« AnteriorContinuar »
Abraham's bondmaid, Jehovah manifests Himself as the living one who seeth1. This wonderful expression is one which makes us pause. The living one! 2 the home and source of life, the being whose will is that all His creatures should share in His inexhaustible fullness of life, who is utterly separated from all that is dead, or formal, or mechanical, or unspiritual 3. Such passages as Psalm cxv, or Isaiah xliv, develope in detail the thought of the measureless interval that parts Jehovah from idols, the work of men's hands. Nor is Jehovah only a living person; He is 'El 'Olam*, "the everlasting God,' unchangeable in character, persistently fulfilling His purpose of grace throughout age-long dispensations of mercy and power.
sponds with the thought of the continuity of Jehovah's work that He is described by titles which define His special relation to the elect people. He is the God of Shem, God of the Hebrews, God of the fathers, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-phrases which seem to imply that the worship of Jehovah was already traditional before the time of Moses. Nor must we overlook the expression which is the very charter of the Mosaic religion, Jehovah the God of Israel. The more developed form of this last title, the Holy One of Israel, has special importance as marking a stage in the evolution of Israel's faith into a universal religion, a moment of transition when the idea of Jehovah's uniqueness as the object of Israel's devotion passes into that of His moral perfection as revealed in the Law and in the work of grace. First employed, as it would seem, by Isaiah, the name gathers up all that Israel might have learned touching the character of
1 Gen. xvi. 13, 14.
Cp. Josh. iii. 10; 1 Sam. xvii. 26, 36; Deut. iv. 28; v. 26; Ps. xxxvi. 9; xlii. 2, 8; Jer. ii. 13; x. 10, &c. Cp. the phrase The Lord liveth. Contrast the frequent phrase applied to idols, D. Lev. xix. 4; Ps. xcvii. 7; Isa. ii. 18, 20; x. 10; xix. 1, 3; Ezek. xxx. 13. Ps. cvi. 28.
* Gen. xxi. 33. Cp. Jukes, Names of God, pp. 138-141. See also Ps. xc. 2; 1 Tim. i. 17.
Jehovah in the pre-prophetic period: His love in separating unto Himself a peculiar people, His moral requirement revealed in the Law, His abhorrence of ceremonial worship divorced from righteous conduct. When it was first proclaimed, the name served a double purpose: it was intended at once to alarm and to console. Jehovah's holiness was a principle which must assert itself at once in the chastisement of Israel's sins, and in the overthrow of their oppressors 1.
The above illustrations sufficiently prove that in the view of the Old Testament writers Jehovah can only be fully apprehended, under a large diversity of names or attributes; and it has been truly remarked that this very fact implies that Jewish monotheism is not of a bare and merely abstract character, like the doctrine of Islam. The idea of God is not a bare unit'; the divine nature involves diversity as well as unity'; and from the idea of a diversity of external relationships, a short step leads to the conception of a being who possesses in the fullness of His own self-sufficing life internal relationship of love.
There appear to be successive stages discernible in the manifestation of Jehovah's attributes. As we have already seen, He is revealed first as 'holy,' that is, absolutely separate' from the world; and by His gracious severance of Israel from Egypt He consecrates to Himself a people to share His holiness. Ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine3. Under the discipline of the Law, which awakened and educated the sense of moral shortcoming, the prophetic spirit in Israel gradually elucidated the ethical meaning of holiness as involving separation from sin. But already, at an early point in the history, an explicit manifestation of Jehovah's character was elicited by the very fact of Israel's unfaithfulness. It
1 Cp. Kirkpatrick, The Doctrine of the Prophets, pp. 175 foll. 2 Caird, The Philosophy of Religion, p. 312.
3 Lev. xx. 26.
should be noticed that the wonderful declaration of the Name of Jehovah recorded in Exod. xxxiv, stands in close connexion with the account of Israel's first signal act of apostasy, the making of the golden calf. The exact nature and degree of the nation's guilt in this matter is not a point which concerns us here. It is sufficiently evident that the compiler of the narrative intended to suggest a close connexion between Israel's guilt and the self-revelation of God Let us devote a few which was occasioned by it. minutes' attention to the great passage in question. Jehovah, we read, passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah Elohim, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation 1.
Here are described two sides of the divine character. which may be said to constitute two permanent and complementary elements in the Old Testament conception of God. On the one hand, the passage ascribes to Jehovah the attribute of truth or righteousness; on the other, that of kindness or grace 2.
