Page images

ISAIAH. several ages, it was requisite that the original writings should be kept with the utmost care; but when the time was so near at hand, that the prophecies must be fresh in every person's recollection, or that the originals could not be suspected or supposed to be lost, the same care was not required, (Rev. xxii. 10.) It seems to have been customary for the Prophets to deposit their writings in the tabernacle, or lay them up before the Lord, (1 Sam. x. 25.) And there is a tradition, that all the canonical books, as well as the law, were put into the side of the ark. Horne's Introd. (last Ed.) vol. iv. p. 146.

On two

We here subjoin the following passages from other writers of eminence, important points connected with this subject:


OX PROPHETIC ACTION. “ There is a circumstance (says Mr. Murray) running through the Old and New Testament, which has puzzled many serious inquirers, owing to their uwacquaintance with former manners : I speak of the mode of information by action. In the first ages, when words were few, men made up the deficiency of speech by action, as savages are observed to do at this day: so that conveying ideas by action was usual as conveying them by speech. This practice, from its significancy and stroug tendency to imprint vivid pictures on the imagination, endured long after the reasons for its origination ceased. It appears to have been confined to no parti. cular country. The Scythiaus sent Darius a mouse, a frog, and a bird, which action spoke as plainly as words could do, and much more energetically, that he should fly with all speed to inaccessible fastnesses. When the son of Tarquinius Superbus bad counterfeited desertion to Gabii, and had secured the contidence of the citizeus, be sent a trusty messenger to his father to know how he should conduct himself. Tarquin led him into a garden, struck off the heads of the highest poppies in his presence; which being related to Sextus, he knew that he should take off the heads of the principal inbabitants. Conformable to this usage, when Jacob feared the wrath of Esau, an angel wrestled with bim : thereby signifying that his apprehensions were groundless, and that, as he had prevailed with a divine Being, so he should be powerful over man. Couformable this, Ezekiel puts on a yoke to represent the bondage of his countrymen, and walks without his upper garment, to represent their nakedness in captivity. Conformable to this, Jesus Christ curses the fig-sree, to prefigure the fate of a people unfruitful in good works. Agabus binds himself with Paul's girdle, to prefigure the imprisonment of the latter; and a mighty angel, in the Revelativu, cast a huge stope into the sea, sayiog, Thus shall Bubylon be cast down, and found no more at all for ever. At other times this information was conveyed in visions, and not literally transacied; as when Ezekiel is said to lie many days on one side; to carry a wine-cup to the neighbouring king; and to bury a book in the Euphrates. The reader must own Duis that in this mode of instruction there was nothing fanatic; for fanaticism consists in a fondness for unusual actions, or modes of speech : whereas these were general, and accommodated to the ruling taste. If Gud spoke in the language of eternity, who could understand him? He, like the prophet, shrinks himseif into the proportion of the child, which he means to revive."-(Murray's Evid nces of the Jewish and Christias Revelations, sect. 7. p. 85.)

THE SUBJECTS OF PROPHECY. The subjects of prophecy are various and extensive, indeed so much so, as has bee shown by Bishop Newton, that they form a chain of predictions from the beginning the end of the Bible, and the world; but the grand subject of prophecy is the comiu and kingdom of the Messiah, who was promised as the seed of the woman and of Abr. ham, the son of David and of God. This is indeed the prominent topic of most of il Prophets now before us, and especially of Isaiah. Many of his predictions wil! found to refer to bim alone; and others, though they may have a partial accomplis ment in nearer events and inferior circumstances, have in him their final and comple accomplishment.

“ The argument from prophecy, (says the learned Bp. Hurd) is not to be formed fro the consideration of single propbecies, but from all the prophecies taken together, a considered as making one system'; in which, from the mutual dependence and connexi INTRODUCTION. of its parts, preceding propbecies prepare and illustrate those which follow; and these again reflect light on the foregoing : just as, in any philosophical system, that which shows the solidity of it, is the harmony and correspondence of the whole; not the application of it in particular instances.

