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INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
The succession of prophets in the Jewish Church is well worthy of note, because it not only. Manifests the: merciful regards of God towards that people, but also the uninterrupted succession of the prophetic influence, at least from Moses to Malachi, if not before ; for this gift was not withheld under the patriarchal dispensation ; indeed we might boldly ask any Irán-to show when the time was in which God left himself without a witness of this kind.
To show this succession, I shall endeavour to give the different prophets in order of time.
1. The first man, Adam, has an undoubted right to stand at the head of the prophets, as he does at the head of the human race. His declaration concerning marriage, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife,” is so truly prophetic, that no doubt can be formed on the subject. There was then nothing in nature or experience to justify such an assertion; and he could have it only by Divine inspiration. The millions of instances which have since occurred, and the numerous laws which have been founded on this principle among all the nations of the earth, show with what precision the declaration was conceived, and with what truth it was published to the world. Add to this, his correct knowledge of the nature of the different animals, so that he could impose on them names expressive of their respective natures or propensities ; which proves that he must have acted under a Divine inspiration ; for known only to God are all his works from the beginning.
2. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, is expressly called a prophet; and St. Jude, ver. 14, 15, has preserved a fragment of one of his prophecies, relative to the corruption of the antediluvian world, and the approaching judgments of God.
3. Noah was a prophet and preacher of righteousness, and predicted the general deluge, and the time of respite which God in his mercy had granted to the offenders of that age.
4. ABRAHAM is expressly called a prophet also, Gen. xx. 7; and it appears from Psa. cv. 15, that he partook of the Divine anointing.
5. Isaac, Gen. xxvii. 27, predicted the future greatness of his son Jacob, and of the race that was to spring from him.
6. Jacob was so especially favoured with the prophetic gift, that he distinctly foretold what should happen to each of his sons. See Gen. xlix.
7. JOSEPH was favoured with several prophetic visions, and had the gift of interpreting dreams which portended future occurrences ; (see Gen. xxvii., xl., xli. ;) and foretold the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt; Gen. 1. 25. Thus far the prophetic influence extended through the patriarchal dispensation for about two thousand three hundred and seventy years from the creation.
With the Jewish dispensation the prophetic gift revived ; and,
8. Moses became one of the most eminent prophets that had ever appeared. He not only enjoyed the continual prophetic afflatus, but had such visions of and intercourse with God as no other
person either before or since was favoured with; and by which he was highly qualified to perform the arduous work which God had given him to do, and to frame that Code of Laws which had no equal before the promulgation of the Gospel. See Deut. xxiv. 10. He predicted expressly the coming of the Messiah. See Deut. xviii. 18.
9. AARON, the brother of Moses, his prime minister and God's high priest, was also a partaker of his Divine influence, and declared the will of God to Pharaoh and the Israelites, not merely from information received from Moses, but also by immediate communication from God. See Exod, iv. 15.
10. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, is expressly called a prophetess, Exod. xv. 20; Num. xii. 2.
11. Joshua, who succeeded Moses, was a partaker of the same grace. He was appointed by Moses under the especial direction of God; Num. xxvii. 18–23; Deut. xxxiv. 9; and has always been reckoned among the Jews as one of the prophets. See Ecclus. xlvi. 1-6.
Though I cannot place them in the same rank, yet it is necessary to state that, by the Jews, several of the judges are classed among the prophets; such as Othniel, Ehud, Samson and Barak.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
12. DEBORAH, the coadjutor of Barak, is called a prophetess, Judg. iv. 4. During her time, and down to the days of Eli the high priest, prophecy had been very scarce, there having been very few on whom the Spirit of the Lord had rested; for “ the word of the Lord was scarce in those days, and there was no open vision;" 1 Sam. iii. 1.
13. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, is supposed to have partaken of the spirit of prophecy, and to have foretold, at least indirectly, the advent of the Messiah, and the glory that should be revealed under the Gospel. See her Song, 1 Sam. ii. 1-10. And what renders this more likely is, that it is on the model, and with many of the expressions, of this song, that the blessed Virgin composed her Magnificat, Luke i. 46–55.
