagine. Its object does not appear to be that of furnishing a general history, but to trace out the first principles of those conditions on which were founded the theocratic institutions afterwards established through Moses. It therefore goes back to the original unity of the human race, and their original relation to God; and then proceeds to record the disturbance of that relation by the intrusion of sin, which gradually produced an internal and external division among mankind, by subduing that principle of divine life which had originally dwelt in the general man, but which in the end was preserved only among a small and separate race-a race which, in the progress of separating evil, became more and more isolated among the nations of the earth, and which alone enjoyed during many generations the special favour, guidance, and blessing of God. We are so accustomed to read the subsequent books of the Pentateuch by the light which Genesis offers, that we cannot readily apprehend how imperfect the knowledge of the Hebrews, and how obscure even their law, would have been, without this historical introduction : but when we come to look at the numerous references in the books of the law to the facts contained in Genesis, and to see how many of its enactments and institutions rest upon the foundation which those facts afford, we begin to discern the intimate relation between them, and to feel assured that this book must have existed along with, and was a most indispensable introduction to, those in which the laws and institutions of the Israelites are embodied. It is more capable of internal proof that Moses was the author of the other and contemporary books of the Pentateuch, than of Genesis : but the full force of this argument goes to show, that the author of these latter books was also the author of Genesis, and most certainly that this book could not have been of later date than the others. It is well remarked by Jahn that • The Hebrews, degraded during their residence in Egypt so as to wor. ship creatures, and, as had been foreseen by Moses, thenceforward continually prone to idolatry, neeled the instruction given in Genesis and the former part of Exodus, respecting the nature of the Deity whom they had at Sinai acknowledged as their king, whose laws they had received, and to whom they proffered their reverence and gratitude for his mercies by their sabbaths and solemu feasts, by their sacrifices and first fruits, by their obedience to his laws, and by all their acts of homage and worship. If they had been unacquainted with this part of the Pentateuch, they must have been ! ignorant of the nature of the Deity whom they professed to worship; they could not, at that remote period, have known their king as God the Creator and Governor of the Universe; they could not have understood his frequently recurring titles, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; they could not have been able to ascertain what was meant by the frequent reference to the promises made to the patriarchs; and they must have been entirely in the dark as to the number and nature of the wonderful works which are so frequently mentioned in the remaining books of Moses. On all these subjects oral tradition must, by the general lapse into idolatry, have been exceedingly depraved, if not totally obliterated, in the course of ages. The same writer, therefore, who in his care for the information of the Hebrews even of remote periods, committed the Pentateuch to writing, would not have left instruction so necessary for that people, especially those of them who lived in later ages, as that contained in the book of Genesis, and the former part of Exodus, to be supplied by oral tradition; neither is it credible that he did.'-Introduction, p. 191.
The more general arguments which tend to show that Moses was the author of the whole Pentateuch, including Genesis, have been produced in the preceding notice of the Pentateuch, and need not here be repeated.
The general scope of the book in its two great divisions have been already indicated; but a more particular examination of its contents may now be given.
After an account of the creation, of the original state of man and of the fall, the first portion proceeds to relate the increase of irreligion and immorality, until, about the year 235 A.M. (iv. 26, v. 3, 6), the true worshippers of the Deity were distinguished by the appellation 'sons of God,' whilst those who disregarded the divine instructions and were led by merely human propensities, were called children of men.' Of the former class were the ancestors of Noah, who are consequently here introduced (chap. v.), although the genealogy, like a long parenthesis, interrupts the close connection between iv. 26 and vi. 1. For the same cause the extraordinary piety of Enoch and his translation are mentioned in v. 22, sq. The intermarriages or illicit union of these two classes of persons produced at last so general a corruption of religion and morals, that God destroyed by a food all living creatures, except Noah and his family, and the various animals which were preserved along with them in the ark. On account of the importance of this terrific event, it is related with more than usual particularity (vi. 9-ix. 29). This is followed by a genealogical and geographical account of settlements made in the world (chap. x.), and then (chap. xi. 1-9) the attempt to build the tower of Babel is related, which, as it gave rise to the dispersion, is intimately connected with the account of that event. The posterity of Shem, with whom religion and morals were preserved longest and in the greatest purity, are then introduced (xi. 26), down to the birth of Abraham.
The second portion of the book contains a more particular account of facts in which the Israelites were interested. As the family of Terah was idolatrous (Josh. xxiv. 2; Gen. xxxi. 30; xxxv. 2), Abraham is divinely called to go to Canaan, where a numerous posterity is promised him, and the settlement there of his descendants through Isaac, after a residence of four hundred years in a foreign land ; and also, that in his posterity all nations should be blessed! (xii. 2, 3 ; xiii. 14-17; xv, 4, 5, 7, 13-18; xvii. 4-8; xviii. 18; xxii. 17, 18); all which has in view the preservation of the knowledge of God and true religion, together with the coming of a spiritual deliverer to bring the blessing of salvation to mankind. These promises, which are repeated to Isaac (1-5) and to Jacob (xxviii. 13-15), are the principal points on which everything in this domestic history turns, the account of Joseph not excepted, as this includes the descent of Jacob's family into Egypt, where they became exceedingly numerous. Whatever is introduced in relation to other families and nations, has some bearing on the history of these patriarchs, or concerns some collateral branches of their families; see chap. xiv. 17, sq. ; xxv. 1-4, 12-16; xxxvi.
It is a question which some will consider of interest, at what period of his career the Hebrew legislator may be supposed to have written the book of Genesis. Some have conceived that it was composed by him while, an exile in the land of Midian, he fed the flocks of his father-in-law in the wilderness, with the design of comforting the Hebrews in their servitude by the example of constancy in their fathers, and by a display of the oracles and promises of God. Eusebius seems of this opinion (Præp. Evang. ii. 7); but others consider that Moses was not then invested with a prophetic character, and therefore apprehend that the book was written in the wilderness after the promulgation of the law. Theodoret (Quæst. in Genesin), Venerable Bede (Expositio in Genes.),