Copyright
C Piepenbring.

Theology of the Old Testament online

. (page 14 of 26)
Online LibraryC PiepenbringTheology of the Old Testament → online text (page 14 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Exile had, moreover, caused an interruption of at
least half a century in traditional usages, and it was
represented by the prophets as the consequence and just
penalty of long-continued idolatry.

With the necessity of a strict centralization of wor-
ship arose that of a centralization of the sacerdotal
functions. This was likewise for the first time ordained
in Deuteronomy, being itself also inspired by the desire
to put an end to idolatry and to the abuses to which the
freedom of early times had given occasion.

While formerly every father of a family had the right
to fulfil the sacerdotal functions, and those who devoted
themselves exclusively to these functions could be taken
from it mattered not what tribe, Deuteronomy assigns
the priesthood to the tribe of Levi alone ; it excludes,
therefore, any one who does not belong to this tribe ;
according to it all the sons of Levi are consecrated to
the priesthood, and every priest should belong to the
tribe of Levi, or be a Levitical priest.^ It is evident
that Levitical priests are contrasted with priests taken
indiscriminately from the mass of the people. ^

Comparing verse 25 with verse 9 of chapter xxi., we
are convinced beyond a peradventure that in this book
the term Levite is synonymous with Levitical priest.
It is the same with Jer. xxxiii. 18, 21 f. This language

1 xvii. 9, 18 ; xviii. 1 ; xxi. 5 ; xxiv. 8 ; xxyii. 9 ; xxxi. 9.

2 1 Kings xii, 31 ; xiii, 33 : 2 Kings xvii. 32.



182 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

respecting the Levitical priests continues to be used by
the prophets of the Exile ^ and even into Chronicles. ^
In fact, as we shall see farther on, the distinction be-
tween the priests and the Levites did not begin to be
made until during and after the Exile.

According to Deuteronomy all the Levites are priests ;
moreover, they are all priests of the same rank. There
is to be found in it no more trace of a sacerdotal hier-
archy such as that with which we later become ac-
quainted, than in the most ancient documents. Before
the Exile, the distinction between priests and Levites
being entirely ignored, the term Levite was the hono-
rary title of the priest. In all the ancient literature we
find only two passages that indicate a different stand-
point; they are 2 Sam. xv. 24 and 1 Kings viii. 4; but
a comparison of 2 Chron. v. 5 with the second of these
passages clearly proves that these two passages have
been modified in accordance with the later standpoint. ^
In fact, the entire sacerdotal hierarchy as it existed
before the Exile and after the time of King Joash con-
sisted of a high-priest and subordinate priests with
door-keepers to the temple,* which last, however, were
also priests.^ From ancient times there were perhaps
a head-priest and subordinate employes at each of the
various places of worship of any importance. It is
probable that the kings, who, after the time of David,
had the upper hand in affairs ecclesiastical, for the

1 Ezek. xliii. 19 ; xliv. 15 ; Isa. Ixvi. 21.

2 2 Chron. v. 5 ; xxiii. 18 ; xxx. 27.

3 Wellhausen, History^ pp. 43, 141 f.

4 2 Kings xii. 10 ; xxii. 4, 8 ; xxiii. 4 ; xxv. 18 ; comp. Jer. lii. 24 ;
XX. 1 ; xxix, 26, ^ 2 Kings xii. 9.



