So He drove out the man and stationed cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden, with a whirling sword of flame to guard the way to the tree of life.
I. THE MERCY WITH JUDGMENT. He did not destroy the garden; he did not root up its trees and flowers.
II. He "DROVE OUT THE MAN" into his curse that he might pray for and seek for and, at last, by Divine grace, obtain once more his forfeited blessing.
III. AT THE EAST OF THE GARDEN HE PLACED THE CHERUBIMS AND THE FLAMING SWORD TURNING EVERY WAY, emblems of his natural and moral governments, which, as they execute his righteous will amongst men, do both debar them from perfect happiness and yet at the same time testify to the fact that there is such happiness for those who are prepared for it. Man outside Eden is man under law, but man under law is man preserved by Divine mercy.
IV. The PRESERVING MERCY IS THE REDEEMING MERCY. The redemption is more than deliverance from condemnation and death; it is restoration to eternal life. "Paradise lost is not paradise destroyed, but shall be hereafter paradise regained."
V. There is a special significance in the description of "THE WAY OF THE TREE OF LIFE" as closed and guarded, and therefore a way which can be afterwards opened and made free.
VI. Without pressing too closely figurative language, it is impossible, surely, to ignore in such a representation the reference to a POSITIVE REVELATION as the MEDIUM OF HUMAN DELIVERANCE AND RESTORATION. The whole of the Scripture teaching rests upon that foundation, that there is "a way, a truth, and a life which is Divinely distinguished from all others. Gradually that eastward gate of Eden has been opened, that road leading into the center of bliss has been made clear in the man Christ Jesus." - R.
I. MAN'S FALLEN LIFE.
So He drove out the man.
I. THAT WHEN COMFORTS ARE LIKELY TO BE ABUSED, GOD SENDS MEN FROM THEM. There was danger lest Adam should put forth his hand and eat of the "tree of life" and live forever. The fallen man must not be allowed to eat of the tree of life in this world. It can only be tasted by him in the resurrection; to live forever in a frail body would be an unmitigated woe. There are many trees of life in the world from which God has to drive men, because they are not in a proper condition to make the designed use of them. Government and law must be preventive as well as punitive, they must regard the future as well as the past. It is better for a man to be driven from a mental, moral, or social good than that he should make a bad use of it. Many a soul has lost its Eden by making a bad use of good things.
II. THAT IT IS NOT WELL THAT A SINNER SHOULD LIVE AND RESIDE IN THE HABITATION OF INNOCENCE. Adam and Eve were out of harmony with the purity and beauty of Eden. Such an innocent abode would not furnish them with the toil rendered necessary by their new condition of life. Men ought to have a sympathy with the place in which they reside. Only pure men should live in Eden. Society should drive out the impure from its sacred garden. Commerce should expel the dishonest from its benevolent enclosure. Let the wicked go to their own place in this life. A wicked soul will be far happier out of Eden than in it. Heaven will only allow the good to dwell within its wails.
III. THAT SIN ALWAYS CAUSES MEN TO BE EXPELLED FROM THEIR TRUEST ENJOYMENTS. Sin expels men from their Edens. It expels from the Eden of a pure and noble manhood. It drives the monarch from his palace into exile. It exchanges innocence for shame; plenty for want; the blessing of God into a curse; and fertility into barrenness. It makes the world into a prison house. It often happens when men want to gain more than they legitimately can, that they lose that which they already possess. In trying to become gods, men often lose their Edens. Satan robs men of their choicest possessions and of their sweetest comforts. This expulsion was —
IV. THAT THOUGH EXPELLED FROM EDEN MAN'S LIFE IS YET BESET WITH BLESSINGS. Though the cherubim and the flaming sword closed up the way to paradise, Christ had opened a new and living way into the holy place. Christ is now the "way" of man — to purity — to true enjoyment — to heaven. Heaven substitutes one blessing for another.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Sketches of Sermons.I. THE EVENT HERE RECORDED.
1. The expulsion was not forcible. We may infer from the entire narrative that Adam had by this time been brought to penitence.
2. Neither are we to suppose that this event occurred merely as a carrying out of the curse which had been pronounced. The principal reason was, that access to the tree of life might be barred. By this man was taught the full consequence of sin.
II. THE TRANSACTION THAT FOLLOWED.
2. Flaming sword, "Turning every way" — literally "back on itself": the fire of wrath, kindled by transgression, instead of burning out to consume man, would turn back and expend itself on "God manifest in the flesh."
III. THE DESIGN OF THIS TRANSACTION.
1. To teach the principles of redemption.
2. To keep the divinely appointed way to eternal life in remembrance.
3. That it might serve as a temple of worship.
(Sketches of Sermons.)
1. Externally. Condemned to toll and sorrow, no longer fed by sacramental food of the tree of life, exiled from garden, etc.
2. Internally. Strange and terrible possibilities of sin lurking within. Two wills, and two men, in each of us.
II. MAN'S REDEEMED LIFE. In Christ we have —
2. An emancipated will.
(Bishop W. Alexander.)
