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his own household.' Such then being the case, if Abraham were a priest of Jehovah no less than Melchizedek, and if the once pagan Melchizedek received all his theological knowledge from Abraham; I see not, how Abraham could have been so palpably his inferior, as St. Paul represents him to be. On the contrary, we should rather be led, on every account, to pronounce Abraham the decidedly superior personage : for, agreeably to the preceding statement, he was at once the senior priest and the master, while Melchizedek was but the junior priest and the pupil ; and again he was the specially chosen of God as the preëminent father of the faithful and as the ancestor of the Messiah, while Melchizedek was but a branch either of the accursed house of Canaan or of the apostate and tyrannical house of Cush according as we deem him a Canaanite or a Phenician.
(2.) Bp. Cumberland, aware of the impossibility of thus viewing the character of Melchizedek, and impressed with his favourite notion that the Cabiric Sydyk of the Phenician mythologist was no other than the patriarch Shem, strongly contends, that Melchizedek was that same early patriarch, and that the very name Sydyk is but the latter half of the compound title Melchizedek. In
pursuance of this hypothesis, he adopts and endeavours to defend the short postdiluvian chronology of the Hebrew Pentateuch, which indeed is absolutely necessary to the very existence of the hypothesis : for, agreeably to the short chronology,
Gen. xii. 7, 8. Cumberland de Leg. Patriarch. c. vi. p. 457, 458.
though Abraham is described as dying an old man and full of years and in a good old age, yet his remote ancestor Shem, who was born before the flood, actually survives him thirty-five years ;? but, agreeably to the long chronology either of the Samaritan or of the Greek or of Josephus, Shem dies several centuries before even the birth of Abraham. Having then adopted the short chronology, which enables him to make Shem and Abraham contemporaries, he has next to account for the extraordinary appearance of the former, as a sacerdotal king of Jerusalem, in the very midst of a people, who were descended, not from himself, but from his brother Ham. On this point he has nothing to offer, save that Shem probably led a colony into Palestine, and occupied or built Jerusalem; because his descendant Abraham was called of God from the land of the Chaldèans, and was ordered to migrate into the land of Canaan which was promised to him as the future inheritance of his posterity.”
By thus in a foreign and distant country bringing these two celebrated patriarchs into immediate contact with each other, the learned prelate no doubt escapes many of the difficulties, with which the other most absurd conjecture is so grievously hampered : but, to say nothing of the extreme im. probability that such a bootless journey should be undertaken by the aged Shem, the very basis of the
Abp. Usher, I am aware, attempts to make Shem die before Abraham, while yet he retains the short chronology. He builds on a not very satisfactory criticism on Gen. si. 27.
Cumberland de Leg. Patriarch. c. iii.
whole theory is, I fear, altogether unsubstantial. The adoption of the short chronology is impeded hy too many gross and glaring contradictions ; which set the Hebrew numbers in direct opposition to the accompanying history, for us to undertake it with any moderate degree of safety or confidence. In the eastern churches it has very sensibly been rejected from the first: nor does any thing, which the bishop alleges in its defence, fairly meet the serious or rather the insurinountable objections to which it is liable at almost every step.' Without entering therefore more largely into the subject, since, according to the Samaritan numbers, Shem died 440 years before Abraham was born; and since, according to the Greek numbers, he died even 670 years before the same era : we may per
The reader will find this topic discussed at large in my Orig. of Pagan Idol. book vi. c. 2. sv. With one of the grand difficulties of the short chronology, namely the suffcient increase of mankind within so brief an allotted period, Bp. Cumberland very manfully grapples ; but more manfully, I fear, than successfully.
He assumes, that every man born after the deluge might begin to generate children at the age of twenty years, and that for a very considerable period he might produce a child anpually. Meanwhile, from the longevity of the early postdiluvians, the growing numbers would not be thinned by the hand of death : for Peleg, whose death is placed by the Hebrew chronology in the year after the flood 340, is the first postdiluvian recorded to have died; and therefore we have no right, to suppose,
death took place for more than three cellturies. On these principles, he makes the entire population of the earth, in the year 340 after the flood, to be 6,666,666,660 souls. Orig. Gent. p. 146—151. .
We may observe a fallacy in the very commencement of the calculation. The bishop acknowledges, that the males and females would, as at present, be about equal; so that each inan could, upon an average, have no more than one wife. Now, though a man, who lives four centuries, may be deeroed capable of generating for the space (we will say) of two cen
turies; and though, at the rate of a child to a year, he might thus easily become the father of two hundred children : it is difficult to imagine, without the intervention of a miracle, how his single wife could produce so numerous a family. Hence we are almost compelled to believe, that the progeny of each early postdiluvian would, upon an average, be much the same progeny
of a modern father. With this conclusion the genealogical record perfectly agrees : for the average number of children to each parent, as set forth in the tenth chapter of Genesis, is 5f; an average not perhaps greatly exceeding the average of the present day. History likewise, whether sacred or profane, equally agrees with it. The bishop's calculation would make the world, in the year 340 after the deluge, at the least six times as populous as it is at present. But both the pastoral journeyings of Abraham, and the oldest accounts of the gentile historians, concur to prove, that long after the year 340 the earth was rather occupied than fully peopled. Hence I remain convinced, that, at the era where the Hebrew chronology would require us to place the building of the tower, a sufficient number of hands could not be found for the work. The bishop himself, even with his exaggerated multiplication of the human species, cannot muster more than 30,000 couples of all ages at the epoch where he places the building of the tower ; namely in A. P. D. 140: and, according to the Hebrew chronology, I see not how it can be placed lower. Now, when old men and infants are deducted, it is impossible out of 30,000 males to produce more than 15,000 effective persons at the very most: and, after the necessary labours of agriculture have been taken into the account, let any one judge whether this infant empire could have been powerful enough to undertake so vast a work. VOL. II.
haps venture to pronounce it impossible, that Shem and Abraham's contemporary Melchizedek should be the same person.
(3.) These different opinions being set aside, the question will still remain, what we are to determine as to the real character of Melchizedek.
Now, since we can find no living mortal, whom we can rationally pronounce to have been the priest of Jehovah in the midst of the idolatrous Canaanites and Phenicians, and whom at the same time we can shew to have been the undoubted superior both of Abraham and of the whole Levitical priesthood: since, I say, we can find no living mortal, who can be made to correspond with any such extraordinary description; our only satisfactory mode of solving the problem is to suppose, that this rémarkable personage was a temporary manifestation of the Angel or Word of God.
The proposal of such an opinion may perhaps at first appear to be somewhat bold and hazardous : but, if we consider, both the necessity of the case which seems to require the interposition of a present Deity to loose the knot, and the very peculiar language employed by St. Paul when treating of the subject; we may possibly be induced finally to acquiesce in it as the best and most strictly analogical solution of the difficulty.
Our apostle, after briefly stating that Christ was called of God an high-priest after the order of Melchizedek, immediately, and as if to intimate the high mysteriousness of his subject, opens it with the following very remarkable exordium. Of