14. SAMUEL, her son, was one of the most eminent of the Jewish prophets, and was the last, and indeed the greatest, of the judges of Israel. In his time the prophetic influence seems to have rested upon many; so that we find even whole schools or colleges of prophets which were under his direction. See 1 Sam. x. 5, 10, xix. 20, and elsewhere.
15. David united in himself the character of prophet and king, in the most eminent manner; and from his reign down to the captivity the succession was not only not interrupted, but these extraordinary messengers of God became very numerous.
16. GAD flourished under his reign, and was emphatically called David's Seer, 2 Sam. xxiv. 11; 1 Chron. xxi. 9, 19, 20 ; and it appears that he had written a Book of Prophecies, which is now lost, 1 Chron. xxix. 29.
17. NATHAN lived also under the same reign, 2 Sam. vii. 2; and, in conjunction with Gad, composed a book of the acts of David, i Chron. xxix. 29. 18. To Solomon also, son of David, the prophetic gift has been attributed.
This might be implied in the extraordinary wisdom with which God had endowed him, 1 Kings iii. 5–9; 2 Chron. i. 7, vii. 12; and in his writings several prophetic declarations may be found, even independently of the supposed reference to Christ and his Church in the Canticles.
19. Iddo is termed a Seer, 2 Chron. xii. 15, xiii. 22; and was one of Solomon's biographers.
20. SHEMAIAH lived under Rehoboam ; he is called a man of God, and to him the word of prophecy came relative 10 Judah and Benjamin, 1 Kings xii. 22–24. Some think this was the same person who was sent to Jeroboam relative to his idolatry ; see i Kings xiii. 1, &c.
21. AHIJAH, the Shilonite, prophesied to Jeroboam, 1 Kings xi. 29–39.
23. Jehu, son of Hanani, prophesied under Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings xvi. 1, 7; 2 Chron. xvi. 7, xix. 2, and xx. 34.
24. AZARIAH, the son of Oded, prophesied under Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 1. 25. ELIJAH prophesied under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel.
26. Elisha succeeded Elijah under the same reigns. And these eminent men had many disciples on whom the spirit of prophecy rested. They, and their masters, Elijah and Elisha, , prophesied in the kingdoms both of Israel and Judah. Their histories make a prominent part of the first and second Books of Kings; and are well known.
27. Micaiah, the son of Imlah, prophesied under the same reign, 1 Kings xxi. 9.
28. Hosea prophesied under Jeroboam the second, king of Israel, and under the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.
29. Isaiah was contemporary with Hosea, but probably began to prophesy a little later than he did.
30. Amos prophesied about the same time.
32. ELIEZER, the son of Dodavah, prophesied against Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah, 2 Chron. XX. 37.
33. Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, prophesied against Judah and Israel under the same reign, 2 Chron. xx. 14.
34. Micah prophesied against Samaria and Jerusalem, in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
35. ODED, father of Azariah, prophesied against Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 8
41. IGDALIAH, called a man of God, and probably a prophet, was contemporary with Jeremiah, Jer. xxxv. 4.
42. HABAKKUK lived about the end of the reign of Josiah, or the beginning of that of Jehoiakim.
43. Ezekiel lived under the captivity; and prophesied in Mesopotamia, about the time that Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem.
44. Obadiah lived in Judea, after the capture of Jerusalem, and before the desolation of Idumea by Nebuchadnezzar.
45. DANIEL prophesied in Babylon during the captivity. 46. Haggai prophesied during and after the captivity. 47. URIJAH, the son of Shemaiah, prophesied under Jehoiakim. See Jer. xxvi. 20, 21.
