APOCALYPTIC PASSAGES IN THE HISTORICAL BOOKS
Writings which we call historical the Jews classed among the prophets. The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings stand in the Jewish canon as the “Earlier Prophets.” They all contain passages which bear the clear marks of pictorial description, and some of these are so obviously conceived in the apocalyptic style as to demand our attention before passing on to the prophetic books of more formal apocalyptic character.
I. FALL OF JERICHO.
The fall of Jericho as described in Josh. 5:13-6:27, is a mixture of history, vision, and prophecy. Jericho was the first great city of the Canaanites which stood in the way of Israel when they entered upon the conquest of the land of promise. It was a representative of the entire Canaanitish power and hostility with which the chosen people were called to contend, and its signal overthrow was prophetic of the ultimate ruin of every enemy that stands in the way of the progress of the kingdom of God. It was fitting, therefore, that the fall of this great city should be set forth in a manner corresponding to its importance as an obstacle in Israel’s way. The angel of Jehovah appeared to Joshua in a human form, with a drawn sword in his hand (Josh. 5:13), and announced himself as “Prince of the host of Jehovah.” Joshua at once “fell on his face to the earth, and worshipped” (comp. Ezek. 1:2 8; 3:23; Dan. 8:17; Rev. 1:17). He was, like Moses at the bush (Exod. 3:5), commanded to put off his sandal from his foot, and thereupon he received a revelation of the manner in which the city of Jericho was to be given into his hand. The men of war were to march round the city once each day for six successive days, and the angel said: “Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall be, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down under it, and the people shall go up every man straight before him” (Josh. 6:4, 5). The remainder of the chapter records the speedy fulfillment of this revelation to Joshua. The conquest of Canaan, as well as the exodus from Egypt and the march through the wilderness, has supplied the imagery of later apocalypses and figured largely in Christian allegory and song. The deliverance from the oppression and idolatries of Egypt has been regarded as a symbol of redemption from the power of sin; the march through the desert a figure of man’s probationary life, and the crossing into Canaan a type of the Christian’s transit to the heavenly country. So later scriptures also speak of the fathers who “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” (1st Cor. 10:2-4). At the beginning and at the end of the journey through the wilderness they “were saved through water” (comp. 1st Peter 3:20-22).
Notable analogies are also traceable between the fall of Jericho and the fall of that “great city which (in John’s Apocalypse 11:8) spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.” The trumpet-signaled fall of Jericho furnished John the imagery of the seven trumpets which sounded the overthrow of the apostate city which killed the prophets, and stoned the messengers, and crucified the Son of God (Rev. 8:6-11:19), and “Babylon the great” is represented as falling before the fierceness of God’s wrath when the seventh angel poured out the seventh bowl of wrath upon the air (Rev. 16:17-19).
It should be observed, further, that according to Josh. 5:2-12, the overthrow of Jericho was preceded by Israel’s renewal of their divine covenant relations in the rites of circumcision and the passover. The old Israel that came out of Egypt died in the wilderness, and “all the nation was consumed because they hearkened not unto the voice of Jehovah” (verse 6). But a new generation was called and consecrated to possess and eat the fruit of the land of Canaan. All this is strikingly typical of that later period when a new Israel was chosen by the Prince of life, who became “the mediator of a better covenant, enacted upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6). He instituted the two sacraments of a new dispensation, and firmly established his Church in the world, before he sent forth his armies to destroy the faithless city and scatter the apostate nation that had become drunken with the blood of saints. As Jericho must needs be destroyed before the new generation of Israel could go forward to the conquest of the land of promise, so also must Jerusalem perish before the new spiritual Israel, the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5), could move forward to subject the world to the Messiah’s reign.
II. THE HOUSE AND THRONE OF DAVID.
When David became established as king of Israel, and had builded for himself a royal palace, he conceived the purpose of building a temple of God, more suitable, as he thought, than the tent of curtains which inclosed the ark of the covenant (2nd Sam. 7:1, 2). But that night there came a word of Jehovah to Nathan the prophet which opposed this project, but opened a vision of future glory to the house and kingdom of David. “Wilt thou build me a house in which to dwell?” so in substance ran the oracle; “nay, rather, I, Jehovah, will make a house for thee: I will set up thy seed after thee, and establish the throne of his kingdom, and thy house and kingdom shall be made sure before thee forever” (2nd Sam. 7:5-16).
