Homilies on Genesis and Exodus

Homilies on Genesis and Exodus

Translated by RONALD E. HEINE
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 436
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    Homilies on Genesis and Exodus
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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1171-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-44)

    Origen stands out in the third century Church like an oak on the prairie. The Church was to live for centuries in the shade of his achievements, both instructed and divided by them. Few indeed were the churchmen in the following centuries, even among those who repudiated him, who did not owe some aspect of their theology or methodology to Origen. He was able to perceive and pursue the crucial questions that touched the nerve centers of faith and religious life in his day. And, as Henry Chadwick has pointed out, “some of his most characteristic themes . . ....

  6. The Homilies on Genesis
    • HOMILY I
      (pp. 47-71)

      In the beginning god made heaven and earth¹ What is the beginning of all things except our Lord and “Savior of all,” Jesus Christ “the firstborn of every creature”?² In this beginning, therefore, that is, in his Word, “God made heaven and earth” as the evangelist John also says in the beginning of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him nothing was made.”³ Scripture is not speaking here of any temporal...

      (pp. 72-88)

      As we begin to speak about the ark which was constructed by Noah at God’s command, let us see first of all what is related about it literally, and, proposing the questions which many are in the habit of presenting, let us search out also their solutions from the traditions which have been handed down to us by the forefathers. When we have laid foundations of this kind, we can ascend from the historical account to the mystical and allegorical understanding of the spiritual meaning and, if these contain anything secret, we can explain it as the Lord reveals knowledge...

    • HOMILY III On the circumcision of Abraham
      (pp. 89-102)

      We read in many passages of the divine Scripture that God speaks to men. For this reason the Jews indeed, but also some of our people, supposed that God should be understood as a man, that is, adorned with human members and human appearance. But the philosophers despise these stories as fabulous and formed in the likeness of poetic fictions. Because of this it seems to me that I must first discuss these few matters and then come to those words which have been read.

      First, therefore, let my word be to those outside the Church who arrogantly clamor around...

    • HOMILY IV On that which is written: “God appeared to Abraham”
      (pp. 103-111)

      Another appearance of god to abraham has been read to us as follows: “God was seen,” the text says, “by Abraham when he was sitting at the door of his tent at the oak of Mambre. And behold, three men stood before him, and looking about with his eyes Abraham saw, and behold three men were before him and he went out to meet them,” etc.¹

      Let us compare, first of all, if you please, this appearance with that one which Lot experienced. “Three men” come to Abraham and stand “before him”; “two” come to Lot and sit “in the...

    • HOMILY V On Lot And His Daughters
      (pp. 112-120)

      When the angels who were sent to destroy Sodom desired to expedite the task with which they were charged, they first had concern for their host, Lot, that, in consideration of his hospitality, they might deliver him from the destruction of the imminent fire.

      Hear these words, you who close your houses to strangers; hear these words, you who avoid a guest as an enemy. Lot was living in Sodom. We do not read of other good deeds of his. The hospitality alone occurring at that time is mentioned. He escapes the flames, he escapes the conflagration for this reason...

    • HOMILY VI On Abimelech, King of the Philistines: How he wished to take Sara in marriage
      (pp. 121-126)

      We have heard read from the book of genesis the story where it is related that after the appearance of the three men, after the destruction of Sodom and the salvation of Lot either due to his hospitality or because of his kinship to Abraham, “Abraham departed thence,” the text says, “to the south” and came to the king of the Philistines.¹ It is related also that he made an agreement with Sara his wife that she should not say that she was Abraham's wife, but his sister.² It is also said that king Abimelech took her, but God went...

    • HOMILY VII On the birth of Isaac and the fact that he is weaned
      (pp. 127-135)

      Moses is read to us in the church. Let us pray the Lord lest, in accordance with the Apostle’s word, even with us, “when Moses is read the veil be upon” our heart.”¹ For it has been read that Abraham begot a son, Isaac, when he was a hundred years old.² “And Sara said: ‘Who will announce to Abraham that Sara gives suck to a child?’ “³ “And then,” the text says, “Abraham circumcised the child on the eighth day.”⁴ Abraham does not celebrate his son’s birthday, but he celebrates the day of this weaning “and makes a great feast.”⁵...

