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picture in the Bible of Abraham in his tent, of his hospitality, his self-respect, his courage, and also of his less noble traits, occasional cunning and falsehood, and cruelty toward Hagar and Ishmael, - these qualities, good and bad, are still those of the desert. Only in Abraham something higher and exceptional was joined with them.
In the Book of Genesis Abraham enters quite abruptly upon the scene. His genealogy is given in Genesis (chap. xi.), he being the ninth in descent from Shem, each generation occupying a little more than thirty years. The birth of Abraham is usually placed somewhere about two thousand years before Christ. His father's name was Terah, whom the Jewish and Mohammedan traditions describe as an idolater and maker of idols. He had two brothers, Nahor and Haran; the latter being the father of Lot, and the other, Nahor, being the grandfather of Rebecca, wife of Isaac. Abraham's father, Terah, lived in Ur of the Chaldees (called in Scripture Casdim). The Chaldees, who subsequently inhabited the region about the Persian Gulf, seemed at first to have lived among the mountains of Armenia, at the source of the Tigris; and this was the region where Abraham was born, a region now occupied by the people called Curds, who are perhaps descendants of the old Chaldees, the inhabitants of Ur. The Curds are Mohammedans and robbers, and quite independent, never paying taxes to the Porte. The Chaldees are frequently mentioned in Scripture and in ancient writers. Xenophon speaks of the Carduchi as inhabitants of the mountains of Armenia, and as making incursions thence to plunder the country, just as the Curds do now. He says they were found there by the younger Cyrus, and by the ten thousand Greeks. The Greeks, in their retreat, were obliged to fight their way through them, and found them very skilful archers. So did the Romans under Crassus and Mark Antony. And so are they described by the Prophet Habakkuk (chap. i. 6-9):
• For lo, I raise up the Chaldeans,
Which marches far and wide in the earth,
their glance is ever forward ! They gather captives like the sand ! ” As they were in the time of Habakkuk, so are they to-day. Shut up on every side in the Persian Empire, their ancestors, the Carduchi, refused obedience to the great king and his satraps, just as the Curds refuse to obey the grand seignior and his pashas. They can raise a hundred and forty thousand armed men. They are capable of any undertaking. Mohammed himself said, “They would yet revolutionize the world.”
The ancient Chaldees seem to have been fire-worshippers, like the Persians. They were renowned for the study of the heavens and the worship of the stars, and some remains of Persian dualism still linger among their descendants, who are accused of Devil-worship by their neighbors.
That Abraham was a real person, and that his story is historically reliable, can hardly be doubted by those who have the historic sense. Such pictures, painted in detail with a Pre-Raphaelite minuteness, are not of the nature of legends. Stories which are discreditable to his character, and which place him in a humiliating position towards Pharaoh and Abimelech, would not have appeared in a fictitious narrative. The mythical accounts of Abraham, as found among the Mohammedans and in the Talmud,* show, by their contrast, the difference between fable and history.
The events in the life of Abraham are so well known that it is not necessary even to allude to them. We will only refer to one, as showing that others among the tribes in Palestine, besides Abraham, had a faith in God similar
See, for these marvellous stories, Weil, Legends of the Mussulmans.
to his. This is the account of his meeting with Melchisedek. This mysterious person has been so treated by typologists that all human meaning has gone out of him, and he has become, to most minds, a very vapory character. * But this is doing him great injustice.
One mistake often made about him is, to assume that Melchisedek, King of Salem,” gives us the name and residence of the man, whereas both are his official titles. His name we do not know; his office and title had swallowed it up. “ King of Justice and King of Peace," - this is his designation. His office, as we believe, was to be umpire among the chiefs of neighboring tribes. By deciding the questions which arose among them, according to equity, he received his title of "King of Justice." By thus preventing the bloody arbitrament of war, he gained the other name, King of Peace.” tions, therefore, as to where “Salem” was, fall to the ground. Salem means peace"; it does not mean the place of his abode.