I. We cannot go back into the past PERIODS OF LIFE.
II. We cannot go back into past CONDITIONS OF LIFE.
1. How great is human life.
2. How obvious our duty.To make the best of the stage in which we find ourselves. Take care of the Eden, for when we leave it, the "flaming sword" will render return impossible.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. WHENCE DID HE DRIVE HIM? From Eden.
1. It was a garden of pleasure.
2. A scene of wholesome occupation.
3. A temple of blissful communion. And out of all this he was driven.
II. WHEREFORE DID HE DRIVE HIM?
1. The act of man's disobedience was the ground of this expulsion.
2. This act of disobedience, if properly considered, will be found to be an act of high demerit and aggravated criminality.
3. The awful indications of Divine displeasure that have followed this act, plainly demonstrate to every considerate mind what must have been its malignant nature. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
III. WHITHER DID HE DRIVE HIM? He drove him into this blighted wilderness of our present abode; He drove him without the precincts of the garden that was formed for him, and in which he was first placed — He drove out the man — sent him forth to till the ground, and He "placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." This world is a wilderness, because —
1. So inferior to Eden.
2. A scene of labour.
3. A scene of vicissitude.
4. A scene of vexation.
IV. WHETHER THERE IS ANY DOOR OF HOPE AND ESCAPE?
1. It is my delightful task and happiness to announce to you that the gospel reveals Him who is the second Adam. The first Adam was a figure of Him that was to come — in Adam all died, in Christ all are made alive. What the first Adam destroyed, the second Adam repaired.
2. By His perfect obedience, and meritorious sacrifice for sin, He has actually declared the right and title of reinstatement to this inheritance in behalf of all His people.
3. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is the appointed means of our personal restoration to God's favour, and the pleasure and delight of communion with Him.
4. Regeneration and sanctification are the feet by which we are to retrace our steps to celestial felicity.
5. There is a blessed certainty in all this — a certainty upon which you may depend, and upon which you may venture your immortal souls without scruple or hesitation, and which the second Adam has secured by His all-perfect obedience, atonement, and death.
(G. Clayton, M. A.)I. THE REAL CAUSE OF MAN'S EXPULSION FROM THE EARTHLY PARADISE (see vers. 22, 23).
II. THE SINGULAR MANIFESTATION THAT NOW SUCCEEDED. It was not a flaming guard of angels that was placed, but the Shechina, or Divine presence of Him who dwelt between the cherubim.
III. THE IMPORTANT AND CONSOLATORY DOCTRINE WHICH THIS APPEARANCE TAUGHT. O cheering object to the eye of faith! O glorious hope, and balmy consolation to dry the tears of penitence, and wake the harp of joy! O hallowed spot, where God vouchsafed to dwell! O blissful seat, where mercy smiled on man. Yes, for there he "looked and lived"; there he learnt that in due time the sword should awake (that very sword), and smite the man who was Jehovah's fellow; should turn from the sinner upon the surety; and, as was here seen, should be revolvable upon itself! Yes, and there he first saw the cherubims! now first revealed as the covenanting three in the mysterious one. Each conditionally bound to their sacred office; emblems of those great ones, as should hereafter be more particularly unfolded to the captive prophet, as he mourned and wept for Israel's sons, beside the banks of Chebar! Captives of every clime and race! here behold the dispensations of Providence, and the design of mercy, grace, and peace! Yes, and with the cheering vision, the very place where it was seen would impart instruction, and might assuage their grief; for see, like the star of Bethlehem, it appeared in "the East," emblematic of another sun than they saw; even the Sun of Righteousness, who should hereafter arise to heal, to fructify, to irradiate, guide, and cheer His Church; and who should "keep," preserve, and show "the way" of everlasting life! Yes, here Christ was preached in type and figure as "the way, the truth, and the life." For He whom "the tree of life" represented, was still seen as the same source of being and blessedness to their souls; for though, as has been repeatedly enforced, our first parents could no longer approach as heretofore, and when clad in innocence, yet the blessings it prefigured were still preserved, though shown in another, and even in a superior way. Here, then, was a standing type of redemption; and to this they did approach; for here profoundest wisdom was discovered, and covenanting mercy was displayed. And here, too (for where else?), was that presence of the Lord, from which Cain afterwards departed, while it long continued as the place before which Abel and every pious worshipper would delight to bring his sacrifice, to pay his adoration, and to perform his vows.
(W. B. Williams, M. A.)
(L. D. Bevan, D. D.)1. Sin alone puts God upon separating souls from their comforts, antecedent and consequent.
