NOTES ON CHRONOLOGY.
Like every other truth. Bible chronology is so given that good and, honest men can take exception, and be in doubt, in many parts, as to its actual measurements. For instance, it is so clearly put, not in any one statement, but in a connected chain of statements, that from Adam to the end of the flood, to the very day the waters were dried up, was 1656 years; that no doubt can remain as to that measurement; and yet, there is a way to reckon the time so as to make it appear to be one year less, and to contradict all this connected chain of clear scripture statements. And so we find that almost every subject in the Bible is made obscure by such apparent contradiction. To tell why this is so, would be to tell why God chose to speak in "dark sayings and parables, that seeing they might see and not perceive." We suppose these things were so ordered, that Bible truth might be understood only as it became due; and that then, the circumstances and surroundings would be such that these obscure and apparently clashing statements might be made clear to the children of light, and yet remain dark to those who are without, and "unto whom it is not given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God."
From Adam to the begetting of Methuselah was 687 years, and the full age of Methuselah is given as 969 years, which, together, make 1656, the time from Adam to the end of the flood. And the flood was on the earth one year, lacking one month and seventeen days, and Noah remained in the ark two or three months more, before the ground was dry; and Methuselah, not being in the ark, must have died before or at the time the flood began.
Here is an apparent oversight, or contradiction. But there is light from other Scriptures by which this can be reconciled; for
we learn that when a man had entered on or commenced another year, that year may be counted as part of his age. And Methuselah could certainly have entered one month and seventeen days, into his nine hundred and sixty-ninth year; and as his full age was no part of the chronology, a greater degree of accuracy than is customary in the Bible in giving ages, was not demanded. Hence, there is no difficulty in reconciling this apparent discrepancy.
Note 2. — The next chronological difficulty of this character is in relation to the age of Terah, at the birth of Abraham, "And Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor and Haran" (Gen. 11: 26). Now there is absolute proof that Terah, Abraham's father, died before Abraham came into Canaan (Acts 7: 4). And there is also proof that Abraham came into Canaan when he was 75 years old (Gen. 12: 4-7); and yet Terah died at the age of 205 years. Therefore Abraham was not born until Terah was 130 years old. What then can be done with the statement of Gen. 11:26? I answer, Because Abram is named first does not prove that he was the first born, anymore than in the case of "Jacob and Esau," or "Ephraim and Manasseh." in both of which the younger is the first named. Nor does it follow, from the above text, that Terah begat all three sons at the same time; but merely that he was seventy when he begat the first born. A parallel may be found with Noah: "And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begat Shem, Ham and Japheth" (Gen. 5: 32). Noah was 502 when he begat Shem, for he was 600 to a day when the flood ended (see Gen. 8: 13); and two years after the flood Shem was 100 (Gen. 11: 10).
Note 3. —The next to which we call attention is that of the "sojourning of the children of Israel" (Exo. 12: 40). "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." It will be noticed that it does not say they sojourned in Egypt 430 years; but the sojourning of that people, who dwelt in Egypt, was that many years. "The children of Israel" means the same as "the house of Israel" "or the family of Israel," and the house or family of Israel clearly embraces the fathers as well as the sons; and the house of Israel, that is, the Israel in the flesh, as clearly embraced Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as it did Jacob, Reuben, and Judah. And the whole house of Israel, both fathers and children, is evidently the meaning here. And Abram commenced that sojourning, and even commenced it in Egypt [see Gen. 12: 10].
The text in Gen. 15: 13, "Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them, four hundred years," does not prove that they were afflicted all that time, any more than that they were in Egypt all that time. I admit that it might so appear from the rendering of this text. But there are other scriptures which forbid that view of it. The 400 years cover the time they dwelt in a land that was not theirs, and also the serving and the affliction. There is positive proof that they were in Egypt only 215 years, and that Joseph lived 80 years after he became governor, and that they did not afflict them until after the death of Joseph. Hence, the Egyptians did not
afflict them for quite 150 years, but the above explains it. They sojourned, served, and were afflicted, all together, 400, or including Abraham's sojourning, 430 years, before the deliverance from Egypt. If one can see only the letter, and not the real meaning in "the children of Israel," then I will refer to Paul. If Levi could pay tithes to Melchizedek, while in the loins of Abraham, then the children of Israel could sojourn, in his loins.
