1. We have already seen (Chap.15, Nos.11 and 12) that from Moses to Samuel the appearances of prophets were infrequent; that with Samuel and the prophetical school established by him there began a new era, in which the prophets were recognized as a distinct order of men in the Theocracy; and that the age of written
prophecy did not begin till about the reign of Uzziah, some three centuries after Samuel. The Jewish division of the latter
prophets -- prophets in the more restricted sense of the word -- into the greater
, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, chronologically arranged; and the less
, or twelve Minor
Prophets, arranged also, in all probability, according to their view of their order in time, has also been explained. Chap.13, No.4. Respecting the nature of prophecy and the principles upon which it is to be interpreted, much remains to be said in another place. In the present connection, a brief account will be given of the place which the prophets held in the Theocracy
, followed by a notice, in this and the following chapter, of the separate books of prophecy belonging to the Hebrew canon, according to the order in our English version, Daniel being reckoned with the greater prophets, Lamentations considered as an appendix to Jeremiah, and the minor prophets arranged by themselves.
2. The office of the prophets under the Theocracy, which we first notice, was that of bold reprovers. They came to rulers and people with an immediate commission from God to rebuke them for their sins; and as the contents of their messages were received from God himself, they exposed the hypocrisy and wickedness of their times in the pure sunlight of truth, denouncing upon great and small alike the awful judgments of Jehovah if they persisted in their impenitence. If we except the preaching of Christ and his apostles, the history of the world furnishes no such bright examples of faithful dealing with men's consciences. They never spare kings and princes from fear of their power and patronage. They never go round about men's sins, but declare them directly and faithfully. With what majesty of severity did Samuel reprove Saul, and Nathan David, and Elijah Ahab, and Elisha Jehoram, and Jehu Jehoshaphat! And if we open the books of Hebrew prophecy which have come down to us from distant ages and from a very different civil and social order, we find them not in the least antiquated, but fresh as yesterday, instinct with life and power. They are a mirror of terrible brightness in which we may see reflected our pride, self-sufficiency, vain ostentation, and worldliness; our avarice, fraud, overreaching artifices, breaches of trust, bribery, oppression of the weak, and corrupt combinations for the amassing of filthy lucre; our ambition, slander, falsehood, intrigues, hypocrisy, and vain pretensions; our luxury, prodigality, sensuality, and intemperance; our profaneness, Sabbath-breaking, neglect of God's ordinances and contempt of his written word -- a mirror too in which we can see in the background dark clouds of judgment, big with awful thunder, such as have already come forth upon our land from the inexhaustible storehouse of divine justice, and are ready to come forth again, but over which hangs the rainbow of mercy for all that will repent and humble themselves before God.
3. We may next consider the office of the Hebrew prophets as expounders of the Mosaic law -- the Mosaic law in its substance, as distinguished from its outward form. They never undervalued the letter of the law, since that too was of divine appointment; but they taught men that true obedience must rise above the letter to its spirit. When Saul excused himself to Samuel for disobeying God's command on the ground that the people had spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord, the prophet indignantly answered: |Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.| 1 Sam.15:22. |Bring no more vain oblations,| says God to the Jews whose hands were full of oppression and blood; |incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.| And his direction is: |Wash you, make you clean: put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.| Isaiah 1:13-17. |I hate,| says God to the covenant people through Amos, |I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.| Amos 5:21-24. |Wherewith,| says Micah, |shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?| Micah 6:6-8. Under the Old Testament, outward forms of divine service were required, and they are necessary, to a certain extent, under the New also. But if any man puts his trust for salvation in these, to the neglect of inward faith, love, and obedience, he stands condemned at the bar of Moses and the prophets, not less than at the bar of Christ and his apostles, Under the Mosaic economy, both the rites of divine service and the succession of the priesthood were definitively prescribed by God himself, and therefore to all of binding authority. But the man who placed his religion in these outward observances, to the neglect of his heart and life, was to God an object of abhorrence, and the severest judgments were denounced against him. It cannot be, then, that under the gospel any system of outward forms, however right and proper in itself, can bring salvation to the soul, where inward faith, love, and obedience are wanting.
4. The last and highest office of the prophets was to direct men's thoughts to the end of the Mosaic economy, which was the salvation of the world through the promised Messiah. The Spirit of Christ that spoke through them, |testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.| 1 Pet.1:11. It does not appear that they understood the divine purpose to abolish the Mosaic economy, and with it |the middle wall of partition| between Jews and Gentiles -- that great mystery, the revelation of which was reserved for the days of the apostles; but they did have glorious visions of the latter days, when the law should go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, to all nations; when the whole world should submit itself to Jehovah under the administration of the Messiah; and the earth should be |filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.| Their glowing descriptions of the future enlargement and glory of Zion have been the stay and solace of God's people in all succeeding ages. The student of the Bible should not fail to notice that these bright visions of the future were vouchsafed to the Hebrew prophets, and through them to the church universal, not when the Theocracy was in the zenith of its outward power and splendor, as in the days of David and Solomon, but in the time of its decline and humiliation. The hopes so ardently cherished by the covenant people of a return of the outward glory of Solomon's reign were destined to utter and final disappointment. It was not to feed their national pride, but to prepare the way for Christ's advent, that God established the Theocracy. Now that its outward glory was departing, it was suitable that the hopes of the pious should be turned from the darkness of the present to the brightness of |the last days| that awaited Zion in the distant future. When Isaiah began his prophecies, the kingdom of Israel was tottering to its fall, and before he had finished them it had suffered an utter overthrow. The invasion of Judah by the allied kings of Israel and Syria, in the reign of Ahaz, and by Sennacherib king of Assyria, in the reign of Hezekiah, furnished an occasion for predicting not only the present deliverance of God's people, but also the future triumph of Zion over all her enemies, and the extension of her dominion over all the earth. In his present interpositions in behalf of Zion, God mirrored forth his purpose to give her a final and universal victory. And so it was with all the other prophets. With their backs towards the gloom and distraction of the present, and their faces steadfastly turned towards the glory of the latter days, they uttered words of promise and comfort that can have their fulfilment only in Christ's kingdom, which is the true heir to all the promises made to the ancient Zion. Out of Christ these promises are vain and delusory. In Christ their fulfilment has been begun, and shall be completed in the appointed time. Out of Christ no amount of learning will enable a man to understand the Hebrew prophets; for the veil is on his face, which can be done away only in Christ. What if more than eighteen centuries have elapsed since our Lord's advent, and the domain of his kingdom is yet very limited? In the divine reckoning, |one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.| If it took four of these days to prepare the world for Christ's advent, can we not allow two days and more for the complete establishment of his kingdom?
We add a notice of each separate book of the Greater prophets.
5. According to the Hebrew arrangement already noticed (No.1, above), the book of Isaiah, as the first of those belonging to the greater prophets, stands at the head of the whole collection of prophetical books; although Hosea, Amos, and Jonah, and in all probability Joel also, entered upon their prophetical office before him. Micah was contemporary with him. Of the private history of Isaiah we know almost nothing, except that he was the son of Amoz (chap.1:1), and that he was married and had sons (chap.8:1-4). The Jewish tradition is that he was sawn asunder under the reign of Manasseh, to which it has been supposed that there is a reference in the epistle to the Hebrews (chap.11:37); but all such traditions are uncertain. Isaiah prophesied |in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.| Chap.1:1. If, with many, we suppose him to have entered upon his office in the last year of Uzziah, we have sixty-two years to the close of Hezekiah's reign. He certainly exercised the prophetical office to the fifteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, and possibly through the remaining fourteen years. As the superscription is silent respecting any prophecies uttered in Manasseh's reign, we are not warranted to extend the period of his activity beyond that of Hezekiah, although he may have survived him, and have perished in the way indicated by the Jewish tradition.
