The Review and Herald

1093/1902

October 30, 1900

The Schools of the Ancient Hebrews

[This article was published in The Signs of the Times, August 13, 1885, and is reprinted here by request.]

EGW

The institutions of human society find their best models in the word of God. For those of instruction, in particular, there is no lack of both precept and example. Lessons of great profit, even in this age of educational progress, may be found in the history of God's ancient people. RH October 30, 1900, par. 1

The Lord reserved to himself the education and instruction of Israel. His care was not restricted to their religious interests. Whatever affected their mental or physical well-being, became also an object of divine solicitude, and came within the province of divine law. RH October 30, 1900, par. 2

God commanded the Hebrews to teach their children his requirements, and to make them acquainted with all his dealings with their people. The home and the school were one. In the place of stranger lips, the loving hearts of father and mother were to give instruction to their children. Thoughts of God were associated with all the events of daily life in the home dwelling. The mighty works of God in the deliverance of his people were recounted with eloquence and reverential awe. The great truths of God's providence and of the future life were impressed on the young mind. It became acquainted with the true, the good, the beautiful. RH October 30, 1900, par. 3

By the use of figures and symbols the lessons given were illustrated, and thus more firmly fixed in the memory. Through this animated imagery the child was, almost from infancy, initiated into the mysteries, the wisdom, and the hopes of his fathers, and guided in a way of thinking and feeling and anticipating that reached beyond things seen and transitory, to the unseen and eternal. RH October 30, 1900, par. 4

From this education many a youth of Israel came forth vigorous in body and in mind, quick to perceive and strong to act, the heart prepared like good ground for the growth of the precious seed, the mind trained to see God in the words of revelation and the scenes of nature. The stars of heaven, the trees and flowers of the field, the lofty mountains, the babbling brooks, all spoke to him, and the voices of the prophets, heard throughout the land, met a response in his heart. RH October 30, 1900, par. 5

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 in the humble home at Nazareth; such the training by which the child Timothy learned from the lips of his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois, the truths of Holy Writ. RH October 30, 1900, par. 6

Further provision was made for the instruction of the young, by the establishment of the “school of the prophets.” If a youth was eager to obtain a better knowledge of the Scriptures, to search deeper into the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and to seek wisdom from above, that he might become a teacher in Israel, this school was open to him. RH October 30, 1900, par. 7

By Samuel the schools of the prophets were established, to serve as a barrier against the widespread corruption resulting from the iniquitous course of Eli's sons, and to promote the moral and spiritual welfare of the people. These schools proved a great blessing to Israel, promoting that righteousness which exalts a nation, and furnishing it with men qualified to act, in the fear of God, as leaders and counselors. In the accomplishment of this object, Samuel gathered companies of young men who were pious, intelligent, and studious. These were called the sons of the prophets. The instructors were men who were not only versed in divine truth, but who had themselves enjoyed communion with God, and had received the special endowment of his Spirit. They enjoyed the respect and confidence of the people, both for learning and for piety. RH October 30, 1900, par. 8

In Samuel's day there were two of these schools,—one at Ramah, the home of the prophet; and the other at Kirjath-jearim, where the ark then was. Two were added in Elijah's time, at Jericho and Bethel, and others were afterward established at Samaria and Gilgal. RH October 30, 1900, par. 9

The pupils of these schools sustained themselves by their own labor as husbandmen and mechanics. In Israel this was not thought strange or degrading; it was regarded a crime to allow children to grow up in ignorance of useful labor. In obedience to the command of God, every child was taught some trade, even though he was to be educated for holy office. Many of the religious teachers supported themselves by manual labor. Even so late as the time of Christ, it was not thought anything degrading that Paul and Aquila earned a livelihood by their labor as tent-makers. RH October 30, 1900, par. 10

The chief subjects of study were the law of God with the instructions given to Moses, sacred history, sacred music, and poetry. It was the grand object of all study to learn the will of God and the duties of his people. In the records of sacred history were traced the footsteps of Jehovah. From the events of the past were drawn lessons of instruction for the future. The great truths set forth by the types and shadows of the Mosaic law were brought to view, and faith grasped the central object of all that system—the Lamb of God that was to take away the sins of the world. RH October 30, 1900, par. 11

The Hebrew language was cultivated as the most sacred tongue in the world. A spirit of devotion was cherished. Not only were students taught the duty of prayer, but they were taught how to pray, how to approach their Creator, how to exercise faith in him, and how to understand and obey the teachings of his Spirit. Sanctified intellects brought forth from the treasure house of God things new and old. RH October 30, 1900, par. 12

The art of sacred melody was diligently cultivated. No frivolous waltz was heard, nor flippant song that should extol man and divert the attention from God, but sacred, solemn psalms of praise to the Creator, exalting his name and recounting his wondrous works. Thus music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts to that which was pure and noble and elevating, and to awaken in the soul devotion and gratitude to God. RH October 30, 1900, par. 13

How wide the difference between the schools of ancient times, under the supervision of God himself, and our modern institutions of learning. Even from theological schools many students are graduated with less real knowledge of God and of religious truth than when they entered. Few schools are to be found that are not governed by the maxims and customs of the world. There are few in which a Christian parent's love for his children will not meet with bitter disappointment. RH October 30, 1900, par. 14

In what consists the superior excellence of our systems of education? Is it in the classical literature which is crowded into our sons? Is it in the ornamental accomplishments which our daughters obtain at the sacrifice of health or mental strength? Is it in the fact that modern instruction is so generally separated from the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation? Does the chief excellence of popular education consist in treating the individual branches of study apart from that deeper investigation which involves the searching of the Scriptures, and a knowledge of God and the future life? Does it consist in imbuing the minds of the young with heathenish conceptions of liberty, morality, and justice? Is it safe to trust our youth to the guidance of those blind leaders who study the sacred oracles with far less interest than they manifest in the classical authors of ancient Greece and Rome? RH October 30, 1900, par. 15

“Education,” remarks a writer, “is becoming a system of seduction.” There is a deplorable lack of proper restraint and judicious discipline. The most bitter feelings, the most ungovernable passions, are excited by the course of unwise and ungodly teachers. The minds of the young are easily excited, and drink in insubordination like water. RH October 30, 1900, par. 16

The existing ignorance of God's word, among a people professedly Christian, is alarming. The youth in our public schools have been robbed of the blessing of holy things. Superficial talk, mere sentimentalism, passes for instruction in morals and religion; but it lacks the vital characteristics of real godliness. The justice and mercy of God, the beauty of holiness, and the sure reward of right-doing, the heinous character of sin, and the certainty of punishment are not impressed upon the minds of the young. RH October 30, 1900, par. 17

Skepticism and infidelity, under some pleasing disguise, or as a covert insinuation, too often find their way into schoolbooks. In some instances, the most pernicious principles have been inculcated by teachers. Evil associates are teaching the youth lessons of crime, dissipation, and licentiousness, horrible to contemplate. Many of our public schools are hotbeds of vice. RH October 30, 1900, par. 18

How can our youth be shielded from these contaminating influences? There must be schools established upon the principles, and controlled by the precepts, of God's word. Another spirit must be in our schools, to animate and sanctify every branch of education. Divine co-operation must be fervently sought. And we shall not seek in vain. The promises of God's word are ours. We may expect the presence of the heavenly Teacher. We may see the Spirit of the Lord diffused as in the schools of the prophets, and every object partake of a divine consecration. Science will then be, as she was to Daniel, the handmaid of religion; and every effort, from first to last, will tend to the salvation of man,—soul, body, and spirit,—and to the glory of God through Christ. RH October 30, 1900, par. 19