48. ZECHARIAH, son of Barachiah, flourished in the second year of Darius, after the captivity.
49. MALACHI lived under Nehemiah, and some time after Haggai and Zechariah.
Here is a succession of divinely inspired men, by whom God at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers, from the beginning of the world down to the restoration from the Babylonish captivity, a period of three thousand six hundred years. From the time of Malachi, who was the last of the prophets, till the advent of Clirist, a period of nearly four hundred years elapsed without vision or prophecy: but during the whole of that interval the Jews had the law and the prophetical writings, to which, till the time of Christ, there was no necessity to add any thing; for God had with the writings of the last mentioned prophet completed the canon of the Old Testament, nothing being farther necessary, till he should, in the fulness of time, superadd the Gospel; and this having taken place, vision and prophecy are now for ever sealed up, and the temple of God is established among all genuine believers in Christ Jesus.
It is not easy to ascertain the order in which the sixteen prophets, whose writings are preserved, have succeeded to each other. There are chronological notes prefixed to several of their prophecies, which assist to seule generally the times of the whole. Several were contemporary, as the reader has already seen in the preceding list. The major and minor prophets may be thus arranged :
1. JONAI, under the reign of Jeroboam the second. 2. HOSEA, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, &c. 3. Joel, contemporary with Hosea. 4. Amos, under Uzziah and Jeroboam the second. 5. ISAIAH, under Uzziahi, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. 6. Micah, contemporary with Isaiah. 7. Nahum, under the reign of Hezekiah. 8. HABAKKUK, under the reign of Manasseh or Josiah. 9. ZEPHANIAH, under Josiah. 10. JEREMIAH, from Josiah to Zedekiah, 11. DANIEL, under the captivity, after Zedekiah, 12. EZEKIEL, at the same time. 13. OBADIAH, during the captivity. 14. Haggai began to prophesy in the second year of Darius. 15. ZECHARIAH, about the same time. See Zech. i. 1, vii. 1. 16. MALACHI, under Nehemiah. The last of all the prophets.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
The works of these prophets constitute the principal and most important part of what is called THE BIBLE or Old Testament.
On the style of the prophets much has been said by several learned men; particularly Calmet, Lowth, Bishop Newton, Vitringa, Michaelis, and Houbigant. Their chief observations, and especially those most within the reach of the common people, have been selected and abridged with great care and industry by the Rev. Dr. John Smith, of Cambleton, in his little Tract entitled “A Summary View and Explanation of the Writings of the Prophets," to which it forms preliminary observations, drawn up at the desire of the Scottish Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, in a small 8vo. 1804. From this work I thankfully borrow what concerns the present subject; taking occasion at the same time to recommend the whole to all Christian ministers, to private persons, and to all families who wish to read the prophets to their edification.
“ The writings of the prophets, the most sublime and beautiful in the world, lose much of that usefulness and effect which they are so well calculated to produce on the souls of men, from their not being more generally understood. Many prophecies are somewhat dark, till events explain them. They are, besides, delivered in such lofty and figurative terms, and with such frequent allusions to the customs and manners of times and places the most remote, that ordinary readers cannot, without some help, be supposed capable of understanding them. It must therefore be of use to make the language of prophecy as intelligible as may be, by explaining those images and figures of speech in which it most frequently abounds; and this may be done generally, even when the prophecies themselves are obscure.
“Some prophecies seem as if it were not intended that they should be clearly understood before they are fulfilled. As they relate to different periods, they may have been intended for exciting the attention of mankind from time to time both to providence and to Scripture, and to furnish every age with new evidence of Divine revelation ; by which means they serve the same purpose to the last ages of the world that miracles did to the first. Whereas, if they had been in every respect clear and obvious from the beginning, this wise purpose had been in a great measure defeated. Curiosity, industry, and attention would at once be at an end, or, by being too easily gratified, would be little exercised.
“ Besides, a great degree of obscurity is necessary to some prophecies before they can be fulfilled ; and if not fulfilled, the consequence would not be so beneficial to mankind. Thus many of the ancient prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem had a manifest relation to the remoter destruction by the Romans, as well as to the nearer one by the Chaldeans. Had the Jews perceived this, which was not indeed clear enough till the event explained it, they would probably have wished to have remained for ever in their captivity at Babylon, rather than expose themselves or their offspring a second time to a destruction so dreadful as that which they had already experienced.