SECOND PERIOD. — § 16. WOKSHIP. 183

better conduct of the service of God established a kind
of sacerdotal hierarchy at Jerusalem. But such an
organization does not resemble the sacerdotal hierarchy
of document C, to which we shall refer hereafter; it
cannot have had any religious value or have been re-
garded as emanating from God, otherwise the silence
observed by Deuteronomy and Ezekiel on the subject of
the sovereign pontificate, though they are relatively
explicit with reference to the priesthood, could not well
be explained. Not until after the Exile, when the king,
heretofore the summus episcopus in Israel, had disap-
peared, did the high-priest begin to play a considerable
part. ^

Except in the two respects of which we have just
spoken, our period presents nothing worthy of especial
attention concerning worship. We must, however,
describe the attitude of the prophets with regard to the
traditional institutions and ceremonies of their relig-
ion. This attitude is not hostile, as has been claimed.
The truth is, rather, that the prophets, without despising
external worship, ascribed to the religious and moral
life the balance of importance. As Oehler very justly
observes, "the program of prophetism" is indicated,
1 Sam. XV. 22, in these words : " Obedience is of more
value than sacrifices, and observance of the word of
Jehovah than the fat of rams." This program is de-
veloped in a series of passages ^ in which the prophets
place above religious ceremonies, feasts, sacrifices, fasts,

1 Hag. i. 1, 12 ; ii. 2, 4 ; Zech. iii. 1 ff. ; vi. 11 ff.

2 Amos V. 21-24 ; Hos. iv. 1 fE. ; vi. 6 ; Mic. vi. 6-8 ; Isa. i. 11-17 ;
Iviii. 3 ff. ; Jer. vi. 19 f. ; vii. 1 ff., 9 ff., 21 ff. ; Zech. vii. 4-10 ; Ps. xl.
6 ff. ; 1. 7 ff., 16 ff.



184 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

etc., the knowledge of God, honesty, righteousness,
charity, or amendment in heart and life after unfaith-
fulness.

Jer. vii. 22 f. is a classic passage as regards the ques-
tion under discussion. The prophet there declares that
Jehovah gave the fathers no command on the subject
of burnt offerings and sacrifices, that he simply com-
manded them to walk in all his ways. In other words,
the sacrifices are not of divine institution, only the
moral regulations. This agrees with 1 Sam. xv. 22,
where obedience and observance of the word of Jeho-
vah are contrasted with sacrifices, whicli^consequently,
are not based on the word, the command, the initiative,
of God.i The prophets never see in the neglect of any
ceremony anything blameworthy; it is only transgres-
sion of the moral law and idolatry that they condemn.
To rites in themselves they ascribe comparatively little
value; for them the important thing is that every
act of worship be performed exclusively in honor of
Jehovah.

We see, however, in Jeremiah for instance, that
though the prophets placed the moral above the cere-
monial law, they did not mean to reject or abolish
the latter. Jeremiah promises that the sacrifices and
the priesthood shall never fail in Israel, even under the
reign of the Messiah. ^ The prophets, then, simply
oppose the abuse of rites, and not the rites themselves ;
they try to teach that external rites cannot take the
place of sentiments and acts of faithfulness toward God
and one's fellows.

1 Comp. Hos. vi. 6 ; Isa. i. 11 ff. ; xxix. 13 ; Mic. vi. 6-8.

2 Jer. xxxiii. 18 ; xvii. 26,



SECOND PERIOD. -— § 17. ESSENCE OF SIN. 185

That prophetism before the Exile, so far fi^om com-
pletely rejecting external worship, ascribed to it a
degree of value, is, moreover, proven from Deuteron-
omy, which, though written under its influence, finds
plenty of room for all that concerns worship, the place
of worship, the priesthood, the religious feasts, Leviti-
cal purity, and other subjects of the same nature.

What we have said, therefore, applies more especially
to the earlier prophets up to the time of Jeremiah.
In the next period we shall see that, beginning with
Ezekiel, external worship gained so much in impor-
tance that the prophets themselves yielded, in respect
to it, to the influence of Levitism, which finally degen-
erated more and more into formalism and Pharisaism.

§ 17. ISEAEL'S UNPAITHFULNESS AND THE ESSENCE

OF SIN.

