Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

recovering his senses, the king asks : “Was it thy voice which ] heard, or the voice of thy God ?" Abram answers : “ It was the voice only of one of the meanest of God's creatures.” “In sooth,” says Nimrod,“ thy God is great and mighty, and indeed King of kings.” And he dismisses Terah and his son in safety.

All these legends agree in making Abram to have early arrived at a purer notion concerning God than his contemporaries. Some say that he obtained this knowledge from Shem, who survived to his day ; but most stories tell how the more he thought on these things, the more convinced was he of the truth of monotheism, and the more resolved to spread this belief among mankind.

According to another Jewish legend Terah was an idolater, and going one day on a journey he appointed Abram to sell his idols in his stead. As often as a purchaser came, Abram asked his age, and when he replied, “ I am fifty or sixty years old,” he said, “Woe to the man of sixty who would worship the work of a day.” And the would-be purchasers went away ashamed.' Other Mahommedan myths tell how, staying at home on one occasion, when his fellow townsmen had gone on a pilgrimage to some shrine, he destroyed seventy-two idols which were set up in a temple, obtaining from this adventure his honourable title of Khulil Allah, “Friend of God.” Accused before Nimrod of this offence, he was condemned to be burnt alive. Previously the following conversation is reported to have taken place : “ Let us worship the fire,” said the king. “ Rather,” replied Abram, “ the water that quenches the fire.” “Well, the water." “ Rather the cloud that carries the water." “Well, the cloud.” “ Rather the wind that scatters the cloud.” “Well, the wind." “Rather man, for he endures the wind.” “Thou art a babbler,” cried Nimrod. “I worship the fire, and will cast thee into it. May the God whom thou adorest deliver thee thence.” He was accordingly thrown into the burning pile. All the inhabitants of heaven and the creatures of earth were eager to save him ; but God sent Gabriel to cool the flame, which miraculously lost all its heat ; and though Abram remained seven days in the furnace he was unharmed, and sat amid the fiames as in a blooming garden.

Is there not a great truth lurking beneath these fantastic

a

Weil,

The Bible, The Koran, and the Talmud," p. 49 f.

master.

legends? All that will live godly must suffer persecution. It is the law of God's kingdom. The disciple is not above his

“If they have persecuted Me,” said Christ to His followers, “ they will also persecute you.”

The sacred narra, tive, indeed, gives no hint of any such trials; but we know from the necessities of the case that it must have been so; nor would the character of the patriarch have shown such patience, courage, steadfastness, without a training of danger and difficulty. What is meant by Isaiah's expression (chap. xxix. 22): "The Lord who redeemed Abraham?": Does it not point to a rescue from perils, such perils as met him at the hands of idolaters whom his pure life, if not his actual teaching, rebuked ? We read of no such hazards undergone after his migration. He encounters no religious opposition in Haran, ur Canaan, or Egypt. In those stages of his career he is a mature believer, who unhesitatingly enunciates his sentiments, and whose utterances are received with respect and submission. Assuredly, he had had to do battle for the faith before he arrived at this calm maintenance of his religious convictions, and this power of impressing others. In his early home he must have had

many such conflicts as legendary history relates-conflicts with the secular power, as represented by Nimrod ; conflicts with popular superstition, as represented by the priests; and, what was harder to bear, conflicts with his own family, who did not share his faith, and who derided his enthusiasm—when his foes were those of his own household. Such trials he endured with the constancy of a Christian saint.

Not wondering, though in grief, to find

The martyr's foe still keep her mind :
But fixed to hold Love's banner fast,
And by submission win at last." ;

: Ewald, “History of Israel," i. p. 318, Eng. Transl.
2 Keble, "Christian Year," Second Sunday after Trinity.

CHAPTER II,

FIRST CALL.

Causes of the migration - The call ; its nature ; Abram's obedience

Journey from Ur to Haran-Erech-Calneh—Babylon-Sepharvaim-
Ivah-Hena–The river Habor-Haran ; its neighbourhood-Arrival of
Nahor-Death of Terah.

The history of Abram's call is not fully given in Genesis. There is much more in the matter which we should like to know, much that, if told, would enable us better to estimate his religious character in this stage of his life, and to understand what advance he had made in the knowledge of God. But one part of Scripture supplements another; details that are wanting here are supplied there ; hints are cursorily given which complete the sketch otherwise imperfect. Of the hand that led him, and the voice that first called him, St. Stephen speaks ; of the blind obedience that followed that Divine direction the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us (chap. xi.), when it teaches that he

went out, not knowing whither he went.” Had we the record of Genesis alone, we should not know what was the impulse which led to this migration. For we read merely : “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."

