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Redeemer was to offer up of himself in the fulness of time. For Abel presented before God of the firstlings of his flock, with the fat of them. This era is also marked by the sudden and awful development of that corruption, with which human nature had been tainted. Cain, the first-born son of Adam, became the first murderer, imbruing his hands in the blood of his own brother, Abel.
Cain was then separated from his father's home, and, in process of time, built a city. His descendants, apparently living without God, betook themselves to various worldly avocations and amusements, to fill up that sad vacuity in their bosoms, which the want of love to God had created there. In the mean while, another son was born to Adam, whom he called Seth, and who occupied the station of Abel whom Cain slew.
Thus mankind were early separated into two classes, namely, the descendants of Cain, who betook themselves for enjoyment and gratification of their tastes and passions, and among whom murder soon again made its appearance with polygamy; and the descendants of Seth, who maintained among them, the worship and service of God.
A. M. 500.-B. C. 3500.
At this era the families of Cain and Seth were still living separate from another. During the period that followed, there were born Enoch, Methuselah, and Lamech, the father of Noah. Adam died at the age of 930 years. During the antediluvian periods, human life bore nearly the same proportion to a thousand, which it now does to a hundred years. It is now but about the one-tenth of what it then was.
A.M. 1000.-B. C. 3000.
This era is marked by that extraordinary testimony which God bore to the holiness of Enoch's character, when he removed him to heaven, without subjecting him to the universal sentence of death. This distinction conferred on Enoch, indicates that corruption was making rapid strides among men. And accordingly, in a prophecy of Enoch, recorded by the apostle Jude, he denounces the judgments of God upon the wicked; saying, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, to convict all the impious among them, of all their deeds of impiety which they have impiously perpetrated, and of all the hard things which impious sinners have spoken against him." In this prophecy, there is the first intimation on record of a final day of retribution.
Towards the conclusion of the period of 500 years which followed this era, the progress of corruption was accelerated by inter-marriages formed between the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth. "The sons of God," it is written, "saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all that they chose." By this statement is probably meant that the professing worshippers of God, the family of Seth, began to intermarry with the votaries of the world, the family of Cain. The consequence of this intermixture of the two families, was the rapid and universal spread of wickedness. The children of these marriages became mighty men, men of renown. There were giants (literally fellers,) on the earth in these days; and the earth was filled with violence. Thus the crime of murder, which had been specially marked by the high displeasure of God, was the very crime into which men rushed headlong, doubtless glorying in it, as it is known they did after the deluge.
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was very great upon the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil, and that continually;" and he declared his purpose of sweeping away the godless race by the waters of a deluge; and commanded Noah to build an ark, for the preservation of himself and his family.
The building of the Ark.
A.M. 1500.-B.C. 2500.
This era finds the whole world one scene of violence and corruption. Only Noah was found upright before God. And God, proposing to sweep away the whole race of the wicked, commanded Noah to build an ark for the preservation of himself and his family. Noah believed that God would do as he had declared, and, "moved with fear," began to build the ark according to the directions that were given to him, proclaiming, in the mean time, the catastrophe that was approaching, and warning men to repent of their sin ;for he was "a preacher of righteousness." They however, were too intent on their own pursuits and pleasures to attend to him. "They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and knew not till the flood came, and took them all away." The ark being finished, Noah was directed to collect in it, pairs of all those animals that were to be preserved, and then to enter it himself and his family,-in all, eight persons. The windows of heaven were then opened, and the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the water 'rose, till it reached the tops of the loftiest mountains, destroying every living thing that could not subsist in the water. It then again gradually retired. This whole operation occupied only about a year; namely, the year B. C. 2347.
The first remarkable event after the deluge, was the
promise of preservation from any future deluge, and the law given to Noah, in which was pointedly prohibited the shedding of blood. At this time also, liberty was given to men to eat animal food. Then followed the division of the earth among the three sons of Noah, which seems to have been done according to some rule or system. The descendants of Shem spread themselves from mount Ararat, where the ark rested, towards the South and East; the descendants of Ham went towards the South and West, particularly occupying Africa; and to Japheth and his posterity were assigned the North and West.
Towards the latter part of this period, or about 2250 years B. C. cities began to be built, which afterwards rose to great eminence. Ashur, one of the descendants of Shem, built Nineveh on the Tigris; and Nimrod, who had addicted himself to hunting, erected a kingdom in the land of Shinar, on the banks of the Euphrates. Babel seems to have been the capital of his kingdom. On the plain of Shinar, the tower of Babel was erected, probably as an artificial citadel to protect and command the city that was to be built around it. The completion of this city and tower was prevented by the interposition of God, who confounded the language of those who were employed in building it; yet it seems to have formed the germ of the city of Babylon, that many ages afterwards, arose to great power and splendour.
Thus, the conduct of men very soon proved, that, although the deluge had given a temporary check to their wickedness, it had done nothing towards purifying the human heart, from its proud ambitious passions. That very crime against which Almighty God had repeatedly pointed his indignation, which had brought destruction on the old world-violence and the shedding of human blood, soon began to appear in all its ferocity, and scenes of carnage commenced, which have disgraced and consumed mankind, and kept whole regions of the earth in desolation and wretchedness, till. the present day.
A.M. 2000.-B.C. 2000.
At this era idolatry had made some progress. Even the family of Shem was corrupted by it. Tera, the father of Abraham and of Nachor, when he lived on the other side of the Euphrates, we are told," served other gods." But instead of checking this evil by some awful infliction similar to the deluge, God selected a family with whom he might deposit the knowledge of himself and his will, and to whom he might give so conspicuous a station among the nations of the world, as would tend to preserve that knowledge in the world, and diffuse it among the rest of mankind. This measure he commenced by calling Abraham to leave his native country, Mesopotamia, and to reside as a stranger and a wanderer in the land of the Canaanites; a land which lay between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean sea. To Abraham, who was falling into the contagion of idolatry, he revealed himself, and maintained an intercourse with him from time to time, promising to give him a numerous posterity, while yet he had no child; to give the land in which he had come to sojourn to his posterity; and to make of them a great nation, and to give them dominion from the Euphrates to the shore of the Mediterranean sea.
Abraham obeyed the call of God, and came from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan. This land was occupied by different families descended from Canaan, the son of Ham, but to a great extent open and uncultivated, yet with some towns or cities scattered over it. The sea-coast to the southward, was in possession of the Philistines, from whom the whole country afterwards derived the name of Palestine. The valley of the Jordan, which river seems to have then flowed to the Red Sea, especially that part of the valley which lies between the mountains in the south of Palestine,