Note 4. —The next chronological difficulty to which I would call attention is found in 1 Kings, 6: 1, where the time from leaving Egypt to the fourth year of Solomon's reign is given as 480 years, while the chronology from the book of Judges makes it 580 years, a discrepancy of just one hundred years. After leaving Egypt, there was an unquestionable period of 40 years in the wilderness, and 6 more to the division of the land, making 46 years. Then, skipping the judges, there are 40 for Saul, 40 for David, and 4 for Solomon's reign, making 84 years, which, with the 46, are 130 years to be taken out of this 480, as mentioned in Kings. And 130 from 480 leaves only 350, as the time for the judges, instead of 450. Here is certainly a discrepancy of just one hundred years between the time as given in the Kings and the time as given in the Judges. Now, the question is. Which is right? The time as given in the Judges is in nineteen periods making a total of 450 [see page 72, bottom paragraph]. A mistake of 100 years among these nineteen short periods, would make sad havoc with the book of Judges; they would have to be shortened something over five years each, or a number of them struck out entirely, while admitting the single mistake of 480 for 580 in the Kings will set it right. Hence, even handed, between the statement in the Kings and that in the Judges, the evidence is altogether in favor of the time as given in the Judges being right. But we also have the testimony of Paul to support the time as given in the Judges. Three hundred and fifty is not "about the space of four hundred and fifty years" [see Acts 13: 20]
The chronology comes down from Adam, by the line through which Christ descended. And hence, through the line of the kings of Judah, as given in 1st and 2d Chronicles, which is an unbroken line. While the kings of Israel have no connection with chronology. They were a broken line, not of the lineage of David, beginning only in the days of Rehoboam, and full of interregnums, terminating long before the captivity of Jerusalem. It is true the reign of the kings of Judah are given in 1st and 2d Kings, but so blended with the broken and irregular line of the kings of Israel, that no reliable chronology can be made out from them. Hence, God saw fit to have the true chronological line recorded by itself in the Chronicles of the kings of Judah, where there is no irregularities, or breaks; while there are many positive chronological errors in the book of Kings, For instance, in 2 Kings 8: 26, it says, "Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign;" and in 2 Chron. 23: 2, "Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign;" and in 2 Kings 24: 8, "Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign;" and in 2 Chron. 36; 9, "Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign." Again, in 2
Kings 25: 8, "In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, . . . came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard. . , . into Jerusalem," while in Jer. 52: 12, it reads, "Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month,. .. came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, into Jerusalem."
I mention these things to show that the chronology of the books of Kings is not reliable: that it is at variance with Jeremiah, with the Chronicles of the kings of Judah, with the book of Judges, and with Paul. And hence, the statement of 1 Kings 6: 1, may mistake one figure, a four for a five, as easily as in 2 Kings 24: 8, eighteen should be given for eight.
Note 5. —The next point we will mention is in relation to the first year of Cyrus being B. C. 536. The only attack ever made on this is by a certain class of Adventists. And presuming this may fall into the hands of some of them, I will give a little space to answering this objection.
The fact that the first year of Cyrus was B. C. 536, is based on Ptolemy's canon, supported by the eclipses by which the dates of the "Grecian and Persian era have been regulated. And the accuracy of Ptolemy's canon is now accepted by all the scientific and literary world. Hence, from the days of Nebuchadnezzar to the Christian era, there is but one chronology.
The attack made on it by curtain expositors of Dan. 9: is, that as from the "going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the prince," was to be sixty-nine "weeks," or 483 years, therefore from the first year of Cyrus to Christ could be but 483 years. And this does indeed look plausible at first sight. Hence, notwithstanding, the facts of history, regulated by eclipses, prove the first year of Cyrus to be B. C. 536, yet if they clash with the prophecy, the Bible student would naturally give the preference to the prophecy. But here is where they stumble: "The commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem," did not go forth in the days of Cyrus. For though he made such a commandment, it was stopped and did not go into effect, nor was Jerusalem rebuilt, according to Ezra and Nehemiah, until some fifty or more years after Cyrus: And the going forth of the commandment, was its going into effect. Let me illustrate: Lincoln issued a proclamation during our late war, for the emancipation of the Negroes. That proclamation was written, and discussed, and for many weeks was retained in the cabinet of the President, but at last it went forth, backed by the armies of the United States. When did that commandment "go forth?" Not when he first prepared it, I answer, for it remained inert in his cabinet for a time. But it went forth when given to the army, and it began to go into effect. So the decree of Cyrus, although issued B. C. 536, did not go forth until the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, but lay concealed in the treasure house of the kings of Persia [see Ezra, 6: 1-3]. Hence, though from the time of the going forth of that commandment, unto Messiah the Prince, was seven weeks and three-score and two weeks," it does not prove that from the first year of Cyrus to the Messiah was only 483 years, and therefore does not weaken the chronology of Ptolemy's canon.
