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Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

Gen. 12:1–9; 17:1–9; 18:17–19; 22:16–18; 26:1–5; 28:10–15.

1. TIME AND PLACE OF THE PROPHECIES.—1. With his father Thare, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot, Abram left Ur of the Chaldees for Haran, in obedience to a call of God (Acts 7:2–4). Thare himself was the son of Nachor, son of Sarug, son of Reu, son of Phaleg, son of Heber, son of Sale, son of Kainan (LXX.), son of Arphaxad, son of Sem. It appears, therefore, that Abraham belonged to the family to which Noe had promised the mediatorship of the Messianic blessing.

We must briefly state the different opinions existing concerning the Ur of the Chaldees. a. According to a Talmudic tradition Abraham had been thrown by his idolatrous countrymen into a burning furnace because he had not been willing to conform with their idolatrous practices. God delivered the patriarch from this fire of the Chaldees (Ur of the Chaldees), and the Mosaic record narrates in the present passage this miraculous delivery. In confirmation of this opinion 2 Esdr. 9:7 (Vulg.) may be cited, where “Ur of the Chaldees” is translated by “fire of the Chaldees” (cf. Gen. 11:28, 31; 15:7; Acts 7:2; Jud. 5:6–9). This explanation does not appear probable.

b. Another opinion considers Ur of the Chaldees as identical with the land of the Chaldees (LXX., Ewald, Stanley), or as meaning a mountain of the Chaldees (Knobel). But unless these authorities bring better reasons for their view, it does not appear tenable.

c. An old tradition identifies Ur of the Chaldees with Orfah or Edessa. This tradition seems to reach back to the date of Ephrem (330–370). The ancient name of Edessa appears to have been Orrha as early as the time of Isidore (c. B.C. 150). Pocock (Description of the East, vol. i. p. 159) gives this tradition as the common opinion among the Jews, and even at present the principal mosque of the city is the “Mosque of Abraham,” as the pond in which the sacred fish is kept bears the name “Lake of Abraham the Beloved” (Ainsworth, “Travels in the Track,” etc., p. 64). Again, “Ur of the Chaldees” may be rendered “light of the Chaldees,” a title that would be given in the East on account of any remarkable feature of natural beauty, as Damascus is called “the eye of the East.”

d. Another tradition appears in the Talmud and in some of the early Arabian writers, which finds Ur in Warka, the Ὀρχόη of the Greeks and probably the Erech of Sacred Scripture, called Ορὲχ in the LXX. version. This place bears the name Huruk in the native inscriptions, and was known to the Jews as the “land of the Chaldees.” Ewald and Stanley may be understood as holding this opinion.

e. Another opinion, again, which is not supported by any tradition, identifies the “Ur of the Chaldees” with a castle existing in Eastern Mesopotamia, between Hatra and Nisibis, which is mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus (xxv. 8, col. 26). The chief arguments in favor of this opinion are the identity of the castle’s name with “Ur of the Chaldees,” and its position between Arrapachitis, the supposed home of Abraham’s ancestors, and Haran, whither he went from Ur.

f. Finally, there is another obscure tradition which places the “Ur of the Chaldees” south of Babylon, though it distinguishes the place from Warka (Journal of Asiatic Society, vol. xii. p. 481, note 2). This tradition may be traced in Eupolemus (c. B.C. 150) as quoted by Eusebius (Præp. Ev. ix. 17), who identifies Ur with a Babylonian city known as Camarina. Now Camarina is the city of the moon, Kamar signifying “moon” in Arabic, and Khaldi bearing the same meaning in Old Armenian. The Babylonian city of the moon was Hur, as appears from the brick-inscriptions found on the ruins of Umgheir or Mugheir, situated on the ancient site of Hur, on the right bank of the Euphrates. The Ur of the Chaldees therefore is identical with the Babylonian Hur, the Camarina of Eupolemus, and the present Mugheir or Umgheir. But there are other reasons besides this identity of name and of worship that point to Mugheir as the Ur of the Chaldees. The inscriptions distinguish between “mat Assur” (Assyria), “mat Aram” (northern and western Aramæa), “mat Chatti” (the region of the Hittites), “mat Acharri” (the land of the Chanaanites), “mat Babilu” (Babylonia), and “mat Kaldu” (land of the Chaldees). Now this last country is generally placed south of Babylon, as all grant. Hence “Ur of the Chaldees” cannot be identified with Edessa or the above-mentioned castle (cf. Schrader, K. A. T., 2d ed. 1883, pp. 129 ff.). It follows from the existence of the great temple of the moon in Umgheir (cf. Jos. 24:2), from its early social and political importance, and from the name Hur, which is, letter for letter, the Hebrew אוּר, that Mugheir, and not Warka, was the dwelling-place of Abraham’s ancestors. Finally, it seems entirely improbable that Warka, which is known in Genesis as Erech, should in the passages referring to the patriarch be named Ur. The exception that on our supposition Abraham would have had to cross the Euphrates twice in his migration is of little importance, because the patriarch, being a herdsman, naturally followed the path in which he found good pasture for his flocks.

