Paradise Lost, Book 12

649 lines. Most of the book continues Michael’s conversation with Adam, revealing the future, including the exodus, and the giving of the Torah, and the exile, and the coming of the Messiah, and even a bit of the period after the Messiah’s ascension. The book ends with Adam and Eve leaving Paradise.

Michael resumes telling Adam the future, picking up from the flood, which he had related in the previous book (lines 6–62). Instead of showing Adam scenes, though, Michael simply tells him. He describes Nimrod (unnamed), the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of languages.

Adam is displeased with Nimrod (lines 63–78). He says God made humans lords only over the animals, not over other people.

Michael responds (lines 79–269), saying that God has made tyrants because men are sinful and unreasonable. Michael mentions the curse of Ham, and then God will select “one peculiar nation” (line 111). Michael then describes Abraham (lines 111–51), raised in idolatry (line 115) but “in his seed / All nations shall be blest” (line 125–26). Milton has the initial call of Abraham in Ur (line 130).

This ponder, that all nations of the earth
Shall in his seed be blessèd; by that seed
Is meant thy great deliverer, who shall bruise
The serpent’s head; whereof to thee anon
Plainlier shall be revealed.

lines 147–51

Next Michael talks about the Egyptian bondage, and Moses and Aaron, and the exodus, and the plagues (lines 151–214). Sinai (lines 223–60), including the tabernacle. What’s in the laws?

part such as appertain
To civil justice, part religious rites
Of sacrifice, informing them, by types
And shadows, of that destined seed to bruise
The serpent, by what means he shall achieve
Mankind’s deliverance.

lines 230–35

Then Michael summarizes, but is sure to mention Joshua’s long day.

Adam expresses joy at the thought of Abraham, and asks why God allows other nations to have their own laws (lines 270–83).

Michael answers (lines 284–371), it’s because people are sinful.

And therefore was law given them to evince
Their natural pravity, by stirring up
Sin against law to fight: that when they see
Law can discover sin, but not remove,
Save by those shadowy expiations weak,
The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude
Some blood more precious must be paid for man,
Just for unjust, that in such righteousness
To them by faith imputed, they may find
Justification towards God, and peace
Of conscience, which the law by ceremonies
Cannot appease, nor man the moral part
Perform, and not performing cannot live.

lines 287–99

Michael actually says that it’s because the Sinai law is a mere shadow, preparatory, that Moses will not lead Israel into the Promised land …

But Joshua whom the gentiles Jesus call,
His name and offie bearing, who shall quell
The adversary serpent, and bring back
Through the world’s wilderness long wandered man
Safe to eternal paradise of rest.

lines 310–14

Michael mentions David and the promise of an eternal throne (lines 320–30). Solomon, the exile to Babylon for seventy years, return from exile, Hasmonean high priesthood, Herod, the birth of Jesus with the star as a sign.

A virgin is his mother, but his sire
The power of the most high; he shall ascend
the throne hereditary, and bound his reign
With earth’s wide bounds, his glory with the heavens.

lines 368–71

Adam exults (lines 375–85).

now clear I understand
What oft my steadiest thoughts have searched in vain,
Why our great expectation should be called
The seed of woman: virgin mother, hail.

lines 376–79

Adam asks to learn about the battle between the Messiah and the snake.

Michael replies (lines 386–), advising Adam not to think of a conventional battle, and he confirms that Satan is the snake, which Adam had previously only guessed at. Michael then explains the scheme of redemption, how the Messiah will fulfill the law, so that God can impute his righteousness to Adam’s descendants, and be killed.

But to the cross he nails thy enemies,
The law that is against thee, and the sins
Of all mankind, with him there crucified,
Never to hurt them more who rightly trust
In this his satisfaction.

lines 515–19

Michael makes clear that it is the death of the Messiah that removes from Adam the penalty of death.

this Godlike act
Annuls thy doom, the death thou shouldst have died

lines 427–28

Adam rejoices (lines 469–84): O Felix Culpa! Adam then asks what will happen to the followers of the Messiah after the ascension.

Michael replies (lines 485–551), saying they will be mistreated until the return of Christ.

Adam speaks (lines 552–73), saying he has learned his lesson.

Michael replies (lines 574–605), saying Adam has done well. It’s time to go. Tell Eve what I told you.

Eve addresses Adam (lines 610–23), saying she already knows a good deal because God revealed it in her dream.

The poem ends with Adam and Eve embarking into a strange, new world.

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