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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

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The aim of this manual is to place within the reach of the people at large, some of the chief results of modern investigations into the life and times of the great prophet Isaiah. While special qualifications are necessary for the following out of the processes through which critics work their way, all may understand results, and should know them. This, at least, in a broad general view : for absolute certainty or agreement as to all details of an age so long gone by can never be expected, and, perhaps, might not be of any particular value if it were possible. For the right reading of Scripture, some simple and easily followed arrangement of the prophecies should be carried out. In presenting the Second Edition of “How to read Isaiah the public, it is felt that others feel this need as much as the author did. And he would take this opportunity of saying that this fact, along with the pleasure and profit he himself derived from such a study, has led him to apply the same principles and adopt the same method of treatment in regard to the other prophetic books of Scripture as he has followed here. In accordance with this plan, this volume becomes the second part of “How to read the Prophets.”

This is not a commentary. It is rather a historical representation of the teaching and environment of a great prophet, very much in the words of his own choosing, or in the literature of his own time and country. Hence we place at the beginning the Text of Scripture in an unbroken continuity, save so far as paragraph headings are concerned. Explanations and references are given in a Glossary at the end ; while in the second division is found a historical account of the circumstances in which he

spoke, and of what he said. The chapter and verse divisions, which so often give a mechanical appearance to Scripture, have been omitted, and thus an effort has been made to set forth the Text in the natural form of delivery. The aim is to allow the prophet to speak directly to us now, as he once spoke to his own people. By getting into closer touch with the living prophet, the reader is brought into closer fellowship with the living God, who spoke to and through him. In this way the devotional reading of Scripture will be aided : and this is really our great aim. And just as the power to bring sweetest music out of an instrument depends not only upon the instrument, but also upon the performer, so the power to use Scripture aright, even with all present day aids, depends on the reader being divinely influenced by that same Holy Spirit by whom in the olden time men from God were moved to speak. The more we are in touch with the inspiring Spirit, the more will we understand the inspired Word. A firm persuasion, on our part, that the principles of truth and righteousness, once borne witness to by Isaiah, and enshrined in his prophecies, are eternal in character and universal in application, will bid us learn to apply them to our own life, as we read how in the former time they were so applied by him. In regard to the Text, it is a matter of deep regret that the Revised Version could not have been used throughout. Some of the changes made in it have not helped the meaning, while not unfrequently the translation that most aptly brings it out is found in the margin. In some places the Hebrew Text is very uncertain, and emendations are

Hence we could not content ourselves with the Authorised Version ; and the placing of certain passages in poetic form rendered changes absolutely necessary. some clear teaching from every passage must be our first concern, that so we may know “what the Lord saith.”

The Book of the Prophecies of Isaiah, as now extant, contains prophecies by several prophets, even as the Book of Psalms contains Psalms by many psalmists, and the Book of

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the Law additions by many writers. But, in all three cases, the collection rightly and naturally receives the name of the first and most important contributor, Moses, David, Isaiah. A master-mind and true originator in each case receives deservedly the credit for the whole. The grand personality of Isaiah, as a formative master-mind, with a distinctive prophetic programme, and clear views about Jehovah in His character, and relation, both to Judah, and the nations, requires full appreciation. The messages or declarations of the Divine Purpose, as originally delivered, must be studied in the order and circumstances of their delivery. The facts must here speak for themselves : and to let this be done the more easily, portions from the historical books have been inserted in their appropriate places. Whether we have the prophecies in the exact form in which Isaiah, in his old age, edited them, can never be determined. Certainly they are not arranged in the order of delivery. Probably there are additions by some of his prophetic successors, and editorial re-arrangements. It must be borne in mind that a prophecy was essentially and primarily a spoken message : that it was only written down from memory or dictation at a later period ; while, also, as such writing was on skins or parchments of great value, shorter prophecies might be put in to fill up spaces at the end of longer ones. In this way prophecies not at all connected in subject-matter might stand together, and not be separated in an uncritical age. Modern Assyrian and Egyptian Inscriptions have helped here greatly, by affording the information necessary for a correct chronological order. It has also to be remembered that ancient editors had a far greater measure of liberty in dealing with an author's writings than we now permit. They worked in materials lying to hand, according as their own view of the subject matter suggested. Thus, even in the earlier chapters of Isaiah, there are portions that from style and point of view seem to have had a different authorship : passages like the triumph-song over Babylon, and those dealing with some

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signal divine interposition (xxiv.-xxvii.) are of a later date than Isaiah. And manifestly we have a new book beginning with the fortieth chapter, with new authors, new circumstances, and new hopes. But, as this completes the prophetic programıne of Isaiah, in narrating the release of the Remnant, it has come down alongside his genuine writings. We have all been trained to interpret Scripture by the traditional views of the Rabbis, largely followed uncritically as these were by early Christian Divines. The exclusive national ideas of the Rabbis, and the eager Messianic Exegesis of their followers have not unfrequently cast the literal meaning into the background. This literal meaning, in all its fulness, must be brought again into the foreground. What has to be done, first of all, is to read Isaiah in the light of his own times, and though this is not easy, it is obligatory on all. When this has been done, we may then advance under the guidance of New Testament Revelation, and find in the prophetic hopes a better day than the prophets could understand, even that day that Abraham desired to see, and rejoiced, a day of salvation concerning which the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.”

Note.—The names of persons and places, printed in black type in the text, are referred to in the Glossary in the order in which they

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