6. The book of Isaiah naturally falls into two great divisions. The first, after an introductory chapter, contains a great variety of prophetic messages, delivered on special occasions. Chaps.2-39. The second division, comprising the remaining twenty-seven chapters, seems to have had no special occasion, but to have been written after the overthrow of Sennacherib's army, probably in the old age of the prophet, for the comfort and encouragement of God's people in all coming ages. |Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God| -- this is its great theme as expressed in the introductory verse. Of the various plans for classifying the contents of the first part, all that rest upon the rationalistic view that the book is a collection of writings belonging to different authors and ages are false and groundless. Among evangelical men, who hold the unity of the book and its authorship by Isaiah, there have been various schemes of classification. It has been proposed by Drechsler and others to arrange all of Isaiah's prophecies around two great central events in the history of his times; namely, the invasion of Judah in the reign of Ahaz by the allied forces of Israel and Syria (chap.7), and in Hezekiah's reign by Sennacherib, king of Assyria (chaps.36, 37). That these were the two great crises of Isaiah's age, and that many of his prophecies had reference to them directly or indirectly, cannot be denied; but to affirm that all his prophecies, extending over a period of from forty-eight to sixty-two years, were connected with those two events, either directly or by way of anticipation beforehand and natural sequence afterwards, is more than can be established by any probable arguments. We must be careful not to thrust upon the prophet a systematic arrangement beyond any that ever existed in his own consciousness. The following brief analysis will be sufficient for the general reader.
The title prefixed to the first chapter refers certainly to the first part, and probably to the whole book. The contents of the first chapter are well suited to constitute a general introduction to the book, and there is much ground for the opinion that the prophet prefixed them, as such an introduction, to the whole collection of prophecies. The four chapters that follow were evidently written during a period of great worldly prosperity. They contain visions against Judah and Jerusalem of a threatening character, but interspersed with glorious promises to the true Israel. The sixth chapter records a vision which the prophet had of Jehovah in the temple, with the awful message to the people which he received from His lips. Many regard this as the prophet's inauguration to his office, and consequently as the first of his prophecies in order of time. The four preceding chapters will then naturally fall into the reign of Jotham. There is no decisive ground, however, for understanding the words, |Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?| (verse 8,) as containing the original call of Isaiah to the prophetical office. They may have reference to the special message which he immediately receives; a message of the most weighty import, and often quoted in the New Testament. The confession of Isaiah, moreover, that he is |a man of unclean lips,| may be very naturally referred to his previous exercise of the prophetic office. According to this view, the preceding four chapters belong to the latter part of Uzziah's reign.
The series of prophecies that follows (chaps.7-12) is connected with the invasion of Judah by the allied kings of Israel and Syria. In this emergency Ahaz, instead of seeking help from Jehovah, had hired the Assyrians to defend him against the confederate forces. The prophet predicts the overrunning of the land by these same Assyrians in whom the Jews had reposed their confidence; and afterwards the overthrow of the Assyrians themselves, and the universal establishment of the Messiah's kingdom, who is foretold under the name of Immanuel. The series closes with the millennial song of Zion.
Next we have a series of prophecies relating mainly to the heathen world (chaps.13-23), through all of which the prophet keeps prominently in view the great truth that the nation which will not acknowledge Jehovah and minister to the welfare of his people must perish. He begins with Babylon, and passes in order to Philistia, Moab, Syria (with which as a confederate nation Ephraim is joined), Ethiopia and Egypt (first separately and then conjointly), Babylon again under the enigmatical name of |the desert of the sea,| Edom, and Arabia. Next follows a prophecy against |the valley of vision,| that is, Jerusalem, to which is appended one against Shebna. The prophet then passes to Tyre, and so he brings this series to a close.
The four chapters that follow (24-27) are general in their character. They exhibit Jehovah as the avenger and deliverer of his people, who abases the proud and destroys sinners as well within the pale of Zion as without in the heathen world, while he exalts his true worshippers to honor and salvation.
The next series of prophecies (chaps.28-35) was apparently delivered in view of the approaching invasion of the Assyrians, by which the destruction of the kingdom of Israel was completed, and Judah was overrun and desolated; but which ended in the overthrow of the invading army, and the deliverance of Hezekiah and his kingdom. The prophet denounces, first upon Ephraim and then upon Judah and Jerusalem, God's heavy judgments for their iniquities, especially for the sin of making Egypt instead of Jehovah their confidence; foretells the utter and perpetual desolation of Edom, which here represents all the powers that array themselves in hostility against God's people; and describes in glowing language the glory and peace of Zion under the future reign of the Messiah.
Next follows the history of Sennacherib's invasion and overthrow; of Hezekiah's sickness and miraculous recovery, and of his sin in connection with the mission of Merodach-baladan's servants. Chaps.36-39.
In the second part of Isaiah, which includes the last twenty-seven chapters, the prophet is occupied with the future redemption and glory of Zion. In the clear light of inspiration, and in accordance with the explicit prophecy that has just been quoted, he takes his stand in the future of Babylon's supremacy, and of the captivity of Zion and the dispersion of her children; and he comforts the true Israel by the promise of restoration and elevation to a greater than the former glory, when all nations shall submit themselves to Jehovah, and shall minister to the peace and welfare of Zion. If we divide these twenty-seven chapters into three equal sections of nine chapters each, the first and second close with the words: |There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked| (chaps.48:22; 57:21); while the third ends with a more extended, threatening against the wicked (chap.66:24). The prominent characteristics of these three sections are thus given by Keil:
|The first of these sections (chaps.40-48) portrays the relation of Israel to the heathen nations; and from the redemption of Israel effected through Cyrus, the servant of God, it unfolds the certain victory of the Theocracy over the gods and powers of the heathen world. The second section (chaps.49-57) exhibits Israel as the seat of salvation for the world. This it does by carrying out the thought that, just as Cyrus is to redeem Israel from the Babylonish captivity, so must the true servant of Jehovah, by his vicarious suffering and death, make expiation for sin, raise the covenant people to true glory, and make them, through the establishment of 'the sure mercies of David' (55:3), the centre of salvation for the whole world. Finally in the third section (chaps.58-66), after an exhortation in which the sins of the people are acknowledged and rebuked (chaps.58, 59), the prophet foretells, in a series of majestic images, how the Theocracy shall be glorified when it shall become, in connection with the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, the perfected kingdom of God.| Introduction to the Old Testament, Sec.65. This view of the glorification of the Theocracy in the latter days is preeminently just, provided only that we do not understand the Theocracy in a gross literal sense. It is the true kingdom of God, once embodied in the old Theocracy, but now existing under the freer forms of Christianity, that is heir to all this glory.