We come now to the subject of sin. We should,
hoAvever, proceed in a manner contrary to the spirit of
the Old Testament and especially of prophetism, if we
began by treating this subject from a purely abstract
standpoint. Here, again, the prophets avoided all spec-
ulation. They set out from concrete facts ; they allowed
themselves to be guided by experience; and they had
in view only a practical end. Nearly all the prophets
begin by reproaching their people with numerous
breaches of faithfulness, to which they attach the threat
of severe punishments.

We shall not, of course, here give a catalogue of all
the sins with which Israel are reproached in the various
prophetical and historical books. It is only necessary



186 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

to read the book of Judges or the books of Kings, Amos,
and Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, or Jeremiah and Ezekiel,
to find that it is ahnost always, in substance, the same
transgressions that are noticed. In the historical and

^ the prophetical books, the sin that is oftenest mentioned
and that is reckoned most serious is the constantly
reviving idolatry by which Israel broke the covenant
with Jehovah. Along with this chief sin, transgres-
sion of the first of the ten commandments, the prophets
very often mention the sins against one's neighbor that
are condemned by the second table of the decalogue, —
murder, theft, adultery, false testimony. Amos thus
early reproaches the Israelites with being wanting in
justice and equity, despising rectitude for the sake of
presents, leading licentious lives, oppressing the lowly,
the needy, devoting themselves in their cupidity to un-
just traffic, trusting in their own power; and most of
these charges appear in the other prophets. Another
form of unfaithfulness with which Israel are often re-
proached is that of putting their trust in their power-
ful neighbors and seeking alliance with them instead
of trusting in God.

What interests us more than a complete and detailed
catalogue of the forms of Israel's unfaithfulness, is the
dominant idea of sin, the principle unifying its diverse

J manifestations. According to the Old Testament, he
who sins sins against God.^ This is what forms the
essence of sin, and what gives to the idea of sin its

1 Gen. xiii. 13 ; xx. 6 ; xxxix. 9 ; Ex. x. 16 ; xxxii. 33 ; Lev. v. 19 ;
Num. XV. 30 ; Deut. i. 41 ; 1 Sam. vii. 6 ; xiv. 33 ; 2 Sam. xii. 13 ;
2 Chron. xix. 10 ; xxviii. 10, 13 ; Ps. li. 4 ; Jer. xiv. 7, 20 ; xvi. 10 ; Isa.
xlii. 24 ; etc.



SECOND PERIOD. — § 17. ESSENCE OF SIN. 187

peculiar depth and gravity. The Israelite saw in sin
an offence against God, because he saw in it a trans-
gression of the divine will, which should serve man as
a rule of conduct. Man should be familiar with the
will of God since God has revealed it to him ; Israel in
particular know it perfectly through the law and the
prophets. The legislation of the Pentateuch takes
account of the least details of life, and represents all
the laws and ordinances as so many commands of God.
In this way all life, national and individual, public
and private, civil and religious, was regulated, and very
minutely, by God himself. Not to obey these laws
was to transgress the will of God, to sin against him.
The fall of Adam itself is represented as a transgres-
sion of a formal command of God, an act of disobedi-
ence toward God. This is the way in which sin is
represented everywhere in the Old Testament.

The application that is here made of this way of
thinking may perhaps be found far from perfect. It is
none the less true, however, that this will always be
the fundamental principle of all healthy piety, of all
truly religious morality. The Israelites may have
fallen into all sorts of errors concerning sin ; they may
have regarded as sins what we do not consider such ;
they may have had scruples about matters that seem to
us perfectly indifferent, like the distinction between
clean and unclean foods ; they may not have regarded as
sins what we consider such, e.g, the complete extermina-
tion of hostile peoples ; but it will never be possible /
from the religious standpoint to form a better concep-
tion than they did of the essence of sin.

