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Much of the prophecy given to Abraham had now received its literal fulfilment. The people were increased into a great nation; they had been in a strange land, serving strangers ; the predicted period of their affliction had expired; they were delivered, and their enemies destroyed ; and now it only remained, that they should be put in full possession of the land of Canaan. It is remarkable, that after so many particulars of the prophecy had been fulfilled to the letter, the people should have hesitated, or evinced any sceptical feeling respecting the remainder: but they did so; and the faithfulness with which their murmuring is recorded, is no small internal testimony to the honesty of the author of the Pentateuch. - The congregation generally, received, with culpable willingness, the evil report of the land, brought back by the majority of the spies; and they sai " Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” And when Joshua and Caleb resisted that evil report, and declared, on the contrary, that the land was an exceeding good land, a land which flowed with milk and honey; all the congregation bade stone them with stones. The anger of the Lord was kindled against the congregation; and he sware in his wrath, that they should not enter into the land. Their unbelief, however, could not render the faithfulness of God of none effect: the promise was sure to the seed of Abraham ; some must enter in; and the Lord said to Moses, “ Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.” .
In the accomplishment of this part of the prophecy, we again see the special providence of God, in preserving the people separate. They were delayed in Egypt, and in the wilderness, till the iniquity of the Canaanites was completely füll: that is, till it was a righteous thing in God, who had given those nations warning, and time for repentance, now, at last, to destroy them, either by famine, or pestilence, or earthquake, or by the hand of man. This last was his purpose, and he employed the Israelites in the dreadful mission.
When they entered the land, therefore, they were commanded utterly to destroy the inhabitants, sparing neither sex nor age; and thus their separation, as a people dwelling alone, was secured. And when one of the nations of the land deceived them into a league, so that they could not destroy them without breach of faith; they resolved upon a mode of treatment which would equally secure their national separation ; they degraded them into a state of perpetual servitude ; making them hewers of
wood, and drawers of water, for the accommodation of the congregation."
Together with establishment in their own land, they had now fresh elements of separation among them. The ordinances of the tabernacle worship, which had been instituted in the wilderness, with express and repeated injunctions to continue them in the land, served as a hedge by which the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts was surrounded and fenced from the world.
Pausing, then, and contemplating the nation at this period of their history, we make these two important observations. First, the literal interpretation of the prophecies given to Abraham was proved, by the events, to be the true one. . And, secondly, a rich provision was made for the continued literal fulfilment of the prophecy of BalaamLo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
III. The voice of prophecy, which had so long, and so frequently, pronounced blessings upon the Hebrew nation, had now raised a counter tone, and the Lord had declared, by Moses, their dispersion and desolation. On this part of the subject. the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy should be carefully studied. No selection of quotations can convey any adequate idea of that celebrated prophecy. The same infallible voice had given utterance to the still more remote purposes of Jehovah concerning the nation; and restoration, free pardon, and final glory, were the animating themes. On this point the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy is as clear and explicit, though not so copious, as is the twenty-eighth chapter on the desolation. It does not belong to our present purpose, to enter into any detailed examination of these prophecies : it is sufficient to observe, that such of the Israelites as paid due attention to the predictions delivered to Abraham, comparing them with their literal fulfilment, had every reason to expect a similarly literal fulfilment of those delivered by Moses. Moses proclaimed two leading branches of the purpose of God respecting the Jewish nation-1. Desolation, long and dreary. 2. Restoration, complete and glorious. Under these two heads nearly all the subsequent prophecies concerning the nation might be perspicuously arranged: with this remarkable difference, however, in the distribution ; that whereas, in the predictions of Moses, a manifest superiority in stress and copiousness is given to the afflictive side of the prophecy; in David, Isaiah, and the other prophets, the case is just the reverse. The tribulation is indeed described by them all, but only as enduring for a night; while the exuberance of the prophecy is reserved for the joy of the succeeding morning. A train is laid under the nation, ready to explode, and scatter them to the four winds : while, at the same time, an everlasting arm is described as stretched forth around the ruins, all powerful to preserve, to restore, to rebuild, in permanent magnificence. In confirmation of this, it would be easy to adduce from all the prophets, a multitude of passages, parallel to the twenty-eighth and the thirtieth chapters of Deuteronomy: but our attention is, for the present, to be restricted to some of those predictions, concerning the nation, which have already been avowedly fulfilled.
m Joshua ix.
IV. Subsequently to the establishment of the Israelites in Canaan, a period of four hundred years elapsed, without any event permanently affecting the affairs of the nation. “ Israel served the Lord, all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel."" The next ages degenerated : their compliances with the idolatrous customs of the surrounding nations, provoked the Lord their God to anger, and brought down frequent and severe chastisements upon them. They were given successively into the hands of their enemies, the king of Mesopotamia, the king of Moab, the king of Canaan, the king of Midian, the king of the Philistines, and served them. But still they were kept separate ; and in their troubles, when they called upon the Lord, he heard them, and raised up deliverers for them, one after another-Othniel, and Ehud, and Barak, and Gideon, and Samson, by
Joshua xxiv. 31.