« AnteriorContinua »
carried on, and that from thence man derived all his knowledge of every kind, but particularly his knowledge of, and duty to, his Creator. After the fall, the visible personal presence of God was withdrawn; but he still communicated with man, and the mode of communication was established, and carried on by the same Divine Word, which I now proceed to show; and beg to direct my reader's attention to the three last verses of the third chapter of Genesis, spoken by the same Divine Word. These verses were unfortunately misunderstood by our translators, and the true sense and meaning greatly obscured. The translation of our Bible, considering the time at which it was made, is a noble monument of the learning of the reformers of the Church of England. But during the dark ages of Popery, the Bible had been a sealed book, and had not been subjected to the same general, constant, and searching investigation, as it has been since the Reformation. Hence some inaccuracies and mistakes were unavoidable. And the passage now before us is one of those which require review and correction. And I earnestly request our Hebrew professors and scholars to direct their attention to it, and endeavour fully to elucidate it. The interpretation which I am about to give, is collected from different commentators.
Our translation represents a guard being placed to the east of the Garden of Eden, as if to keep man from the tree of life; which appears to me to be directly opposite to the true meaning. Pole shows that the word translated " And now,” (verse 22,) is never used in Hebrew, unless in cases where repentance is proposed, as in Deut. x. 12:-" And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul," &c.
If this be the true meaning of the word translated " and now," we may conclude that the remainder of these verses is intended to be answerable to the beginning, and to point out the way of man's repentance and conversion. It is said by some commentators, that the word translated "lest," and for which the Septuagint gives unmore, has the same meaning which that Greek word also has, answering to the Latin word "fortassè," and signifying a likelihood or probability of an event happening. So that the meaning of the sentence would be this :- -“Although man is thus fallen by eating of the forbidden tree, yet it may, and most* likely will come to pass, that he will hereafter stretch forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." And I think we shall find that the action recorded in the last verse is calculated to carry into practice the benign intentions thus expressed.
Let us now consider what he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, and for what purpose. "He placed cherubim." Now I request the reader here to peruse carefully the first and tenth chapters of Ezekiel, and he will find that there was a close affinity between the divine presence and the glory of the Lord, and the cherubim. This appears also from other parts of scripture. On this account, cherubim were placed at each end of the mercy-seat, over the ark of the covenant, upon which the symbol of the divine presence descended. Hence Jehovah was called "the Lord of Hosts, who dwelleth between the cherubims," as in 1 Sam. iv. 4; 2 Sam. vi. 2; 2 Kings xix. 15; 1 Chron. xiii. 6; Ps. lxxx. 1; Ps. xcix. 1. And in Ps. xviii. 10, 11, the word "cherub" is actually put to represent "the cloud his chariot." The angels are frequently called the chariots of
The English language does not supply words capable of expressing such a kind of contingency as is compatible with the foreknowledge of the Deity.
Jehovah, and so also are the clouds; and in Ezekiel the cherubim are represented with wheels for this very reason. The Arabians used to call a ship of burden "cherub." And among the four animals in Ezek. i. 10 & 14, the ox alone is said to have the face of a cherub, because he alone was a beast of burden. Ezek. iii. 12, 13; "Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing,* saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures, that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing." Hence we may fairly conclude, that by the cherubims mentioned in the passages under our consideration, was meant the cloudy symbol of the divine presence; which, as I shall show below, usually, if not always, assumed the appearance of fire when communications were given from it.
The word translated "a flaming sword," literally signifies "a sword of flame," at lambent coruscation of flame or fire, and is exactly similar to ploy wʊроç, (Acts vii. 30,) the flame of fire in the bush, which Moses saw, and which was the symbol of the divine presence. Therefore we may conclude that it was the symbol of the divine presence which was placed at the east of the Garden of Eden. And for what purpose was it placed there? Our translation says, "To keep the way of the tree of life." "To keep," here, does not so much mean to guard,' as to
direct to.' And
* Compare this with the account in Acts ii. 2, of the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost-" A sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind."
The word rendered "turned every way," was calculated to represent the lambent motion of fire; and the Hebrew word "isheken,” which signifies "placed," in this passage, is the very word from which the "shekinah," or divine glory, or symbol of the divine presence, is derived.
so the purpose of the divine presence was gradually to guide men to the tree of life.
That such a divine presence was there placed, as a constant mode of communication with man, and there continued, appears from several passages. Cain and Abel were not born until after their expulsion from Paradise; and it is probable that they were near a hundred years old, when Cain murdered Abel, for Adam was a hundred years old when Seth was born; and Seth, as his name imports, was given in place of Abel. (Gen. iv. 25.)
It is evident that there was a particular place where the Lord was supposed to be; for Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. Cain, a self-righteous offering; Abel, a sin-offering. That this place was the shekinah or divine glory, appears from Abel's offering being "accepted." How was it accepted? The word which signifies " had respect" unto his offering, signifies also "turned to ashes,' and is the same word used in Judges vi. 21, when the angel of the Lord touched the sacrifice of Gideon, and fire rose out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. See also Lev. ix. 24. " And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat, which, when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces." Also 1 Chron. xxi. 26, and 2 Chron. vii. 1. It appears, therefore, that at the time of the transaction here recorded, the cloud assumed the appearance of fire, and Abel's offering was accepted by fire coming out from the presence of the Lord, and consuming it.
"And the Lord said unto Cain." Here is further proof of the communication. That they knew where the Lord was, and constantly conversed with him, appears also from the words of Cain, verse 14: "From thy face shall I be
hid:" because he was to be banished from that place. And Cain's lamentation shows that the divine appearance was not a matter of rare occurrence, but a constant and abiding source of instruction and comfort, the removal from whence was a cause of bitter grief even to the guilty, blood-stained Cain. And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord: the very words by which the symbol of the divine presence was afterwards expressed in many passages.
It is probable that this mode of communication lasted through many ages, and was the mode of communicating God's will to man, and the source of revelation from which flowed the laws and commandments, which the patriarchs undoubtedly had before the time of Moses,-the source of the knowledge imparted in the early ages to mankind, and carried with them in their dispersion,-never entirely obscured,—which we erroneously call the law and the light of nature. This glory illumined the ark and gave light and consolation during the dismal night of the flood; and this, perhaps, it was, which appeared to Jacob, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it, and the Lord standing above it.
The Lord communicated, also, in other ways with Abraham and his descendants in the form of angels and men. And where no particular mode is mentioned, it is probable that the communication was from the pillar of a cloud and of fire. This also appeared to Moses, (Exod. iii. 2,) when he kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, at Horeb. And it seems that he was acquainted with it; for the only symptom of surprise he shows is, that the bush (the emblem of Israel at that time) was not burnt. The same divine glory led the Israelites out of Egypt, and through the wilderness, and appeared with super-eminent splendour and magnificence on Sinai. This filled the tabernacle,