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From the sustenance of the priests (Ezekiel 44:29-31), the new Torah naturally passes in the present chapter to the maintenance of the temple service as a whole, setting forth in the first section of the chapter (Ezekiel 45:1-8) the portions of land that should be allotted respectively to the sanctuary, i.e. for the temple buildings, and the priests' and Levites' houses (Ezekiel 45:1-5), to the city and its inhabitants, that they might be able to discharge their religious and civil obligations on the one hand to the temple, and on the other hand to the state (Ezekiel 45:6), and to the prince to enable him to support himself and meet the charge of those public offerings which were required of him as the head of the community (Ezekiel 45:7, Ezekiel 45:8); in the second section (Ezekiel 45:9-17) dealing with the oblations the people should make to the prince for this purpose, reminding the prince, on the one hand, that these should not be levied from the people by extortion (Ezekiel 45:9), and the people, on the other, that these should be delivered to the prince with honesty (Ezekiel 45:10-16), and both that a certain part of the prince's revenue from the people's oblations should be devoted to the furnishing of offerings for the solemnities of the house of Israel (Ezekiel 45:17); and in the third section (Ezekiel 45:18-25) instituting a new feast-cycle, beginning with a Passover in the first (Ezekiel 45:18-24) and ending with a Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh (Ezekiel 45:25) month.
The portions of land that should be allotted to the sanctuary, the city, and the prince.
Moreover, When ye shall divide by lot the land (literally, and in your causing the land to fall) for inheritance. As the territory of Canaan had been originally divided by lot among the twelve tribes after the conquest (comp. Numbers 26:55; Numbers 33:54; Joshua 13:6, etc.), this same method of allocating the soil amongst the new community should be followed on a second time taking possession of it after the exile. Currey believes the phrase, "divide by lot," "does not imply anything like casting lots, but is equivalent to our notion of allotment, the several portions being assigned by rule." There is, however, little doubt "lots" were cast to determine, if not the actual size, at least the precise situation, of each tribe's territory (see Keil and 'Pulpit Commentary' on Numbers 26:54). That no such methodical distribution of Canaan ever took place, or for that matter could hays taken place amongst the returned exiles, should be proof sufficient that the prophet here moves in the region of the ideal and symbolical rather than of the real and literal. Ye shall offer an oblation—literally, lift up a heave offering (comp. Eze 44:1-31 :80; Exodus 25:2, Exodus 25:3; Exodus 29:28; Exodus 30:13, Exodus 30:14; Le Exodus 7:14, 32; Exodus 22:12; Numbers 15:19; Numbers 18:24)—unto the Lord, an holy portion of the land; literally, a holy (portion) from the land. Very significantly, in the new partition of Palestine the Lord's portion should be the first to be marked off and solemnly dedicated to Jehovah for the purposes to be forthwith specified. Those who, like Wellhansen and Smend, perceive in this allotment of land to Jehovah, and therefore to the priests, a contradiction to Ezekiel 44:28, omit to notice first that Jehovah required some place on which his sanctuary might be erected, and the priests some ground on which to build houses for themselves; and secondly, that, so far as the priests were concerned, the laud was given by the people, not to them, but to Jehovah, and by him to them (comp. on Ezekiel 44:28). The exact site of this terumah, or "holy portion," is afterwards indicated (Ezekiel 48:8); meanwhile its dimensions are recorded. The length shall be the length of five and twenty thousand reeds, and the breadth shall be ten thousand. Whether "reeds" or "cubits" should be supplied after "thousand" has divided expositors. Bottcher, Hitzig, Ewald, Hengstenberg, and Smend decide for "cubits," principally on the grounds that "cubits" are mentioned in Ezekiel 44:2; that "cubits" have been the usual measure hitherto, even (as they contend) in Ezekiel 42:16; and that otherwise the dimensions of this sacred territory must have been colossal, in fact, out of all proportion to the Holy Land, viz. about 720 square miles. Havernick, Keil, Kliefoth, Currey, and Plumptre favor "reeds," chiefly for the reasons that in Ezekiel 42:2 "cubits" are specified, and are therefore to be regarded as exceptional; that the customary measuring instrument throughout has been a reed (see Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 42:16); and that the dimensions, which Ezekiel designed should be colossal (comp. Ezekiel 40:2), correspond exactly with the measurements afterwards given in Ezekiel 48:1-35; if these he in reeds, but not if they be in cubits. As to the breadth of this terumah from east to west, Hitzig, Keil, Smend, Schroder, and Plumptre follow the LXX. (εἴκοσι χιλιάδας) in substituting 20,000 for 10,000, considering that the space referred to in Ezekiel 48:3 appears as if meant to be taken from an already measured larger area, which could only be that of Ezekiel 48:1—the portion in Ezekiel 48:1 being the whole territory assigned to the priests and Levites, and that in Ezekiel 48:3 the allotment for the priests. Kliefoth, however, contends that no necessity exists for tampering with the text, and certainly if Ezekiel 48:1-4 be regarded as descriptive of the priests' portion only, and מִן in the phrase, "of this measure" (וּמִן־חַמִּדָּה הַזּאֹת), in Ezekiel 48:8 be rendered "according to"—a sense it may have (see Gesenius, sub voce), the supposed difficulty disappears. In this ease the demonstrative this in the last clause will refer to the priests' portion exclusively; in the former ease, to the whole portion of the priests and Levites. That Ezekiel 48:14 declares the Levites' portion to be "holy unto the land" does not prove it must have been included in the holy terumah of Ezekiel 48:1 Nor does this concession follow, as will appear, from Ezekiel 48:7.
Of this district, either of 25,000 x 10,000, or 25,000 x 20,000 reeds, according to the view taken of Ezekiel 45:1, there should be measured off for the sanctuary five hundred in length, with five hundred in breadth. The supplement here also, Keil, Kliefoth, Plumptre, and others consider to be "reeds," since obviously the whole temple with its precincts is intended (Ezekiel 42:16-20), though Hengstenberg and Schroder prefer "cubits," holding the sanctuary to be the temple buildings enclosed within the outer court well (Ezekiel 40:1-49.). The free space of fifty cubits round about for the suburbs (or, open places) thereof seems to indicate that the larger area was that alluded to by the prophet. That the term מִגְדָשׁ. occurs more frequently in the so-called priest-code (Le 25:84; Numbers 35:2, Numbers 35:3, Numbers 35:4, Numbers 35:5, Numbers 35:7; Joshua 14:4; Joshua 21:2, Joshua 21:3, Joshua 21:8, Joshua 21:11, Joshua 21:13, etc.) and in the Chronicles (1 Chronicles 5:16; 1Ch 6:35, 1 Chronicles 6:37; 1 Chronicles 13:2; 2 Chronicles 11:14; 2 Chronicles 31:19) than in Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 27:28; Ezekiel 48:15, Ezekiel 48:17) is a fact; but on this fact cannot be founded an argument for the priority of Ezekiel, since it rather points to Ezekiel's acquaintance with such "suburbs" in connection with priestly and Levitical cities.
And of this measure shalt thou measure. As above explained, if מִן, "of," be taken as equivalent to "from," i.e. deducted from, then the whole "measure" in Ezekiel 45:1 must have been 25,000 x 20,000 reeds; but if, as Ewald translates, it may signify "after," "according to," then the text in Ezekiel 45:1 will not require to be altered (see on Ezekiel 45:1), and the present verse will be merely a reiteration of the statement in Ezekiel 45:1 that the priests' portion should be 25,000 x 10,000 reeds, preparatory to the additional notification that in it should be the sanctuary and the most holy place, or rather, the sanctuary which is most holy (Revised Version). The exact position of the sanctuary in the priests' portion is afterwards stated to have been in the midst (see Ezekiel 48:8).
The holy portion of the land just defined (Ezekiel 45:3) should be reserved for the priests the ministers of the sanctuary, i.e. of the inner court, who were privileged to draw near to Jehovah in altar ministrations (comp. Ezekiel 44:15; Exodus 28:43; Exodus 30:20; Numbers 16:5, Numbers 16:40), as distinguished from the Levites, who were only" ministry of the house" (Ezekiel 45:5), i.e. guardian, of the temple and assistants in its outer court services. As such this holy portion should serve the twofold purpose of providing- for the priests a place for their houses in which they might dwell, and an holy place for the sanctuary, in which they should minister.
A portion of similar dimensions should likewise be marked off for the Levites, for themselves, for a possession of twenty chambers; better, for a possession unto themselves for twenty chambers (Revised Version). Ewald, Hitzig, and Smend, as usual, follow the LXX. αὐτοῖς εἰς κατάσχεσινπόλεις τοῦ κατοικεῖν), and amend the text after Numbers 35:2; Joshua 21:2, so as to read "cities (עָרִים) to dwell in;" and with them Keil agrees, only substituting "gates" (שְׁעָרִים) instead of "cities." Kliefoth and Curroy retain the word "chambers "as in the text, and think the "chambers" and the "land" were two distinct possessions of the Levites, the chambers having been within (see Ezekiel 40:17, Ezekiel 40:18) as the land was without the sanctuary. Rosenmüller, Havernick, Hengstenberg, and Schroder decide for "chambers," or "courts," rows of dwellings standing outside the sanctuary as the priests' chambers were located within. Havernick supposes that along with these, which were obviously designed to be employed when the Levites were on duty, there may have been other Levitical towns and dwellings, Hengstenberg conceives them as having been "barracks for the Levites, the inhabitants of which used the twentieth part of the land assigned to them as pasturage." Unfavorable to the first view is the fact that it requires the text to be altered. Against the second is its awkward dividing of the verse and unexpected interjection of a reference to cells within the sanctuary while speaking of the land without. The third, while not free from difficulty as taking לְשָׁכֹת to be equivalent to "cell-buildings," is perhaps the best.
