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impossibility, in the way of a literal fulfilment, has no effect upon me---for nothing is impossible with God; and though this be confessedly marvellous in the eyes of my household, and in my own eyes, does it therefore follow, that it should be marvellous in the eyes of the Lord of Hosts ? Assuredly not. I am free to acknowledge the strength of the objection; and I would be wholly influenced thereby, if the prophecy were the word of man. But God hath spoken ; and I resolutely persevere, in expecting that he will do, precisely and literally, what he has promised to do. This is the language of faith ; and, to the heart of faith, here would be an end of controversy: but we know little of the nature of man, if we suppose that such a line of argument could be generally satisfactory or effective. I am not alleging that a controversy, such as is here imagined, did actually exist in the family, or among the friends of Abraham : the supposition, however, that it may have existed, involves no contradiction in itself; and it serves to illustrate a very important principle. Year after year elapsed, and still there was no appearance of the fulfilment of the prophecy; and from the nature of the case, each succeeding year rendered the literal fulfilment of it more improbable. If a difference of opinion, then, as to the right interpretation, did really exist at the time; the advocates of a figurative, or, as Abraham would probably have called it, an evasive interpretation, would acquire strength and confidence in the delay. Here was the trial of Abra
ham's faith and patience. He continued to believe, giving glory to God. The prophecy was repeated to him, with increasing clearness, and additional details; and at last, the event fully justified his literal expectation. For “ the Lord visited Sarah, as he had said ; and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken ; for Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him."d Thus was preparation made for “ the great nation;" while history, at the same time, gave her plain and instructive verdict in favour of the literal interpretation of prophecy.
II. Again, the Lord said unto Abraham, after that he was come into the land of Canaan, and after that Lot was separated from him, “ Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward ; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” e This grant of Canaan implied an exclusive dominion of occupation; and thereby, as a necessary consequence, separated the people, to whom it was made, from the rest of the world.
“ And the Lord said unto Abraham, Know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years: and also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge ; and a Gen. xxi. 1, 2.
Gen. xiii. 14, 15.
afterwards shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation, they shall come hither again ; for the iniquity of the Amorites, (the natives of the land, who must be driven out or destroyed, in order to give you Hebrews possession of it,) is not yet full. ....... In that same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Here, in addition to the particulars already mentioned, namely, the formation of the people into a distinct nation; and the gift of a particular land for their residence; it is predicted, that before they entered into possession of this land, they should be an afflicted and enslaved people ; and also, that
Gen. xv. 13— 18. % This distinction between the affliction and the bondage of the Israelites,—the former including the latter, but not confined to it,-throws light upon the difficulty which has been experienced, respecting the period of 400 years here mentioned. Their actual bondage in Egypt was of comparatively slıort duration; but the affliction of the seed of Abraham commenced in his son Isaac. The interval between Isaac's birth and the Exodus, was 405 years; and if we suppose the predicted affliction of the seed to commence in Isaac's fifth year, when he would be beginning to feel the effects of Ishmael's mockery; we then have the affliction enduring 400 years, and including in the last period of it the bondage. What is said (Exod. xii. 40,) about the sojourning of the people for 430 years before the Exodus, presents no difficulty in the way of this solution, but rather
God would execute judgment upon the nation which enslaved them. Who that has ever read the book of Genesis, can be ignorant of the simple, beautiful, and singularly interesting history of Joseph and his brethren; in the course of which the special providence of Jehovah is so clearly marked; and in the sequel of which, the aged Jacob and his household, threescore and ten persons, were brought into Egypt? And now the prophecy, implying that they should continue a separate people, was put to trial. Seventy emigrants, settling in the midst of a great nation, their brother the prime minister of the state, and themselves well received by the king, for their brother's sake-in the common course of human affairs, would soon amalgamate with the nation, and lose their distinction as a separate people. This seemed likely to be the result to the Hebrews, of a long residence in Egypt. The literal interpretation of the prophecy given to Abraham, and repeated to Isaac and Jacob, was indeed against this ; but perhaps the literal interpretation was not to be closely insisted upon ; perhaps some reasonable allowance was to be made for the figurative language of
confirms it; because it is evident, from Gal. iii. 17, that this period of 430 years, is to be reckoned from the giving of the promise to Abraham, which was first done 25 years before the birth of Isaac. This corresponds exactly; and so the whole period of sojourn included the other two, which are more accurately characterised as first a period of affliction, and finally a period of actual slavery.
prophecy, delivered in strains of eastern poetry. Perhaps, separation from all nations, might only mean that they were to be of a different spirit from other people ; refraining from idolatry, and showing a good example of worshipping the true God : perhaps, the predicted judgment upon the nation whom they served, might mean nothing more than the gradual conversion of the Egyptians to the religion of the Hebrews; and perhaps their. possession of the land of Canaan, concerning which the prophecy was so explicit, might signify, in a figure, that their influence would eventually predominate in the land of Egypt and elsewhere, through the growing prevalence of the religion of their fathers. Whatever might have been thought by some, of the prudence and sobriety of such an interpretation at the time, we know, by the event, that it would have been wholly erroneous. It does not appear, whether any of the Hebrews relaxed into this spiritual interpretation, or any thing approaching to it; but we know that neither Jacob nor Joseph did. The dying directions of the one concerning his burial, and of the other concerning his bones, make it manifest, that they departed this life, in the faith of the literal fulfilment of the prophecy. That part of the prophecy which implied the separation of the people to dwell alone, received throughout this period a continuous fulfilment of the most obviously literal character. “ The men were shepherds; they were all men of
Gen. xlix. 29; 1. 24–26.