2. When comforts are like to be abused, God prevents it by sending them from them.
3. The habitation of innocency is no place for sinners.
4. Jehovah is the disposer of all places and conditions, He puts in and sends out.
5. A cursed earth is the sinner's place of correction; or his bride-well, as we may say.
6. Sin hath brought a sentence for miserable toil on men in this place.
7. Man's base original corrupted with sin, fits him for a base servile condition (ver. 23).
8. God hath actually separated sin from the place of pleasure. From the first Adam until now, sin is out of paradise.
9. God doth not only throw out sinners from Eden or the place of pleasure, but keeps them out.
10. God hath His guard of angels to resist sinners, and drive them from rest.
11. Terrible are the means and active by which God drives off sinners from their pleasures.
12. No life can be recovered by man in looking to the former means of life in innocency. Therefore we must to Christ (ver. 24).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)I. First, it is a word this OF SOLEMN DIVINE JUDGMENT. "He drove out the man." It was a Divine expulsion from the primeval paradise. Nor was this Divine expulsion one from the delights merely, the endlessly varied beauties and satisfactions, of that choicest part of a world which, everywhere, God had Himself pronounced to be very good. It was this, indeed; and in this judgment of course appeared. But there was a great deal more of judgment in the expulsion than this. Principally it was judgment, in that it was the final shutting out of the man, and in him, as we are too well assured of man, our whole race fallen, from all possibility of life by the law — by the first covenant of the law.
II. But now, if there was judgment thus, many ways in the "driving out of the man," there was also GLORIOUS MERCY in it — not simply notwithstanding of it, but in it — mercy along with the judgment, and divinely rejoicing against the judgment.
1. For, first, what was it but the gracious shutting of him out from now delusive, vain, and ruinous hopes of life by the way of the law — a thing this of the very last moment in reference to any possibility of his being saved by grace.
2. I observe, secondly, that the driving out of the man was rich mercy, in that it was in effect the shutting of him now also in to Christ, the one name given under heaven among men fallen whereby we must be saved.
3. But we have not yet reached by any means the full mercy which was in the driving out of the man. So far we have seen its gracious design and tendency more doctrinally, as it were, under the grace of the Holy Ghost to shut out from delusive hopes of life, and shut in to Him who is the eternal life — the way, and the truth, and the life. And this truly was of unspeakable importance. How very large a portion of the Bible bears one way or other towards this double design! It might be said to be the grand scope and drift of it, doctrinally, from first to last. But then, the text opens up at least another class of means altogether for effecting the design. For, practically, what is it that to a very large extent holds us back from Christ, and prevails with us to leave Him and His salvation neglected and despised? Is it not some dream of finding a portion, a good, a happiness, in this world — in the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eye, or the pride of life — for the sake of which we are prepared to run the risk of losing our never-dying souls? But now behold the still further import of the driving out of the man. See how it was just a kind of summary, in effect, of that whole providential discipline which the Lord is administering from age to age in our fallen world, in connection with His Word, towards the same great end of driving us out from our vain delusive hopes of life and blessedness, on the one side, and shutting us in to the faith and love and obedience and enjoyment of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon the other. For observe, first, what it was the Lord drove out the man from. It was from the paradise of earth, as from a scene now no longer suited to his state — which, however profitable as well as pleasant before, when all earthly comforts did but raise his soul in love and thankfulness to God, could now have proved but a deadly snare to him. Hence, in rich mercy as well as judgment, "He drove out the man" — as if He should say, Outside that paradise of earth, away from its delights, now unfit for thee, thou mayest be shut in to desire a better country, even an heavenly. And just thus it is that the Lord is driving forth His children still from their Edens of earth, withering their gourds, teaching them painfully that —They build too low who build beneath the skies,in driving them out, only shutting them in to Him who is their alone life, and in whom they are yet to reach a better Eden than the primeval one. But what, further, did God drive out the man to? To till the ground now by the hard toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow — "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground." And, in addition, to endure many a hardship and profound sorrows — "Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." And "unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." Ah, it is judgment, indeed, but at least as much, mercy. "Driven out" thus we are to a lot of toil and sorrow. But it is a lot only the more in keeping, because sorrowful, with our state here, as at the best sorrowfully sinful — ever ready we, even after having tasted that the Lord is gracious, to depart from the living God, and take up our rest here, and put some idol in the place of God, and worship the creature more than the Creator, and prefer the things which are seen and temporal to the things unseen and eternal, How merciful the "driving out of the man"!
(C. G. Brown, D. D.)I. PARADISE SHUT. What did man lose when shut out of paradise?
1. He lost the happiness of his external condition.
2. When man was excluded from paradise, he lost, too, the uprightness and purity of his moral nature.
3. Man then lost his approving conscience.
4. When paradise was lost, intercourse with God was lost.
II. PARADISE GUARDED. The subject is not unprofitable to us in the present day. Paradise is guarded, as to you, by all the awful, all the terrible perfections of God; so that, except by the dispensation which I shall have occasion to mention, if man is left to himself, it is impossible for him, in any instance, to regain the favour of God. As for Adam, the verse says, there were flaming swords, and bands of flaming cherubim, to prevent his entering that state of blessedness from which he was driven. From the contemplation of God's perfections, revealed under aspects so terrific, no sinner can find the least hope of regaining the Divine favour. Not from any single perfection of the Divine character, or from all His perfections together, can the transgressor derive the least hope of pardon, purity, or happiness.
