Articles-Tribes of Israel




19 responses to “Articles-Tribes of Israel

  1. The Hebrew Republic: Chapter 11: The Tribes

    By E.C. Wines

          Let us now direct our attention to the tribes themselves in their individual capacity, in their relation to one another, and in their legislative functions.

          It is agreed, on all hands, by those who have written on the Hebrew institutes, that each tribe formed a separate state. Each composed an entire political community, in some respects independent of the others. Each was under its own proper government, administered its own affairs by its own representative assemblies and magistrates, and claimed and exercised many of the rights of sovereignty. Its local legislation and municipal arrangements were in its own hands. “Dan,” says the venerable patriarch Jacob, “shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.” On this, bishop Sherlock, an author of great learning and judgment, observes, “It is evident that every tribe had its own prince and judge, and that every prince or head of a tribe judged his own people; consequently every tribe had a scepter and lawgiver, as well as the tribe of Judah.” In other words, every tribe had its own proper staff of command and a distinct administration of justice. The princes of the tribes, chiefs of families, judges, and genealogist governed the tribes of Israel, as distinct and independent sovereignties. The tribes were all equal in respect of political dignity and right. The sovereignty of Simeon, which numbered but 22,000 men capable of bearing arms, was as complete as that of Judah, which had 76,000. No one tribe had any political superiority or right of command over any other. This is plain from the fact that, on the death of Joshua, the people inquire of God, “Who should go up for them against the Canaanites?”1 This question could not have been asked if any one tribe had the right of precedency and government over the rest. The answer was, “Judah shall go up.”2 Judah thus acquired the right of leading by a decision of the oracle, a clear proof that such a right did not otherwise belong to that tribe.

          The powers reserved to the separate tribes, and freely exercised by them, were very great. We find them often acting like independent nations. This was the case not only when there was neither king nor judge in the land, but even under the government of the kings. They levied war and made peace whenever it seemed good to them. Thus we find Joshua exhorting his brethren, the children of Joseph, to make war against the Perizzites,3 and Zebulon and Naphtali uniting to fight against Jabin.4 We see the tribe of Dan, singly and of its own proper motion, attacking and destroying the people of Laish, and afterwards taking possession of their city and the surrounding country. A very remarkable record of this kind is contained in the fifth chapter of 1 Chronicles.5 It is there related that the tribes beyond Jordan, even in the reign of Saul, carried on, upon their own responsibility, a most important war. Yet so little interest was taken in it by the other tribes that the author of the book of Samuel has not so much as alluded to it in his history of that prince, though, in a military point of view, it was a far more brilliant affair than all his martial achievements together. Four nations were leagued together against the trans-Jordanic tribes in this war. The booty taken from the enemy was immense–50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 asses, 100,000 prisoners of war; and of slain, the historian says, “There fell down many.” The entire territories of these nations came into the possession of the Hebrews as the fruit of this contest, “and they dwelt in their steads until the captivity.” As late as the reign of Hezekiah, we see the tribe of Simeon waging two successful wars–one against the inhabitants of Gedor, and the other against the remnant of the Amalekites–and that without aid or authority from its neighbor republics.6

          Some occurrences of a different kind in the history of the kings will further illustrate the powers which the constitution conferred upon the separate tribes. By divine direction David had been anointed king in the lifetime of Saul.7 That unction, however, did not inaugurate him as king, nor confer any authority upon him. It was rather a prophecy in action, foreshadowing his future elevation to the throne. Therefore, when Saul had fallen in battle, David returned, as a private person, to one of the cities of Judah. There he awaited the action of the people in his behalf. At first he became king of Judah alone, and that by the free choice of the citizens of that tribe.8 In the message which he sent to the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead, thanking them for their kindness to Saul, he does not arrogate any right of command over them, nor address them in quality of sovereign. He simply informs them that the men of Judah had chosen him for their king, thus virtually inviting them to follow the example.9 Meanwhile, the other eleven tribes had anointed Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, as their king.10 It is evident that David did not regard that as an illegal act on their part, for he limited his hostile movements simply to defending himself, when attacked by the armies of Ishbosheth. Joab, his general-in-chief, had no orders to attack the troops of his rival, or to maintain his own claim to the throne by force of arms. Ishbosheth reigned two years without any rupture with David or his men, nor did the civil war commence till Abner, captain of his host, crossing over Jordan with his forces, provoked an encounter. Joab, in a conference with Abner, intimated that he would not have attacked the adherents of David’s rival, unless he had been provoked to it, thus clearly showing that his orders were to act only on the defensive.11 One after another, the eleven tribes came into the interest of David, and at length the whole nation chose him for their king, and made a league with him, that is, proposed a capitulation limiting the royal prerogative, to which he solemnly assented–after which he was anointed sovereign of all Israel, as having been elected by the voice of the people to that high dignity.12

    The many and heavy exactions to which the people had been subjected during the reign of Solomon had greatly exasperated their minds. Towards the close of his life, their complaints became loud and bitter. On his death, they proposed to his son Rehoboam certain new stipulations, with a view to lighten the public burdens. Their request, though reasonable, was insolently and contemptuously rejected by the fiery young monarch. Thereupon ten of the tribes refused their allegiance to the new government, and chose a king of ;heir own. It would almost seem as if this was not an act of rebellion but the exercise of a reserved right, for Judah was forbidden by the Lord to make war upon the ten tribes. At any rate, an instantaneous revolt of this kind could not have occurred, unless the Israelites had been governed, as Michaelis expresses it, “tribe-wise,” each tribe being a little republic, and having its own leading men, according to whose views the rest of the people regulated their conduct.

          From the above detail it appears that “the Hebrew constitution authorized each tribe to provide for its own interests; or, if the strength of any one of them was insufficient for the purpose, to unite with some of the other tribes, and make common cause with them. We frequently find several tribes thus acting in concert. Judah and Simeon united in their war against the Canaanites, as did also Ephraim and Manasseh. The tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali united with Barak to oppose the army of Jabin. Manasseh, Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali chose Gideon for their leader against the Midianites. the tribes east of Jordan made choice of Jephthah for their general to carry on a war against the Ammonites. In later times, and during the reign of Saul, the same tribes made war upon the Hagarites, the Ituraeans, the Nobadites, and the Naphishites. Upon the death of Saul, eleven tribes remained faithful in their allegiance to his family, and seven years intervened before they submitted to David. After the death of Solomon, ten tribes revolted from the house of David, and elected Jeroboam for their king. In short, any tribe, or any number of tribes united, exercised the power of convening legislative assemblies, passing resolves, waging wars, making treaties, and electing for themselves chiefs, generals, regents, and kings.”

          In such a constitution of the tribes, various disturbing forces could not but exist, and the history informs us of the action of these antagonistic forces upon several occasions. Rivalries would naturally spring up among twelve sovereign states so closely connected with each other. Lesser interests would sometimes stand in the way of the general welfare. Hence arose jealousies, which sometimes issued in fierce, sanguinary, and protracted civil wars.13 All this we may readily believe from the examples of Holland, Switzerland, the United states, and especially of the German empire, which, from the equality of its constituent parts, is perpetually distracted by divisions, and has often been the scene of intestine hostilities. Nothing, then, could be more probable than sectional jealousies and rivalries among the constituent members of the Hebrew commonwealth, and Michaelis has well remarked that two cases may be supposed, in which they would certainly break out and display all their mischievous effects: (1) if any two tribes became more powerful than the others, in which event they would regard each other with suspicion and hatred; and (2) if any one tribe acquired considerable ascendancy over the rest, of which the consequence would be the excitement of their universal envy and opposition. The learned commentator adds that both these cases actually occurred in the Israelitish republic–a fact of so much importance that it may be said to form the key to the whole Hebrew history.

          The Israelites entered Palestine with a force of 600,000 citizens capable of bearing arms, exclusive of the tribe of Levi. Of course, the medium strength of the tribes would be about 50,000. Those tribes, which exceeded that number, would be accounted strong, and, in like manner, those which fell below it would be deemed weak. It may gratify the reader to see the comparative strength of the tribes, at this time, brought into one view. This is done in the following statement, in which fractions of thousands are omitted for the sake of brevity. The tribe of Joseph numbered 85,000; Judah, 76,000; Issachar, 64,000; Zebulon, 60,000; Asher, 53,000; Naphtali, 45,000; Reuben, 43,000; Gad, 40,000; and Simeon, 22,000.14 It will not escape the notice of the reader that one tribe, that of Simeon, was very weak; that two, Joseph and Judah, were very powerful; while the others did not vary materially from the average strength. The tribe of Joseph was, indeed, divided into two half-tribes; but it was still, and even as late as near the close of Joshua’s administration, regarded and spoken of as one tribe.15 Ephraim, however, in consequence of the prophetic blessing of Jacob, and the predictions concerning his future extraordinary increase,16 though as yet numerically weak, in comparison with Manasseh, was regarded as his superior, and, indeed, obtained a certain preeminence over all the other tribes.

          From this time, therefore, we find a perpetual emulation and rivalry existing between the two tribes of Ephraim and Judah. This sentiment of jealousy, sometimes reaching even to hatred, displayed itself on all occasions; and allusions to it are not infrequent in the prophetical writings.17 It is very distinctly recognized by Isaiah,18 when, foretelling the peaceful effect of Messiah’s reign, he says, “And the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the enemies of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” The prophet predicts a state of harmony and peace by declaring that the hereditary and proverbial enmity of Judah and Ephraim shall cease. Throughout the entire Hebrew history, from the exodus to the captivity, these two were regarded as the leading tribes of Israel. In the wilderness, Moses gave the precedence of all the tribes to Judah, in assigning to it the most honorable place in the army, whether in the camp or on the march.19 But after his death, two events occurred, which tended greatly to the exaltation and preeminence of Ephraim. That tribe had the good fortune to give to the nation a chief magistrate in the person of Joshua, and also to have the tabernacle, the palace of their invisible, heavenly king, set up in Shiloh, a place within the territory of Ephraim.20 Both these circumstances advanced the honor of the tribe; and the latter, by promoting trade and marriages, gave it no considerable advantages, in respect of the increase of wealth and population. From time, the ambition of Ephraim knew no bounds. The jealousy of the Ephraimites towards the other tribes appears in their conduct to Gideon and Jephthah.21 Their special jealousy of Judah showed itself in their refusal to submit to David, after the death of Saul;22 in their adherence to Absalom, when he revolted against his father;23 and in the readiness with which they joined in the revolt of Jeroboam, who was himself of the tribe of Ephraim.24 The author of the seventy eighth Psalm25 represents Ephraim as having been the chief tribe, and God has having rejected it for its political and religious apostasy, when the tabernacle and the kingdom were transferred to Judah. Even while Ephraim continued the most influential tribe, Judah enjoyed a more extensive sway than the other tribes to the West of the Jordan. When the monarchy was substituted for the democracy, a king was elected from Benjamin, the youngest and weakest of all the tribes. This seems to be a perfect leveling of the tribes. Apparently no preference was given to any of them on account of any preeminence in dignity, or power, supposed or real. If, however, we look a little below the surface of things, we shall judge otherwise. We must bear in mind how exceedingly genealogical and clannish was the way of thinking among the Hebrews. This will throw no little light upon the point. As Benjamin and Joseph were sons of the same mother, the Benjamites regarded themselves as in some sense belonging to the tribe of Joseph. Of this we have a certain proof in the fact that Shimei, though a Benjamite, said that he was the first man of all the house of Joseph to meet King David, when he returned victorious after crushing the rebellion of Absalom.26 Hence, even when Benjamin was advanced in the person of Saul to the leadership of Israel, Ephraim still enjoyed a certain preeminence. In the eightieth Psalm, composed about this time, Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh are mentioned as the chief tribes, Ephraim being placed before the other two.