In addition to the holy terumah for the priests and the portion for the Levites, should be marked off as the possession of the city a third tract of territory, five thousand (reeds) broad, and five and twenty thousand long, over against—rather, side by side with (Revised Version), "parallel to" (Keil)—the oblation of the holy portion. That is to say, it should lie upon the south, as the Levites' territory lay upon the north of the priests' portion. Adding the 10,000 reeds of breadth for the Levites' domain, the 10,000 for the priests' land, and the 5000 for the city quarter, makes a total breadth of 25,000 reeds; so that the tract in which all these were included was a square. That the portion for the city should be for the whole house of Israel implied that it should be communal property, belonging to no tribe in particular, but to all the tribes together—in modern phrase should be "common good, ein Volksgut (Kliefoth), which should neither be confiscated by kingly rapacity (comp. Jeremiah 22:13) nor invaded by individual and private appropriation, but retained for the use of the inhabitants generally (see Ezekiel 48:18, Ezekiel 48:19).
And a portion shall be (or, ye shall appoint) for the prince. As to situation, his portion should lie on both sides of the holy portion (or portions, i.e. of the priests and of the Levites; see Ezekiel 48:20-22), and of the possession, or portion, of the city; should stretch exactly in front or alongside of these, i.e. from north to south; and should extend on the one side westward (to the Mediterranean), and on the other side eastward (to the Jordan). The concluding clause, And the length shall be over against (לְעֻמוֹת, a plural form, occurring only here) one of the portions, from the west border unto the east border, though somewhat obscure, obviously imports that the prince's portion, on both sides of the holy terumah, should extend lengthwise, i.e. from east to west, along the side of one of the portions assigned to the tribes; in other words, should be bounded on the north and south by the tribal territories of Judah and Benjamin (see Ezekiel 48:22).
My princes shall no more oppress my people. That Israel in former times had suffered from the oppressions and exactions of her kings, from Solomon downwards, as Samuel had predicted she would (1 Samuel 8:10-18), was matter of history (see 1 Kings 12:4, 1Ki 12:10, 1 Kings 12:11; 2 Kings 23:35), and was perhaps partly explained, though not justified, by the fact that the kings had no crown lands assigned them for their support. This excuse, however, for regal tyranny should in future cease, as a sufficient portion of land should be allocated to the prince and his successors, who accordingly should give, or leave, the rest of the land to the house of Israel according to their tribes. The use of "princes" does not show, as Hengstenberg asserts, that "under the ideal unity of the prince in Ezekiel, a numerical plurality is included," and that "these who understand by the prince merely the Messiah must here do violence to the text;" but simply, as Kliefoth explains, that Ezekiel was thinking of Israel's past kings, and contrasting with them the rulers Israel might have in the future, without affirming that these should be many or one (see on Ezekiel 44:3).
The oblations of the people to the prince for the sanctuary.
In continuation of the foregoing thought, the princes of Israel first are reminded that whatever they should obtain from the people for the sanctuary was not to be extorted from them by violence and spoil (comp. Ezekiel 7:11, Ezekiel 7:23; Ezekiel 8:17 : Jeremiah 6:7; Jeremiah 20:8; Habakkuk 1:3) or by exactions—literally, expulsions, or drivings of persons out of their possessions, such as had been practiced on Naboth by Ahab (1 Kings 21:1-29.)—but levied with judgment and justice, which, besides, should regulate their whole behavior towards their subjects.
The exhortation addressed to the princes to practice justice and judgment now extends itself so as to include their subjects, who are required, in all their commercial dealings, to have just balances and just measures—a just ephah for dry goods, and a just bath for liquids.
The ephah (a word of Egyptian origin) and the bath shall be of one measure. That is, each was to be the tenth part of an homer (see Le Ezekiel 27:16; Numbers 11:32), or cot (כֹר, κόρος, 1 Kings 4:22; Luke 16:7), which appears to have contained about seventy-five gallons, or thirty-two pecks. The homer (or, cheroot) is to be distinguished from the omer of Exodus 16:36, which was the tenth part of an ephah.
The shekel shall be twenty garahs. This ordained that the standard for money weights should remain as it had been fixed by the Law (Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 27:25; Numbers 3:47). The "shekel" (or "weight," from שָׁקַל, "to weigh;" compare the Italian lira, the French livre out of the Latin libra, and the English Found sterling) was a piece of silver whose value, originally determined by weight, became gradually fixed at the definite sum of twenty "gerahs," beans, or grains (from גָּרַר, "to roll"). The "gerah," value two pence, was the smallest silver coin; the "shekel," therefore, was forty pence, or 3s. 4d. Commentators are divided as to how the second half of this verse should be understood: twenty shekel, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels shall be your maneh. The "maneh" (or "portion," from מָנָה, "to be divided"), which occurs only here and in 1 Kings 10:17; Ezra 2:69; and Nehemiah 7:71, Nehemiah 7:72—"that is to say, only in books written during the Captivity or subsequent to it" (Keil)—was probably the same coin as the Greek rains (μνᾶ), though its weight may have somewhat differed. A comparison of 1 Kings 10:17 with 2 Chronicles 9:16 shows that a maneh was equal to a hundred shekels, which cannot be made to harmonize with the statement in this verse without supposing either that an error has crept in through transcription, or that the chronicler has employed the late Greek style of reckoning, in which one mina is equivalent to a hundred drachmas. Again, the Hebrew and Attic talents, when ex-stained, fail to solve the problem as to how the text should be rendered. The Hebrew talent, כִּכָּר, contained 3000 sacred or Mosaic shekels according to Exodus 38:25, Exodus 38:26; and the Attic talon 60 minas, each of 100 drachmas, i.e. 6000 drachmas, or 3000 drachmas, each of which again was equal to a Hebrew shekel. Hence the Attic mina must have been one-sixtieth part of 3000, i.e. 50 shekels, which once more fails to correspond with Ezekiel's notation. What this notation is depends on how the clauses should be connected. If with "and," as Ewald, following the Targumists, thinks, Ezekiel is supposed to have ordained that in the future the maneh should be, not 50, but 60 shekels—the weight of the 'Babylonian mana ('Records of the Past,' 4.97, second series); only, if he so intended, one sees not why he should have adopted this roundabout method of expression instead of simply stating that henceforth the maneh should be sixty shekels If with "or," as Michaelis, Gesenius, Hitzig, and Hengstenberg prefer, then the prophet is regarded as asserting that in the future three manehs of varying values should be current—one of gold, another of silver, and a third of copper (Hitzig), or all of the same metal, but of different magnitudes (Michaelis); and this arrangement might well have been appointed for the future, although no historical trace can be found of any such manehs of twenty, twenty-five, and fifteen shekels respectively having been in circulation either among the Hebrews or among foreign peoples. Kliefoth pronounces both solutions unsatisfactory, but has nothing better to offer. Keil supposes a corruption of the text of old standing, for the correction of which we are as yet without materials. Bertheau and Havernick follow the LXX. (Cod. Alex.), Οἱ πέντε σίκλοι πέντε καὶ δέκα σίκλοι δέκα καὶ πεντήκοντα σίκλοι ἡ μνᾶ ἐσται ὑμῖν, "The five shekel (piece) shall be five shekels, and the ten shekel (piece) shall be tea shekels, end fifty shekels shall your maneh be;" but Hitzig's judgment on this proposal, with which Kliefoth and Keil agree, will most likely be deemed correct, that "it carries on the face of it the probability of its resting upon nothing more than an attempt to bring the text into harmony with the ordinary value of the maneh."
The offerings the people' should present are next specified.
(1) Of wheat, the sixth part of an ophah of (out, of, or from) an homer; i.e. the sixtieth part of an homer, equal to about one-tenth of a bushel (Ezekiel 45:13).
(2) Of barley, the same (Ezekiel 45:13).
(3) Of oil, a tenth part of a bath out of the cor, or homer of ten Baths, i.e. the hundredth part of every homer, equal to a little more than half a gallon (Ezekiel 45:14).
(4) Of the flock, one lamb or kid (שֶׂה, meaning either) out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat—or well-watered (see Genesis 13:10)—pastures of Israel, i.e. one of every two hundred, and never the worst, but always the best. These oblations should be made for the maintenance of the necessary sacrificial worship in the new temple, for the meal, burnt, and peace or thank offerings that should there be presented to make reconciliation or atonement for the house of Israel.
Compared with the offerings prescribed by the Law of Moses, these discover important variations.
(1) Of flour, the Law demanded one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour with a lamb (Exodus 29:40), with a ram two-tenths (Numbers 15:6), with a bullock three-tenths (Numbers 15:9); of wheat and of barley Ezekiel's Torah requires one-sixteenth of an ephah for each, i.e. one-third in all.
(2) Of oil, the Mosaic ordinance was, with a lamb should be presented one-fourth of a bin, i.e. one-twenty-fourth of a bath; with a ram, one-third of a bin, i.e. one-eighteenth of a bath; with a bullock one-half of a hin, i.e. one-twelfth of a bath. Ezekiel's ordinance was in every case one-tenth of a bath.
