The Wisdom of Israel, by Edwin Collins, , at sacred-texts.com
Six things preceded the creation of the world (says Bereshith Rabbah, Chap. I.). Some of them were created; some existed as ideals, as part of the thought of the Creator, to emerge, created, in the future; so that their real being (noumena) was in existence, although ages should pass before their appearance as phenomena.
The Torāh * was created; for we read (Prov. viii. 22-36), "The Lord possessed † me at the beginning of His way . . . or ever the earth was, etc."; so, also, was the throne of glory, as we read (Ps. xciii. 2), "Thy throne was established from of old (Kedem in front), Thou art from everlasting."
The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people of Israel, the sanctuary and the name of the Messiah, existed in ideal. For it is written (Hosea ix. 10), "I saw your fathers as the first ripe fruit on the fig-tree, at the beginning of time," and of Israel (Ps. lxxiv. 2), "the congregation which thou didst possess before all things." The sanctuary is spoken of (Jer. xviii. 2) as "a glorious throne on high, from the beginning"; while of the name of the Messiah, who is the subject of the whole of Psalm xxii., it is written (verse 17), "His name existeth eternally." R. Ahabah Bar Rabbi Zengirah says, "Also repentance, the coming back of the sinner to his God, existed in ideal, before the creation of the world; as it is written (Ps. xc.), 'Before the mountains were brought forth'; from that very hour Thou turnedst man to contrition, ‡ saying, 'Return, ye children of men.'"
The Torah was created before the throne of
glory, and Rabbi Jeremiah says, in the name of Rabbi Samuel, bar R. Isaac, the ideal Israel—God's witness in the world, to keep His law and spread His truth—preceded all else, even the Torah.
This may be likened to a king married to a noble and honourable woman, who had borne no children to him. One day the king was seen passing through a thoroughfare, when he called to his attendants and said: "Bring me writing materials and draw up documents dedicating this street to my son. It shall be named after him, and all that pass through it shall know that they are walking in the way that I have given to my son."
Then all the people exclaimed: "But he has no son, and yet he tells us 'Give this street to my son, name this street after my son.'"
Then some returned and explained to them: "This king is a great astrologer. If he did not see into the future, and perceive the vision of his son that is to be born to him by his queen, he would not have spoken thus."
In like manner, if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not seen, in the future, the people of Israel who were destined to accept the Torah, he would not have inscribed in that Torah the words: "Command the Children of Israel."
(The ideal law of right and justice, including the laws of life, the path in which all mankind will one day walk, formed the ideal aim of the whole
creation. The only reason why it is dedicated to the people of Israel, as if it were given to them alone, is because the Creator knew, from the beginning, that while the other nations would, for centuries, reject it, Israel would at once accept it. Something of the same idea is expressed in the parable of "The Traveller and Tree in the Desert.")
24:* Torah, "instruction," "Law," here means the spiritual, intellectual, and moral contents of revelation as a whole.
24:† The Midrash rendering, though forced, is here quite permissible; for the word rendered in the A. V. "purchase," really means "to acquire," "to possess," while that rendered "of old time," Kedem, really means "before," "in front."
24:‡ "Contrition" is the correct translation of dakka, which the A. V. erroneously renders in this verse "destruction," a rendering entirely inconsistent with the context and not warranted by the etymology of the word.