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The Empires of the Bible from the Confusion of Tongues to the Babylonian Captivity

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    CHAPTER VIII. THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

    GOD “made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord.” But instead of seeking the Lord, even “when they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Profession themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to a corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Thus it was before the flood, and therefore the flood came and destroyed them all—only Noah and his family being fit to preserve alive on the earth, because he only was found righteous before the Lord. But, as we have seen, even the descendants of Noah, standing fairly in sight of this terrible example, soon went in the same way of idolatry.EB 139.1

    2. From the midst of idolatry, however, Abram felt after God and found Him. Then God set Abram before all the world as a living example of how all people are without excuse in not finding the true God. He also chose Abram and his seed to be the light of the world; that in him and his seed all nations of the earth might be blessed; and that the knowledge of God should be kept alive in the midst of the idolatry of the world. God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees, out of his country, and from his kindred, and from his own father’s house, into the land of Canaan; and promised to give it to him and to his seed after him for an everlasting possession. “And into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land into the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord;” or as other translations give it, “He preached the name of the Lord.” 1[Page 140] Genesis 12:1-8.EB 139.2

    3. It was directly in the carrying out of this great purpose to make him and his seed a light and blessing to all the nations, that God called Abram into the land of Canaan to sojourn there. For from only the beginnings of history which we have already studied, it is clearly seen that the country of Palestine was the center of the then known world—the country through which, whether in war or in peace, the people of other lands were constantly passing and repassing. At that point God would set the light of the knowledge of Himself, that all might see it. Melchizedek was already there, and he was the priest of the most high God. And there, before history had fairly begun, God placed Abraham the Friend of God, and the father of all that be of faith, to keep before the people the knowledge of the true God after Melchizedek should have passed away.EB 140.1

    4. In that land dwelt Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while the nations were small, and while history was being made from the East. But when Egypt rose to ascendency, not only over Palestine but over the East also; and when Egypt thus became the one great and dominant nation, God removed his people from Canaan to the country of Egypt itself. And so with Israel among the people of Egypt, and with Joseph and Moses beside the throne of Egypt, during all the time of Egyptian ascendency there was held before all the nations, the light of the knowledge of the true God, the Father and Saviour of all.EB 140.2

    5. Yet this was not all that the Lord was doing, even then, with Israel. As through servitude and prison Joseph was prepared for the high position which he must occupy in Egypt and before the world; so through servitude and affliction in Egypt, the Lord was preparing all Israel for the grand and mighty destiny which was in store for them.EB 140.3

    6. Teaching the Egyptian senators wisdom, and holding before Egypt and all the world the knowledge of God, Joseph performed well his part for eighty years. 2[Page 141] Genesis 41:46; 50:26. Seventy years of this time Israel also was in Egypt. “And Joseph died and all his brethren and all that generation.” Then came Rameses II, who knew not Joseph, with his original scheme for checking the increase of their numbers, for fear that they would seize opportunity to throw off their subjection to the power of Egypt. This thought would present itself with all the more force to the mind of this dull-thinking king, from the experience which his predecessor must have had with Israel; when he attempted to force upon all the people the worship of the sun. In the nature of the case, it was from these that Amenophis IV met the most uncompromising and influential opposition to his ambitious scheme in the interests of a universal sun-worship. And now Rameses II, hardly less a devotee of the sun than Khu-en-aten himself, knowing the position and record of Israel in that matter, and seeing them multiply so greatly,—the Hebrew is, literally, they “Swarmed.”—it was plain enough to his mind that upon the first fair opportunity they would leave the country. And this, the more especially because, as before remarked, there was constantly and the talk among them that the time would come soon when the whole nation would certainly be delivered from Egypt, by another God than any of those of Egypt.EB 141.1

    7. Then came Moses also, and, in his turn, the Pharaoh of the Exodus, who was worse, if possible, than the Pharaoh of the Oppression.EB 141.2

