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Studies of Old Testament Characters
in New Testament Light


Samuel Marinus Zwemer

Professor of the History of Christian Religion and Missions,

Emeritus Princeton Theological Seminary

Preface by

Professor Emile Cailliet, Ph.D., Th.D.

Stuart Professor of Christian Philosophy Princeton Theological Seminary

Copyright @ 1951


Baker Book House      Grand Rapids, Michigan

edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believer in the spirit of the Colportage ministry of a century ago


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SAMUEL M. ZWEMER, missionary to the Moslem world, meditates on the significance of Sons of Adam as they arise from the pages of the Old Testament. We only know that which we are. Knowledge is here mellowed by fourscore years of Biblical wisdom.

By the campfires of Arabia the author heard the speech of Job and his friends "from the lips of grey-beards wise in the wisdom of years." Long since, as he himself puts it, he met an old Arab sitting by the sea and playing with sand as a child would have done. Zwemer watched him and asked, "What are you doing?"

"Go away," said the elderly man, "I am thinking of eternity."

"And what is eternity?" Looking at Zwemer earnestly, the sand slipping through his fingers meanwhile, the Arab replied, "Eternity - eternity - if a bird should carry away one grain of all this sand, one grain a year, when all the sand had disappeared eternity would just be beginning!"

The following pages are bathed in the twilight of the eternal.

Moving through them in the company of Biblical characters we become aware of a new dimension of life, the only dimension that matters ultimately, the dimension of the abiding.

In a day such as ours, plagued with what I should like to call neolatry, it does one good to re-assess eternal values under GOD's high heaven.

In the divine glow of long-tested assurance, our guide is but little disturbed by the modern passion for a pitiless analysis verging on hair-splitting.

He is astonished, and at times sadly amused as he meets with alarmed critics consumed by a kind of sun-spot obsession which causes them to grope in the dark while standing in a glory of light. Leaving the pedants to stagnate in the midst of their alphabet soup, the author wants us to recover intelligence, that is, the faculty to read without being constantly misled by presumption and anti-supernatural bias. He is familiar with the theories and views of Biblical scholarship and evidently ready to credit men of good will with useful work, well done here and there. What irks him is the abuse of hypotheses left hanging in mid-air to become ends in themselves, radicalism being the decisive test of merit while the Flock is not being fed.

The following pages, then, may be seen as so many illustrations of the author's assurance.

With Dr. Henry Gehman he maintains that "in order to understand the religious history of Israel it is necessary to retain the view of the Pentateuch that Moses was a monotheist and that his GOD was Jehovah . . . and he remains, whether in a direct or more or less indirect sense, the author of the Pentateuch." So also does Abraham remain an historical character.

The trouble with our age, as Zwemer sees it, is that taking the means for the end, too many higher critics argue endlessly on fine points while the clear task at hand is being ignored. In the case of Abraham, for instance, only these two questions really matter: why was he specially called the friend of GOD, and how by walking in his footprints may we, too, become friends of GOD? A whole chapter is devoted to answering these two questions. Similarly, what benefits are to be derived from the consideration of a Deutero-Isaiah and of a Trito-Isaiah? As if the most radical critics themselves did not conclude with an acknowledgment of the deep unity of the book of Isaiah, as it was and is so evident to the ordinary reader from the start.

Not that pragmatism becomes the test of divine truth! The point made, or implied, again and again, is that the detailed consideration of possible exceptions causes one to lose sight of the rule. As our reading of the hallowed pages of GOD's Word proceeds it becomes apparent that it is sheer spiritual monstrosity to spend one's time and efforts on making fine points while the whole divine library is here opened for us to proceed upon. Scripture is to be probed with a view to immediate directions. What man of good will could miss them? There is ample light unto the path of him who would do the will of GOD and abide forever.

The approach is truly a practical one.

The Bible in general, and both Testaments in particular, are ours for one essential reason, namely, that we should proceed upon them and thus know of the doctrine. As soon as we approach Scripture in such a frame of heart and mind it becomes obvious that Biblical truth is at opposite poles from the intellectualism of mere Greek speculation. Our Aristotelian (that is, man-made) laws of identity and non-contradiction are no longer seen to fit into the logic of GOD's agency. The categories of the Bible are divine categories. Henceforth true psychology is rooted in the Word of GOD. Fear, for example, is the first-fruit of sin, its apex is the "pestilence that walketh in darkness," its essence is demoniacal. Read in the ninth chapter the story of George Hunter, the apostle of Turkestan, tortured in his old age by the Soviet authorities.

"Do what you can," George Hunter wrote, "do what you can to make the Church at home understand that this has nothing to do with the severities of normal imprisonment, but is based on profound understanding of demoniacal psychology. Long after you are released you still hear their voices taunting you, and, for longer still, you feel that they are after you, seeking to hurt and destroy you."

Such are the depths of understanding made possible only to the man who takes his Bible seriously.

Salvation, then, is truly a restoration - a restoration of man unto GOD and unto himself. And just as the man of sin is under demoniacal power, the man of GOD becomes aware of the reality of angelic natures in GOD's creation. It is fitting, therefore, that a book dealing with Sons of Adam should consider the angelic world. The author is not afraid of altitude in the most beautiful sense of the word. He feels at home with Dante's Paradise and Milton's Paradise Lost as he does with all the great classics of world literature. There is no more terrible token of our decadence than the modem taboo of transcendence which characterizes our age. Seen in this light, these pages constitute an antidote.

The book as a whole is a tonic. It is invigorating. Never speculating on the existence of GOD, it proceeds upon the reality of GOD. Throughout these chapters, as we walk in the company of Old Testament characters under the guidance of a man of Zwemer's stature, the Living GOD is felt to be very near. For a few hours we escape from the shallowness of our age to exult in the awareness of GOD's provision for those who love Him.

Emile Cailliet

Princeton Theological Seminary Princeton, New Jersey

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