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by Albert Barnes
Introduction to Isaiah
(1) Five prophetic addresses directly to the Jews, including the Ephraimites, reprehending, denouncing, and accusing them, Isa. 1–12.
(2) Eight addresses or prophetic discourses, in which the destiny of foreign nations is foretold, particularly the destiny of Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Assyria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Arabia and Tyre, Isa. 13–23.
(3) Penal judgments against the Jews and their foes, with ample promises of the final preservation and future prosperity of the Jews, Isa. 24–36.
(4) Four consolatory addresses, respecting the coming of the Messiah, and particularly describing the events which would be introductory to it; especially the liberation from the captivity at Babylon, Isa. 40–49,
(5) A description of the coming and work of the Messiah - his person, his doctrines, his death, and the success of the gospel and its final triumph, Isa. 49–66.
II. Historic. The events recorded in Isaiah 36–39.
The natural and obvious division of Isaiah is into two parts, the first of which closes with Isaiah 39:1-8, and the latter of which comprises the remainder of the book Isa. 40–66. In this division the latter portion is regarded as substantially a continuousprophecy, or an unbroken oracle or vision, relating to far distant events, and having little reference to existing things at the time when Isaiah lived, except the implied censures which are passed on the idolatry of the Jews in the time of Manasseh. The main drift and scope, however, is to portray events to come - the certain deliverance of the Jews from the bondage in Babylon, and the higher deliverance of the world under the Messiah, of which the former was the “suggester” and the “emblem.”
The former part Isa. 1–39 comprises a collection of independent prophecies and writings composed at various periods during the public ministry of the prophet Isaiah, and designed to produce an immediate effect upon the morals, the piety, the faith, and the welfare of the nation. The general drift is that Jerusalem was secure, that the kingdom of God on earth could not be destroyed, that however much His people might be subjected to punishment for their sins, and however long and grievous might be their calamities, and however mighty their foes, yet that the kingdom of God could not be overturned, and His promises set at nought. Hence, in all the predictions of judgment and calamity; in all the reproofs for crime, idolatry, and sin; there is usually found a “saving clause” - an assurance that the people of God would finally triumph and be secure. And hence, so large a portion of this division of the book is occupied with a prophetic statement of the entire and utter overthrow of the formidable states, nations, and cities with which they had been so often engaged in war, and which were so decidedly hostile to the Jews. The prophet, therefore, goes over in detail these cities and nations, and depicts successively the destruction of the Assyrians, of Babylon; Tyre, Moab, Damascus, Edom, etc., until he comes to the triumphant conclusion in Isaiah 35:1-10 that all the enemies of the people of God would be destroyed, and His kingdom would be established on an imperishable basis under the Messiah (see the notes at Isaiah 35:1-10). This is the scope of this part of the prophecy; and this is the reason why there is such fearful denunciation of surrounding nations. In the course of the predictions, however, there are frequent reproofs of the Jews for their sins, and solemn warnings and assurances of judgments against them; but there is the uniform assurance that they would be delivered, as a people, from all bondage and calamity, and be restored to ultimate freedom and prosperity.
This part of the book comprises the prophecies which were uttered during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (see section 3). For convenience, it may be divided in the following manner:
First. Independent prophecies, relating to Judah and Israel, Isa. 1–12. These are seven in number:
I. Reproof of national crimes, Isaiah 1:0.
II. Judah, its sins, Isa. 2–4.
III. Judah, a vineyard, Isaiah 5:0.
IV. The Vision of Yahweh, Isaiah 6:1-13.
V. Ahaz; impending calamity; prediction of the birth and character of the Messiah, Isa. 7–9:7.
VI. Samaria, Isaiah 9:8-21; Isaiah 10:1-4.
VII. Sennacherib; deliverance from him; advent and work of the Messiah, Isaiah 10:5-34; Isaiah 11:0; Isaiah 12:1-6.
Second. Independent prophecies, mainly relating to surrounding nations which had been regarded as hostile to the Jews, or which were their natural enemies, or which for their sins were to be cut off to make way for the introduction and permanent establishment of the kingdom of God, Isa. 13–23. These prophecies are 14 in number, and relate to the following kingdoms and people:
VIII. Babylon, Isaiah 13:0; Isaiah 14:1-27.
IX. Philistia, Isaiah 14:28-32.
X. Moab, Isa. 15–16,
XI. Damascus, Isaiah 17:1-11,
XII. Sennacherib, Isaiah 17:12-14.
XIII. Nubia, or Ethiopia, Isaiah 18:1-7.
XIV. Egypt, Isaiah 19:0.
XV. Egypt and Assyria, Isaiah 20:1-6.
XVI. The destruction of Babylon, Isaiah 21:1-10.
XVII. Dumah or Idumea, Isaiah 21:11-12.
XVIII. Arabia, Isaiah 21:13-17,
XIX. Jerusalem, when about to be besieged by Sennacherib, Isaiah 22:1-14.
XX. The fall of Shebna, and the promotion of eliakim, Isaiah 22:15-25.
XXI. Tyre, Isaiah 23:0.
Third. Independent prophecies, relating mainly to the times of Hezekiah, and to the prospect of the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib; with a statement of the ultimate safety of the people of God, and the overthrow of all their enemies, Isa. 24–35. These prophecies are 8 in number, and relate to the following events.
XXII. Desolation of the land of Judea, its delivery and triumph, Isa. 24–27.
XXIII. Ephraim to be destroyed, and Judah preserved, Isaiah 28:0.
XXIV. The siege and deliverance of Jerusalem, Isaiah 29:0.
XXV. An alliance with Egypt condemned, Isaiah 30:0.
XXVI. Denunciation on account of the contemplated alliance with Egypt, Isaiah 31:1-9.
XXVII. The virtuous and yet unsuccessful reign of Hezekiah, Isaiah 32:0.
XXVIII. The destruction of the Assyrian army, Isaiah 33:0.
XXIX. The destruction of Edom, and of all the enemies of God, and the final triumph and security of the people, Isaiah 34:0; Isaiah 35:1-10.
Fourth. The historical portion Isa. 36–39, relating to the destruction of Sennacherib, and the sickness and recovery of Hezekiah.
One great cause of the difficulty of understanding Isaiah arises from the manner in which the division into chapters has been made. This division is known to be of recent origin, and is of no authority whatever. It was first adopted by Hugo in the 13th century, who wrote a celebrated commentary on the Scriptures. He divided the Latin Vulgate into chapters nearly the same as those which now exist in the English version. These chapters he divided into smaller sections by placing the letters A, B, C, etc., at equal distances from each other in the margin. The division into verses is of still later origin. It was made by Stephens on a journey from Lyons to Paris in 1551, and was first used in his edition of the New Testament. The Jews formerly divided the books of the Old Testament into greater and smaller sections.
It is obvious that these divisions are of no authority; and it is as obvious that they were most injudiciously made. A simple glance at Isaiah will show that prophecies have been divided in many instances which should have been retained in the same chapter, and that prophecies and parts of prophecies have been thrown into the same chapter which should have been kept distinct. It is not usually difficult to mark the commencement and the close of the prophecies in Isaiah, and an indication of such a natural division throws material light on the prophecy itself. The proper divisions have been indicated above.
