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INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
to their idols, Baal, Molech, Chemosh, Gad, Meni, Ashtaroth, Tammuz, &c., Ezek. viii. 10–14.
“IV. Many of the metaphors and images used by the prophets are likewise borrowed from history, especially sacred.
“ From the fall of angels : · How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning ;' Isa. xiv. 12. • Thou art the anointed cherub,—thou wast upon the holy mountain of God ;' Ezek. xxviii. 14. And from the fall of man : “Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God ;' ver. 13.
“ From chaos : "I beheld the earth, and, lo! it was without form, and void ; and the heavens, and they had no light;' Jer. iv. 23. · He shall stretch over it the line of devastation, and the plummet of emptiness ;' Isa. xxxiv. 11.
“ From the deluge : • The windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake;' Isa. xxiv. 18.
" From the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah : And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch ;' Isa. xxxiv. 9. Also from the destruction of the Hivites and Amorites, &c., Isa. xvii. 9.
“ The exodus and deliverance from Egypt, is frequently used to shadow forth other great deliverances : “Thus saith the Lord, who maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters,' &c. ; Isa. xi. 15, 16; xliii. 16-19; li. 9, 10, &c.
“ From the descent on Sinai : · Behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down and tread on the high places of the earth; and the mountains shall be molten under him ;' Micah i. 3, 4.
“From the resurrection, the end of the world, and the last judgment, are derived many images, of which the application is natural and obvious : • Thy dead men shall live, with my dead body shall they arise, awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust,' &c.; Isa. xxvi. 19.
And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down as a leaf falleth from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree ;' Isa. xxxiv. 4.
“ The foregoing account of the images which most frequently occur in the writings of the prophets may be of considerable use in studying their style ; but as a thorough knowledge of this must be allowed to be of the highest importance, a few general remarks are farther added, although some part of them may appear to be superseded by what has been already observed.
“ 1. Although the prophets use words so frequently in a figurative or metaphorical meaning; yet we ought not, without necessity, to depart from the primitive and original sense of language ; and such a necessity there is, when the plain and original sense is less proper, less suitable to the subject and context, or contrary to other scriptures.
“ 2. By images borrowed from the world natural the prophets frequently understand something analogous in the world politic. Thus, the sun, moon, stars, and heavenly bodies denote kings, queens, rulers, and persons in great power; their increase of spelndour denotes increase of prosperity; their darkening, setting, or falling denotes a reverse of fortune, or the entire ceasing of that power or kingdom to which they refer. Great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, denote the commotion and overthrow of kingdoms; and the beginning or end of the world, their rise or ruin.
“3. The cedars of Lebanon, oaks of Bashan, fir-trees, and other stately trees of the forest, denote kings, princes, potentates, and persons of the highest rank; briers and thorns, the common people, or those of the meanest order.
“4. High mountains and lofty hills, in like manner, denote kingdoms, republics, states, and cities; towers and fortresses signify defenders and protectors; ships of Tarshish, merchants or commercial people; and the daughter of any capital or mother city, the lesser cities or suburbs around it. Cities never conquered are farther styled virgins,
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
“5. The prophets likewise describe kings and kingdoms by their ensigns; as Cyrus and the Romans by an eagle, the king of Macedon by a goat, and the king of Persia by a ram; these being the figures on their respective standards, or in the ornaments of their architecture.
“6. The prophets in like manner borrow some of their images from ancient hieroglyphics, which they take in their usual acceptation : thus, a star was the emblem of a god or hero ; a horn, the emblem of great power or strength; and a rod, the emblem of royalty; and they signify the same in the prophets.
“7. The same prophecies have frequently a double meaning ; and refer to different events, the one near, the other remote ; the one temporal, the other spiritual, or perhaps eternal. The prophets having thus several events in their eye, their expressions may be partly applicable to one, and partly to another; and it is not always easy to mark the transitions, Thus, the prophecies relating to the first and second restoration of the Jews, and first and second coming of our Lord, are often interwoven together; like our Saviour's own prediction (Matt. xxiv.) concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. What has not been fulfilled in the first, we must apply to the second ; and what has been already fulfilled may often be considered as typical of what still remains to be accomplished.
