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Boaz (in him is strength), upon whom the remnant had no direct claim, (and who typifies Christ risen, in whom are the sure mercies of David), undertakes to raise up the name of the dead, and to re-establish the heritage of Israel. Acting in grace and in kindness, and encouraging the patient, humble faith of the remnant, the meek of the earth, he shows himself faithful to fulfil the purposes and the will of God, with respect to this poor" desolate family. Nothing can be more touching and exquisite than the details given here. The character of Ruth, this poor woman of the Gentiles, has great beauty “Naomi took the child that was born to her, and laid it in her bosom ;” and they said, “ There is a son born to Naomi." In fact, the heir of the promises will be born unto Israel, as a nation, although the fulfilment of the promise affects the remnant only, which, fully identifying itself with the interests of God's people, has sought neither the rich nor the poor ; but, in faith and obedience has kept the testimony of God amongst the people, in the path appointed by him.
Thus, if on one side, the Book of Judges shows us the falling away of the people of Israel, and their failure under responsibility, even when God was their helper ; on the other side, this touching and precious book sets before us, as the dawn of better things, grace acting in the midst of difficulties, securing the fulfilment of promise, and embellishing this scene of misery and sin by lovely and beautiful instances of faith, precious fruits of grace, whether in weakness and devotedness, or in strength and kindness, and always in accordance with the perfect will of God.
In the succeeding books, we shall see prophecy, and the history of God's dealings, developing the body of events which tended to the fulfilment of His designs, the first principles, the elements of which are laid down in that which will be shown us in him. For Ruth furnishes a kind of intermediate link between the fall of Israel under God's immediate government, and the future fulfilment of His purposes.
Prophecy, which unfolds these purposes, and gives moral proof of this fall, begins with Samuel : we learn
this from the lips of Jesus, who is himself the object of prophecy.
Eli, the last judge and priest, departs, his family is to be cut off, the Ark of the Covenant is taken by the Philistines, and Samuel, consecrated to God in a new and extraordinary manner, comes in with the special testimony of the Lord.
BIBLICAL RESEARCHES :
OR OCCASIONAL CRITICISMS UPON VARIOUS SUBJECTS, TEXTS,
WORDS, ETC., IN SCRIPTURE.
INTRODUCTION. “ Familiar acquaintance" and "thorough knowledge,” though akin, are different; they may sometimes even be contrasted the one to the other. Thus, few persons have a thorough knowledge of their native tongue or language, although they have, of course, familiar acquaintance with it.
As to the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek languages, I pretend not to either “ familiar acquaintance” or to “ thorough knowledge”-properly so called. Yet, having long felt that it was a needless dishonour to myself, when God had put into my hand a revelation, from and of Himself, written therein, not to know these tongues at all, I have sought with some diligence, and at least much labour, to use the Scriptures in my private reading as they were written.
The Lord, who confounded the language of men, that they should not understand one another's speech, - when the iniquity of the post-diluvian age was ripe enough to combine in independency of Him, has condescended to make his revelation in three languages, vouchsafing also a very good translation of the whole in our mother tongue, and more or less correct translations into the languages current in the various countries of Christendom. I could not be satisfied, where intercourse was frequent, to speak to my brethren in the Lord, or even to men, merely through the medium of an interpreter ; much less could I be satisfied to allow a translation of the Bible into my own tongue to stand between me and the Bible as it was written. I thought and do think still) that a child of God
might plead with Him for help to read His WORD as He wrote it; and so, at least, be ready to estimate aright any suggested emendation, and acquire competency to see through the many false glosses, of which ignorance and self-sufficiency are the parents ; at all events, enough to detect the want of kindredship between “improvements” and “alterations" ; for while every needless alteration, as such, is to be deprecated, doubtless faith and humility may find defects, and, therefore, room for improvement in every translation made by uninspired men.
In pursuing this course, one could not divest one's own mind of its previous knowledge of the English authorised version ; but then one gained the power to examine its value, and to mark and guard against any bias it might contain. The result has been an increased sense :- - 1st, Of individual ignorance ; 2ndly, of the difficulty of making a good translation of any, but especially of such, a book as the Bible ; and, 3rdly, of the value of our English authorised version.