It is now impossible to determine in what way God thus communicated His will, or how it was known that the thoughts in sleep were communicated by God, or what criterion the prophet or other person had by which to distinguish these from common dreams. The certainty that they were from God demonstrated by the fact that the event was accurately fulfilled, as in the case of Joseph, of Pharaoh, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Daniel. There is no instance which the will of God seems to have been communicated to Isaiah in this manner; and it is not necessary for my purpose to pursue this part of the inquiry any further. The mode in which the will of God was made known to Isaiah was mainly, if not entirely, by “visions,” Isaiah 1:1; and that mode will demand a fuller and distinct examination. It may just be remarked here, that no man can demonstrate that God could not convey His will to man in the visions of the night, or in dreams; or that He could not then have access to the soul, and give to the mind itself some certain indications by which it might be known that the communication was from Him. It is possible that the mode of communicating the will of God by the “dream” חלום chalôm - did not differ “essentially” from the mode of “the vision” - חזון châzôn - by causing a “vision” of the subject as in a landscape to pass before the mind.
(3) The prophets were brought under such an influence by the Divine Spirit as to overpower them, and while in this state the will of God was made known to them. In what way His will was then communicated we may not be able to determine. I speak only of an overpowering influence which gave them such views of God and truth as to weaken their animal frame, and as, in some instances, to produce a state of “ecstacy,” or a “trance,” in which the truth was made to pass before them by some direct communication which God had with their minds. In these cases, in some instances at least, the communication with the external world was closed, and God communicated His will immediately and directly. Reference to this is not infrequently made in the Scriptures, where there was such a powerful divine influence as to prostrate the frame, and take away the strength of the body. Thus, in Ezekiel 1:3, ‘The hand of Yahweh was then upon me.’ Cornelius a Lapide remarks on this passage, that ‘the prophets took their station by the side of a river, that in the stillness and delightful scenery around them they might, through the soft, pleasing murmur of the waters, be refreshed, enlivened, and prepared for the divine ecstacies.’ Bib. Repository, vol. ii. p. 141. It is more natural, however, to suppose that they did not court or solicit these influences, but that they came upon them by surprise. Jeremiah 20:7, ‘Lord, thou hast persuaded me, and I have suffered myself to be persuaded; thou hast been too strong for me, and hast prevailed.’ This influence is referred to in 1 Samuel 19:20, ‘The Spirit of God was upon the messengers (of Saul) and they also prophesied.’ In 1 Samuel 19:24, the “power” of the prophetic impulse is indicated by the fact that it led Saul to strip off his clothes, probably his robes, and to prophesy in the same manner as Samuel; and in the statement that ‘he lay down naked all that day, and all that night,’ under the prophetic impulse.
The effect of this strong prophetic impulse on the body and the mind is indicated in the following passages. It is said of Abraham in Genesis 15:12, when he had a vision, ‘Behold terror and great darkness came upon him.’ It was evinced in a remarkable manner in the case of Balaam, Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16. It is said of him, that he ‘saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance (Septuagint “who saw the vision of God ἐν ὕπνοῳ en hupnō, in sleep,”) but having his eyes open.’ He was probably overcome, and fell to the ground, and yet his eyes were open, and in that state he uttered the predictions respecting Israel. The same effect is indicated in regard to John, Revelation 1:17, ‘And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.’ So of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28, ‘And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.’ And in a more remarkable manner in the case of Daniel Daniel 10:8, ‘Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me, for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.’ And again Daniel 8:27, ‘And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days.’ That there was a remarkable agitation of the body, or suspension of its regular functions so as to resemble in some degree the ravings of delirium, is apparent from 2 Kings 9:11; Jeremiah 29:26. The nature of the strong prophetic impulse is perhaps indicated also in the expression in 2 Peter 1:21, ‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved - (φερόμενοι pheromenoi - “borne along, urged, impelled”) by the Holy Spirit. ‘
That it was supposed that the prophetic impulse produced such an effect on the body as is here represented is well known to have been the opinion of the pagans. The opinion which was held by them on the subject is stated in a beautiful manner by Plato: ‘While the mind sheds its light around us, pouring into our souls a meridian splendor, we being in possession of ourselves, are not under a supernatural influence. But after the sun has gone down, as might be expected, an ecstasy, a divine influence, and a frenzy falls upon us. For when the divine light shines, the human goes down; but when the former goes down, the latter rises and comes forth. This is what ordinarily happens in prophecy. Our own mind retires upon the advent of the Divine Spirit, but after the latter has departed, the former again returns.’ Quoted in Bib. Repos. vol. ii. p. 163. In the common idea of the Pythia, however, there was the conception of derangement, or raving madness. Thus, Lucan:
- Bacchatur demens aliena per antrum
Colla ferens, vittasque Dei, Phoebaeaque serra
Erectis discussa comis, per inania templi
Ancipiti cervice rotat, spargitque vaganti
Obstantes tripodas, magnoque exaestuat igne
Iratum te, Phoebe, ferens.
‘She madly raves through the cavern, impelled by Another’s mind with the fillet of the god, and The garland of Phoebus, shaken from her erected Hair: she whirls around through the void space of the temple, Turning her face in every direction; she scatters the tripods Which come in her way, and is agitated with violent commotion, Because she is under thy angry influence, O Apollo.’
Virgil has given a similar description of a demoniacal possession of this kind:
- Ait: Deus, ecce, Deus! cui talia fanti
Ante fores, subito non vultus, non color unus,
Nec comptae mansere comae; sed pectus anhelum,
Et rabie fera corda tument: majorque videri
Nec mortale sonans; affiata est numine quando,
I am propiore Dei.
AEneid. vi. 46ff.
I feel the god, the rushing god! she cries -
While thus she spoke enlarged her features grew
Her color changed, her locks disheveled flew.
The heavenly tumult reigns in every part,
Pants in her breast and swells her rising heart;
Still spreading to the sight the priestess glowed,
And heaved impatient of the incumbent god.
Then to her inmost soul, by Phoebus fired,
In more than human sounds she spoke inspired.
See also the Aeneid. vi. 77ff.
From all such mad and unintelligible ravings the true prophets were distinguished. The effect of inspiration upon the physical condition of their bodies and minds may be expressed in the following particulars:
(a) It prostrated their strength; it threw them on the ground, as we have seen in the case of Saul, and of John, and was attended occasionally with sickness, as in the case of Daniel. There seems to have been such a view of God, and of the events which were to come to pass, as to take away for a time their physical strength. Nor is there anything improbable or absurd in this. In the language of Prof. Stuart (Bib. Repos. ii. p. 221), we may ask, ‘Why should not this be so? How could it be otherwise than that the amazing disclosures sometimes made to them should affect the whole corporeal system? Often this does happen when one and another scene opens upon us in a natural way, and which has respect merely to things of the present world. But when the future glories of the Messiah’s kingdom were disclosed to the mental eye of a prophet or a seer, when the desolation of kingdoms, and the slaughter of many thousands, the subjugation and massacre of God’s chosen people, famine, pestilence, and other tremendous evils were disclosed to his view, what could be more natural than that agitation, yea, swooning, should follow in some cases?’ It may be added, that in the experience of Christians in modern times the elevated views which have been taken of God, of heaven, of the hopes of glory, and of the plan of salvation, have produced similar effects on the bodily frame. Any deep, absorbing, elevated emotion may produce this state. “The flesh is weak,” and that there may be such a view of glory or of calamity; such hope or fear; such joy or sorrow as to prostrate the frame and produce sickness, or faintness, is nothing more than what occurs every day.