2. Haran, probably the elder brother of Abram, was already dead at the time of the patriarch’s leaving Ur; Nachor remained behind. Hence, when Thare, too, had died in Haran, Abram became the head of the family, and now received his second call. Obedient to his call, he crossed the Euphrates near Zeugma (some writers consider this call of Abram identical with that given in Ur of the Chaldees, translating the verb in the beginning of ch. 12, “and the Lord had said to Abram”) and entered the land of Chanaan by the valley of the Jabbok; he crossed at once into the rich valley of Moreh, near Sichem, where he received a distinct promise of his future inheritance (Gen. 12:7) and built his first altar to God. Owing, as it appears, to the presence of the Chanaanite in the land, Abram made his resting-place in the strong mountain country between Bethel and Hai. When there was a famine in the country, he went down to Egypt, where his wealth increased considerably, so much so that, after his return, he and Lot had to separate. Abram was now enabled to take up his dwelling-place in the more convenient Mambre or Hebron. It was from this city that the patriarch went forth against Chodorlahomor and his companion-kings (Schrader, K. A. T., 2d ed. 1883, pp. 135 ff.), after they had captured his nephew together with the substance of the cities of the Plain. After this occurrence Melchisedech made his appearance before Abram.

3. It may not be out of place to look upon the divine promise which followed the events just related as beginning a new period in the patriarch’s life. God appeared to Abram (c. 15), promising him a son to be his heir. But the long Israelite captivity in Egypt is also predicted, and the temporal promise regarding the land of Chanaan is repeated. In consequence of this, Abram takes Agar as concubine, and begets Ismael.

4. The voice of God is now silent for fourteen years, during which period the patriarch seems to have remained at Mambre. At the end of this time God again appeared and made a solemn and everlasting covenant with Abram, whose name he now changes to Abraham. The numerous posterity which has been repeatedly promised is again for-told in c. 17, but in c. 18 a son is distinctly promised to Sarai, whose name had been previously changed to Sara. The patriarch pleads for the cities of the Plain, but their wickedness had reached its full measure; the towns are destroyed, only Lot with his family being saved. The promised son is born at last, but only after Abraham had moved towards the south country, into the territory of the Philistines. Agar with Ismael is now sent away.

5. Twenty-five years (Jos. Antiq. I. xiii. 2) pass in peace and quiet, when God again appears to the patriarch, in order to subject him to the greatest trial of his life. Isaac is to be sacrificed, and in spite of all his natural repugnance, the holy patriarch obeys the voice of God (c. 22). New promises more emphatic and comprehensive than the previous ones follow, and Abraham returns to Bersabee, his dwelling-place in the south country. He must have returned from here to Hebron, because Sara died at Kirjath-Arbe, i.e., Hebron, where she was buried in the sepulchral cave of Machpelah. Isaac is then married to Rebecca, and Abraham himself marries Cetura, whose children were, however, sent away, as Ismael had been banished. Finally, Abraham died at the age of 175 years, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah.

6. Rebecca, who had at first been barren, now gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob. The manner in which Esau sold his primogeniture to Jacob is too well known to need further description. A famine soon forced Isaac to go, like his father, to Gerara; God warned him not to proceed into the land of Egypt, and renewed at the same time the Messianic blessing which he had repeatedly imparted to Abraham (26:2 ff.). Finally, Jacob obtained his father’s blessing fraudulently.

7. Esau’s wrath is stirred up on account of Jacob’s fraud; he is determined to kill his brother after their father’s death. Rebecca, therefore, sends Jacob with Isaac’s consent to Haran, in order to marry a wife of his own race. On the way thither God appears to him in his vision of the mysterious ladder at Bethel, and repeats the patriarchal Messianic promises (Gen. 28:14).

2. MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECIES.—1. Sacred Scripture supposes this in many passages: Gen. 49:10; Ps. 2:8; 21 (22):27–31; 71 (72) 8–11, 17, 19; 95 (96):3, 7–10; 97 (98):2, 3; Is. 2:2–4; 9:1–6; 11:10; 42:1, 6, 7; 49:6; Joel 3:1, 2; Jer. 3:17; Agg. 2:7; Mal. 1:11; Zach. 14:16–19; Gal. 3:14; Acts 3:25, 26; 13:32; Luke 1:55, 73; Rom. 4:16, 18; Jo. 4:22.

2. The Fathers of the Church are unanimous in explaining the patriarchal promises as referring to the Messias (cf. Reinke).

3. The fulfilment of the prophecy warrants us in taking the promises as referring to Christ.

4. The ancient Synagogue too explained the patriarchal promises as referring to the Messias. We have testimony of this in Ecclus. 44:22 (Vulg. 24, 25); Onkelos too bears witness for us, since he translates the Divine promise: “they shall be blessed on account of thee and of thy sons.” Ps. Jonathan: “They shall be blessed through thy merit and the merit of thy sons.” In Bemid. R. (sect. 2, fol. 184, 4) there is a rather curious explanation of Gen. 22:18: “God compares the Israelites to the dust. But what are its qualities? If there were no dust, man could not exist; there would be neither trees nor fruits. In the same manner, if there were no Israelites, the world could not exist, as is written in Gen. 22:18: And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. In this world (i.e., in the O.T.) God compares them to the dust; but at the time of the Messias they will be like the sand on the sea-shore. What is the quality of the sand? It dulls the teeth. Thus will the Israelites at the time of the Messias grind up all the Gentiles, as it is written (Num. 24:19): Out of Jacob shall he come that shall rule. And again Ezechiel says: And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel. Another reason why the Israelites are compared to the sand is this: If one throws a handful of sand into the dough or the food, no one can eat of it, because he would dull his teeth: thus it is with the Israelites. Whoever plunders or robs them dulls his teeth for the future world, as is written in Is. 24:23. And the moon shall blush, and the sun shall be ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Sion, and in Jerusalem, and shall be glorified in the sight of his ancients.”

GEN. 12:1–9

And the Lord said to Abram: “Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”

So Abram went out as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him: Abram was seventy-five years old when he went forth from Haran. And he took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all the substance which they had gathered, and the souls which they had gotten in Haran, and they went out to go into the land of Chanaan. And when they were come into it, Abram passed through the country unto the place of Sichem, as far as the noble vale: now the Chanaanite was at that time in the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him: “To thy seed will I give this land.” And he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. And passing on from thence to a mountain, that was on the east-side of Bethel, he there pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west and Hai on the east: he built there also an altar to the Lord, and called upon his name. And Abram went forward going, and proceeding on to the south.

GEN. 17:1–9

And after he began to be ninety and nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, and he said unto him: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and I will multiply thee exceedingly.” Abram fell flat on his face. And God said to him: “I am, and my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name be called any more Abram, but thou shalt be called Abraham, because I have made thee a father of many nations. And I will make thee increase exceedingly, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee in their generation, by a perpetual covenant, to be a God to thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give to thee and to thy seed the land of thy sojournment, all the land of Chanaan for a perpetual possession, and I will be their God.”

GEN. 18:17–19

And the Lord said, “Can I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing he shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed? For I know that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, and do judgment and justice, that for Abraham’s sake the Lord may bring to effect all the things he hath spoken unto him.”

GEN. 22:16–18

By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for my sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea-shore, thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.

GEN. 26:1–5

And when a famine came in the land, after that barrenness which had happened in the days of Abraham, Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Palestines, to Gerara. And the Lord appeared to him, and said: “Go not down into Egypt, but stay in the land that I shall tell thee, and sojourn in it, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee, for to thee and to thy seed I will give all these countries, to fulfil the oath which I swore to Abraham thy father. And I will multiply thy seed like the stars of heaven, and I will give to thy posterity all these countries, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my precepts and commandments, and observed my ceremonies and laws.”

GEN. 28:10–15

But Jacob being departed from Bersabee, went on to Haran. And when he was come to a certain place, and would rest in it after sunset, he took of the stones that lay there, and putting under his head, slept in the same place. And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven, the angels also of God ascending and descending by it, and the Lord leaning upon the ladder saying to him: “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land wherein thou sleepest I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: thou shalt spread abroad to the west and to the east, and to the north, and to the south, and in thee and thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed. And I will be thy keeper whither soever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land: neither will I leave thee till I shall have accomplished all that I have said.”