III. PARADISE REOPENED. The Redeemer appears, removing these guards, and throwing open the gate of heaven to the tree of life itself.
(R. Watson.)I. THE PLACE OUT OF WHICH MAN WAS DRIVEN. Eden, the fairest spot in the new-made world, and frequently referred to, in the Christian Scriptures, as an emblem of that paradise which God has planted in the skies.
1. Every object which it contained, was intended and calculated to afford him the sweetest gratification, and to remind him of the benevolence and holiness of his great Creator.
2. This garden was not merely a place of residence and contemplation, but also of wholesome and pleasurable employment.
3. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept." And it was during that "deep sleep," that she passed through his side, and smiled upon his slumbers, who was destined, when he woke, to be to him another paradise, far beyond the first in beauty and in loveliness.
4. But the crowning joy of paradise was the presence and the friendship of Jehovah. It was a temple, illumined and blessed with the Divine glory, as well as a fruitful and a fragrant garden. There God descended, not as afterward on Mount Sinai, amidst tempest, and fire, and frowning clouds, but with all His glories softened, so that man might see His face, and feel safe and happy in His society.
II. THE REASON WHY HE WAS DRIVEN OUT. The sole reason was his disobedience to God.
1. The law which he transgressed had been distinctly and authoritatively declared to him.
2. The law which he transgressed was peculiarly adapted to his condition. He was allowed to pursue the knowledge of good in all its varieties, but he was prohibited from seeking an acquaintance with any degree of evil.
3. The law which he transgressed was enforced by most powerful motives. God, who had graciously given him existence, had provided ample and various supplies of food for his necessities and for his gratification, to all of which he had free access, so that every temptation arising from scarcity, or even from want of variety, was utterly prevented by his bountiful Creator. As obedience was his duty, he had been divinely created with a disposition to obey, and with a capacity to increase his happiness and his spiritual strength by obedience, so that he was in no danger from any deficiency of moral ability. His Almighty Creator was always at hand, ready to assist him whenever temptation offered, and to furnish him with grace to help in time of need, whenever he requested it, so that he might successfully wrestle even with "principalities and powers." He had the means and the prospect of increasing and confirming every holy principle, and of rendering himself less and less liable to fall, by resisting temptation when it appeared, and by making God his refuge whenever he was exposed to danger.
III. THE CONDITION, IN WHICH HE WAS PLACED BY HIS EXPULSION.
1. He was driven out of the garden to spend the remainder of his days amidst the condemned and uncultivated parts of the earth.
2. He was driven out in a state of depravity and guilt, and exposed to all their awful consequences.
3. He was driven out accompanied with the promise of a Redeemer. The time when this promise was given, as well as the promise itself, affords an interesting evidence that, in the midst of wrath, the Lord remembers mercy; for it was repeated whilst He was pronouncing sentence upon the serpent, and before He had pronounced the sentence upon man.
(J. Alexander.)I. GOD OFTENTIMES WITHHOLDS FROM US, OR DEPRIVES US OF MANY BLESSINGS FOR OUR GOOD.
II. WHEN MEN HAVE ONCE BROKEN OUT INTO ONE SIN, THEY ARE IN DANGER TO FALL INTO ANY OTHER.
III. GOD, AS HE ALWAYS FORESEES, SO OFTENTIMES HE PREVENTS MEN'S FALLING INTO SIN.
IV. THE SUREST WAY TO PREVENT MAN'S FALLING INTO SIN, IS TO BE FAR FROM THE ALLUREMENTS THAT MIGHT ENTICE HIM UNTO SIN.
V. MEN ARE NATURALLY APT TO THINK THEMSELVES SAFE IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OUTWARD ACTS OF HOLY DUTIES.
VI. GOD CANNOT ENDURE THE DEFILING OF HIS ORDINANCES BY SUCH AS HAVE NO RIGHT TO THEM.
(J. White, M. A.)I. THERE IS NO BLESSING SO FIRMLY ASSURED UNTO US, WHEREOF SIN MAY NOT DEPRIVE US.
II. MEN'S DWELLINGS AND EMPLOYMENTS ARE BOTH ASSIGNED BY GOD.
III. GOD EVERYWHERE LEAVES REMEMBRANCES, TO MIND US WHAT AND HOW BASE WE ARE.
(J. White, M. A.)I. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE NOT TO BE PASSED OVER SLIGHTLY, BUT TO BE CONSIDERED SERIOUSLY, AND OBSERVED AND REMEMBERED CAREFULLY.
II. GOD LOVES TO LEAVE MONUMENTS, BOTH OF HIS MERCIES AND JUDGMENTS, FOR THE JUSTIFYING OF HIMSELF, AND THE CONVINCING OF MEN OF THEIR UNWORTHY CONDUCT TOWARDS HIM.