(b) There is no evidence that the true prophets were divested of intelligent consciousness so that they were ignorant of what they uttered; or that the Spirit made use of them merely as organs, or as unconscious agents to utter his truth. They everywhere speak and act as men who understood what they said, and do not rave as madmen. Indeed, the very fact to which I have adverted, that the view of future events had such an effect as to take away their strength, shows that they were conscious, and had an intelligent understanding of what they saw, or spoke. That the prophet had control of his own mind; that he could speak or not as he pleased; that he acted as a conscious, voluntary, intelligent agent, is more than once intimated, or expressly affirmed. Thus, in one of the strongest cases of the overpowering nature of the inspiration which can be adduced-- the case of Jeremiah-- it is intimated that the prophet even then was a voluntary agent, and could speak or not, as he pleased. The strength of this overpowering agency is intimated in Jeremiah 20:7.
Thou didst allure me, O Jehovah, and I was allured;
Thou didst encourage me, and didst prevail;
I am become a laughing stock every day,
Ridicule hath spent its whole force upon me.
And yet, in immediate connection with this, the prophet resolved that he would cease to prophesy, and that he would no more speak in the name Yahweh.
Then I said, I will not make mention of him,
Nor speak anymore in his name;
But his word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones,
And I was weary with forbearing,
And I could not stay.
This proves, that Jeremiah was, even under the full power of the prophetic impulse, a free and conscious agent. If he were a mere passive instrument in the hands of the Spirit, how could he determine no more to prophesy? And how could he carry this purpose into execution, as he actually did for a while? But this inquiry has been settled by the express authority of the apostle Paul. He affirms, in a manner which leaves no room to doubt, that the prophets were conscious agents, and that they had control over their own minds, when he says 1 Corinthians 14:32, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”; and, on the ground of this, he requires those who were under the prophetic inspiration to utter their sentiments in such a manner as not to produce confusion and irregularity in the congregations, 1 Corinthians 14:29-31, 1 Corinthians 14:33, 1 Corinthians 14:40. How could he reprove their disorder and confusion, if they had no control over the operations of their own minds; and if they were not conscious of what they were uttering?
The truth seems to have been that they had the same control over their minds that any man has; that they were urged, or impelled by the Spirit to utter the truth, but that they had power to refuse; and that the exercise of this power was subjected to substantially the same laws as the ordinary operations of their minds. The true idea has been expressed, probably, by Lowth. “Inspiration may be regarded not as suppressing or extinguishing for a time the faculties of the human mind, but of purifying, and strengthening, and elevating them above what they would otherwise reach.” Nothing can be more rational than this view; and according to this, there was an essential difference between the effect of true inspiration on the mind, and the wild and frantic ravings of the pagan priests, and the oracles of divination. Everything in the Scriptures is consistent, rational, sober, and in accordance with the laws of the animal economy; everything in the pagan idea of inspiration was wild, frantic, fevered, and absurd.
(c) It may be added, that this is the common view of prophecy which prevailed among the fathers of the church. Thus, Epiphanius says, ‘In whatever the prophets have said, they have been accompanied with an intelligent state of mind;’ Ad. Haeres. Mont. c. 4. Jerome in his Preface to Isaiah says, ‘Nor indeed, as Montanus and insane women dream, did the prophets speak in an ecstasy, so that they did not know what they uttered, and, while they instructed others, did not themselves understand what they said.’ Chrysostom says, ‘For this is characteristic of the diviners, to be in a state of frenzy, to be impelled by necessity, to be driven by force, to be drawn like a madman. A prophet, on the contrary, is not so; but utters his communication with sober intellegence, and in a sound state of mind, knowing what he says,’ Homil. xxix. in Ep. ad Cor., Bib. Repos. ii.
(4) The representation of future scenes was made known to the prophets by visions. This idea may not differ from the two former, except that it intimates that in a dream, and in the state of prophetic ecstasy, events were made known to them not by words, but by causing the scene to pass before their mind or their mental visions, as if they saw it. Thus, the entire series of the prophecies of Isaiah is described as a vision in Isaiah 1:1, and in 2 Chronicles 32:32. It is of importance to have a clear understanding of what is implied by this. The name “vision” is often elsewhere given to the prophecies, Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16; 1 Samuel 3:1; 2 Samuel 7:17; Proverbs 29:18; Obadiah 1:1; Isaiah 21:0; Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:5; Jeremiah 14:14; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:13; Daniel 2:19; Daniel 7:2; Daniel 8:1, Daniel 8:13, Daniel 8:16-17, Daniel 8:26; Daniel 9:21, Daniel 9:23-24; Daniel 10:1, Daniel 10:7-8, Daniel 10:14, Daniel 10:16; 2 Chronicles 9:29; Ezekiel 1:1. The prophets are called “Seers” ראים ro'ı̂ym; and חזים chozı̂ym, and their prophecies are designated by words which denote that which is seen, as חזיון chı̂zzâyôn, מחזה machăzeh, מראה mare'eh, חזון châzôn, etc. - all of which are words derived from the verbs rendered “to see,” חזה châzâh and ראה râ'âh. It would be unnecessary to quote the numerous passages where the idea of “seeing” is expressed. A few will show their general characters. They may be “classified” according to the following arrangement:
(a) Those which relate to an open vision, a distinct and clear seeing, 1 Samuel 3:1 : ‘And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision’ - נפרץ חזון châzôn nı̂perâts - no vision spread abroad, common, open, public, usual. It was a rare occurrence, and hence, the divine communications were regarded as especially precious and valuable.
(b) Those which pertain to the prophetic ecstasy, or trance-- probably the more usual, and proper meaning of the word. Numbers 24:3-4 -- “the man whose eyes are open hath said; he hath said which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling, but having his eyes open.’ Numbers 24:17, ‘I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” That is, I see, or have a vision of that Star, and of that Sceptre “in the distance,” as if looking on a landscape, and contemplating an indistinct object in the remote part of the picture. Thus, Ezekiel 1:1, ‘The heavens were opened, and I saw the visions of God;’ Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2, ‘In visions he brought me to the land of Israel,’ compare Luke 1:22.
(c) Instances where it is applied to dreams: Daniel 2:19, Daniel 2:28; Daniel 4:5; Daniel 7:2; Daniel 8:1, Daniel 8:13, Daniel 8:16-17, Daniel 8:26-27; Daniel 9:21, Daniel 9:23-24; Genesis 46:2, ‘God spake to Israel in visions of the night,’ Job 4:13.
(d) Instances where the prophets represent themselves as standing on a “watch-tower,” and looking off on a distant landscape to descry future and distant events:
I will stand upon my watch,
And will set me upon the tower,
And will watch to see what he will say unto me,
And what I shall answer when I am reproved. ‘
‘For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth;’ Notes, Isaiah 21:6; compare Isaiah 21:8, Isaiah 21:11; Micah 7:4; compare Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7. In these passages, the idea is that of one who is stationed on an elevated post of observation, who can look over a large region of country, and give timely warning of the approach of an enemy.
The general idea of prophecy which is presented in these passages, is that of a scene which is made to pass before the mind like a picture, or a landscape, where the mind contemplates a panoramic view of objects around it, or in the distance; where, as in a landscape, objects may appear to be grouped together, or lying near together, which may be in fact separated a considerable distance. The prophets described those objects which were presented to their minds as they “appeared” to them, or as they seem to be drawn on the picture which was before them. They had, undoubtedly, an intelligent consciousness of what they were describing; they were not mad, like the priestesses of Apollo; they had a clear view of the vision, and described it as it appeared to them. Let this idea be kept in mind, that the prophets saw in vision; that probably the mode in which they contemplated objects was somewhat in the manner of a landscape as it passes before the mind, and much light and beauty will be cast on many of the prophecies which now seem to be obscure.
III. From the view which has now been taken of the nature of prophecy, some important remarks may be made, throwing additional light on the subject.
(1) It is not to be expected that the prophets would describe what they saw in all their connections and relations; see Hengstenberg, in Bib. Repos. ii. p. 148. They would present what they saw as we describe what we witness in a landscape. Objects which appear to be near, may be in fact separated by a considerable interval. Objects on the mountainside may seem to lie close to each other, between which there may be a deep ravine, or a flowery vale. In describing or painting it, we describe or paint the points that appear; but the ravine and the vale cannot be painted. They are not seen. So in a prophecy, distant events may appear to lie near to each other, and may be so described, while “between” them there may be events happy or adverse, of long continuance and of great importance.
(2) Some single view of a future event may attract the attention and engross the mind of the prophet. A multitude of comparatively unimportant objects may pass unnoticed, while there may be one single absorbing view that shall seize upon, and occupy all the attention. Thus, in the prophecies which relate to the Messiah. Scarcely any one of the prophets gives any connected or complete view of his entire life and character. It is some single view of him, or some single event in his life, that occupies the mind. Thus, at one time his birth is described; at another his kingdom; at another his divine nature; at another his sufferings; at another his resurrection; at another his glory. “The prophetic view is made up, not of one of these predictions, but of all combined;” as the life of Jesus is not that which is contained in one of the evangelists, but in all combined. Illustrations of this remark might be drawn in abundance from the prophecies of Isaiah. Thus, in Isaiah 2:4, he sees the Messiah as the Prince of Peace, as diffusing universal concord among all the nations, and putting an end to war.
In Isaiah 6:1-5, compare John 12:41, he sees him as the Lord of glory, sitting on a throne, and filling the temple. In Isaiah 7:14, he sees him as a child, the son of a virgin. In Isaiah 9:1-2, he sees him as having reached manhood, and having entered on his ministry, in the land of Galilee where he began to preach. In Isaiah 9:6-7, he sees him as the exalted Prince, the Ruler, the mighty God, the Father of eternity. In Isaiah 11:0 he sees him as the descendant of Jesse - a tender sprout springing up from the stump of an ancient decayed tree. In Isaiah 25:8, he sees him as destroying death, and introducing immortality; compare 1 Corinthians 15:54. In Isaiah 35:1-10 the happy effects of his reign are seen; in Isaiah 53:1-12 he views him as a suffering Messiah, and contemplates the deep sorrows which he would endure when he should die to make atonement for the sins of the world. Thus, in all the prophets, we have one view presented at one time, and another at another; and the entire prediction is made up of all these when they are combined into one.
It may be observed also of Isaiah, that in the first part of his prophecy the idea of an exalted or triumphant Messiah is chiefly dwelt upon; in the latter part, he presents more prominently the idea of the suffering Messiah. The reason may have been, that the object in the first part was to console the hearts of the nation under their deep and accumulated calamities, with the assurance that their great Deliverer would come. In the latter part, which may not have been published in his life, the idea of a suffering Messiah is more prominently introduced. This might have been rather designed for posterity than for the generation when Isaiah lived; or it may have been designed for the more pious individuals in the nation rather than for the nation at large, and hence, in order to give a full view of the Messiah, he dwelt then on his sufferings and death; see Hengstenberg’s Christol. vol. i. pp. 153, 154.
(3) Another peculiarity, which may arise from the nature of prophecy here presented, may have been that the mind of the prophet glanced rapidly from one thing to another. By very slight associations or connections, as they may now appear to us, the mind is carried from one object or event to another; and almost before we are aware of it, the prophet seems to be describing some point that has, as appears to us, scarcely any connection with the one which he had but just before been describing. We are astonished at the transition, and perhaps can by no means ascertain the connection which has subsisted in view of the mind of the prophet, and which has led him to pass from the one to the other. The mental association to us is lost or unseen, and we deem him abrupt, and speak of his rapid transitions, and of the difficulties involved in the doctrine of a double sense. The views which I am here describing may be presented under the idea of what may be called the laws of prophetic suggestion; and perhaps a study of those laws might lead to a removal of most of the difficulties which have been supposed to be connected with the subject of a spiritual meaning, and of the double sense of the prophecies.
In looking over a landscape; in attempting to describe the objects as they lie in view of the eye - if that landscape were not seen by others for whom the description is made - the transitions would seem to be rapid, and the objects might seem to be described in great disorder. It would be difficult to tell why this object was mentioned in connection with that; or by what laws of association the one suggested by the other. A house or tree; a brook, a man, an animal, a valley, a mountain, might all be described, and between them there might be no apparent laws of close connection, and all the real union may be that they lie in the same range, in view of him who contemplates them. The “laws of prophetic suggestion” may appear to be equally slight; and we may not be able to trace them, because we have not the entire view or grouping which was presented to the mind of the prophet. We do not see the associations which in his view connected the one with the other.
To him, there may have been no double sense. He may have described objects singly as they appeared to him. But they may have lain near each other. They may have been so closely grouped that he could not separate them even in the description. The words appropriate to the one may have naturally and easily fallen into the form of appropriate description of the other. And the objects may have been so contiguous, and the transition in the mind of the prophet so rapid, that he may himself have been scarcely conscious of the change, and his narrative may seem to flow on as one continued description. Thus, the object with which he commenced, may have sunk out of view, and the mind be occupied entirely in the contemplation of that which was at first secondary. Such seems to have been, in a remarkable manner, the uniqueness of the mind of Isaiah. Whatever is the object or event with which he commences, the description usually closes with the Messiah. His mind glances rapidly from the object immediately before him, and fixes on that which is more remote, and the first object gradually sinks away; the language rises in dignity and beauty; the mind is full, and the description proceeds with a statement respecting the Prince of Peace. This is not double sense: it is rapid transition under the laws of prophetic suggestion; and though at first some object immediately before the prophet was the subject of his contemplation, yet before he closes, his mind is totally absorbed in some distant event that has been presented, and his language is designedly such as is adapted to that.
It would be easy to adduce numerous instances of the operation of this law in Isaiah. For illustration we may refer to the remarkable prophecy in Isaiah 7:14; compare Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 9:1-7. See the notes on those passages. Indeed, it may be presented, I think, as one of the prominent characteristics of the mind of Isaiah, that in the prophetic visions which he contemplated, the Messiah always occupied some place; that whatever prophetic landscape, so to speak, passed before him, the Messiah was always in some part of it; and that consequently wherever he began his prophetic annunciations, he usually closed with a description of some portion of the doctrines, or the work of the Messiah. It is this law of the mental associations of Isaiah which gives such value to his writings in the minds of all who love the Saviour.
(4) It follows from this view of prophecy, that the prophets would speak of occurrences and events as they appeared to them. They would speak of them as actually present, or as passing before their eyes. They would describe them as being what they had seen, and would thus throw them into the past tense, as we describe what we have seen in a landscape, and speak of what we saw. It would be comparatively infrequent, therefore, that the event would be described as “future.” Accordingly, we find that this is the mode actually adopted in the prophets. Thus, in Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Isaiah 42:1, “behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.” So in the description of the sufferings of the Messiah: “He is despised.” “He hath no form or comeliness,: Isaiah 53:2-3. Thus, in Isaiah 14:1-8, Cyrus is addressed as if he were personally present. Frequently, events are thus described as past, or as events which the prophet had seen in vision. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined,” Isaiah 9:2.
