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by Thomas Coke
THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH.
THE son of Amoz, the first of the four great prophets, was, as it is said, of the royal family; his father being, as is supposed, the son of king Joash, and brother to Amaziah, king of Judah. The beginning of Isaiah's prophecies we date, says Calmet, immediately from the death of Uzziah; and the death of this prophet we place in the reign of Manasseh, who began to reign in the year of the world 3306 before Jesus Christ 694 before the Vulgar Era 698. The great and principal objects of Isaiah's prophecies are, the captivity of Babylon, the return of the Jews from this captivity, and the reign of the Messiah: For this reason, the sacred writers of the New Testament have cited him more than any other prophet; and the fathers say, that he is rather an evangelist than a prophet. Dr. Taylor thinks, that the first chapter, "by reason of the grand exordium, might be judged proper to stand at the front of the book; but it gives such an account of the distressed and desolate state of the land of Judah, as agrees much better with the wicked and afflicted reign of the apostate Ahaz, than with the flourishing circumstances of the country, in the reigns of Uzziah, and of his son and successor Jotham; who were both, in the main, good princes. Compare chap. Isaiah 1:7-9 with 2 Chronicles 26:1-16 and the whole 27th chapter. But the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters of this prophecy describe, and exactly correspond to, a state of national wealth and prosperity, which are usually attended with pride, arrogance, and luxury: Therefore I take this to be the order of those chapters. In the 6th chapter the prophet, in the council of God, received his commission, and soon after delivered the contents of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters; and these chapters contain all that remains of his prophecies in the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, for the space of about sixteen years, till the first year of king Ahaz." See Taylor's Scripture Divinity, p. 326. I shall principally follow, in my observations on this book, the divisions and analysis of Vitringa. It is the constant tradition both of Jews and Christians, that Isaiah was put to death with a saw at the beginning of the reign of Manasseh; to which the apostle is generally thought to have respect, Hebrews 11:37. Isaiah is justly esteemed the most eloquent of all the prophets. Grotius compares him with Demosthenes: In the prophet we meet with all the purity of the Hebrew tongue, as in the orator all the delicacy of the Attic taste. Both are sublime and magnificent in their style, vehement in their emotions, copious in their figures, and very impetuous when they set off things of an enormous nature, or which are grievous and odious. Whatever of its ancient sweetness and sublimity the Hebrew poetry preserves, it is all to be found in this exquisite book. The author of Ecclesiasticus says, that "Isaiah was great and faithful in his vision: In his time the sun went backward, and he lengthened the king's life: he saw by an excellent spirit what should come to pass at the last, and he comforted them that mourned in Sion; he shewed what should come to pass for ever, and secret things ere ever they came." Sir 48:22, &c. See Calmet and Bishop Lowth's 21st Prelection.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29