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Jehovah had appropriated the nation to Himself and made it His own1. Finally-and this is the main point -the covenant necessarily involved a divine requirement. Accordingly, in Exod. xxiv. the newly-formed nation binds itself to Jehovah's service, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient2.
Thus at the very outset of its national career Israel is pledged to moral obedience, and it is forewarned that a special character is the condition of union with the holy God 3. Ye shall be a holy nation-such is the divine command; Ye shall be holy, for I am holy;-words which point to the future rather than the present; to a predestined purpose rather than an accomplished fact. From the first the people were told of their calling ... what they existed for, what their existence pointed to,' and the position of the Decalogue, both in Exodus and in Deuteronomy, is a significant token of the principle so emphatically insisted on by the prophets that the moral law is the essential bond of union between God and man, and that ethical obligations transcend those of the ceremonial and ritual law. So Jeremiah insists: I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. It is, as Irenaeus points out, the Decalogue which fixes the eternal conditions of fellowship between God and man; and consequently its precepts are extended and enlarged, rather than dissolved, by the personal advent of the Redeemer®.
Cp. Ezek. xvi. 8: 'Then becamest thou mine.' See Oehler, Theol. of the O. T. § 121.
2 Exod. xxiv. 3, 7.
This is already implied in Gen. xviii. 19. Cp. Exod. xix. 6; Lev. xi. 45,
4 R. W. Church, Discipline of the Christian Character, p. 30.
Jer. vii. 22, 23. These verses have naturally played an important part in the history of criticism. Iren. Haer. iv. 16. 4.
The thought, then, of a covenant uniting man to his Creator may be said to pervade the Old Testament, and it cannot be adequately accounted for apart from some actual divine movement towards man. For the express object and end contemplated in the covenant, in each stage of its history, and on each occasion of its renewal, is ever the same, and is achieved by the same method of divine action. By a process of limitation, by a severance at once physical and moral, the God of Israel sets apart a peculiar people to be the instrument of His purpose and the organ of His praise'. But though the initiative belongs to the God of grace, the very institution of a covenant-relationship implies the recognition of the freedom and dignity that belongs to human nature. 'Man in relation to God,' observes Prof. Schultz, 'is not a being without rights, or one to be treated in an arbitrary way or merely with lenity. He stands to God in a relation of personal and moral fellowship 2.' Thus, as a being created in the image of God, man is not only called to correspond to the moral law; he on his side may claim to share in a measure the thoughts and purposes of God. The notion of a covenant involves a certain relationship of equality, and an element of mutual obligation. In the Old Testament are laid the foundations of a spiritual connexion between God and His creatures which was destined to be perfected in the mystery of the indwelling Spirit. Man already becomes in a sense an heir of God and a joint-heir with His Christ 3.
IV. Yet another aspect of the Old Testament will engage our attention. It is a record which unfolds in successive stages the growth of a unique anticipation or hope concerning the future, not of the elect race only, but of mankind. The Israel of the Spirit was ever waiting, throughout the long ages of the national history, for the manifestation of the kingdom of God *. In the days that immediately preceded the first Advent
Cp. Riehm, op. cit. p. 35.
20. T. Theology, ii. 5. 4 Cp. St. Luke xxiii. 51.
this was the hope to which Israel passionately clungit was indeed the only hope that remained. And the history of Israel is unlike that of any other nation in that the chosen people was divinely destined to fulfil a peculiar mission to the world. The sense of mission was at first, no doubt, dim and obscure, but in the prophets it became powerfully developed, and in it originated the hopes that we call 'Messianic.' If we wished in a single phrase to describe the ideal destiny of Israel, we might select the term, Servant of Jehovah', since the mission of the chosen people was, in fact, to proclaim to the nations in Jehovah's name the kingdom of God. In the momentous events of the exodus, as they were interpreted by the piety of later ages, the foundations of a visible kingdom of God among men were laid. Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation 2, that is, a people bearing the marks of special consecration to Jehovah, and entrusted with a spiritual mission, extending to all the nations of the earth. It is highly doubtful whether the nation at the time of its foundation was conscious of its vocation. There can be no question, however, that in looking back on its wonderful past, the spiritual Israel of a later period rightly interpreted the significance of its redemption from Egyptian servitude. Through painful discipline a remnant at least of the nation became conscious that it was called to be a vehicle of divine knowledge and salvation to the world; it was com
1 Cp. Edersheim, Warburton Lectures, p. 45; and Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 400. Observe the title 'Servant of Jehovah' implies a call to special service or obedience. It is used of Abraham (Gen. xxvi. 24), Caleb (Num. xiv. 24), Moses (Deut. xxxiv. 5, &c.), Joshua (Joshua xxiv. 29), David (2 Sam. vii. 5, &c.), Job (i. 8), Isaiah (xx. 3, &c.). The phrase, in its colective sense applied to Israel, is first used by Jeremiah (e. g. xxx. 10) and Ezekiel (e. g. xxviii. 25), and is common in Deutero-Isaiah.
Exod. xix. 4-6.
missioned to proclaim the sovereignty of God. Thy saints give thanks unto thee, sings a psalmist, they show the glory of thy kingdom and talk of thy power; that thy power, thy glory, and mightiness of thy kingdom might be known unto men1. Hence the keynote of Moses' song is the reign of God on earth: Jehovah shall reign for ever and ever 2; and the thought thus expressed becomes the one 'pervading and impelling idea of the Old Testament 3.'
Now of this kingdom of God the polity of ancient Israel was a kind of external and visible embodiment. Although the religion of the Old Testament from the first contained the potency of becoming a worldreligion, yet in its beginnings it bears all the marks. of a purely national or tribal religion. The kingdom of God is seemingly confined within the limits of an organized nationality; fellowship with God means participation in the chosen people. The divine sovereignty is not conceived as a relation in which Jehovah stands to the whole created universe; it is rather the dominion which He exercises over the special people of His choice. Hence Israel's polity might be called a 'Theocracy,' a term apparently invented by Josephus to denote the immediate, personal sovereignty of Jehovah in Israel. When the primitive covenant between Jehovah and the people was ratified, God became King in Jeshurun, the fountain-head of all authority and governance, all civil and religious enactments. He became the sovereign, the law-giver, the judge, the champion, the protector of His people.
Cp. Riehm, op. cit. pp. 27, 28.
Cp. Oehler, Theol. of the O. T. § 91.
2 Exod. xv. 18.
See Josephus, c. Apion. ii. 16 (quoted by Oehler, 7. c.). Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel (ed. 1), p. 52, remarks that 'The word theocracy expresses precisely that feature in the religion of Israel which it had in common with the faiths of the surrounding nations,' but Stanton, The Jewish and the Christian Messiah, p. 100 note, points out that the word does describe very happily what became distinctive of Israel. . . . The idea was preserved among them when other nations had lost it' in a very elevated form.
He went before them to battle as their leader; their triumphs were victories won by His holy arm1.
It would be a mistake however to suppose that the idea of a theocracy was completely realized in the primitive Mosaic institutions. We must remember that they are described to us by writers who are dominated by the theocratic idea, and whose conceptions of ancient Hebrew history are coloured by the facts and ideals of their own time. Nevertheless, there is no reason to doubt that Moses planted a seed which the lapse of time was destined to bring to maturity. The position of utter dependence on their God and His appointed mediator in which the newly enfranchised Hebrews found themselves contained the essential
germ of theocratic ideas. Researches into the primitive religion of the Semites give support to this view. Wellhausen maintains that in ancient Israel the theocracy never existed in fact as a form of constitution; it only came into existence in the strict sense after the exile, and was transported in an idealized form to early times. But this statement must be qualified by the consideration that among the Hebrews, as among other Semitic tribes, it would be obvious and natural to address the tribal god as king, and the belief in such a sovereignty would carry with it the conviction that the supreme guidance of the state was actually in the hands of the deity, and that the whole sphere of ordinary social and civil life was subject to His control and direction 2. Under the monarchy the theocratic idea was gradually recognized, developed, and expanded. The reign of David and his successors had very far-reaching consequences in this connexion. The monarchy drew the life of the people together at a centre, and gave it an aim'; it developed a national self-consciousness'; while political developments necessarily affected the
1 Ps. xcviii. 2.
2 Wellhausen, Prolegomena, c. vii. p. 256, and c. xi. p. 411 [Eng. Tr.]. Cp. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 31.