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who have recently visited the lands of the Bible, and the rapid advance made in the study of oriental languages and literature, have materially augmented the means for illustrating the Scriptures. They have especially enabled us to pursue more efficiently than was hitherto possible, the momentous enquiry concerning the relation which the Hebrew writings bear to the general cycle of Eastern traditions. We have attempted to make these new sources of inforination available for the exposition of Genesis, and to point out the peculiarities which, in spite of a similarity of materials surprising in many instances, distinguish the records of the Israelites from those of other ancient nations. By thus separating the form of the narratives from the ideas which they embody, many difficulties may find a solution doing equal justice to universal history, and to the development of the Hebrew mind. A later portion of this work will contain a general Introduction to the Pentateuch, in which many questions regarding Genesis, here not yet admitting of a final decision, will be more fully examined.
The generous reception which has been awarded to the first part of our work, encourages us to express the wish that the same indulgence may not be withheld from the present volume, which, considering the greater difficulties of the task, claims indulgence perhaps even in a higher degree.
London, May 3rd, 1858.
I. Even the philosophical historian, who undertakes to delineate the progress of the human race, may consider that his legitimate labours first coinmence at the point where he perceives the earliest dawn of well-ascertained facts emerging from the mists of fables and legends, and where his eye is arrested by the sight of several nations, as the Hindoos and Egyptians, the Babylonians and Assyrians, considerably in advance on the path of prosperity and civilisation. Yet it may not be unprofitable, under two aspects, to overstep that boundary. The student may either trace the antecedent phases of our planet, point out its organic relation to the universe, and determine the place which man occupies in the system of creation; or he may, by acute reasoning, endeavour to ascertain the first steps which mankind made in its struggle for improvement, before it arrived at that stage of development which existing annals or monuments exhibit. This double task was attempted by nearly all religious lawgivers of antiquity. Not only did they dwell upon the origin of heaven and earth, but they described the history of man from the commencement, the transition from innocence to sin, the toils of existence, and the arts that soften or alleviate them; and they indicated the links which joined their own people with the first human families. Now, whatever may be the positive value of the facts and reflections they furnished, the cosmogonies belong to the most instructive relics of primitive literature. They lay open, with a distinctness attainable froin few other sources, the hopes and cravings, the aims and ideals, of the different nations. They teach the supposed connection between inan and his destiny, or the powers that
govern it; and they embody the moral principles believed to be necessary for the virtuous life of the individual, and to form the chief end of all human generations. But distinguished for depth and purity are the descriptions with which the first book of the Old Testament opens. They are designed to enforce, that mankind is one great fraternal tribe, protected and guided by the care of a Father, the only and omnipotent Creator; they assert the perfect equality of all men; and propose as their model the wisdom and holiness of God. The Biblical narrative next draws in rapid outlines the advancement of the earliest ages, and the descent and diffusion of the various nations of the earth, down to the founder of the chosen race of Israel; then gradually contracting its circle, it relates the beginning of the theocracy, or the conclusion of the solemn covenant between God and the Hebrews; and it lastly carries on their history to the time when they commenced to grow into a numerous and important community. How far these statements are historically reliable, the following Commentary will endeavour to investigate in every individual instance: but their moral and philosophical truth is entirely independent of the materials from which it is derived. Facts are indeed invaluable, because they form the imperishable basis of research: but they are a useless encumbrance unless they enclose some idea, influence the will or the feeling of man, and contribute either to his ennoblement or his happiness. The views set forth in the book of Genesis have not only become the foundation of the culture of the Hebrews, but, through them, of a large part of mankind; and if they have as yet not produced all the beneficent effects of which they are capable, it is because passion, short-sightedness, and egotism, have been unable to recognise and to appreciate the common kernel of humanity in the modified forms of human thought.
II. The book commonly bears the Greek name Genesis or Creation, from reasons implied in the preceding remarks; while in Hebrew Bibles it is headed by the first word of the original text, Bereshith (in the beginning).
III. It may appropriately be divided into two chief sections, the one containing a general introduction, physical and historical, from the Creation of the World to the Call of Abraham; and the other treating of the History of the
Hebrew Patriarchs. These principal portions admit of
1. The Creation (i.-ii. 3).
II. The HistorY OF THE Hebrew Patriarchs; CHAPTERS XII. ro L.
1. The History of Abraham and Lot (xii. 1-xxv.11).
Egypt (xxxvii.-1.). IV. Scriptural statements enable us to make the following simple computation :
1. Abraham had attained his 100th year when Isaac was born (Gen. xxi. 5);
2. Isaac was 60 years old at the birth of Jacob (xxv. 26);
3. Jacob settled in Egypt at the age of 130 9);
4. From this time to the Exodus elapsed a period of 430 years (Exod. xii. 40). Hence the interval between the birth of Abraham and the Exodus comprises 720 years (viz. 100+60+130+430).
Further, Solomon began the building of the Temple in the fourth year of his reign, 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings vi. 1); and as he ascended the throne B.c. 1015, the Israelites left Egypt B.c. 1491 (viz. 1011 +480=1491).
Abraham was, therefore, born B.C. 2211 (viz. 1491+T20); and as he left Mesopotamia in the 75th year of his life (xii. 4), this event occurred in B.C. 2136.
The dates employed in this calculation are the cornerstones of Biblical chronology; they are so consistent, and form so complete a chain, that they ought not to be renounced in favour of the intentional corruptions of ancient writers, or of the conflicting combinations of later critics. -As the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt took place B.c.1491, and the uninterrupted numbers of Genesis place this event in the 2669th year after the Creation (see the following list); the first year of the Christian era is the
4160th of the world (viz. 2669+1491), or 400 years
EVENTS & THEIR COMPUTATION ACCORDING TO YEARS OF THE WORLD,
Enos born (v. 6; 130+105=235).
Arphaxad born (xi. 10; two years after the Floou).