(3) Of animals, the Pentateuchal legislation left the necessary victims, whether rams, goats, or bullocks, to be provided by the offerers at their own free-will, stipulating as compulsory only the firstborn of the flocks and herds (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 13:12; Exodus 22:29, Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 27:26; Numbers 3:13; Numbers 8:17; Deuteronomy 15:19), the first ripe fruits of the earth (Exodus 22:29; Numbers 18:12), and the tithes, or tenths, of seed, fruit, the herd and flock (Le Ezekiel 27:30-33); the Ezekelian omits the latter, but ordains in lieu of the former that one animal out of every two hundred in every flock shall be obligatory on Jehovah's worshippers. Thus the demands of Ezekiel's Torah surpass those of the earlier or Mosaic Torah in quantity as well as quality. That these demands are definitely specified does not prove they should partake rather of the nature of a tax than of a free-will offering. That they were not to be regarded as taxes is shown by the absence of any allusion to penalties for neglect of payment; that they were designed to be looked upon as free-will offerings is plain from the circumstance that Jehovah never supposes for a moment that these generous offerings will be withheld; and perhaps all that is really signified by them is that the liberality of Jehovah's people in the future age should greatly exceed that which had been practiced at any former time.
All the people of the land shall give (literally, shall be for) this oblation (or, terumah) for the prince in Israel. Assuming that the prince here refers to the ordinary civil magistrate, Hengstenborg founds on this an argument in support of state Churches: "This is also the general doctrine, that the magistrate shall take first of all from the taxes levied the means for the proper observance of Divine worship." But if the oblations above referred to were not properly taxes, and if the prince was not properly an earthly sovereign of the ordinary type, this argument falls to the ground.
The prince, as receiver-general of the people's offerings, should devote them to maintaining (literally, it should be upon him, and so form part of his duty to maintain) the sacrificial worship of the new temple, in the feasts (הַגִּים, or joyous celebrations), and in the now moons, and in the sabbaths, and generally in all solemnities (מוֹעָדִים, or appointed times, hence festal seasons) of the house of Israel, that thereby he might make reconciliation (or, atonement) for the house of Israel. This combination of the kingly and priestly offices in the person of the prince (David) obviously typified the similar union of the same offices in David's Son (Christ).
These verses allude to the institution of a new feast-cycle, whose deviations from that of the Pentateuch will be best exhibited in the course of exposition. Whether three festivals are referred to or only two is debated by expositors. Fairbairn, Havernick, Ewald, Keil, Schroder, and Plumptre decide for three—the festival of the new year (Ezekiel 45:18-20), the Passover (Ezekiel 45:21-24), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Ezekiel 45:25). Kliefoth, Smend, and Curtsy find only two a Passover and a Feast of Tabernacles. Hengstenberg sees in the solemnities of the first and seventh days of the new year a special consecration service for the new temple, not to be repeated, corresponding to the dedication of the tabernacle on the first day of the first month (Exodus 40:1, Exodus 40:17), or of the Solomonic temple in the seventh month (1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 7:8), and in imitation of which the post-exilic temple was dedicated, probably on the first day of the year (Ezra 6:16-22). Against the notion of a special dedication service, however, stand the facts
(1) that the temple had been already consecrated by the entrance into it of the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 43:4); and
(2) that the service hero described differs in respect either of time or ritual or both from every one of the three cited dedications. Between the two other views the difference is slight. If the festival of the new year (Ezekiel 45:18-20) was distinct from the Passover, it was still, by the ritual of the seventh and fourteenth days of the first month (Ezekiel 45:20, Ezekiel 45:22), so closely connected with the Passover as practically to form a preparation for and introduction to it. Then the circumstance that the proper ceremonial for the new moon is afterwards described (Ezekiel 46:6) favors the proposal to regard the rites in Ezekiel 45:18-20 as a part of the Passover festival; while this view, if adopted, will explain the omission from Ezekiel 45:25 of all mention of the Feast of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month (Le Ezekiel 23:24; Numbers 29:1), and of the great Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month (Le Ezekiel 23:27; Numbers 29:7), with which the autumn festival was usually preceded, by showing that in lieu of these a sacrificial observance had been prefixed to the Passover on the first and seventh days of the first month. Smend's theory, that "Ezekiel's feast-calendar divides the ecclesiastical year into two halves, each of which begins with a re. conciliation ceremony (or expiatory sacrifice) on the first days of the first and seventh months respectively," would lend confirmation to the above view, were it not that the theory in question is based on an alteration of the text in verse 20 (see Exposition).
Thus saith the Lord God. The usual solemn introduction prefixed to Divine enactments (comp. Ezekiel 45:9; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:6, Ezekiel 44:9; Ezekiel 46:1, Ezekiel 46:16). In the first month, in the first day of the month (comp. Genesis 8:13). That the first month, Abib, was intended is apparent from Ezekiel 45:21, compared with Exodus 12:2; Numbers 9:1. Under the Mosaic Torah, the Passover began on the tenth day of the first month by the selection of a lamb (Exodus 12:3-6), corresponding to which the great Day of Atonement in the seventh month fell upon the tenth day (Leviticus 23:27). In the Torah of Ezekiel, the ceremonies introducing and leading up to the Passover should begin with the first day of the month, as under the Law the Feast of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh mouth practically began the solemnities which culminated in the Feast of Tabernacles. A young bullock without blemish should form the sacrificial offering on this first day of the year, according to the ordinance published by Ezekiel; that promulgated by the Hebrew lawgiver appointed for new moons generally, in addition to the burnt and meat offerings, a he-goat for a sin offering (Numbers 28:15), and particularly for the first day of the seventh month, in addition to the regular burnt and meat offerings, one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs for a burnt offering, meat offerings of flour and oil for each of these animals, and a he-goat for a sin offering (Numbers 29:2-6). The object for which the Mosaic offerings were presented was to make atonement for the worshippers; the Ezekelian sacrifices should stand in more immediate relation to the place of worship, and be designed to cleanse the sanctuary from such defilement, to be afterwards mentioned, as might be contracted from the presence in it of erring men (verse 20).
The mode in which this act of purgation should be performed is next described. The blood of the sin offering should by the priest be put (not sprinkled) upon the posts of the house, i.e. upon the posts or pillars of the door connecting the holy place with the holy of holies (Ezekiel 41:21), and upon the four corners of the settle of the altar of burnt offering in the inner court (Ezekiel 43:14), and upon the posts of the gate of the inner court, not of the eastern gate only, as Hitzig suggests, but of all the three gates (Ezekiel 40:29, Ezekiel 40:33, Ezekiel 40:36). Compare Ezekiel 43:20, and the procedure in sin offerings under the Law, which directed that in certain eases part of the blood should be put by the priest's finger upon the horns of the altar, and the rest poured out beside the bottom of the altar (Exodus 29:12; Le Exodus 4:7), while in other cases it should be sprinkled before the veil of the sanctuary (Le Ezekiel 4:6, Ezekiel 4:17), and on the great Day of Atonement seven times even on and before the mercy-seat, and on the altar of incense (Le Ezekiel 16:14, Ezekiel 16:18, Ezekiel 16:19).
The same ceremony should be repeated on the seventh day of the month, not on the first day of the seventh month, as Smend proposes, in accordance with the λήψῃ, and on the ground that "the seventh day of (the same) mouth" would have been in Hebrew בְּשִׁבְעָה לֶחֹדֶשׁ, as in Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 30:20; at the same time admitting that בַּחֹדֶשׁ is sometimes used (Numbers 10:11), though not (except in this verse) by Ezekiel. The sin offerings in question should be made for (or, on account of, מִן, "away from," expressing the reason why anything is done) every one that erreth, and for him that is simple, i.e. for such transgressors as should have gone aside from the straight path through ignorance or foolishness, the "simple" man being here, as in Proverbs 7:7; Proverbs 22:3; Proverbs 27:12, one easily enticed or persuaded to do evil. For such offenders the Law of Moses provided means of expiation (Le Proverbs 2:2, etc.; Proverbs 5:15; Numbers 15:27); for the presumptuous sinner, who despised the word of the Lord and violated his commandment, only one doom remained, to be cut off from among his people (Numbers 15:30; Deuteronomy 17:12).
With the fourteenth day of the month, the day appointed by the Law of Moses for the killing of the Paschal lamb (Exodus 12:6), the Passover (חַפָסַה with the article, the well-known festival of that name) should commence. Though the selection of the lamb upon the tenth day of the first month is not specified, it may be assumed that this would be implied in the appointment of a Passover which should begin on the day already legalized by the Mosaic Torah. According to Wellhausen and Smend, the first mention of the Passover occurs in Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:5, Deuteronomy 16:6, and the next in 2 Kings 23:22; but this can only be maintained by declaring Exodus 34:25, which occurs in the so-called "Book of the Covenant"—a pre-Deuteronomic work—"a gloss," and by relegating Exodus 12:1-51. to the "priest-code" for no other reason than that it alludes to the Passover (Exodus 12:11, Exodus 12:21, Exodus 12:27, Exodus 12:43)—a principle of easy application, and capable of being used to prove anything. Smend likewise regards it as strange that the Passover should be made to commence on the fourteenth of the month, and not, as the autumn feast, on the fifteenth (Exodus 12:25); and suggests that the original reading, which he supposes was the fifteenth, may have been corrected subsequently in accordance with the priest, code. But if the priest-cede was posterior to and modeled after Ezekiel. Why should it have ordained the fourteenth instead of that which its master recommended, viz. the fifteenth? A sufficient explanation of the differing dates in Ezekiel is supplied if Ezekiel, in fixing them, may be held to have followed the so-called priest-cede. A feast of seven days; literally, a feast of hebdomad of days (חַג שְׁבֻעוֹת יָמִים). By almost all interpreters this is understood to mean "a feast of a full week, the exact duration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began with the eating of the Paschal lamb (Exodus 12:8, Exodus 12:15-20; Le Exodus 23:6; Numbers 9:11; Deuteronomy 16:3, Deuteronomy 16:4). At the same time, it is frankly admitted that, to extract this sense from the words, שְׁבֻעוֹת must be changed into שְׁבְעַת. As the words stand, they can only signify a feast of weeks of days. חַג שְׁבֻעוֹת, in Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10, is applied to the Feast of Pentecost, which was called "a Feast of Hebdomads," from the seven weeks which intervened between the Passover and it. Hence Kliefoth, adhering to the legitimate sense of the expression, understands the prophet to say that the whole period of seven weeks between the first Passover and Pentecost should be celebrated in the new dispensation as a Feast of Unleavened Bread. In support of this Kliefoth cites a similar use of the word "days" in Genesis 29:14; Genesis 41:1; Deu 21:13; 2 Kings 15:13; Jeremiah 28:3, Jeremiah 28:11; Daniel 10:2, Daniel 10:3; and certainly no objection can be taken to a Passover of seven weeks, if Ezekiel may be supposed to have been merely expressing analogically spiritual conceptions, and not furnishing actual legislation to be afterwards put in operation. Against this translation, however, Keil urges that the expression, "seven days of the feast" (verse 23), appears to mark the duration of the festival; but this is not so convincing as its author imagines, since the prophet may be held as describing, in verses 23, 24, the procedure of each seven days without intending to unsay what he had already stated, that the feast should continue seven weeks of days. A second objection pressed by Keil, that יָמִים "is not usually connected with the preceding noun in the construct state, but is attached as an adverbial accusative," as in the above-cited passages, is sufficiently disposed of by Kliefoth's statement that the punctuation might easily be altered so as to read שָׁבֻעוֹת. Upon the whole, while not free from difficulty, the view of Kliefoth seems best supported by argument.
The first day of the feast proper, i.e. the fourteenth, should be distinguished by the prince's presenting, for himself and for all the people of the land, a bullock for a sin offering. That this was a deviation from the earlier Mosaic legislation in three particulars is apparent. In, the first place, the "sin offering" here prescribed was manifestly to take precedence of the Paschal feast proper, whereas in the Paschal festival of the so-called priest-code the daffy sacrifices were appointed to begin on the fifteenth after the Paschal lamb had been slain and eaten (Le Ezekiel 23:8). In the second place, the sin offering was to consist of a bullock instead of a he-goat as formerly (Numbers 28:22). In the third place, it was not intended to be renewed on each of the seven following days of the feast, but was designed, by repeating the sacrifice of the first and seventh days, to connect these with the fourteenth, on which the feast proper opened.
Ezekiel 45:23, Ezekiel 45:24
The deviations of Ezekiel's Torah from that of Moses in regard to the offerings to be made during the seven days of the feast are also unmistakable (see Numbers 28:19-22).
(1) While the Pentateuchal code demanded, as a daily burnt offering, two bullocks, one ram, and seven yearling lambs, this of Ezekiel prescribes seven bullocks and seven rams.
(2) While that enjoined, as a meat offering, three-tenths of an ephah of flour mixed with oil for each bullock, two-tenths for a ram, and one-tenth for each lamb, this asks an ephah of flour with a hin of oil for each bullock and each ram.
(3) The sin offering in the new Torah should be the same as in the old, a he-goat daily.
In the seventh month, i.e. in month of Tishri (1 Kings 8:2), in the fifteenth day of the month, shall he, i.e. the prince, as in Ezekiel 45:22, do the like in the feast of the seven days; or, in the feast shall he do the like the seven days (Revised Version). That is, the same sacrifices should be offered daily throughout the seven days of this feast as had been offered during the seven days of the former feast. That this feast was designed to represent the ancient Feast of Tabernacles can scarcely be doubted, though the practice of living in booths (Le Ezekiel 23:40-43) is not adverted to. Possibly this may have been omitted, as Keil remarks, "because the practice of living in booths would be dropped in the time to come" (see, however, Nehemiah 8:14-17), or, as Kliefoth observes, "because, when Ezekiel's Torah should come into operation, the people of God would be dwelling in the eternal tabernacles of which the booths of the Mosaic Torah were but the types." Nor are the deviations of Ezekiel's Torah from that of Moses, in respect of the daily offerings prescribed for this feast, fewer or of less importance than those which have been noted in connection with the Passover. Ezekiel's Torah prescribes for a burnt offering seven bullocks and seven rams daily, for a sin offering a he-goat daily, for a meat offering an ephah of flour with a hin of oil for each bullock and each ram daily; the Mosaic Torah, while retaining the he goat for a sin offering, required—for a burnt offering on the first day thirteen young bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs, and so on, diminishing by one bullock each day, till the seventh, when seven bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs should be sacrificed; and for a meal offering three-tenths of an ephah of flour for every bullock, and two-tenths of an ephah for every ram, and one-tenth of an ephah for each lamb, according to the number of bullocks, rams, and lambs for each day. In addition, the Mosaic celebration concluded with a solemn assembly with special sacrifices on the eighth day (see Le Ezekiel 23:34-36; Numbers 29:12-39), of which no mention is made in Ezekiel. Nor should it be overlooked that Ezekiel's Torah omits all reference to the other great festival that figures in the Mosaic Torah, viz. that of Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, as well as to the Feast of Trumpets and the great Day of Atonement (see on verse 21), although Hengstenberg is of opinion that Ezekiel, having instanced the Passover and Tabernacles, the beginning and end of the feast-cycle already known to the Jews, designed that all the feasts which lay between should be included. Be this, however, as it may, to infer from the deviations in Ezekiel's Torah from that of Moses, as George, Vatke, Kuenen, Wellhausen, Smend, Robertson Smith, Cornill, and Driver have done, that the latter had no existence in the time of Ezekiel is, as Havernick observes, not only to render Ezekiel's representations completely unintelligible, but to beg the entire question between the newer criticism and the old faith. "How will one generally explain," asks Cornill, "that a Jerusalem priest sets up a Torah for the future, which completely ignores the priest.code (?), in all points remains far behind its requirements (?), and in a groping manner lays hold of the future, instead of appropriating to himself the finished system (i.e. of the, so-called priest code, supposing it to have then existed)? Why does Ezekiel require, in the cultus (which he sets up) so much less than Numbers 28:1-31 and Numbers 29:1-40.? Where, in Ezekiel is the high priest, who for the priest code is the center of the theocracy? Where is the great Day of Atonement of Leviticus 16:1-34.?" and so on. The answer to these interrogations is that Ezekiel did not intend to republish the Mosaic Torah, but to modify it so as to meet the requirements of the new era, or (perhaps better) to express more adequately the new conceptions of religion and worship he had been commissioned to set before his fellow-exiles; and that Ezekiel had a perfect right to deal in this way even with the Mosaic Torah, inasmuch as he distinctly claimed, in committing to writing the details of his temple- vision, to be acting under special Divine guidance (Ezekiel 43:10, Ezekiel 43:11; Ezekiel 44:5). Canon Driver admits that the argument from Ezekiel's deviations from the so-called priest-code in favor of the later origin of the latter, if "taken by itself, would not, perhaps, be a decisive one," and even adds that, "however doubtful it may be whether Ezekiel presupposes the completed priests' code, it is difficult not to conclude that he presupposes parts of it" ibid; p. 138). But if none of it existed before Ezekiel, then a counter-question to that of Cornill may be put, "How is it to be explained that the unknown author of the priests' code should have allowed himself to deviate so far from the arrangements which Ezekiel, a prophet acting under Jehovah's guidance, had established?" The natural reply is that when the priests' code was composed, Ezekiel's Torah did not exist. If the newer criticism believes that Ezekiel would not have deviated so largely as he has done from the rites prescribed in the priests' code had these been in operation and invested with authority, the newer criticism should explain how the priests' code came to deviate from the Torah of Ezekiel, which, if it was not then in actual operation, was at least invested with Divine authority. Is it not every way as logical to infer, from the deviations of the priests' code (supposing it to be post-exilic) from the Torah of Ezekiel, that the author of the priests' code could not have known of the existence of Ezekiel's Torah, and therefore that it could not then have been in existence, as vice versa that Ezekiel had no acquaintance with the priests' code, and that therefore it had not in his day been composed? The impartial reasoner, with no theory to uphold, will recognize that the two arguments run exactly purpose.
The Prince's portion.
In the division of the land and its produce, while care was taken for the maintenance of the priesthood by means of the sacrifices, arrangements were also made for the support of the government by assigning a certain portion to "the prince." Christ, as "Prince of Peace," the Head of the spiritual kingdom, has a right to claim his portion in all that we possess.
I. A PORTION SHOULD BE RESERVED FOR OUR HEAVENLY PRINCE. All that we have should be devoted to Christ, and nothing used except as he may be pleased with the purpose to which it is directed. In all our daily pursuits, if we are true Christians, we should not forget that Christ owns us, and therefore owns all our property. But it is not enough to allow this truth and even endeavor to act upon it. As the idea of the sacredness of all days is sometimes pleaded in excuse for the misuse of Sunday, so the notion that all we have belongs to Christ may be used as a plea for escaping from all direct acts of sacrifice on behalf of his cause. But we have to remember that our Master claims a portion for his immediate use. Some of our time should be devoted to Christ's work, some of our money to the furtherance of his kingdom among men. What we give to a missionary society should be considered as especially a part of the Prince's portion. Does the Prince have all that is due to him in this way?
II. THE PRINCE REQUIRES AND WILL USE HIS PORTION. What we give wisely to the cause of Christ is not wasted as a merely ceremonial oblation. It is not like a sacred libation which is spilt for no practical purpose. The money and labor spent in the cause of Christ should bear fruit in advancing his cause. By the economy of Providence this great work is left to Christ's people. If they do not give their Prince his portion, the rights of the kingdom will be crippled, and its progress among men will be hindered. Great and rich as he is, Christ has graciously condescended to make the spread of his kingdom on earth depend on the gifts and labors of Christian men and women. Thus we may say the Prince needs his portion.
III. THE PRINCE HAS EARNED HIS PORTION. Democratic people grow impatient at the claims of princes, whom they consider to be idle and useless. But some princes have their missions in the world. Christ came to do a great work. He was no indolent Prince, only eager to clutch at his dues, and giving his people nothing in return. The account lies just the other way. He who was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ has given himself for his people. He has now ascended up on high, to give gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8). When we give him anything, we are only returning some portion of what we first received from him, only rendering to him what is his own. If we would measure Christ's claim upon us, we must be able to tell how great was his condescension in coming to this world, how tremendous was his sacrifice in his death on the cross, and how glorious are the blessings which he bestows on his people.
The princes of Israel are exhorted to govern justly and to be fair in their exaction of taxes. The older prophets often had occasion to denounce the oppression and robbery of the people by the princes. After the chastisement of the Captivity, the restored people should be well treated by a better order of princes. But when the rulers set an example of using just balances, the people may he required to follow.
I. COMMERCIAL HONESTY IS A PRIMARY CHRISTIAN DUTY. It is possible to represent the spirituality of religion as so extremely ethereal that it has no contact with the commonplace facts of daily life. There is a subtle temptation to antinomianism in the highest pretensions of holiness. But the scriptural view of religion keeps it in close relations with plain every-day morality. The saintliness that is too refined to condescend to questions of truth and honesty is pure hypocrisy. The Christian should be first just and true; let him then add whatever other graces he may attain to. But to neglect these duties is to leave the most fundamental parts of morality unestablished. The airy pinnacles of rapturous devotion that shoot up so high in the heavens rest on an insecure foundation when these essential duties are neglected.
II. THIS DUTY IS SHAMEFULLY NEGLECTED BY PROFESSEDLY CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. In some quarters there seems to be a tacit understanding that it is impossible to be quite true and straightforward. A certain amount of laxity is said to be permitted by "the custom of the trade." This evil is glaringly apparent in regard to those goods that are exported to foreign nations. The worthless shoddy and the sized calico that wealthy English firms send abroad advertise to the world the hypocrisy of English Christianity. It is hard for the missionary to urge the heathen to embrace the gospel when the merchant offers to them these things as specimens of its products. It is vain to urge that competition is so fierce as to make an honest course ruinous to these who would pursue it. It is better to be a bankrupt than to be a thief. But experience shows that dishonest trading does not pay in the long run. Its character is certain to be discovered, and then confidence is destroyed and the trade checked. On the other hand, there are well-known houses that have grown rich and prosperous on their ascertained fairness in supplying good wares by honest measures.
III. DISHONESTY MINGLED WITH FALSEHOOD IS DOUBLY WICKED. This is the case where incorrect measures are used. The measures are intended to represent a certain standard, of which they come short. There is the pretence of giving good measure. This is worse than the offering of a short quantity without the show of testing it. The highwayman who meets a man openly and demands his purse is no hypocrite. But the business man who uses false measures is passing himself off as honest while he is acting as a thief. The shame of lying is added to the crime of stealing. There is an abuse of confidence, for the well-known measure is supposed to represent a certain quantity. The deceitfulness of this conduct utterly degrades the miserable man who fattens for a while on its ill-gotten gains, only to reap in the end certain ruin in the next world, if not in this.
Very elaborate regulations were drawn up to determine the several proportionate gifts of various kinds which were to be made by the Israelites. These regulations were after the manner of the times, and in accordance with the spirit of the Jewish Law. A larger freedom appertains to the Christian era, and we are not now required to make our offerings according to any definite proportion fixed for us by authority. But we are not therefore to conclude that there is to be no system or method in our giving for Christian or charitable objects. We are left to make our own system. No one is to say what his brother should do. But each is responsible to his Master to do what he feels to be right. Thus St. Paul says, "Let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him" (1 Corinthians 16:2).
I. SYSTEMATIC GIVING IS LESS DIFFICULT THAN IRREGULAR GIVING. People who live up to if not beyond their incomes find it impossible to spare any considerable amount for objects outside the range of their private expenses. But if the money to be contributed for such objects were set aside from the first, it would be forthcoming, just as the rent money is forthcoming. Christ's portion is his due, and provision should certainly be made for this, whatever may remain over for other objects. That can be done by a man setting aside a portion of his income as sacred for his Master's use.
II. SYSTEMATIC GIVING IS GENEROUS GIVING. People who give without method or consideration rarely know how little they give. There are pitiable creatures, who feel as though they were being bled every time a coin is extracted from them for some good object. They remember the disagreeable operation long after, and it makes so deep an impression on them that, when it comes to be repeated, they imagine that they are always giving. If they were always giving this would be no hard thing; for are they not always receiving? But if these people deliberately considered the claims of the best objects, and then determined to assign a portion of their income to meet those claims, they could not put down the miserable sum their contributions now amount to, unless they were devoid of all Christian principle.
III. SYSTEMATIC GIVING SHOULD BE WISE GIVING. Spasmodic charity may be very generous, but it is likely to be foolish and misdirected. A more thoughtful method would lead to a more just apportioning of the funds that are contributed. It is not right that the cause of Christ should depend on irregular gushes of liberality. There may be less scope for sentiment in a methodical manner of giving, but there will be more practical utility.
IV. SYSTEMATIC GIVING WILL BECOME HURTFUL IF IT IS TREATED IN A WRONG SPIRIT. One danger is that it should degenerate into a mechanical routine, like the payment of taxes. Then all heart and soul will vanish out of it. Another danger is that it may generate ostentatiousness, since the left hand may know too well what the right hand does. A third danger is that this system of giving may harden the heart in regard to new claims. The systematic giver often fortifies himself against the most pathetic appeals by the reply that he has reached the end of his charitable fund. Such an answer is unworthy of one who has a Christian heart of sympathy. The remedy is to be found in regarding the fixed amount to be given as a minimum, never as a maximum.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Princes not oppressors.
In the apportionment of the restored and newly occupied territory there was need for a display of a just and equitable spirit. That there was some danger of another and contrary spirit is evident from the admonition here addressed by the prophet in the name of the Lord to those in power and authority.
I. THE SPHERE OF OPPRESSION. The oppressor may exercise his might in violation of the principles of righteousness; either
(1) against the personal liberty, or
(2) against the property and possessions, of the oppressed.
II. THE MOTIVE TO OPPRESSION. This is almost always selfishness, the desire of personal enrichment, aggrandizement, or power, to attain which the rights of another are treated as of no account.
III. THE OPPORTUNITY OF OPPRESSION. It is no merit on the part of the obscure, the impoverished, the friendless, that they abstain from oppression, for the simple reason that it is not in their power; they may be oppressed, but they cannot be oppressors. But those in high station, especially princes, whose power is arbitrary and unchecked, have many opportunities of wronging their subjects and inferiors. In a country like our own, where public rights are secured, and where the monarch acts of necessity within constitutional limits, it is not easy to understand how in other states of society the poor and uninfluential may be at the mercy of the great.
IV. THE SIN OF OPPRESSION. This appears from considering the fact that the distinctions obtaining amongst men are to a large extent accidental and artificial. It is for the welfare of society that certain individuals should be entrusted with power; when that power is abused, the very purpose of such distinctions is violated. The law of him who is King of kings, and the principles of whose government are justice and mercy, is opposed to the exercise of political power in an unrighteous and inconsiderate manner.
V. THE REMEDY FOR OPPRESSION. This is set forth in a very striking manner in the passage before us: "My princes shall no more oppress my people." The fact that both superior and inferior, both governors and subjects, are the Lord's, is adduced as the strongest argument against oppression. If both alike are the Lord's, the unreasonableness is apparent of one class treating the other with harshness and injustice. In fact, religion is here, as elsewhere, the true guide of human conduct, the true corrective of human ills. Let men first consider their obligations to the Giver of all, their responsibility to the Ruler of all, and such considerations will preserve them from wronging those who are, with them, subjects of the same Sovereign and children of the same Father. All alike are his, and there is a community of interest amongst all who acknowledge a common allegiance and a common indebtedness. In such a case, oppression is not only unrighteous, it is unreasonable and monstrous.—T.
The relations between Israel and Jehovah were symbolical of those existing between the race of man and the same righteous Ruler and Judge. The sacrifices and priesthoods, the services and festivals, of the Mosaic economy have all a spiritual significance, and are typical of spiritual and Christian realities. Turning from the local and temporary circumstances, and regarding only the abiding, permanent, and universal truths suggested by the term "reconciliation," we remark—
I. THERE IS REASON AND NEED FOR RECONCILIATION. This is to be found in the estrangement of the human race from God, in that rebellion which is both serious in itself and universal in extent, in the displeasure of him who is justly offended with the repudiation of his claims and the rejection of his authority.
II. RECONCILIATION IS NEEDED FOR MAN WITH GOD. God's favor is essential to man's welfare. God stands in no need of aught upon man's part. The requirements and necessity are on the human side; but the advances and the provision must be upon the Divine side. The question is—Is God willing to be reconciled with sinful, rebellious, guilty man? There is no equality between the parties to the transaction. It is God's part to bestow, and man's to receive.
III. RECONCILIATION IS EFFECTED BY A DIVINELY APPOINTED MEDIATOR. It is observable that, in the arrangement prescribed in the prophetic book, the prince and the Driest both took part in the work of reconciliation. The oblation of the people was handed to the prince, and he gave it to the priests, who duly presented it. The kingly and sacerdotal offices had accordingly each a part in the work of reconciliation. This typifies the union of the two offices in the Person of the great Reconciler, the Son of God. In him were combined the functions of the high priest with the functions of the king. The more the character and the offices of Christ are studied, the more is it apparent that he combined in himself all the qualifications needed for the fulfillment of the atoning work, for making reconciliation for the sins of the people.
IV. THE MEANS BY WHICH RECONCILIATION IS EFFECTED ARE SACRIFICIAL. The sacrifices required under the old covenant were minutely prescribed; but their importance lay, not only in the moral truths which they symbolized, but in the great Sacrifice which was to be offered up for all mankind, and not for Israel alone, and by which not a ceremonial but a true and spiritual reconciliation was to be brought about. Christ offered himself for us.
V. THE RESULT IS WORTHY OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED. Whether we consider the vast numbers of those whose acceptance and well-being is secured, the completeness of the harmony effected, or the everlasting duration of the peace secured, we cannot but admit that the sacrifice offered on Calvary and pleaded in heaven was not provided in vain. The nation of the saved is brought into harmonious relations with the Lord of all. Rebellion is at an end, and an affectionate loyalty reigns for ever in place of discord and disobedience.—T.
The prophet here refers to some of those great "feasts of the Jews" which formed so interesting a feature of the social and religious life of the chosen people. These references are suggestive of the spiritual privileges and religious exercises of the vaster Israel of God, which he has redeemed to himself by the death of his Son and consecrated to himself by the grace of his Spirit. Among the lessons which these festivals may thus convey may be mentioned—
I. THE UNITY OF THE CONSECRATED PEOPLE. Never could Israel have more impressively realized and displayed their oneness in political and religious life than when they together celebrated such festivals as those of the Passover and of Tabernacles, both referred to by the prophet in this passage. A grander unity distinguishes the spiritual Israel, which is one because under the care of the one Father, because redeemed by the one Mediator, because informed, hallowed, and guided by the one Spirit. It was the prayer and the purpose of the Divine High Priest that all his people might be one—as one nation, cherishing the same memories, obeying the same laws, speaking the same language, and honoring the same King.
II. THE INDWELLING OF GOD AMONG THE CONSECRATED PEOPLE. It was not to celebrate a merely human community that the children of Israel kept their solemn feasts; it was in order to realize, in a striking and helpful manner, the perpetual interest and care of their glorious Lord and King. They were a chosen nation, a peculiar people, and this they both recognized and testified when they assembled to observe their festive solemnities, instituted by Divine wisdom to retain among the nation the sentiment of nearness to the unseen but mighty Head.
III. THE MORAL HARMONY EXISTING BETWEEN GOD AND THE CONSECRATED, PEOPLE. The sacrifices and offerings presented were the symbolic means of preserving this harmony between Jehovah and the seed of Abraham. Offences were confessed with penitence, submission was made, prescribed observances were complied with, and the favor of God was manifested and the conscience was purged from guilt. Such harmony, only deeper and more spiritual, obtains between God and his Church on earth. The estrangement and enmity are abolished; reconciliation is effected; communion is enjoyed.
IV. THE PERPETUAL REMEMBRANCE OF INSTANCES OF DIVINE MERCY, FORBEARANCE, AND DELIVERANCE. The Hebrew people were accustomed, upon occasion of their sacred festivals, to remind one another of the blessings bestowed upon their forefathers. The Passover reminded them of their deliverance from the cruel bondage of Egypt; the Feast of Tabernacles brought to their memory the wanderings in the wilderness. On such occasions they would turn their thoughts to their marvelous national history, and especially to its more instructive and memorable incidents. Similarly in. the Church of Christ, the wonderful interpositions effected by Divine power and clemency can never be forgotten; they must be held in everlasting remembrance; the mighty works which God did in old time must never lose their freshness and their wonder. The "sacred year" of the Church is filled with reminders of God's mercy, and especially of those supremely glorious and blessed events in which the Church on earth wok its rise-events connected with the advent, the sacrifice, and the glory of Immanuel, and those connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.
V. THE PRIVILEGE OF UNITED AND JOYFUL PRAISE. The Hebrew festivals were occasions of social and sacred joy. With them were associated the thanksgivings and the adorations of a nation. The people gave thanks to the God of gods, the Lord of lords, to him who remembered them in their low estate, who led his people through the wilderness; for his mercy endureth forever. There is no exercise more congenial or delightful to the Church of Christ than the exercise of grateful praise. The songs of the redeemed and the righteous ever ascend to him from whom all mercies flow, to whom all praise is due. The moral nation of the saved ever lifts to heaven the tribute and offering of filial gratitude and spiritual worship.—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Religion the parent of morality.
It is certain that God feels an active interest in all the covenants of man. The same authority that requires love to God requires love for our neighbors, equal in strength to love for self. True religion is not sublimely indifferent to the details of home and mercantile life. It designs to make every home a nursery for the Church, every shop an arena for the victories of faith. Every commercial transaction bears a testimony either for God or against him.
I. RELIGION HAS A MESSAGE FOR EVERY RANK OF HUMAN SOCIETY. Like the sun in the heavens, religion exerts the benignest influence on men of every rank and station. It teaches the monarch humility and self-restraint. It teaches princes to live for others. It teaches magistrates the value of equity and justice. It teaches merchants principles of honesty and truthfulness. It cares for the poorest and the meanest among men; inspires them with the spirit of industry; casts a halo of beauty over the lowliest lot. Nothing that appertains to man is too insignificant for the notice of true religion. For every stage in life, from childhood to old age, religion has some kindly ministration. For every circumstance it affords some succor. It superadds dignity to the prince. It gives a kingly bearing to the peasant. It links all classes (when unhindered) in true and blissful harmony. Tyranny on the one hand, and insubordination on the other, are equally obnoxious to religion.
II. RELIGION SHEDS ITS INFLUENCE THROUGH EVERY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN LIFE. We cannot go into any assembly of men for whatever purpose they meet, where we are excused from manifesting the principles and the spirit of true religion. Whether we meet for gaining knowledge, or for industrial toil, or for political action, or for commercial pursuits, religion claims to preside over all our thoughts and plans and deeds. The shop and the mart are capacious fields for the daily exercise of Christian virtues—fields exquisitely suited for the growth and ripening of the noblest qualities. Courage can only be developed in presence of strife and peril; so our religious virtues can only be strengthened in an atmosphere of temptation. If a man is not pious and faithful and truthful in his commercial transactions, he will not be pious and faithful anywhere. This is his test; and woe be to the man who succumbs in the strife!
III. RELIGION SETS UP STANDARDS FOR ALL HUMAN ACTIONS. "Ye shall have just balances." The shekel and the homer were to be fixed standards. If fraud be allowed to creep into our commercial scales and measures, the fraud will corrupt every transaction. The very heart of the mercantile system will be poisoned. Villany secreted here would spread as from a center to the whole circumference of commerce. It is supremely important that men establish right standards of speech and conduct. If the exchange is to prosper, it must (like the throne) be established in righteousness. Over the portals of every shop, on the beam of every balance, engraved on every coin, ought the maxim to run in largest capitals, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them!"—D.
Religion a practical thing.
In the infancy of the world outward symbol was more needed for the religious instruction of men than it is today. In the sacred ceremonies of the temple every man had a part to take. Religious truth can better be impressed upon the mind when outward action accompanies inward sentiment. Religion requires the loyalty and service of the entire man; and if convictions of religious duty can be wrought into the soul, it is cheaply purchased by the devotement of our wealth to God. No cost is too great by which we can gain adequate appreciation of our indebtedness to God. God's requirements and our advantage are identical; they are interwoven like light and heat in solar rays.
I. RELIGION EMBRACES MANY ELEMENTS. There were required "meat offerings, and burnt offerings, and peace offerings." Each of these had a distinct meaning, and represented a distinct need of man. In true religion there enters the sentiment of reverential homage, gratitude for gifts received, acknowledgment of transgression, application for larger blessing, vows of fresh service, intercession on behalf of others. Offerings for ourselves, for our household, for the nation, are suitable; and in desiring the good of others, our benevolent nature expands, we get a larger good ourselves. The expansion of the soul is real gain.
II. RELIGIOUS WORSHIP IS BEST EXPRESSED BY PERSONAL OFFERINGS. Wheat, barley, lambs, heifers, oil, were to be the staple of the people's offerings. It is of the first importance that men should feel that God is the Creator and Giver of all good. We are absolutely dependent on his bounty. To live in the hourly realization of this dependence is blessing unspeakable. Nor can any arrangement better promote this end than the regular offering of such things as God has conferred. We owe to him our all, our whole being, our entire possessions. But he graciously accepts a part as acknowledged tribute, and gives in return a substantial blessing upon the remainder. Best of all, he uses our gift as a channel through which to pour new blessing and joy into our own souls. Our spontaneous offerings foster the growth of faith and love and spiritual aspiration. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
III. RELIGIOUS OFFERINGS SHOULD BE PROPORTIONAL TO OUR PROSPERITY. The man that supposes God to be an austere Taskmaster is a precipitant blunderer. He has grossly missed the truth. God does not require gigantic offerings. He requires gifts simply proportionate to our possessions. The gift of ten thousand pounds may be in the balance of righteousness only a paltry and selfish deed. The giver may be seeking only self-interests or human fame. The gift of a farthing may win the smile of Jehovah. The magnitude of our offering is measured by the motive that prompts it, the end sought, and the residue that remains. According to this spiritual calculation, the woman who gave all she had gave transcendently more than the rich donors of golden shekels. The offering of our heart's warm love is the noblest tribute which God appreciates, and unless our gifts are the outflow and manifestation of our love, they are rejected as worthless, they are like smoke in one's eyes. "That which is highly esteemed among men is often an abomination in the sight of God."
IV. FIDELITY TO GOD BRINGS THE LARGEST BENEFITS TO MEN. The end of such offerings among the Jews was "to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord God." Yet we shall grossly err if we look upon this as a commercial bargain. Reconciliation with God cannot be purchased with gold, or tithes, or animal sacrifices. Reconciliation is the outcome of God's grace; but to bestow it upon rebellious men indiscriminately would be a waste and a crime. The grace that has originated reconciliation must prepare men's hearts to possess it. This omnipotent kindness of God moves the sinner's heart to repentance. His desire for God's friendship expresses itself in prayer and in substantial offerings. To obtain such a heavenly boon he is willing to make any sacrifice. Such good does his conscience perceive to dwell in God's favor that obedience to his will is a delight, a very luxury to the soul. As a child finds a delicious joy in pleasing its parent, and runs cheerfully to do that parent's will, so the repentant man loyally responds to God's commands, and at the altar of sacrifice implores to be reconciled. To have God as his Friend is his supreme desire, his supreme good. "In his favor is life, his loving-kindness is better than life."—D.
Sanctity of time and place.
Human life on earth is conditioned by lime and place. It is a necessity of our existence here that we should occupy some definite place. It is a necessity that we should live during some duration of time. We are cradled amid outward circumstance. Until the soil has matured its powers, it is molded and modified by external surroundings. What these are, the character of the man, in great measure, will be.
I. THE SANCTUARY IS THE FOUNTAIN-HEAD OF PUBLIC RELIGION. A man's personal piety must be nourished in secret—by meditation, faith, and prayer. But a man is not an isolated creature. He is related on many sides to others. He is part of a family, part of a community. Therefore his religion must have a public aspect, and must influence all his relationships. His religion is helped by mutual action and reaction. It is fostered by common beliefs, common sympathies, common worship. The meeting-place between man and man is also the meeting-place between men and God. Scarce any man will rise above the level of religious life prevailing in the sanctuary. Here men's souls are fed and nourished and vitalized. What the sanctuary is the home will be, the nation will be, the world will be. If the fountain be clear and abundant in its flow, the streams will be fall and clear also. The future of our world hangs upon our sanctuary-worship.
II. THE FOUNTAIN-HEAD OF PUBLIC RELIGION MUST BE KEPT PURE. So subtle and insidious is the working of sin, that it insinuates a way into the house of God. Base and selfish motives disfigure the beauty of our worship. Worldliness clogs the wheels of the soul, and prevents it from running in the way of holy duty. The priests and ministers of God are liable to temptation's defiling touch. The channel of communication between heaven and men may become choked with avarice and earthly ambition. The face of God may be hidden by the mists and clouds of human unbelief. The ears of men may become deaf to the soft whispers of God's voice. Sin in the sanctuary may be so subtle as to remain undetected. Our knowledge of God and of his will is so partial and imperfect that even good men sin through ignorance and error and inadvertence. Hence arises the need for the repurification of the sanctuary. No means are to be neglected by which men's minds can be more deeply impressed with the need of purity. No expenditure is waste by which the souls of men can be cleansed and ennobled. Our very tears of repentance must be washed. The fountain of truth and piety must he kept sweet.
III. THE PURIFICATION OF THE SANCTUARY DEMANDS THE FIRST MOMENTS OF OUR TIME. The holiest work must be the work first done. The dawn of the new year is the most fitting time for this sacred service. Just as every part of the nation is hallowed for God by the hallowing of a particular spot, so the whole year is hallowed by the consecration to God of its first moments. God's claim to every part of our nature and of our possessions must be practically yielded; and we admit the obligation by bringing the first fruit of our fields, the best of our flocks, the central spot of our territory, the first moments of the year. It is by giving that we gain. None have been losers by giving freely unto God. That which we thus give we really possess.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Devotement and consecration.
In the ideal kingdom there was to be a certain portion of the land devoted to sacred objects—to the sanctuary of Jehovah and to the residence of his ministers. This was called "a holy portion;" it was "an oblation unto the Lord." Thus in the very heart of the metropolis, in the most commanding situation, on the very best possible site, there was an abiding witness of the presence and the claims of God, and a continual recognition of and response to those claims on the part of the nation. In a country as Christian as ours the towers and spires of our sanctuaries, rising heavenward under every sky, standing strong and even thick among the homes and the shops and counting-houses of town and city, bear their testimony that God is remembered, that Jesus Christ is honored and worshipped by the people of the land. But better than this devotement of land and this building of sanctuaries, good as that is, is the consecration of heart and life to the Person and the service of the Redeemer. The first and essential step in this act is—
I. THE SURRENDER OF OURSELVES TO JESUS CHRIST. The clear recognition that we are not our own, but his; that he claims us in virtue of his surpassing love and. his supreme sacrifice; that he has "bought us with the price" of his own blood (1 Corinthians 6:20). And the free and full surrender of ourselves to himself; the hearty and definite acceptance of him as our Divine Teacher, Lord, and. Friend; so that in the future it is the will of Christ, not our own will, that will be the determining power within us. This surrender or consecration of self necessarily includes—
II. THE DEDICATION OF OUR DAYS AND OUR POWERS TO HIS SERVICE. Being his, in the deepest thought of our mind and the strongest feeling of our heart and the most deliberate choice of our will, we can withhold nothing from him.
1. Not merely will one day in seven be given to worship in his sanctuary, but all the hours of all our days will be spent as in his presence and to his praise.
2. Not only shall we sing some psalms and utter some prayers "unto the Lord," but we shall use every faculty we possess, both of mind and sense, with the view of pleasing and of honoring him. And beyond this, or we might say, implied and included in this, is—
III. THE ASSIGNMENT OF OUR POSSESSIONS TO HIM AND TO HIS SERVICE. This includes:
1. The holding and the spending of all that we have in the spirit of obedience, having regard to his will in all that we do with our substance.
2. The assignment of some serious proportion of our means to the cause of God and of man, of religion and of humanity. What that proportion shall be, and what form it shall take—land, money, time, labor—is left to the individual conscience. There is no prescription in the New Testament. We are called unto liberty; but we are sacredly and happily bound to give all we can for such a Savior, in such a cause.—C.
"My princes shall no more oppress my people." God is now upon the throne (see Ezekiel 43:7), and there is no room for an earthly sovereign. The highest ruler is the "prince;" but that word stands for human authority and power, whatever be the name by which it is indicated. The promise has a reflex significance; it points to the evils which had been in past times. And Israel would have been fortunate indeed if it had escaped the common doom of oppression at the hand of its kings and princes. Many and sad are the sorrows which this poor world of ours has endured at the hand of those who should have lived to bless and not to curse it. The view, or review, is melancholy in the last degree; surely it is only too true that—
"Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless ages mourn."
I. ITS VARIOUS FORMS. These are:
1. Impressment. The children of Israel were plainly and powerfully forewarned of this evil (1 Samuel 8:11-17).
2. Taxation. It was not long before the land groaned beneath the weight of the sovereign's levies (2 Samuel 10:4).
3. Robbery of individual right, and invasion of individual liberty. It needs but to mention the case of David's sad defection from right, and Ahab's senseless covetousness and weak yielding to his truculent queen, to be reminded how kings, even of Judah and Israel, defrauded men of their dearest rights. And if we extend the meaning of the word "prince" to any one in authority, or in power, or in possession, we think at once of the terrible oppressions, in this worst form, that have dishonored the lands, darkened the homes, and blighted the lives of men under every sky and in every age of the world.
II. ITS ESSENTIAL INIQUITY AND ENORMITY. For what is it, in truth? It is a shameful abuse of power. It is nothing less than a man taking from the hand of God the power or opportunity which he gave him in order that he might use for the good, the elevation, the happiness of his kind, and turning that power into an instrument of mischief and of sorrow. It is a heartless and shameless exaggeration by a man of his own personal importance, as if his comfort were everything, and an equally heartless and shameless disregard of the wishes and the wants, the joys and the sorrows, the hearts and the homes of other people. It is a guilty perversion of the purpose and debasement of the gift of God.
III. THE DEEP DIVINE DISAPPROVAL OF IT. How could the Divine Father of all human spirits see one of his children wronging, oppressing a number of his fellows, weighting them with grievous burdens or robbing them of the essential rights of their manhood or their womanhood, without deep, Divine indignation and sorrow (see Exodus 3:7; 2 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 14:26; Isaiah 1:23, Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 49:25; Jeremiah 22:17; Hosea 4:18; and Ezekiel 22:27)?
IV. THE DIVINE PROMISE UNDER THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST. The time shall come when princes and powers "shall no more oppress." When Jesus Christ shall exercise his benignant sway over all nations, when his spirit of righteousness and of love shall fill the hearts and regulate the lives of men, then the hard hand of oppression will be taken off every shoulder; the cruel exactions shall cease; the spirit of the Christian poet will prevail, when he says—
"I would rather be myself the slave
And wear the bonds than fasten them on him;"
cruelty shall give place to kindness, and selfishness to considerateness; and instead of men asking—How much can I get out of the multitude to fill my purse and serve my purpose? they will ask—What can I do to enlighten, to enrich, to elevate, to bless?—C.
Piety and equity.
"Ye shall have just balances." Devotion, when divorced from morality, is worth nothing in the sight of God. Men have thought and taught that the one thing that God (or the gods) required was to be reverently approached by his adherents, and to receive their numerous offerings (see Micah 6:6, Micah 6:7). But his disciples did not so learn Moses, and we have not so learned Christ. Under him we have come to understand that every good tree must bring forth good fruit, and that it is he who doeth righteousness that is righteous. In this great matter of equity between man and man it is difficult to over-estimate its religious importance. By error and failure therein we separate ourselves from God; by rectitude and fidelity therein we commend ourselves to his loving favor. We take the injunction as covering more ground than the words themselves express; and we look, therefore, at—
I. THE RANGE OF ITS APPLICATION. "Ye shall have just balances" means, of course, more especially—Be fair in your dealings when you trade one with another; but it also means—Do what is just and upright in all your relations; do sound and thorough work at the carpenter's bench, and at the fore, when you build the house or dig the garden or plant the field; be true and faithful to your scholars, to your people, to your clients, to your constituents, in the schoolroom, or the pulpit, or the court, or the House of Commons. Do what you undertake to do; be what you profess to be; be honest, sincere, faithful in every sphere in which you move.
II. THE DIVINE REGARD. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good;" but if they could overlook anything they would not fail to observe whether men did or did not do justice to their fellows. If we suppose that there are some things respecting which God is indifferent, among these, assuredly, is not the question whether we do or leave undone what we have promised to do. From the formal compact, carefully drawn and solemnly ratified between the sovereign and the nation, down to the word of promise made by the tradesman or the seamstress, all our human dealings and undertakings are the object of the Divine regard. "I have seen" is a sentence we should do well to hear at all times and in every place when we covenant with men.
III. THE DIVINE RECOMPENSE.
1. Approval or displeasure. We may make quite sure that, when we are acting unfairly or unfaithfully in any relationship whatever, however we may be gathering money or reaping honor, we are laying up a large measure of Divine disapproval; the "anger of the Lord is kindled against us." But when we are acting conscientiously and equitably: however we may be disregarded and passed by on the part of our fellows, we are enjoying the favor of our Lord.
2. Reward or penalty. Faithfulness will bring
(1) our own self-respect;
(2) the esteem of those whom we serve;
(3) the consolidation of our Christian character;
(4) commendation and promotion in the day of Divine recompense (Luke 19:17).
Unfaithfulness will have to bear a penalty corresponding to this—the loss of self-respect, public reprobation, degradation of character, Divine condemnation in the future.—C.
The erring and the simple.
The sacrifices under the Law of Moses were not intended for presumptuous, high-handed sins of the worst kind (see Numbers 15:30; Deuteronomy 17:12). They were designed for the less grave offences, more especially for transgressions of the ceremonial law. Here we have an injunction requiring a general, and not individual, offering to be rendered on behalf of those who had been inadvertently led into error, or who, by reason of mental simplicity, had failed to recognize their duty, and had therefore left it undone. It was valuable as recognizing the responsibility of the nation for those of its members who were less well able to take care of themselves, and it suggests to us our Christian duty to seek, for their sake as much as for our own, to guide or to restore them.
I. THE PRESENCE OF THE SIMPLE. We not only come into this world very variously endowed, some having inclinations and faculties of which others are not conscious at all, but our minds are of very different gradations in general capacity. Between that of the man just above imbecility and that of the greatest poet, or statesman, or organizer, how immeasurable the distance! There is quite a considerable company of the imbecile; these have been, in some countries, singularly regarded as in close connection with the supernal powers, and treated with peculiar regard on that account. Otherwise and elsewhere they are usually the objects of a good-natured tolerance. But above these and below the men and women of average intelligence are "the simple"—those who can acquire but very little learning, study how they may; who soon lose their way in reasoning, and are easily worsted in dispute; who cannot look far ahead, and may be readily taken advantage of by the unscrupulous; who cannot discern dangers ahead, and are specially open to the attacks of the enemy.
II. THE PRESENCE OF THE ERRING. It is, no doubt, "the simple" who become "the erring," whose error is due to their simplicity. But it is not all the simple who err, nor are all the erring to be found among the simple. There are those who leave the strait path without that excuse—men and women who are possessed of the ordinary intelligence and have received a very fair measure of instruction and Christian influence, who are found in paths of folly. Some temptation has proved too strong for them. And if they are not among the flagrantly immoral, yet is there, in their case, a deviation from the straight line of truthfulness, or of purity, or of sobriety, or of reverence, or of the becoming and the consistent—a deviation which detracts seriously from the worth and beauty of their character, and which makes their best friends concerned or even alarmed about them.
III. OUR SACRED DUTY, WHICH IS OUR PRIVILEGE, CONCERNING THESE.
1. To guide and guard. Those on whom God has conferred greater power, and who can consequently see more clearly where evil lies and where danger begins, should esteem it their most sacred and bounden duty to befriend, to preserve, to save, those who are feebler and more exposed. We have our powers, no doubt, that we may take care of ourselves, that we may secure and enrich ourselves. But this is only one part, and it is quite a small part, of our duty and of our opportunity. We live to love and bless. God has made us what we are and given us what we have, for the express purpose that we may serve those who are around us, and more particularly those who are nearly related to us, by defending them when they are assailed, by timely warning against attack, by arming them for the evil hour, by encouraging them m the midst of the battle when they are distressed, by enabling them to make the most of the resources which they possess. By wise direction and strengthening companionship many a simple soldier has been enabled, on moral as well as material fields, to fight a brave and faithful battle, and to win the victory and the crown.
2. To restore. "Ye who are spiritual restore such a one" (Galatians 6:1). Here is not only a sacred duty, but a very high privilege. To win a fortune, to establish "a house" or a family, to build up a great reputation, to rise to conspicuous eminence,—this is laudable, honorable, attractive enough, or at least it may be so. But there are things which are higher and better than these. And of these nobler things there are few that rank higher in the estimate of Christ or will give our own hearts deeper satisfaction in the calmer and truer moments of our life than the act of restoration. To lead our erring brother or sister back again from the highway or the byway of evil into the road of rectitude, into the path of life,—this is emphatically and pre-eminently the Christian thing to do; it is to reduce to action the Divine instruction, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."—C.
The moral of the Passover.
This great feast, which was so solemnly though hastily inaugurated, and so solemnly and joyously renewed after a discreditable lapse (Exo 12:1-51.; 2 Chronicles 30:1-27.), had an historical and also a religious aspect.
I. ITS HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. It recalled one great event of surpassing national interest; it brought back to memory the pitiless cruelty, the blind obduracy, the false confidence of Egypt, and, at the same time, the sad sufferings and the trembling hopes of Israel. "With what solemn awe and yet with what thrilling expectation did their forefathers in the land of bondage partake of that strange meal! With what eager carefulness did they see that the saving blood-stream marked the lintels of the door which would shut in their dear ones! And what a morning on the morrow! What joyous congratulations in each Hebrew family when they all met, in life and health, on that memorable march! And what terrible consternation in those Egyptian homes where the angel of death had not passed by but had struck his fearful stroke! It was the hour of Jehovah's most signal interposition; it was the hour of national redemption. They might well remember it "in all their dwellings through all their generations."
II. ITS SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE. The keeping of the Passover was fitted to exert a most invaluable influence in two ways.
1. It was calculated to bind the nation together and so to preserve its unity; or, when that unity was broken, to induce a kinder or more brotherly feeling between the separated communities, and to prevent further dissolution. For nothing is a stronger tie than common sacred memories—the vivid recollection of scenes, of sufferings, of struggles, through which common ancestors have passed. Such memories allay ill feeling and strengthen existing "cords of love."
2. It was calculated to preserve their allegiance to their Divine Deliverer. For the slaying and eating of the lamb in their homes:
(1) Spoke to their hearts of the vast and the immeasurable obligation under which they stood to the Lord their God; it presented him to their minds as the Lord their Redeemer, who had with a mighty hand rescued them from tyranny and oppression, and placed them in the land of plenty, in homes of peace.
(2) Summoned them to the liveliest gratitude for such signal mercy, for such abounding and abiding goodness.
(3) Charged them to live that life of purity and of separateness from heathen iniquity of which the unleavened bread spoke to them while the feast lasted (see homily in loc; in Le Ezekiel 23:4-8).
1. It is well to signalize individual mercies; it is well, by some wise habit or institution, to call to remembrance, for renewed gratitude and consecration, some special deliverance granted us by the God of our life during our past career.
2. It is well to commemorate common, national favors; to recall, with thankfulness and devotion, the goodness of God shown in great national conjunctures.
3. It is best to perpetuate the one great, surpassing redemption of our race; to join in the commemoration of that supreme event when the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 45". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany