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The Prophecies of Isaiah to the fortieth
BETWEEN these two prophets, according to Grotius and Lightfoot, but probably cotemporary with them both, and perhaps, for the exact time is very uncertain, about 758 years before Christ, Isaiah began to prophecy. His writings comprehend a space of at least 45 years, and some suppose not less than sixty. He is frequently called the evangelical prophet; and sometimes even an evangelist, on account of the accurate description which he gives of the birth, office, passion, and death of Christ; all which he points out in so plain a manner, that it has more the appearance of a narrative, written
after the event, than of a prophecy seven hundred years before it. It is for this reason that in our church service those chapters of Isaiah which are appointed to be read for our Sunday lessons, are omitted in their proper places and read in Advent and after Christmas, when the attention of the congregation is wished to be more particularly directed to the Saviour of the world.
The first allusion of this great prophet to the times of the Messiah, is contained in the beginning of the 2nd chapter; of which the second, third, and fourth verses are almost word for word the same as the three first verses of the fourth chapter of Micah, which were evidently taken from hence. They have been explained before in speaking of that prophet; and it is only necessary therefore to add here, that the verycircumstance of their being thus borrow, ed by Micah, is a sufficient confirmation that they are properly applied to the kingdom of Christ.
In this and the following chapter, the prophet having described the desolation
of Jerusalem in the most strong and affecting language, proceeds in the fourth to comfort the people by repeating the promise of a Redeemer. In that day, says (ver. 2.) shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And in the following verses he goes on to describe the glorious effects of the coming of that branch. Now the branch is a well known allegorical term used by the prophets, as will be seen hereafter, for the Messiah. It applies to him, both as he was a branch from the root of David, and in a more figurative manner, as the mercies of God revived again in him, after his people had been punished for their sins. The expression in the same place, the fruit of the earth, is a parallel phrase, and has nearly the same meaning as branch..
But the word which we translate here, and in other places, branch, means also in the Hebrew language, the East *; and
# Şee Leslie's “ Truth of Christianity demonstrated.”
in some places both of the septuagint *, Vulgate, and our own version, it is so rendered. In this sense it alludes to, and confirms the general expectation both of Jews and Gentiles, that Christ should appear in the East, or sun-rising. Hence he is called the sun of righteousness, Malachi iv. 2; and the day-spring, Luke i. 78, where the translation in the margin is, sun-rising or brunch. In all these senses it is equally applicable to our Saviour, and this explanation should be borne in mind whenever this term occurs in the prophets.
The text passage in Isaiah which relates to Christ, is one of the most difficult in the whole Bible. It is almost universally allowed to be a prophecy of him, and as such it is ordered to be read in our church service; but commentators are greatly divided in their explanation of it. Ahaz
* Zechariah iii. 8, and vi. 12, in both which places the Greek word is Avaloan. In this passage of Isaiah neither term is used in the Lxx, but the general meaning is expressed in a periphrasis.
king of Judah was terrified at a powerful combination of his enemies, and Isaiah was sent by God to assure hiin that they should not prevail against him, and to give him a sign or token according to the custom of the prophets, that he might know that what he said was truth, Hear ye now, O house of David, said the prophet, ch. vii. 13, &c. The Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
Now in the first place the translation here appears to be faulty. Instead of " that he may know,” it should be, according to Bishop Lowth, when he shall know. Butter and honey are symbols of plenty *; and they are esteemed in
* Per lac et mel copia desiguatur. Grot. in Matt. i. See also Lowth in locum.