This revelation opened to David and his people a new ideal of Messianic hopes. He understood that it pointed onward into far future times. It was the germ of many a Messianic psalm, a pledge of “the sure mercies of David.” The main thought is that David is to be succeeded by a royal seed, to whom Jehovah also will be a Father, and whom he will chastise with many “stripes of the children of men.” This seed is not to be understood of Solomon only, or of any other one individual; not even of the Messiah only. The seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, and the seed of David are generic and comprehensive terms, but not exclusive of the Messiah in whom the ultimate and stainless glory is to culminate. “The holy seed” (Isa. 6:13), which “shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1), are not exempt from human trial and chastisement, for thereby they are proven to be true sons of God and become “partakers of his holiness”. (comp. Heb. 12:2-10).
And so the revelation of what was to befall David’s house “for a great while to come” (verse 19). deserves some recognition among the apocalypses of sacred history. It bears upon its face the two great sentiments of judgment and love, symbolized by the Edenic sword and cherubim, and repeated in manifold forms as the word of divine revelation opens more and more the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
III. APOCALYPTIC DREAMS OF SOLOMON.
When Solomon became established on the throne of his father David, and went to Gibeon to offer sacrifice, “Jehovah appeared to him in a dream by night” and asked him the great desire of his heart (1st Kings 3:4, 5). His request for “an understanding heart” was so pleasing to God that he at once received the gracious response recorded in 1st Kings 3:11-14. But years after this, when Solomon had completed the building of the temple, “Jehovah appeared to him a second time” and repeated to him the promises made to David his father (see 1st Kings 9:2-9). Nor does this second revelation complete all the word of Jehovah to Solomon. A fragment of similar content appears in 1st Kings 6:11-13; and another oracle, spoken after Solomon’s heart had been turned after other gods, is recorded in 1st Kings 11:9-13. It declares that because of his sins divine judgment will surely follow, and his kingdom shall be rent in twain.
IV. JEHOVAH’S WORD TO JEROBOAM.
The two oracles spoken by the prophet Ahijah, and recorded in 1st Kings 11:29-39, and 14:5-16, contain apocalyptic elements. The first was accompanied by the rending of Ahijah’s new garment into twelve pieces, a symbol of the rending of Solomon’s kingdom and the giving of the ten tribes to Jeroboam. The word of the prophecy promises blessing and prosperity on condition of obedience, but implies failure and ruin in case of evildoing. The second oracle was a revelation of judgment upon the house of Jeroboam and upon the kingdom of Israel, which was destined to be rooted up and scattered beyond the river Euphrates. That day of judgment came on swiftly. The death of the child, as Jeroboam’s wife came to the threshold of the house (1st Kings 14:17), was a beginning of sorrows. The assassination of Nadab, Jeroboam’s son and successor, and the slaughter of “all the house of Jeroboam” follow quickly (15:25-30). Finally, the kingdom of the ten tribes perished, and “Jehovah removed Israel out of his sight, as he spake by the hand of all his servants the prophets” (2nd Kings 17:23).
V. OTHER APOCALYPTIC FRAGMENTS.
In 1st Kings 16:2-4, we find a prophecy of Jehu, the son of Hanani, which is in substance a repetition of what Ahijah uttered against Jeroboam in chap. 14:7-11. It is an impressive illustration of the Nemesis of history that Baasha, who received the kingdom by violence, should be doomed by the same form of prophetic utterance as that which announced the fall of Jeroboam. It was during the reign of Baasha that Hanani, the seer, uttered the prophecy recorded in 2nd Chron. 16:7-9. The fearful oracle of judgment, spoken by Elijah against Ahab and Jezebel (1st Kings 21:19-24) is also worthy of comparison with the foregoing, and should be studied in connection with its repetition in 2nd Kings 9:6-10. Micaiah’s vision, in 1st Kings 22:19-23, is in the form of an apocalypse. The prophet may have appropriated his imagery from the very scene before him. The kings and their surrounding hosts, assembled at the gate of Samaria, were suggestive of the King of kings on his heavenly throne, surrounded by his hosts of angels. He “strikes through kings in the day of his wrath” and “judges among the nations” (comp. Psalm 110).