7. As Isaiah holds the first place among the Hebrew prophets in the canon, in the extent of his writings, and in the fulness of his prophecies concerning the Messiah and his kingdom, so has he been first also in receiving the assaults of those who deny the supernatural character of revelation. Since the last quarter of the last century persistent attempts have been made to show that the whole of the second part (chaps.40-66) and various sections of the first part, particularly all those that relate to the overthrow of Babylon, belong not to Isaiah, but to an unknown prophet who lived about the close of the exile. In support of this view many arguments have been adduced; but the real argument which lies at the foundation of the whole is the belief that no such insight into the future is possible as that which this part of the book manifests, upon the supposition that Isaiah was himself the author of it. The denial of the genuineness of the chapters in question began and has always gone hand in hand with the denial of the reality of prophetic inspiration. In the view of rationalists prophecy is no revelation of the future through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It is only anticipation and shrewd conjecture of the future from the course of the present. The possibility of prophecy, therefore, is limited by the possibility of human foresight. Reasoning from this false position, the critic first assumes that Isaiah cannot have been the author of the last part of the book which bears his name, and then proceeds to find arguments against its genuineness. To meet him we must plant our feet firmly on the great historic truth that God has made to men a supernatural revelation, of which prophecy in the proper sense of the word -- the revelation of the future by his Spirit -- constitutes an important part. We do indeed find that in the matter of prophecy, as in all other parts of God's operations, the great law is: |First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.| The way for the fuller revelations is prepared by previous intimations of a more general character. Precisely so was it in the present case. Moses himself had more than once predicted the captivity of the covenant people and the desolation of their land as the punishment of their foreseen apostacy from God's service, and also the preservation of a remnant and its restoration upon repentance. Lev., chap.26; Deut., chaps.28-32. When Solomon had dedicated the temple, and his kingdom was at the zenith of its glory, he received from the mouth of God himself the solemn warning: |If ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them; then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a by-word among all people.| 1 Kings 9:6, 7. When the prophet wrote, these awful threatenings had been fulfilled upon the kingdom of the ten tribes, and he had been commissioned to announce their approaching fulfilment upon Judah also, and that in the form of a captivity in Babylon: |Behold, the days come, that all that is in thy house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons which shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon| (39:6, 7). Micah also had foretold, in express terms, both the Babylonish captivity, and the subsequent delivery of God's people (4:10). We see, then, what a full preparation had been made for the revelations vouchsafed to Isaiah in the chapters now under consideration. They relate not to something new and unheard of, but to a captivity which he had himself foretold in accordance with the threatenings of God by former prophets. Under the illumination of the Holy Spirit he is carried into the future of Zion. In prophetic vision he sees her land wasted, her temple burned, and her children groaning in captivity. As the nearest interposition of God in her behalf, he foretells her liberation by Cyrus, the anointed of the Lord, and her restoration to the promised land. But this is only the earnest and pledge of a higher redemption through the Messiah, the true servant of Jehovah, under whom she shall be glorified with a perpetual salvation, and her dominion extended over all the earth. To limit the prophet's vision to the deliverance from Babylon would be to make him a messenger of glad tidings which mocked the hopes of the covenant people; for this deliverance did not fulfil the just expectations which his lofty promises awakened in the bosoms of the pious remnant of Israel. No; it is in Christ's redemption alone, of which that of Cyrus was only a shadow, that Zion receives in full measure the glorious promises which shine forth in this part of Isaiah.
If now we consider the form of these promises, we find that they bear throughout the stamp of true prophecy, as distinguished from history. They have neither the dress of prose history, with its dates and circumstantial details, such as we find in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, nor of historic poetry, like the song of Deborah and Barak; like the seventy-eighth hundred and fifth, and hundred and sixth psalms. They are expressed in a series of poetic images, in which, with the exception of the name of Cyrus, all is general; images, moreover, drawn for the most part, not from the great events connected with the conquests of Cyrus, but from the earlier history of Israel. Let any one read, for example, the forty-sixth and forty-seventh chapters of Isaiah, and ask himself whether a writer who lived in Cyrus' day could have described the fall of Babylon without specific allusions to the agencies by which it was brought to pass. As to the historic references which some find to the march of the Jewish caravans of returning captives through the desert that lay between Babylon and Palestine, whoever reads the passages in question without a previously formed conclusion, must be satisfied that they are poetic descriptions of the redemption and restoration of God's people borrowed mainly from the primitive journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan through the wilderness of Arabia. God, as then, goes before his people, opening for them in their extremity |rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys;| making |the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.| Even Cyrus is mentioned not as the king of Persia, but as a man raised up from the east to execute God's vengeance on the oppressors of his people.
According to Ctesias and Plutarch, the name Cyrus signifies sun. Strabo says that his name, before ascending the throne of Persia, was Agradales. Some are of opinion that the word Cyrus (Heb. Koresh) was an appellation common to the kings of Persia. We do not need, however, the help of this hypothesis. God himself explains the ground on which he is mentioned by name: |For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, have I even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me| (45:4). According to Josephus (Antiq.11.1, 2), Cyrus was moved to issue his decree for the liberation of the Jews by a knowledge of the prophecies of Isaiah in which he is mentioned by name. With this agree the terms of the edict: |The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.| Ezra 1:2, compared with Isa.44:28. If this view be correct, the mention of Cyrus by name was a part of God's plan for the restoration of the covenant people.
It is not true, as has been asserted, that the prophet follows Cyrus in the details of his conquests. On the contrary, his notices of him are few and general. As to the sins of the people which he rebukes, they may be all naturally referred to the times of Isaiah, while some of them, as the neglect of the established sacrifices and oblations (43:23, 24), and the offering of sacrifices in connection with an impure heart and life (66:3), presuppose the existence of the temple and altar at Jerusalem, where alone sacrifices could be lawfully offered. The sin of seeking heathen alliances (57:9) points also unmistakably to the same period. Although the prophet is carried forward in vision to the future of the covenant people, he does not wholly forget the men of his own generation, but occasionally administers to them severe rebukes, thus mingling the present with the future, after the manner of all the prophets.
The other arguments which have been urged against the genuineness of this part of Isaiah are only of secondary importance, and can readily be answered. It is said that the style is more diffuse and flowing than in the first part. The answer is that this agrees well with both the altered circumstances of the prophet and the altered character of his theme. Most of his earlier prophecies were delivered under the pressure and excitement of public life, when he went before rulers and people charged with specific messages from Jehovah, and these, too, mostly of a denunciatory character. But the part now under consideration was written in the serenity of retirement, with the general purpose of comforting God's people by a view of the future glory in reserve for them. It is entirely natural, then, that the style of the first part should be more concise and abrupt, that of the latter more diffuse and flowing; even if we do not make allowance for the influence of age. But notwithstanding this difference between the two parts, both have the same general costume, and the same peculiar expressions and turns of thought, by which they are sufficiently marked as the productions of the same pen. It should be added that the Hebrew of this second part of Isaiah is in general as pure as that of the first part. The few Chaldaisms which it exhibits may be explained as belonging to the poetic diction. Such Chaldaisms exist, moreover, in the earlier books. |Some words, as seganim (princes, 41:25), may be explained by the intercourse of the Jews with the Assyrians in the days of Isaiah.| Davidson's Introduction to the Old Testament, p.857.
8. It has been shown that the arguments against the genuineness of this part of Isaiah (and by parity of reason against certain sections of the first part) have their ground in the denial of prophetic inspiration, and cannot endure the test of sober criticism. The evidence, then, for the genuineness of these chapters remains in its full force, and it is of the most weighty character. If we look to external testimony, there is the undeniable fact that, as far back as we can trace the history of the book of Isaiah, they have constituted an integral part of it. They are recognized as such by Josephus (Antiq.11.1, 2); by Jesus the son of Sirach, in the book called Ecclesiasticus (48:24, 25); and always in the New Testament when quotations are made from them -- Matt.3:3; 8:17; 12:17-21; Luke 3:4; 4:17-19; John 1:23; 12:38-41, where a quotation from the last part of Isaiah is joined with one from the first part; Acts 8:28-33; Rom.10:16, 20, 21. That they were appended by fraud and forgery no one pretends to affirm. The character of this part of the book, not less than the character of those who had the Jewish canon in custody, is a sufficient protection against such a supposition. That they should have been appended through ignorance is inconceivable. How can the name of so great a prophet have remained unknown? According to the hypothesis in question, he lived about the close of the Babylonish captivity. He was contemporary, therefore, with Daniel; with Zerubbabel also, Jeshua, and the other chiefs of the restoration. Did no one of these know who was the man that prophesied so abundantly of the work which they had so much at heart? And did his name indeed escape the knowledge of the learned scribe Ezra? And if they did not know his name, why did they append his writings to those of the true Isaiah, thus tacitly ascribing to him their authorship? Why did they not leave them without a name, as they did the books of Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles? That these chapters have always constituted a part of the book of Isaiah, and been acknowledged as such, is a fact which admits of but one explanation; that, namely, of their genuineness. The Great Unknown, as he is called, is no other than Isaiah himself, whom the principles of certain critics do not allow them to acknowledge as Isaiah.
