INTRODUCTORY STUDIES — THE PENTATEUCH


In the preceding chapter on the Introduction to the Old Testament I said some things about the order of the books in the Old Testament, particularly calling your attention to the present order in the Jewish Bible. There is no question that the order of the historical books in our English Bible is the original order. It was the order in the Septuagint translation, say about 250 years before Christ, the oldest order of which we have any certain knowledge.

Now, in review, let me repeat that according to that order the historical books of the Old Testament are in four groups, “May clearly designated in the Hebrew, designated by the smallest word in the Hebrew language; just one letter and the smallest except one. The meaning of the word is “and.” That word determines what books follow the first one in the group. For instance, Genesis is the beginning of the first group and Exodus commences with “and,” showing that it follows right after and connects with Genesis, and so on with Leviticus and Numbers. This first group discusses the people of Israel outside the Promised Land, i.e., before they enter it. Deuteronomy, the initial book of the second group, treats of Israel inside the Promised Land. It is true that in Deuteronomy they have not crossed the river, but they were at the river, and Deuteronomy, with its renewed covenant, looks forward more than it looks backward. Following Deuteronomy, from Joshua to 2 Kings, every book in its order commences with “and”; and these books cover the stay in the Promised Land. The third group consists of three books, all written by Ezra: 1 Chronicles is the initial book, making an entirely new beginning from Adam, with the “and” and connecting 2 Chronicles and Ezra. These books treat of the return to the Land after the Babylonian exile. This group ignores the defection of the ten tribes following only the line: Adam, Noah, David. While its events may be harmonized with the first and second groups, where correspondent, the view is an entirely independent one and must be so considered in study. Now the last, the fourth, group consists of two books: Nehemiah and Esther. Nehemiah is the starting book, Esther follows with “and”; so that this group touches Israel that did not return, or Israel in dispersion. Keep these four thoughts in your mind:

Outside the Land. -4 books

Inside the Land. -8 books

Return to the Land -3 books

In the Dispersion -2 books

The other Old Testament books would arrange themselves about these four historical groups thus: Job connects with the first group; Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk with the second group — Jeremiah being the bridge connecting with the third group; Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, with the third group; Daniel would connect with the fourth group, preceding Esther in its history, but. in its prophecies it is the connecting bridge with the New Testament. This line of thought is very ably elaborated in a recent and valuable series of books by John Urquhart, entitled “The Bible: Its Structure and Purpose.”

Now, concerning the Pentateuch — the first five books. Who is the author? Moses — except the last and connecting chapter which records the death of Moses written by the author of the book of Joshua, Joshua himself. The argument for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is: (1) Tradition. This tradition is unbroken absolutely from the time of Moses to the close of the New Testament canon. The Pentateuch is connected in tradition with no other name than the name of Moses. (2) The next evidence is the New Testament witnesses. Christ and His apostles repeatedly and positively ascribe the Pentateuch to Moses, and I have an abiding impression that Christ knew at least as much about it as modern critics. (3) The third argument for the authorship is the testimony of the books themselves, with the exception of Genesis, which is partly an introduction to the other four. All along they are attributed to Moses.

The second question is: What were the qualifications of Moses for writing these books? The book of Acts tells us that Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was not only the most cultivated teacher of his age, and a thousand times more cultivated than some of the men that deny that he could have written these books, but he was the most influential man of affairs. His range of learning was immense. His conduct of public affairs was great. Dr. Harper says that Moses was too busy a man to have left any literary remains. Dr. Harper is wise above what is written. Now let us see what were his opportunities of leisure. He was forty years in Midian, given time for meditation. There doubtless he wrote the book of Genesis and, I think, first, the book of Job. In the next place, he was a whole year at Mount Sinai, and the record shows that at Mount Sinai the different parts of Exodus and nearly all of Leviticus and part of Numbers were written. Then he was thirty-eight years in the wilderness after the Israelites turned back from Kadesh-barnea, and in that time he certainly could have composed the rest of Leviticus and Numbers. He was about two weeks on the banks of the Jordan just where they crossed over into the Promised Land, and the book of Deuteronomy consists almost altogether of great addresses, and they were evidently carefully prepared addresses. Moses had time to write them there, and the record expressly states that he did. Dr. Harper himself was a very busy man, but it seems that he found time to write a great many books, and if he, being so busy, could write a great many books, why should he deny that Moses had time to write books? The age of Moses was an intensely literary age. It used to be said that there was no writing in the time of Moses, but very humbly have they apologized for any such foolish statements. It is now known that long before the time of Moses writing was a fine art. Cities of libraries were established, not only among the Egyptians, but among the Canaanites. Moses himself will give you an account of a Canaanite city that was called the book city, or the library city. The last thought in connection with the Mosaic authorship consists of testimonies all the way through the Pentateuch showing that when God gave a certain body of laws Moses wrote those laws at the time. That goes on all the way through. The memoranda of the book were at hand and continuously, not only like keeping a diary, but the very form was written at the time.