In cultivating wisdom—that wisdom which, while it dwells in us and is practical in our walk, consists in the appropriation of Heavenly light by the renewed affections—we ought not either to refuse to weigh a criticism; or, when assured of its value, refuse to communicate it to others. With what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again. That good measure pressed down and running over, may be measured into my own bosom is my desire. I would, therefore, give freely, yet with reverence, before God, as seeking not to handle the word of God lightly or deceitfully. If I desire that those to whom I write should, by the word and by the testimony,
prove all things,” and hold fast that only which is truth, I trust, also, that God may vouchsafe so much of light as to produce, on both writer and reader, the feeling of “Who is sufficient for these things?” as contrasted with that feeling of empty conceit which a little light sometimes produces.
My object is not display but edification; he who can only read English will find (if God prospers my effort) that which will help him in the Scriptures; and they that have the balances of the sanctuary—the Truth—with them, and know how to use them, may return, in some other form of blessing, that which they read; for there is unity in Scripture; and thus the elucidation of a very little point will often open a very large portion to us ; even as, also, ignorance of or misunderstanding of large portions of Scripture grows out of error in some small detail.
We have seen that the book of Ruth occupies an intermediate place between the end of the period in which Israel was governed by God himself, who interposed from time to time by means of judges, and the setting up of the king whom He selected for them. This period, alas ! came to an end through the people's failure, and their inability to make a right use by faith, of their privileges.
The books of Samuel contain the cessation of Israel's original relationship with God, the setting up of the king whom God Himself had prepared, and the circumstances which preceded this event. It is not merely that Israel failed under the government of God: they rejected it.
Placed under the priesthood, they drew nigh to God, in the enjoyment of privileges which were granted them as a people acknowledged by the Lord. We shall see the ark—which, as it was the first, so was it the most precious link in the chain between the Lord God and the people-fall into the hands of the enemy. What could a priest do, when that which gave his priesthood all its importance, was in the enemy's hands, and when the place where he drew near to the Most High, the throne of God in the midst of Israel, was no more there? It was no longer mere unfaithfulness in the circumstances in which God had placed them. The circumstances themselves were entirely changed through God's judgment upon Israel. The outward link of God's connection with the people was broken; the ark of the covenant, centre and basis of their relationship with Him, had been given up by the wrath of God into the hands of their enemies. Priesthood was the natural and normal means of maintaining the relationship between God and the people. How could it now be used for this purpose ?
Nevertheless, God, acting in sovereignty, could put Himself in communication with His people, by virtue of His grace and immutable faithfulness, according to which, VOL.III. PT.III.
His connection with His people existed still on His side, even when all acknowledged relationship between Him and them was broken off by their unfaithfulness. And this He did by raising up a prophet. By his means God still communicated in a direct way with His people, even when they had not maintained their relationship with Him in their normal condition. The office of the priest was connected with the integrity of these relations; the people needed him in their infirmities. Still, under the priesthood, the people themselves drew nigh to God through the medium of the priest, according to the relationship which God had established, and which He recognised. But the prophet acted on the part of God outside this relationship, or rather above it, when the people were no longer faithful.
The setting up of a king went much further. It was a new order of relationship which involved most important principles. The relationship of God with the people was no longer immediate. An authority was set over Israel. God expected faithfulness from the king. The people's destiny depended upon the conduct of the one who was responsible before the Lord, for the maintenance of this faithfuiness.
It was God's purpose to establish this principle for the glory of Christ. I speak of His kingdom over the Jews and over the nations, over the whole world. This kingdom has been prefigured in David and in Solomon. To ask for a king, rejecting God's own immediate government, was folly and rebellion in the people. How often are our follies and our faults the opportunity for the display of the grace and wisdom of God, and for the fulfilment of His counsels, hidden from the world until then! Our sins and faults alone have conduced to the glorious accomplishment of these counsels in Christ.
These are the important subjects treated of in the books of Samuel, so far at least as the establishment of the kingdom. Its glorious condition and its fall are related in the two books of Kings.
It is the fall of Israel which puts an end to their first relationship with God. The ark is taken ; the priest dies. Prophecy 'introduces the king-a king despised and