III. IN SEARCHING INTO GOD'S JUDGMENTS, OUR SPECIAL CARE MUST BE TO OBSERVE THE PRECEDENTS AND CAUSE OF THEM.
IV. THE REST OF GOD'S SERVANTS HAVE NEED OF THE TERRORS OF HIS JUDGMENTS TO RESTRAIN THEM FROM SIN.
V. IT IS A GREAT HELP TO BE INFORMED BY SENSE OF THOSE THINGS THAT ARE TO WORK EFFECTUALLY UPON OUR HEARTS.
VI. THE ANGELS THEMSELVES ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS FOR THE GOOD OF THE SAINTS.
VII. THERE IS NO MEANS TO ESCAPE THE HAND OF GOD'S JUSTICE, IF MEN WALK ON IN A COURSE OF REBELLION AGAINST HIM.
(J. White, M. A.)
(Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
(H. Bonar, D. D.)I. THE TREE OF LIFE GUARDED. When mankind were driven out of paradise, the tree of life was not removed nor destroyed, but still left there: to show that there was still immortal life left for man, though out of his reach. To this our own nature bears witness; for there lies at the bottom of the heart of man the inextinguishable desire for happiness and immortality; and that desire still implanted within us proves that it is not altogether lost. Thus Aristotle inferred from this universal desire in the very constitution of man's nature, that there is a happiness for which he is born; and that though it be never attained, yet it must in some way be attainable by man. The principle must exist, though every access to that life is closed to mankind; or, in other words, is guarded by the sword which turns every way.
II. THE CHERUBIM OF SCRIPTURE. Of the different figures we may observe, that in the holy of holies they are at rest; in Ezekiel in motion; in St. John in adoration. Over the ark they seem to indicate inquiry; in the prophetic vision judgment; in the Church of the redeemed thanksgiving. In the holy place they seem as if inquiring of each other, and at the same time as if the subject of their inquiry was the propitiation or mercy seat. Thus it is said to Moses, "their faces shall look one to another, toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be." To which St. Peter is supposed to allude when he says that the angels "desire to look into the things" of our salvation. And thus the two angels were seen by Mary Magdalene, "the one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain," which is the true mercy seat. But the four cherubims afterwards are described as "full of eyes," instinct with knowledge, and adoring wonder. Again, in the holy of holies not only are they entirely withdrawn from sight by the veil, but even when the High Priest entered once a year within that veil, they are hid from view by the smoke and the cloud of incense; but in the Apocalypse all is open, and they are glorifying God, for the gospel is then manifested. It appears then from all these passages, that by the term cherubims we must understand some symbols or representation of the incarnation. So was it in the holy of holies; so was it in the prophet Ezekiel, and in the Apocalypse; and therefore we may conclude that the same is meant in this place in the garden of Eden.
III. THEIR FORM AND CHARACTER. We may further infer, that not only did those cherubims which appeared in the beginning in Eden bear the same kind of significance with those which are introduced in the rest of Scripture, and at the close in the Apocalypse, but also are of a similar form and character. Now these in the latter instances were expressly composite forms of animal life, or creature combinations, and in all probability those in the temple were likewise of the same kind. The compound figures keeping the entrances of Assyrian and Egyptian temples or palaces, so utterly inexplicable on any other grounds, were probably derived from some tradition of the cherubims that kept the gate of paradise. To these might be added mythological fables, as that of the brazen-footed bulls breathing fire, that kept the golden fleece. And what was that golden fleece but some record of that clothing of God, some memory of that mystery of great price, in Eden guarded by cherubim?
IV. SIGNIFICATION OF CHERUBIMS. It will then be granted that by the cherubims were signified some manifestation of Christ. And it has always been considered that the four cherubims of Ezekiel and St. John had reference to the four Gospels or Evangelists; for it is they that bear the manifestation or knowledge of Christ throughout the world; they may be said to bear His throne as seen by the prophet Ezekiel, or to encompass it as by St. John. In like manner the two cherubims in the Temple have been considered by St. to mean the two Testaments. We may therefore infer that the cherubims in Eden had the like intent. But though they may have been afterwards seen and partially fulfilled in four Evangelists, yet this does not explain the meaning of such appearances; they must have some peculiar signification in themselves in addition to, or independently of, the four Gospels. For we may ask, Why should figures of this kind be chosen? And what do their curious shapes imply? What are they? They are in some sense angelic, inasmuch as they bear messages of God, and the only way we can represent angels is by some form of human youth in a spiritual body; yet they are not angelic, for they are human and animal. They are not human, because there are among them the countenances of animals; they are not animal, for they are full of knowledge; the very name implies multitude of knowledge, as also do their many eyes; and they bear in their hand a sword; they are human as well as animal; they are spiritual as well as human, as their spiritual movement indicates. They are called by the prophet and by the evangelist "the living creatures," — not, as improperly translated, "beasts," but living creatures — creatures gifted with excessive life, "the living ones." But we may observe, that though that which is animal and spiritual he mixed up with these appearances, yet the prevailing character is man; the basis, so to speak, of all these symbolic figures is man. They seem to represent the perfection of animal life, yet gifted with a spiritual body, as to be found in the new man, the last Adam, who shall reinstate again in paradise; man by the manhood of Christ reconciled unto God, and admitted into union and fellowship with God, wherein is eternal life. It is therefore the pledge and covenant of the seed that should come, admitting again to immortality, by union of God with man, the life of life, spiritual life, in the perfection of the creature united with the Creator.