1. PATRIARCHAL HOPE.—As to the nature of the Messianic salvation which the patriarchs must have inferred from these promises, we may safely hold that: a. They must have understood the promises of spiritual blessings, because they were represented as a reward of Abraham’s faith and obedience; God himself mentions the preservation of the true religious worship as one particular blessing (Gen. 18:19), and the emphasis which he lays on the promises would hardly be justified if they referred to natural blessings alone. b. When, how, and through which particular members of their offspring these blessings would be realized, and to which particular nations they were to extend, and finally in how far the offspring of the patriarchs would be instrumental in the blessing of the nations,—all these points were so many mysteries for the recipients of the prophetic promises, unless their minds were especially enlightened (cf. Jo. 8:55 f.).

2. RELATION OF THE PATRIARCHS TO THE PROPHECIES.—It is of interest to consider the different relations which the three patriarchs hold in regard to this prophetic series. Abraham is promised twice that in him and once that in his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed; Isaac obtains the promise that in his seed the national blessing will be given to the world; Jacob finally is promised that in him and in his seed the same blessing will be given. Cajetan draws attention to the fact that while Abraham and Jacob figure personally as mediators of the blessing, in Isaac’s case only his seed is mentioned as the medium. The reason given for this difference of relation is sought by the same theologian in the fact that Abraham is the father of faith, Jacob is the father of the chosen people, while Isaac is father of Esau too, in whom we may see the representative of the future schisms.

Whatever truth there may be in this reasoning, it is certain that Isaac holds a peculiar position in Jewish legends. He is represented as an angel made before the world (Orig. in Jo. ii. 25); as one of the three men in whom human sinfulness has no place, and as one of the six over whom the angel of death has no power (Eisenmenger, Entd. Jud. i. 343, 864). He is said to have been instructed in divine knowledge by Sem (Jarchi, Gen. 25), and evening prayer is connected with him (Gen. 24:63), as morning prayer with Abraham (Gen. 19:27) and night prayer with Jacob (Gen. 28:11; Eisenmenger, Entd. Jud. i. 473).

The Arabian traditions too preserved in the Koran represent Isaac as a model of religion, as a just man inspired by grace to do many good works, as a man of prayer and of almsgiving (c. xxi.), as endowed with the divine gifts of prophecy, of children and of wealth (c. xix.). Isaac’s promise and offering are also mentioned (c. xi. 38).

The following may serve as models of several fanciful representations assigned to the patriarchs by some modern writers. A. Jukes (Types of Gen.) regards Adam as representing human nature; Cain is the type of the carnal mind, Abel of the spiritual, Noe of regeneration, Abraham of faith, Isaac of sonship, Jacob of service, Joseph of suffering or glory. Ewald (Gesch. i. 387–400) views the whole patriarchal family as a typical group of twelve members. a. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are three fathers, representing active power, quiet enjoyment, success after struggles; they may be compared to Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ulysses among the Greeks, to Anchises, Æneas, and Ascanius among the Trojans, and to Romulus, Remus, and Numa among the Romans; b. Sara and Agar represent the mother and mistress of the household; c. Isaac represents the child; d. Isaac with Rebecca typifies wedlock; e. Lia and Rachel show the plurality of coequal wives; f. Debbora is the nurse (cf. Anna and Caieta, Æn. iv. 654; vii. 1). g. Eliezer represents the steward whose office is compared with that of the messenger of the Olympic deities.

Placing these theories among the works of fancy, where they belong, we must finally state the typical character given to the patriarchal history from the earliest times of ecclesiastical literature. It is true that the typical character of Isaac is barely referred to in the New Testament; but Philo and all the interpreters who are influenced by the Alexandrian philosophy draw out the typical view with minute particularity. Passing over these brilliant rather than solid explanations, we find that Clement of Rome (c. 31) sees in Isaac an example of faith in God; Tertullian, pattern of monogamy and of Christ bearing the cross; Clement of Alexandria finds allegorical meanings in Isaac’s dealings with Abimelech and in his intended immolation; Origen, Augustine, and Christian interpreters generally explain Isaac’s immolation as representing Christ’s death on the cross; Rhabanus Maurus has drawn out this figure in all its particulars.

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