The internal evidence for the genuineness of these chapters has already been partly considered in an incidental way. It is found in the purity of the Hebrew, which belongs to the age of Isaiah, not of Cyrus; in the undeniable allusions to the temple sacrifices and oblations as then existing (43:23, 24), and to the sin of seeking heathen alliances (57:9); and especially in the fact that a writer living near the close of the exile must have referred in a more particular and historic way to the great events connected with Cyrus' conquests. It may be added that there are in the later prophets some clear allusions to this part of Isaiah. Jeremiah, who undeniably made use of prophecies contained in the first part of Isaiah, was acquainted with the second part also. Compare Jer.10:3,4, with Isa.40:19, 20; 41:7; Jer.31:35, with Isa.51:15, where a whole clause is repeated from Isaiah, which agrees in the Hebrew to every letter; Jer.50:2, with Isa.46:1, 2. Compare also Zeph.2:15, with Isa.47:8; Nah.1:15, with Isa.52:7.
9. The arguments urged against the genuineness of certain sections of the first part of Isaiah are for substance the same as these that have now been examined, and need not a separate consideration. We come on solid grounds to the conclusion that Isaiah was the author of the whole collection of prophecies which bear his name, and that the arrangement of these prophecies in their present form also proceeded from him.
II. JEREMIAH AND THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS.
10. In passing from Isaiah to Jeremiah, the contrast is as great as it can well be; and yet it is a contrast necessary to the completeness of divine revelation, which employs men of all characters and temperaments, and living in every variety of outward circumstances. Isaiah, like the apostle John, seems to have lived above his personal relations in the sphere of divine truth. He never alludes to his private history, except where the nature of a given narrative requires it. It is not probable that he was subjected to such an ordeal of persecution as that through which Jeremiah passed. However this may be, we gain almost no knowledge of his private life from the book of his prophecies. But Jeremiah, like the apostle Paul, unfolds to us very fully the history of his inward and outward life. With his peculiarly tender and sensitive mind it could not have been otherwise. If he had not woven into his prophecies his own inner and outer life, he would not have written naturally, and therefore truthfully. Through this interweaving of biography with revelation, God has given in the case of Jeremiah, as in that of the great apostle to the Gentiles, a rich storehouse of truth for the instruction and comfort of his persecuted and suffering servants in all ages. With the simplicity of truth, the prophet informs us how the men of Anathoth, his native place, conspired to take away his life (11:18-23; 12:6); how Pashur, the son of Immer, smote him and put him in the stocks (20:1-6); how in the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign he was accused before the princes by the priests and false prophets as a man worthy of death, but acquitted by them (chap.26); how afterwards he and Baruch were hidden by Jehovah (chap 36); how under Zedekiah he was repeatedly imprisoned (chaps.32:2; 33:1), and thrust into dungeons (chaps.37, 38); how upon the conquest of the city by the Chaldeans he was released from his fetters and honorably treated (chs.39:11-14; 40:1-4); and how afterwards he was forced to go into Egypt with the fugitive Jews (chaps.42, 43).
In connection with this external history, we have a vivid portraiture of his inward conflicts. Most deeply does he sympathize with his countrymen in the calamities which their sins have brought upon them; yet he is rewarded only with curses, because he faithfully forewarns them of the judgments of heaven which are fast approaching, and which can be averted only by hearty repentance and reformation. |Woe is me, my mother,| he cries out in his anguish, |that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me| (15:10); and like Job he loses all composure under the pressure of his sorrows, and bitterly curses the day of his birth (20:14-18). Again we see him in the hands of his persecutors serenely committing himself to God, and calmly warning them against the guilt of shedding his blood (26:12-15). In such alternations of impatience and faith we have a true portraiture of the struggle of grace against the weakness of nature; and it is this which gives it especial value as a part of revelation, which never exhibits good men in a fictitious light, but always in the sober livery of truth.
11. Jeremiah was of priestly descent (1:1); but that Hilkiah, his father, was identical with the high priest who found in the temple the book of the law (2 Kings 22:8), rests upon mere conjecture. Anathoth, his native place, was in the land of Benjamin, about four miles north of Jerusalem. He was called to the prophetical office in his youth, and exercised it in his native land from the thirteenth year of Josiah to the close of Zedekiah's reign, through a period of about forty-one years (chap.1:3); and afterwards in Egypt, whither he was carried by the rebellious remnant of the people (chaps.43, 44). His first appearance, therefore, was about one hundred and thirty-one years after that of Isaiah, if we reckon from the last year of Uzziah, and some seventy or more after the close of Isaiah's prophecies. During all this time the religious and moral condition of the Jewish nation had been steadily changing for the worse under such kings as Manasseh and Amon; nor could the zealous efforts of Josiah avail to check the swelling tide of idolatry and profligacy. Sent by Jehovah in such a degenerate age to rebuke the wicked rulers and people for their sins, and to forewarn them of God's impending judgments, he was necessarily subjected to much persecution. Isaiah had administered stern rebukes to Ahaz and his people, but he had encouraged them with the hope of successful resistance to the Assyrian power. But from the Chaldeans, who had succeeded the Assyrians as the ruling monarchy of the world, Jeremiah could promise no deliverance. In the name of the Lord he counselled submission, solemnly assuring the kings and princes of Judah that their reliance on Egyptian help would end in shame and disappointment (37:5-10). This brought upon him a load of calumny, insult, and persecution, which he keenly felt, but bore with fortitude, never swerving from the path of strict fidelity towards God. The prophecies of Jeremiah do not contain so many animating visions of the distant future as are found in Isaiah. He is more occupied with the sins of his own age, and the heavy judgments of God that impend over his countrymen. His mission is emphatically to unfold the connection between national profligacy and national ruin. This he does with a masterly hand, holding up to the world, in the character and fate, of his countrymen, a mirror for all time, in which wicked nations may see themselves and the ruin which awaits them. The whole compass of profane history does not contain so much clear instruction on this point as is crowded into the few pages of |the weeping prophet.| If the book of God's revelation could not have been complete without the ecstatic visions of Isaiah, so neither could it have spared Jeremiah's vivid delineation of a profligate nation plunging itself into remediless ruin by its iniquities. At times, however, we find in Jeremiah also joyous anticipations of the good reserved for God's people in the latter days. He predicted not only the Babylonish captivity, but its termination at the end of seventy years, and the perpetual overthrow of Babylon and the Chaldean power (25:12-14; 29:10-14). See also chapters 30-33, where he describes, after the manner of Isaiah, the glory of the latter days.