Since the law, the expression of the will of God, reg-



188 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

ulatecl in the main only external acts, sin was con-
ceived of in a way somewhat superficial and external. It
must, however, be admitted that it was not made to
consist solely in external transgressions, but also in
internal dispositions. The decalogue itself forbids evil
desires along with evil acts and words. ^ That they
went to the very source of sin, to the internal disposi-
tions, is also proven by the fact that they insist, as we
shall see later on, upon the necessity of the regenera-
tion of the heart as a preparation for doing the will of
God. Schultz, however, remarks that from ancient
times there did not exist ideas so sound and correct;
that sin was first conceived of in a more superficial
manner, as simple disregard of the religious and civil
practices of Israel ; and that prophetism alone rose to a
higher standpoint. ^ This is perfectly correct and alto-
gether natural. The child has only a superficial idea
of sin. It is the same with peoples in the stage of in-
fancy. Now Israel passed through infancy before reach-
ing manhood. When we compare the legislation of
Deuteronomy with that of document A, we notice a
very perceptible progress in this regard, for the latter
insists much less on internal dispositions than the
former. So also it is the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
and deutero-Isaiah, who, more than the earlier pro-
J phets, proclaim the necessity of the regeneration of
the heart. The book of Judges and those of Samuel
bear witness to very rude morals ; they describe acts of
barbarity which do not, however, seem to have been
regarded as blameworthy. Prophets like Samuel and
Elijah cause to be executed, or themselves execute,

1 Ex. XX. 17. 2 n. 281 f.



SECOND PERIOD. — § 18. THE EXTENT OF SIN. 189

horrible massacres. It is evident that, under ancient
prophetism, moral ideas, notions of good and evil, were
still very imperfect, and that therefore the idea of sin
was more superficial than it finally became.



§ 18. THE EXTENT OF SIN.

A series of passages assert that sin is universal, that
it extends to all men.^ Some teach that man is a sinner
from his youth or from his birth. ^ How, in fact, could
anything clean be born of an unclean person?^

History, as it is recounted in the Old Testament,
also tends to establish the universality of sin. It shows
that man sinned, and that immediately after his crea-
tion ; that his descendants sinned to such a degree as
to bring the deluge upon the whole human race; that
after this chastisement men began to sin again, as is
proven by the erection of the Tower of Babel and the
destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The patriarchs
were not free from faults. And the entire history of
the people Israel is largely but a recital of their re-
peated lapses from faithfulness, from the desert to the
Exile. As for the heathen peoples, they are generally
represented as enemies of God.

Nevertheless, certain passages might lead one to be-
lieve that the Old Testament admits exceptions to the
general rule. Alongside of wicked Cain we find pious
Abel.* Farther on reference is made to Enoch, who

1 1 Kings viii. 46 ; Job iv. 17-19 ; xiv. 4 ; xv. 14-16 ; Ps. xiv. 1-3 ;
liii. 1-3 ; cxvi. 11 ; cxliii. 2 ; Pro v. xx. 9 ; Eccl. vii. 20.

2 Gen. viii. 21 ; Ps. li. 5 ; Iviii. 3 ; comp. Isa. xlviii. 8.

3 Job xiv. 4 ; XV. 14. -^ Gen. iv.



190 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

walked with Gocl.^ Noah also, in spite of the general
corruption, remained righteous. ^ The biblical narra-
tives accuse Abraham and Joseph of no faults ; for what
might seem to us blameworthy or immoral was probably
not so in the eyes of the sacred authors. Abraham
furnishes a striking contrast to the perversity of Sodom
and Gomorrah, and Joseph to the wickedness of his
brothers. Job is called an upright, righteous man,
fearing God and shunning evil.^ There are psalmists
who call themselves righteous, innocent, pure.^ Many
passages, especially in the Psalms, mention numerous
righteous persons.

