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The remainder of Isaiah.
The chain of Isaiah's prophecies is here broken off, for the purpose of relating some remarkable circumstances of the life and reign of Hezekiah. It is resumed again in the xlth chapter, which was probably written some years after the xxxvth, but certainly during the miraculous prolongation of Hezekiah’s life. From the beginning of this chapter to the end of the book, is a series of prophecies concerning the mission and person of Christ, occasionally interrupted by threats against idolatry and all sin ; hy foretelling the destruction of Babylon, and by promises of temporal redemption.
And these prophecies are so blended together, that it is not in every case easy to separate them. Some of them indeed evidently relate both to the temporal res
toration of the Jews in their return to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, and to the consolation afforded by the coming of the Messiah, at the same time. In the opinion both of Lowth and Wells, one instance of this kind occurs in the beginning of this fortieth chapter; and certainly, as has been observed before, it is by no means unusual for prophecies to have an allegorical as well as literal sense, a secondary as well as primary meaning. That this however is the case in the present instance, is not so clear; and these verses seem to me rather to relate directly to the Messiah, notwithstanding the learned Bishop's ingenious interpretation, that in the first instance the Highway was to be made strait in the desart, to serve as a passage for the Jews from Babylon to their own land *.
Indeed the prophecy itself is in some parts so affecting, and in others so sub
* Junius and Piscator agree in referring this prophecy to the Messiah only.
limė, that it appears at first sight to point to a greater than any merely temporary event. It opens thus, comfort ye, comfort ye 'my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned : for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The comfort offered to the people in this affecting manner, is the same as the good tidings of great joy, brought by the Angel to the shepherds, Luke ii. 10, when he announced the birth of Christ. It was the completion of the promises ; and according to a very usual prophetic idiom, a future event is spoken of, as if already past*. She hath received of the Lord double * for all her sins, That is, “ this redemption has made (i. e. will make) Jerusalem ample amends for the punishment which hersins have brought upon her.” Then follows a prophetic notice of one who should precede this Redeemer. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make strạit in the desárt a highway for our God. That this prophecy relates to John the Baptist can admit of no doubt, since to him it is expressly referred by all the evangelists; and he himself when asked who he was, John i. 23, said that he was this voice. In order to draw the attention of the people towards it, he went and lived in the desart, or wilderness of Judæa (a wild and mountainous country, yet containing in it many villages and cities -fo) and used the very words of Isaiah. He was to prepare the way for the great Re
* It was in this sense, I think, that our Saviour alluded to the murder of Zacharias, mentioned by Josephus, (de Bell. lib. iv. chap. 19) which happened so long after his death. Commentators have generally referred this to another Zacharias, mentioned in 2 Chron. xxiv. 20; but it seems to me, that our Lord spoke prophetically of an event which was to include the whole of the wickedness of the Jews, which was to be visited on that generation : otherwise the death of Christ hinıself would not have been included in that visitation. See Matt. xxiii, 35, and Luke xi. 51.
* A double portion of thy spirit, 2 Kings ii. 9, a large portion; the elder brother's share, according to the Jewisla. law, was a double portion. I.
. See Fuller's Pisgah,'' ..
deemer, by announcing him to the people, and calling them to repentance and a new life, in order to make them fit to receive the gospel. And it is very evident that the Jews themselves understood the prophecy as here explained, and not as fulfilled when their forefathers returned from Babylon, because the Baptist pointed out his own mission and office by referr. ing to it alone. I am, said he, John i. 23, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the pro'phet Esaias. Nor did the Jews pretend to be ignorant of the application and meaning of the prophecy; but only doubted the propriety of his administering baptism, which circumstance had not been foretold by the prophet. ': The prophecy continues thus ; every val"ley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made lòw: and the crooked shall be made strait, and the rough places plain. In this sublime manner of annourcing the preparation of the way for the King of the Jews, the Redeemer of the world, the expressions are taken from a custom, well