The Education in Israel – Part 1
God had called the Israel nation to be a living example of what man can be when he depends on the power of God. When God called these people, it was not because they were a great nation.
“6 For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
7 The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
8 But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9 Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;” Deut 7:6-9.
The Israelite had been in bondage for more than four hundred years. The generations of people born while in Egypt had nearly lost sight of Jehovah’s requirements. Moses when he was called out had to spend forty years in the wilderness of Paran to unlearn the evil effects of the pagan education of Egypt.
And when the Israelites finally came out of Egypt, they also had to spend forty years in the desert to unlearn all that they had acquired in the land of bondage, before they could truly grasp the things of God.
Planes of existence
Men live on various planes. There are those so physically constituted as to be satisfied with the gratification of physical wants and needs. These are readily led by the man who lives on the mental plane. For mind has ever been recognized to be superior to matter, so that without realizing it, the physically strong yields to the mental superior. Almost unconscious of his power, the man on the mental plane controls and guides those on the physical plane. The two individuals can never contend on matters of principle. The physically organized man naturally follows the dictates of the other.
God never intended that Israel be merely mental leaders. There is still a higher plane on which God designed them to reach, the spiritual plane. As the numbers decrease when passing from the physical to the mental, they decrease even further as one passes from the mental to the spiritual.
The spiritual plane can only be reached by faith. It requires constant self-denial and continual development. In reality, it is living as seeing Him who is invisible. The physical man depends on the knowledge acquired through the senses. The mental man depends upon reason. Many combine the two natures, and such are guided by the sense of reason in proportion as the two natures are developed.
Knowledge as a result of sense perceptions and finite reason capture the majority of mankind. The life of faith, the walking with God, takes in the very few. It takes in the likes of Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, David, Elijah, and many of the patriarchs.
That is why God called Israel to live in the spiritual plane. He called them as a nation to attain and maintain a life of faith. And as long as they lived on this plane, they will naturally be leaders of the nations, because it is a law of nature that the mental will always lead the physical and the spiritual would lead these two. That is why God said:
“5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” Deut. 4:5,6.
As long as Israel lived in the spiritual plane, they will be the leaders and teachers of the world. But as soon as they compromised their standards and copied the surrounding nations, they lost their position and were subjugated by the heathen.
Seeing that Israel was to be a leader by virtue of the plane of existence that they were to live, it is not surprising that there was marked for them a very specific system of education that would enable them achieve this level of existence. As soon as they mingled with the surrounding nations and looked out to the heathens, they would lose their position as leaders.
Should Israel attempt to adopt the education system of the surrounding nations that moment their education becomes papal in character, for it would be a combination of the divine and the worldly. If a man-made theocracy, a church and state government is papal in principle, then the divine and worldly combine in educational systems is no less a papal principle. The results of such a combine are illustrated in record:
“34 They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them:
35 But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.
36 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,
38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.
40 Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.” Psalms 106:34-40.
Israel could not forsake her God-given forms of education without relinquishing her position as leader of nations. Destined to be the head and not the tail, she immediately reveres her position when she adopted a mixed system.
The Education of Israel was soul culture, pure and simple. Its object was the restoration of the image of God in the soul. To bring man to his original edenic state, in harmony with his Creator.
“The Lord Himself directed the education of Israel. His care was not restricted to their religious interests; whatever affected their mental or physical well-being was also the subject of divine providence, and came within the sphere of divine law.
God had commanded the Hebrews to teach their children His requirements and to make them acquainted with all His dealings with their fathers. This was one of the special duties of every parent– one that was not to be delegated to another. In the place of stranger lips the loving hearts of the father and mother were to give instruction to their children. Thoughts of God were to be associated with all the events of daily life. The mighty works of God in the deliverance of His people and the promises of the Redeemer to come were to be often recounted in the homes of Israel; and the use of figures and symbols caused the lessons given to be more firmly fixed in the memory. The great truths of God’s providence and of the future life were impressed on the young mind. It was trained to see God alike in the scenes of nature and the words of revelation. The stars of heaven, the trees and flowers of the field, the lofty mountains, the rippling brooks–all spoke of the Creator. The solemn service of sacrifice and worship at the sanctuary and the utterances of the prophets were a revelation of God.
Such was the training of Moses in the lowly cabin home in Goshen; of Samuel, by the faithful Hannah; of David, in the hill dwelling at Bethlehem; of Daniel, before the scenes of the captivity separated him from the home of his fathers. Such, too, was the early life of Christ at Nazareth; such the training by which the child Timothy learned from the lips of his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), the truths of Holy Writ.” Patriarch and Prophets Pg. 592.
We shall look at this system of education both from the sacred pages of inspiration and from historical records.
From the records of sacred history, we follow God’s method of educating the young. The prenatal periods were critical and God was very specific on the conduct of the mother before the birth of those children that were destined for His service. We can get these from the lives of Manoah and his wife, both of whom would be the parents of Samson, Hannah the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth who was to be the mother of John the Baptist, Mary who was to be the mother of Jesus. The parents had to live a life of strict obedience to the laws of health and a faith in the word of God.
The Jewish schools
In the Jewish schools, “Education was restricted to the family, in which the father was the principal teacher. There were no popular schools nor professional teachers. Yet the instruction of the Jew, as is evident from the Pentateuch, embraced a vast number of particulars.” Painter, History of Education, pg. 29.
