Samuel Albert Martin.

The oracles of God : a popular introduction to the Old Testament scriptures for the use of Bible students online

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FEB i4

BS1140 .M367 1916

Martin, Samuel

Albert, 1853-

Oracles of God

: a


introduction to the

J Old


scriptures for


use of

Bible students




A Popular Introduction to The Old Testament
Scriptures for the use of Bible Students



Professor of Philosophy in
Lafayette College


LJt>r: ok rehcr^.i-VioM^h-h.



Copyright, 1916, by Richard G. Badger

All Rights Reserved

The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A.


The purpose of this book Is to supply the need of a conven-
ient popular introduction to the books of the Old Testament,
for the use of Bible Classes, and the general reader.

It is intended for popular use, and therefore avoids technical
methods and critical discussion, but on the other hand, it is
positive, and I hope not merely superficial in its presentation
of the messages given by inspiraton for our learning.

The extent of the work has been regulated by the aim to
give as much as can be fairly well considered by a class in about
fifty lessons.

It is presumed that the reader is tolerably familiar with the
narratives of Scripture and the books most generally used for
devotional reading.

No one can be too familiar with the contents of these Scrip-
tures, but it is quite possible to have our knowledge so de-
tached and ill arranged that we get confused and vague im-
pressions of the whole, — possible to not see the woods for the
trees. If this book helps to give a true perspective, and an
harmonious view of the great redemption which is revealed in
the Holy Bible, it will not have been written in vain.



I. The Bible — Introduction 9

II. Creation 20

III. The Story of Eden 26

IV. The Conflict of Good and Evil 33

Typical Incidents — The Progress of Civiliza-
tion. The Intermarriage of the Godly and
Wicked — The Deluge.

V. The Holy Catholic Church 41

VI. The Priest Nation 48

Israel in Egypt — The Call of Moses and the

VII. The Theocracy 59

The Ten Commandments, the Decalogue.

VIII. Deuteronomy 69

Contents of the Book — ^The Witness of His-
tory — The Exhortation to Loyalty — The Su-
preme Law, Holiness — Love, the Fulfilling of
the Law — The Ten Commandments — Statutes,
Ordinances, and Judgments — The Thanksgiving
Ritual — The Priests — The Publication of the
Law — The Song of Moses.

IX. The Ritual of the Tabernacle 98

A Dramatic Gospel.

X. The Hebrew Prophets 104

The Prophetic Books — The Themes of Proph-
ecy — Messianic Prophecies.

XI. Isaiah 120

XII. Jeremiah 127

XIII. Ezekiel 144

XIV. The Minor Prophets I55



XV. Joel










Amos 170

Obadiah 177

Haggal — Jonah.

Micah 185

Zechariah — M alachi.

The Discipline of Providence 196

In the House of Bondage — In the Wilder-
ness — The Conquest of Canaan — The King-
dom — Saul.

David 207


The Captivity 216

The Restoration 225

The Great Poetic Books 230

Hebrew Poetry — The Psalms.

The Book of Job 241

The Hagiography 257

Ruth— Esther— The Book of Job— The
Psalms — The Proverbs — Ecclesiastes — Canti-
cles, or Song of Songs — Book of Lamentations —
The Book of Daniel.
The Fullness of the Time 283

Conclusion 289





"The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul"

THIS collection of books which we call the Bible
occupies a place in our modern life that is entirely
unique. They have profoundly influenced our de-
velopment in civilization in every feature. They
have molded our social order, dominated our ethics and formed
our religion. Their teaching has permeated every institution,
and to some degree affected the life of every civilized people in
the world.

No other books can be compared to these either in the ex-
tent or force of the influence exerted on the race. They con-
tain such a treasury of spiritual truth, and such a galaxy of
beautiful ideals as could not be duplicated from all the litera-
ture of the world besides; and their teaching is so intimately
associated with our civilization that a fair knowledge of their
contents is absolutely necessary to an understanding of our
history, or morals, or art, or literature.

On the first glance at these books we notice three features
in which they differ from all other books that we read in our
homes or study in our schools. First: they are of foreign
origin, an importation, and not the product of our traditional

Our civilization, as a whole, is an Aryan civilization. It
is the product of the Indo-European race, originating in pre-
historic times and coming down to us through Greece and
Rome and Modern Europe. It has developed from age to



age, and has been modified by various influences from without,
but it has never lost its continuity. It is, as it has always
been, a body of tradition, — manners and customs, habits of
thought, and modes of conduct — handed down from father to
son, from generation to generation for thousands of years.

At a definite date, some nineteen hundred years ago, there
came into this stream of traditional culture a new current from
another source, originating with another race, developed to full
maturity along other lines and under different conditions; and
this current has blended with the original stream of our civiliza-
tion and produced our modern world. The channel by which
this current came to us is the Bible.

