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INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
I might give other analyses of this book, but it is needless ; from what is before the reader he will at once see how vain all attempts of this kind are, and how foolish to make divisions and subdivisions, partitions and classifications, where the Spirit of God has given no intimations of the kind, and where even the most learned men differ in their arrangement.
“ God never left his work for man to mend." The prophecies were given as they were necessary, and no classification was ever intended. We should take them up as we find them; and humbly endeavour to find out their objects and meaning, and how far ourselves are interested in these denunciations of Divine wrath ; and in those glorious promises of mercy and salvation through Him who was once the hope of Israel, and now is salvation to the ends of the earth.
Bishop Lowth's translation is by far the best that has ever been made of this sublime prophet: as he thoroughly understood his language, so he entered deeply into his spirit. Were it allowable, I should be glad to supersede what is called the authorized version, and put that of the learned bishop, with a few genuine alterations, in its place, as being abundantly more correct and nervous, rendering the sacred text more clearly, and consequently more intelligibly, so that the common reader can understand this text beiter without a comment, than he can the authorized version even with one. His notes, which are a treasure of learning and sound criticism, I have almost universally preserved, intermingling them with my own; but large quotations from his notes I have distinguished by the letter L.; and I have often adopted his text, as being vastly superior to that in common use; the catch words froin which follow those from the authorized version. Should a new translation of the Bible be ever published by authority, I have no doubt but, with a few alterations, that of Bishop Lowth would be adopted as the standard.
A. C. Millbrook, Sept. 24, 1823.
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P R O P H E T ISAI A H.
Chronological Notes relative to the commencement of Isaiah's prophecy. Year from the Creation of the World, according to the computation of Archbishop Usher, 3244.—Year from
the Deluge, according to the generally received Hebrew text, 1588.-Year from the vocation of Abram, 1161.—Year from the foundation of Solomon's Temple, 251.–First year of the fifth Olympiad. Year before the building of Rome, according to the Varronian computation, 7.--Fifteenth year of the reign of Thurimas, king of Macedon.-Eleventh year of the reign of Theopompus, king of Lacedæmon.-Second year of the reign of Alyattes, king of Lydia.—Eighteenth year of Æschylus, perpetual archon of the Athenians.—Second year of the reign of Pekahiah, king of Israel. Fifty-first year of the reign of Azariah, or Uzziah, king of Judah.—Epoch of the establishment of the Ephori at Lacedæmnon by Theopompus.
The prophet, with a boldness and majesty becoming the herald of the Most High, begins with calling on the
whole creation to allend while Jehovah speaks, 2. A charge of gross insensibility and ingratitude is then brought against the Jews, by contrasting their conduct with that of the ox and ass, the most stupid of animals, 3. This leads to an amplification of their guilt, 4; highly aggravated by their slighting the chastisements and judgments of God, though repeated till they had been left almost like Sodom and Gomorrah, 5-9. The incidental mention of those places leads to an address to the rulers and people of the Jews, under the character of princes of Sodom, and people of Gomorrah, which is no less spirited and severe than elegant and unexpected, 10. The vanity of trusting to the performance of the outward rites and ceremonies of religion is then exposed, 11-15; and the necessity of repentance and reformation is strongly enjoined, 16, 17, and urged by the most encouraging promises as well as by the most awful threatenings, 18-20. But neither of these producing the proper effect on that people who were the prophet's charge, he bitterly laments their degeneracy, 21-23 ; and concludes with introducing God, declaring his purpose of inflicting such heavy judgments as would entirely cut off the wicked, and excite in the righteous, who should also pass through the furnace, an everlasting shame and abhorrence of every thing connected with idolatry,
the source of their misery, 24–31. 8. cir . 20. THE a vision of Isaiah the son the days of Uzziah, Jotham, A. M. cir
B. C. cir. 760. Anno Olymp. of Amoz, which he saw con- Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Anno Olymp. Quintæ I.
Quintæ I. Ante Urbem cerning Judah and Jerusalem in Judah.
Ante Urbem Conditam 7.