The question arises: Was there any pre-existing material for the book of Genesis? I want to say on that, that revelation from God commences with the creation of man. He revealed himself to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so on. Undoubtedly many things touching the facts in Genesis were reduced to writing before the times of Moses. For instance, we have a record in Genesis of the first poets, the very words of the poets are cited and in the poetical form. That was before the flood. Then from Adam, who lived 930 years, to Noah, who closes up the first period of the world’s history at the flood, there was one intervening man, Methuselah, who was a contemporary of Adam for many hundreds of years, and a contemporary of Noah for the 600 years; so that only one man) standing between Adam and Noah, could have handed down well-attested traditions of history up to that time. Then Shem, who was in the Ark with Noah, lived 400 years after the flood, and did touch time with Abraham. Some people erroneously claim that Melchisedek was Shem. He could have been Shem so far as the time was concerned. So that between Abraham and Noah one man touches both, and there were doubtless multitudes of various kinds of documents touching the facts of Genesis. Genesis, however, is not a book made up of fragments artificially pieced together. It is straight out, continuous, a narrative by one man, and with the most remarkable proofs of unity throughout of any book in the world’s libraries today.

To further show the unity of the Pentateuch: Moses led the children of Israel to Mount Sinai; you find the account commencing in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, and from Ex 20 to the close of the twenty-third chapter you have an account of the threefold covenant. The elements of that covenant are: (1) The moral laws as given in Ex 20; (2) the law of the altar, or the way of approach to God through grace; and (3) civil legislation, ending with the twenty-third chapter. Now, all the rest of Exodus, all of Leviticus, all of Numbers and all of Deuteronomy are developments of that threefold covenant: moral law, the grace law, or the way of approach to God through the altar, and the civil law. Because at that time Israel became a nation.

If we consider the time and the circumstances of the Pentateuch we take our stand in Midian, when Moses was in exile from Egypt, somewhere between 1431 and 1491 B.C. Now that last date you can keep in your mind — 1491 B.C. comes Mount Sinai, and A.D. 1492 comes the discovery of America by Columbus. There in Midian, when Moses was in solitude the keeper of the flock of Jethro, a great problem pressed on his heart. He had felt the call of God to deliver the Israelites, and with-out letting God pick the time, he picked it and the method of it, and after killing that Egyptian he fled. Stephen says that Moses supposed that the children of Israel would understand that God had appointed him to deliver them, but they did not understand. He was not accredited to them as the deliverer when they were suffering from oppression, and Moses himself was not prepared to deliver Israel; but he selected his own time and that exile followed as a consequence. Now, while in that exile, there came to his mind the following problems:. “My people are in the fiery furnace of affliction, and there seems to be no reason for it. Here is a bush burning and not consumed, representing the persistence of the life of these people in the midst of the most awful afflictions.” And that is the problem of the book of Job. How do you account for the undeserved afflictions of the righteous? Where do they come from? While his mind was on that problem he comes in touch there with the land of Job and the history of its great hero, and there is ample opportunity to learn the history of the patriarch Job, who belonged to another branch of the Semitic family. In that history he writes in precisely the same language of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — the same archaic expressions. Whoever carefully studies the style, the thought, the circumstances, in the book of Job, must put its composition about the time the Pentateuch was written. What, then, was the object of the book of Job? In order to understand the undeserved afflictions of the righteous. Job says: “Oh, that mine adversary had written a book I We have no Bible; I am here suffering under laws that I am not acquainted with. I don’t understand. If I just had a plain book, telling me what is my relation to God, and to the universe and what is my duty, I would take that book on my shoulder and I would go to God with it face to face, and talk to him as a man talks to hisfriend.” The key to the book of Job is the call for a book of revelation. And the second idea in the key is: Here are the righteous, sinful by nature, subject to the evil influence of the devil. And next is: There is no daysman or mediator to stand between me and God; no one with one hand touches God and with the other hand touches me. And so there is a call for the revelation of a deliverer,. and the book of Job closes just that way. That book demands a revelation. Following that Moses composes, under the inspiration of God, the book of Genesis, which comes up to his. very time. Now, the circumstances of his writing Exodus you already know. He was at Mount Sinai a whole year. The circumstances of writing the rest of Leviticus and Numbers not written at Sinai were during that long period of thirty-eight years in the wilderness. The circumstances of writing Deuteronomy were these: The first great stage of history was ended and Israel had sinned against the covenant made at Mount Sinai. Now Deuteronomy, which literally means the second giving of the law, is not only a restatement of the old covenant, but it is a re-entrance into the covenant upon the part of Moses representing God, and the people representing themselves; and that is renewed, not with a view to anything in the past, but to the immediate entrance into the Promised Land of God. Hence it is classed with the inside books and not with the outside books.