So especially in the description of the sufferings of the Messiah: “As many were astonished at thee.” “His visage was so marred.” “He hath borne our griefs.” “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted.” “He was taken from prison.” “He was cut off out of the land of the living.” “He made his grave,” etc. etc.; Isaiah 52:14-15; Isaiah 53:4-9. In some cases, also, the prophet seems to have placed himself in vision in the midst of the scenes which he describes, or to have taken, so to speak, a station where he might contemplate a part as past, and a part as yet to come. Thus, in Isaiah 53:1-12 the prophet seems to have his station between the humiliation of the Saviour and his glorification, in which he speaks of his sufferings as past, and his glorification, and the success of the gospel, as yet to come; compare particularly Isaiah 53:9-12. This view of the nature of prophecy would have saved from many erroneous interpretations; and especially would have prevented many of the cavils of skeptics. It is a view which a man would be allowed to take in describing a landscape; and why should it be deemed irrational or absurd in prophecy?
(5) From this view it also follows, that the prophecies are usually to be regarded as seen in space and not in time; or in other words, the time would not be actually and definitely marked. They would describe the order, or the succession of events; but between them there might be a considerable, and an unmeasured interval of time. In illustration of this we may refer to the idea which has been so often presented already - the idea of a landscape. When one is placed in an advantageous position to view a landscape, he can mark distinctly the order of the objects, the succession, the grouping. He can tell what objects appear to him to lie near each other; or what are apparently in juxtaposition. But all who look at such a landscape know very well that there are objects which the eye cannot take in, and which will not be exhibited by any description. For example, hills in the distant view may seem to lie near to each other; one may seem to rise just back of the other, and they may appear to constitute parts of the same mountain range, and yet between them there may be wide and fertile vales, the extent of which the eye cannot measure, and which the mind may be wholly unable to conjecture. It has no means of measuring the distance, and a description of the whole scene as it appeared to the observer would convey no idea of the distance of the intervals. So in the prophecies. Between the events seen in vision there may be long intervals, and the length of those intervals the prophet may have left us no means of determining. He describes the scene as it appeared to him in vision. In a landscape the distance, the length, the nature of these intervals might be determined in one of three ways:
(1) by the report of one who had gone over the ground and actually measured the distances;
(2) by going ourselves and measuring the distances; or
(3) by a revelation from heaven.
So the distance of time occurring between the events seen in vision by the prophets, may be determined either by the actual measurement as the events occur, or by direct revelation either made to the prophet himself, or to some other prophet. Accordingly, we find in the prophecies these facts:
(a) In many of them there are no marks of time, but only of succession. It is predicted only that one event should succeed another in a certain order.
(b) Occasionally the time of some one event is marked in the succession, as e. g. the time of the death of the Messiah, in Daniel 9:26-27.
(c) Events are apparently connected together, which in fact were to be separated by long intervals. Thus, Isaiah 11:0 makes the deliverance which was to be effected by the Messiah, to follow immediately the deliverance from the yoke of the Assyrians, without noticing the long train of intermediate occurrences. And in the same manner Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah very often connect the deliverance under the Messiah with that which was to be effected from the captivity at Babylon, without noticing the long train of intermediate events. There was such a resemblance between the two events that, by the laws of “prophetic suggestion,” the mind of the prophet glanced rapidly from one to the other, and the description which commenced with the account of the deliverance from the Babylonian captivity, closed with the description of the triumphs of the Messiah. And yet not one of the prophets ever intimate that the Messiah would be the leader from the exile at Babylon.
(d) The time is sometimes revealed to the prophets themselves, and they mark it distinctly. Thus, to Jeremiah it was revealed that the exile at Babylon would continue 70 years Isaiah 25:11-12, and although this event had been the subject of revelation to other prophets, yet to no one of them was there before an intimation of the time during which it was to continue. So also of the place. That the Jews would be carried away to a distant land if they were disobedient, had been predicted by Moses, and threatened by many of the prophets; and yet there was no intimation of the place of their bondage until the embassy of the king of Babylon to Hezekiah, and the sin of Hezekiah in showing them his treasure, led Isaiah to declare that “Babylon was the place” to which the nation was to be carried; see the notes at Isaiah 39:6. Marks of time are thus scattered, though not very profusely, through the prophecies. They were, on the whole, so definite as to lead to the general expectation that the Messiah would appear about the time when Jesus was born; see the notes at Matthew 2:0.
(6) It is a consequence of this view also, that many of the prophecies are obscure. It is not to be expected that the same degree of light should be found in the prophecies which we have now. And yet so far as the prophecy was made known, it might be clear enough; nor was there any danger or need of mistake. The facts themselves were perfectly plain and intelligible; but there was only a partial and imperfect development of the facts. The fact, for example, that the Messiah was to come; that he was to be born at Bethlehem; that he was to be a king; that he was to die; that his religion was to prevail among the nations; and that the Gentiles were to be brought to the knowledge of him, were all made known, and were as clear and plain as they are now. Much is known now, indeed, of the mode in which this was to be done which was not then; and the want of this knowledge served to make the prophecies appear obscure. We take the information which we now have, and go back to the times when the prophecies were uttered, and finding them obscure, we seem to infer that because all was not known, nothing was known. But we are to remember that all science at the beginning is elementary; and that knowledge on all subjects makes its advances by slow degrees. Many things in the prophecies were obscure, in the sense that there had been only a partial revelation; or that only a few facts were made known; or that the time was not marked with certainty; and yet the facts themselves may have been as clear as they are now, and the “order of succession” may have been also as certainly and clearly determined. The facts were revealed; the manner in which they were to occur may have been concealed.
It may be added here, in the words of Prof. Stuart, ‘that many prophecies have respect to kingdoms, nations, and events, that for thousands of years have been buried in total darkness. In what manner they were fulfilled we know not; when, we know now. We do not even know enough of the geography of many places and regions that are named in them, to be able to trace the scene of such fulfillment. Customs, manners, and many other things alluded to by such prophecies, we have no present means of illustrating in an adequate manner. Of course, and of necessity, then, there must be more or less in all such prophecies, that is obscure to us.’ Bib. Repository, vol. ii. p. 237.
(1) The Septuagint, so called from the 70 translators who are supposed to have been engaged in it. This is the most ancient, and in some respects the most valuable of all the versions of the Bible, and was formerly esteemed so valuable as to be read in synagogues and in churches. Much uncertainty exists in regard to the real history of this version. According to the common Jewish legend respecting it, Ptolemy Philadelphus, who reigned king of Egypt from 284 to 246 b.c., formed the wish, through the advice of his librarian, Demetrius Phalerius, to possess a Greek copy of the Jewish Scriptures, for the Alexandrian Library, and sent to Jerusalem for this object. The Jews sent him a Hebrew manuscript, and 72 men of learning to translate it. They all labored together; being shut up in the island of Pharos, where having agreed on the translation by mutual conference, they dictated it to Demetrius, who wrote it down, and thus in the space of 72 days the whole was finished.