    8. Knowing as he did that “the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham,” and that therefore all who would be partakers of that promise must leave Egypt; and knowing that the time had now come for Israel to be delivered from Egyptian oppression, Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” The honors, all the treasures, and the throne, of Egypt, were deliberately renounced for the greater honor of “suffering affliction with the people of God,” and for the greater treasure of “the reproach of Christ.” “By the laws of Egypt, all who occupied the throne of the Pharaohs must become members of the priestly caste; and Moses, as the heir apparent, was to be initiated into the mysteries of the national religion. This duty was committed to the priests. But while he was an ardent and untiring student, he could not be induced to participate in the worship of the gods. He was threatened with the loss of the crown, and warned that he would be disowned by the princess, should he persist in his adherence to the Hebrew faith. But he was unshaken in his determination to render homage to none save the one God, the Maker of heaven and earth. He reasoned with priests and worshipers, showing the folly of their superstitious veneration of senseless objects.” 3[Page 142] “Patriarchs and Prophets,” chap 22, par. 16.EB 141.3

    9. Moses, however, being mighty in deeds among the Egyptians, fell into the mistake of thinking that Israel was to be delivered by his own prowess. He was obliged, therefore, to spend a season in exile from Egypt and from his own people, “a stranger in a strange land,” till he had learned that God himself would deliver Israel by His own power, and in His own way; while Moses was to be but an instrument through whom the Lord would manifest His will and His power.EB 142.1

    10. The oppression of Israel in Egypt had now been long and severe. At the same time they were surrounded by every species of idolatry. Consequently many of the people of Israel, especially of the younger generation, had become discouraged and bewildered as to the faith that had inspired Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the elders of Israel. Thus, to a considerable extent, they had lost the purity of the knowledge of the law and worship of Jehovah. Therefore the first thing that devolved upon Moses and Aaron was to revive the sinking faith of the people by repeating to them the promises of the Lord to their fathers and to them; and to inculcate spirituality of service and worship by setting before their minds the claims of the law of God. As Jehovah was now to be their only . King, it was essential that they should become acquainted with the principles of His law and government in order that they might be intelligent and loyal subjects of their new King.EB 142.2

    11. However, Moses and Aaron had no sooner begun to teach to the people the law of God and the principles of His government, than they came into conflict with the whole system of the kingship, the law, and the government, of Egypt. When they delivered to Pharaoh the message of God: “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me,” Pharaoh arrogantly replied: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord; neither will I let Israel go.” According to the Egyptian system of things, Pharaoh was in the place of God. As we have seen, in his own estimation, and according to the example of his predecessors for hundreds of years, he was God to the people. This being so, there must necessarily be a conflict of law and authority as soon as the claims of God were asserted. And this conflict would continue till Pharaoh, and Egypt, and all the nations, should learn that Jehovah alone is God; that He alone is to be obeyed; and that all must be left free to serve Him, without hindrance or opposition on the part of any king, or government, or law, or people.EB 143.1

    12. The sign by which the Lord was then, and is ever, to be known by those who worship Him, is the Sabbath. “Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” 4[Page 143] Ezekiel 20:20. Upon this point came the first real conflict between Pharaoh and Israel—between Pharaoh and God in fact. In teaching the people the will of the Lord, and how they were to serve Him, Moses and Aaron taught them the observance of the Sabbath of the Lord. This led them to cease work on the Sabbath, that they might enter into the rest and worship of the Lord. This no sooner came to the knowledge of Pharaoh than he charged Moses and Aaron with hindering the people from their work by causing them to rest from their burdens. “And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let [hinder] the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people now are many, and ye do make them rest from their burdens.” 5[Page 144] Exodus 5:4, 5.EB 143.2

    13. The word here translated rest is Hebrew shabath, and in every instance in which it is translated rest it relates to Sabbath rest; and in all but two instances it refers definitely to the rest of the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord. This fact is of itself conclusive evidence that when Pharaoh said, “Ye make them shabath from their burdens,” he referred directly to the resting of the people on the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord, which Moses and Aaron had been teaching them to observe. This, however, is further shown by other statements of Pharaoh. He said of Israel that “they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.” 6[Page 144] Verse 8. And again: “Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord.” 7[Page 144] Verse 17. And this he charged them with doing, out of regard for “vain words.” 8[Page 144] Verse 9. All this shows that Moses and Aaron were by words teaching the people to rest—to shabath—the seventh day in observance of the Sabbath of the Lord; that accordingly the people ceased from their work on that day, which cause Pharaoh to charge the people with being “idle,” and to blame Moses and Aaron for being the cause of it through what they had said to them and which he characterized as “vain words.”EB 144.1