This might have been merely the movement of a nomadic tribe, restless in confinement, and not altogether weaned from ancestral habits, seeking new pastures and a new sphere of activity. Or it might have been the unwilling departure of a conquered horde, whom some superior power had

[ocr errors]

driven from their home. Either of these suppositions the passage in Genesis would allow us to adopt. An explanation of the movement much nearer to the truth is given in the Book of Judith (chap. v. 6-8), from the mouth of Achior the Ammonite “ This people,” said he to Holofernes, “are descended of the Chaldæans, and they sojourned heretofore in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the gods of their fathers which were in the land of Chaldæa. For they left the way of their ancestors, and worshipped the God of heaven, the God whom they knew : so they cast them out from the face of their gods, and they fed into Mesopotamia, and sojourned there many days; " or, as the Latin version puts it, “ thus abandoning the ceremonies of their fathers, which consisted in the worship of many gods, they worshipped one god of heaven, who commanded them to depart thence and to dwell in Charran.” Doubtless this account is based on the facts of the case. The Chaldæan religion was not altogether tolerant. The monarch gave the word to his subjects. Public opinion was thoroughly Erastian, and elected to believe what the ruling power proposed to its acceptance. “I make a decree,” said Darius in after years (Dan. vi. 26), “ that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.” So an attack on the prevalent faith was not likely to be allowed to pass without notice, and a preacher of monotheism would have found himself opposed both actively and passively, by open persecution as well as by tacit reproof and official discountenance. The legends mentioned above invariably show Abram as a devout believer in one God, and suffering persecution for his faith.

But the true signification of the change of residence is given by St. Stephen in his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts vii. 2, 3), where he states that Abram had had a direct revelation from God before the Lord appeared unto him in Charran. “ The God of glory,” he says, “ appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.” The tradition of monotheism, handed down from Noah and his sons, had doubtless never been lost, though overlaid with accretions and combined with many superstitions; and to such a mind as Abram's it must have had a vast attraction which discredited all the allurements of idolatrous worship.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Never till now has any mention been made of a distinct appearance of the Lord to man, and what the expression imports has occasioned some perplexity. When God spake to Adam in Eden, or to Noah, the mode of the Divine manifestation is not expressly stated. That the appearance in the present case was not a direct vision of Jehovah in a bodily form is certain, for

no man hath seen God at any time.” That it was not a subjective impression on the seer's mind without any objective reality, the wording of the passage seems to necessitate ; but it may be questioned whether this appearance was that of a created angel or of the Son of God, anticipating, as it were, the Incarnation. There are many passages in both Testaments which imply that such manifestations were made by created angels, acting as messengers of, or personating, the Lord ;' but the majority of the Fathers always held that, on the most solemn occasions, it was the Logos who appeared to the men of old, assuming an angelic form or imparting His immediate presence to the revealer of His will. This is He whom Malachi (iii. 1) calls “the Angel of the Covenant," whom the LXX. in Isaiah ix. 6 term “the Angel of mighty counsel,” and who, while designated “the Angel of God," is often identified with God Himself. We may reverently conclude that it was the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Only Begotten Son, who appeared to the patriarch at Ur, and called him to leave his country and to fare forth on an unknown journey.

This first call was accompanied by no promise ; it demanded simple obedience. This was Abram's training; by little and little God was leading him to his great sacrifice; as he answered one call, another and a greater was ready for him. Every step forward was an advance towards the final and consummating

The old story tells how, in gazing on the starry heavens, he learned to adore the Creator, and felt the nothingness of the idolatry and creature worship which satisfied his family and countrymen. “When night overshadowed him," says the Koran,2 "he saw a star, and said, “This is my

Lord.' But when it set, he said, “I like not those that set.' And when he saw the moon rising, he said, “This is my Lord.' But when the moon set, he answered, “Verily, if my Lord direct me not in the right way, I shall be as one of those that err.' And when

I "Speaker's Commentary," on Gen. xii. 7.
. Quoted by Stanley, "Jewish Church," Lect. i.

summons.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »