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The history of Israel before the advent may be conveniently divided into seven epochs, viz 1. The period of Egyptian bondage. 2. The wandering in the desert. 3. The conquest of Canaan. 4. The kingdom. 5. The Great Captivity. 6. The Restoration. 7. The period of silent waiting.

In each of these we find accomplished certain definite results, each built upon the past, and preparing for the next in order; like the evolution of the world itself, this history moves grandly on through tedious centuries and varied scenes, through doubt and difficulty, with progress now and retrogression at other times, with mingled hopes and fears, and tears and joys, the great religious drama is enacted, the gracious program of the world's redemption is performed.


"Again they are minished and bowed down through oppression, trouble, and sorrow."

The bondage of Israel in Egypt was no doubt a bitter experience. It probably began with very moderate oppression, such as the imposition of labor on such public works as the kings were engaged in executing

building temples, tombs or monuments. These impositions gradually increased until at last the people were practically slaves, whose labor was unrequited, and whose very children were destroyed before their eyes. It must have been a maddening experience to those whose fathers had enjoyed the free and open life of the pasture lands of Canaan. But it accomplished two great results which could hardly have been reached by any other means. It bound the children of Israel together in the bonds of common suffering; they were segregated from the Egyptians by the impassable barriers of caste and social rank, and therefore less contaminated with the false religion and the vices of their masters. These hard conditions made

them willing—though with some misgivings—to take the risk of leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses.

By the terrible discipline of Egyptian oppression they were fused together as a nation, and learned some lessons of obedience which made it possible for Moses and their elders to organize and lead them.

Moreover, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth", and it is no less an efficacious discipline for a nation, for while oppression may rob a people of some valuable traits, it develops patience, industry and humility, which are perhaps worth the price they cost.

The riddle of Samson is after all, the riddle of life, "Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came sweetness." Out of the destructive and terrible experiences of our lives we very often draw the most effective and ennobling qualities of soul. It is indeed a matter of frequent remark, that the heroes of the world are mostly the product of what we, most unwisely, call unfavorable circumstances; and the sweetest flowers of humanity grow in the vales of tears.


The forty years of wandering in the wilderness was effective in developing some other qualities that were essential to their fitness for their destined office as the Priest of the world. The very qualities that were undeveloped, dwarfed and atrophied, by their slavery were best restored and developed by their free life in the wilderness. They were cowardly and dared not go up against the Canaanites; they were childish, whimpering and complaining like peevish children because of the hardships of the way of the wilderness; they were physically weak as all oppressed and illfed races are. Forty years in the wilderness produced a whole new generation, born and bred in the wilderness, hardened in body, self reliant in mind, ambitious in spirit, a sturdy and courageous people fit and eager for their strenuous

tasks. Their moral, spiritual and social training also had been conducted under the best drill master that the world has ever known, and Moses neither spared the rod nor stinted just rebuke to bring the people up to his high ideal of well rounded manhood.

We have no certain record of their attainment; but it seems probable that Israel at the time of Moses' death, just before they entered Canaan, reached the highest moral excellence that they ever attained. It is also probable that the service of the tabernacle and all the means of grace ordained by Moses were more carefully observed at that time than at any time after they had settled in the land of promise.

On the whole, the nation that gathered on the bank of Jordan under Joshua, eager to be led across the river, was a very different people from that which forty years before had slunk back to the wilderness; whimpering for the flesh pots of Egypt and murmuring against their noble leader. They have learned much, forgotten much, experienced much, and profited immensely by it all.

They passed the childish period and, to a good degree, are ready to put away childish things.


The prophet Hosea speaks of the period of Israel in Egypt and in the wilderness as the childhood of the nation. “When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” “I took them in my arms,” “I drew them with the cords of a man, with the bands of love." The figure is most fit; for God's dealing with them was continually marked by the tender patience and loving care of a father for his little child. Moses was the ideal pedagogue and Joshua a model tutor.

But Israel was to be a man, and to do a man's work in the world. Between childhood and manhood lies the period of boyhood. The period of the conquest of the judges, was Israel's


The nation has outgrown the need of such nursing and carrying in arms as they enjoyed from Moses. They must learn to walk alone, to choose their path and cultivate self control. This is no easy task, nor one to be performed successfully without considerable experience. The period of boyhood is the period of mistakes, of inconsistencies of changing plans and headstrong follies, not unmixed with generous impulses and heroic endeavor. These characteristics are precisely those of Israel during the period from Moses to Saul—from the wilderness to the kingdom.

The splendid training of Moses and Joshua had brought them to a high degree of order and efficiency. The wars of conquest kept them well drilled in habits of obedience and service; so that, for a generation or two, they seem to have retained their moral tone and fervent zeal. But when the storm and stress of war relaxed, and the pressure of necessity abated, they began to rapidly decline.

The lack of any strong authority or central government gave occasion for laxity and lawlessness, and, because there was no king in Israel, and every man did as he pleased, there was much disorder and the people were demoralized. They failed to complete the work of conquest and turned to their own affairs; so that the nations whom they had but partly dispossessed made wars, and harassed them continually. They fell away from the service of Jehovah's worship and often relapsed to gross idolatry. They grew indifferent to the splendid code of laws ordained by Moses, and violence and disorder spread throughout the land.

The interesting stories of the book of Judges gives a vivid picture of the times. The exploits of Samson and Abimelech and Gideon (Judges vi-x), exhibit to us the turbulent and boisterous character of the time, while the horrible story of "that night in Gibeah” (Judges XIX-xx) shows the darker side of the picture; relieved, to some degree, by the prompt and sum

mary justice meted out by the people, aroused by the shame and outrage of such crime in Israel.

The story of Micah and his priest (Judges xviii) gives probably the best picture of the incongruous mixture of religious zeal and heathen superstititon.

Micah was religious, after his own fashion, sparing no expense or trouble to have the proper equipment for worship and religious service. He was eclectic, he provided a good outfit of idols in accordance with the customs of the heathen but, at the same time, employs a priest of the tribe of Levi, consecrated to the service of Jehovah ; and, having thus set his sails to catch all winds, congratulates himself, "Now I know that the Lord will do me good, seeing that I have a Levite to my priest.”

The smug complacency of Micah is amusing, but it is none the less a very fair and vivid illustration of the mixed and incongruous character of the whole state of society. The whole nation is demoralized, the social order is unsettled, and the moral and religious life chaotic; in some respects it is utterly barbarous, but in others, it retains a good degree of the excellence attained under the leadership of Moses. The state of Israel was indeed very much that of a lawless, impulsive and self willed boyhood. It was a people in the process of development; a nation finding itself; the raw material out of which the priest of the world was to be made.


The period of the judges extended from the death of Joshua to the coronation of Saul—about 350 years. It was for the most part a turbulent and troubled time, full of petty wars and much disorder, but withal an epoch of great importance, which had in it much more of quiet and healthy progress than may appear to the thoughtless reader of the records. Happy, it is said, is the land that has no history, and we may observe that the periods of which nothing is written were for the most part the

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