Hinsdale writes: “Jewish education began with the mother. What the true Jewish mother, considered as a teacher, was, we know from both the Testaments and from many other sources. The very household duties that she performed molded her children in accordance with the national discipline. ‘ The Sabbath meal, the kindling of the Sabbath lamp, and the setting apart of a portion of the dough from the bread for the household–these are but instances with which every Taph as he clung to his mother’s skirts, must have been familiar.’ The bit of parchment fastened to the doorpost, on which the name of the Most High was written, . . . . . would be among the first things to arrest his attention.
“It was in the school of the mother’s knee that the stories of patriarchs and prophets, of statesmen and warriors, of poets and sages, of kings and judges, wise men and patriots, and of the great Law-giver Himself, –the whole forming the very best body of material for the purposes of child- nurture found in any language, – were told and retold until they became parts of the mind itself.”
He then mentions the case of Timothy, and adds: “As teachers of their children, the women of every country may learn lessons from the matrons of Israel.
Still it was the father who was bound to teach his son. To impart to the child the knowledge of the Law was as great a spiritual distinction as to have received it from Moses could have been. To this paramount duty all engagements must give way. As soon as the child could speak his religious education began.” Hinsdale, Jesus as Teacher, pg 29, 30.
This was evidently the original plan and as long as families proved true to their trust, the greater part, if not all of the education of the child could have been accomplished in the family school. Always however, as long as Israel was a nation, Education of the child (and this term covered ages from 0 to 12 to 15 years), was under the instruction of parents.
From the home school we follow the Jewish student to the synagogue or church school. Moses had been instructed by God to make every priest a teacher. So that nation had a whole tribe of teachers. As every town had a synagogue, “ a town which had no school must perish”.
Quoting again from Hinsdale “The children were gathered for instruction in the synagogues and school-houses, where the teacher, generally the Chazzan, or officer of the synagogue, “imparted to them the precious knowledge of the Law, with constant adaptation to their capacity, with unwearied patience, intense earnestness, strictness tempered by kindness, but, above all, with the highest object of their training ever in view. To keep children from all contact with vice; to train them to gentleness, even when bitterest wrong had been received; to show sin in its repulsiveness, rather than to terrify by its consequences; to train to strict truthfulness; to avoid all that might lead to disagreeable or indelicate thoughts; and to do all this without showing partiality, without either undue severity or laxity of discipline, with judicious increase of study and work, with careful attention to thoroughness in acquiring knowledge ” all this and more constituted the ideal set before the teacher, and made his office of such high esteem in Israel.” Ibid, Pg 31.
These teachers took the youth at their most critical period of development. And how thoroughly they understood the needs of the developing minds!
How wide the difference between those schools taught by the prophets of God and our modern institutions of learning! How few schools are to be found that are not governed by the maxims and customs of the world!
There is a deplorable lack of proper restraint and judicious discipline. The existing ignorance of God’s word among a people professedly Christian is alarming. Superficial talk, mere sentimentalism, passes for instruction in morals and religion. The justice and mercy of God, the beauty of holiness and the sure reward of rightdoing, the heinous character of sin and the certainty of its terrible results, are not impressed upon the minds of the young. Evil associates are instructing the youth in the ways of crime, dissipation, and licentiousness.
Are there not some lessons which the educators of our day might learn with profit from the ancient schools of the Hebrews? He who created man has provided for his development in body and mind and soul. Hence, real success in education depends upon the fidelity with which men carry out the Creator’s plan.
The true object of education is to restore the image of God in the soul. In the beginning God created man in His own likeness. He endowed him with noble qualities. His mind was well balanced, and all the powers of his being were harmonious. But the Fall and its effects have perverted these gifts. Sin has marred and well-nigh obliterated the image of God in man. It was to restore this that the plan of salvation was devised, and a life of probation was granted to man. To bring him back to the perfection in which he was first created is the great object of life–the object that underlies every other. It is the work of parents and teachers, in the education of the youth, to co-operate with the divine purpose; and is so doing they are “laborers together with God.” 1 Corinthians 3:9.
All the varied capabilities that men possess–of mind and soul and body–are given them by God, to be so employed as to reach the highest possible degree of excellence. But this cannot be a selfish and exclusive culture; for the character of God, whose likeness we are to receive, is benevolence and love. Every faculty, every attribute, with which the Creator has endowed us is to be employed for His glory and for the uplifting of our fellow men. And in this employment is found its purest, noblest, and happiest exercise.
Were this principle given the attention which its importance demands, there would be a radical change in some of the current methods of education. Instead of appealing to pride and selfish ambition, kindling a spirit of emulation, teachers would endeavor to awaken the love for goodness and truth and beauty–to arouse the desire for excellence. The student would seek the development of God’s gifts in himself, not to excel others, but to fulfill the purpose of the Creator and to receive His likeness. Instead of being directed to mere earthly standards, or being actuated by the desire for self-exaltation, which in itself dwarfs and belittles, the mind would be directed to the Creator, to know Him and to become like Him.” Patriarchs and Prophets Pg 595.
As we ponder these principles of true education, it is my prayer that your mind will be directed heavenward and reconsider God’s plan for the education of your mind and that of your children. To rethink the modern methods of education and their corrupting influence upon the soul, and seek God’s wisdom to make the right choices in only adopting an education system that makes God paramount, and the study of His word central in all our endeavors. To unlearn all that we have received in Babylon and Egypt, and like Moses and Daniel only seek to exalt the Most High in all our pursuits.
Have a blessed week.