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witnesses for Jehovah, who lifted up their voices, with hardly any hope of success, to testify against the crimes of their countrymen, to denounce the coming desolation, and to point the hopes of the faithful few to a distant future of holiness and peace. He does not seem to have commenced these his extraordinary labors until the reign of Ahaz, when the tide of corruption set in with a resistless current. During the two preceding reigns, his exertions were probably confined to the discharge of the ordinary duties of the prophetical office. The period of his youth was probably spent in the study of the law, and in the regular labors of a religious instructor, poet, and historian. But a crisis was at hand in the character and condition of the nation which called for mightier efforts.-Idolatry had first appeared in the reign of Solomon, towards its close, under the patronage of his heathen queens, and had received fresh encouragement from the superstitious mother of Asa. Unlawful worship on the high places had likewise gained an extensive footing; and to this the established practices of the kingdom of Israel must have given powerful countenance, and been a continual temptation. Though the idols were removed by Asa and Jehoshaphat, their worship was introduced more extensively than ever by the wife of king Jehoram, the wicked Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel. During the fourteen years that her influence lasted, the corruption became so deeply rooted that, it was only in appearance extirpated in the early part of the succeeding reign. No sooner was the priest Jehoiada dead than, at the instigation of the princes of Judah, king and people abandoned the house of Jehovah, and flocked to the abominable rites of their favorite Baalim and Ashtaroth. Yet the defalcation does not seem to have been entire or universal. The corruption in its worst extent was probably confined to the higher classes, who scorned restraint, and were fond of foreign customs; and even they, doubtless, still worshipped Jehovah, though not exclusively. The bulk of the common people may have been kept tolerably attentive to the external observance of the law, by the influence of the Levites and prophets, though they clung to their now hereditary reverence for the high places, and to a superstitious regard for teraphim, amulets, and incantations. Such was the state of religion when Uzziah ascended the throne. This active prince brought the kingdom to a state of greater strength and prosperity than it had enjoyed since the days of Jehoshaphat. His scheme of policy was taken up and pursued with equal success by his son Jotham. The national wealth thus began rapidly to increase, and luxury and vice followed in its train. Contrary to the express prohibitions of the law, horses and chariots were multiplied; and the chief men of the state, neglecting justice, were bent only on increasing their gains, and extending their landed possessions to the utmost limit. Though both Uzziah and Jotham were, on the whole, faithful to the theocracy, yet they were by no means zealous worshippers of Jehovah, and the corrupt practices of the people were allowed to go on unchecked. At length the increasing defection from the true God, found a fit leader in the profligate Ahaz. Casting aside every restraint, this worthless king practised the worst abominations of the heathen openly in the midst of Jerusalem. In every street of the sacred city, altars smoked with incense to some of the innumerable non-entities (biļas) of Phænicia and Syria. Every high-place, and hill, and green tree, witnessed the prostitution of his sacred dignity; while from the valley of the Son of Hinnom, was heard that fearful din of strange music, which betokened that there foul revelry was held in honour of
Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood
To his grim idol.' But the scourge of the avenger was at hand. Judah was attacked and devastated at once by the Edomites from the south, the Philistines from the west, and the combined force of Israel and Syria from the north. Annihilation seemed hourly to impend over the Jewish state and the house of David. Now, consequently, was the time to make the voice of warning heard, and it is sounded. But the prophet speaks not of himself, or in his own name. He calls upon the universe to listen to the complaint of its insulted Maker:
Hear, O heavens, and hearken, 0 earth!
But as for them—they have rebelled against me.' There has always appeared to us to be something inexpressibly sublime and touching in this solemn exordium. The hushed heavens and the silent earth are listening, and amid the stillness, a fearful cry is heard of a Father wronged by the children he has nursed. Then the inspired poet pours forth in impetuous strains his descriptions of their guilt and their sufferings, expostulations and entreaties to return to obedience, promises to the obedient, threats to the impenitent, hopes of a distant glorious period to the believing; and again, denunciations against the idolaters, with predictions of ruin, captivity, and a future restoration. Such are the contents of the first four chapters, which we would connect together as one prophecy. The same theme is resumed with fresh and more striking illustrations in chap. v.; more vivid delineations are given of the prevailing corruption, and an announcement of the near invasion of the Assyrians is made. The prophet then subjoins, in support of his authority for these declarations, an account of the scene and circumstances of his investment with his extraordinary commission, which had taken place about sixteen years previously.
The first six chapters thus appear to form an introduction to the whole prophecy, depicting the state of things which called it forth, presenting in brief the main subjects of it, and vindicating the authority of its author. There seems no need to imagine with Jahn that the sixth chapter is misplaced, and ought to stand at the commencement of the book. We should be still more loath to adopt the alteration, which he seems desirous to propose, of “Uzziah" into “Jotham,” in v. 1, or to embrace as an alternative his conjecture that some predictions of Isaiah, during the reign of Jotham, have been lost. There is surely nothing strange or improbable in the supposition that the prophet may have retired from public view, or at least from active labor, during the reign of Jotham, until the crisis came which called for his services. We are rather surprised that Dr. Henderson has taken no notice in his commentary of the difficulty which Jahn and others seem to have felt with the present reading (though not, in our opinion, reasonably,) on account of the length to which it extends the official life of Isaiah.