V. THE ANIMAL CREATION RESTORED. See Romans 8:19, 21, 22; Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 5:13; Isaiah 11:5-6; Isaiah 65:25. The animals partake of the sentence passed on man of labour; they labour and suffer for us and with us, sharing our toil and relieving it in their lives, and in their deaths sustaining our frail bodies, setting forth the atonement, and thereby our deliverance from death. Thus they are connected both with our death by sin, and with the promise of that better life which is in God. It is then through animals that God clothes fallen man; it is through animals slain that He receives a sacrifice in Abel; and both these as setting forth Christ; — "the secret of the Lord" which "is with them that fear Him." It is not therefore inconsistent with this that something of an animal character should also be found in these cherubims, which kept the way of the tree of life, and which must in some sense be symbols of Christ's incarnation.
(I. Williams, B. D.)1. The cherubim are real creatures and not mere symbols. In the narrative of the Fall they are introduced as real into the scenes of reality. Their existence is assumed as known. For God is said to place or station the cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden. The representation of a cherub too in vision as part of a symbolic figure implies a corresponding reality (Ezekiel 10:14). A symbol itself points to a reality.
2. They are afterwards described as living creatures, especially in the visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10). This seems to arise, not from their standing at the highest stage of life, which the term does not denote, but from the members of the various animals, which enter into their variously described figure. Among these appear the faces of the man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle, of which a cherubic form had one, two or four (Exodus 25:20; Ezekiel 41:18; Ezekiel 1:16). They had besides wings in number two or four (Exodus 25:20; 1 Kings 6:27; Ezekiel 1:6). And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides (Ezekiel 1:8; Ezekiel 10:8). Ezekiel also describes their feet as being straight, and having the soul like that of a calf. They sometimes appear too with their bodies, hands, wings, and even accompanying wheels full of eyes (Ezekiel 1:18; Ezekiel 10:12). The variety in the figuration of the cherubim is owing to the variety of aspects in which they stand, and of offices or services they have to perform in the varying posture of affairs.
3. The cherubim are intelligent beings. This is indicated by their form, movement, and conduct. In their visible appearance the human form predominates. "They had the likeness of a man" (Ezekiel 1:5). The human face is in front, and has therefore the principal place. The "hands of a man" determine the erect posture, and therefore the human form of the body. The parts of other animal forms are only accessory.
4. Their special office seems to be intellectual and potential rather than moral. The hand symbolizes intelligent agency. The multiplicity of eyes denotes many-sided intelligence. The number four is evidently normal and characteristic. It marks their relation to the Kosmos, universe or system of created things.
5. Their place of ministry is about the throne, and in the presence of the Almighty. Accordingly, where He manifests Himself in a stated place, and with all the solemnity of a court, there they generally appear.
6. Their special functions correspond with these indications of their nature and place. They are figured in the most holy place, which was appropriated to the Divine presence, and constructed after the pattern seen in the mount. They stand on the mercy seat, where God sits to rule His people, and they look down with intelligent wonder on the mysteries of redemption. In the vision of the likeness of the glory of God vouchsafed to Ezekiel, they appear under the expanse on which rests the throne of God, and beside the wheels which move as they move. And when God is represented as in movement for the execution of His judgments, the physical elements and the spiritual essences are alike described as the vehicles of His irresistible progress (Psalm 18:11). All these movements are mysteries to us, while we are in the world of sense. We cannot comprehend the relation of the spiritual and the physical. But of this we may be assured, that material things are at bottom centres of multiform forces, or fixed springs of power, to which the Everlasting Potentate has given a local habitation and a name, and therefore cognate with spiritual beings of free power, and consequently manageable by them.
7. The cherubim seem to be officially distinct from angels or messengers who go upon special errands to a distance, from the presence chamber of the Almighty. It is possible that they are also to be distinguished in function from the seraphim and the living beings of the Apocalypse, who like them appear among the attendants in the court of heaven.
(Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
1. What is life? The true life of man is to partake of the Divine life of God. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God."
2. The power of the Divine life in its relation to the being of man is here represented by a "tree." A tree represents a germ, a growth, and a fruitfulness. So the Divine life, implanted in the being of humanity as a hidden germ, grows, casting forth branches in the formation of habits and tendencies of character, and brings forth fruits in the energies of a spiritual being reflecting the image of God; that is, "the fruits of the Spirit."
3. Alienation from the life of God, and reconciliation to it, imply a departure and a return. These ideas are here represented by the word "way." The "way" would seem to represent those means of grace, and that mediatorial system, by the power of which alone man is able to reach the realization of the Divine presence.
4. This way is subject to conditions. "The cherubims" keep the way. The winged forms of the cherubims would seem to represent the spiritual supernatural forces which elevate the soul of man out of the earthly, lower life, into the communion of the Most High. The wings of the "cherubims" alone can waft the soul of man into the presence of "The Most High."
5. There is another guardian force represented by the flaming sword. What is the spiritual power symbolized by the sword? The knife, or sword, is the symbol of sacrifice. Our love of any object may be measured by the sacrifices which we are willing to make for it. Now, the life of man stands in the reflection of the attributes of God. The one all-comprehensive attribute of God is love. Therefore the one all-comprehensive duty of man is sacrifice. Sacrifice is the reflection by humanity on earth of the Divine love in heaven. The sword keeps the way of life. But it is the "flaming" sword. The flame would seem to represent the motive spirit of true sacrifice. The cold sacrifice, which is not prompted by the ardour of burning love, is not the power that keeps the way, but the unquenched spirit of fervent love, symbolized by the flame. In all the ages of the Church's life, the access of the human soul to the secret place, in which dwells the eternal life, has been by the same way, and subject to the same conditions. Let us, then, endeavour to trace the same verities, as they are presented under various forms, in successive ages.
I. Where did THE PATRIARCHS, who lived on earth before the flood, find the source of spiritual, undecaying life? In the presence of God. Their souls drew near to realize the image of the eternal life, in order that, gazing on its glory, they might be changed into the same image. In the motions of his consciousness Enoch walked with God, and Noah walked with God. On the other hand, when Cain by transgression lost the higher life of his being, that perdition is described as departure from the presence of God: "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." In that alienation the tree of life ceased to grow within the reach of his soul, and its spiritual fruits no longer strengthened and gladdened his being. What, then, constituted the "way" of access for these patriarchs? The means of grace which God had ordained. The forms in which the means of grace consisted in those ages are not revealed to us. The spiritual forces which encircled that "way," as the conditions of approach, were essentially the same as in our own and in every age of the Church. The human consciousness cannot realize the presence of God without the revealed knowledge of God and the ordained exercises of devotion. The wings of the eternal cherubims, then as now, in the shadowing power of reverence, and in the elevating power of spiritual aspiration, were the guardian forces, without whose activity the soul could not draw near to the Most High. The other force which keeps the way was also present in the antediluvian Church. The "sword" of sacrifice appears in an early page of religious history. In the religion of Cain and Abel sacrifice is seen. The sword was not wanting in the religion of Cain. Why, then, did he lose the "respect" of the Divine presence? His was the cold sword of a heartless, formal sacrifice, which cost him no self-denial. On the other hand, the soul of Abel had seen dimly the mighty truth of the Cross. In the progress of his soul the sword of sacrifice is seen baptized with the flames of the tongues of fire, kindled by the one eternal Spirit of God.
II. In the Church of THE POSTDILUVIAN PATRIARCHS THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF MAN WAS QUICKENED AND FROM TIME TO TIME REVIVED BY THE REALIZATION OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Again and again in the religious history of the patriarchs we read of remarkable spiritual epochs in their lives. How are these epochs described? In the oft repeated phrase: "God appeared unto Abraham" — Isaac — Jacob. These appearances of God, that is, realizations of His presence, are marked as the points of spiritual illumination and spiritual revival. In each of those manifestations, the tree of the Divine life casts forth branches, and brings forth new spiritual fruit in the patriarch's soul. But, let us ask, how were the souls of these patriarchs entitled to draw near, so that God manifested His countenance to the inward eye of faith in their spiritual consciousness? By the diligent use of the Divinely appointed means. The system of Divine doctrine and worship, as far as its forms are concerned, which prevailed in the Church of the patriarchs, is very dimly revealed to us. But there are many expressions which clearly show that such a system existed. Special seasons, and special places, were evidently consecrated to the pursuit of illumination and the exercises of worship. In that system the soul found the "way" of the tree of life. The spiritual forces, which come forth from the eternal throne "to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," were ever surrounding the "way of the tree of life" in the history of the patriarchs. In the elevating powers which came in response to meditation, prayer, and praise, the cherubic wings made their presence felt during the waking and dreaming hours of the patriarchs. In the most remarkable passage in the life of Abraham, we also behold the guardian agency of "the flaming sword." As in the New Testament, the incarnate God has taught us that we cannot reach His presence except upon the condition of entire self-sacrifice, in the "forsaking of all," so this mighty principle appears in the trial of Abraham. In the ascent of Mount Moriah he rose to the height of self-sacrifice, and there won the richest promises of life. By the mighty faith of that act he won the smile of the eternal countenance, and inherited the highest blessing vouchsafed to man. His self-surrender proved that burning love of God had absorbed his entire being.