Conditam 7. a Numbers, chap. xii. 6. Isaiah exercised the prophetical office during a long of his prophecies is either expressly marked, or suffiperiod of time, if he lived to the reign of Manasseh ; ciently clear from the history to which they relate ; for the lowest computation, beginning from the year in that of a few others may with some probability be dewhich Uzziah died, when some suppose him to have duced from internal marks; from expressions, descripreceived his first appointment to that office, brings it to tions, and circumstances interwoven. It may theresixty-one years. But the tradition of the Jews, that fore be of some use in this respect, and for the better he was put to death by Manasseh, is very uncertain ; understanding of his prophecies in general, to give here and one of their principal rabbins, Aben Ezra, Com. a summary view of the history of his time. in Isa. i. 1, seems rather to think that he died before The kingdom of Judah seems to have been in a Hezekiah, which is indeed more probable. It is how- more flourishing condition during the reigns of Uzziah ever certain that he lived at least to the fifteenth or and Jotham, than at any other time after the revolt of sixteenth year of Hezekiah ; this makes the least pos- the ten tribes. The former recovered the port of Elath sible term of the duration of his prophetical office about on the Red Sea, which the Edomites had taken in the forty-eight years. The time of the delivery of some reign of Joram. He was successful in his wars with
The prophet calls
for attention. A. M. cir. 3244.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give and they have rebelled against A M. cir. 324. B. C. cir. 760.
B. C. cir. 760.
Quinta 1 hath spoken : c I have nourish- 3 . The ox knoweth his owner, Ante Urbein Conditam 7.
Conditain 7. ed and brought up children, and the ass his master's crib: Deut. xxxii. 1; Jer. ii. 12 ; vi. 19; xxii. 29 ; Ezek. xxxvi. 4; Mic. i. 2; vi. 1, 2.- - Chap. v. 1, 2. - Jer. viii. 7. the Philistines, and took from them several cities, Gath, his own country, and this was the final destruction of Jabneh, Ashdod ; as likewise against some people of that kingdom, in the sixth year of the reign of Hezekiah. Arabia Deserta, and against the Ammonites, whom he Hezekiah was not deterred by this alarming example compelled to pay him tribute. He repaired and iin- from refusing to pay the tribute to the king of Assyria, proved the fortifications of Jerusalem; and had a great which had been imposed on Ahaz: this brought on the army, well appointed and disciplined. He was no less invasion of Sennacherib in the fourteenth year of his attentive to the arts of peace; and very much encour- reign, an account of which is inserted among the proaged agriculture, and the breeding of cattle. Jothamphecies of Isaiah. After a great and miraculous demaintained the establishments and improvements made liverance from so powerful an enemy, Hezekiah conby his father; added to what Uzziah had done in tinued his reign in peace. He prospered in all his strengthening the frontier places ; conquered the Am- works, and left his kingdom in a fourishing state to his monites, who had revolted ; and exacted from them a son Manasseh—a sou in every respect unworthy of inore stated and probably a larger tribute. However, such a father. See Lowth. at the latter end of his time, the league between Pe
NOTES ON CHAP. I. kah, king of Israel, and Retsin, king of Syria, was formed against Judah ; and they began to carry their Verse 1. The vision of Isaiah] It seems doubtful designs into execution.