The contents of the prophecy may be divided into four sections. We very much wish that Dr. Henderson had consulted the benefit, or at least the convenience of the student, by placing between the Introductory Dissertation and the Translation, a tabular view of these, with their various subjects distinctly enumerated. We suppose, however, that he has left this as a task to be executed by the student for himself. The first section comprehends chap. i.-xii., and contains the introduction we have described ; encouragements relative to the invasion by Pekah and Rezin, predictions of the invasion of the Assyrians, and of their miraculous destruction, with intimations of the Messiah's kingdom, following up the promise given to Ahaz, and closing with a prediction of the first restoration of the Jews.
In reviewing the subjects to which these prophecies refer, one is apt at first to be startled by the apparently incongruous mixture of events, different in character and widely separated from each other in time. We have no sooner been told of the approaching subjugation of Syria, and of the entire removal of the sister kingdom of Israel within sixty-five years,* than we
* See ch. vii. 8, 9. We feel inclined to differ a little from Dr. H. in the translation and intention which he attaches to these two verses. We should render them thus: "For as surely as the head of Syria is Damascus, and the
are surprised by an announcement of the birth of the Messiah. This again is succeeded by a description of the Assyrian invasion, in the midst of which the voice of the Messiah himself is heard,* comforting his disciples, and warning the impious. The near and the distant are continually united, because the accomplishment of the former is that contemporary sign which is to be the guarantee for the fulfilment of the latter. They are linked together, as an envoy's proclamation and his credentials; associated together, they invite our attention and confidence, like a stranger introduced by a friend--the unknown and mysterious vouched for and recommended by what is known and acknowledged.
In the application of the prophecies, we were much pleased to find that Dr. Henderson has entirely rejected the hypothesis of a double sense, or two-fold application, to which in one form or other most interpreters have seemed so fond of adhering. Yet no mode of explanation can be more unsatisfactory, or less needful. We should hardly hesitate to affirm, that the adoption of such a supposition robs the prophecies of all force of conviction, effacing every lineament of genuineness and certainty, and reducing them to the ambiguity of Pythian responses. This manner of exposition has been the standing disgrace of our Biblical commentators. It has given room on the one hand to the sneers of such infidels as Bolingbroke, who affirmed that the Old Testament prophecies might very well be applied to the events of modern European history; and on the other hand to the absurd and dangerous conceits of the Plymouth Brethren, who, determined to have something definite at least, press the literal meaning throughout, even where the language is plainly figurative. We were, indeed, surprised and vexed to find so judicious a writer as Davison, in his Discourses on Prophecy—a work, on the whole, deserving of all praise—while condemning what he calls the abuse of the two-fold application, actually adopting it in the case of the most important predictions,t and justifying himself by the assertion that the proof of prescience is thus made doubly strong, since the difficulty of accomplishment becomes, as it were, twice as great. But if a prophecy be such that it will apply equally well to the restoration of the Jews from captivity, and to the conversion of the Gentiles; or again to the destruction of
head of Damascus, Rezin, so surely within sixty-five years, &c. And as the head of Ephraim is Samaria * * * so, if ye of Judah believe not, surely neither shall ye remain.'
* See ch. viji. 16. This is a strongly marked instance of the abrupt changes of the person speaking, which are of frequent occurrence in the prophecies, as in other lyric compositions. They cannot seem strange to any one who is conversant with our old ballads.
† See the work, p. 195.
the Jewish polity, and to the end of the world, it must necessarily be of so indefinite and loose a character, as to be capable of adaptation to any great deliverance, or to any great convulsion. If truly divine, it must possess the unity of truth; it must suit the one, and not the other; it must have been intended for one, and not for both; and marks should be discerned and pointed out by the faithful expositor which shall show its congruity with the received, and its incongruity with the rejected, application. This Dr. Henderson has done in most instances successfully; there are some passages, indeed, in which we see reasons for differing from him, but it would hardly be interesting here to descend to detail, from which we are prevented also by want of space.
The second section of the book extends from chap. xiii. to chap. xxiï. inclusive. With the exception of ch.xxi., it is entirely occupied with the denunciation of the doom' (piyn) of each of the foreign nations, whose fortunes were more or less connected with those of the valley of vision itself. This section is replete with the most interesting statements, embellished by the most lively and beautiful imagery. But without further remark, we shall proceed to give two extracts, in which we think the present translation most strikingly manifests its superiority to our common version. The first is the address to the Ethiopic nation contained in chap. xviii. It follows close upon the prediction of the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian in the close of chap. xvii., and refers throughout to the same subject. It will be better, however, to let Dr. Henderson speak for himself, and we shall therefore give in addition his introduction to the chapter.
Chap. xviii.—While considerable obscurity hangs over certain parts of this prophecy, it nevertheless presents several points which serve as distinct landmarks for the guidance of the interpreter. That it is not a separate or disjointed portion of the book may be maintained on three grounds. First, it is not introduced as a distinct prophecy, which is the case with all the other prophetic oracles contained in chaps. xiii. xxiii. Secondly, it is not denunciatory of judgment, upon the nation to which it refers, which is likewise the case with those oracles. And thirdly, ver.46 are so obviously parallel with chap. xvii. 13, 14, that they can only with propriety be viewed as referring to the same event. It must, therefore, be connected with the last three verses of the preceding chapter; and, according to the unrestrained explanation of the geographical and other features which it exhibits, and the historical circumstances of the period, there is no country to which it can consistently be applied but Ethiopia. At the time Sennacherib invaded Judea, which was towards the close of the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, the king of Ethiopia was Tirhakah, a monarch of great military renown (Strabo, xv. 1, 6), whose figure, name, and the expedition which he undertook against Sennacherib are recorded on the walls of a Theban temple (Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, vol. i. p. 140). According to the Phonetic alphabet his name is THPK, or, as found on