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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 43

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 43.—Of the Times of Moses and Joshua the Son of Nun, of the Judges, and Thereafter of the Kings, of Whom Saul Was the First, But David is to Be Regarded as the Chief, Both by the Oath and by Merit.

Jacob being dead, and Joseph also, during the remaining 144 years until they went out of the land of Egypt, that nation increased to an incredible degree, even although wasted by so great persecutions, that at one time the male children were murdered at their birth, because the wondering Egyptians were terrified at the too great increase of that people.  Then Moses, being stealthily kept from the murderers of the infants, was brought to the royal house, God preparing to do great things by him, and was nursed and adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh (that was the name of all the kings of Egypt), and became so great a man that he—yea, rather God, who had promised this to Abraham, by him—drew that nation, so wonderfully multiplied, out of the yoke of hardest and most grievous servitude it had borne there.  At first, indeed, he fled thence (we are told he fled into the land of Midian), because, in defending an Israelite, he had slain an Egyptian, and was afraid.  Afterward, being divinely commissioned in the power of the Spirit of God, he overcame the magi of Pharaoh who resisted him.  Then, when the Egyptians would not let God’s people go, ten memorable plagues were brought by Him upon them,—the water turned into blood, the frogs and lice, the flies, the death of the cattle, the boils, the hail, the locusts, the darkness, the death of the first-born.  At last the Egyptians were destroyed in the Red Sea while pursuing the Israelites, whom they had p. 336 let go when at length they were broken by so many great plagues.  The divided sea made a way for the Israelites who were departing, but, returning on itself, it overwhelmed their pursuers with its waves.  Then for forty years the people of God went through the desert, under the leadership of Moses, when the tabernacle of testimony was dedicated, in which God was worshipped by sacrifices prophetic of things to come, and that was after the law had been very terribly given in the mount, for its divinity was most plainly attested by wonderful signs and voices.  This took place soon after the exodus from Egypt, when the people had entered the desert, on the fiftieth day after the passover was celebrated by the offering up of a lamb, which is so completely a type of Christ, foretelling that through His sacrificial passion He should go from this world to the Father (for pascha in, the Hebrew tongue means transit), that when the new covenant was revealed, after Christ our passover was offered up, the Holy Spirit came from heaven on the fiftieth day; and He is called in the gospel the Finger of God, because He recalls to our remembrance the things done before by way of types, and because the tables of that law are said to have been written by the finger of God.

On the death of Moses, Joshua the son of Nun ruled the people, and led them into the land of promise, and divided it among them.  By these two wonderful leaders wars were also carried on most prosperously and wonderfully, God calling to witness that they had got these victories not so much on account of the merit of the Hebrew people as on account of the sins of the nations they subdued.  After these leaders there were judges, when the people were settled in the land of promise, so that, in the meantime, the first promise made to Abraham began to be fulfilled about the one nation, that is, the Hebrew, and about the land of Canaan; but not as yet the promise about all nations, and the whole wide world, for that was to be fulfilled, not by the observances of the old law, but by the advent of Christ in the flesh, and by the faith of the gospel.  And it was to prefigure this that it was not Moses, who received the law for the people on Mount Sinai, that led the people into the land of promise, but Joshua, whose name also was changed at God’s command, so that he was called Jesus.  But in the times of the judges prosperity alternated with adversity in war, according as the sins of the people and the mercy of God were displayed.

We come next to the times of the kings.  The first who reigned was Saul; and when he was rejected and laid low in battle, and his offspring rejected so that no kings should arise out of it, David succeeded to the kingdom, whose son Christ is chiefly called.  He was made a kind of starting-point and beginning of the advanced youth of God’s people, who had passed a kind of age of puberty from Abraham to this David.  And it is not in vain that the evangelist Matthew records the generations in such a way as to sum up this first period from Abraham to David in fourteen generations.  For from the age of puberty man begins to be capable of generation; therefore he starts the list of generations from Abraham, who also was made the father of many nations when he got his name changed.  So that previously this family of God’s people was in its childhood, from Noah to Abraham; and for that reason the first language was then learned, that is, the Hebrew.  For man begins to speak in childhood, the age succeeding infancy, which is so termed because then he cannot speak. 979   And that first age is quite drowned in oblivion, just as the first age of the human race was blotted out by the flood; for who is there that can remember his infancy?  Wherefore in this progress of the city of God, as the previous book contained that first age, so this one ought to contain the second and third ages, in which third age, as was shown by the heifer of three years old, the she-goat of three years old, and the ram of three years old, the yoke of the law was imposed, and there appeared abundance of sins, and the beginning of the earthly kingdom arose, in which there were not lacking spiritual men, of whom the turtledove and pigeon represented the mystery.


Footnotes

336:979

Infans, from in, not, and fari, to speak.


Next: Book XVII

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