III. IN THE MOSAIC ECONOMY OF THE JEWISH CHURCH, the presence of the Lord is ever represented as the source of the Church's life. The promise of that abiding sacramental presence was given in the words, "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee, from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims, which are upon the ark of the testimony." This Divine presence was also realized by the Church in the days of Solomon. At the opening of the Temple, "The glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord." That central presence was the life of the Church. The far-extending and fructifying influences of that mysterious presence in the Church were as the branches of the tree of life. That presence first manifested to Moses in the burning brightness of the tree on Horeb continued to abide in the growing Church, the increase of which the Psalmist sang in these words: "Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river." The "way" of the tree of life was sacramentally represented in the entrance into the holy of holies on the great day of the Atonement. On that day the high priest drew near into the presence of the eternal Life according to the appointed order of access. That order represented "the way." As in the patriarchal Church, the "way" was kept by the guardian forces. The golden cherubims, resting upon the ark of the testimony, cast their shadow over the "way" of approach. Those golden figures, with wings out stretched, as if for mounting into the realms of the Eternal Life of the Most High, and resting upon the ark of the testimony, symbolized the truth that the elevating forces of spiritual worship and aspiration must have as their basis the solid ground of Church witness and dogmatic truth. Thus we find that in the Jewish Church the "way" of access to the Presence was kept by the cherubims. Was the power of the flaming sword also represented in the typical teaching of the Tabernacle? Yes. As a condition of entrance, the high priest was commanded to bear the sword and the fire. "Into the second tabernacle went the high priest alone, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people."
IV. So likewise in the INCARNATION. When the fulness of time was come, the everlasting Son, who is the eternal Word and fountain of life, entered our humanity: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us In Him was life." In Jesus Christ was embodied the image of the eternal life, for the participation of which man was created. The tidings of His mission are, "The glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God." If we regard the progressive manifestation of the Divine life in the manhood of Jesus Christ, He is also the "tree" of life. The hidden Godhead dwelt bodily in the ungrown form at Bethlehem. The manifestation of the Godhead, according to the conditions of humanity, was gradual: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." Of His earthly course John the Baptist said: "He must increase." In that increase He appears as the "tree" of life. The holy nativity was the germ, containing within itself the tree, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. The successive glories, or manifestations, of His Divinity were as the branches which the growing tree put forth. By the power of these man is saved. In the ascension the tree of life reached the fulness of its height; and in the coming of the Holy Ghost began to shed upon human nature the fruits of the everlasting life. In His mediatorial power, as opening the Divine life to the human nature, Jesus Christ is the "way" of the tree of life: "For through Him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father." His flesh and blood are the media of access to the invisible eternal life. Therefore Jesus Christ is also the "way" of the tree of life for man, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way...no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." In the history of the incarnation we also behold the presence and agency of the ministering spirits that were appointed to keep the "way." In the temptation the power of the ministering spirits is seen keeping the "way": "Behold, angels came and ministered unto Him." In Jesus Christ we behold also the spiritual powers represented by the flaming sword. From Bethlehem onwards every act of Jesus was a sacrifice. But the crowning act, which gathered into itself the significance of all His previous acts, was His self-surrender unto the death of the cross. The original life of the unfallen man flowed from the image of the one eternal Life, whose name is Love. The mighty power that redeems man from that unloving self-will, which is the "law of sin and death," is the manifestation of the infinite love. The expression of love is sacrifice, and all love may be measured by the value of the victim sacrificed. Blood is the true exponent of love. In the eternal Being of God, love holds a place analogous to that of blood in the physical being of man. Love permeates the infinite system of God's eternal Being, giving motion and vitality, as it were, to all the other attributes. Power, justice, wisdom, holiness, and all the other attributes of the Eternal, are quickened by His all-circulating love. On Calvary we see the flaming sword, under the strokes of which humanity in Christ found entrance into the secret recesses of the eternal life. Christ "by His own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
V. The eternal life, lost by man in nature, is brought near in that "ONE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH," which is the Body of Christ. Wherein does that life dwell? Where is the throne upon which He is seated? The Presence dwells sacramentally in the holy mysteries. The Divine life, communicated from Christ to the being of man, is a life that grows. The tree of life in the soul of the young communicant may be but a weak and tender plant. As the outward form of flesh and blood in which the eternal Word chose to come into humanity was lowly and feeble to the eye of man, so the sacramental "way" in which the eternal life is communicated to us hath no form or splendour that our natural hearts would desire. The sacramental "way" to the Presence is also guarded by the "cherubims." Unless you have sought the influence of the ministering spirits that elevate and waft the soul from its earthliness into the light and air of the higher life, you cannot realize the presence of Christ. The other condition of access that keeps the "way" is the mighty power of sacrifice. That flaming sword must be known in our personal being, before we can reach the presence of the Life. When you draw near along the sacramental "way," you are commanded to acknowledge and bewail your manifold sins and wickednesses. If that confession be a genuine act of the soul, then you are willing to sacrifice the dearest sins, and, taking the sword, to cut off the right hand, and to cut out the right eye, in order to enter into the hidden life. On that condition alone can you worthily draw near. But whence can we draw the power to wield this sword? We have no sufficient motive power in our own nature. We must draw inspiration by a living faith from the one omnipotent sacrifice on Calvary.
(H. T. Edwards, M. A.)
(J. Parker, D. D.).
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