          The rivalship between the tribes continued, with unabated force, during the reign of Saul. That king had but little authority in the tribe of Judah, for, when he was pursuing David with the bitterest enmity to take his life, David had little difficulty in eluding him, by fleeing from place to place within the limits of that tribe. And when at last he fled into the land of the Philistines, there does not appear to have been any necessity for his doing so. He might have remained where he was, without much peril of a capture. On the other hand, Saul, as king, was very partial to his own kindred, including, beyond a doubt, the children of Joseph, as well as those of Benjamin. Upon them he conferred most of the offices within the gift of the crown. This he openly acknowledged, and made it the ground of a claim to their gratitude and support.27 When Saul fell in battle, eleven of the tribes, doubtless under the lead of Ephraim, adhered to his family, and chose Ishbosheth for their king. Judah alone recognized David as their sovereign. But David was a man of consummate ability and great nobleness of character. He acted with prudence, moderation, and magnanimity. These are qualities which never fail to excite the admiration and love of the people. They so won upon the tribes of Israel, that, by degrees, they all voluntarily submitted themselves to his rule. It was the surrender of their hearts rather than of their arms. The civil and military talents of David were equal to each other, and both were of the highest order. Under his administration, the territories of the state were greatly enlarged; its wealth and power were increased; and its renown was spread far and wide. Its name struck terror, not only into the petty tribes in its immediate neighborhood, but into the great nations dwelling on the shores of the distant Euphrates. The tribe of Judah now became exceedingly powerful. Its numbers were incredibly multiplied, the effect not merely of the natural increase of population, but also of the multitude of foreigners who flocked to its capital and became proselytes to the Jewish religion. Even before this time, the other tribes had begun to be called by the common name of Israel.28 Thenceforward Israel came to be their ordinary designation, and they were animated by a common jealousy of the tribe of Judah.29 It was in this sentiment that the roots of that unnatural rebellion excited by Absalom found a congenial soil. The extraordinary success of that patricidal revolt has been the puzzle of many, and is wholly inexplicable, except as the result of a deeply seated and long cherished animosity on the part of the other tribes towards the tribe of Judah. This animosity even broke out, and raged violently, on the king’s return. A strife arose between Judah and the other tribes, as to which should recall him to the throne, and it came near ending in a revolt of the eleven tribes from David.30

          The power and splendor of the tribe of Judah culminated in the reign of Solomon. David and Solomon, kings of the house of Judah, were no common men. For seventy three years did the other tribes submit to their government, awed by the splendor of their genius, the force of their character, and the vigor of their rule. But the fire was all the while glowing under the ashes, and waited but an occasion to burst forth in fierce and devouring flames. That occasion was found in an imprudent declaration of Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, on his accession to the throne. Ten of the tribes, led by Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, revolted, shook off their allegiance to the kings of Judah, and set up a separate kingdom, with Jeroboam for their king.31 He takes but a superficial view of the Hebrew history, who regards the conduct of Rehoboam, however unwise or even unjust it might have been, as the cause of this schism. It was but the occasion, the pretext. The cause was the old grudge of Ephraim against Judah. The separation was not a sudden occurrence; it was not fortuitous; it was but the natural result of causes, which had long been working. It is very remarkable, that, of all the kings who reigned over Israel, although they were very far from succeeding one another in the line of hereditary descent, there was not one that did not belong to Ephraim; so that, with the single exception of Saul, all the Hebrew kings were natives of one or other of the two rival tribes.

          As the result either of an admirable stroke of policy on the part of David, or of an equally admirable good fortune, Benjamin, after the separation, remained united to Judah, and the two tribes ever afterwards formed one kingdom. The event to which I refer was the choice by David of the city of Jerusalem for his residence and capital. This city was within the territory of Benjamin, but it lay close to the confines of Judah, and had long been inhabited by members of the latter tribe, as well as of the former. David’s selection of it for the royal residence was well calculated to flatter the pride of the Benjamites, and unite them more closely to his family. It appears to have had the effect to extinguish the jealousy which Benjamin, in common with Ephraim, had felt towards the tribe of Judah. At all events, its issue was, as stated above, to link the fortunes of these two tribes together in indissoluble bonds.

          Such, then, were the jealous rivalries, which, sometimes more and sometimes less active, we find always subsisting among the tribes of Israel, and such the bitter fruits which they produced. But it was not ambition alone which disturbed the peace of the nation, and caused the blood of the citizens to stream forth in civil strife. Great as the reserved rights of the tribes were, they occasionally magnified them beyond their just bounds and betrayed a strong disposition to nullify the laws of the general government. But such a procedure was at the peril of the tribe engaging in it. In the book of Judges32 we have a painfully interesting account of an act of nullification on the part of Benjamin, wherein we see that the authority of the national law was vindicated by the other tribes with a severity bordering on barbarism. The tribe of Benjamin was prophetically described as a ravening wolf33–a figure highly descriptive of its fierce and warlike character. The case to which I refer was this. A Levite and his wife were traveling peaceably through the territories of Benjamin. At Gibeah, some demons in the form of men, called by the historian “sons of Belial,” abused the latter in such a way as to cause her death. The Levite appealed for retribution to the tribes in a general court. With the exception of Benjamin, they assembled at once in convention at Mizpeh. There, the states-general, in regular session, heard the appeal to their justice. They carefully examined into the facts of the case. They found certain of the inhabitants of Gibeah guilty, not only of a violation of the rights of hospitality and humanity, and of a riotous breach of the peace, but moreover, which, in a national point of view, was of greater importance, of a breach and violation of the common right of the tribes to a safe passage through the whole country. It was, therefore, not so such an injury to any private persons, as to the tribes of Ephraim and Judah, to which the Levite and his wife belonged. Indeed, it was an injury to all the tribes in common, since the case of Ephraim and Judah might become the case of any of them. No man in all Israel could have any security in traveling, if such open outrage and violence were suffered to go unpunished. But the tribes were independent of each other. No one tribe had jurisdiction over any of the rest. Benjamin was a sovereign state. Neither Judah nor Ephraim could, by the constitution, call the inhabitants of Gibeah to account. This was, therefore, a case calling for the interposition of the states-general. Yet even they could not proceed directly against the guilty parties. That would have been in derogation of the sovereignty of Benjamin. Therefore, having by investigation satisfied themselves of the facts in the case, they sent a summons to the tribe of Benjamin to deliver up the delinquents, that they might be dealt with according to law. Benjamin declined a compliance with this summons, and determined rather to dissolve the union of the states than submit to the will of the nation, though expressed in a deliberate, dispassionate, and constitutional manner. This changed the entire case. It was no longer the murder of a private person by some ill-disposed individuals of the city of Gibeah, but an open rebellion of the whole tribe of Benjamin. The authority of the national union was opposed and set at naught. And, not content with refusing to give up the murderers to justice, Benjamin raised an army to protect them, and levied war against all Israel. The rest of the tribes declared them in a state of rebellion, and proceeded against them accordingly. So stubborn and unbending was the spirit of the nullifying tribe, that the national army was twice defeated. But in the third battle Benjamin was routed, with the loss of 25,000 men; and there was no danger of the offense being repeated, for the offending city was leveled with the ground, the country was made a wilderness, and six hundred men, posted on the inaccessible rock of Rimmon, were all that remained of the contumacious tribe.

          From this history of the Benjamite rebellion the passage is natural to a consideration of the union of the tribes in a general government; for, while the history illustrates the distinct nationality and independent spirit–I might almost add, the turbulent temper–of the separate tribes, it affords, at the same time, a proof and an example of the reality, strength, and vigor of the national administration. The central government was not a mere confederacy of states. Such an organization would have been too feeble, and too tardy in its action for the elements which it was intended to control. It was government the proper sense of the term, and not a confederation. Moses drew up a constitution which applied, not merely to each tribe as a distinct political body, but also to the individuals in the tribe. He made it bear on every individual in every tribe, thus giving to each a personal interest in the national concerns, and making him as much a member of the nation, as he was of his own tribe. The tribes formed but one nation. And though they had separate interests, as being in some respects independent states, they had also general interests, as being united in one body politic. They had much in common to draw them together in bonds of brotherhood, and strengthen the ties of political union–a common ancestor; the illustrious depository of promises appertaining to all the tribes alike; a common God, who was their chosen and covenanted king; a common tabernacle and temple, which was the royal palace; a common oracle, the urim and thummim; a common high priest, the prime minister of the king; a common learned class, who possessed cities in all the tribes; a common faith and worship, which at the same time differed fundamentally from that of all other contemporaneous nations; and a common law of church and state. Thus, while each Hebrew was strongly concerned to maintain the honor of his tribe, the constitution of the general government gave him an equal interest in the honor of his country.

          Thus we see, that the constitution was so contrived, that, notwithstanding the partial independence and sovereignty of the separate vibes, each, as constitution a part of the national union, had a kind of superintendence over all the rest, in regard to their observance of the law. Any of the tribes could be called to an account by the others for an infraction of the organic law, and, if they refused to give satisfaction, they might be punished by war. Obedience to the states-general, in whom the tribes were united into one government, was a fundamental obligation of every member of the national union. On this point the constitution was imperative. Disobedience to their orders, a rebellious opposition to their authority, was an act of high treason, the greatest crime that can be committed, since it is an injury, not to any one man or any number of private persons, but to the whole society, and aims at subverting the peace and order of the government, on which the property, liberty, happiness, and life of the citizens depend.

          Let me adduce two proofs of this obligation on the part of the tribes to submit to the will of the nation, as embodied in the resolves of the general government.

          The first is taken from a record, which I find in the thirty-sixth chapter of Numbers.34 By a law, passed some time before, constituting daughters, in default of sons, the legal heirs of their fathers, it would happen that the inheritance of the daughters of Zelophehad, who belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, if they married into another tribe, would be transferred from their own to their husband’s tribe. This, should it ever occur, Manasseh thought would be a hardship and a wrong. What course did that tribe pursue? She did not attempt to rebel against the authority of the nation and nullify the laws of the land. She brought the case before the national legislature and sought relief through its action. She appealed to the justice of the nation in congress assembled, just as the states of our union do. Her petition was respectfully considered, and a law was enacted in accordance with its prayer. By this law, heiresses were required to marry in their own tribes, that no part of the ancient inheritance might be alienated from the original family. It is plain, that, if the decree of the nation had been different from what it was, Manasseh’s duty would have been submission. Resistance and nullification would have been in derogation and contravention of rightful authority.