The Bible is the record of those revelations which at sundry
times and divers manners God gave to the descendants of
Abraham — the Hebrew race.

In the development of the human race, God assigned to dif-
ferent nations special tasks by which they achieved renown and
made their contributions to the general welfare. Greece, for
example, was "the mother of Arts and Eloquence." Rome, the
world's instructor in politics and jurisprudence; and Israel was
the great priest nation, "to whom were committed the oracles
of God." "Salvation is of the Jews," and the story of that
salvation is in their sacred scriptures which we call the Bible.
The culture symbolized by the Muses who dwelt by "Mt.
Parnassus and the sparkling Helicon" is a great inheritance,
which was formed by our fathers and handed down to us, but
greater yet is that which comes to us from old Mt. Sinai and
from Calvary, by the page of sacred scripture and the fervent
words of prophets and apostles who wrote "that we might be-
lieve that Jesus was the Christ of God, and that believing we
might have life through his name."

Second: the Bible is of peculiar authorship. We call it a
book, and so it is, for it has a unity of purpose, a constant
point of view and a consistency of teaching that binds all parts


in harmony and gives a cumulative force to all its contents,
so that we do well to call it all a book — one book — the book.
Yet it is the w^ork of many authors; its composition w^as ex-
tended over many generations — nearly sixteen hundred years.
It reflects the features of a great variety of outw^ard circum-
stances, and has the marks of many stages of civilization. Its
literary form is varied in every possible w^ay: it consists of his-
tory and poetry, philosophy and story, drama and parable, and
precept and visions. Every phase of life is portrayed on its
pages. It is the most realistic of books, yet contains the loftiest
ideals. It is the most profound in its doctrine and the simplest
in its style.

While we do well to call it a book, we also do well to re-
member that it is a library, a collection of independent volumes
bound together in the perfect unity of a common purpose and
a consistent doctrine. Our word Bible by its etymology very
fitly illustrates this diversity and unity. Bible is derived from
/?t/?Atov, a library or collection of books, from yStySAoe, a book.
Our Bible consists of sixty-six small volumes so intimately
joined in harmony of contents as to be fitly called a book —
the book.

The third peculiar feature of these books is their marvelous
revelation of spiritual truth not otherwise discovered to the
human mind. This quality we call inspiration; and by this
term we mean that the men who wrote these books had some
peculiar illumination in spiritual things, by which they were
enabled to see and to appreciate the things of the spirit, and to
open them to our understanding.

It is not easy to define exactly what this inspiration is, nor
to apprehend distinctly how this influence of God's Spirit dif-
fered from that which is, to some degree, the privilege of all
spiritually minded men; nor is it necessary to our present pur-
pose that we should define it, or explore the problems of psy-
chology involved.


We are here concerned only with the facts which are abund-
antly attested by induction from our own experiences and ob-
servation. Somehow the contents of these books do find our
conscience, do appeal to what we recognize as noblest and
highest in our nature, do satisfy our instincts of justice and
mercy, approve themselves to our judgment and stand the test
of time and experience as no other books have done, or ap-

The doctrine of infallibility rests on the simple fact that the
teaching of these books has never failed. As Gamaliel shrewd-
ly observed of the teaching of the apostles, **If this doctrine be
of men it will come to nought, but if it be of God, you can
do nothing against it." And now, some nineteen centuries af-
ter those words were uttered, we fling the same bold challenge
to the world; Wherein have these books failed? Which one
of all their promises has ever been broken? or what hope they
offered been made ashamed? In view of these facts it seems
quite within the bounds of simple history and common sense
to speak of these books as the words of men who spake as they
were moved by the Holy Ghost; and to regard this Bible as
the very word of God.

The word of God it is in very truth; but this assertion must
be used with intelligence. It means that the teaching of the
Bible is from God, and true as God is true. But it does not
mean, as some men carelessly assume, that everything recorded
here is true and to be commended. It does not mean that
''Bible words" and "Bible characters" have some peculiar
sancity because they are reported in these sacred pages. "Skin
for skin. Yea all that a man hath will he give for his life"
are words of the Bible, that is, they are recorded there as the
utterance of Satan in the Book of Job, but the whole of that
book is a demonstration of their utter falsity. The sins of
David are faithfully recorded, but we are not left in doubt
as to God's hatred of sin.


It is important also to remember that our interpretation of
this record may be in error, and that our mistakes must not be
charged against the Scriptures, even though such mistakes come
down to us with all the authority of godly men and goodly
scholarship. Mistakes do not become correct by growing old,
nor falsehood grow less false by being long accounted true. The
church may well continue to regard the Bible as the only infal-
lible rule of faith and conduct until it fails in some respect of
this high office; and to speak of it as the work of inspiration, so
long as it stands so well distinguished from all other books in
its spiritual teaching.

