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Entering into a covenant, Deut. xxix. 12. "That thou -houldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God." Eber was applied by the Hebrews to the passover, when
(they came out of Egypt, and accordingly the passover was instituted in Commemoration of the divine goodness, which passed over the first-born iu Egypt, and which pointed out the great and last sacrifice at the passover, when the Messiah came, who was to pardon and pass over iniquity, transgression and sin. This faith in the eternal sacrifice seems to have peculiarly characterized the church in the time of Eber; sacrifices by slaying of animals were obseved, as types of the coming of the Redeemer: and what is worthy of our notice, is, that the beasts and birds which were commanded to be offered, are said to be clean: "and Noah builded an altar unto the Lord and took of every clean beast and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar." Plainly meaning, that as clean beasts are used by the prophets to signify the pure affections, all believers in the ancient promise concerning the coming of Messiah, who obeyed the commands of God, should be purified in heart and life, and should finally enjoy eternal happiness, The descendants from Eber, the great-grandson of Shem, were called from him Hebrews; a name they have retained to this day. And thus at this period of the world, it shows their firm belief in the coming of Messiah, who was to pass over, and forgive all those who believed in him, and lived agreeably to his precepts.
The next in the order of primogeniture is Peleg. Pe
let; means to divide ; it is therefore said, in his days, the earth
was divided. Some have thought that this has relation
to the earth; that originally it was in one compact mass,
and that at this period of the world, it was divided by an
earthquake, as it is at present; but a supposition of this nature cannot be admitted, because it leaves ns to conclude, that the divine being could not foresee what should happen, and therefore that, when the time camehe found it necessary to make this division. But, leaving such suppositions to those, who can be satisfied with them, I shall give a more rational account of this transaction, more consistent with the understanding of the original writer of the sacred scriptures, which treat only concerning things appertaining to religion, and the future state of man.
By the earth, in scripture' language, is frequently meant the inhabitants, Gen. vi. 11. "The earth also was corrupt."—Ch. xi. 1. "And the whole earth was of one language."—Ch. xix. 31. "After the manner of all the earth."—1st Chron. xvi. 23. "Sing unto the Lord all the eart/j."—Psalm c. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands."—Deut. xxxii. 1. "Hear, O earth, the words of my mouth."—1st Kings, x. 24. "And all the earth sought Solomon." It is more consistent, therefore, with enlightened reason, and we have the authority of scripture to conclude, that some other division was meant by the sacred writer. It appears, however, that these names were given by the patriarchs to their descendants, to signify the states of these patriarchal churches; it is also as certain, that at this time a division was made among them; for a singular change took place in the first order of patriarchs, from Adam to Enoch, who are said to have lived 800 years after the birth of their successor. Thus,
Seth after the birth of Enos, . . . 807 years
Cainan after the birth of Mahalaleel, 840
Mahalaleel after the birth of Jarad, . 830
That this applies to the ecclesiastical department, or the church, as well as to the patriarchs, may be allowed, because it is said that Enoch walked with God three hundred years after the birth of Methuselah, before he was translated; which is sufficient to convince us, that a very considerable change took place in the church, in the time of righteous Enoch.
Thus it is said of the first five patriarchs, beginning with Seth, by whom the first visible church was manifested, that they lived upwards of 800 years after the birth of their first-born son, to the change which took place in the time of Enoch. The same is said of (he first five patriarchs of the second order from Noah, by whom the second visible church was manifested; they also lived upwards of 400 years only after the birth of their first-born son to the change, which took place at the time of Peleg. Noah was 500 years old at the birth of Shem, Ham, and Japhet, Gen. v. 32. but as it is expressly said that he lived 350 years after the flood, ch. ix. 29. and that his three sons were married when they went into the ark, they must have been 50 years old at the time of the flood, which authorizes us to state, that after the birth of his first-born son,
Noah lived, . . . . . . 400 years
Shem after the birth of Arphaxad, . 500 Arphaxad after the birth of Salah, . 403 Salah after the birth of Eber, . . 403 Eber after the birth of Peleg, . . 430 But that which confirms us in the opinion, that the division of the earth in the time of Peleg, was a division of the church, is, that from Peleg, to Serug, these patriarchs are said to have lived only half the time of the first five, that is, 200 years after the birth of their firstborn son. Thus,
Peleg lived after the birth of Reu, . . 209 years
Reu after the birth of Serug, . . . 207
Serug after the birth of Nahor, . . . 200
Now, if we consider that at this period, the Chaldean empire was extending its conquests over a great part of the east, that the love of dominion, when aided by power, will not suffer itself to- be controlled, it is no wonder that the Chaldean nation put an end to this ancient patriarchal monarchical form of government. We have scripture and history to prove, that this division, which took place in the time of Peleg, was a division of the kingly and the priestly offices, arising from a general apostasy from the true worship of God, which caused a division in the church; the greatest part, either from compulsion, or from the prevalence of example, adopted the polite worship of the Babylonians, the descendants of Ham. Thus the monarchical form of government, which from the time of Noah had been joined to the ecclesiastical, was now divided; but the priestly patriarchal form was still retained by Peleg, and by his descendants down to Serug. Such also is that which now exists in the patriarch of the Greek church at Constantinople, who is considered as a nominal head, but who has not any power as a temporal prince; or such as the pope, who is reduced to a similar situation.
Again it is said, that this second race of patriarchs to Serug, who were born after the flood, lived 30 years before the birth of their first-born son. Thus,
Arphaxad lived . . 36 years to Salah.
Salah 30 years to Eber.
Eber 34 years to Peleg.
Peleg 30 years to Reu.
Reu 32 years to Serug.
Serug 30 years to Nahor.
On the first reading, it appears strange that all these patriarchs should be nearly of the same age, at the birth of their first-born son, and deists have often brought this forward as an argument against the bible. But if we attend to the manners, customs, and usages of those ancient people, as mentioned in the sacred scriptures, we shall be satisfied, that it was consistent with the order which was established at that day.
It was a custom among the ancient Athenians, not to enter into the marriage state till they were thirty years of age; and since this custom was derived from the ancient Hebrews, every objection to the patriarchs being of the same age when they married must vanish. The number thirty seems to have been particularly attended to by these ancient people, for it appears that they were not allowed to officiate in the priestly office under thirty years of age. This we find to have been the custom in after-ages: Numb. iv. 3. ': From thirty years old and upward, even unto fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation." This custom was observed by Christ, when he began to preach. Matt. iii. 23. Neither does it appear that the patriarchs married more than once, and that was at the time when they entered into the ministry, which custom is observed in the Greek church to this day.
Reu succeeded Peleg. The meaning of the word flew, is to break, break off, or to break the long established order of things. From this we learn, that as this church departed more and more from the true worship of God, to the time of Nahor, who was an idolater; so we are authorized to conclude, that in the time of Reu, the long established order, which had existed from the time of Noah, was broken; and that many opinions were introduced^ inconsistent with the doctrine and practice of the