    • HOMILY VIII On the fact that Abraham offered his son Isaac
      (pp. 136-147)

      Give me your attention, you who have approached God, who believe yourselves to be faithful. Consider diligently how the faith of the faithful is proved from these words which have been read to us. “And it came to pass,” the text says, “after these words, God tested Abraham and said to him: ‘Abraham, Abraham.’ And he said: ‘Here I am.’ ”¹ Observe each detail which has been written. For, if one knows how to dig into the depth, he will find a treasure in the details, and perhaps also, the precious jewels of the mysteries lie hidden where they are...

    • HOMILY IX On the promises made to Abraham the second time
      (pp. 148-156)

      The further we progress in reading, the greater grows the accumulation of mysteries for us, And just as if someone should embark on the sea borne by a small boat, as long as he is near land he has little fear, But, when he has advanced little by little into the deep and has begun either to be lifted on high by the swelling waves or brought down to the depths by the same gaping waves then truly great fear and terror permeate his mind because he has entrusted a small craft to such immense waves, So also we seem...

    • HOMILY X On Rebecca, when she went out to draw water and Abraham’s servant met her
      (pp. 157-167)

      Isaac, scripture says, “grew”¹ and became strong, that is, Abraham’s joy grew as he looked not at those things “which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”² For Abraham did not rejoice about present things nor about the riches of the world and the activities of the age. But do you wish to hear why Abraham rejoiced? Hear the Lord saying to the Jews: “Abraham your father desired to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”³ In this way, therefore, “Isaac grew”;⁴ that vision of Abraham, in which he saw the day of Christ,...

    • HOMILY XI On the fact that Abraham took Cetura as a wife and that Isaac dwelt at the well of vision
      (pp. 168-175)

      The holy apostle always offers us opportunities for spiritual understanding and shows the zealous signs by which one may recognize in all things that “the Law is spiritual.”¹ Though few, these signs are, nevertheless, necessary.

      He says, discussing Abraham and Sara in a certain passage: “Not weakened in faith,” Scripture says, “he considered his own body dead, since he was almost a hundred years old, and Sara’s womb dead.”² This man, therefore, whom Paul says to have been dead in his body at the age of one hundred and to have begotten Isaac more by the power of his faith...

    • HOMILY XII On Rebecca’s pregnancy and giving birth
      (pp. 176-184)

      We should pray the father of the word during each individual reading “when Moses is read,”¹ that he might fulfill even in us that which is written in the Psalms: “Open my eyes and I will consider the wondrous things of your Law.”² For unless he himself opens our eyes, how shall we be able to see these great mysteries which are fashioned in the patriarchs, which are pictured now in terms of wells, now in marriages, now in births, now even in barrenness?

      For the present text reports that “Isaac asked for Rebecca his wife, because she was barren;...

    • HOMILY XIII On the wells which Isaac dug and which were filled by the Philistines
      (pp. 185-195)

      We are always encountering the habitual works of the patriarchs regarding wells. For behold the Scripture relates that Isaac, after “the Lord blessed him and he was greatly magnified,”¹ undertook a great work. And he began, the text says, to dig wells, “wells which his servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, but the Philistines had stopped them up and filled them with earth.”² First, therefore, “he dwelt at the well of vision,”³ and having been illuminated by the well of vision, he undertakes to open other wells, and not first new wells, but those which his...

    • HOMILY XIV On the fact that the Lord appeared to Isaac at the well of the oath, and on the covenant which he made with Abimelech
      (pp. 196-202)

      It is written in the prophet speaking in the person of the Lord: “I have used similitudes by the ministries of the prophets.”¹ What this statement means is this: although our Lord Jesus Christ is one in his substance and is nothing other than the son of God, nevertheless he is represented as various and diverse in the figures and images of the Scriptures.²

      For example, as I recall we have explained in what precedes that Christ himself was Isaac, in type, when he was offered as a holocaust. Nevertheless, the ram also represented him. I say furthermore that he...

