Brother Wm. M. of G. R. Mich, sent us the following letter:
“In Deut. 32:8, 9, we find in the Septuagint: ‘When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of men, He set the bounds of the heathen according to the number of the angels of God, but He himself took up His abode in Israel’. In the King James Version: ‘When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.’
“Will you please give us an explanation of Deut. 32:8, 9, in connection with Acts 14:15-18 and Rom. 11:6, Rom. 11:16-24 in regard to the two ‘world ideas’ as represented by the good and wild olive trees.”
For the present my answer is as follows:
1. What the brother writes about the translation of the LXX (Septuagint) is only partly true. The reader probably knows that the Septuagint, usually indicated by “the LXX,” is a Greek translation of the Old Testament, made before the coming of Christ. Now, it is, indeed, true that the LXX translate verse 8 as the brother quotes above. The phrase in Hebrew “Bene Jisrael,” children of Israel, is rendered in the LXX by “angeloon Theou,” of the angels of God. However, we may safely pass up the question of this translation. It has no value. Most probably it is not based upon any original reading, but rather an arbitrary translation. At the time when the LXX had its origin there was a Jewish notion that each nation had its guardian angel, a notion which originated in a mistaken interpretation of different parts of Scripture.
However, the rendering which the brother ascribes to the Septuagint of the ninth verse, I cannot find there. According to his letter the LXX gives the following translation of vs. 9: “But he himself took up his abode in Israel.” But we read there: “Kai egeneethee meris Kuriou laos autou Jakoob; schoinisma kleeronomias autou Israeel.” And this is the same as in our King James Version. I suppose, however, that Brother M. cannot read the LXX, nor did he apparently have in his possession an English translation of it. What he quotes is probably a commentary on vs. 8. And that particular commentary must have elaborated upon the idea expressed by the erroneous translation of that verse by the Septuagint. For it would be according to the same mistaken later Jewish notion referred to above, to say that, whereas Jehovah appointed angels over the other nations, He presided in person over Israel. Hence, the rendering of Brother M.: “But he himself took up his abode in Israel.”
Let this suffice with regard to the translation.
2. The meaning of these verses cannot be dark. Moses is speaking of the manifestations of divine mercy to Israel, the Lord’s people. That mercy did not commence with the entering of the people of Israel into the promised land. On the contrary, it is an eternal mercy. Even in His counsel God had assigned to Israel the land of Canaan. And from the very beginning of the development of the human race, more particularly after the flood in this case, and of the formation of tribes and tongues and nations, the Lord had Israel in mind. And thus, when in His providential care and government of all things He divided the sons of Adam, and gave to each one of the nations its inheritance, He did so with the purpose in mind to give to Israel its own portion in the land of Canaan. Canaan was a land proportioned to the number of the children of Israel, and its boundaries were, besides, so fixed that it occupied exactly the place among, in the midst of the nations, in the very “navel” of the earth, which it did occupy. And the reason for this special care and mercy over Israel is expressed in vs. 9: “For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” Israel had the Lord chosen in His eternal love. It was, therefore, His special portion.
3. Thus far I have no difficulty in answering Brother M.’s question. But from here on, I am afraid. I grope somewhat in the dark. When I answer a question it is essential that I clearly see its point. And I must confess that I do not. I do not understand what the brother means by his two “world ideas,” nor do I clearly see the connection between Deut. 32:8, 9, and Acts 14:15-18, Rom. 11:6; 16-24. Of course, I can see the general connection. Even though in the old dispensation the nation of Israel was the Lord’s special portion and inheritance, the cultivated “olive tree,” and the object of Jehovah’s special care; and although He allowed the other nations to walk in their own way of sin and corruption; yet, His providential care was also concerned with these other nations. For Israel was not to be the sole heir of salvation in Christ. Although for a time the nation as such was God’s special portion, it was as such a type of the greater portion and inheritance of Jehovah from among all the nations of the earth. And there can be no question about the fact, that God’s providence over the nations, even in dividing unto them their inheritance, kept in view the time, when the Gentiles should also become His portion and with the Jews be grafted into the good olive tree. So much I am able to say at the present time.
I am afraid, however, that this does not fully answer the brother’s question. When I read the last part of his letter, and especially note that he speaks of the two “world ideas,” I feel that he has something else in mind. The trouble, probably, is that he and I think along different lines, especially when the so-called Jewish question is concerned. I confess, therefore, that I am not able at present to see the point.
Hence, rather than continuing to grope in darkness and make a guess at it, I kindly ask the brother to shed a little more light on his question. He must have some more or less definite ideas of his own, especially with regard to what he calls the two world ideas.
My answer, therefore, must needs end in a question: Just what do you mean? And what is the point you would like me to explain?