But in order to settle such intertribal disputes, two things were necessary : first, that the surrounding Bedouin chiefs should agree to take him as their arbiter; and, secondly, that some sacredness should attach to his character, and give authority to his decisions. Like others in those days, he was both king and priest; but he was priest " of the Most High God," — not of the local gods of the separate tribes, but of the highest God, above all the rest
. That he was the acknowledged arbiter of surrounding tribes appears from the fact that Abraham paid to him tithes out of the spoils. It is not likely that Abraham did this if there were no precedent for it; for he regarded the spoils as belonging, not to himself, but to the confederates in whose cause he fought. No doubt it was the custom, as in the case of Delphi, to pay tithes to this supreme arbiter; and in doing so Abraham was sirply following the custom. The Jewish traveller, Wolff, states that in Mesopotamia a similar custom prevails at the present time. One sheik is selected from the rest, on account of his superior probity and piety, and becomes their “King of Peace and Righteousness.” A similar custom, I am told, prevails among some American tribes. Indeed, where society is organized by clans, subject to local chiefs, some such arrangement seems necessary to prevent perpetual feuds.
* See my sermon on “ Melchisedek and his Moral,” in “The Hour that Cometh,” second edition.
This “King of Justice and Peace” gave refreshments to Abraham and his followers after the battle, blessing him in the name of the Most High God. As he came from no one knows where, and has no official status or descent, the fact that Abraham recognized him as a true priest is used in the Book of Psalms and the Epistle to the Hebrews to prove there is a true priesthood beside that of the house of Levi. A priest after the order of Melchisedek is one who becomes so by having in him the true faith, though he has “no father nor mother, beginning of days nor end of life,” that is, no genealogical position in an hereditary priesthood.
The God of Abraham was The Most High.” He was the family God of Abrahan's tribe and of Abraham's descendants. Those who should worship other gods would be disloyal to their tribe, false to their ancestors, and must be regarded as outlaws. Thus the faith in a Supreme Being was first established in the minds of the descendants of Abraham by family pride, reverence for ancestors, and patriotic feeling. The faith of Abraham, that his God would give to his descendants the land of Palestine, and multiply them till they should be as numerous as the stars or the sand, was that which made him the Father of the Faithful.
The faith of Abraham, as we gather it from Genesis, was in God as a Supreme Being. Though almighty, God was willing to be Abraham's personal protector and friend. He talks with Abraham face to face. He comes to him, and agrees to give to him and to his posterity the land of Canaan, and in this promise Abraham has entire faith. His monotheism was indeed of an imperfect kind. It did not exclude a belief in other gods, though they were regarded as inferior to his own. His family God, though almighty, was not omnipresent. He came down to learn whether the rumors concerning the sinfulness of Sodom were correct or not. He was not quite sure of Abraham's faith, and so he tested it by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, in whom alone the promise to Abraham's descendants could be fulfilled. But though the monotheism of Abraham was of so imperfect a kind, it had in it the root of the better kind which was to come. It was imperfect, but not false. It was entire faith in the supreme power of Jehovah to do what he would, and in his disposition to be a friend to the patriarch and his posterity. It was, therefore, trust in the divine power, wisdom, and goodness. The difference between the religion of Abraham and that of the polytheistic nations was, that while they descended from the idea of a Supreme Being into that of subordinate ones, he went back to that of the Supreme, and clung to this with his whole soul.
§ 3. Moses; or, Judaism as the national Worship of a just
and holy King. In speaking of Moses and of his law, it may be thought necessary to begin by showing that such a man as Moses really existed; for modern criticism has greatly employed itself in questioning the existence of great men. As the telescope resolves stars into double, triple, and quadruple stars, and finally into star-dust, so the critics, turning their optical tubes toward that mighty orb which men call Homer, have declared that they have resolved him into a great number of little Homers. The same process has been attempted in regard to Shakespeare. Some have tried to show that there never was any Shakespeare, but only many Shakespeare writers. “In like manner, the critics have sought to dissolve Moses with their powerful analysis, and, instead of Moses, to give us a number of fragmentary writings from different times and hands, skilfully joined together; in fact, instead of Moses, to give us a mosaic. Criticism substitutes human tendencies in the place of great men, does not love to believe in genius, and often appears to think that a num.