    • HOMILY XV On that which is written: “And they went up out of Egypt and came into the land of Chanaan to their father Jacob, and they told him saying, ‘Joseph your son is living and has dominion over all the land of Egypt.’”¹
      (pp. 203-213)

      We should observe in reading the holy scriptures how “to go up” and “to go down” are employed in each individual passage. For if we were to give diligent consideration, we would discover that almost never is anyone said to have gone down to an holy place nor is anyone related to have gone up to a blameworthy place. These observations show that the divine Scripture was not composed, as it seems to most, in illiterate and uncultivated language, but was adapted in accordance with the discipline of divine instruction. Nor is Scripture devoted so much to historical narratives as...

    • HOMILY XVI On that which has been written: “And Joseph acquired all the land of Egypt for Pharao; for the Egyptians sold their land to Pharao because the famine prevailed over them. And the land became Pharao’s, and he reduced the people to slavery to himself from one end of Egypt to the other.”¹
      (pp. 214-224)

      According to the trustworthiness of scripture, no Egyptian was free. For “Pharao reduced the people to slavery to himself” nor did he leave anyone free within the borders of the Egyptians, but freedom was taken away in all the land of Egypt. And perhaps for this reason it is written: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”² Egypt, therefore, became the house of bondage and, what is more unfortunate, of voluntary bondage.

      For although it is related of the Hebrews that they were reduced to bondage,...

  7. The Homilies on Exodus
    • HOMILY I
      (pp. 227-238)

      I think each word of divine scripture is like a seed whose nature is to multiply diffusely, reborn into an ear of corn or whatever its species be, when it has been cast into the earth. Its increase is proportionate to the diligent labor of the skillful farmer or the fertility of the earth.¹ So, therefore, it is brought to pass that, by diligent cultivation, a little “mustard seed,” for example, “which is least of all, may be made greater than all herbs and become a tree so that the birds of heaven come and dwell in its branches.”² So...

    • HOMILY II On the midwives and the birth of Moses
      (pp. 239-247)

      That “king who knew not joseph”¹ devises many things against the people of God and is always seeking new methods of harming them. But at this time his shrewdness goes beyond measure, when by the service of the midwives, by whose skill life usually is preserved, he tries to destroy the offspring of the race. What does the text say? “And the king of the Egyptians spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Sephora and the other Phua, and said, ‘When you shall serve as midwives to the Hebrew women and they shall be near birth, if...

    • HOMILY III On that which is written: “I am feeble in speech and slow in tongue.”
      (pp. 248-259)

      While moses was in egypt and “was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” he was not “feeble in speech” nor “slow in tongue” nor did he profess to be ineloquent:² For, so far as concerned the Egyptians, his speech was sonorous and his eloquence incomparable. But when he began to hear the voice of God and recognize divine communications, then he perceived his own voice to be meager and feeble and he understands his own tongue to be slow and impeded. When he began to recognize that true Word which “was in the beginning with God,”³ then he...

    • HOMILY IV On the ten plagues with which Egypt was smitten
      (pp. 260-274)

      We have just heard a most famous story read. The story should be known in the whole world because of its importance. It relates that Egypt, along with Pharao the king, was chastened with great scourgings of signs and prodigies that they might restore to their natural freedom the Hebrew people whom, born from free parents, they had violently reduced to slavery. But the story of the events is so connected that if you should diligently examine the individual parts you would discover more things to which your mind clings than things which can be dismissed. And because it would...

    • HOMILY V On the departure of the children of Israel
      (pp. 275-284)

      The apostle paul, “teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth”¹ taught the Church which he gathered from the Gentiles how it ought to interpret the books of the Law. These books were received from others and were formerly unknown to the Gentiles and were very strange. He feared that the Church, receiving foreign instructions and not knowing the principle of the instructions, would be in a state of confusion about the foreign document. For that reason he gives some examples of interpretation that we also might note similar things in other passages, lest we believe that by imitation of...