In Jeremiah we have an illustrious example of one whose reputation after death became as high and lasting, as the reproach which he endured before death was deep and protracted. The men of his generation could not appreciate his worth. His messages they treated with scorn, and him with contumely. Through a long life of faithful labor it was his lot to endure reproach and calumny. But neither their unbelief, nor the burning of the roll of his prophecies by Jehoiakim could hinder the fulfilment of his words. When the captivity had come, as he had predicted, and especially when God's promise through him that it should end after seventy years had been fulfilled, he was honored as among the greatest of the prophets, and from that day onward his name became as ointment poured forth. The history of Jeremiah is also peculiarly encouraging to God's faithful servants who labor on for years amid difficulties and discouragements, and see no fruits of their toils. When he died it seemed as if all his solemn messages had been wasted upon that ungodly generation. But they were not lost to the Jews who lived to witness the fulfilment of his predictions in their captivity. In connection with the labors of Ezekiel and Daniel they contributed greatly to bring about that change for the better which took place during the exile. Through them, moreover, God provided a treasury of instruction and comfort for his people in all coming ages. How forcible a comment are his life and labors upon the apostolic declaration made many centuries afterwards: |Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.|
12. Of the prophecies of Jeremiah some are without date, and where the date is given the chronological order is not always observed. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the prophet, by God's direction, dictated to Baruch, and he wrote in a roll of a book all the prophecies which God had communicated to him from the days of Josiah to that time (36:1-4). When the king had destroyed this roll, he was directed to prepare another containing the same prophecies, and |there were added besides unto them many like words| (36:27-32). Whatever use may have been made of this manuscript in the compilation of our present book, it is plain that it has not come down to us in its original form as a constituent part of Jeremiah's prophecies; since in these, as we now have them, there is an intermingling of messages before and after the fourth year of Jehoiakim. We cannot tell the origin of the present order, nor is it a matter of importance, so far as the instructions to be derived from Jeremiah's writings are concerned. Following the Hebrew order (see below) we have the following general divisions:
(1.) Prophecies addressed to Judah, with which are connected many notices of Jeremiah's personal history, and at the close of which stands a message to Baruch. Chaps.1-45.
(2.) Prophecies against foreign nations.
(3.) An appendix taken almost verbatim from 2 Kings 24:18-20 and chap.25, and which seems to have been added by some later writer, as Ezra (chap.52.)
It is not necessary to consider particularly the attempt made to disprove the genuineness of certain parts of Jeremiah's prophecies, since they all rest, not on critical grounds, but on the false principle that has been already considered -- the denial of the reality of prophetic inspiration. Men who deny that Isaiah could foresee the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, must deny also that Jeremiah could limit the duration of that captivity to seventy years. But with those who believe that |holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,| such arguments cannot have weight. It is well known that Jeremiah, particularly in his prophecies against foreign nations, made use of earlier prophecies, as those of Isaiah and Obadiah. Compare Isa. chaps.15, 16 with Jer. chap.48; Obadiah with Jer.49:7-17.
The Alexandrine version differs unaccountably from the Hebrew text in its arrangement of the prophecies of Jeremiah. Those against foreign nations come after chap.25:13, and also follow a very different order. Besides this, the Alexandrine exhibits a number of variations larger and smaller from the Hebrew text. The explanation of these differences in arrangement and in the text is a matter of uncertain conjecture.
13. The book of Lamentations is designated in Hebrew by the opening word Echa, how. The unanimous voice of antiquity ascribes it to Jeremiah, and with this tradition agree its internal character and style. It was written in view of the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, by an eye-witness of all the unutterable miseries connected with that catastrophe. While it laments, in strains of the deepest anguish, the desolation of Jerusalem with the slaughter and captivity of its inhabitants, and heaps together images of horror, it ascribes righteousness to God, and acknowledges the manifold sins of the rulers and people as the cause of the overwhelming calamities that had come upon them. We see throughout the feelings of a tender-hearted and compassionate man, of a sincere patriot, and of a devout worshipper of Jehovah beautifully blended together. Sad as is the picture, it is to us who contemplate it in the light of history, not without its lessons of comfort as well as of warning. It teaches us that in the midnight of Zion's adversity her covenant God is with her, and that she has an indestructible life. The prerogative which the Roman bard applied to his country: |Plunge her in the deep, she comes out the stronger| -- this high prerogative belongs to the true spiritual Jerusalem, which no fire can destroy, nor floods overwhelm.
The structure of this book is peculiar. Its five chapters constitute five poetical compositions, each complete in itself so far as outward form is concerned, but the whole inwardly bound together as parts of one great theme. The first and second chapters consist each of twenty-two verses, arranged in the order of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet; that is, the first verse beginning with the first letter, the second with the second, and so on. Each of the verses, moreover, contains as a rule three clauses. The third chapter contains sixty-six short verses of one clause each, the first three beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the next three with the second, and so throughout. In this central chapter, therefore, the alphabetic structure reaches its culmination. The fourth chapter is like the first and second, with the exception that the verses generally consist of two clauses each. The fifth chapter contains twenty-two short verses of one clause each, like those of the third, but not arranged alphabetically.
The more artificial structure of the third chapter marks it at once as peculiar. In this the prophet, as the representative of the pious part of the nation, bewails the calamities that have come upon himself and his country, expresses his firm confidence in God and his purpose to wait for deliverance in patient submission to his will, exhorts his countrymen to repentance, and offers up his fervent prayer to God that he would remember his suffering people and punish their persecutors. The fifth chapter is a complaint of Zion in prayer to God in view of the terrible calamities that have come upon her. The other three chapters (the first, second, and fourth) are occupied mainly with a description of these calamities.
15. Ezekiel was especially the prophet of the captivity. Daniel, his contemporary, received in Babylon glorious revelations respecting the future history of God's kingdom; but he was a statesman, exercising the prophetical office, like David, only in an incidental way. Ezekiel, on the contrary, was expressly called and consecrated, like his predecessors Isaiah and Jeremiah, to the prophetical office. Like Isaiah, he has given us but few particulars concerning his personal history. He was the son of Buzi, and of priestly descent (1:3); belonged to that company of captives of the better class of the people who had been carried away with Jehoiachin by the king of Babylon when he made Zedekiah king in his stead (2 Kings 24:8-16); and lived with other captives at Tell-abib on the Chebar (perhaps the ancient Chaboras, a branch of the Euphrates), where he had a house and was married (1:1-3; 3:15; 8:1; 24:15-18). That he was held in high honor by his fellow-captives, as a true prophet of God, is manifest from the manner in which they assembled at his house to inquire of the Lord through him (8:1; 14:1; 20:1). Of his personal standing and reputation, as well as of the character of his hearers, we have an interesting notice in chap.33:30-32, where instead of |talking against thee| (verse 30) we may better render, as in the margin of our English version, |talking of thee:| |Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people are still talking of thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.| Ezekiel was called to the prophetical office |in the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity| (1:2), from which date he constantly reckons. Jeremiah's activity as a prophet continued not only through the eleven years of Zedekiah's reign, but for a considerable period afterwards; so that the two prophets were for some time contemporary, the one prophesying in Jerusalem and afterwards in Egypt, the other among the captives in Mesopotamia. The latest date which the prophecies of Ezekiel furnish is the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity, about twenty-two years from the time when he was called to his office. How much longer he prophesied we have no means of determining.
The date with which the book of Ezekiel opens is |the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month,| which was also |the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity| (verse 2), or five hundred and ninety-five years before Christ. Reckoning back from this date thirty years, we come to the eighteenth year of Josiah, when he repaired the temple, and solemnly renewed the worship of God; and also to the first year of Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who made Babylon independent of the Assyrian monarchy, and thus established a new era. Some have assumed the former of these two eras as that from which the prophet reckons; but the latter is more probable. Writing, as he does, under the Chaldean monarchy, it is natural that he should give, at the outset, a date by which the chronology of the whole series of his prophecies may be determined in reference to Chaldean history. Elsewhere he dates from Jehoiachin's captivity.