“Hence, though the evidence be but small, from the completion of any one prophecy taken separately, yet, that evidence being always something, the amount of the whole evidence resulting from a great number of prophecies, all relative to the same design, may be considerable; like many scattered rays, which, though each be weak in itself, yet, concentered into one point, shall form a strony light, and strike the sense very powerfully. Still more: this evidence is not simply a growing evideoee, but is indeed multiplied upon us, from the number of reflected lights which the several component parts of such a system reciprocally throw upon each ; till, at length, the conviction rises unto a high degree of moral certainty.” (Hurd's Sermons ou Prophecy, Ser. ii.)

It is certain that the writings of the ancient Prophets were carefully preserved during the captivity, and they are frequently referred to and cited by the later Prophets. Thus the prophecy of Micah is quoted in Jer. xxvi. 18, a short time before the captivity, and, under it the prophecy of Jeremiah is cited, in Dan. ix. 2, and the Prophets generally in ix. 6. Zechariah not only quotes the former Prophets, (i. 4.) but supposes their writings to be well known to the people, (vii. 7.) It is evident that Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and the other Prophets, who flourished during the captivity, carefully preserved the writings of their inspired predecessors; for they very freqnently cited and appealed to them, and expected deliverance from their captivity by the accomplishment of their predictions,

Although some parts of the writings of the Prophets are clearly in prose, of which instances occur in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, and Daniel, yet by far the larger portion of the prophetic writings are classed by Bishop Lowth among the poetical productions of the Jews, and (with the exception of certain passages la kuiah, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel, which appear to constitute complete poems of different kinds, odes as well as elegies) form a particular species of poesy, which he distinguishes by the appellation of prophetic. “ The prophetic poesy,” says the same learned Prela:e, * is more ornamented, more splendid, and more forid than any other. It abounds more in imagery, at least that species of imagery which, in the parabolic style, is of common and established acceptation; and which, by means of a settled analogy, always preserved, is transferred from certain and definite objects, to express indefinite and general ideas. Of all the images peculiar to the parabolic style, it most frequently introduces those which are taken from natural objecis and sacred history; it abounds in metaphors, allegories, comparisons, and even in copious and diffuse descriptions ; it eseels in the brighiness of imagination, and in clearness and energy of diction, and consequently rises to an uncommon pitch of sublimity."-Lowth's Lect. xx.

As it is well known the prophets did not live nor write in the order in which their hunks are inserted in our Bible, we shall here introduce a Chronological Table of their respective dates, from Mr. Horne. The four greater prophets (as they are called) we suall distinguish by putting their names in capitals.

These Prophets, Mr. Horne remarks, may be arranged under tlıree periods 1. Before the Babylonian captivity-Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah : For the history of this period, see the second book of the Kings aod Chronicles.

2. During the captivity, in part or in whole-Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Daniel, Obadiah, and Ezekiel. 3. After the return-Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Compare the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah as to this period.

[blocks in formation]

INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH. Isaiah,who is placed first in our sacred volume, prophesied at least during four reigns, as stated Chap. i. l; and, as some think, during part of the reign of Manasseh, whom the Jews charge with being his murderer, by sawing bim asunder at a very advanced age. He calls himself the son of Amoz-not Åmos the prophet ; but Amoz, the son of Joash, and brother of Uzziah, king of Judah. His style of writiny is so sublime and beautiful, that Bishop Lowth calls him, “ the prince of all the prophets." He has been also called the Evangelical Prophet, from the many discoveries he exhibits of the work and cba racter of the Messiah.