          The second proof of the duty of obedience on the part of the tribes to the decrees of the general government, I derive from the history of the wrong done by certain Benjamites to a Levite, who was passing through their territory, taken in connection with the national proceedings which followed thereupon.35 The states-general immediately convened at Mizpeh, and passed a resolve, calling upon the local government of Benjamin to deliver up the offenders, that they might be dealt with as their conduct deserved. This order Benjamin refused to obey. What said the national government? Did it say that Benjamin, being a sovereign state, had a right to interpret the constitution for herself, and to act her own pleasure in the matter? Far from it. It declared that she had been guilty of an infraction of the organic law and an act of treason against the state. And the nation proceeded at once to vindicate her own sovereignty and supremacy. There was no coaxing, no truckling, no faltering. Not honeyed words, but hard blows, promptly administered, and with a terrible energy and rapidity of repetition, were the means employed to sustain the majesty of the government and the authority of the law.

          It thus appears that the Hebrew tribes were, in some respects, independent sovereignties, while, in other respects, their individual sovereignty was merged in the broader and higher sovereignty of the commonwealth of Israel They were independent republics, having each a local government, which was sovereign in the exercise of its reserved rights; yet they all united together and formed one great republic, with a general government, which was sovereign in the highest sense. The constitution of Israel had, in this respect, a similitude to our own, which will strike every reader. It may also be considered as in some measure resembling that of Switzerland, where thirteen cantons, of which each has a government of its own, and exercises the right of war, are nevertheless united into one great state under a general government. Thus all the Israelitish tribes formed one body politic. They had one common weal. They held general diets. They were bound to take the field against a common enemy. They had at first general judges, and afterwards general sovereigns. And even when they had no common head, or, as the sacred historian expresses it, when there was neither king nor judge, a tribe guilty of a breach of the fundamental law might be accused before the other tribes, who, as we have seen, were authorized to carry on war against it as a punishment. It is evident that the tribes were sometimes without a general chief magistrate. The constitution, as explained above, makes it quite conceivable that the state might have subsisted and prospered without a common head. Every tribe had always its own chief magistrate, subordinate to whom again were the chiefs of clans, the judges, and the genealogist; and if there was no general ruler of the whole people, there were twelve lesser commonwealths, whose general convention would deliberate together, and take measures for the common interest. The head might be gone, but the living body remained. Its movements would be apt to be slower and feeler; yet, as the history of the Benjamite rebellion36 teaches us, they did not always want either promptness or energy.


          1 Judges 1:1.
    2 Judges 1:2.
    3 Joshua 17:15.
    4 Judges 4:10.
    5 1 Chronicles 5:18-23.
    6 1 Chronicles 4:41-43.
    7 1 Samuel 26:13. Dr. Clarke, in his note on 2 Samuel 2:4, remarks, “David was anointed before by Samuel, by which he acquired, jus ad regnum, a right TO the kingdom; by the present anointing he had, jus in regno, authority OVER the kingdom. … The invisible king directed the prophet Samuel to assure the throne privately by a prophetic anointing to David, the youngest son of Jesse, a citizen of Bethlehem.” (Jahn’s Heb. Com. B. 4. S. 28.) It will be seen that the views of these eminent scholars accord with those expressed in the text as to the nature and object of David’s unction by Samuel.
    8 2 Samuel 2:1-4.
    9 2 Samuel 2:5-7.
    10 2 Samuel 2:8-9.
    11 2 Samuel 2:12-29. See especially v. 27, as confirming the last statement in the text.
    12 2 Samuel chapters 3, 4, 5, and 12–particularly the last.
    13 Judges 12:1-6, 20:1-48; 2 Samuel 2:1; 1 Kings 12:16-24.
    14 Numbers 26.
    15 Joshua 17:17.
    16 Genesis 48:15-20.
    17 Judges 8:1, 12:1; 1 Kings 11:26, 14:30, 15:16; Psalm 78:11,60,67,68; Isaiah 11:13; Jeremiah 3:18; Ezekiel 37:16-19; Hosea 1:11.
    18 Isaiah 11:13.
    19 Numbers 2:3, 10:14.
    20 Joshua 18:1, 1 Samuel 4:3.
    21 Judges 8:1, 12:1.
    22 2 Samuel 2:8-9.
    23 2 Samuel 18:6.
    24 1 Kings 11:26, 12:16.
    25 Psalm 78:9-11,60,67,68.
    26 2 Samuel 19:20.
    27 1 Samuel 22:7.
    28 2 Samuel 2:9.
    29 2 Samuel 19:11,40-43, 20:1-2.
    30 2 Samuel 19:9-14,40-43, 20:1-2.
    31 1 Kings 12:1-20.
    32 Judges, chapters 19-20.
    33 Genesis 49:27.
    34 The critical reader who examines the references to see whether they sustain the text, might, on a cursory perusal of the chapter here cited, be inclined to think that in the view presented in this paragraph too much is rested on assumption. A deeper study of the subject, however, will be apt to change such an impression, for, first, either the first eleven verses of the 27th chapter should come in before this chapter, or this chapter should come in immediately after those eleven verses, since, as Dr. Clarks says, both certainly make parts of the same subject, and there it is expressly said that the matter was brought “before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes, and before all the congregation,” and by them referred to the oracle. Secondly, even in this chapter, the chiefs of Manasseh are related to have laid their petition before Moses and the princes, who may here very well be taken, in a general sense, to mean the whole diet. And thirdly, even if this chapter stood wholly disconnected with the 27th chapter, and neither the diet nor any part of it had been mentioned at all, still the analogy of numerous other cases in the Hebrew history would authorize us to assume that the matter had been, to due form, laid before the states-general of Israel, and by them solemnly adjudicated.
    35 Judges 19:20.
    36 This is said to have happened (Judges 19:1) when “there Has no king in Israel,” i.e., when the tribes had no common head, no general chief magistrate.

  2. Notes on Joshua: Chapter 9 – The Two Tribes and a Half

    By J.G. Bellet

          Joshua 22.

          The army may now be disbanded. It had been enlisted in chapter 1. It had served faithfully in the wars of Canaan, but the country being now conquered, and the land divided, there is no further occasion for the army which had been hired for this service. The Reubenites, Gadites and men of Manasseh, may now re-cross the Jordan and feed their flocks in peace in the mountains of Gilead and Bashan. They may turn their sword into a shepherd’s crook.

          This is as though the sword of an earlier David had sheathed itself in the presence of the peaceful throne of Solomon, or as though David’s armour had been hung up in the temple of God (see 2 Chr. 23. 9).

          It savours, too, of that still future day when the host that is to accompany the Rider on the white horse in the day of the judgment of the Beast and his confederates, having done their service as the armies of heaven, were laying aside their weapons of war to take their place of peaceful, glorious sovereignty in the world to come (Rev. 19 and 20).

          The army of the two tribes and a half now became the cultivators of their fields and their flocks on the eastern side of the Jordan, but there, in their own portion, they continue one with their brethren in the land of Canaan, the witnesses and the worshippers of the God of Israel.

          And in meditating on the scene connected with this, I would linger a little; for if I mistake it not, it has a word for our souls. The ark had gone over, conducting and sheltering the Israel of God, and Israel and the ark had remained there, but the men of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had re-crossed the Jordan, returning to settle where their brethren had but wandered. Ere they had set out, Joshua had again, as we saw in Joshua 1, been uneasy about them, and as soon as they make the passage, and touch the place which they had chosen, they begin, evidently, to be uneasy also; and under pressure of this uneasiness they raise an altar.

          This is full of language in our ears. An Israelite in the land of Gilead at this living day of ours understands it. Jehoshaphat understood it when he saw himself on the throne with Ahab; he was, after this manner, disquieted, and under pressure of his soul, he asks for a prophet of the Lord. And all this was the language of the renewed mind in a foreign land, or in the place of the uncircumcised. So the two tribes and a half now raise an altar, and call it “Ed.” It was a witness as they purposed of this, that Israel’s God was their God.

          But why all this? Had they taken up their portion In Canaan they would not have needed this. They would have had the original and not a mere copy; but they were in Gilead and not in Canaan; Shiloh was not in view, and they had, therefore, to give themselves some artificial, some secondary help to sustain their confidence, that they and the Israel of God were really one.

          All this is full of meaning, and is much experienced to this day. Some witness of what we are and who we are is craved by the soul and called for by others, when we get into a position in the world with which the call of God does not combine. Some extraordinary testimony is felt to be desirable ” the countenance or acceptance of others, the examination of our own personal condition, reasonings with ourselves or restless action in the soul, remembrances of better days; something of all this has to be invoked or gone through, where there is not consistent singleness and fidelity; and this is the altar called “Ed”; this is the writing on that pillar in the land of Gilead. Lot’s wife, the pillar in the plains of Sodom. has a writing upon it, and the divine Master has deciphered it for us; and I doubt not, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, would have us under His anointing, read the writing on this pillar in the land of Gilead. It may warn us if we love quietness and assurance of heart, not to return and find a settlement where the Church of God only finds a pilgrim age.

    An Israelite in Gilead does not make his calling and election sure.

          Does my soul read this lesson? Every heart knows its own humiliation. These disturbances of spirit, this demand of Jehoshaphat for a prophet, this altar of Ed raised by the Reubenities and their companions, bespeak such exercises as a more single-eyed attachment to Christ would surely spare us.

          But grace aboundeth as ever; so here, for in spite of all this I feel that I can say that I know not that the people of Israel ever present themselves in more moral beauty and healthfulness than just at this time. It was happy to hear their song on the banks of the Red Sea, and happy to observe their good order while crossing the Jordan, and well, as I have already noticed, to see them and their ways reflected in the Book of Leviticus; and generally all through this book of Joshua. But of the times of Israel under Joshua, this was still the brightest, palmiest hour. The heart, perhaps, takes more delight in surveying them in the twenty-second chapter of Joshua, than at any moment whatever.

          The jealousy and fear of the tribes on the western side of the river, as soon as they heard of the altar set up by their brethren in the east, has every expression about it that can satisfy us; and the answer which the Reubenites and their companions give to this jealousy is equally perfect in its way. Jordan. which threatened to he a partition-wall, becomes, rather, by such exercises as these, a link between them. If it be a veil, it is a rent veil. In heart, and in the sympathies of their common faith, all must have been more firmly and happily bound together than if nothing had happened. Each must have valued the other the more, because of the witness they had liberally borne to their common Lord. The fears and jealousy of the one must have been welcome to the other, though they themselves had awakened them ” the earnestness and simplicity of the eastern tribes must have been most refreshing to their brethren in the west, though it rebuked the groundlessness and unworthiness of their fears. “To the Lord,” they, each of them, did what they did ” and that is the strength, as well as the title, of fellowship.

          It reminds me of Rom. 14. New Testament brethren are there as on either side of certain partition walls. The eating and the not eating of meats, the observing and the not observing of days, is like a Jordan rolling between them. But when they make enquiry under the light and conduct of the Holy Ghost, they discover that these partitions are really links, that the veil. is a rent one, and that as the one observes the day to the Lord, and as the other observes not the day to the Lord, as the one eats to the Lord, and the other eats not to the Lord; since the Lord, His name, His glory, and His Pleasure is everything to each of them, they are only the more closely knit together. The longer the cord that binds them, by its very length proves its strength.

          Happy thus to speak, whether of Old Testament or New Testament brethren; and I have not the slightest misgiving but that we may speak thus.

