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The Jews and the Mosaic Law

By Isaac Leeser (1843).

The Jews and the Mosaic Law

The History of Revelation — Abraham.

When Abram was ordered to leave his father's house, he had already reached his seventy-fifth year; he had up to his time been childless; he nevertheless trusted in the word of God, by which he had been promised riches, children and a good name, the three greatest of earthly blessings. He at the same time received the promise, that he should be the object of blessing to all nations. Though, as has been said, he was at the advanced age of seventy-five childless, he had yet full confidence, that the God, whom he had acknowledged and worshipped from his youth, was powerful, willing and ready to keep his promises. Thus strengthened by the revelation he had received, Abram went forth into a land, whose name he had not even heard, for he had been told to go to a land, which God would show him. But soon it became manifest to him, that the country then inhabited by the Canaanites was the land of his destination, and the land assigned to him by Divine Providence as a temporary residence. If we enquire, what was God's motive in sending Abram forth as a wanderer? We will find the answer easy, when we consider the acts of Abram during his travels. In several places he erected altars for the service of the Most High, and there he taught the world to know its Creator and to render Him adoration. In other words, Abram was deputed to reveal in a country, where the terrible Moloch was worshipped, the sacred truths of the mysterious Father, Who, unknown, invisible and incomprehensible to us, rules us, governs us, and provides for us. No doubt, Abram was successful; and we in fact find, that he had made friends among the chiefs in the neighborhood of Hebron, then called Kiryath Arbang, and Aner, Eshkol and Mamray are mentioned, as men in league with Abram; and can it be believed, that his friends should have been ignorant of his opinions? And how could they, knowing his opinions, refrain from admiring and adopting them?

The Patriarch had not dwelt long in Palestine, when he was again obliged to leave this land of his sojournment, and pinched by famine, he went with his family to Egypt. Here he acquired large possessions, after which he returned again to the land of Canaan, and again proclaimed the unity of God.

In a few years afterwards, he rescued his kinsman Lot from his enemies, and brought back at the same time the captured property of the Sodomites. He then also received the blessing of the king of Salem, (afterwards Jerusalem,) Malkyzedeck, who was a priest to the Most High God; but he refused the rich presents offered him by the king of the sinful Sodom, though he had incurred great personal risk, in recapturing the prisoners and the property taken from the five confederated cities. Thus setting us an example, that good actions, to be really good and worth accepting, should be done without hope of emolument, and without a vain ostentation of disinterestedness, as we find that Abram permitted the king of Sodom to reward his followers, though he refused every thing for himself.

Abram's hope had yet been delayed, he was growing old, and yet he had no son to succeed him; but now, soon after he had recaptured Lot, he heard again the voice of God (in a vision) tell him, that he should have a son: and Abram believed it. But who can know the decrees of God — understand His ultimate views before they are accomplished? At the same time that Abram was promised a large and numerous progeny, he was informed that his descendants should be wanderers and slaves for four hundred years; yet he repined not, yet he feared not, for the fulfillment of the evil was a sure pledge of the ultimate fulfillment of the good.

Ishmael had been born since that event, and had reached his thirteenth year, when Abram, at that time ninety-nine years old, heard again the word of God revealed to him, saying: "Walk before me, and be perfect." His constancy was now again probed — his name changed to Abraham — and he himself commanded to shed the blood of the covenant; he was also promised that the Almighty would ever be his God and Protector, and of his descendants after him, on condition that they, on their part, should observe the covenant of God, that is, to circumcise all male children when eight days old. This covenant was to be perpetual, and as we, the Jews, understand this term and the text in Genesis, was to be unchangeable. — God also promised Abraham a son by Sarah, precisely in a year from that date. Sarah was then eighty-nine years old — but the decree was fixed, and the child was to be called יצחק (Yitzchak) Isaac, commemorative of the joy Abraham felt, when he was assured of the certainty of the event.

This eventful year had passed away, and Abraham and Sarah were rejoiced with the birth of the long promised child, and it received the name which God had ordained. — Time again passed on, and the word of God again went forth unto Abraham. — He was ordered to take the only son of his wife Sarah, his dearly beloved Isaac, to the land of Moriah, to sacrifice him upon one of those mounts, which yet surround Jerusalem. Abraham obeyed. "With tearful eye and joyful heart," as the Hebrew poet so elegantly says, both father and son prepared themselves to fulfill the imperious command of their God. Did they repine? Did they murmur? No — but calmly resigned to his will, they were ready to conform strictly to the precept they had received. The altar was built, the fire was kindling, Isaac lay bound upon the wood, and the father — he who had given him being — was grasping the knife to fulfill the last part of the mandate — when behold, a voice, the voice of a messenger from the Lord, resounded with "Abraham! Abraham!" The knife drops by his side, and he listens to the word of salvation then made known: "Stretch not thy hand out against the youth, do him no harm, for now I know that thou fearest God."

"Did not" — asks the Deist, "did not God previously know, how Abraham would act? What need was then for that useless parade?"

True, God, the searcher of hearts, knew Abraham's mind, knew also his entire willingness to obey all the commandments known to him; but the world was to be convinced and instructed, and a great deed was obliged to be done to accomplish this. Amidst all the trials of Abraham, previous to this period, we do not find any, where he was compelled to make any great personal sacrifices, which in ordinary human foresight might not have been supposed to yield him ultimately worldly benefits; and the unbelievers might therefore have said, that Abraham's piety was not strong enough to enable him to obey the will of God, whose worship he taught, when his all was at stake. For this reason the command was given, that Abraham should offer up his son, him, whom he loved more than himself, whom God had previously declared should be the father of the great nation, who was also to be the repository of God's covenant. Who could now say with propriety that the doctrines of Abraham were preached for the sake of interest or self-aggrandizement? No one. — But also instruction was conveyed; first, that we should be always ready to sacrifice our own lives, when necessary, for the sanctification of God, rather than transgress the law; secondly, that we are to submit with the utmost resignation, to the decrees of Heaven, and that it is unbecoming in us to question the justice of God's dispensations; and thirdly, that God desires not, but on the contrary, detests that one man should sacrifice the other, pretending to bring an acceptable offering to the Deity. — It is, I presume, well known that the heathens then and afterwards thought (and this belief yet exists to the present day) human blood to be the most acceptable offering to their idols; we find therefore that God by an example prohibited such a practice in his holy temple, which should never be defiled by murder and iniquity.

Was then, I ask, the intended sacrifice an idle pageant? Surely not. And God's blessing was also given both to father and son, that all nations were to be blessed in their descendants; which means, that through their descendants the word of God, which in itself is a blessing, was to spread over all the earth and make all mankind happy. — This promise has been fulfilled already, in a great measure. The sacred light of revelation was first lit up in the wilderness of Arabia, and from thence it has commenced spreading all over the globe. In every country some, at least, of the scattered seed of Abraham are to be found; their beautiful code of laws has been partially adopted in many places, and millions of human beings are drinking the waters of revelation, though they derive it from different and polluted channels. Upon the solid rock of our law have the followers of the Notzry [Jesus] and Mahomet built their systems, and though in part erroneous, yet do these systems already acknowledge the true God, his revelation, and his supreme rule. May we not hope, that the time will speedily arrive, when not alone the Nazarenes and Mahomedans, but all the other families of the earth also will hasten to the banner raised on the mountains, range themselves behind the ranks of the true believers and exclaim:

The Eternal is the God! The Eternal is the God!

O happy time! O blessed hour! When our eyes shall behold the restoration of Zion, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the temple on Moriah, and the reassembling of the tribes of Israel!

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