As we have hitherto acknowledged the principal help we have received from com mentators and critics on separate books, it may be proper here to state, that on the Pro phets we have regularly consulted Bishop Lowth, Dr. Blaney, ana' Bishop Newcome but our obligations are the most considerable to a small volume by Di, John Smith, Cambleton, in which he has admirably condensed the substance of their remarks wit many beautiful thoughts and pious reflections of his own.* To this valuai..le bool we have had recurrence, even more frequently than we have thought it de les sary to express.-We have not, however, omitted to consult the general Commentator and the New Translation of Dr. Boothroyd. On this book of Isaiah we have bad alse repeated reference to the “ Annotations” put forth by “ The Westminster Assembl of Divines," whose exposition of this and some other of the Prophets, is well known t have been written by the very learned Gataker, who was one of iheir body. * Seo A Summary View of the Writings of the Prophets, by J. Smith, D.D. &c. Bro. 1804.


Judah exhorted]


[to repentance

9 Except the LORD of hosts had. CHAP. I.

left unto uis a very small remnant, we

should have been as Sodom, and THE HE vision of Isaiah the son of we should have been like unto Go

Amoz, which he saw concerning morrah. Judah and Jerusalem in the days of 10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Heze- rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the kiah, kings of Judah.

law of our God, ye people of Go2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, morrah. O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, 11 To what purpose is the multiI have nourished and brought up chil- tude of your sacrifices unto me ? saith dren, and they have rebelled against the Lord: I am full of the burnt

offerings of rams, and the fat of fed 3 The ox knoweth his owner, and beasts; and I delight not in the blood the ass his master's crib : but Israel of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he doth not know, my people doth not goats. consider.

12 When ye come to appear

before 4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden me, who hath required this at your with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, hand, to tread my courts? children that are corrupters: they 13 Bring no more vain oblations ; have forsaken the Lord, they have incense is an abomination unto me; provoked the Holy One of Israel the new moons and sabbaths, the callunto anger, they are gone away back- ing of assemblies, I cannot away ward.

with; it is iniquity, even the solemn 5 Why should ye be stricken any meeting. more? ye will revolt more and more:

14 Your new moons and your apthe whole head is sick, and the whole pointed feasts my soul hateth: they heart faint.

are a trouble unto me; I am weary to 6 From the sole of the foot even bear them. unto the head, there is no soundness 15 And when ye spread forth your in it; but wounds, and bruises, and hands, I will hide mine eyes from putrifying sores: they have not been you: yea, when ye make many prayclosed, neither been bound up, neither ers, I will not hear: your hands are mollified with ointment.

full of blood. 7 Your country is desolate, your 16 Wash you, make you clean; put cities are burned with fire: your land, away the evil of your doings from bestrangers devour it in your presence, fore mine eyes ; cease to do evil; and it is desolate, as overthrown by 17 Learn to do well; seek judg.. stangers.

ment, relieve the oppressed, judge the 8 And the daughter of Zion is left fatherless, plead for the widow. as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge 18 Come now, and let us reason in a garden of cucumbers, as a be- together, saith the Lord: though sieged city.

your sins be as scarlet, they shall be

NOTES. CHIP. I. Ver. 3. Crib-that is, rack, or manger. tioned in this Book, the Bishop is to be understood, Pep.4. Gone ew iy badknard-Heb. “ Alienated." Ver. 11. I am full - Lowth, "cloyed." Ver. 5. Repolt more-teh. “ Increase revolt." Ver. 12. To tread my courts --Bp. Lowth, followTel. 6. Hare not been closed-Lowth, " pressed," ing the LXX, begins the next verse with these thish seeins to intimate that the modern practice of words : " Trend my coaits no more : bring no more." bacing *ounds was not tea unknown.- Oint- Ver. 14. They are a trouble-lowth,'' A burden." int-Marg.“ Oil."

- It'eary to brar-Louth, " Weary of bearing.” Ver. 7. Doet thrown by sirangers-that is, by a Ver. 15. Make many prayers -- Heb. “ Multiply foreign power. Marry critics, however, read, " by prayer." an inngdalion."