WHAT SHALL WE DO?
The reader is perhaps more than half convinced that these things are true; and that we are indeed at the end of the gospel age. And the question presents itself, What shall we do? Believe, I answer. Not without being convinced; but look carefully again at all the evidences, and if, after a full investigation, the arguments appear Scriptural, lay hold of, and believe them.
Holiness, or sanctification to God, is the result of faith. "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." And "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Under the gospel, "faith is counted for righteousness." In other words, faith is the tree, and good works is the fruit. A man will act in accordance with his faith; for instance: if a merchant, for good and sound reasons, believes that cotton goods will be worth fifty per cent. more next month than they are now worth, he will not be anxious to dispose of his stock at present prices, but rather to replenish it. While if he has satisfactory evidence that cotton goods will fall fifty per cent. next month, he will act in quite a different manner. And so faith brings forth fruit.
The opinion widely obtains, and is on the increase, that it matters little what you believe, so long as you are good; that a few of the first principles of the gospel, added to good works, is all that is necessary. And this is the stone over which men are to stumble. "Many shall say unto me, in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not done many wonderful things in thy name." They regret having done so little for Jesus yesterday, but promise great things to-morrow. It is certainly right to devote all to the cause of Christ, but be careful you do not exalt works instead of faith; and forget that it is faith, and only faith, which, under the gospel, is counted for righteousness. No matter how much you may do for Christ, he will ignore the whole of it, unless your faith is right; "without faith, it is impossible to please God." Not merely faith in some one or two features of the gospel, but faith in his word. It was faith which saved Noah; and his special work was the fruit of his special faith.
Good works may flow from a benevolent heart, entirely independent of faith towards God; and will be rewarded when every work, "whether it be good, or whether it be evil," is rewarded in the restitution age. But for this "high calling in Christ Jesus," faith, full and complete, in each and every present truth which God designed for the church, is a necessity. For instance: Supposing these things are now true, that the harvest of the gospel age has come, and the day of the Lord is really commencing the church are to be in the light, so that "that
day" will not come upon them unawares, and the world are to be in darkness. This present generation of Christians, the above being true, are supposed to have light that Luther, Knox, or Wesley did not have, just as surely as that Noah was required to have a faith that Enoch did not have. The faith of Enoch could not have saved Noah; nor can the faith of a Wesley open the door of the kingdom to one individual of this generation, upon whom the day or the Lord is coming. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, is to build on the rock, and will save a man. But there are two classes, the one, although building on the rock, are to suffer loss, to pass through this terrible ordeal; "the hour of temptation which is to try all them that dwell on the earth;" they are to "suffer loss," to "lose their life," and to be saved "so as by fire." The other "have an abundant entrance," "escape all these things which are coming on the earth, and stand before the Son of man." One class, while holding the first principles of the gospel, "build with hay, wood, and stubble;" the other with "gold, silver and precious stones." Building with "hay, wood, and stubble," or "gold, silver, and precious stones," depends on the character of his faith. And the evidence is so clear that the bride, the church of the first-born, those who are to sit with Christ on his throne, and "judge the world;" are to be in the light in relation to the coming of the day of the Lord; that they are the class who have always been in advance, and held the truths which correspond with the "gold, silver, and precious stones," seems too clear for any one to willingly turn their back on what the Scriptures teach, as advanced truth.
Those who think that faith in advanced truth is of little or no consequence, and that if a man is good it matters not what he believes, build on the parable of Matt. 25: 31: "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me, enter into the kingdom prepared for you," &c. But the above class are brought into judgment, and are saved in the restitution; while the church of the first-born "shall not come into judgment, (krisis), but have passed from death unto life." In the restitution, salvation is to be of works, as under the law, do and live; and "when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory," his bride will also be on that throne, for "the saints shall judge the world;" and every good deed, and every evil deed of such as are brought into judgment, will have their reward. And many at the present day are counting themselves in with the class who are to be rewarded for their good works. But the reward of good works has no place in this "high calling." To such "it is no longer of works, but of faith."
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