“8. Almost all the prophecies of the Old Testament, whatever view they may have to nearer events, are ultimately to be referred to the New, where only we are to look for their full completion. Thus Babylon, under the Old Testament, was a type of mystical Babylon under the New; and the king of Syria, (Antiochus Epiphanes,) a type of Antichrist; the temporal enemies of the Jews, types and figures of the spiritual enemies of Christians. We must not, however, expect to find always a mystical meaning in prophecy; and when the near and most obvious meaning is plain, and gives a good sense, we need not depart from it, nor be over-curious to look beyond it.
“9. In prophecies, as in parables, we are chiefly to consider the scope and design, without attempting too minute an explication of all the poetical images and figures which the sacred writers use to adorn their style.
“ 10. Prophecies of a general nature are applicable by accommodation to individuals; most of the things that are spoken of the Church in general being no less applicable to its individual members.
“11. Prophecies of a particular nature, on the other hand, admit, and often require, to be extended. Thus, Edom, Moab, or any of the enemies of God's people, is often put for the whole; what is said of one being generally applicable to the rest.
“ 12. In like manner, what is said to or of any of God's people, on any particular occasion, is of general application and use; all that stand in the same relation to God having an interest in the same promises.
“ 13. A cup of intoxicating liquor is frequently used to denote the indignution of God; and the effects of such a cup, the effects of his displeasure.
“ 14. As the covenant of God with his people is represented under the figure of marriage; so their breach of that covenant, especially their idolatry, is represented by whoredom, adultery, and infidelity to the marriage bed; on which the prophets sometimes enlarge, to excite detestation of the crime. The epithet strange does likewise, almost always, relate to something connected with idolatry.
“ 15. Persons or nations are frequently said in Scripture to be related to those whom they resemble in their life and conduct. In the same manner, men are denoted by animals whose qualities they resemble. A definite number, such as three, four, seven, ten, &c., is sometimes used by the prophets for an indefinite, and commonly denotes a great many.
“ 16. In the reckoning of time, a day is used by the prophets to denote a year ; and things still future, to denote their certainty, are spoken of as already past.
“ 17. When the prophets speak of the last or latter days, they always mean the days of
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
the Messiah, or the time of the Gospel dispensation. That day means often the same, and always some period at a distance.
“18. When places are mentioned as lying north, south, east, or west, it is generally to be understood of their situation with respect to Judea or Jerusalem, when the context does not plainly restrict the scene to some other place.
“19. By the earth, or the word so translated, the prophets frequently mean the land of Judea ; and sometimes, says Sir Isaac Newton, the great continent of all Asia and Africa, to which they had access by land. By the isles of the sea, on the other hand, they understood the places to which they sailed, particularly all Europe, and probably the islands and seacoasts of the Mediterranean.
“ 20. The greatest part of the prophetic writings was first composed in verse, and still retains, notwithstanding all the disadvantages of a literal prose translation, much of the air and cast of the original, particularly in the division of the lines, and in that peculiarity of Hebrew poetry by which the sense of one line or couplet so frequently corresponds with that of the other. Thus :
“ Attention to this peculiarity in sacred poetry will frequently lead to the meaning of many passages in the poetical parts of Scripture, in which it perpetually occurs, as the one line of a couplet, or member of a sentence, is generally a commentary on the other. Thus :
The Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah,
Isa. xxxiv. 6.
For I will pour out waters on the thirsty,
Isa. xliv. 3.