Ver. 17. Relievp-Marg. “ Righten;" i. e. do jus. verk. As e cottage .... a lodge, &c –hat is, tice to be oppressed. a temporary but for a guard against wild beasts, &c. Ver. 18. As wool--meanins, while as wool; i, e. Louth, N. B. Wherever the name of Lonth is meu- cleansed from the guilt of blood, ver, 15.

Grace promised, and]


[destruction threatened. as white as snow; though they be red thee, and purely purge away thy dross, like crimson, they shall be, as wool. and take away all thy tin :

19 If ye be willing and obedient, 26 And I will restore thy judges ye shall eat the good of the land : as at the first, and thy counsellors as

20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye at the beginning : afterward thou shalt shall be devoured with the sword: be called, The city of righteousness, for the mouth of the Lord hath the faithful city. spoken it.

27 Zion shall be redeemed with 21 How is the faithful city become judgment, and her converts with an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness. righteousness lodged in it; but now 28 And the destruction of the murderers.

transgressors and of the singers shall 22 Thy silver is become dross, thy be together, and they that forsake the wine mixed with water:

Lord shall be consumed. 23 Thy princes are rebellious, and 29 For they shall be ashamed of companions of thieves : every one the oaks which ye have desired, and loveth gifts, and followeth after ye shall be confounded for the gardens wards : they judge not the fatherless, that ye have chosen. neither doth the cause of the widow 30 For


shall be as an oak whose come unto them.

leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath 24 Therefore saith the Lord, the no water. LORD of hosts, the mighty One of 31 And the strong shall be as tow, Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine ad- and the maker of it as a spark, and versaries, and avenge me of mine they shall. both burn together, and enemies :

none shall quench them. (A) 25 And I will turn my hand upon



creation to attend, while Jehovah himself (A) Isaiah upbraids the ingratitude and speaks; and a charge of gross insensibihypocrisy of Judah, and exhorts them to re. lity and ingratitude is then brought against pentance. --The first verse we consider as a the Jews, by contrasting their conduct with general title to Isaiah's prophecies, which that of the ox and the ass, the most stupid were delivered during several successive of all animals. This leads to an ampliti. reigns. Bp. Lowth is of opinion, that the cation of their guilt, highly aggravated by first five chapters were written during the their slighting the chastisements and judgreign of king Uzziah. If so, the desolation ments of Goil, though repeated till they it describes must allude to the calamities had been lest almost like Sodom and Gowhich had been previously occasioned by morrah. The incidental mention of those Jehoash, king of Israel, (2 Kings xiv. 12 places leads to an address to the rulers and - 14.) But as prophecies are not always people of Judah (under the character of arranged according to the order of time in princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah) which they were delivered, Bp. Horsley and no less spirited and elegant. In ver. 10, others refer it to the time of Ahaz (which and following, the vavity of trusting to the it appears to suit better,) and to the inva- performance of outward rites and ceremosion of Rezin and Pekah : and some place nies of religion is exposed; and the necesit still later, when Jerusalem was besieged sity of repentance and reformation strongly by Sennacherib.

urged, as well by the most encouraging The Prophet, with a boldness and ma- promises, as by the most awful threatenjesty becoming the herald of the Most ing. The Prophet, aware that neither of High, begins with calling on the whole these motives would produce their proper

NOTES-Chap. I. Con. Ver. 20. Devoured with the sword-Lowth, “ Ye Ver. 27. Her converts-Marg. "They that retam shall be food for the sword.

of her;" Lowth, “ Her captives." Ver. 23. Come unto them-Lowth, “Come before Ver. 28. And the destruction-Heb.“ Breaking.** them.)

Ver. 29. The oaks .... the gardens-that is, the Ver. 25. And I will turn, &c.—Lowth, “I will scene and object of their idolatries.

again my hand over thee, and I will purge in the Ver. 31. And the maker-Marg," And his work." ce thy dross, and I will remove all thine alloy." So Lowth,

« PreviousContinue »