          There is, however, I grant, another light in which to read the conduct and the character of the two tribes and a half; and it is a warning, as this view of them is a consolation. I have referred to this already; and here I would add that nothing is more common than this, that many and many a saint of God looked at personally in his own spirit and behaviour, may well be the joy of one’s heart; looked at in his position, may as easily grieve and surprise us.

          In our own day, this is proved abundantly. It is illustrated here in the story of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh; and precious indeed are these divine unities, which are traced everywhere throughout the Book of God, and which may be traced between His words in the Book and His work in the saints. I am in Rom. 14, when reading Joshua 22, and I am in the midst of brethren in the Lord Jesus all around me at this living moment, when reading either the one or the other of these chapters.


    Whither the Tribes Go Up

    By T. Austin-Sparks

    (Psalm 122:4)

          “Gather my saints together” (Psalm 1:5).

          It was a beautiful thought in the mind of God when, in His Divine economy, He prescribed for the periodic convocations of His people. Away back in the time of Moses He commanded that all the males in Israel should journey three times in every year to some place of His appointment (Deuteronomy 16:16), the details of which are worth noting. It is clear that David laid great store by such convocations. Psalm 122 is (by its heading) attributed to David, as were other “Songs of Ascents”, or Pilgrimage. It was due to division resulting from spiritual decline that such gatherings ceased for so long, until Josiah had a great recovery celebration (2 Chronicles 34:18-19). It was therefore a sign of spiritual recovery and strength when the Lord’s people so gathered from near and far.

          We can briefly summarize the values in the Lord’s thought for such convocations:

          1. They were times when the universality of God’s Church, or “Holy nation”, as on the basis of the Passover (the Cross) was preserved in the hearts of His people. “They left their cities”; that is, they left exclusively parochial ground. By the gathering from all areas they were preserved from all exclusivism, sectarianism, and the peril of isolation. They were made to realize that they were not the all and everything, but parts of a great whole. Thus the ever present tendency to make God in Christ smaller than He really is was countered.

          2. Thus, they were times of wonderful fellowship. People who belonged to the same Lord, but had either never before met, or had been apart for so long, discovered or rediscovered one another, were able to share both “their mutual woes, and mutual burdens bear”, or tell of the Lord’s goodness and mercy. Loneliness, with all its temptations and false imaginations, was carried away by the fresh air of mutuality. New hope, incentive, and life sent the pilgrims back to their accustomed spheres with the consciousness of relatedness.

          3. They were times of consolidation. The Psalm says: “For a testimony unto Israel.” The testimony of the great thing that the Passover (the Cross) means in the heart of His people. A testimony to the unifying power of the blood and body of Christ. The gatherings held a spiritual virtue in the livingness of the presence of the Lord. If they had been assailed by doubts, fears, and perplexities, they went away confirmed, reassured, and established in their common faith.

          4. They were times of instruction. The Word of God was brought out, read and expounded. They were taught, and they “spake one to another”. In a word, they were fed. There was spiritual food. The initiation of these convocations was connected with three “Feasts” (Deuteronomy 16). Eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord. They returned fortified, built up, enlightened, and with vision renewed.

          5. They were times of intercession. Possibly not every individual was able to “go up”. For various reasons – infirmity, age, responsibility, or some other form of detention – kept some from the blessings of joining with the pilgrims. But God’s idea of the gatherings was – as put into later words – “My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.” The New Testament is clear and strong on this point, that the representation of the “Body of Christ” in any place CAN, and SHOULD have real spiritual values for all its members because “the Body is one”.

          So, let the lonely, detained and isolated ones realize that when the Lord’s people are together, they are being supported. And let those who are not so deprived of the ‘gathering together’ realize how vital it is, and what a necessity there is in expressing this Divine thought.

    Would to God that all our gatherings were after this sort!

          From “A Witness and A Testimony” May-June 1968.

    In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given, his writings are not copyrighted. Therefore, we ask if you choose to share them with others, please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of changes, free of charge and free of copyright.



    Moses said this about the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar:

    “May the people of Zebulun prosper in their expeditions abroad. May the people of Issachar prosper at home in their tents. They summon the people to the mountain to offer proper sacrifices there. They benefit from the riches of the sea and the hidden treasures of the sand.” Deut. 33:18-19

    Two tribes come hand in hand. They are descendants of one mother, Leah–and they inherit neighboring lots. Here they are colleagues in a common blessing–and drink, as fellows, of one enriching cup.

    It is a lovely sight, when brothers are co-heirs of grace. The Gospel-records brighten with such pictures. Andrew and Simon are united by more than kindred-ties. John has a fellow-laborer in James, his parent’s son. Jude, and the other James, born of one father, are newborn of one Spirit.

    Do not these instances exhort each pious brother to seek especially a brother’s good? Do not they bring the animating hope, that the door of success will open readily to such loving touch? Let then no gracious brother rest, while any son of the same mother treads the downward path. In prayer–by gentle example–by winning counsels, let him persevere, until union be cemented in one center–Christ. God wills the effort. Will He be slow to bless?

    How great, too, is the gain! For where is treasure like a brother plucked from the quarry of the world, and placed a jewel in the diadem of Christ! Sweet is the walk, when such move side by side to one eternal home.

    Another thought stands at the threshold of this case. The younger ranks before the elder. This cannot be without design. The same occurs, when Jacob’s dying lips address them. Zebulun precedes. Issachar, the first by birth, gives place. Similarly Jacob’s right hand rests on the younger, Ephraim. Manasseh has inferior honor. And other instances occur.

    Reader, learn hence, that God sits supreme upon His throne. He holds a scepter swayed in love–in wisdom–and in sovereign will. He raises one. He places others in a lower grade. Here showers of grace descend. Here the dew falls in tiny drops. We see the fact. We know, that there is purpose. But we trace not the origin of these decrees. In humble reverence we bow and we adore. All must be wise, and just, and right. The day draws near, when clearer light shall show consummate skill. The structure of the Church will then appear wondrous in perfection. Each part is fixed by an unerring hand.

    Let us now heed THE BLESSING. The first word sounds, “Rejoice.” This ever is our Gospel’s note. Joy is the gift, which Jesus’s hands extend. This is the feast, to which true ministers invite.

    When will a blinded world unlearn that silliest of fictions, that ways of faith are cheerlessness and gloom! Let faithless men be honest, and they must confess, that their career is restless care–keen disappointment–and self-wrought vexation. They pluck the thorn–not the flower. They feed on husks–not on rich fruit. Their cup is wormwood–not the vine’s juice. Their present is distress–not peace. Their future is dismay–not hope. How different is the new-born heart! There constant joy keeps court–joy in the Lord, who washes out all sin–who gives the key of heaven, and title-deeds of endless bliss, and pledge of a weight of glory, and strength for the journey, and triumph at the end. The mandate is not an unmeaning word, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.” Phil. 4:4.



    But Zebulun has his peculiar place–so, too, has Issachar. Their calling differs. Zebulun’s line extends around the coast. His ships traverse the seas. His commerce is across the waves. While Issachar reposes in inland scenes–and dwells in meadows and in valleys. His life is rustic tranquillity. But whether in turmoil or in peace, joy is the heritage of both. “May the people of Zebulun prosper in their expeditions abroad. May the people of Issachar prosper at home in their tents.

    They have the happy knowledge, that all their labors are in appointed course–they go out, or they tarry, under heavenly directive, and therefore with glad hearts.

    This leads us to observe, how varied are the stations of man’s calling! How diverse are positions! Some reign in palaces–some toil in cottages. Some feast at plenty’s table–some pine in poverty’s contracted cells. Purple and splendor deck a Dives–Lazarus lies a beggar at the gate. Some work at looms–others in fields. Some climb the mast–others handle the spade. Some exercise the mental powers–others strain the muscles of the body. Some soar in literature’s highest flights–some crawl unlettered to the grave. Some guide a nation’s counsels–others are instruments to execute these laws. Some are exalted to far higher work. They are ambassadors for Christ. Their office is to tell aloud His wondrous love–to rouse the slumbering–to feed Christ’s flock–to uplift thoughts from earth–to spread soul-renovating truths–to build up saints in their most holy faith.

    But perfect wisdom rules these varieties on life’s stage. No being enters or recedes, but in accordance with God’s will. He speaks–they live. He speaks–they die. Entrance and exit are in His hand. At His decree all kings, all beggars, breathe and expire. Both times and stations are allotted by His mind. He raises to the pinnacles of earth–or veils in seclusion. He leads to walks known and observed by all, or hides in garrets of obscurity. Let then the child of God live, rejoicing in his day and lot. No change would be improvement. He best can serve his generation, and advance his soul-concerns, by working cheerfully in his assigned position.

    Believer, when you distinctly see the beckoning cloud; when you set forth, or rest, submissive to clear guidance; banish fears–cast out all doubts–lift up the happy head–clap the exulting hands–rejoice–give thanks. A heavenly Father cannot set you in wrong place. A loving Savior cannot lead you in wrong paths. A gracious Spirit cannot endow you with wrong gifts. All is well. Look up and follow, and, as you follow, sing, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out–and Issachar in your tents.”

    Next, there is WORK, in which these tribes concur. They are described as zealous to bring others to know God–“They shall call the people unto the mountain–there they shall offer the sacrifices of righteousness.” These words exhibit missionary features. We seem to see them mourning for ignorance, and longing to impart truth–hating darkness, and yearning to infuse light; loving the one true God, and ardent to call the wandering to His fold–the heavy-laden to His rest–the worshipers of stocks and stones to Zion, the Gospel-mount.

    Grace had made them to differ from the world around. Revelation had taught them the way of life. They had received Christ-shadowing ordinances. Their worship was not degraded rites of ignorance. Their altar and their victims were typal of the sin-removing Lamb. Their services were bright with God’s own truth. Thus, with burning hearts, they called the people unto the mountain, where they offered the sacrifices of righteousness. They would not know, and love, and serve, alone.

    Believer, catch hence a gale to fan the fire kindled in your soul. Each child of God–in heart–in lip–in life–should be a flame of enterprising zeal. Is he enlightened–called–selected–converted–pardoned–comforted–sanctified–saved–only that SELF may live? Away with such unworthy thought. Let the low slaves of Satan, let poor paltry worldlings, shiver in the freezing atmosphere of SELF. Let their desires, with unplumed wing, hang heavily around their ease–their profit–their indulgence–their debasing lusts. But let faith soar in higher regions, and break forth in grander efforts, and spread in more ennobled work. Surely its sympathies should grasp the total family of man! Surely its love should travel round the circuit of the globe! Surely its cry should ever call poor sinners to the cross!

    Awake, then, arouse; be up, be doing. What! shall souls perish, while you sleep? Shall hell enlarge its borders, while you loiter? Shall Satan push on his triumphs, and you look on indifferent? Shall superstition thrive, and you be silent? Shall ignorance grow darker, and you care not? Forbid it, every feeling of pity–tenderness–humanity–compassion. Forbid it, every thought of a soul’s boundless worth. Forbid it, all the unutterable wonders wrapped in the name, eternity. Forbid it, every pious wish to snatch immortals from undying woe–and to upraise them to undying bliss. Forbid it, all your love to Jesus’ glorious name–all your deep debt to His atoning blood–all your delight in His appeasing cross. Forbid it, all your hope to see His face in peace–and sit beside Him on His throne–and ever bask in heaven’s unclouded sunshine. Forbid it, your deliverance from hell–your title-deeds to heaven. Forbid it, your constant prayer, “Hallowed be Your name–Your kingdom come–Your will be done.” Forbid it, your allegiance to His rule–the statutes of His kingdom–the livery, which you wear. Forbid it, His awakening example–His solemn and most positive command. Forbid it, every motive swelling in a Christian heart.

