« PreviousContinue »
Cyrus, on his granting his decree for the rebuilding of the temple and the return of the Jews again to their own land. But this matter will admit of a very easy reconciliation; for both computations may well stand together : for though the Babylonish captivity did begin from the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Nebuchad. nezzar first subjugated the land, and carried away to Babylon the first captives ; yet it was not completed till he had absolutely destroyed it, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, which was just eighteen years after. And so likewise, though the deliverance from this captivity, and the restoration of the Jewish state thereon, was begun at the decree of Cyrus, in the first year of his reign ; yet it was not completed till that decree was put in full vigour of execution by the decree which Darius granted, in the fourth year of his reign, for the confirmation of it; which was also just eighteen years after. And therefore, if we reckon from the beginning of the captivity to the beginning of the restoration, we must reckon from the fourth year of Jehoiakim to the first year of Cyrus, which was just seventy years: and if we reckon from the completion of the captivity to the completion of the restoration, we must reckon from the eleventh year of Zedekiah to the fourth of Darius, which was also just seventy years. So that, whether we reckon from the beginning of the captivity to the beginning of the restoration, or from
the completion of the captivity to the completion of the restoration, Jeremiah's pro.. phecy of the seventy years' captivity will be both ways equally accomplished ; and therefore I doubt not but that both ways are intended therein, though the words of the prophecy seem chiefly to refer to the former.”
Thus we see that in one important instance, relative to the Jews' return from a state of
captivity, two distinct periods of time are assigned, of the same duration, for the completion of one prophecy, each having a corresponding commencement and termination. And it is only by considering this peculiar structure, that the difficulties that would otherwise attend its satisfactory interpretation can be removed. And the unequivocal testimony of so sober a writer as Dr. Prideaux, may prevent this view of the subject from being considered in any degree as the mere effect of imagination or fancy.
And it is the more important that this peculiarity should be well understood, as I consider it may legitimately be applied, as will hereafter be enlarged upon more fully, in the explanation of other similar, but yet unfulfilled prophecies. For if in an event which is unquestionably a type of the church's deliverance from spiritual Babylon (as the deliverance of the then visible church from the Babylonish captivity undoubtedly was), there were confessedly two com
mencements and two terminations of the predicted period of such captivity, there can be no hesitation in applying the above principles, if the difficulties and necessities of the case call for it, to its antitype; or to the more remarkable deliverance of the same people, which is yet to take place, from their last and heaviest captivity. And that the difficulties of the case do call for the application of correct principles in interpreting unfulfilled chronological prophecy, is admitted on all hands, from the unsatisfactory conclusions which have hitherto resulted from the various systems that have been given to the world, And we cannot do wrong, under such circumstances, in considering those as correct principles, and applying them accordingly, which have been found in the structure of fulfilled phecies, and have thus received a Divine sanction. It is reasonable to suppose that one period of prophecy should, in some respects, be analogous to that of another; and hence, that if in one prophecy there should be two commencements and two terminations, the same may be found to be the case also in others. On this account I have been the more anxious to direct the attention to this peculiarity, although in doing so I am anticipating a future“ period,” because I consider that nothing but the application of it will remove the difficulties in which that period has been found involved.
· It was noticed, in considering the First Period, that the two nations in which Israel sojourned during the 400 years were both signally punished when the termination of their captivity had arrived-Egypt with plagues, pestilence, and death ; and Canaan with almost entire annihilation.
In the present instance, similar calamities were threatened on the king and country of Babylon, after the expiration of seventy years, for their oppression and cruelty to the Lord's people. “I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it perpetual desolations.” “I was wroth with my people : I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy” (Isa. xlvii.6). Therefore “ Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation : neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither sball the shepherds make their fold there. But the wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures : and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces : and her time is near
to come, and her days shall not be prolonged " (Isa. xiii. 19-22).
Had these fearful predictions been known to the Babylonians, they would have appeared so improbable, that they would have looked upon them with the same unbelief and indifference as we, in this age, contemplate the still more fearful judgments which, under the same oppressive name of Babylon, are intended to fall upon those nations which are now, , and have been—what Babylon once was-persecutors of the Lord's people, both Jews and Christians. For, speaking of times yet future, it is said, Rev. xvi. 19, “ And GREAT BABYLON came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” (See also Jer. 1. li.; Rev. xvii. xviii.)
These heavy judgments, pronounced, in their primary application, against Babylon of old, were not only threatened, but to the very letter were executed ; although, “ if ever there was a city that seemed to bid defiance to any predictions of its fall, that city was Babylon.” Its walls were above 300 feet in height, were 87 in breadth, and by the lowest computation 48 miles in compass. It had a hundred brazen gates ; immense embankments to restrain the river Euphrates, which ran through the midst of it ; many fertile fields ; and provisions for twenty years. “ Its beauty, strength, and grandeur;