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nature of an oath was signified in that way, Abraham, when he desired to take a pledge of his servant that he would not seek a wife for Isaac of the people of the place in which he lived, required him to put his hand under his thigh; and the same thing was done in regard to Joseph. The Hebrew servant who would not receive his liberty at the year of Jubilee, was to have his ear bored to the post of the door, to which there is an allusion in Psalm xl. 6, where Christ is represented as saying, “ Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire : mine ears hast thou opened.” But these, and others of the same nature, are seldom regarded as types, and therefore are not here to be enlarged upon.
The Tree of Life and the Cherubims with the flaming sword, which the Almighty placed at the entrance of the garden of Eden after the fall, of which an account is contained in Gen. iii. 22–24: “And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword
which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”
The only place prior to this in which the tree of life is spoken of is in chap. ii. 9, where we read merely “out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden."
As the Scriptures are silent on the nature or character of this tree, of course nothing with regard to that subject can be determined on with certainty. It is probable, however, that it derived its name not from the kind or tendency of its fruit, but from its nature. It appears to have been an unfading, unchanging tree, always vigorous and fruitful; and it was this circumstance that gave it its adaptation to the design for which it was employed as an emblem of endless life.
From the manner in which it is alluded to in the first of the passages above quoted, it is evident that partaking of it was, in some way, connected with a perpetual continuance in life; but whether it was used for that purpose while man was in his state of probation, or was designed to be partaken of after that was completed, and he was confirmed in immortality, there is nothing in either of the places in the Book of Genesis in which it is mentioned to lead us to determine. The words, “Lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life,” will apply to either case.
It is certain that when man was created he was endowed with immortality, which blessing he possessed not as inherent in himself, (for in
that sense God only hath immortality,) but as what his Maker conferred upon him, and in the possession of this he would have been preserved, had he continued in his state of innocency until he was made the actual progenitor of the human race. But still, as he was a sensitive creature, the Deity saw proper to instruct him in regard to his eternal existence (even in his state of innocency) by visible objects; and therefore appointed the tree of life both as an emblem and à pledge of what he would continue to do during the period of his trial, or what should take place when it had successfully terminated. In either case the design of the tree of life was the same: it was an emblem of what God would do for his creature, man.
That the tree was in itself most pleasant and profitable for life we are led to believe from what is said of it; but we cannot think, as some do,* that it had any virtue of its own to impart an immortal existence. It was not, therefore, because it conveyed this blessing that it was partaken of, but merely for a sacramental purpose. It was a sign or emblem; but when the fall took place, it introduced a change in the whole economy of things. The hope of immortality indeed was not destroyed, for God had declared that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent; but it was no longer to be expected as the reward of obedience. It was to be received now, if received at all, as the result of Divine mercy through a crucified Redeemer. The way in which the blessing was to be obtained being changed, there was of
* See Dr. Adam Clarke's Com. on Gen. ii. 9.
necessity a discontinuance of the emblem. As it was natural to expect, from what Adam knew of the tree by experience, or from the prospects he had been accustomed to entertain in connection with it, that though fallen he would still rely upon it, or wish to try its merits in his new circumstances, it became necessary to use means to debar him from it, and “ therefore the Lord placed at the entrance of the garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Now, according to this view of the subject, the cherubim were nothing more than created angels, and ministers of the Divine displeasure. Their office was in perfect, accordance with the act of the Almighty, whatever that act was, in driving our first parents from the garden, and their position emblematical of his anger; and in that light they are considered by several respectable commentators.
But all this has been regarded by some as possessing a typical character. Not only has the tree of life been made to be a type, but Mather * makes the cherubim to be types of the angels, though elsewheret he calls them shadows of God's wrath, and God's executioners. Some have looked upon them as types of the Trinity, and their conduct as representing the part which the sacred Three took in the redemption of man, and the whole scene as setting forth the conflict of Christ, or the Deity suffering in himself. As this is attaching much more importance to the appearance of the cherubim * P. 56.
+ P. 66.
than it would seem to be entitled to, it may
be well here to examine the above opinion. The principal grounds upon which it rests, so far as they can be ascertained, are the following:
1. The angels are of a friendly disposition to man : “ Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation ?"* And in the case of Lot, when God sent them to hasten him out of Sodom, they discovered no hostile disposition. This is true; but still it does not follow that because the angels have a merciful commission to execute on one occasion, they may not be charged with one of a very different character on another; for the same heavenly agents are employed in different works. Thus, when God would
chastise the people of the Jews on account of the sin of David in numbering the people, he sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem, when there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.”+ Yet, on a very different occasion, the angels announced the birth of the Saviour, and sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”! And, in fact, their mission to Sodom partook both of vengeance and
2. The word here rendered placed, it is said, properly signifies to inhabit or dwell. Admitting, however, the truth of this, and allowing that the sense which our translators have given to the original word is not the one in which it is often employed, still it cannot be denied that there are other parts of the Scriptures in which it is to be found that seem to
* Heb. i. 14. + 1 Chron. xxi. 14. I Luke ii. 14.