16. It is not worth while to raise any questions concerning the purity of Ezekiel's Hebrew, as compared with that of the earlier writers. The Holy Spirit is not concerned about the classic style of a prophet. He selects men whose natural qualities, providential training, and sanctified hearts fit them for the work assigned to them; and under his inspiration they speak and write in the dialect to which they and their hearers are accustomed. Ezekiel's style is marked by Chaldaisms, as might have been expected from the circumstances in which he wrote. At the same time it is as forcible as it is peculiar, a style every way adapted to the work laid upon him. He was sent to |a rebellious nation;| to |impudent children and stiff-hearted,| with the charge: |Be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house| (2:3, 4, 6). How well he fulfilled his mission his prophecies show, in which there is a wonderful fire and vehemence, joined with a wonderful variety of representation and imagery. Proverbs, parables, riddles, symbolic actions, vivid portraitures of human wickedness, terrible denunciations of God's approaching judgments, and glorious visions of future peace and prosperity in reserve for the true Israel -- these are all familiar to him, and are set forth often with an exuberant fulness of imagery. When summoned by God to judge |the bloody city| of Jerusalem, ripe for the judgments of heaven, he heaps one upon another the black crimes of which she is guilty (22:6-12). The repetitions so remarkably characteristic of his style are those of energy, not of weakness. They are the repetitions of a battering-ram that gives blow upon blow till the wall crumbles before it. The same may be said of his amplifications, as in chaps.1, 16, 23, 27, etc. He had a remarkable adaptation to his office; and his influence must have been very great in bringing about the reformation of the nation which took place during the captivity.
17. Ezekiel abounds in allegoric and symbolic representations. These give to many of his prophecies a dark and mysterious character, and make them difficult of interpretation. Jerome long ago called the book |an ocean and labyrinth of the mysteries of God.| Nevertheless, the common reader finds in him much that is plain of apprehension, and full of weighty instruction. Reserving the general subject of the interpretation of prophecy for another place, we add here a few words respecting the nature of allegories and symbols, and the principles upon which they are to be interpreted.
An allegory is a narrative of a real event expressed in figurative language; that is, where one historic transaction is described under the image of another. Thus in chap.17:1-10, the two great eagles are Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh; the highest branch of the cedar is Jehoiachin; the cropping off and carrying away of this branch is his removal by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, etc. So also the extended descriptions of Jerusalem in chap.16, and of Jerusalem and Samaria in chap.23, under the figure of lewd women. For other beautiful examples of allegory see Judges 9:8-15; Isa.5:1-6; Psa.80; Mark 12:1-9.
In scriptural usage parables are not always distinguished from allegories. But properly speaking parables are narratives of supposed incidents -- at least of incidents the reality of which is of no consequence -- for the purpose of illustrating important truths; while allegories are figurative descriptions of actual events.
A symbol represents some great truth or event of the future under the form of an action, or some material structure or arrangement. Prophetic symbols take the form of actions, and are of two kinds:
First, actual, where the prophet himself performs some action before the eyes of his countrymen; as in chap.24:18, where Ezekiel, in obedience to God's command, refrains from all expressions of grief at the death of his wife; and chap, 37:16, 17, where he joins together two sticks to represent the reunion of the ten tribes with Judah and Benjamin. See also Jer.27:2 compared with 28:10.
Secondly, ideal; that is, seen only in vision; like Ezekiel's prophecy upon the dry bones, chap.37:1-10, and his measurements of the New Jerusalem with its temple, porches, etc. Chaps.40-48.
It is often difficult to determine to which of these two classes a given symbol belongs. Did Jeremiah, for example, actually go to Euphrates to bury the linen girdle there, or only in prophetic ecstacy? Jer.13:1-11. Did Ezekiel perform the acts recorded in chap.4 in reality or in vision? The answer to such questions is not of great importance, since either way the meaning of the symbols and the instructions which they furnish are the same.
18. If we divide the book of Ezekiel into two equal parts of twenty-four chapters each, the first part contains prophecies delivered before the overthrow of Jerusalem. These are arranged in chronological order. After an introductory chapter describing the vision of the glory of God which the prophet had when called to his office, there follows, in the form of visions, allegories, symbolic actions, and direct addresses, a series of vivid descriptions of the sins of Jerusalem and the judgments of heaven that are about to fall upon her. With these are interspersed denunciations of the false prophets that flatter the people in their sins, and fervent addresses to his fellow-captives remarkable for their plainness and evangelical spirit. The second part opens with a series of prophecies against seven foreign nations, in which the order of time is not observed -- first, short prophecies against the four neighboring nations, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia (chap.25); secondly, a series of prophecies against Tyre, to which is appended a short prophecy against Sidon (chaps.26-28); thirdly, a like series of prophecies against Egypt (chaps.29-32). These prophecies were fulfilled through the same Chaldean power that executed God's righteous vengeance on the covenant people. As the number seven is made out by separating Sidon from Tyre to which it properly belonged, it is rightly held to be a symbolic number, as in the book of Revelation and elsewhere, seven being the well-known symbol of completeness. With the announcement of the fall of Jerusalem (33:21) the thunders of God's wrath that had so long rolled over her die away; and the series of prophecies that follows is mainly occupied, like the last part of Isaiah, with predictions of the future glory of Zion, in connection with God's awful judgments upon the wicked within and without her borders. Of these the last nine chapters contain a description of the vision which God vouchsafed to the prophet of a new Jerusalem, with its temple, priests and altars, rising out of the ruins of the former, of larger extent and in a more glorious form. He sees the land of Canaan also divided out to the returning captives by lot, as it was in the days of Joshua, but upon an entirely different plan.
The general plan of the temple is after the model of Solomon's; yet this vision is not to be understood as a mere prophecy of the rebuilding of Solomon's temple with the city in which it stood, and of the repossession of the land after the Babylonish captivity. Several particulars in the description make it plain that it was not intended to be literally understood. See chaps.42:15-20; 45:1-8; 47:1-12; and the whole of chap.48. It is rather a symbolical representation of the coming deliverance and enlargement of the true spiritual Zion, which is God's church, the same in all ages. The resettlement of the land of Canaan, and the rebuilding of the temple and city after the captivity, were a part indeed, but only a very small part of the |good things to come| which the vision shadowed forth. Its fulfilment belongs to the entire history of the church from Ezekiel's day onward, and it will be completed only in her final triumph over the kingdom of Satan, and her establishment in permanent peace and holiness.
As the time had not yet come for the old covenant to pass away, Ezekiel, who was himself a priest under the law of Moses, saw the future enlargement of God's kingdom under the forms of this covenant. The New Jerusalem which God revealed to him had its temple, priests, altar, and sacrifices. All these were shadows of Christ's perfect priesthood, of the spiritual temple of which he is the chief corner-stone, and of the spiritual priesthood of his people.1 Peter 2:5-9. The literal priesthood, altar, and sacrifices are for ever done away in Christ's one perfect offering for the sins of the world on Calvary. Heb. chaps.9, 10.
In interpreting the vision before us we should not curiously inquire after the meaning of every particular chamber and pillar and door, but rather look to the general meaning of the whole. The angel measures, and the prophet records all the parts of the building. This signifies, in general, that God's care extends to all parts of his spiritual temple, and that he will see that they are in due time made perfect. The New Jerusalem described by the apostle John has much in common with this. It is, in truth, a vision of the same spiritual city, |whose builder and maker is God.| But it differs from Ezekiel's vision in two respects. First, it belongs apparently to the glorified state of the church after the resurrection; secondly, it has nothing Jewish in it, neither temple nor altar. These shadows have for ever passed away.