Does the Old Testament really admit exceptions to
the universality of sin? This is not impossible, since
the natural corruption of man is not so strongly empha-
sized in it as in the New Testament, and since, on the
other hand, human freedom is clearly recognized. Why
might not certain men have made a good use of their
freedom and have been preserved from evil? Once
more, it is admissible from the standpoint of the Old
Testament; for all the books do not assert, as some
passages do, that there is no one who is righteous, not
even one. Nothing, however, on the other hand, in-
dicates that the righteousness attributed to some men
is perfect. It is possible that in all these cases the
sacred authors meant to speak only of a relative right-
eousness. David, for example, is often represented as
the righteous man par excellence, for love of whom God
many times blessed or preserved from deserved penal-
ties his unworthy successors, the model theocratic king

1 Gen. V. 22. 2 Qen. vi. 9 ; vii. 1. 3 job i. 1, 8 ; ii. 3.

* Ps. vii. 8 ; xviii. 20 ff. ; comp. Job. xxii. 30.



SECOND PERIOD. — § 18. THE EXTENT OF SIN. 191

who is the type of the Messiah, — and in spite of this
the Old Testament places to his account crimes that it
represents as such. Moses also, be it remembered, who
is, nevertheless, exalted above all the other prophets,^
committed, according to the biblical narratives, faults
so grave that he was not permitted to enter the land of
Canaan. Isaiah, who surely reckoned himself among
the righteous, declares that he has unclean lips.^ Doc-
ument C ordains that all Israel, the priest and the high-
priest included, must needs be purified once a year.^
Finally, that the Old Testament attributes to certain
men righteousness and uprightness, apparently in an
absolute, but really in a relative sense, is shown by the
fact that these qualities are, as we have seen, actually
attributed to Job in the former sense, and that the same
book then categorically asserts that there is not a single
man who is perfectly clean,* and that Job himself is
not.^ The author of Ps. xxxii. unquestionably ranks
himself among the righteous men of whom he speaks,
V. 11, and yet in the last verses he confesses his sins.
The same thing is found elsewhere.^

It may be well to recall here what we have already
observed, viz. that in the Old Testament righteousness
is very often synonymous with piety. The righteous,
therefore, as contrasted with the unfaithful and impious,
are the faithful in the entirely relative sense that we
give to this term, when we use it to designate sincere
and active Christians, in contrast with doubtful Chris-
tians or irreligious people.

1 Num. xii. 6-8 ; Deut. xxxiv. 10-12. 2 jga. yi. 5.

3 Lev. xvi. 4 Job xiv. 4 ; xv. 14-16.

6 Job xiii. 26 ; x. 14 ; vii. 21. ^ pg. xl. 7-12 ; comp. xli. 4 with v. 12.



192 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

§ 19. THE OEIGIN OP SIN.

Whence comes it that all men are sinners ? Are they
so naturally, by virtue of their constitution, or as the
result of a change in their original nature ? This ques-
tion deserves our attention the more because Jewish
and Christian theology have claimed to find the doctrine
of the Fall in the Old Testament.

Let us begin with the consideration of Gen. ii. and
iii., where the explanation of the origin of sin has gen-
erally been sought. Of the entire canonical literature
of Israel these two chapters alone tell us of a primitive
state of man preceding the entrance of sin into the
world. It is, therefore, fair to conclude that the Isra-
elites did not give great attention to this question.
Hope for the future, not regret for the past, is the domi-
nant note of the religion of Israel. What a difference
between the idea of the Fall and the Messianic hope!
The latter plays a leading part in the literature of the
Old Testament ; the former is mentioned therein but
once. We must, however, examine this story more
closely, both on account of the importance that has
been attributed to it and on account of the false inter-
pretations that have been given to it. But let us as
far as possible lay aside these interpretations and all
dogmatic contrivances, that we may grasp the content
of the stor}^ in all its purity.