As the gift of prophecy was the greatest which God gave to men upon earth, so the prophet, as being the immediate instrument of revealing the will of God to the people, was the greatest, the most important, the most august, venerable, and useful person in the land of Israel. Ipsi eis exeant, says St. Augustine, philosophi ipsi sapientes, ipsi theologi, ipsi prophetæ, ipsi doctores probitatis ac pietatis ; “ They were to the people the philosophers, the wise men, the divines, the prophets, and the teachers of truth and godliness.” By their intercourse with God, they were his mediators with the people ; and their persons, as well as their office, were considered as peculiarly sacred. They did not mix with the people, and only appeared in public when they came to announce the will of God. They were also a kind of typical persons—whatever occurred to them was instructive, so that they were for signs, metaphors, and portents.
Most of the ancient prophets were extraordinary messengers. They were not bred up to the prophetic function; as the office was immediately from God, as well as the message they were to deliver to the people, so they had no previous education, in reference to such
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
an office, for no man knew whom the God of Israel might please to call to announce his righteousness to the people. Several of them were taken out of the walks of common life. Jonah appears to have been a private person at Gath-heper, in Galilee, before God called him to prophesy against Nineveh. Elisha was a ploughman at Abel-meholah (1 Kings xix. 16) when called to the prophetic function. Zechariah appears to have been a husbandman, and a keeper of cattle, Zech. xiii. 5. Amos was a herdsman of Tekoa, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; (Amos i. 1, vii. 14, 15;) and no doubt several others of the ancient prophets had an equally mean origin; but the office and the calling dignified the man. We know that our blessed Lord called not his disciples from the higher walks or offices of life; but out of fishermen, tax-gatherers, and tent-makers, he formed evangelists and apostles.
The prophets appear to have gone in mean clothing; either sack-cloth, hair-cloth, or coats of skin appear to have been their ordinary clothing. They spoke against the pride and vain-glory of man; and their very garb and manner gave additional weight to the solemn words they delivered. They lived in a retired manner; and, when not sent on special errands, they employed their vacant time in the instruction of youth ; as this is probably what we are to understand by the schools of the prophets, such as those over which Elijah, Elisha, and Samuel presided; though no doubt there were some of their disciples that were made partakers of the prophetic gift.
The prophets do not appear to have been called to a life of celibacy. Isaiah was a married man, chap. viii. 3; and so was Hosea, chap. i. 2; unless we are to understand the latter case enigmatically. And that the sons of the prophets had wives, we learn from 2 Kings iv. 1, &c.; and from this, as well as from the case of the apostles, we learn that the matrimonial state was never considered, either by Moses or the prophets, Christ or his apostles, as disqualifying men from officiating in the most holy offices; as we find Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Zechariah, and Peter, all married men, and yet the most eminent of their order.
Of Isaiah, the writer of this book, very little is known. He is supposed to have been of the tribe of Judah, and of the royal family of David. Himself says that he was son of Amoz; and others tell us that this Amoz was the son of Joash, and brother of Amaziah, king of Judah. “Of his family and tribe we know nothing,” says R. D. Kimchi, “only our rabbins, of blessed memory, have received the tradition that Amoz and Amaziah were brothers;" and it is on this ground that he has been called the royal prophet. It has been also said that Isaiah gave his daughter in marriage to Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, king of Judah ; and that himself was put to death by Manasseh, being sawn asunder with a wooden saw. But all these traditions stand on very slender authority, and are worthy of very little regard. Several commentators have thought that his prophecies afford presumptive evidence of his high descent and elegant education : 1. Because his style is more correct and majestic than any of the other prophets. 2. That his frequent use of images taken from royalty is a proof that this state was familiar to him, being much at court, as he must have been, had he been the brother of the king. These things are spoken by many with much confidence ; for my own part, I had rather look to his inspiration for the correctness of his language and the dignity of his sentiments, than to those very inferior helps. On the other hypothesis nothing is left to the Divine Spirit, except the mere matter of his prophecies. Suppositions of this kind are not creditable to Divine revelation.
Isaiah appears to have had two sons, who were typical in their names; one, Shear-jashub, "a remnant shall return,” chap. vii. 3; and the other Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “ haste to the spoil; quick to the prey;" chap. viii. 3; and it is remarkable, that his wife is called a prophetess. Other matters relative to his character will appear in the notes on his prophecies.