    • HOMILY VI On the song which Moses sang with the people and Miriam with the women
      (pp. 285-299)

      We read in the divine scriptures that many songs indeed were composed. Yet of all of these, this song is first which the people of God sang after the victory when the Egyptians and Pharao were drowned. It is the custom of the saints to offer a hymn of thanks to God when an adversary is conquered, as men who know the victory came about not by their own power but by the grace of God. When they sing the hymn, however, they also take tambourines in their hands just as it is related of Mary the sister of Moses...

    • HOMILY VII On the bitterness of the water of Mara
      (pp. 300-315)

      After the crossing of the red sea and the secrets of the magnificent mystery, after dances and tambourines, after triumphant hymns, they come to Mara. The water of Mara, however, was bitter and the people could not drink it. Why, then, after marvels so numerous and so magnificent are the people of God led to bitter waters and the danger of thirst? For the text says, “And the sons of Israel came to Mara and were not able to drink the water of Mara because it was bitter. For this reason the name of that place was called bitterness”¹ But...

    • HOMILY VIII On the beginning of the Decalogue
      (pp. 316-333)

      God says of every soul which has learned how to despise the present age, which “figuratively is called Egypt,”¹ and, to use the words of the Scriptures, “has been translated” by the word of God “and is not found,”² because it hastens and strains to the future age: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”³ These words, therefore, are addressed not only to those who departed from Egypt, but much more to you, who now hear them. If only you depart from Egypt and do not further serve the Egyptians, God says,...

    • HOMILY IX On the Tabernacle
      (pp. 334-345)

      If anyone properly understands the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt or the crossing of the Red Sea and this whole journey through the desert and every single campsite; if he is capable of understanding these things in such a way that he also may receive the Law of God “written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God”;¹ if anyone, I say, should give his attention to these matters in the order of their sequence and spiritually fulfilling each should acquire the growth in virtues indicated in each, that man can consequently also attain to the...

    • HOMILY X On the woman with child who miscarried because of two quarreling men
      (pp. 346-354)

      But if two men shall quarrel and strike a woman with child and her infant issues forth yet unformed, he shall be liable for so much damage as the woman’s husband shall determine, and he shall pay it with honor. But if the infant was fully formed, he shall render life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.¹

      I think the first thing to be investigated is under what category of law decrees of this kind are considered. For all things which are decreed...

    • HOMILY XI On the thirst of the people in Raphidim and on the war with the Amalechites and the assistance of Jethro
      (pp. 355-366)

      Since “everyone who wishes to live piously in Christ sufpersecution”¹ and is attacked by enemies, he who the road of this life ought always to be armed and always to stand firm in the camp. For this reason it is also related about the people of God: “All the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from the wilderness of Sin according to their camps at the command of the Lord.”² There is, therefore, one congregation of the Lord but it is divided into four camps. For four camps are described set up opposite the tabernacle of the Lord, as...

    • HOMILY XII On the glorified countenance of Moses and on the veil which he placed on his face
      (pp. 367-374)

      The text of exodus has been read to us which either stimulates us to seek understanding or repels us. It stimulates zealous and open minds; it repels idle and occupied minds. For it is written: “Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, and his face and the appearance of his countenance had been glorified, and they were afraid to approach him.”¹ And the text says a little further on: “Moses placed a veil on his face. But whenever he went into the presence of the Lord to speak to him he laid the veil aside.”² But the Apostle...

    • HOMILY XIII On those objects which are offered for the tabernacle
      (pp. 375-388)

      We have already indeed previously spoken about the tabernacle as we were able, but the description is often repeated in the book of Exodus. It is related both when God commanded Moses how it ought to be made and again when Moses commanded the people to present the materials for the work’s construction, as contained in the text just read to us. But also afterwards the individual objects are enumerated when they are prepared by Beseleel and other wise men, and again when they are brought before Moses, and again when they are dedicated by the command of the Lord....

  8. APPENDIX: The Interpretation of Names in the Genesis and Exodus Homilies
    (pp. 389-398)
    (pp. 401-406)
    (pp. 407-422)