The list of books to be included in the Bible, and to be ac-
counted parts of Holy Scripture is called the canon; and the
selection of these books is spoken of as the formation of the
canon. We do not know just where, nor how, nor by whom
the canon of the Old Testament was formed, but sometime
before the coming of our Lord the canon of the Old Testa-
ment was settled and contained the books, and only those, which
we include today. The canon of the New Testament was
completed during the life time of the apostles of our Lord,
and was generally recognized and accepted early in the second
century. The books included in the canon are as follows —

Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deu-
teronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Samuel, I and II
Kings, I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job,
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obediah,
Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zecha-
riah, Malachi.

New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Ro-
mans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus.
Philemon, Hebrews, James, I and II Peter, I, II and III John,
Jude, Revelations.


All the books of the Bible were written long before the in-
vention of printing, and copies of them were made by hand
and therefore liable to slight errors of transcription. The most
ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament date from the year
916 A. D., and the oldest of the New Testament from about
331. These manuscripts show a great number of discrepan-
cies, though for the most part these are minor and insignificant
differences. The work of comparing these manuscripts and
translations, and quotations made from Scripture by early
writers, so as to determine as exactly as possible the original
text, is called textual or lower criticism. So great has been
the care in the transcription, and so profound the reverence for
the very words of the sacred books, that we have been able to
determine the original readings with much greater certainty
than we have of any classical book of antiquity or even of
mediaeval literature; and we may be confident that we have,
to all intents and purposes, the very words of the men who
wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The whole
Bible has been translated into some five hundred diflFerent lan-
guages, and certain portions of it into many more. And every
year adds to the list of translations and revisions of these ver-

The work of higher criticism is to determine the date, au-
thorship, and mode of composition of the various books. The
chief questions of higher criticism are, first, the genuineness of
the book; that is whether, the book, as we have it, is the work
of the author to whom it is attributed. For example, is the
book called the Epistle of Paul to the Romans really the work
of Paul. Second, the integrity of the book; is it all by the
same author, or has it been revised or added to by later writers.
Third, the date of the books and the circumstances of their
composition, and. Fourth, the mode of their composition;
whether original with the supposed author or merely compiled
by him from earlier writings, and if so, what sources did he


draw on for his matter.

For the past half century there has been much activity in
the field of higher criticism, and many radical theories have
been advanced as to the date and authorship of some of the
books; for example, the Penteteuch in its present form is con-
sidered by many to be a much later book than was formerly
supposed ; and, instead of being written by Moses, was the com-
position of some writer or writers of much later date who com-
piled these books **by piecing together verbatim extracts from
older documents, making various changes and additions." The
Book of Isaiah is thought by many to be the work of at least
two authors. Isaiah, the son of Amos, probably writing chap-
ters l-xxxix, and someone else, at a much later date, com-
posing the remainder, chapters xl-lxvi. Others divide the
book into three sections and consider each of these as a collec-
tion of separate prophecies by different authors.

The whole field of higher criticism has been, and still is, a
field of controversy, and no satisfactory concensus of opinion
has been reached with regard to many of its problems. It is a
most interesting field, and the discussion of its problems has
contributed greatly to our knowledge of these books, but most,
if not all, of its problems are of secondary importance, inas-
much as the value of the books depends but slightly on our
knowledge of their authorship, or date, or mode of composition.
Indeed some of the most edifying books of the Bible, — as for
example the Book of Job and many of the Psalms, are of un-
known origin. It is the character of the book that proves the
author's inspiration, and not the author that implies the char-
acter of the book.

The varied contents of these books may be classified in any
way that logic or convenience may suggest, but it is important
that some order and method be followed that will present the
matter in some clear form, easily held in memory. One con-
venient method of such classification is to start with the con-


ception of the Bible as a record of revelations, given at sundry
times and in divers manners, and then make these times and
manners the basis of our system of presenting the whole. This
scheme would give us such heads as, The Revelation of God
in his work of Creation, The Revelation given in parable and
allegory, The Revelation in Types and Symbols. The Reve-
lations of Prophecy, of Poetry, of History, Biography, and
Philosophy. The chronological order of the books and the de-
velopment of doctrine must be considered also, for the force
and value of any revelation will depend to some degree upon
the time and order of its coming.

A few words of explanation here may be helpful to an un-
derstanding of just what we are to look for under each of
these heads.

Creation: The story of creation given in the Bible is very
brief, though it covers an enormous period of time. It touches
on a great variety of subjects, but its purpose is very simple
and specific. It is not a treatise on geology or biology or phy-
sics or any other science. Whatsoever of interest it may con-
tain on such subjects is altogether incidental. The purpose of
the whole story is to reveal to us our place in the universe, our
relation to God and to the world we dwell in. It defines our
peculiar position as a part of the material creation and yet su-
perior to it; formed of the dust and to dust returning, yet
raised far above all material things by our spiritual life, — the
breath of God by which we become living souls.