    Up, then, and act. Soul-death meets you at each turn. The world in its vast wideness perishes untaught. The spacious fields are neither tilled nor sown. The many millions are heathen–and therefore rushing hell-ward. Help, then, the missionary cause. You may–you can–you should. The need is for men–for means. Can you go forth? Let conscience answer. If not, you yet can pray, and give. Write shame–write base ingratitude–write treason to Christ’s cause on every day, which sees no effort from you for the heathen world.

    Read not in vain how Zebulun and Issachar subserved this cause. They called the people to the mountain. They strove to increase the sacrifices of righteousness.

    The blessing adds, “They benefit from the riches of the sea and the hidden treasures of the sand.” God will enrich them. Their traffic shall collect plenteous store. They trade for their God, and their trade shall be full wealth. Who ever lost, who worked for Him!

    Remember, that all gain is gainless, if unconsecrated. The worldling’s bags have holes–his barns soon empty–his coffers have no locks. Treasure laid out for God is laid up in safe keeping.

    Believer, come then, restore to God what He entrusts to you. It will be paid back. But with what interest? God only knows. And on what day? When the returning Lord shall reckon–when the applauding voice shall say, “Well done, good and faithful servant–enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matt. 25:21. But now you may have happy foretaste.

    Will any put these humble lines aside, without much inward search? Let it not be so. Let every heart enquire, Lord, am I Yours? Is my inheritance among Your chosen flock? Do I lie down in their fair pastures? Do I draw water from their wells of life? Am I Your Zebulun–Your Issachar? Is my life a clear testimony, that I serve Christ? Do I show, that I am alive by many infallible proofs? Acts. 1:3.

    If not, oh! let the prayer be heard, ‘Lord, make me Yours, and keep me Yours forever. If other lords have held me in their chains, may the vile bondage cease. Accept me, worthless as I am. “Draw me–we will run after You.” Fit me–enable me–and my whole life shall be delighted service. Supply me with the oil of grace, and then the flame of glowing toil shall blaze. A Zebulun and Issachar in privilege will always be a Zebulun and Issachar in zeal.



    Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 19 – Be Not Borderers

    By Horatius Bonar

    “Go in and possess the land.” — Deuteronomy 10:2

          ISRAEL passed through many changes in their history; but here we have its termination,–the possession of the land. They were bondsmen, wanderers, outsiders, borderers; but they were not to remain such; they were to possess the land. Here their earthly history, which began with Abraham, ends. Let us learn from this something as to ourselves and our history.

          I. We are not to be without a land. We are to have a country and a city. When in the world, we have these in a certain way, but they are all carnal, they pass from us and we from them. The world’s cities and possessions will not do for us. They cannot fill us, nor satisfy us, nor abide with us. Hence, even when in the world, we are truly strangers; landless, cityless, homeless. And after we have come out from the world we are strangers, though not as before; for a land, a city, a home have been secured to us. Sinners, God offers you the better Canaan!

          II. We are not to be dwellers in Egypt. The house of bondage is not for us. Pharaoh cannot be our king. We must, like Moses, refuse to be called the sons of Pharaoh’s daughter. We must go out, not fearing the wrath of the king; counting the reproach of Christ greater riches than Egypt’s treasures.

          III. We are not to be dwellers in a barren land. The wilderness may do for a day, but not for a permanent abode. Ishmael may have the desert, Israel must have the good land,–the land flowing with milk and honey.

          We are not to be borderers. To be out of Egypt is one step, to come up to the borders of Canaan is another; but that is not to be all. We are not outsiders, never crossing the boundary; nor borderers, belonging to neither region, ever crossing and recrossing the line, as if we had no wish to stay or no portion in the land. The border lands are not for the church, nor for any one calling himself a Christian, an Israelite indeed.

          We are to go in and possess. Out of Egypt, out of the wilderness, across the borders, into the very heart of the land,–Judah’s hills, Ephraim’s vales, Issachar’s plains, Manasseh’s pastures, Naphtali’s lakes, and Zebulun’s fertile reaches. We go in and take possession, leaving all other lands and regions behind. It is the God-chosen, God-given land. Let us enter on it. It is rich, goodly, well watered, let us possess it. Not merely let us survey it, or pitch our tents in it, but build our habitations there, to dwell in it forever.

          What I gather specially from our text is, that we are not to be borderers; not merely not Egyptians, nor Ishmaelites, but not borderers. The place to which God invites us is the land, the kingdom, the city. Just now, of course, it is but the promise, for the kingdom has not yet come. But I speak of the promise as if it were the thing itself, for the promise is God’s, not man’s.

          There are many borderers in our day; half and half Christians; afraid of being too decidedly or intensely religious. They are not Egyptians, they are not perhaps quite outsiders, for they occasionally seem to cross the line and take a look of the land from some of its southern hills. But they are borderers. They have not boldly taken up their abode in the land; they have not entered in nor possessed it. They are vacillators, worshippers of two Gods, trying to secure two kingdoms and to lay up two kinds of treasures. Let me speak of and to these. Why should you be borderers?

          I. It is sin. It is not your misfortune merely, it is your guilt. That halfheartedness and indecision is about the most sinful condition you can be in. Borderer, you are a sinner; a sinner because a borderer!

          II. It is misery. You cannot be happy in that half-and-half state. You don’t know what you are, nor whose you are, nor whither you are going. You are sure of nothing good; only of evil. Were you dying in that state,–were you cut off on the borders, you are lost; and does not that thought make you truly wretched?

     III. It is danger. You think perhaps that because you have gone a little way that all is well; or at least that you are out of danger. No. The danger is as great as ever. Were you to die on the borders,–only almost a Christian, –you are as sure of hell as if you had died in Egypt.

          It is abomination to God. It is an insult to him. It says that you do not care for him or his goodly land. That half- heartedness is abominable to God. It is like Laodicea, or perhaps worse. Borderer, beware of thus provoking and insulting God.

          It is loss to yourself. Even just now, how much you lose. You might be so happy! If decided and sure, you might have such peace! And then the prospect of such a land! What a loss! Yes, your own interests as well as God’s honour demand decision. It is such a goodly, glorious land! It is so foolish, and so cowardly to hold back. Oh decide. Be a borderer no more. Enter in and possess the land at once!


  6. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

    By Bible Names of God

          “Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah,…hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seals thereof.” Revelation 5:5

          The dying prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled in Jesus: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between His feet until Shiloh come.” (Genesis 49:10.) Judah had no conception that nearly three thousand years would pass before his prophecy would or could be fulfilled, or that its fulfillment would involve the glorified Son of God. The characteristics of a lion are manifest in the life and work of the Messiah. He will arrest every opposing force of Satan and establish His universal kingdom. Glory be to God, we will be with Him and like Him in the final overthrow of Satan’s kingdom.

          Lord, help us to be like Thee now. Help us to wear the armor of warriors and carry the Sword of the Spirit. Amen.

  7. God’s Time Or Never

    By Lewis Williams

          A third point that is kindred to the text. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided ten of the tribes seceding and establishing a separate form of government. They were afterwards spoken of as the kingdom, or kings, of Israel. The remaining tribes, under the old reign, were spoken of as the kingdom, or kings, of Judah, and Hezekiah at the age of twenty-five, came to that throne. Judah was in a bad condition. The kingdom was rife with idolatrous worship and sinfulness. Groves had been planted, and statues or images erected in them, and the people were bowing down to them, and in our first Scripture lesson we read that they were burning incense to the brazen serpent that Moses had made.

          Turning to the Book of Revelation, when John was having that wonderful vision in Heaven, he saw the four and twenty elders worshipping before the Lamb, “having everyone of them harps and golden vials full of incense (margin) which is the prayers of the saints;” and again, “another angel came and stood at the altar having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar which was before the Throne.

          Burning incense in the Old Testament symbolizes prayer in the New Testament, so that while the children of Judah were burning incense to that brazen serpent, in our day it would mean they were praying to it.

          Now, to understand thoroughly what it means, it will be necessary for us to go back into the history of the people called the children of Israel and examine a part of God’s dealings with them. They were in slavery in Egypt under that government controlled by Pharaoh. God heard their sighing and crying and sent a deliverer in the person of Moses. Their captivity is a symbol of the bondage of sin. Pharaoh is a symbol of the devil; while Moses is symbolical of Christ. They were bidden to kill a lamb and put its blood upon the doorposts and across the top of the door, and at midnight a destroying angel, passing through the land, would pass by wherever he saw the blood. That lamb typified Christ and His blood.

          The night they turned from Egypt is symbolical of a sinner turning from his sins. When they passed through the sea, and the Egyptians, essaying to follow and recapture them, were drowned in the sea, that is symbolical of the first work of grace, when a sinner is regenerated and the chains of his old life and habits are broken. For our scriptural proof of this, turn with us to Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth and the tenth chapter: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” These verses are positive proof that that translation was symbolical of the first work of grace. The sinner does not care for spiritual food, neither does he drink spiritual drink. Paul distinctly says, “That Rock that followed them was Christ.”

          They marched on through the land of the wilderness and in a short time came to Kadesh-barnea, a tract of land lying between the wilderness and the land of Canaan, the land of promise. Now, we wish you to see and understand that they had the promise of this land before they left Egypt. That was to be their goal. They were not to be brought out of Egypt and left to get along the best they could, but they were to go on up to the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey where the mountains dripped down dew. They would not be compelled to plant their vineyards, build their houses, nor dig their wells; that was all to be in readiness for them. Canaan symbolizes the sanctified life.

    They were told to go on over and possess the land, but some of the principal men suggested to Moses that spies be sent over first to view the land and bring back a report. God did not tell them at first to do that, but He allowed them to do so. Carnality is the same old treacherous thing wherever you find it; we begin a meeting and some folks get light on their experience and see greater things for them ahead, and then, instead of pressing right on into the land, wait to see what others do, or wait until some one else tries it. Some of you, who read these lines, would have been down at the altar before this had you walked up to all the light that has come to you; but no, you are waiting to have some one else go first and spy out the land. Some may go ahead, but bring back a report that will cause you to not go at all and damn your soul. Brother, listen, you had better obey God and do as the blessed Holy Spirit has been trying to lead you to do.

          They chose out twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, and they spent forty days in spying out the land. When they returned, they had a most wonderful story to tell. It was a wonderful country flowing with milk and honey, and they brought back large clusters of the grapes and other fruit that grew in the land; and one of their number, Caleb, “stilled the people before Moses and said, Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Joshua also stood with Caleb. But the ten said, “We be not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” They had their eyes on the giants that were in the land, and the high walls that were about its cities, and said, “We cannot take it.”