19. The book of Daniel is assigned in the Hebrew canon to the third division, called Hagiographa. For the supposed grounds of this, see above, Chap.13, No.4. Daniel, like Jeremiah, has interwoven into his writings so many biographical notices of himself, that we gather from them a pretty full history of his life. He belonged to the royal family of Judah, being one of the number |of the king's seed and of the princes,| whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried captive to Babylon in an invasion not recorded in the books of Kings or Chronicles (1:1-3). Thus was fulfilled the prophecy recorded in Isa.39:7. But God graciously turned this into a rich blessing to the Hebrew nation; for Daniel, having been educated with his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, |in the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans,| and having |understanding in all visions and dreams,| a remarkable proof of which he gave by relating to Nebuchadnezzar the dream which had gone from him, with its interpretation, was made |ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon,| and at his request his three companions were also set over the affairs of the province of Babylon (chaps.1, 2). He continued in high honor at the court of Babylon as a wise and incorruptible statesman, and a prophet who had the gift of interpreting dreams, till the overthrow of the Chaldean empire by the Medes and Persians. By Darius the Mede he was treated with like honor (perhaps in connection with his interpretation of Belshazzar's dream, chap.5), being made chief of the three presidents whom he set over his whole realm, and a plot formed to destroy him was frustrated through God's miraculous interposition and turned to the increase of his honor and influence; so that he continued to prosper |in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian| (chap.6). He lived, therefore, to see the release of his countrymen from their long captivity, though it does not appear that he himself returned to his native land. Probably he continued in the service of the Persian court to the day of his death.
20. The first chapter is introductory to the whole book, giving an account of the selection and education of Daniel and his three companions by direction of the king of Babylon. The prophecies that follow naturally fall into two series. The first, occupying chaps.2-7, is written in Chaldee from the middle of the fourth verse of chap.2. It unfolds the relation which God's kingdom holds to the heathen powers as seen (1,) in a twofold vision of the four great monarchies of the world, in the form first of an image consisting of four parts, and then of four great beasts rising up out of the sea, the last monarchy being succeeded by the kingdom of the God of heaven, which shall never be destroyed (chaps.2, 7); (2,) in the protection and deliverance of God's faithful servants from the persecution of heathen kings and princes (chaps.3, 6); (3,) in the humbling of heathen monarchs for their pride, idolatry, and profanation of the sacred vessels belonging to the sanctuary (chaps.4, 5). Thus we see that the first three of these six chapters (2-7) correspond to the last three taken in an inverse order -- the second to the seventh, the third to the sixth, and the fourth to the fifth. The second series, consisting of the remaining five chapters, is written in Hebrew. This also exhibits the conflict between God's kingdom and the heathen world, taking up the second and third monarchies under the images of a ram and a he-goat. Chap.8. There follow some special details relating to the nearer future, with some very remarkable revelations respecting the time of the Messiah's advent, the destruction of the holy city by the Romans, the last great conflict between the kingdom of God and its enemies, and the final resurrection.
The intimate connection between the book of Daniel and the Revelation of John must strike every reader of the holy Scriptures. They mutually interpret each other, and together constitute one grand system of prophecy extending down to the end of the world. Both also contain predictions, the exact interpretation of which is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, till the mystery of God shall be finished.
21. That they who deny the reality of miracles and prophecy should receive the book of Daniel as genuine and authentic is impossible. To review the history of the assaults made by them upon it, or of the volumes written in reply, is foreign to the plan of the present work. A brief summary only will be given of the grounds on which its claim to a place in the canon of the Old Testament is vindicated.
(1.) The unity of the book of Daniel is now conceded. |The two leading divisions are so related that the one implies the existence of the other. Both have the same characteristics of manner and style, though a considerable portion of the book is in Chaldee, and the remainder in Hebrew.| Davidson after Keil and others, Introduction to the Old Testament, p.916. This being admitted, the book as a whole claims Daniel for its author; for in it he often speaks in the first person, and in the last chapter the book is manifestly ascribed to him (12:4, 9).
(2.) The uniform tradition of the Jews ascribed the book to Daniel. It was on this ground that they received it into the canon of the Old Testament. The objection that they did not class Daniel with the prophets, but with the Hagiographa (see above, Chap.13, No.4) is of no account. Had the book belonged, as the objectors claim, to the Maccabean age, it would not have found a place in the Hagiographa any more than in the prophets. The first book of Maccabees, which contains authentic history, was never received into the Hebrew canon, because, as the Jews rightly judged, it was written after the withdrawal of the spirit of prophecy. Much less would they have received, under the illustrious name of Daniel, a book written as late as the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, more than three centuries and a half after Daniel. That they should have done this through ignorance is inconceivable; that they could have done it through fraud is a supposition not to be admitted for a moment, for it is contrary to all that we know of their conscientious care with regard to the sacred text.
It may be added that the book of Baruch, which cannot be placed later than the Maccabean age, and is perhaps earlier, makes abundant use of the book of Daniel; and that the author of the first book of Maccabees had this book in the Alexandrine version, as is plain from the peculiar expressions employed by him in chap.1:54 -- |they built the abomination of desolation upon the altar.| Compare Dan.9:27 of the Alexandrine version.
(3.) Josephus relates, Antiq.11.8.5, among the other particulars of the visit which Alexander the Great made to Jerusalem, that the high priest Jaddus (Jaddua) showed him the book of Daniel |in which he signified that a certain one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians;| and that this, in connection with other extraordinary circumstances narrated by Josephus, had the effect of assuaging the king's wrath which had been excited against the Jewish high priest and people by their refusal to render him assistance against Darius, and of disposing him to bestow upon them great favors. Respecting the authenticity of this narrative there has been much discussion; but there is no ground for denying its substantial truth. It bears the stamp of reality, and it accounts, moreover, for the extraordinary privileges conferred upon the Jews by Alexander, which otherwise remain inexplicable.
(4.) Christ himself recognizes Daniel as a true prophet. He refers to the future fulfilment of one of his prophecies as a most important sign for his disciples: |When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.| Matt.24:15, 16; Mark 13:14. De Wette says indeed: |In the nature of the case Christ neither would nor could be a critical authority.| That our Lord did not assume to be a critical authority in the ordinary sense of the term is evident; for in this very case he referred to the Alexandrine version, without pausing to notice its variation from the Hebrew. But our Lord knew whether the book of Daniel is a collection of real prophecies, or a spurious work composed several centuries after Daniel, imposing upon the world in Daniel's name pretended prophecies written after the events. Far be it from any one who believes in the reality of Christ's supernatural mission thus to make him set the seal of his divine authority to the work of an impostor. Heb.11:33, 34 also refers undeniably to Daniel, chaps.6 and 3.
(5.) The language of the book agrees with the age of Daniel. The writer employs both Hebrew and Chaldee, thus indicating that he lives during the period of transition from the former to the latter language. His Chaldee, moreover, like that of Ezra, contains Hebrew forms such as do not occur in the earliest of the Targums. His Hebrew, on the other hand, agrees in its general character with that of Ezekiel and Ezra. Though the Hebrew survived as the language of the learned for some time after the captivity, we cannot suppose that so late as the age of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees a Jewish author could have employed either such Hebrew as Daniel uses, or such Chaldee.