    14. Then Pharaoh took another step in the wrong way. A former Pharaoh (Amenophis IV) had attempted to cause all to honor the sun as the supreme deity: the present Pharaoh would prohibit them from honoring the Lord. In enforcing the honor of the sun as the supreme deity, the day of the sun was necessarily exalted; in opposing the honor of God, the Sabbath of the Lord was necessarily rejected and its observance forbidden. However, it was not forbidden in express terms: it was done indirectly, by the requirements of the government being made such to render it impossible to obey the king and observe the Sabbath. Accordingly,“Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish aught thereof; for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labor therein; and let them not regard vain words.EB 144.2

    15. “And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. Go ye, get you straw where you can find it: yet not aught of your work shall be diminished. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to-day, as heretofore?EB 145.1

    16. “Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord. Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish aught from your bricks of your daily tasks. And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: and they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hands to slay us.EB 145.2

    17. “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.EB 145.3

    18. “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord [margin, Jehovah]. And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments; and I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.” 9[Page 146] Exodus 5:6-23; 6:1-8.EB 146.1

    19. Yet it was not to Israel alone, nor for their sakes alone, that God was doing all these things. It was for the sake of all nations forever that Jehovah was making the revelation of Himself and His power as it was made to Israel and to Egypt. To the Egyptians in their blindness and darkness, God would make Himself known as well as to Israel. The Egyptians and all others, as well as the Hebrews, God would redeem unto Himself from a bondage that was far worse than the bodily servitude of even an Egyptian oppression. But in order that this might be done, it was necessary that they should know Him, and in order that they might know Him, it was necessary that He should reveal Himself. And to the Egyptians, so lost as they were in the debased service of false gods, as well as for the sake of Israel, it was necessary that Jehovah, in making Himself known, should show Himself to be superior to every god and every other power that could ever be known. Therefore among the things that Jehovah said He would do was this: “Against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgment: I am the Lord.” And in the great miracles wrought in Egypt, the Lord did execute judgment against all their gods.EB 146.2

    20. “The first miracle, while it authenticated the mission of Moses, destroyed the serpents, which among the Egyptians were objects of worship. Thus evincing, in the outset, that their gods could neither help the people nor save themselves.EB 147.1

    21. “The second miracle was directed against the River Nile, another object which they regarded with religious reverence. This river they held sacred, as the Hindoos do the Ganges; and even the fish in its waters they revered as objects of worship. They drank the water with reverence and delight; and supposed that a divine efficacy dwelt in its waves to heal diseases of the body. The water of this their cherished object of idolatrous homage was transmuted to blood; and its finny idols became a mass of putridity.EB 147.2

    22. “The third miracle was directed to the accomplishment of the same end—the destruction of faith in the river as an object of worship. The waters of the Nile were caused to send forth legions of frogs, which infested the whole land and became a nuisance and a torment to the people. Thus their idol, by the power of the true God, was polluted and turned into a source of pollution to its worshipers.EB 147.3

    23. “By the fourth miracle of a series constantly increasing in power and severity, lice came upon man and beast throughout the land. ‘Now if it be remembered,’ says Gliog, ‘that no one could approach the altars of Egypt upon whom so impure an insect harbored; and that the priests, to guard against the slightest risk of contamination, wore only linen garments, and shaved their heads and bodies every day; the severity of this miracle, as a judgment upon Egyptian idolatry, may be imagined. While it lasted, no act of worship could be performed: and so keenly was this felt that the very magicians exclaimed, ‘This is the finger of God!’EB 147.4

    24. “The fifth miracle was designed to destroy the trust of the people in Beelzebub, or the Fly-god, who was reverenced as their protector from visitations of swarms of ravenous flies which infested the land, generally about the time of the dog-days, and removed only, as they supposed, at the will of this idol. The miracle now wrought by Moses, evinced the impotence of Beelzebub and caused the people to look elsewhere for relief from the fearful visitation under which they were suffering.EB 147.5

    25. “The sixth miracle, which destroyed the cattle, excepting those of the Israelites, was aimed at the destruction of the entire system of brute worship. This system, degrading and bestial as it was, had become a monster of many heads in Egypt. They had their sacred bull, and ram, and heifer, and goat, and many others, all of which were destroyed by the agency of the God of Moses. Thus by one act of power, Jehovah manifested His own supremacy, and destroyed the very existence of their brute idols.EB 148.1