This legend is given in an epistle said to have been written by Aristeas, to his brother in Alexandria. Josephus also relates story, Ant. xii. II. 2-14, but it has every mark of fiction; and an examination of the Septuagint itself will convince anyone that it was not all made by the same persons, or at the same time. The most probable supposition is, that after the Jews had settled in great numbers in Egypt, and had in some measure forgotten the Hebrew language, a Greek version became necessary for the public use in their temple there (see the notes, Isaiah 19:18), and in their synogogues. There is no improbability that this was done under the sanction of the Sanhedrin, or Council of 72 (LXXII) in Egypt, and that it thus received its name and authority. The translation was probably commenced about 250 years before Christ. The Pentateuch would be first translated, and the other books were probably translated at intervals between that time and the time of Christ. ‘The Pentateuch is best translated, and exhibits clear and flowing Greek style; the next in rank is the translation of Job and the Proverbs; the Psalms and the prophets are translated worst of all, and indeed often without any sense.
Indeed, the real value of the Septuagint, as a version, stands in no sort of relation to its reputation.’ - Calmet. ‘Isaiah has had the hard fate to meet a translation unworthy of him, there being hardly any book of the Old Testament that is so ill rendered in that version as Isaiah.’ - Lowth. The authority of this version, however, soon became so great as to superscede the use of the Hebrew among all the Jews who spoke Greek. It was read in the synagogues in Egypt, and was gradually introduced into Palestine. It had the highest reverence among the Jews, and was used by them everywhere; and is the version that is most commonly quoted in the New Testament. From the Jews the reputation and authority of this version passed over to Christians, who employed it with the same degree of credence as the original. The text of this version has suffered greatly, and great efforts have been made to restore it: and yet probably after all these efforts, and after all the reputaion which the version has enjoyed in former times, there has not been anywhere, or scarcely in any language, any version of the Scriptures that is more incorrect and defective than the Septuagint. Probably there is no version from which, as a whole, a more correct idea would not be derived of the real meaning of the Sacred Scriptures, and this is true in a special manner of Isaiah. It is valuable as the oldest version; as having been regarded with so much respect in former times: and as, notwithstanding its faults, and the imperfection of the text, throwing much light on various parts of the Old Testament. But as an authority for correcting the Hebrew text, it is of little or no value. The history of the Septuagint may be seen in Hody, de Biblior. Textibus orig. Oxford, 1705; Horne’s Introduction, vol. ii. 163ff; Prideaux’s Connections; Walton’s Prolegomena, c. ix. section 3-10; Isaac Vossius de Septuagint Inter. Hag. Coin. 1661; and Brett, Dias. on the Septuagint, in Watson’s Theo. Tracts, vol. iii. p. 18ff.
(2) The Latin Vulgate - the authorized version of the papal communion. When Christianity had extended itself to the West, where the Latin language was spoken, a version of the Scriptures into that language became necessary. In the time of Augustine there were several of these, but only one of them was adopted by the church. This was called “common vulgata,” because it was made from the common Greek version, η κοινή hē koinē. In modern times this version is often called “Itala,” or the “Italic” version. This version, in the Old Testament, was made literally from the Septuagint, and copied all its mistakes. To remedy the evils of this, and to give a correct translation of the Scriptures, Jerome undertook a direct translation, from the Hebrew. He went to Palestine and enjoyed the oral instructions of a learned Jew. He availed himself of all the labors of his predecessors, and furnished a translation which surpassed all that preceded his in usefulness. In the seventh century this version had supplanted all the old ones. It was the first book ever printed. By the Council of Trent, it was declared to be ‘authentic’ - and is the authorized or standard version of the papists; and is regarded by them as of equal authority with the original Scriptures. This version is allowed generally to be a very faithful translation; and it undoubtedly gives a much more correct view of the original than the Septuagint.
(3) The Syriac versions. Of these there are two, both of which are of Christian origin; having been made by Christians of the Syrian church who dwelt in Mesopotamia. The earliest and most celebrated of these is the Peshito; i. e. “the clear, or the literal.” It is the authorized version of the Syrian church, and is supposed by them to have been made in the time of Solomon. It was probably made in the first century. It follows, in general, the Hebrew text literally; and is very valuable as an aid in ascertaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures. The other Syriac version was made from the Septuagint about the year 616 a.d. for the use of the Monophysites. It is of value, therefore, only for the interpretation of the Septuagint. It is the former of these which is printed in the Polyglotts. Of the latter no portion has been printed except Jeremiah and Ezekiel in 1787, and Daniel in 1788. - Calmet.
(4) The Arabic versions. The Scriptures have been at various times translated into Arabic. After the time of Muhammed, the Arabic became the common language of many of the Jews, and of numerous bodies of Christians in the East. Sometimes the translations were made from the Hebrew, sometimes from the Septuagint, from the Peshito, or the Vulgate. The version of Rabbi Saadias Gaon, director of the Jewish Academy at Babylon, was made in the 10th century a.d. It comprised originally the Old Testament, but there have been printed only the Pentateuch, and Isaiah. The Pentateuch is found in the Polyglotts. Isaiah was published by Paulus in 1791. The Mauritanian version was made in the 13th century, by an Arabian Jew, and was published by Erpenius in 1629. The Arabic version in the Polyglotts was made by a Christian of Alexandria, and was made from the Septuagint. - Robinson. Of course these are of little value in illustrating the Hebrew text. The chief and great value of the Arabic consists in the light which is thrown upon the similar meaning of Hebrew words, phrases, and customs, from the Arabic language, manners, and literature.
(5) The Targums or Chaldee versions. All these are the works of Jews living in Palestine and Babylon, from a century before Christ, to the eighth, or ninth century after Christ. They bear the name “Targum, i. e. translation.” They comprise the Targum of Onkelos on the Pentateuch; of Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the historical books, and the prophets; of Jerusalem on the Pentateuch; and of smaller and separate Targums on the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. That of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, which was made about the time of the Saviour, and which includes Isaiah, is far inferior to that of Onkelos. It often wanders from the text in a wordy, allegorical explanation; admits many explanations which are arbitrary, and especially such as honor the Pharisees; and often gives a commentary instead of a translation; see Gesenius, Commentary uber den Isa. Einl. section 11. It is valuable, as it often gives a literal translation of the Hebrew, and adheres to it closely, and as it gives a statement of what was the prevailing interpretation of the sacred writings in the time when it was made. It may, therefore, be used in an argument with the modern Jews, to show that many of the passages which they refuse to refer to the Messiah were regarded by their fathers as having a relation to him.
The more modern versions of the Scriptures are evidently of little or no use in interpreting the Bible, and of no authority in attempting to furnish a correct text. On the general character of the versions above referred to, the reader may consult Horne’s Introduction, vol. ii. 156ff.; Gesenius, Einl. section 10-20.
The following are among the principal ones which may be referred to in illustration of Isaiah:
(1) Commentarius in Librum Prophetiarum Isaiae, Cura et Studio Campegii Vitringa, 2 vol. fol. 1714, 1720, 1724. This great work on Isaiah first appeared at Leuwarden in 1714. It has been several times reprinted. Vitringa was professor of theology at Franecker, and died in 1722. In this great work, Vitringa surpassed all who went before him in the illustration of Isaiah; and none of the subsequent efforts which have been made to explain this prophet have superseded this, or rendered it valueless. It is now indeed indispensable to a correct understanding of this prophet. He is the fountain from which most subsequent writers on Isaiah have copiously drawn. His excellencies are, great learning; copious investigation; vast research; judicious exposition; an excellent spirit, and great acuteness. His faults - for faults abound in his work - are:
(1) Great diffuseness of style.
(2) A leaning to the allegorical mode of interpretation.
(3) A minute, and anxious, and often fanciful effort to find something in history that accords with his view of each prediction. Often these parts of his work are forced and fanciful; and though they evince great research and historical knowledge, yet his application of many of the prophecies must be regarded as wholly arbitrary and unsatisfactory.
