|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 17||Part 1|
Some Christian divines have asserted that the curses pronounced in Leviticus 26:42, relate to the destruction of the first temple, and are therefore accompanied by the consoling words, "And I shall remember the covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham I shall remember, and I shall remember the land." In the same light they view the passage, "And I shall remember unto them the first covenant that I brought them out of Egypt before the eyes of the Gentiles to be their God, I am the Lord." The Christians refer these topics to the remembrance of the second temple, and the redemption is said to allude to the captivity of Babel; but the subsequent curses contained in Deuteronomy 28 are referred to the demolition of the second temple, and hence are unaccompanied by consolatory words as Israel is to have no restoration from this exile.
Refutation.—Scripture does not authorize the supposition that the first-mentioned curses refer to the destruction of the first temple only; the warnings contained in Leviticus with regard to the first covenant, though materially and principally referring to the first temple in which the captivity commenced, include, also, the destruction of the second temple and the afflictions suffered by Israel in the present captivity. At the same time we perceive that the curses contained in Deuteronomy mention facts relating exclusively to the first destruction. Among the maledictions mentioned in Leviticus 26:31, we read, "And I shall destroy your sanctuaries," the latter word being in the plural must evidently be understood to include both the first and the second temple; nor can the word sanctuaries refer to palaces; since the passage in Leviticus goes on to say "And I shall not smell your sweet savours," therefore it naturally points to the sacrifices offered up in the sanctuaries. Thus also the curses contained in Deuteronomy 28:25, "The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies; thou shalt go out against them one way, and in seven ways thou shalt flee before them." This undoubtedly did not take place during the time of the second temple, for then the Jews prevailed, and the Romans suffered a total defeat, as is related by Joseph Ben Gurion. The Roman writers themselves acknowledge evidently this fact; the prophecy, however, was fulfilled during the time of the first temple (see Isaiah 22:3) "All thy rulers are fled together, they were bound by the archers; all that were found in thee were bound together, which fled from a distance." Moreover, if we say there are two captivities, we must also say there are two redemptions, viz., the first already effected at the building of the second temple, and the second expected at a future period; and what man of sense can believe that the redemption of the second temple was a complete redemption, since the Ten Tribes did not join in the return to Jerusalem? There were only 42,360 men of Judah and Benjamin, who availed themselves of the permission given by Cyrus, king of Persia, while the majority still remained in Babylon. Nor can it be said that those who had retuned to Jerusalem enjoyed full independence, for when settled there, they were tributary to the Medes and Persians, as is related in Nehemiah 9:36, "Behold, we are now servants, and the land which Thou hast given to our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and its goodly produce; behold, we are servants in it, and it yieldeth much increase to the kings who Thou hast set over us, because of our sins, and also they have dominion over our bodies," etc. Subsequently the cruelties experienced proceeded from the Greeks, and afterwards from the Romans. Though the Jews sometimes rebelled, and nominated their own kings, yet there was no ruler over them of the posterity of David, on whose house the scepter will devolve at the final restoration. The Asmoneans were of the tribe of Levi, and members of the priesthood; and they were succeeded by Herod and his descendants until the ruin of the second temple, as we have mentioned above.
The inferiority of the second temple may also be judged from the absence of the Ark, the Mercy-seat, the Cherubim, and the Urim, and the Thummin, and the Shechinah. The temple was deprived of the Shechinah (the manifestation of the divine presence); all the prophecies ceased, and the former miracles were no longer witnessed. Under these circumstances, how can it be asserted that Israel’s redemption was complete? We must rather acknowledge, that the Lord excited compassion in the heart of Israel’s conquerors, and awakened the mind of Cyrus to grant permission to the Jews to return to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple, to serve the Lord, and to be freed from their bondage.
We thus see that the evil consequences of the original captivity still subsisted, at the return from Babylon; though Herod, after committing great bloodshed among the sages and pious of Israel, built a splendid and magnificent temple, yet it is not a matter of doubt that Herod was all the time subjected to the Romans, and held his throne under their authority. All this tends to show that the captivity continued from the day of the destruction of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar until the present time. The apparent omission in Deuteronomy 28 of consolations and the like promises, as are held out in Leviticus at the close of the maledictions, can easily be explained, since in the former portion the words of the covenant are not completed; for immediately after the denunciations, Moses assembled the Israelites to establish the covenant with them while they were standing before the Lord; hence we read in Deuteronomy 29:11 [29:12], "That thou shouldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God and into his oath." Moses adds in this chapter the oaths of the covenant, in addition to what he impressed on them in the preceding chapter; then after laying before them the dread of the calamities, he subjoins the most emphatic consolation and promise of perfect redemption. See Deuteronomy 30:1, "And it shall come to pass when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord thy God has driven thee," (verse 2) "And shalt return unto the Lord thy God and shalt obey his voice, according to all I commanded thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart and with all thy soul," (verse 3) "That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God has scattered thee." (verse 4) "If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost part of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee." (verse 5) "And the Lord thy God will bring thee unto the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it, and He will do thee good and multiply thee above thy fathers." Verse 6, "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul that thou mayst live." Verse 7, "And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies and on them that hate thee which prevented thee." Verse 8, "And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all the commandments which I command thee this day." Verse 9, "And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thy hand, and in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers." Verse 10, "If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Hence, we see that this prediction is awaiting fulfillment, since the particulars contained in the above quotation did not, during the time of the first or second temple, take place. At the same time, we discover in the said passages every consolation that hope can suggest, for it points out at once both our restoration and the redemption of our souls: a redemption which is the truest deliverance from all troubles, and the boon and summit of all human aspirations. The promise with regard to our future state far surpasses the promise given in Leviticus, which alludes merely to our political restoration. There is certainly a distant allusion to the divine regard and consideration of the second temple; yet, as full liberty never shone upon those who went up, as we have clearly and incontestably shown, we must necessarily conclude, that the curses, as contained in Deuteronomy, will be succeeded by those superlative and extensive blessings which a future and universal restoration will produce for Israel.