          They acted and talked just like a lot of folks do today. Everybody is agreed that the experience of entire sanctification, or heart purity, of which the land of Canaan was typical, is a beautiful life, and one that should greatly be desired, but there are many reports that “it is impossible for anyone to obtain such an experience;” “no person could keep it even if he did get it, not while he lived in this life”. “No person could live without committing sin,” and a lot more of such stuff that we have not time to mention.

          Are you a professing Christian? If so, what kind of a report have you brought back to those about you? We wonder what your daily life is saying to them regarding God’s great salvation?

          But there were two men among that number who believed and trusted in God. Dear old Caleb and Joshua remembered that awful bondage they were in down in Egypt; they remembered that awful night they left, with the Egyptians begging them to depart. They would not forget how God had so wondrously saved them out of the hands of the enemy at the crossing of the sea; how He had given them water to drink and manna to eat along the journey. And they had faith that the same God could and would give them the victory over all who opposed their entrance into the promised land; and they urged the people to go over at once. But, alas, the majority ruled, and public opinion was warped and made to see the dark side, and the people “murmured in their tents.” The account reads, “And the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God we had died in the land of Egypt; or died in the wilderness; and they said to each other, Let us make unto ourselves captains and return into Egypt. And God spake to Moses, and said, I have heard their murmurings, and as I live they shall not possess the goodly land, but as they spent forty days spying out the land, so shall they spend forty years wandering about in the wilderness.” Moses told them what God had said; then they arose up and said, “We will go in and possess the land,” but Moses said, “No, don’t go now, for God is not with you.” Nevertheless, they arose up and endeavored to go into the land, but the Canaanites beat them back and many of them were slain.

          Friends, there is a tremendous truth taught here, and I want you to take notice of it, for it may determine your eternal welfare. You cannot get sanctified just whenever you choose. You will seek for and obtain the experience when under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and when He is throwing light across your pathway, or you will never obtain it. If you suppose you can trifle along with God’s Spirit, and refuse to enter into the experience when He is endeavoring to lead you, and then afterwards go in at your pleasure, you are greatly mistaken. You will enter at God’s time or you will never enter at all, and will come down to your death-bed and, without God, die in the dark.

          Just a few days ago we learned of the death of one to whom we had preached several years ago. Under the light that God flashed upon her pathway, she came to the altar, but found she had an idol in her heart which she could not give up. After dealing with her for some time, we felt that such was the case, and arising from our knees said, “Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone.” We did not know at that time what her idol was, but recently conducting another meeting in the same city, a friend, who had knelt by her in the former meeting, related to us the circumstances, as follow:

          “When you were here several years ago, one night after the sermon the altar was filled with seekers. Among them was a young woman some twenty-five years of age. She was married and the mother of two beautiful children, a member of the church and teacher in the Sunday School. She was of a good family, her father being a minister. We were close friends, and when she went to the altar I knelt by her side. During the latter part of the altar service, you came and spent considerable time in trying to get her to give up to God and pray. She would not do so, and finally, arising to your feet, you pointed your finger at her, saying, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone.’ It made her indignant, and arising to her feet, she said to me, ‘Let’s get away from here.’

          On our way home, she talked about you, saying some harsh things, and finally said, ‘I never expect to give up my idol.’ I did not know at that time what her idol was, but during the following year I discovered her secret. She had made a trip to the coast to see her father and mother, and had met a young man with whom she became infatuated. He followed her to this town, and unknown to her husband, who was here in business, she met him often. After I learned of her love for him, I remonstrated with her, but she called me a holiness crank. She was beautiful and brilliant. I found out later on, that other young men called upon her; and yet during the entire time she kept up a profession of religion and taught the class in Sunday School. She did not like to have me go near her and treated me very coldly.

          “Finally, unknown to her husband, she was to become a mother. She tried to thwart it, and did what caused her death. She sent for me and, lying on her bed, begged and begged me to pray for her. I called in a number of true women of God, and we prayed and prayed while she moaned and begged God to have mercy on her. I told the doctor my suspicions, and after he had examined her, he told me I was correct and that she would die. Her husband did not know the truth and I never told him. When he was told that she would die, he cried bitterly and nearly went crazy with grief. She was nearly two days dying and suffered more than tongue can tell, all the time begging God for mercy. I never saw such a death, and I pray God I may never witness another like it. God gave her an opportunity, and, under your searching sermon, the Holy Spirit drew her to the altar, but she would not surrender her idol, and when you said, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone,’ she decided then and there; and her decision that night damned her soul.”

          My friends, God will not be mocked! At a tremendous cost, He planned the Atonement for your deliverance from all sin; and when the Holy Spirit comes to you and tries to lead you into this blessed experience, of which Canaan was typical, you will go in then, or you will lose your soul.

  8. Manasseh Pridefully Rebelling against the Lord

    By Bob Hoekstra

          Manasseh . . . did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel . . . And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them . . . the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 10-11)
    Manasseh was another king who walked in prideful rebellion against the Lord. “He did evil in the sight of the LORD.” His pride was even more shocking than Nebuchadnezzar’s (who ruled in Babylon), since Manasseh ruled in Jerusalem and had been raised by a godly father, King Hezekiah.

          Manasseh was heavily influenced by the remaining presence of the godless nations that dominated the land before God gave it to Israel. His evil was “according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.” The spiritual behavior of these Canaanite nations was abominable in God’s sight. They indulged in licentious worship of idols on the hills and mountains. Manasseh “rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them” (2 Chronicles 33:3). Manasseh also brought idolatry into the very Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. “He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, ‘In Jerusalem shall My name be forever’ ” (2 Chronicles 33:4).

          The nations that preceded Israel in the land were even engaged in sacrificing their children and seeking demonic guidance. Shockingly, Manasseh also “caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists” (2 Chronicles 33:6). Actually, Manasseh brought more evil into the land than his abominable predecessors. “So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 33:9). Lovingly, the Lord reached out to this pridefully rebellious king. “And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.” The ultimate result of this persistent resistance was humiliating and painful captivity. “Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.”

          Heavenly Father, please guard me from the seductive influence of this godless world. I am already too familiar with the bondage that worldly indulgence brings. Please nurture to fullness every godly seed ever planted in my life, for Your glory, Amen.

    Manasseh Humbling Himself before the Lord
    By Bob Hoekstra

          Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
    Manasseh’s prideful rebellion against the Lord was astoundingly extensive. He was deeply engaged in abominable practices. He “caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists” (2 Chronicles 33:6). Nevertheless, when he humbled himself before the Lord, God poured out grace upon him.

          In the place of humility, phenomenal spiritual recovery can be experienced. The abominations that Manasseh perpetrated would seem to leave him no path for restoration. Yet, the scriptures are replete with declarations and testimonies of God’s gracious response to those who humbly cry out to Him. The Lord invites such entreaties in the midst of great need. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). Even when the trouble would be captivity that resulted from rebellion, the Lord promised to hear and to deliver. “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:12-14).

          This is the gracious heart of our God toward genuine humility. No wonder that the Lord would pour out grace even upon a prideful rebel like Manasseh. “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom.” This was no casual entreaty. In the midst of his shameful agonies, he was overtaken with humility. He begged the Lord to rescue him. The Lord restored him. The wonderful result of this gracious work of God was the spiritual reality it planted in the heart of this former rebel. “Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.”

          O gracious Lord, I am so encouraged to see Your heart toward true humility. Too often, I have thought that I was beyond Your work of recovery in my life. Lord, there are areas in my life that need Your restoring touch. I humble myself before You now, entreating You to pour out Your grace in new measure and new power, Amen.

  9. Left Behind

    By George Matheson

          “Thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi…The Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.” (Num. 1:49,53).

          Here was apparently a neglected set of men–a class overlooked in the enrolment of the people. They were to be uncounted, discounted. A spectator would have said they were a specimen of those unfit for survival. In all the work of the nation they had neither part nor lot. We read, in the parable, of the Levite passing by on the other side; but here the Levite seems to be passed by. He is left behind by the stream of the world’s activities; and, with the prophet, the beholder is disposed to say that his way is hid from the Lord and his judgment overlooked by his God.

          And yet the beholder would be wrong. These men have not been overlooked, have not been shunted from the race of life. If they are left behind by the stream it is because there is a special duty to do which can only be done by those who are left behind. That special duty is to wait and watch. The Levites are to “keep charge of the tabernacle”–to see that no harm comes to the ark and what it contains. It seems a poor service when contrasted with the work of the numbered. In reality it was the greatest service of all. If anything had befallen the tabernacle, Israel would have collapsed immediately. The loss of ten thousand of her soldiers would have been nothing to the putting-out of her altar fire; the one might have weakened her strength, but the other would have killed her hope.

          Thou who art unnumbered among the people, thou to whom there has been assigned no active work, there is a message here for thee. There is a service f or the unnumbered–for those who only stand and wait. There are Levites as well as priests in the temple of thy Father. There are those who have been laid aside from active duty–who have no district to visit in, no church to preach in, no mission to serve in. Through sickness, through poverty, through the requirement to attend on others, they have been retained indoors–their names are not enrolled. Weep not that thou art among these! Lament not that thy life has been lived behind the scenes! It is behind the scenes that all great things are born.


    By Bible Names of God

          Mala 3:3 And he shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

          What an appropriate title for our Lord! Moses called Him “The Leader;” Isaiah portrays Him as “The Sufferer,” the “Conqueror,” and the “Comforter;” Daniel proclaims Him as the “Prince,” but Malachi represents Him as the “Refiner and Purifier.” The very statement settles forever the fact of the need of all the sons of men. Nearly 2,000 years have passed since the Son of God died on the cross. Is the world better? Has human nature improved? No! Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree and when He has changed these vile bodies into the likeness of His own glorious body, then, and only then, we will be rid of the dross of sin forever. Hallelujah!

          Blessed Refiner and Purifier, we glorify Thy name. We trust Thee to hold us fast forever. Amen


  11. Abraham 9 – MELCHIZEDEC

    By F.B. Meyer

          “This Melchizedec, King of Salem, priest of the Most High God.” — Hebrews 7:1.

          Christ is here! The passage is fragrant with the ointment of His name. Our hands drop with myrrh, and our fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh, as we lay them upon the handles of this lock (Song of Solomon 6:5). Let us get aside from the busy rush of life, and think long, deep thoughts of Him who is the Alpha and Omega of Scripture, and of saintly hearts. And let us draw from the unsearchable depths of His nature, by the bucket of this mysterious record touching Melchizedec, the King of Salem.

          There is a sense in which Christ was made AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEC; but there is a deeper sense in which Melchizedec was made AFTER THE ORDER OF THE SON OF GOD. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Melchizedec was “made like unto the Son of God” (Hebrews 7:3). Christ is the Archetype of all; and from all eternity has had those qualities which have made Him so much to us. It would seem as if they could not stay to be manifested in the fullness of the ages; they chafed for expression. From of old His delights were with the sons of men. And so this mysterious royal priest was constituted — reigning in his peaceful city, amid the storm and wreckage of his times — that there might be given amongst men some premonition, some anticipation, of that glorious life which was already being lived in Heaven on man’s behalf, and which, in due course, would be manifested on our world, and at that very spot where Melchizedec lived his Christ-like life. Oh that we, too, might be priests after the order of Melchizedec in this respect, if in no other, that we are made as like as possible to the Son of God!