“With respect to our times, by far the greatest number of prophecies relate to events which are now past; and therefore a sufficient acquaintance with history, and with the language and style of prophecy, is all that is requisite to understand them. phecies, however, relate to events still future; and these too may be understood in general, although some particular circumstances connected with them may remain obscure till they are fulfilled. If prophecies were not capable of being understood in general, we should not find the Jews so often blamed in this respect for their ignorance and want of discernment That they did actually understand many of them when they chose to search the Scriptures, we know. Daniel understood, from the prophecies of Jeremiah, the time at which the captivity in Babylon was to be at an end ; and the scribes knew from Micah, and told Herod, where the Messiah was to be born. A very little attention might have enabled them in the same manner to understand others, as they probably did ; such as the seventy weeks of Daniel; the destruction of the Babylonian empire, and of the other three that were to succeed; and also of the ruin of the people and places around them, Moab, Ammon, Tyre,
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH. Sidon, Philistia, Egypt, and Idumea. Perhaps, indeed, a few enigmatical circumstances might have been annexed, which could not be understood till they were accomplished; but the general tenor of the prophecies they could be at no loss to understand. With regard to prophecięs still future, we are in a similar situation. It is understood in general, that the Jews will be gathered from their dispersions, restored to their own land, and converted to Christianity; that the fulness of the Gentiles will likewise come in ; that Antichrist, Gog and Magog, and all the enemies of the Church will be destroyed; after which the Gospel will remarkably flourish, and be more than ever glorified. But several circumstances connected with those general events must probably remain in the dark till their accomplishment shall clearly explain them.
“ But this degree of obscurity which sometimes attends prophecy does not always proceed from the circumstances or subject; it frequently proceeds from the highly poetical and figurative style, in which prophecy is for the most part conveyed, and of which it will be proper to give some account. To speak of all the rhetorical figures with which the prophets adorn their style would lead us into a field too wide, and would be more the province of the rhetorician than of the commentator. It will be sufficient for our purpose at present to attend to the most common of them, consisting of allegory, parable, and metaphor, and then to consider the sources from which the prophets most frequently borrow their images in those figures, and the sense which they wish to convey by them.
“ By allegory, the first of the figures mentioned, is meant that mode of speech in which the writer or speaker means to convey a different idea from what the words in their obvious and primary signification bear. Thus, · Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns,' (Jer. iv. 3,) is to be understood, not of tillage, but of repentance. And these words,
Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters, the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas,' Ezek. xxvii. 26, allude not to the fate of a ship, but of a city.
“ To this figure the parable, in which the prophets frequently speak, is nearly allied. It consists in the application of some feigned narrative to some real truth, which might have been less striking or more disagreeable if expressed in plain terms. Such is the following one of Isaiah, v. 1, 2 : “My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein ; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.' The seventh verse tells us that this vineyard was the house of Israel, which had so ill requited the favour which God had shown it. On this subject see the dissertation at the end of the notes on Matt. xiii.
“ There is, besides, another kind of allegory not uncommon with the prophets, called mystical allegory or double prophecy. Thus it is said of Eliakim, Isa. xxii. 22: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.' In the first and obvious sense, the words relate to Eliakim; but in the secondary or mystical sense, to the Messiah. Instances of the same kind are frequent in those prophecies that relate to David, Zerubbabel, Cyrus, and other types of Christ. In the first sense the words relate to the type ; in the second, to the antitype. The use of this allegory, however, is not so frequent as that of the former. It is generally confined to things most nearly connected with the Jewish religion ; with Israel, Sion, Jerusalem, and its kings and rulers; or such as were most opposite to these, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Idumea, and the like. In the former kind of allegory the primitive meaning is dropped, and the figurative only is retained; in this, both the one and the other are preserved, and this is what constitutes the difference.
“But of all the figures used by the prophets the most frequent is the metaphor, by which words are transferred from their primitive and plain to a secondary meaning.
This figure, common in all poetry and in all languages, is of indispensable necessity in Scripture, which, having occasion to speak of Divine and spiritual matters, could do it only by terms borrowed from sensible and material objects. Hence it is that the sentiments, actions, and corporeal