    26. “Of the peculiar fitness of the sixth plague (the seventh miracle), says the writer before quoted, the reader will receive a better impression when he is reminded that in Egypt there were several altars upon which human sacrifices were occasionally offered when they desired to propitiate Typhon, or the Evil Principle. These victims being burned alive, their ashes were gathered together by the officiating priests and thrown up into the air in order that evil might be averted from every place to which an atom of the ashes was wafted. By the direction of Jehovah, Moses took a handful of ashes from the furnace (which very probably the Egyptians at this time had frequently used to turn aside the plagues with which they were smitten), and he cast it into the air as they were accustomed to do; and instead of averting evil, boils and blains fell upon all the people of the land. Neither king, nor priests, nor people, escaped. Thus the bloody rites of Typhon became a curse to the idolaters; the supremacy of Jehovah was affirmed; and the deliverance of the Israelites was insisted upon.EB 148.2

    27. “The ninth miracle was directed against the worship of Serapis, whose peculiar office was supposed to be to protect the country from locusts. At periods these destructive insects came in clouds upon the land, and like an overshadowing curse they blighted the fruits of the field and the verdure of the forest. At the command of Moses these terrible insects came; and they retired only at his bidding. Thus was the impotence of Serapis made manifest, and the idolaters taught the folly of trusting in any other protection than that of Jehovah, the God of Israel.EB 148.3

    28. “The eighth and tenth miracles were directed against the worship of Isis and Osiris, to whom and the River Nile they awarded the first place in the long catalogue of their idolatry. These idols were originally the representatives of the sun and moon; they were believed to control the light and the elements; and their worship prevailed in some form among all the early nations. The miracles directed against the worship of Isis and Osiris must have made a deep impression on the minds both of the Israelites and the Egyptians. In a country where rain seldom falls; where the atmosphere is always calm; and the light of the heavenly bodies always continued; what was the horror pervading all minds during the elemental war described in the Hebrew record during the long period of three days and three nights while the gloom of thick darkness settled like the out-spread pall of death over the whole land! Jehovah of Hosts summoned Nature to proclaim Him the true God. The God of Israel asserted His supremacy, and exerted His power to degrade the idols, destroy idolatry, and liberate the descendants of Abraham from the land of their bondage.EB 149.1

    29. “The Almighty having thus revealed Himself as the true God, by miraculous agency, and pursued those measures in the exercise of His power which were directly adapted to destroy the various forms of idolatry which existed in Egypt, the eleventh and last miracle was a judgment, in order to manifest to all minds that Jehovah was the God who executed judgment in the earth. The Egyptians had for a long time cruelly oppressed the Israelites, and to put the finishing horror to their atrocities they had finally slain at their birth the offspring of their victims; and now God, in the exercise of infinite justice, visited them with righteous retribution. In the midwatches of the night the ‘Angel of the Pestilence’ was sent to the dwellings of Egypt, and he ‘breathed in the face’ of all the first-born in the land. In the morning, the hop of every family from the palace to the cottage was a corpse. What mind can imagine the awful consternation of that scene, when an agonizing wail rose from the stricken hearts of all the parents in the nation! The cruel taskmasters were taught by means which entered their souls, that the true God was a God not only of power but of judgment, and, as such, to be feared by evil-doers and reverenced by those who do well.”—Walker. 10[Page 150] “Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation,” chap 3, par. 14-24.EB 149.2

    30. Thus by great signs and wonders, and mighty miracles multiplied, was Israel delivered from Egypt. And when, by the final, greatest, miracle of all, they were allowed to walk on dry ground, between walls of ice, through the midst of the sea, and so were delivered forever from Pharaoh and all his host, well could they sing in the gratitude of a triumphant faith this song unto the Lord:—EB 150.1

    “I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously:
    The horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.
    The Lord is my strength and song,
    And He is become my salvation:
    This is my God, and I will praise Him;
    My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
    The Lord is a man of war:
    The Lord is His name.

    Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath He cast into the sea:
    And His chosen captains are sunk in the Red Sea.
    The deeps cover them:
    They went down into the depths like a stone.
    EB 150.2

    Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power,
    Thy right hand, O Lord, dasheth in pieces the enemy.
    EB 150.3

    And in the greatness of thine excellency thou overthrowest them that
    rise up against thee:
    Thou sendest forth my wrath, it consumeth them as stubble.
    EB 150.4

    And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were piled up,
    The floods stood upright as an heap;
    The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea.
    EB 150.5

    The enemy said,
    I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil:
    EB 150.6

    My lust shall be satisfied upon them;
    I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
    EB 151.1

    Thou didst blow with my wind, the sea covered them:
    They sank as lead in the mighty waters.
    EB 151.2

    Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like thee, glorious in holiness,
    Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
    EB 151.3

    Thou stretchedst out thy right hand,
    The earth swallowed them.
    EB 151.4

    Thou in thy mercy hast led the people which thou hast redeemed:
    Thou hast guided them in thy strength to thy holy habitation.
    The peoples have heard, they tremble:
    Pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia
    EB 151.5

    Then were the dukes of Edom amazed;
    The mighty men of Moab, trembling taketh hold upon them:
    All the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away.
    EB 151.6

    Terror and dread falleth upon them;
    By the greatness of thine arm they are as still as a stone;
    Till thy people pass over, O Lord,
    Till the people pass over which thou hast purchased.
    EB 151.7

    Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine
    inheritance,
    The place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in,
    The sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.
    EB 151.8

    The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” 11[Page 151] Exodus 5:1-18, R. V.

    31. O that Israel had stood fast in the faith and the grand victory that they celebrated at the Red Sea! “O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him; but their time should have endured forever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied them.” 12[Page 151] Psalm 81:13-16. Then they would have had no more defending of themselves than at the Red Sea; they would not have wandered forty years to reach the end of an eleven days’ journey; their progress to the land of promise, and in the complete possession of it, would have been but one grand triumphal procession; for God had given it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with them to these, “for an everlasting possession.”EB 151.9

    32. Before Israel entered Canaan, it was said of them by an irresistible inspiration, “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” 13[Page 152] Numbers 23:9. The Lord never intended that His people should be formed into a kingdom, or State, or government, like the people of this world. They were not to be like the nations around them. They were to be separated unto God “from all the people that were upon the face of the earth.” 14[Page 152] Exodus 33:16. “The people shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Their government was to be a theocracy pure and simple—God their only King, their only Ruler, their only Lawgiver. It was, indeed, a church organization, beginning with the organization of “the church in the wilderness;” and was to be separated from every idea of a State. The system formed in the wilderness through Moses, and continued in Canaan through Joshua, was intended to be perpetual.EB 152.1

    33. “The government of Israel was administered in the name and by the authority of God. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given. They had no authority to legislate for the nation.” 15[Page 152] “Patriarchs and Prophets,” chap 59, par. 1. “Hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you .... Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of all the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 16[Page 153] Deuteronomy 4:1-6. “This was, and continued to be, the condition of Israel’s existence as a nation.” 17[Page 153] “Patriarchs and Prophets.” chap 59, par. 1.EB 152.2

    34. The principles of the government of Israel were solely those of a pure theocracy. In any government it is only loyalty to the principles of the government on the part of the citizens, that can make it a success. It was only by the constantly abiding presence of God with Israel, that the government there established could possibly be a success. Loyalty to the principles of that government, therefore, on the part of the people, demanded that each one of the people should constantly court the abiding presence of God with himself, as the sole King, Ruler, and Lawgiver, in all the conduct of his daily life. But “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” It is “by faith” that God dwells in the heart and rules in the life. Therefore the fundamental principle, indeed the very existence, of the government of Israel, lay in a living, abiding faith on the part of the people of Israel.EB 153.1

    35. And just here is where Israel failed. In fact it is the only place where they could fail. They did not abide in faith; they did not remain loyal to their King and government. The people who entered the land, who by faith crossed the River Jordan on dry ground when the river was altogether on a flood, by whose faith the walls of Jericho fell down flat when they had compassed it about seven days and had shouted the victorious shout of faith—these people believed the Lord, and He was with them in power. But a change came. The people lost the purity of the faith, and fell into formalism. The story is told for us in a few terse verses in the Scriptures. “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that He did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.... And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.” 18[Page 154] Judges 2:7-13.EB 153.2

    36. Not having the presence of God in the heart to separate them even from themselves and so make them unlike other people, they were so like the nations round about that it was natural enough that they should fall in with them in the worship of their gods. When in consequence of their apostasy, the burden of their own doings and the oppressions of the heathen became so heavy that they could no longer endure it, they would turn unto the Lord with all the heart, would put their trust in Him alone, and thus in Him would find glorious deliverance from their sins and from all their oppressors. But finding themselves delivered, they failed still to cultivate and court the presence of their Lord and Deliverer; therefore their religion again became formal, and they soon again adopted the ways of the heathen, and worshiped their gods.EB 154.1