Every workman is known by his work. The Creator is re-
vealed by Creation. Not fully of course, but to some degree
what we are to believe concerning Grod is made known by his
work of creation. All science is but the discovery of God's
work of creation; this brief sketch of the beginning of things
is of inestimable value in giving us the right point of view, and
enabling us to form a right conception of tb? relation of the
world to God.


Parable and Allegory: It is Impossible to convey truth from
mind to mind by words, unless both minds already have the
same ideas associated w^ith the words. There is no natural or
necessary connection between any idea and the sound used to
denote it. The only way in which new ideas may be expressed,
new thoughts revealed, is by some kind of allegory — some pre-
sentation to the senses or imagination of objects or actions that
are in some way analogous to the spiritual object or idea.
Such symbols are necessary to the revelation of all things that
cannot be seen or handled. Hence the fundamental notions of
moral and religious truth are taught in parables or allegory or
symbolic acts and objects. Thus the story of man's first dis-
obedience is told in the allegory of "that forbidden tree whose
mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe,"
and our Lord taught what *'the Kingdom is like" by many

Types and Symbols: These are but the more elaborate and
systematic form of teaching by analogy, "by meats and drinks
and divers washings," which were the "shadows" of spiritual
truth. The whole ritual of the Old Testament was a relig-
ious drama, a pantomime, in which the acts and objects used
in worship represented the eternal principles of spiritual truth;
and the sacraments and ordinances of the New Testament are
but "sensible signs" by which the knowledge and benefits of
redemption are represented.

Prophecy and Poetry: But such symbols must be inter-
preted, supplemented and expounded. This is the work of the
prophet and the poet. The prophet is God's spokesman ; to speak
for God is his office. Both the prophet and the poet are seers,
their function is to see the truth in its fullness and its beauty,
and to body forth their visions and insight and foresight, so
that all may see and know and appreciate the truth they saw.

History: Truth is never so clearly seen as when presented
in concrete form — tried out and exemplified in the actual life


of men. The record of experience Is history. A very large
part of the Bible is history — a faithful record of what men
have done, revealing the laws of God in their actual operation,
and teaching in the most unquestionable way the everlasting
principle that what a man soweth that shall he also reap. Bi-
ography is but the more profound and intimate form of history
— revealing the inner side of the same exeperlences whose outer
side Is history.

Philosophy Is the explanation of phenomena. It is the pro-
cess of reflection by which the mind discovers the meaning of
the facts of life. As when the Psalmist — Ps. VIII — observed
the fact of God's goodness to so small and Insignificant a crea-
ture as man, he reflected that man's greatness was to be meas-
ured not by his physical or material bulk or power, but by his
spiritual nature — his angelic likeness, his overlordship and do-
minion over all creation. So the Book of Job, the Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, and much of the prophetic books reveal, not the
mere facts of experience, but the meaning of the facts. Philos-
ophy above all other forms of revelation teaches the wisdom of
God, and shows the sweet reasonableness of his dealings with

These "divers manners" of revelation are not separate nor
independent, but rather various elements that combine to set
forth truth in its fulness and beauty. They may be compared
to the form and color and fragrance which are features of the
flower, or to the light and shade and movement of the living
world viewed from some point of vantage. So the story of
creation, the symbols and the prophecies, the poetry and his-
tory and philosophy reveal the same truth, eternal truth, God's
truth. These varied forms of revelation come with varied ef-
fect upon the same person. Some forms address themselves
especially to our intellect, others rather to our emotions, or our
artistic sense, and others are more effective to move our will
to action. But each and all are directed to us, to each of


us, to every phase and faculty of our being, and the wonder
of it is that these revelations never fail. They never con-
tradict our reason ; they awake responsive voices in our con-
science; they evoke our admiration, and elevate our hopes and
aspiration. Verily, their inspiring source, The Holy Spirit,
"knew what is in man."



"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof
The world and they that dwell therein
For He hath founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the floods"

IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
This is the whole story of the origin of the visible uni-
verse; the present constitution of the v^orld dates from
this beginning.
What was before that date we know not. How long ago
it was, or how long after any other event we cannot tell ; nor
why God, at that time, brought the heavens and the earth into

But two facts are here revealed; first, that God is the sole
source and author of all things; by the word of his power
they came and continue to be: second, the present order, the
heavens and earth, came into being at a definite time, a time,
very long ago, before which they did not exist, and after
which they did.

But the act of creation involved much more than the bring-
ing of matter into being. We may not think of the material

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Online LibrarySamuel Albert MartinThe oracles of God : a popular introduction to the Old Testament scriptures for the use of Bible students → online text (page 1 of 21)