          The spiral column of smoke climbing up into the clear air, in the fragrant morn, and at the dewy eve, told that there was one heart at least which was true in its allegiance to the Most High God: and which bore up before Him the sins and sorrows of the clans that clustered near. He seems to have had that quick sympathy with the needs of his times which is the true mark of the priestly heart (Hebrews 4:15). And he had acquired thereby so great an influence over his neighbors that they spontaneously acknowledged the claims of his special and unique position. Man must have a priest. His nature shrinks from contact with the All Holy. What is there in common between vileness and purity, darkness and light, ignorance and the knowledge which needs no telling? And in all ages, men have selected from among their fellows one who should represent them to God, and God to them. It is a natural instinct. And it has been met in our glorious Lord, who, while He stands for us in the presence of God, face to face with uncreated Light, ever making intercessions, at the same time is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, succors us in our temptations, and has compassion on our ignorance. Why need we travel farther afield? Why imitate Micah in setting up for ourselves a priest whom human hands have made? (See Judges 17:10). Why permit any other to bear this sacred name, or to intrude on this holy office? None but Christ will satisfy or meet the requirements of God, or “become us” with unutterable needs (Hebrews 7:26).


          The priests of the house of Levi exercised their office after “the law of a carnal commandment” (Hebrews 7:16). They assumed it, not because of any inherent fitness, or because specially summoned to the work by the voice of heaven, but because they had sprung from the special sacerdotal tribe. The Priesthood of Christ, on the other hand, is God’s best gift to men — to thee, my reader, and to me; more necessary than spring flowers, or light, or air. Without it our souls would wander ever in a Sahara desert. “Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest” (Hebrews 5:5), but He was called of God to be a High Priest after the order of Melchizedec (ver.10). And such was the solemnity of His appointment, that it was ratified by “the word of the oath.” “The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec” (Hebrews 7:21-28). Here is “strong consolation” indeed. No unfaithfulness or ingratitude can change this priesthood. The eternal God will never run back from that word and oath. “Eternity” is written upon the High Priest’s brow: “for evermore” rings out, as He moves, from the chime of His golden bells: “an unchangeable Priesthood” is the law of His glorious being. Hallelujah! The heart may well sing, when, amid the fluctuation of earth’s change, it touches at length the primeval rock of God’s eternal purpose. He is “consecrated” Priest “for evermore.”


          Abraham was not yet circumcised. He was not a Jew, but a Gentile still. It was as the father of many nations that he stood and worshipped and received the benediction from Melchizedec’s saintly hands. Not thus was it with the priesthood of Aaron’s line. To share its benefit a man must needs become a Jew, submitting to the initial rite of Judaism. None but Jewish names shone in that breastplate. Only Jewish wants or sins were borne upon those consecrated lips. BUT CHRIST IS THE PRIEST OF MAN. He draws ALL MEN unto Himself. The one sufficient claim upon Him is that thou bear the nature which He has taken into irreversible union with His own — that thou art a sinner and a penitent pressed by conscious need. Then hast thou a right to Him, which cannot be disallowed. He is thy Priest — thine own; as if none other had claim on Him than thou. Tell Him all thy story, hiding nothing, extenuating, excusing nothing. All kindreds, and peoples, and nations, and tongues, converge in Him, and are welcome; and all their myriad needs are satisfactorily met.


          If ever there were a priesthood which held undisputed supremacy among the priesthoods of the world, it was that of Aaron’s line. It might not be as ancient as that which ministered at the shrines of Nineveh, or so learned as that which was exercised in the silent cloisters of Memphis and Thebes; but it had about it this unapproachable dignity — in that it had emanated, as a whole, from the Word of God. Yet even the Aaronic must yield obeisance to the Melchizedec Priesthood. And it did. For Levi was yet in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedec met him; and he paid tithes in Abraham, and knelt in token of submission, in the person of the patriarch, beneath the blessing of this greater than himself (Hebrews 7:4-10). Why then need we concern ourselves with the stars, when the sun has arisen upon us? What have we to do with any other than with this mighty Mediator, this Daysman, who towers aloft above all rivals; Himself sacrifice and Priest, who has offered a solitary sacrifice, and fulfils a unique ministry!


          We need not suppose that this mystic being had literally no father, or mother, beginning of days, or end of life. The fact on which the inspired writer fixes is — that no information is afforded us on any of these points. There is an intention in the golden silence, as well as in the golden speech of Scripture. And these details were doubtless shrouded in obscurity, that there might be a still clearer approximation of the type to the glory of the Antitype, who abides continually. He is the Ancient of Days; the King of the Ages; the I AM. The Sun of His Being, like His Priesthood, knows nought of dawn, or decline from meridian zenith, or descent in the western sky. “He is made after the power of an endless life.” “He ever liveth to make intercession.” If, in the vision of Patmos, the hair of His head was white as snow, it was not the white of decay, but of incandescent fire. “He continueth ever, and hath an unchangeable priesthood.” “He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” He does for us now what He did for the world’s grey fathers, and what He will do for the last sinner who shall claim His aid.


          “Melchizedec, King of Salem, priest.” Here again there is no analogy in the Levitical priesthood.

          The royal and priestly offices were carefully kept apart. Uzziah was struck with the which brand of leprosy when he tried to unite them. But how marvelously they blended in the earthly life of Jesus! As Priest, He pitied, and helped, and fed men: as King, He ruled the waves. As Priest, He uttered His sublime intercessory prayer: as King, He spoke the “I will” of royal prerogative. As Priest, He touched the ear of Malchus: as the disowned King, to whom even Caesar was preferred, He was hounded to the death. As Priest, He pleaded for His murderers, and spake of Paradise to the dying thief: whilst His Kingship was attested by the proclamation affixed to His cross. As Priest, He breathed peace on His disciples: as King, He ascended to sit down upon His throne.

          He was FIRST “King of Righteousness,” and after that also King of Salem, which is King of Peace (Hebrews 7:2). Mark the order. Not first Peace at any price, or at the cost of Righteousness, but Righteousness first — the righteousness of His personal character; the righteous meeting, on our behalf, of the just demands of a Divine and holy law. And then founded on, and arising from, this solid and indestructible basis, there sprang the Temple of Peace, in which the souls of men may shelter from the shocks of time. “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet restingplaces” (Isaiah 32:17-18).

          Ah, souls, what is your attitude towards Him? There be plenty who are willing enough to have Him as Priest, who refuse to accept Him as King. But it will not do. He must be King, or He will not be Priest. And He must be King in this order, first making thee right, then giving thee His peace that passeth all understanding. Waste not precious time in paltering, or arguing with Him; accept the situation as it is, and let thy heart be the Salem, the city of Peace, where He, the Priest-King, shall reign for ever. And none is so fit to rule as He who stooped to die. “In the midst of the throne stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Exactly! The throne is the befitting place for the Man who loved us to the death.


          “The patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils” (Hebrews 7:4 RV). This ancient custom shames us Christians. The patriarch gave more to the representative of Christ than many of us give to Christ Himself. Come, if you have never done so before, resolve to give your Lord a tithe of your time, your income, your all. “Bring all the tithes into His storehouse.” Nay, thou glorious One, we will not rest content with this; take all, for all is Thine. “Thine is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the Kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as King above all. Now, therefore, we thank Thee and praise Thy glorious name.”

  12. tentsofissachar

    What should we learn from the tribe of Issachar?

  13. tentsofissachar

    The Issachar Anointing

    “And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command.”
    – 1 Chronicles 12:32 NAS
    Throughout the history of ancient Israel, the tribe of Issachar is portrayed as a family that was destined to prosper both physically and spiritually. The ancient Rabbis taught that the sons of Issachar were not only “mighty men of valor” (1 Chron. 7:1-5), but hey were also called to serve the other tribes in the areas of finance and the ministry of God’s Torah.
    Financial Servanthood

    Issachar’s allotment of the Promised Land primarily consisted of the valley of Jezreel. This was the richest farm land in all Israel, which also had access to the Mediterranean Sea. Consequently, the sons of Issachar “drew out the abundance of the sea and the hidden treasures of the sand” (Deut. 33:18-19).
    In their abundance, God called them to provided food to the whole of Israel as an “indentured servant” to their brethren among the other tribes (Gen. 19:14-15). The sons of Issachar would be similar to those living in the “bread basket” of America who provide food to the U.S. and the world.
    Spiritual Servanthood

    Issachar’s spiritual prosperity was also evident among Israel. They were one of six tribes to stand on Mount Gerizim as part of the sacred blessing ceremony (Deut. 27:12). According to the Targum, they “excelled in the words of the law, and were endued with wisdom, and were obedient to their command.” Their knowledge of God’s word caused them to become the primary cultivators of Israel’s spiritual treasures, and their counsel and interpretations of Scripture were received as athoritative.
    Understanding the Times

    According to the Targum, the sons of Issachar were also biblical astronomers and astrologers who kept track of the times and the seasons:
    “and the sons of Issachar, who had understanding to know the times, and were skilled in fixing the beginnings of years, the commencement of months, and the intercalation of months and years; skillful in the changes of the moon, and in fixing the lunar solemnities to their proper times; skillful also in the doctrine of the solar periods; astrologers in signs and stars, that they might show Israel what to do.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Biblesoft Electronic Database).
    Their knowledge of the Torah and their understanding of the times made them keepers of the biblical calendar. Consequently, they were the ones who made known the appointed times and seasons of when Israel should observe the feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23). Since the Lord’s Feasts reveal God’s plan and timing of His redemption in Messiah, I believe it is clear that the sons of Issachar had an anointing which gave them a unique insight into God’s timing of things past, present and future.
    For example, during Israel’s first civil war, when God was transferring the kingdom of Israel from Saul’s rulership over to David, eleven of the twelve tribes were divided amongst themselves as to whom they would serve. Only the sons of Issachar, were united to the point that “all their kinsman” joined to fight with David (1 Chron. 12:23-32).
    The sons of Issachar were able to totally commit themselves to David, because they understood that it was the time for God to fulfill His prophetic word given by Samuel 17 years earlier (1 Sam. 15:28). The Lord granted them an anointing to understand the prophetic timing for when He would tear the kingdom of Israel away from rebellious Saul and give it over to his servant David (1 Sam. 15:22-28).
    With this anointing to understanding the times, they instinctively knew what to do, and they moved with God to establish David’s kingdom. In a sense, they were forerunners of a renewed kingdom that was built on obedience to God instead of rebellion and sin. This brought them honor and prosperity according to earlier prophecies given by both Jacob and Moses (Gen. 49:14-15; Deut. 33:18-19).
    The End-Time Sons of Issachar

    As we approach the end of the age and the difficult times associated with it, the New Covenant church must become more and more like the sons of Issachar in its ability to understand the times and know what to do. We must learn how to draw on God’s prophetic word to guide us through the chaos of the last days in preparation for His return (2 Pet. 1:19).


    John H. Paterson

    “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?
    I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green
    fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.” Hosea 14:8

    THE history of the Children of Israel forms one of the principal themes of the Old Testament. It is the theme of God’s dealings with a chosen group of men and women, through whom He wished to make Himself known to the rest of mankind.