(6.) The author manifests intimate acquaintance with the historical relations, manners, and customs belonging to Daniel's time. Under this head writers have specified the custom of giving new names to those taken into the king's service (1:7); the threat that the houses of the magi should be made a dunghill (2:5); the different forms of capital punishment in use among the Chaldeans and Medo-Persians; the dress of Daniel's companions (3:21); the presence of women at the royal banquet (5:2), etc. See Davidson's Introduction, p.920, who sums up the argument thus: |It is improbable that an author in the Maccabean times should have been so uniformly accurate in his narrative, without having been in Babylon itself.|
22. The objections urged against the book of Daniel are not of a nature to overthrow the mass of evidence in its favor. They may be considered under the following heads:
(1.) Various chronological and historical difficulties. It is said that Jewish history knows no expedition of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim. The answer is that an expedition which apparently fell about this time is mentioned in 2 Kings 24:1. The actual capture of the city, however, seems not to have taken place before the fourth year of Jehoiakim; for Jeremiah, in a prophecy dated in this fourth year, speaks in terms which imply that the threatened blow had not yet fallen. Jer.25:9. Perhaps Daniel, chap.1:1, dates from the beginning of the expedition, so that it fell partly in the third and partly in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. It was in connection with this expedition of Nebuchadnezzar that he overthrew the army of Pharaoh-necho at Carchemish on the Euphrates; for that event also took place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Jer.46:2.
We learn from Berosus, as quoted by Josephus (Antiq.10.11.1), that when Nebuchadnezzar was engaged in this expedition, and had already conquered the Egyptians, he received tidings that the throne of Babylon was made vacant by the death of his father. Upon this he hastened with his light troops across the desert to Babylon, leaving the body of his army to return by the ordinary route.
It is said again that the dates given in Jer.25:1 and Dan, 2:1 cannot be reconciled with each other. In the former of these the first year of Nebuchadnezzar is the fourth of Jehoiakim, in which year, or at all events in the preceding year, Daniel with his three companions was taken captive. Yet after they have been transported to Babylon and received an education there extending through three years (Dan.1:5), we find Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream in the second year of his reign. To this it can be answered in part that in the second book of Kings and in Jeremiah the years of Nebuchadnezzar are obviously reckoned from the time when he was placed by his father, who was now old and infirm, at the head of his army, the title of king being applied to him by way of anticipation.2 Kings 24:12; 25:8; Jer.25:1. In the book of Daniel, on the contrary, his years are reckoned from his actual accession to the throne. But even then it is necessary to assume a considerable delay between his return from his Egyptian expedition and his formal investiture with the kingdom.
The grounds of such a delay we can only conjecture. It may have been connected with the settlement of the affairs of the realm, which he found, Berosus tells us, administered by the Chaldeans, the kingdom being kept for him by the chief man among them; or the statement of Berosus may be wanting in fulness and accuracy. An argument from our ignorance cannot be urged against the authenticity of Daniel any more than in its favor.
As to the acknowledged difficulties connected with the identification of Belshazzar and Darius the Median (chap.5), it is sufficient to say that the notices which we have of the Chaldean monarchy after Nebuchadnezzar are so fragmentary and contradictory that no valid argument can be drawn from such difficulties against the authenticity of the book of Daniel.
An old opinion identifies Belshazzar with Nabonnedus, who was either a son of Nebuchadnezzar or a grandson -- called his son, Dan.5:22, in the sense of his descendant. But Rawlinson (as quoted in Smith's Bible Dictionary) informs us that from inscriptions deciphered by him it appears that the eldest son of Nabonnedus was called Bel-shar-ezer=Belshazzar. He thinks that as joint king with his father he may have been governor of Babylon, when the city was taken by the Medes and Persians, and have perished in the assault, while, in accordance with the statements of Berosus, Nabonnedus himself survived. Upon either of the above suppositions, Darius the Median will be Cyaxares II., son of Astyages and uncle to Cyrus, who succeeded to the title of king -- |took the kingdom| (Dan 5:31 and chap.6) -- though the conquest of Babylon was due to Cyrus himself, who not long afterwards ascended the throne of the united kingdoms of Media and Persia. Another view makes Belshazzar the same as Evil-merodach, son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, and identifies Darius the Median with Astyages. It is not necessary to decide which, if either of these two views, is correct.
(2.) An argument has been drawn from the fact that Jesus, the son of Sirach, does not mention the name of Daniel in the catalogue of his worthies (chap.49). Such negative arguments are at best weak, and this loses all its force from the circumstance that he omits others, as Ezra and Mordecai (the twelve minor prophets also, since chap.49:10 is regarded as spurious).
(3.) The alleged linguistic difficulties have been reduced, so far as the date of the book is concerned, to three or four Greek names of musical instruments; all of which -- the instruments and their names -- may naturally enough have been brought from Greece, the home of musical art, in the way of ordinary commercial intercourse. We are not called upon to defend the classic purity of Daniel's style. A Hebrew and educated at the court of Babylon, it was natural that his Chaldee should be colored with Hebrew forms, and his Hebrew with Chaldaisms. The argument from the general style of the book is in favor of its genuineness, not against it.
(4.) The commendations bestowed upon Daniel are thought to be inconsistent with his being the author of the book. Some, who admit its authenticity and its right to a place in the sacred canon, have been led by this consideration to adopt the opinion that Daniel, though essentially the author of the book, did not himself put it into its present form, but that some one of his countrymen put together his prophecies, prefixing to them introductory notices respecting the author. So far as the canonical authority of the book is concerned there are no serious objections to this hypothesis; but we may well ask whether undue weight is not given to the objection under consideration. Throughout the whole book these commendatory notices are underlaid by the idea that Daniel's wisdom is not his own, but is given him by God, and for purposes connected with the welfare of the covenant people. By revealing to his servant secrets beyond the ken of all the wise men of Babylon, he manifests at once his own infinite perfections and the vanity of the Chaldean gods; and this Daniel records to the glory of the God of Israel.
(5.) The real objection to the book lies, as already intimated, in the supernatural character of its contents -- in the remarkable miracles and prophecies which it records. The miracles of this book are of a very imposing character, especially adapted to strike the minds of the beholders with awe and wonder. But so are those also recorded in the beginning of the book of Exodus. In both cases they were alike fitted to make upon the minds of the heathen, in whose presence they were performed, the impression of God's power to save and deliver in all possible circumstances. The prophecies are mostly in the form of dreams and visions; and they are in wonderful harmony with Daniel's position as a minister of state at the court of Babylon, and also with the relation of Judaism to the heathen world. In the providence of God, the history of his covenant people, and through them of the visible kingdom of heaven, had become inseparably connected with that of the great monarchies of the world. How appropriate, then, that God should reveal, in its grand outlines, the course of these monarchies to the final and complete establishment of the kingdom of heaven (2:44, 45; 7:26, 27). In all this we find nothing against the general analogy of prophecy, but every thing in strict conformity with it. In the seventh chapter there appears, for the first time, an interpreting angel communicating to the prophet, in connected discourse, the meaning of the vision which he has just seen. So also in the eighth chapter and onward. Such a mode of revelation is peculiarly adapted to the communication of details, and in the eleventh chapter these are given to an unparalleled extent. But this constitutes no ground for denying the reality of the prophecy. Though the spirit of prophecy does not, as a general rule, give future events in their succession, this is sometimes done. So it is in God's announcement to Abraham of the bondage of his posterity (Gen.15:13-16); and also in our Lord's prophecy of the overthrow of Jerusalem (Matt., chap.24). In this respect it does not become us to prescribe rules for the wisdom of God.
We need not pursue this subject any farther. No one of the above difficulties, nor all combined, can outweigh the evidence we have for the genuineness and authenticity of the book of Daniel. On the contrary, the hypothesis that it belongs to so late an age as that of the Maccabees is beset with difficulties inconceivably greater. It has for its foundation not sober criticism, but the denial of the supernatural.