Israel’s Philosophy of History -- By: Francis B. Denio

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 072:287 (Jul 1915)
Article: Israel’s Philosophy of History
Author: Francis B. Denio


Israel’s Philosophy of History

Professor Francis B. Denio

The prophets and psalmists of Israel were no theologians, yet their attitude toward God was a practical statement of a great theology. In like manner the teaching of the prophets respecting God’s dealing with the nations was practically a philosophy of history. This philosophy of history was therefore due to their religion; and Christianity, which has the same conception of God, has the same philosophy of history. It contributed to the spiritual power of the religion of Israel; it is an important part of the spiritual power of Christianity, which is the inevitable fulfillment of Israel’s religion. It therefore belongs to all time, and it is especially worthy to be considered at this time. Inasmuch as this philosophy of history is found most fully in the Old Testament, the Old Testament presentation of it is chiefly to be considered.

I.

The prime feature of the philosophy of history was Jehovah’s purpose in history. He had a definite purpose in. history toward which all events were made to tend. This purpose was the establishment of an ideal state of society

which should include all nations. This was to come to pass through a long period of development. The fortunes of Israel and this development were inextricably bound together. The future of Israel was to be prosperous and all-glorious. Israel’s future was to be an ideal future. The earlier statements of the ideal gave few explicit details, and little as regards their ethical character. Experience taught the prophets that evil in any form was destructive of an ideal state of society. It became more and more evident that the misery of any part of society prevents the realization of a perfect society. Yet the future belongs to those idealists who believe in the coming of a society from which human misery shall be wholly absent.

It was in this way that Israel’s philosophy of history and religion came into vital contact. Moral evil is at the root of all social evils. Injustice to one’s fellow man is the cause of the largest share of the sufferings of men. For this reason the prophets wax eloquent in denunciation of evils :—

“Hear the word of Jehovah, ye children of Israel; for Jehovah hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor goodness, nor knowledge of God in the land. There is nought but swearing and breaking faith, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery; they break out, and blood toucheth blood” (Hos. 4:1, 2).

“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your do...

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