In the notes on this book I have consulted throughout the commentary of Rabbi David Kimchi, and have made much use of Bishop Lowth, as the reader will perceive. His various readings I have re-collated with Dr. Kennicott, and B. De Rossi ; in consequence of which I have been enabled in many cases to add double weight to the authorities by which the INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH. learned bishop was supported in the readings which he has either mentioned, or received into the text. Bishop Lowth could avail himself only of the collections of Dr. Kennicottthe sheets of Isaiah in the doctor's edition of the Hebrew Bible, as they passed through the press, were sent by him to the Bishop; but the Collections of De Rossi, more numerous and more accurate than those of Dr. Kennicott, were not published till six years after the doctor had published his Bible, and about one year before this most learned and pious prelate went to his reward. I have also consulted some excellent Hebrew MSS. in my own library, from six to eight hundred years old, which have afforded me additional help in estimating the worth and importance of the various readings in the above Collections of Kennicott and De Rossi, as far as they are employed in the illustration of this prophet. From the ancient English MS. Version of this prophet I have extracted several curious translations of select parts, which I have no doubt will meet with every reader's approbation. Though I have followed Bishop Lowth chiefly, yet I have consulted the best comentators within my reach, in order to remove doubts and clear up difficult passages, but have studied to be as brief as possible, that the sacred text might not be encumbered either with the multitude or length of the notes, nor the reader's time occupied with any thing not essentially necessary; besides, I wish to bring my work to as speedy a close as possible.
This book, according to Vitringa, is twofold in its matter : 1. Prophetical; 2. Historical.
1. The prophetical is divided into five parts : Part I. From chap. i. to chap xiii. is directed to the Jews and Ephraimites, and contains five prophetic discourses. Part II. From chap. xiii. to chap. xxiv. declares the fate of the. Babylonians, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Egyptians, Tyrians, and others; and contains eight prophetic discourses. Part III. From chap. xxiv. to chap. xxxvi. denounces judgments on the disobedient Jews, and consoles the true followers of God. This contains three discourses. Part IV. From chap. xl. to chap. xlix. refers to the Messiah and the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonians; and contains four discourses. Part V. From chap. xlix. to the end, points out the passion, crucifixion, and glory of the Messiah, and contains five discourses.
2. The historical part begins with chap. xxxvi., and ends with chap. xxxix., and relates some of the transactions of the prophet's own times. On this analysis Vitringa explains the whole prophecy. For my own part I have little or no confidence in such technical arrangements.
Calmet takes a different view of it. He divides it into eight parts, viz.: Part I. he supposes to relate to Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah: this is included in the first six chapters. The prophet inveighs against the crimes of the Jews; declares the judgments of God against them; predicts a more auspicious time, which took place under Hezekiah, who was a type of Christ. Part II. concerns the reign of Ahaz, and comprehends the six following chapters, in which he speaks of the siege of Jerusalem by Pekah and Rezin; of the birth of Immanuel, as a proof of the approaching deliverance of Judah ; predicts the calamities that were to fall on the kingdoms of Syria and Israel, &c. Part III. contains many prophecies against Babylon, the Philistines, Moabites, &c. Part IV. contains prophecies against Egypt, Babylon, Kedar, Arabia, &c. Part V. concerns the reign of Hezekiah, and especially the war of Sennacherib against the Jews, &c. The four historical chapters inserted here contain the account of the fulfilment of the preceding prophecy. Part VI., included in chap. xl. to xlv. inclusive, contains the prophet's discourses on the existence of God, the truth and perfection of the Jewish religion, the vanity of idolatry, the return of the people from captivity, and the coming of Christ. Part VII. from chap. xlix. to chap. lvi., the prophet, personifying the Messiah, speaks of his sufferings, death, and burial; predicts the return from the Babylonish captivity, and the glory of the latter days. Part VIII. speaks of the coming of the Messiah, and the vocation of the Gentiles; the disgrace and confusion of all false prophets and teachers; and the establishment of a pure and holy Church, &c.