    37. If only they had set their hearts upon the Lord and trusted Him all the time, as they did in these fits of reform, they would have found Him to be to them all the time just what He was on these occasions. Then their whole course would have been what He always desired that it should be—one continual progress onward and upward, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour. Then they would have been a bright and shining light to all the nations.EB 154.2

    38. Instead of being brought by these repeated experiences to the point where they would finally and forever distrust themselves and trust the Lord only, they actually arrived at the state where they finally distrusted the Lord, and proposed wholly to trust in themselves. In their unbelief and apostasy they could see in the continued raids of the heathen, by which the country was sacked and the people oppressed, only an evidence that for all practical purposes the government of God had failed. “All the evils which were the result of their own sin and folly, they charged upon the government of God.” 19[Page 154] “Patriarchs and Prophets,” chap 59, par. 8. They therefore decided that they must set up a government of their own “like all the nations.” “Gradually they lost their reverence for God, and ceased to prize the honor of being His chosen people. Attracted by the pomp and display of heathen monarchs, they tired of their own simplicity. Jealousy and envy sprung up between the tribes. Internal dissensions made them weak: they were continually exposed to the invasion of their heathen foes; and the people were coming to believe that in order to maintain their standing among the nations, the tribes must be united under a strong central government. As they departed from obedience to God’s law, they desired to be freed from the rule of their divine Sovereign; and thus the demand for a monarchy became wide spread throughout Israel.” 20[Page 155] Par. 3. “And still the longing to conform to wordly practises and customs exists among the professed people of God. As they depart from the Lord, they become ambitious for the gains and honors of the world. Christians are constantly seeking to imitate the practises of those who worship the God of this world. Many urge that by uniting with worldlings and conforming to their customs, they might exert a stronger influence over the ungodly. But all who pursue this course, thereby separate from the Source of their strength. Becoming the friends of the world, they are the enemies of God. For the sake of earthly distinction, they sacrifice the unspeakable honor to which God has called them, of showing forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”—Id., par. 13.EB 154.3

    39. It was the same story of Babylon and Egypt over again. The arch-deceiver seduced them into idolatry, and from idolatry into monarchy, in order that he might gain supremacy over them and by earthly influences entice them, or by force prohibit them, from the service of God. “God desired His people to look to Him alone as their Lawgiver and their Source of strength. Feeling their dependence upon God, they would be constantly drawn nearer to Him. They would become elevated and ennobled, fitted for the high destiny to which he had called them as His chosen people. But when a man was placed upon the throne, it would tend to turn the minds of the people from God. They would trust more to human strength and less to divine power, and the errors of their king would lead them into sin, and separate the nation from God.” 21[Page 155] Id., par. 10.EB 155.1

    40. Accordingly they said to Samuel: “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” “‘Like all the nations.’—The Israelites did not realize that to be in this respect unlike other nations was a special privilege and blessing. God had separated the Israelites from every other people, to make them His own peculiar treasure. But they, disregarding this high honor, eagerly desired to imitate the example of the heathen.” “The days of Israel’s greatest prosperity had been those in which they acknowledged Jehovah as their King,—when the laws and the government which He had established were regarded as superior to those of all other nations.” 22[Page 156] Id., par. 13, 8. But all this was forgotten now, in their settled purpose to have a king, a government, a State, like all the nations. Against the Lord’s expressed will, Israel would be reckoned among the nations.EB 155.2

    41. Therefore their demand for a king was allowed, but under earnest protest and with a solemn warning. “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.EB 156.1

    42. “And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots, and he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and he will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your men servants, and your maid servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.EB 156.2

    43. “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.” 23[Page 157] 1 Samuel 8:7-22.EB 157.1

    44. O that Israel had known in that, their day, the things that belonged to their peace! O, that they had believed the Lord, and had allowed that He knew, better then they, the way that they should take for their good! But against His strongest plea and most solemn warning they shut their ears and hardened their hearts, and then and there entered upon the course that, with inexorable logic, led to their annihilation both as a nation and as a chosen people. When, against the protest of the Lord by Samuel, they cried, “Nay; but we will have a king over us,” in that cry the Lord heard, and it is now easy for all to hear, their ultimate cry against Him—“We have no king by Caesar.” In rejecting God that they might be “like all the nations,” they became like all the nations that rejected God.EB 157.2

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