Obscure Sayin’ – Adam Clarke on the Book of Judges

I’m working on material for our Wednesday night study of the book of Judges. This isn’t going to make the cut, but it’s interesting: Adam Clarke on Judges 6 and the incident of Gideon asking for the signs of the golden fleece:

Gideon was very bold, and God was very condescending. But probably the request itself was suggested by the Divine Spirit. On the miracle of the fleece, dew, and dry ground, Origen, in his eighth homily on the book of Judges, has many curious and interesting thoughts, I shall insert the substance of the whole: – The fleece is the Jewish nation. The fleece covered with dew, while all around is dry, the Jewish nation favored with the law and the prophets. The fleece dry, the Jewish nation cast off for rejecting the Gospel. All around watered, the Gospel preached to the Gentiles. and they converted to God. The fleece on the threshing-floor, the Jewish people in the land of Judea, winnowed, purged, and fanned by the Gospel. The dew wrung out into the bowl, the doctrines of Christianity, extracted from the Jewish writings, shadowed forth by Christ‘s pouring water into a basin, and washing the disciples‘ feet. The pious father concludes that he has now wrung this water out of the fleece of the book of Judges, as he hopes by and by to do out of the fleece of the book of Kings, and out of the fleece of the book of Isaiah or Jeremiah; and he has received it into the basin of his heart, and there conceived its true sense; and is desirous to wash the feet of his brethren, that they may be able to walk in the way of the preparation of the Gospel of peace. – Origen, Op. vol. ii., p. 475, edit. Benedict. All this to some will doubtless appear trifling; but it is not too much to say that scarcely any pious mind can consider the homily of this excellent man without drinking into a measure of the same spirit, so much sincerity, deep piety, and unction, appear throughout the whole: yet as I do not follow such practices, I cannot recommend them. Of dealers in such small wares, we have many that imitate Benjamin Keach, but few that come nigh to Origen.

Benjamin Keach (image Wikipedia)

The thing I didn’t catch was the reference to “many that imitate Benjamin Keach,” so I googled him, which led to the wikipedia entry (I know; I’m pulling out no stops here in digging deep in search of scholarship).

I think the salient point in Adam Clarke’s little dig about Keach was that Keach was credited with what became known as Keach’s catechism. He was pilloried for it, but the crowd was said to be polite about the whole thing, even chastising the Episcopal minister who wanted to ballyrag him. (source: the Baptist Encylopedia)

But I digress – Keach’s catechism could be said to be one of those zeniths of left-brained Christianity, whereas Origen’s poetic allusions seem to epitomize the right-brained. Clarke, being a Methodist, probably saw a chance to dig at the Baptist Keach a bit.


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