whether this title belongs to the whole book, or only to But in the reign of Ahaz his son not only all these the prophecy contained in this chapter. The former advantages were lost, but the kingdom of Judah was part of the title seems properly to belong to this parbrought to the brink of destruction. Pekah king of ticular prophecy; the latter part, which enumerates the Israel overthrew the army of Ahaz, who lost in battle kings of Judah under whom Isaiah exercised his proone hundred and twenty thousand men ; and the Is- phetical office, seems to extend it to the whole collecraelites carried away captives two hundred thousand tion of prophecies delivered in the course of his minwomen and children, who however were released and istry. Vitringa—to whom the world is greatly insent home again upon the remonstrance of the prophet debted for his learned labours on this prophet, and to Oded. After this, as it should seem, (see Vitringa on whom we should have owed much more if he had not chap. vii. 2,) the two kings of Israel and Syria, join- so totally devoted himself to Masoretic authoritying their forces, laid siege to Jerusalem ; but in this has, I think, very judiciously resolved this doubt. He attempt they failed of success. In this distress Ahaz supposes that the former part of the title was originally called in the assistance of Tiglath-pileser, king of As- prefixed to this single prophecy; and that, when the syria, who invaded the kingdoms of Israel and Syria, collection of all Isaiah's prophecies was made, the enuand slew Rezin; but he was more in danger than ever meration of the kings of Judah was added, to make it from his too powerful ally; to purchase whose forbear- at the same time a proper title to the whole book. As ance, as he had before bought his assistance, he was such it is plaivly taken in 2 Chron. xxxii. 32, where forced to strip himself and his people of all the wealth the book of Isaiah is cited by this title : “ The vision he could possibly raise from his own treasury, from the of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz." temple, and from the country. About the time of the The prophecy contained in this first chapter stands siege of Jerusalem the Syrians took Elath, which was single and unconnected, making an entire piece of itself. never aster recovered. The Edomites likewise, taking It contains a severe remonstrance against the corrupadvantage of the distress of Ahaz, ravaged Judea, and tions prevailing among the Jews of that time, powerful carried away many captives. The Philistines reco- exhortations to repentance, grievous threatenings to the vered what they had before lost ; and took many places impenitent, and gracious promises of better times, when in Judea, and maintained themselves there. Idolatry the nation shall have been reformed by the just judgwas established by the command of the king in Jeru- ments of God. The expression, upon the whole, is salem, and throughout Judea ; and the service of the clear ; the connection of the several parts easy ; and temple was either intermitted, or converted into an idol- in regard to the images, sentiments, and style, it gives atrous worship.
a beautiful example of the prophet's elegant manner Hezekiah, his son, on his accession to the throne, of writing ; though perhaps it may not be equal in immediately set about the restoration of the legal wor- these respects to many of the following prophecies. ship of God, both in Jerusalem and through Judea. He Verse 2. Hear, O heavens—"Hear, () ye heavens") cleansed and repaired the temple, and held a solemn God is introduced as entering into a public action, or passover. He improved the city, repaired the fortifi- pleading, before the whole world, against his disobecation, erected magazines of all sorts, and built a new dient people. The prophet, as herald or officer to proaqueduct. In the fourth year of his reign Shalmane- claim the summons to the court, calls upon all created ser, king of Assyria, invaded the kingdom of Israel, beings, celestial and terrestrial, to attend and bear wittook Samaria, and carried away the Israelites into cap-ness to the truth of his plea and the justice of his tivity, and replaced them by different people sent from cause. The same scene is more fully displayed in the
The stupidity and
ingratitude of Israel. 1. M. cir3301. but Israel • doth not know, my evil doers, children that are cor- 4. M. cir. 3244.
B. C. oir. 760. Anno Olymp. people doth not consider. rupters! They have forsaken
Anno Olymp. Quintæ I.
Quintæ I. Ante Urbem 4 Ah sinful nation, a people the LORD, they have provoked Ante Urbem Conditam 7.
Conditam 7. & laden with iniquity, ha seed of the Holy One of Israel, unto e Jer. ix. 3, 6. Chap. v. 12.
Heb. of heaviness. h Chap. Ivii. 3, 4; Matt. iii. 7. noble exordium of Psa. 1., where God summons all his good ; neither are they looked upon as children, but mankind, from east 10 west, to be present to hear his as beasts of burden; neither are they advanced to appeal; and the solemnity is held on Sion, where he honours, but oppressed with great and daily labours. is attended with the same terrible pomp that accompa- While the Israelites, chosen by the mere favour of nied him on Mount Sinai :
God, adopted as sons, promoted to the highest dignity, “A consuming fire goes before him,
yet acknowledged not their Lord and their God; but And round him rages a violent tempest :
despised his commandments, though in the highest deHe calleth the heavens from above.
gree equitable and just.” Hieroz. i., col. 409. And the earth, that he may contend in judgment
Jeremiah's comparison to the same purpose is equally with his people.” Psa. I. 3, 4.
elegant, but has not so much spirit and severity as this
of Isaiah, By the same bold figure, Micah calls upon the moun
“Even the stork in the heavens knoweth her season'; tains, that is, the whole country of Judea, to attend to him, chap. vi. 1, 2 ;-
And the turtle, and the swallow, and the crane, ob
serve the time of their coming : * Arise, plead thou before the mountains,
But my people doth not know the judgment of And let the hills hear thy voice.
