J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 3.)
We may observe this order in these Books, as regards the Jews. After all the prospective announcements in Genesis, we find them formed as a people, in Exodus, delivered out of the land of Egypt, and thus consecrated prerogatively for His name, and the Sabbath given them before the law, etc. - and, I may add, the manna and the water out of the rock, but even so to the rebellious - and dealt with as His people, but also by mediation, as in the conflict with Amalek. Then comes the terms of the covenant as formed, in principle, with the people themselves for their present inheritance; Exodus 19, "If ye will obey … then ye shall be a peculiar treasure," etc., "And all the people answered together and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Here then was formed the voluntary engagement, on principle, on the Lord's notice. To chapter 23 is then the Book of the covenant enjoined of God, which they again acknowledged, and it was sealed with blood, ratified on the part of God. Then Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy elders went up into the Mount, and "saw the God of Israel" - but we must take notice that the ten words were spoken to the people themselves, before the people drew afar off and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness.
The subsequent part, all the mystical glory, the tabernacle, and all the furniture, and the priesthood, and the glory, and the order of it, and the ministrations, and the sacrifices formed no part of the covenant entered into, nor the Ten Commandments as engraven on the tables, though they were connected in their own way as hidden in the ark, and given by the Word of God specifically unto them. Not but that sacrifices were recognised, as primarily at the end of chapter 20, and assumptively in chapter 23:18, but the difference is manifest, as compare verses 20 and 27, and this was partly connected with the sin of their high places. Their complete breach of the covenant, so as to deprive them of the Tables of the Law, and forfeit their own standing as God's people, and consequently their blessings, is recorded in chapter 32. Then they manifested that this was no standing for them, and that it could be but in a Mediator upon forgiveness and intercession, and so accordingly then comes in chapter 34 - the tenor of the covenant made with him and his people, i.e., Moses. It was specially connected with the enjoyment of the Land. The rejection of Christ was involved then, even here. Upon this ground also, indeed, Stephen argues, and compare Acts 7:51, and Isaiah 63:10-11. And we may remark how the unworthy rejection of Moses exalted him over them, i.e., caused them to stand in Him alone as the Mediator, not only as blessed in itself as towards Him, but morally and typically, for their language is almost the same in terms, "As for this (fellow), we know not whence he is."
299 But to pursue our subject - Leviticus then gives us the whole imposed order, as set in the Land upon this foundation, in this, so to speak, anomalous state, and accordingly we have them, in chapter 26, set upon the condition of their obedience in it, and warnings given of the consequences; but you may observe that that which God remembers, on their repentance, is not the covenant of Sinai, nor the covenant of Moses, but His own unchangeable covenant with Abraham, which drew Him back, not to their righteousness, but to His own faithfulness for the sake of their fathers. To this, accordingly, the saints, the watchers of the Lord ever looked. This is it that is expressed in Psalms 105 and 106. As in the beginning of Psalm 105, Psalm 106 gives the utter failure of - rather the acknowledgment and confession of the utter failure of them as standing upon the other ground of the actual covenant, and upon the footing of this unfeigned acknowledgment, as in Leviticus, seeks to be gathered and saved from among the heathen. Psalm 107 is the celebration of the ways of the Lord, as evidenced in the ultimate result in their own land, as detailed in the latter verses. Zacharias speaks in the same spirit, seeing the redemption, or rather viewing the prophet of repentance, the witness of the Redeemer. The Spirit of Christ stands yet upon a higher ground, for it is Immanuel's Land, and, while it supplicates it in weakness, declares it on that higher ground as in Isaiah 63:16, et seq; compare the preceding verses, for there it is fully Immanuel's Land, for the covenant with Abraham was but the development of that covenant with the Seed, by which, as Heir, in the flesh, of the world, He was to take hold upon it. So that this was Abraham's joy, and therefore, through death, the Gentiles were to be let in (though as an earthly inheritance it circled round the members of the children of Israel, the firstborn) to the inheritance of that better resurrection, in which also they stood, and so Abraham received it in a figure, and rejoiced that he should see His day. It was upon the sacrifice of Isaac that the promise was made to the seed, and Abraham's faith was in the power of the resurrection, as Paul testifies, and it is in the power of the resurrection, as Abraham's portion is in it, that all these mercies are established and assured as in Isaiah 55; compare Acts 13:34. And it is therefore as "the sure mercies of David." We can see that day spoken of as in Ezekiel, etc.; and compare Romans 1, 2, etc.
300 In Numbers, we have the typical facts and circumstances - all that in the journeys of the children of Israel was morally profitable to the Church, or children of God generally, and developed the dispensation, as the red heifer, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Moses faithful in all God's house - in a word, all those things which "happened unto them for ensamples, and are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." Accordingly I believe it will be found most of the things so used by the Apostles in warning, and the cautions and exhortations of faith as to the Church, in this wilderness scene, are much taken from this Book. In this point of view, the consideration of Reuben's, Gad's and Manasseh's land on this side Jordan will be interesting.
We may notice this further, in Psalm 78, when all these facts and histories are drawn out as evidence of the failure, or want of right-heartedness of the children of Israel in themselves, and leading them to the exercise of God's power in purpose, as we have said, antecedent to Abraham, when "the Lord awaked as out of sleep," and raises David to feed and rule them (compare Deuteronomy 32) the extreme wickedness of the enemies, and desolation of His people is the occasion of this, which provokes God. They are oppressed, wicked though they be, by one more wicked than they; see the expression of the Spirit's mind in Habakkuk. The enemy, the Gentile, must arrive at this, and then he will be put to a perpetual shame, which is never Israel's portion, though she may have been, by her iniquities, cast off for a time, yet she shall be as a "wife of youth" (though an adulteress), when she was despised. With the Lord, the point in which this will be manifested will be, as universally testified in Scripture "where is now their God" (and shown quoad hoc, after the temporal restoration of the Jews) and then God will answer to their confusion, in Christ.
Here, accordingly, the Book of Deuteronomy then assumes a peculiarly interesting character in this point of view. It is the establishing prerogatively, the children of Israel in the Land, i.e., within Jordan, i.e., as to its terms, by a distinct and definite covenant, in which all their judicial conduct, as then placed, is detailed, and made a covenant of inhabitancy on the part of Moses, who was not allowed to go in. In this point of view, the Book begins at chapter 5, recapitulating there the ten words. It closes at the end of chapter 28. Its results are warned of by Moses to the end of chapter 30. From thence, to the account of Moses' death, after giving the promise of setting in the Land through Joshua, and the deposit of the Law in the ark for a witness. Then (before this, the revealed things of commandment and consequences had been given to "do all," etc.), here the secret things, which would certainly happen, given to Moses as prophet, which were the secret things of God, foreknown evil or good. As to the preceding part, we may notice that, save the fact of Horeb, and the appointment of elders, it all concerns in historical deduction the nations and possession of lands, they had to say to in chapter 4. Then is a general warning to all Israel, on the ground of not making any similitude of God as of one unseen, and promise of restoration on return to obedience on love to the Father. This distribution of the Land this side Jordan to the two and a half tribes (but note all Israel is addressed as going over Jordan) the order, in reason, of all this I am not quite prepared to state.
301 Note also, the manna did not cease till they crossed Jordan. It also introduces the great principle of faith, as respects the Jews having broken the covenant and lost the Land; compare the argument of Paul, "the righteousness of faith speaketh on this wise," etc.