The structure of the Pentateuch exhibits not only remarkable unity, but one author. There are varieties in the style corresponding to the subject matter. For example, the first chapter of Genesis is very abrupt — one mighty sententious statement after another. When he commences the second chapter, however, which correctly commences at v. 4, he gives details and elaborations of previous rugged statements, and the style is more flowing to correspond. Pope has said:

When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw, The line too labours, and the words move slow.

And the unity of the book of Genesis is shown by the following short analysis. I give it here, but the analysis you must bring in your answers will be an enlargement of this one. The short analysis consists of eleven divisions:

I. Introduction:

Ge 1:1 — The creation of the universe.
Ge 1:2 — The chaotic state of the earth — matter..
Ge 1:2-26 — The Holy Spirit’s development of the earth matter from chaos to order, its correlation with the universe, the beginnings of life — vegetable, animal and human.
Ge 1:26-31 — Nature of the dominion and commission of man.
Ge 2:1-3 — Institution of the sabbath commemorating creation.
Ge 2:4 to 4:26 — Generations of the heavens and the earth.
Ge 5:1 to 6:8 — Generations of Adam.
Ge 6:9 to 9:29 — Generations of Noah.
Ge 10:1 to 11:9 — Generations of the sons of Noah.
Ge 11:10-26 — Generations of Shem.
Ge 11:27 to 25:11 — Generations of Terah.
Ge 25:12-18 — Generations of Ishmael.
Ge 25:19 to 35:29 — Generations of Isaac.
Ge 36:1 to 37:1 — Generations of Esau.
Ge 37:2 to 50:26 — Generations of Jacob.
The whole of the chapters on Genesis will be an elaboration of this short analysis.

What is the meaning of generation? When it says: “The generations of the heavens and the earth” in Ge 2:4, does it mean to tell you how the heavens and the earth were produced? Unquestionably it means developments, not origin. For instance, when it says: “the generation of Noah,” that does not mean how Noah commenced, but it means who descended from Noah. Generation means history, development, and not origin. I must call your attention to some of the characteristics of these several generations. Here is a singular one; there is no other like it in the Old Testament. As often as these genealogical tables are given in the Old Testament, this one is unique: “The book of the generations of Adam.” You do not have the word, “book,” any more. You have “the generations of,” but not “the book of the generations of.” Now that goes on down through all the Old Testament but the “book of the generations of Adam” occurs but once, and the New Testament commences (Mt 1:1), “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ.” First is the generation of the first Adam, and the second is the generation of the Second Adam — a very important thought. As all of the Bible is intended to be a book concerning the kingdom of God, a book concerning the reign of grace from the time that the throne of grace was established at the close of Ge 3 until you get to the end of Revelation, and from the time that the first promise was made, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” on down, the Bible is a book of grace.

Now, another characteristic of these generations is, that they always commence with the bad line first, i.e., Genesis gives an account of Cain’s descent before it takes up the descent of Seth.. It gives an account of the descent of the nations of the earth. When you get to the generations of the sons of Noah, it gives an account first of all of the nations of the earth, then it follows one nation through Shem. When you come to Isaac and Ishmael, Ishmael’s genealogical table is put first, and then is sidetracked. When you come to Esau and Jacob, Esau’s genealogy is given first, and then Jacob’s. Esau is sidetracked. There are certain other lines in these genealogical tables which demand careful observation. One of these: What is said of Seth? “These are the generations of Seth.” Every man Living in the world today is a descendant of Seth. Every man that has lived in the world this side of the flood is a descendant of Seth, and hence that commences with that particular remark that Adam begat a son in his likeness and according to his image. God made Adam in his image and according to his likeness, but after Adam fell, he begat a son in his fallen image and likeness. Now, note that Shem’s genealogy really comes right. In giving the generations of the sons of Noah coming to Shem it gives all the Semitic nations including the line in which Abraham was called, but as he is not going to have any use for the rest of them, he commences anew with Shem and finishes it with the line of Terah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Now, the time covered by the book of Genesis is much more than the time covered by all the other books in the Bible put together. Genesis covers-a history of 2,500 years. The other books of the Bible, all put together, cover a period of 1,600 years, as to their composition and history. What, then, is the book of Genesis? It is a book of origins and developments — more of developments than of origins. It will tell you the origin of the universe, and the origin of the earth as a part of the universe and the origin of vegetables and animal life. It will tell you of the first man, and it will go on telling you of the first things, but more of the book is devoted to the development than origins. Whenever you have the word “generation,” that means development. These developments all through the Old Testament constantly descend from the general to the particular. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” — the whole universe. Now, the next verse descends to just one little part of the universe, the earth, and then it will descend to one particular family on this earth, and it will go on descending, descending, until you come to Christ, and then the rest of the Bible ascends from the particular to the general, and the end of the New Testament is as universal as the beginning of the Old Testament.

Now, I want to quote here some words on the importance of the book of Genesis.

(1) I will quote from Dr. Conant:

The object of the book is to reveal to us the origin of the material universe; man’s origin and relation to God the Creator, and the equality of all men before Him; the divinely constituted relation of the sexes; the divine institution of the Sabbath; the origin of moral and physical evil; the primaeval history of the human race, and the origin of nations; the selection of one as thedepository of the sacred records, and the divine purpose and method for man’s redemption; the history of its ancestral founders, and their relation to the subsequent history. Of these truths, to the knowledge of which we owe the present advancement in civilization, it is the object of the book to furnish a divinely accredited record. Its value is apparent on the face of the above statement, and is attested by the history of civilization; for without it no amount of intellectual culture, of refinement in taste, of progress in the sciences and arts, has ever been found sufficient to save a people from moral corruption, and ultimate decay and ruin. In these truths, and the divine attestation of them, lies the only basis of popular progress, and of permanent national prosperity; and on all these we should be in the profoundest ignorance, without the revelations contained in this book.

(2) Auberien, on the first eleven chapters, speaks also of the importance of this book:

If we had not the first eleven chapters of Genesis, if we had on the beginnings of the world and humanity, only the myths of the heathen, or the speculations of philosophers, or the observations of naturalists, we should be in the profoundest darkness concerning the origin and nature of the world and of man. It is with these chapters on the one side, as with the prophecies and Scripture on the other. There we get the true light on the first, here on the last things; there on the foundation principles, here on the ultimate tendencies of history; there on the first cause, here on the object of the world; without which a universal history, or a philosophy of history, is impossible. But prophecy itself also has its roots in these chapters, on which all later revelation plants itself. Happily, these primaeval records of our race, far more widely than we are aware) have penetrated our whole mode of thinking, and sway even those who believe they must reject the historical character of these accounts. These chapters maintain the consciousness, in humanity, of its own God-related nature, of its original nobility, and its eternal destination.

It amazes me to see the attempts of men that don’t believe ln the book of Genesis to write history. They don’t know how to commence, they don’t know where to end. They don’t know how to interpret. They don’t see the overruling hand of Divine Providence: blind as bats and moles, they detect no traces of the divine purpose and providence in the history of the world. But prophecy itself has its roots in these eleven chapters, on which all later revelation plants itself.

Now I close with some recommendations concerning books. I don’t say for you to get these books right now, but as a general introduction to the Old Testament I recommend a set of books, that is, Urquhart’s “Bible: Its Structure and Purpose.” There are four volumes of it. On general introduction to the Old Testament I commend Greene — he is the great man of Princeton. On the unity of Genesis Greene’s book was the most remarkable in the world until Urquhart’s series came out, and he adds much to Greene’s. Commentaries: (1) Conant’s Genesis — he is the great Baptist scholar and translator. He is the author of the tersest, most remarkable book on Baptism ever written; has translated Genesis, and accompanied his translation with notes. I don’t see how you can do without the book, after a while. (2) The next is Murphy, who gives his translation of Genesis, and then follows with his commentary. It is like a slaughter of the innocents when he gets hold of a radical critic. Then (3) I commend the Genesis part of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s. Next (4) is one that is usually left out — McIntosh, a premillennialist, who, like the most of premillennialists, is sound in the faith regarding the higher criticism. They are all spiritual and McIntosh’s book on the Pentateuch — while others fool with a thousand things, McIntosh takes you to the very heart of God and man, and the power of the Holy Spirit in teaching the word.

By: B.H. Carol

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