(4) He did not seem to be fully acquainted with the poetic and figurative character of the prophetic style. Hence, he is often forced to seek for fulfillment of particular expressions when a more complete acquaintance with the character of that style would have led him to seek for no such minute fulfillment. Yet no one can regard himself as furnished for a correct and full examination of Isaiah who is not in possession of this elaborate work.
(2) The collection of commentaries in the Critici Sacri, 9 vols. fol. This great work contains a collection of the best commentaries which were known at the time in which it was made. Valuable critical notes will be found in the commentary of Drusius, and occasional remarks of great value in the brief commentary of Grotius. Grotius is the father of commentators; and especially on the New Testament, he has furnished more “materials” which have been worked up into the recent commentaries, than all other expositors united. He is especially valuable for the vast amount of Classical learning which he has brought to illustrate the Scriptures. His main faults are a lack of spirituality and a laxness of opinions; but no man who wishes to gain a large and liberal view of the sacred writings will deem his library complete who has not the commentary of this great man. His notes, however, on Isaiah and the Old Testament generally, are very brief.
(3) The same work abridged and arranged by Poole, in 5 vols. fol. This work has often been reprinted, and is well known as Poole’s Synopsis. It is a work of great labor. It consists in arranging in one continuous form the different expositions contained in the work last mentioned. With all the learning and labor expended on it, it is, like most other abridgements, a work which will make him who consults it regret that an abridgement had been attempted, and sigh for the original work. It is an arrangement of opinions, without any reasons for those opinions as they existed in the minds of the original authors. To a man disposed to collect opinions merely, this work is invaluable; to a man who wishes to know on what opinions are based, and what is their true value, it will be regarded generally as of comparatively little use. The original work - the Critici Sacri - is of infinitely more value than this Synopsis by Poole.
(4) The commentary of Calvin. This may be found in his works printed at Amsterdam in 1667. This commentary on Isaiah was originated in discourses which were delivered by him in his public ministry, and which were committed to writing by another hand, and afterward revised by himself. The critical knowledge of Calvin was not great; nor does he enter minutely into criticisms, or philology. He aims at giving the sense of Isaiah, often somewhat in the form of a paraphrase. There is little criticism of words and phrases, little attempt to describe customs, or to illustrate the geography of the places referred to, and there is often in the writings of this great man a lack of vivacity and of point. However, Calvin is judicious and sound. His practical remarks are useful, and his knowledge of the human heart, and his good sense, enabled him to furnish a commentary that is highly valuable.
(5) Rosenmuller on Isaiah. This distinguished and very valuable work was first published in 1793, in three parts, and afterward in a completely revised edition in 1810, in three volumes. The merit of Rosenmuller consists in his great learning; in his cautious and careful collection of all the materials which existed to throw light on the prophet; and in his clear and simple arrangement and statement. The basis of this work is indeed Vitringa; but Rosenmuller is by no means confined to him. He has gathered from all sources what he regarded as necessary to an explanation of the prophet. He is judicious in his criticisms; and not rash and reckless in attempting to modify and amend the text. He does not resemble Grotius, who is said to have “found Christ nowhere;” but he is almost always, particularly in the first part, an advocate for the Messianic interpretation. There can be found nowhere a more valuable collection of “materials” for an understanding of Isaiah than in Rosenmuller.
(6) Philologisch-Kritischer und Historischer Commentar uber den Isaiah, von W. Gesenius, 3 Th. Leipzig, 1821. ‘The commentary of Gesenius has not rendered the work of Rosenmuller superfluous. Gesenius has certainly been more independent in ascertaining the meaning of words, and in this respect has rendered a great service to the prophet. His diligence has considerably increased the materials of exegesis by collecting a number of striking parallel passages, especially from Arabian and Syrian writers, which though not numerous, have been very accurately read. His historical illustrations, especially of the prophecies relating to foreign nations, are for the most part very valuable; and his acuteness has made new discoveries.’ “Hengstenberg.” The great value of Gesenius consists in his explanation of words and phrases; in his bringing to bear his vast learning in the Hebrew, and the cognate languages, to an explanation of the prophet; in his acuteness and skill in philological investigations; and in his use of illustrations of customs, geography, etc., from modern travelers. A favorable specimen of his manner of exposition may be seen in his commentary on the prophecy respecting Moab, Isa. 15–16. This is translated in the Biblical Repository for January 1836. See also a translation of Isaiah 17:12-14; Isaiah 18:1-7, in the Biblical Repository for July, 1836. Of this exposition Prof. Stuart says, ‘I consider it the only successful effort which has been made, to unravel the very difficult passage of which it treats. I consider it a kind of “chef d’ oeuvre” among the philological efforts of this distinguished writer;’ Bib. Rep. July, 1836, p. 220. For the general merits of Gesenius, see the article ‘Hebrew Lexicography,’ by Prof. Stuart, in Bib. Repository, 1836, p. 468ff.
(7) Isaiah; a New Translation with a Preliminary Dissertation, and Notes, Critical, Philological, and Explanatory. By Robert Lowth, D. D., Lord Bishop of London. This very beautiful translation of Isaiah was first published in London, in quarto, in 1778, and has been reprrinted several times. A German translation was published by M. Koppe, with notes and additions, at Gottingen, 1779, 1780, in 4 vols. 8 vo. It is the only work in English with which I am acquainted of any very great value on Isaiah, and it will doubtless continue to hold its rank as a standard work in sacred literature. Of all the interpreters of Isaiah, Lowth has probably most clearly discerned the true nature of the prophetic visions, has been enabled most clearly to apprehend and express the sense of the prophet, and has presented a translation which has been universally admired for its beauty. The faults of the work are: that his translation is often too paraphrastic, that he indulges in great caprice of criticism, that he often changes the Hebrew text on very slight authority, and that there is a lack of copiousness in the notes for the purpose of those who would obtain a full and accurate view of Isaiah. Lowth made good use of the aids which in his time might be derived from the researches of Oriental travelers. But since his time, this department of literature has been greatly enlarged, and important light has been thrown upon many passages which in his time were obscure.
(8) A new translation of the Hebrew prophets, arranged in chronological order. By George Noyes, Boston, 1833. This work professes to be simply a literal translation of the prophets, without an extended commentary. A very few notes are appended. The translation is executed with great skill and fidelity, and gives in general very correctly the meaning of the original. The translator has availed himself of the labors of Gesenius, and of the other modern critics. For a further view of this work, see North American Review for January, 1838.
(9) Esaias ex recensione Textus Hebraei, ad fidem Codd. et verss. Latine, vertit, et Notas subjecit, John C. Doederlin. Altdorf, 8 vo. 1780. Norimbergae, 1789.
(10) The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in Hebrew and English. The Hebrew text metrically arranged, the translation altered from that of Bishop Lowth. By Joseph Stock, D. D., Bishop of Killala, 1804, 4to. ‘There is a variety of notes, critical and explanatory, supplied partly by the translator, and partly by others. Many of these are uncommonly valuable for their depth and acuteness, and tend to elucidate in a high degree the subject matter of these prophecies;’ British Critic, vol. xxviii. p. 466.
(11) Lectures on the Prophecies of Isaiah, by Robert Macculoch. London, 1791, 4 vols. 8vo.