    That being the case, have you ever wondered why the Bible dwells at such length upon the fact that, although there was only one people of Israel, there were twelve tribes? About some of these tribes — Judah, for example — we know a great deal, but of others very little. For all twelve of them we have a most detailed listing of their borders, their territory and their cities. We also know — though what to make of it would be hard to say! — that two and a half tribes decided not to enter the land of promise, but to settle east of the River Jordan. Nothing in their subsequent history shows them to have suffered by this decision, in which case we are left to wonder about their choice.

    That the tribes were different from one another early emerges from the story. The point is made by Jacob’s thumbnail sketches of his twelve sons in Genesis 49. The successive censuses of the people (e.g. Numbers 2 and 26) show that some tribes became much more numerous than others as time went by, and we can read of the rivalries and conflicts between them which help to explain some of these differences (e.g. Judges 20:35). We know of the special priestly role to which the tribe of Levi was called. And we know that the birthright due to Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben (“unstable as water, thou shalt not excel”, Genesis 49:4), was forfeited and transferred to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

    What all this suggests is that, if we can but trace them, we have here twelve histories rather than just one. To pick out these histories in some cases may well prove difficult, for we know so little of the tribe concerned. But it is my guess that, if we could do so, we should be led to the conclusion that the twelve tribes were intended by God to portray through their experiences different aspects of His work and character in human lives. Together, the twelve would then make up a united testimony that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

    Some of the tribes never really began to fulfil this role; their testimony never “got off the ground”. In one or two cases we can see, I believe, what the lesson was supposed to be, and we can also see where the tribe failed. If any reader can do this for all twelve tribes, then I hope that the editor will afford him or her space in these pages for an appropriate series of articles! For myself, I am taking the easy course of dealing here with only one tribe, the one which seems to me most clearly to exemplify the ideas I have so far suggested. That is the tribe of Ephraim.

    The History of Ephraim

    Let me start by recalling to you some incidents from the tribe’s history in the land of promise, incidents which seem to fit a pattern. In the first place, we find the tribe complaining to Joshua (who was, of course, an Ephraimite himself), that he had not allocated them a large enough territory for a tribe of their size and importance (Joshua 17:14-18). But Joshua knew how to handle his relatives. He said to them, in effect, “Certainly: take all the space you want! All you have to do is to drive out the people in your way!” [110/111] But the natives had chariots of iron, and Ephraim complained that this made the task too difficult; in fact, they never did drive out those inhabitants. The implication was that it was up to Joshua to send along someone to help them: they were a great tribe, but not that great! “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (Psalm 78:9).

    Then there are two incidents in Judges, both of which reveal a common character trait. When Gideon had defeated the Midianites, he sent word to the tribe of Ephraim to block the fords of Jordan and cut off the enemy’s retreat. This they did, apparently very effectively; it was a manoeuvre of which any general might be proud (Judges 7:24-25), but notice the reaction of Ephraim: “Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest out to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide him sharply” (Judges 8:1). To be used just to block a retreat, rather than to be first-choice troops to fight the battle, was not good enough for Ephraim, the super-tribe!

    Almost unbelievably, they did the same thing again, a few years later. This time, the Israelite leader was Jephthah, but the treatment he received was even worse than that meted out to Gideon: “Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? We will burn thy house upon thee with fire” (Judges 12:1). But Jephthah did not take this lying down; he pointed out that before the event, when actual danger threatened, they had been deaf and blind to his need for help. It was only after he had won the victory that they came accusing him of acting without reference to them.

    We get the impression that, as a tribe, Ephraim was touchy in the extreme: status-conscious is a modern word which we might use. Nobody was supposed to do anything without giving Ephraim first refusal!

    In this respect, if there was one tribe more than another which worried proud Ephraim, it was Judah. The birthright of Reuben, as we are told in 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, might have been transferred to Joseph, Ephraim’s father, but “Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler” — the royal house. On this basis, any priority, any preeminence among the tribes of Israel that Ephraim might claim had to be shared with Judah. This so worried Ephraim that the prophet Isaiah, in that wonderful eleventh chapter which begins, “there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse” (a man of Judah!), can foresee no greater bliss, in that great and coming day, than that “the envy also of Ephraim shall depart … Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isaiah 11:13).

    The Role of Ephraim

    Now all of these characteristics are, you may feel, simply indicative of human weakness: we all know “me-too” people like Ephraim and, indeed, there is a bit of Ephraim in all of us. However, if we bear in mind God’s often-declared purpose that His people should represent Him and, by their quality, should testify to His power and greatness, then we are entitled to enquire a little further into this matter and ask: what was it that this tribe, in particular, might have been expected to exhibit in its character, and how does its actual conduct contrast with this intention?

    Well, Ephraim, far from being the super-tribe it evidently considered itself to be, was the tribe that had no right to be there at all. Ephraim was not one of the twelve sons of Jacob, but one of Jacob’s grandsons. Ephraim and Manasseh were just there to make up the numbers! Levi, as the priestly tribe, was not to be counted as one of the twelve, and Joseph was to be counted twice, because his descendants had become so numerous (Joshua 17:17).

    But this was only the last in a long series of events that brought Ephraim to a position of power — a sequence of divine choices which no human logic could justify. Consider: Ephraim was where he was because Jacob had blessed him ahead of his elder brother, Manasseh (Genesis 48:10-20). Ephraim’s father Joseph was where he was, the ruler of Egypt and holder of the family birthright, because he had been blessed ahead of all his brothers: God had made him “to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52), which was how and why Ephraim (– fruitful) had received his name. [111/112]

    But then we go on: Jacob was where he was because he had been preferred, in his turn, to his elder brother Esau (Genesis 25:23), and that quite independently of his own strenuous efforts at self-advancement. And Jacob’s father, Isaac, was where he was because he, in turn, had been preferred to his elder brother, Ishmael (Genesis 17:18-19).

    What an extraordinary series of events! Four times over, at least, God allowed the natural sequence to be overturned and, at the end of the sequence, there was Ephraim, the product of God’s successive interventions. Perhaps we can visualise a modern parallel of someone who joined a firm as an office-boy and then, without ever going near the office in question, was promoted to departmental head, to managing director and, a few days later, to chairman of the board!

    Now when we are thinking of God and His actions towards men and women we have a name for this kind of unmerited preferment that Ephraim received. We call it Sovereign Grace. Of the twelve tribes of Israel, Ephraim was the one which, more than all the others, ought to have been aware of God’s amazing grace, and lived in the light of it — of a four-times-over promotion, at the end of which the tribe enjoyed a status that, by nature, it could never for a moment claim.

    Here, then, was a tribe whose true destiny was, surely, to be a prime exemplar of God’s grace at work in human lives. If anybody could appreciate the meaning and extent of that grace it should have been Ephraim. But, as we have seen, the reverse was the case: touchy, status-conscious, this tribe saw an entitlement where it should have seen the gift of God’s grace.

    Grace is, I think, the hardest of God’s gifts for men and women to appreciate. Indeed, in the whole of the Scriptures, how many men — and, especially, women — can you think of who accepted it, humbly and immediately? Ruth and Mary the mother of Jesus would certainly head my list; after them perhaps Hannah; perhaps David in 2 Samuel 7. But the list cannot be much longer than that: for all the others, let alone for ourselves, the acceptance of grace caused, and causes, awful problems!

    Think of Joseph, Ephraim’s father, who when he was young, sounded exactly as his son was later to sound: “Behold, I have dreamed a dream … the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me” (Genesis 37:9). What a long and weary way Joseph had to go, through hatred, injustice and neglect, before he came to accept that “God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20)!

    Think, too, of Jacob, Ephraim’s grandfather who, before he learned the meaning of grace, had cheated and been cheated halfway across the Middle East. What travels and trials before the startling realisation came: “God hath dealt graciously with me and … I have enough” (Genesis 33:11)! It is a lesson which most of us will finally learn only in the glory of another Day — to be recipients of the grace of God and to recognise that we have nothing to do but to accept it. And the most difficult “status” of all to maintain is that of the recipient who says, “I have done nothing. I deserve nothing. I am where I am because of God’s grace and nothing else.”

    Ephraim and Israel

    Let me, if I may, add another dimension to this story of grace unappreciated. One has only to spend a few minutes with a concordance to realise that the name Ephraim is not used in the Bible for this one tribe alone. It is also frequently used to cover all those ten tribes which broke away from the rule of Judah’s royal house and formed the northern kingdom of Israel. This is probably true, for example, of the passage I have already quoted in Isaiah 11, and is certainly true of such other references as Isaiah 7:8 and 17. Most of all, however, it is true of the prophecies of Hosea.

    Now it is evident that this use of the name Ephraim to cover the whole kingdom of the ten tribes is a habit of particular prophets. But I want to suggest that it is also largely confined to passages, or prophetic messages, of a particular kind. If you read the words of Isaiah or Hosea, I think you will find that where the name Ephraim is used in this way, it is nearly always in relation to the love of God for Israel. It is a message to Israel of God’s love and grace and their failure to appreciate them; a message of endearment for the undeserving. [112/113]

    Families and friends commonly have what we call pet names for each other. They are used in private messages of love or friendship, but almost never when, say, a husband and wife are angry with one another, or when a parent is rebuking a child. A friend of mine told me that he always knew when his father was angry with him; ordinarily, he was known as “Glennie”, but if his father called out “Glenn”, he knew he was in for trouble!

    I hope that it is neither improper nor irreverent to suggest that “Ephraim” was, in a way, God’s pet name for His people. Simply by using it, He was identifying Himself as a God of love and grace, no matter how serious were the charges against Israel. And so we turn to the prophecies of Hosea, and read those remarkable phrases in which the pet name appears:

    O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?

    I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms.

    How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? …

    Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.

    I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man.

    The “Ephraim theme” of Hosea is a message of love betrayed. There is a note of incredulity in God’s words to His people, as when we say to someone who we thought was our friend, “I don’t understand: how could you do this to me?” If it were just a matter of sin, law and punishment, there would be no feeling, no emotion involved. It would be like a traffic warden writing out parking tickets for offenders, dispassionately, without emotion. But this time it is Ephraim that is the culprit: God’s special Ephraim. Of course He feels involved: He faces the dilemma of love betrayed:

    “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:20).

    What lesson is there for us in this brief Bible study? This, perhaps: firstly, that it is perilously easy to presume upon grace; to start out feeling grateful for a gift and, in no time at all, to convince ourselves that what at first looked like grace was, in reality, no more than our entitlement. Secondly, that there is a difference in quality between sin as a legal concept and sin as lack of appreciation: that is, between a relationship covered by law and a relationship created by grace. Ephraim was intended in God’s purpose to demonstrate how a relationship with Himself can be created by grace alone. Let their failure alert us to the perils of presuming upon that grace.

    “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).


    What should we learn from the tribe of Reuben?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Simeon?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Benjamin?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Joseph?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Judah?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Levi?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Gad?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Manasseh?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Ephraim?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Zebulun?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Asher?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Naphtali?

    What should we learn from the tribe of Dan?


    Read more:

  16. Thank You for this Swarna Jha . Clyde , healing in progress

    Clyde our God is Good. Nothing is impossible for our God.

    May God richly bless you, Clyde. Thank you for sharing this.


  18. 1 Chronicles 12:32 – The Men of Issachar

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