1. First, then, Jehovah is righteous and true 3. These two attributes, if not precisely synonymous, do at least mutually explain each other. The attribute of 'righteousness' denotes the moral exactitude with which Jehovah necessarily acts and judges. He deals with men by rule and measure-by the standard of His own moral perfection. He requites them according to their deeds; He fulfils His purposes in perfect accordance with His threats and promises; He is ever mindful of that which He has pledged Himself to perform, ever true to the character which He has already
1 Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7.
2 'Die beiden entgegengesetzten Pole des Wesens Gottes.' (Riehm, p. 62.) 3 On P, п3, see Schultz, ii. 152; Gesenius, Lexicon, s. v.
made known. The word 'truth' or 'faithfulness' answers to righteousness' as subjective to objective, implying the fidelity, stability, dependableness of the divine character. In Jehovah man finds that on which he may lean with confidence, security, and hope. Faithfulness is, in fact, an attribute of God before it is an element in true human goodness; and there is no attribute of God more frequently alluded to and more trustfully appealed to, throughout the records of Israel's troubled history, than this of the divine faithfulness. It finds expression in such ancient designations of God as the Rock 2. In a world of movement and change, as contrasted with the transitoriness and mutability of man, the divine character is fixed, permanent, and changeless. It is poetically likened to those immense landmarks in nature which endure when countless generations of men are no more. Thy righteousness, cries the psalmist, is like the mountains of God3. Nay, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, thou art God from everlasting and world without end. Thus the persistence and self-consistency of Jehovah is regarded in a moral light as the necessary condition of His moral government, and as the stable foundation of the divine kingdom.
2. On the other hand, God is gracious and merciful, full of lovingkindness and of pity for the penitent, the suffering, the oppressed. It is this side of the divine character which manifests itself on the occasion of Israel's wilful apostasy. It is the deepest and most enduring element in Jehovah's nature. The most expressive term denoting this attribute is cheşed, 'grace' or 'lovingkindness,' which, though frequently applied to man, belongs primarily to Jehovah. One of the
.156 .Cp. Schultz, ii אמונה אמת 1
2. See especially Deut. xxxii. 4; cp. Num. i. 5, 6, 10; iii. 35. 3 Ps. xxxvi. 6. Cp. xc. 2.
Cp. Robertson, Early Religion of Israel, pp. 323 foll.; Schultz, ii. 159. As applied to man, DП means (1) the piety or covenant-love of Israel cowards Jehovah, (~) brotherly kindness between man and man.
first of the eighth-century prophets, Hosea, conceives of Israel's entire history as a love-story. The only metaphor which can express the tenderness of Jehovah's dealings with His wayward people is borrowed from the marriage-tie. God's love for Israel has been like that of a husband for the erring wife of his youth. But the conception of the divine lovingkindness was broadened by experience. It came to be understood that the attribute was proper to Jehovah, not merely as Israel's God, but as Creator. The glory and beauty of creation, the providential care displayed towards even the lowest creatures, testified to the creative goodness and compassion of God; in the book of Jonah the divine pity is extended even to the heathen world, which Israel held in such abhorrence. Indeed, as Israel's religious consciousness developed, it came to be understood that the most fundamental and far-reaching attribute in the character of Jehovah was lovingkindness. This seems to be clearly proved by the frequency with which the great passage in Exodus is alluded to in other books of the Old Testament. Three of the minor prophets, Jonah, Micah, and Nahum, are linked together by their common interest in it1; and in such a psalm as the hundred and third, its characteristic teaching is beautifully and richly expanded.
It is a direct consequence of Jehovah's love that He is also represented as jealous 2. Jealousy in God is the zeal of outraged love. In the Mosaic period we cannot but recognize the imperfectly moral conception formed of Jehovah's character. The wrathful and fiery elements of the divine nature are regarded as the most prominent. The anger of Jehovah is kindled by any infringement of covenant-conditions; it blazes forth with sudden vehemence at the least outrage done to His honour. It has even been maintained
1 See Jonah iv. 2; Mic. vii. 18; Nahum i. 3. Cp. Riehm, p. 63. 8. Num. xxv. 11; Deut. iv. 24; v. 9; vi. 15, &c.
Cp. Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 38, 39; and see Robertson