(12) Hierozoicon, Sive de animalibus Sacrae Scripturae. Auctore Samuele Bocharto. Folio, Lond. 1663. This great work has been reprinted several times. It is a work of immense research and learning and is invaluable to all who desire to obtain a knowledge of the subjects on which it treats. Great use may be made of it in the interpretation of the Scriptures; and authority has often been used in the following translation and notes. There is repeated mention of animals in Isaiah; and in no other work known to me can so accurate and valuable a description of those animals be found as in Bochart.
(13) Christology of the Old Testament and a commentary on the Predictions of the Messiah, by the prophets. By E. W. Hengstenberg, Doctor of Philology and Theology, Professor of the latter in the University of Berlin. Translated from the German by Reuel Keith, D. D. Alexandria, 1836. For a notice of Prof. Hengstenberg, and the character of his writings, see Biblical Repository, vol. i. p. 21. The first vol. of this work was published in 1829. It is a very valuable accession to sacred literature, and should form a part of every theological library. It evinces great learning; accurate research; and is deeply imbued with the spirit of piety. Its fault on Isaiah is that there are many parts of this prophet which should be regarded as predictions of the Messiah, which are not noticed, or so regarded in his work. His expositions of those parts which he has examined (Isaiah 2:0; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 7:0; Isaiah 8:2-3; Isaiah 9:1-6; Isaiah 11:0; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 40:0 following) are very valuable.
(14) Oriental Travelers. In regard to these, the main design is not usually to demonstrate the truth of the predictions of the prophets, or to furnish formal expositions of the meaning of the passages of Scripture. The illustration of the sacred writings which is to be derived from them, is mainly incidental, and often is as far as possible from the intention of the traveler himself. The illustrations which are derived from these travels, relate particularly to manners, rites, customs, usages, modes of traveling, conversation, and laws; to the animals which are mentioned in the Bible; to houses, articles of dress and furniture; and more especlally to the fulfillment of the prophecies. In this respect almost a new department pertaining to the truth of the Bible has been opened by the researches of modern travelers. Many of the older commentaries were exceedingly defective and unsatisfactory for the lack of the information which can now be derived from such researches; and the principal advance which can be anticipated in the interpretation of the prophecies, is probably to be derived from this source.
In this respect such researches are invaluable, and particularly in the exposition of Isaiah. Some of the most complete and unbreakable demonstrations of the inspiration of the sacred writings are furnished by a simple comparison of the predictions with the descriptions of places mentioned by modern travelers. In this work, I have endeavoured to embody the results of these inquiries in the notes. As an illustration of the kind of aid to be expected from this quarter, I may refer to the notes on Isa. 13–14 respecting Babylon; Isa. 15–16 respecting Moab; Isaiah 23:0 of Tyre; and Isa. 34–35 of Edom. Perhaps no part of the world has excited more the attention of travelers than those where the scenes of Scripture history and of prophecy are laid. Either for commercial purposes, or by a natural desire to visit those parts of the earth which have been the scenes of sacred events, or by the mere love of adventure, most of the places distinguished either in history or in prophecy have been recently explored.
The sites of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre, Damascus, and Jerusalem have been examined; Lebanon, Egypt, Arabia, and Palestine in general have been visited; and even Moab and Arabia have been traversed. The ancient land of Idumea, long deemed inaccessible, now Arabia Petraea, has been explored by Burckhardt, by Captains Irby and Mangles, by Laborde, and still more recently by our own countrymen, Mr. Stephens, and by Messrs. Smith and Robinson. The capital of that once celebrated kingdom has been discovered and examined after it had been unknown for ages, and a most striking fulfillment of the sacred predictions has thus been furnished; see the notes at Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 34:0. Perhaps there is no department of sacred learning that promises so much to illustrate the Scripturcs, as that of modern travels. It is to he remembered (to use the words of Prof. Bush), that since ‘the Bible, in its structure, spirit, and costume, is essentially an Eastern book, it is obvious that the natural phenomena and the moral condition of the East should be made largely tributary to its elucidation.
In order to appreciate fully the truth of its descriptions, and the accuracy, force and beauty of its various allusions, it is indispensable that the reader, as far as possible, separate himself from his ordinary associations, and put himself by a kind of mental transmutation into the very circumstances of the writers. He must set himself down in the midst of Oriental scenery, gaze upon the sun, sky, mountains and rivers of Asia - go forth with the nomade tribes of the desert - follow their flocks - travel with their caravans - rest in their tents - lodge in their khans - load and unload their camels - drink at their watering places - pause during the heat of the day under their palms - cultivate the fields with their own rude implements - gather in or glean after their harvests - beat out and ventilate the grain in their open threshing floors - dress in their costume - note their proverbial or idiomatic forms of speech, and listen to the strain of song or story with which they beguile their vacant hours;’ Preface to Illustrations of the Scriptures. To use the words of a late writer in the London Quarterly Review, ‘we confess that we have felt more surprise, delight, and conviction in examining the account which the travels of Burckhardt, Mangles, Irby, Leigh, and Laborde have so recently given of Judea, Edom, etc., than we have ever derived from any similar inquiry. It seems like a miracle in our own times. Twenty years ago, we read certain portions of the prophetic Scriptures with a belief that they were true, because other similar passages had, in the course of ages, been proved to be so, and we had an indistinct notion that all these (to us) obscure and indefinite denunciations had been - we know not very well when or how - accomplished; but to have graphic descriptions, ground plans and elevations, showing the actual existence of all the heretofore vague and shadowy denunciations of God against Edom, does, we confess, excite our feelings, and exalt our confidence in prophecy to a height that no external evidence has hitherto done.
Here we have, bursting upon our age of incredulity, by the labors of accidental, impartial, and sometimes incredulous witnesses, the certainty of existing facts, which fulfil what were hitherto considered the most vague and least intelligible of all the prophecies. The value of one such contemporaneous proof is immense.’ ‘It is,’ to use the language of the Biblical Repository (vol. ix. pp. 456, 457), ‘sensible evidence, graven on the eternal rocks, and to endure until those rocks shall melt in the final catastrophe of earth. The exactness between the prediction and the fulfillment is wonderful. The evidence for the truth of the prophecies is sometimes said to be cumulative; but here we have a new volume at once opened to our view; a sudden influx of overpowering light. It is a monumental miracle, an attestation to the truth of God wrought into the very framework of the globe;’ Review of Laborde’s Journey to Petra. It may be added, that the sources of information on these interesting subjects are becoming very numerous, and already leave little to be desired.
To see this, it is sufficient to mention the following: Roberts’ Oriental Illustrations; Maundrell’s Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem; Volney’s Travels through Egypt and Syria; Mariti’s Travels through Cyprus, Syria and Palestine; Russell’s Natural History of Aleppo; Clarke’s Travels in the Holy Land; Burckhardt’s Travels in Syria; - Travels in Nubia and Egypt; Keppel’s Narrative of a Journey from India to England; Morier’s Journey through Persia; Jowett’s Christian Researches; Burnes’ Travels in Bokhara; Laborde’s Journey to Petra, and the travels of Chandler, Pococke, Shaw, Pitts, Niebuhr - the ‘prince of travelers’ - Porter, Seetzen; from all of whom valuable illustrations may be derived, and confirmations of the truths of the Scripture prophecies. Of all the works of this description, the most valuable for an accurate exposition of the Scriptures, in relation to the geography of the Holy Land, is the recent work of our own countrymen - ‘Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai, and Arabia Petraea,’ a journal of Travels in the year 1838, by E. Robinson and E. Smith, 3 vols. 8vo, 1841.
the Fifth Week after Easter