We remark first of all that our story does not confine

itself to a description of the primitive condition of the

first human pair. After having referred to the creation

of woman .and the institution of marriage, ^ the fiuthor

1 Gen. ii. 22 ff.



SECOND PERIOD. — § 19. THE ORIGIN OF SIN. 193

proceeds immediately to the account of the Fall.i We
shall imitate his example, not dwelling on the original
condition of man, about which we are not able to say
much, but regarding it chiefly in its relation to the Fall.
When we enter into the details, we are struck with
the analogy that exists, on the one hand, between the
innocent condition of the first man and childhood, on
the other, between his sinful condition after the Fall
and the age of accountability. What is the primitive
condition of Adam and Eve? They live in a magnifi-
cent garden, without care or toil, eating the fruite of
the trees,2 and they are naked, but without being more
ashamed than a child of their nakedness ; 3 they do not
know how to distinguish good from evil,* another char-
acteristic of childhood, 5 or of old age when it has
reached a second childhood.^ The first effect of the
Fall is the feeling of shame: the eyes of Adam and Eve
are opened, they see that they are naked, and they make
themselves girdles." This, Umbreit says, is meant to
suggest in a subtle and delicate manner that observa-
tion of the distinction of sex and recognition of the
woman by the man produce the condition necessary to
reproduction in the human pair.^

Here, then, are Adam and Eve arrived at conscious
maturity and puberty. The consequences for the woman
are the pains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as
submission to her husband ;9 she now has a right to the
title Eve (life) having become the mother of the living, lo
As for man, he is condemned to the laborious cultiva-

1 Chap. iii. 2 Gen. ii. 16. 3 Gen. ii. 25. * Gen. iii. 5.

s Deut. i. 39 ; Isa. vii. 15 f. ^2 Sam. xix. 35. < Gen. iii. 7.

8 Die Sunde, pp. 21 f. 9 Gen. iii. 16. lo Gen. iii. 20.



194 THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

tion of an unresponsive soil all his life.^ They both
attain superior knowledge, the knowledge of good and
evil, which is the prerogative of divinity, ^ and they are
driven from paradise forever.^ It is clear that the sacred
author had in view the two principal stages of human
life, childhood and the age of accountability, in describ-
ing the original condition of man and his situation after
the Fall.

Let us complete this picture by adding some new
touches. Among the trees of paradise is the tree of
life;^ man could at first eat freely of its fruit ;^ but
after the fall he is forbidden it lest he should live for-
ever.^ God had forbidden man to eat of the tree of
knowledge of good and evil under penalty of death ; ">
he did not wish that he should attain to such knowl-
edge,^ but that he should remain under his tutelage. He
punishes him with death and all the ills of life for
having disobeyed his command.

The thought of our author, then, is this : man when
created by God was as innocent as a child and as happy
withal; God wished that he should remain in this con-
dition of childish dependence and simplicity, exempt
from the cares and sufferings of life ; but man preferred
to eat of the forbidden fruit and attain higher knowledge ;
thus God's original plan was disturbed and replaced by
the present state of things, in which man is more intel-
ligent but less happy. As for the chief object of the
story, it is to show the origin, not of sin, moral evil,
but of physical evil, the ills of life, and to prove that

1 Gen. iii. 17-19, 23. 2 Gen. iii. 5, 22 ; comp. 2 Sam. xiv. 17.

8 Gen. iii. 2.S f. * Gen. ii. 9. s Qen. ii. 16.

6 Gen. iii. 22, 24. ' Gen. ii. 17 ; iii. 3. » Qen. iii. 22.



SECOND PERIOD. — § 19. THE ORIGIN OF SIN. 195

not God, but human sin, is the cause of these evils. ^
Bruch justly remarks that the author of our story
allowed himself to be guided by the twofold thought
that physical evil is the result of sin, and that sin is
connected with civilization ; and that he derived these
ideas from memory and observation, which tell us that
the child is happy so long as he remains in the condi-
tion of ignorance and innocence, Avhile the develop-
ment of the spirit and of life produces disordered
instincts and desires that engender most evils. ^

The questions whence sin came and how man, com-
ing from the hands of the Creator, could fall into sin,
seem not to have existed for our author. The Old
Testament as a whole attributes to man freedom to


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryC PiepenbringTheology of the Old Testament → online text (page 14 of 26)