Jer. viii. 7. Hear, ye mountains, the controversy of Jehovah; And ye, O ye strong foundations of the earth : Hosea has given a very elegant turn to the samo For Jehovan hath a controversy with his people, image, in the way of metaphor or allegory : And he will plead his cause against Israel."
“I drew them with human cords, with the bands of With the like invocation, Moses introduces his sublime love : song, the design of which was the same as that of this And I was to them as he that lifteth up the yoke prophecy, “ to testify as a witness, against the Israel
upon their cheek; ites," for their disobedience, Deut. xxxi. 21 :
And I laid down their fodder before them." “Give ear, 0 ye heavens, and I will speak;
Hos. xi. 4. And let the earth hear the words of my mouth." Salomo ben Melech thus explains the middle part of
Deut. xxxii. 1. the verse, which is somewhat obscure : "I was to them This, in the simple yet strong oratorical style of at their desire as they that have compassion on a heifer, Moses, is, “ I call heaven and earth to witness against lest she be overworked in ploughing; and that lift up thee this day; life and death have I set before thee; the yoke from off her neck, and rest it upon her cheek the blessing and the curse : choose now life, that thou that she may not still draw, but rest from her labour mayest live, thou and thy seed." Deut. xxx. 19. The an hour or two in the day." poetical style, by an apostrophe, sets the personification But Israel] The Septuagint, Syriac, Aquila, Theoin a much stronger light.
dolion, and Vulgale, read 58920'i veyisrael, BUT Israel, Hath spoken—" That speaketh"] I render it in the adding the conjunction, which being rendered as present time, pointing it 127 dober.
There seems to an adversative, sets the opposition in a stronger be an impropriety in demanding attention to a speech light. already delivered. But the present reading may stand, Doth not know] The same ancient versions agree as the prophet may be - here understood to declare to in adding ME, which very properly answers, and inthe people what the Lord had first spoken to him. deed is almost necessarily required to answer, the
I have nourished] The Septuagint have eyevvnoa, words possessor and lord preceding. lopana de ME “ I have begotten.” Instead of sya giddalti
, they our eyvw ; Sept. “ Israel autem ME non cognovit ;" read 7b yaladti; the word little differing from the Vulg. lopana de Mor our eyvw; Aquil., Theod. other, and perhaps more proper; which the Chaldee The testimony of so scrupulous an interpreter as Aquila likewise seems to favour; “ vocavi eos filios." See is of great weight in this case. And both his and Exod. iv. 22; Jer. xxxi. 9.
Theodotion's rendering is such as shows plainly that Verse 3. The or knoweth] An'amplification of the they did not add the word MOY to help out the sense, gross insensibility of the disobedient Jews, by compar- for it only embarrasses it. It also clearly determines ing them with the most heavy and stupid of all animals, what was the original reading in the old copies from yet not so insensible as they. Bochart has well-illus- which they translated. It could not be 'Jyri yedani, trated the comparison, and shown the peculiar force of which most obviously answers to the version of the it. " He sets them lower than the beasts, and even Septuagint and Vulgate, for it does not accord with than the most stupid of all beasts, for there is scarcely that of Aquila and Theodotion. The version of these any more so than the ox and the ass. Yet these ac- latter interpreters, however injudicious, clearly ascerknowledge their master; they know the manger of their tains both the phrase, and the order of the words, of lord; by whom they are fed, not for their own, but for the original Hebrew; it was jina x5 mix boyu vey,