Section 1. Division of the Books of the Old Testament
Early on the Jews divided the books of the Old Testament into three parts - the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa (the holy writings). The Law was comprised of the five books of Moses. Priority was given to this division because it was the first composed, as well as on account of its containing their civil and ecclesiastical constitution and their oldest historical records.
The Prophets comprised the second and the largest division of the sacred writings of the Jews. This portion included the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings, which were called the “former prophets;” and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the books from Hosea to Malachi, which were called the “latter prophets.” Daniel has been excluded from this portion by later Jews and assigned to the third division, because they did not regard him as a prophet, but as an historical writer. Formerly, his work was doubtless included in the second division.
The third portion, “the Hagiographa,” includes the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and the two books of Chronicles.
This three-fold division of the Old Testament is as old as the time of our Saviour, because he refers to it in Luk 24:44. The Jews attribute the arrangement and division of the canonical books to Ezra. They say that he was assisted in this by 120 men who constituted ‘a great synagogue;’ that Daniel, and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were of this number; and that Haggai and Zechariah, together with Simon the Just, were also connected with it. But this statement is known to be erroneous. From the time of Daniel to the time of Simon the Just, not less than 250 years intervened (Alexander on the Canon, pp. 26, 27); and of course all these persons could not have been present. It is not, however, improbable that Ezra may have been assisted by learned and pious men who aided him in the work. What Ezra did is indeed unknown. It is the general opinion that he collected and arranged the books which now compose the Old Testament; that perhaps he wrote some of the historical books, or compiled them from fragments of history and documents that might have been in the public archives (compare the Analysis of Isa. 36); and that he gave a finish and arrangement to the whole. Since Ezra was an inspired man, the arrangement of the sacred books, and the portions which he may have added, thus have the sanction of divine authority. There is no evidence, however, that Ezra “completed” the canon of the Old Testament. Malachi lived after him, and in the First Book of Chronicles 1 Chr. 3 the genealogy of the sons of Zerubbabel is carried down to the time of Alexander the Great - about 130 years subsequent to the time of Ezra. The probability is, therefore, that Ezra “commenced” the arrangement of the books, and that the canon of the Old Testament was completed by some other hand.
The Prophets were divided into “the former and the latter.” Among the latter, Isaiah has uniformly held the first place and rank. This has been assigned to him not because he prophesied before all the others. Indeed he preceded Ezekiel and Jeremiah, but Jonah, Amos, and Hosea were his contemporaries. The precedence has been given to his prophecies over theirs, probably for two reasons; first, on account of their length, dignity, and comparative value; and secondly, because the minor prophets were formerly bound in one volume, or written on one roll of parchment, and it was convenient to place them “together,” and they all had a place, therefore, after Isaiah. At all times the prophecies in Isaiah have been regarded as the most important of any in the Old Testament; and by common consent they have been deemed worthy of the principal place among the Jewish writings.
Section 2. The Life of Isaiah, and the Characteristics of His Writings
Of the time in which Isaiah lived, little more is known than he has himself told us. In the superscription to his book Isa 1:1, we are told that he was the son of Amoz, and that he discharged the prophetic office under the reign of the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. In regard to those times, and the character of the period in which they reigned, see section 3 of this introduction (below). It is evident also from the prophecies themselves that he delivered them during the reign of these kings. In Isa 6:1, it is expressly said that he had a vision of Yahweh in the year in which Uzziah died. Of course, he must have commenced his prophetic labors at least as early as during the last year of that king. If that chapter or vision was not designed as an inauguration of the prophet, or an induction into the prophetic office (see the notes on Isa 6:1-13), and if his prophecies were collected and arranged as they were delivered, then it will follow that the previous chapters Isa. 1–5 may have been delivered in the reign of Uzziah, and perhaps some time before his death.
There is no express mention made of his uttering any prophecies in the time of Jotham. Hengstenberg and others suppose that the prophecies in Isa. 2–5 were delivered during his reign. But of this there is no conclusive evidence. He might not have “recorded” anything during his reign; though he may, as a public preacher, have been engaged in the prophetic office in another mode. His writings themselves contain evidence that he was engaged in the prophetic office in the reign of Ahaz. See Isa. 7 and the following chapters. From Isa. 36–39 we learn that he was engaged in the prophetic office during the reign of Hezekiah. We have an explicit statement that he was occupied in his prophetic work until the 15th year of Hezekiah, at the commencement of which the ambassadors from Babylon came up to Jerusalem to congratulate him on his recovery from his illness; In Isa 39:1-8 Uzziah died, according to Calmet, 754 years before Christ. Isaiah must therefore have occupied the prophetic office at least from 754 to 707 b.c., or 47 years; that is, under Uzziah one year, under Jotham for 16 years, under Ahaz for 16 years, and under Hezekiah for 14 years.
It is not known at what age Isaiah entered into the prophetic function. It is probable that he lived much longer than to the 15th year of Hezekiah. In 2Ch 32:32, it is said that ‘the rest of the acts of Hezekiah’ were ‘written in the vision of Isaiah;’ and this statement obviously implies that he survived him, and recorded the deeds of his reign up to his death. Since Hezekiah lived 14 or 15 years after this (Isa 38:5, compare 2Ki 18:2), this would make the period of his public ministry to extend to at least 61 or 62 years. If Isaiah survived Hezekiah, he probably lived some time until during the reign of Manasseh. This supposition is confirmed not indeed by any direct historical record in the Old Testament, but by all the traditional accounts which have been handed down to us. The testimony of the Jews and of the early fathers is uniform that Isaiah was put death by Manasseh by being sawn asunder. The main alleged offence was that Isaiah had said that he had seen Yahweh, and that for this he ought to die, in accordance with the law of Moses Exo 33:20, “No man shall see me and live.” If Isaiah lived until the time of Manasseh, and especially if Isaiah prophesied under Manasseh’s reign, it is probable the true reason why he was put to death was that he was offensive to the monarch and his court.
The circumstances which render the supposition probable that Isaiah lived under Manasseh, and that he was put to death by him by being sawn asunder, are the following:
(1) The fact which has been stated above that Isaiah lived to complete the record of the reign of Hezekiah and of course survived him.
(2) The testimony of the Jewish writers: There is indeed much that is fabulous in their writings, and even in connection with the truths which they record; there is much that is puerile and false. However, there is no reason to doubt the main “facts” which they relate. Indeed, Josephus does not expressly state that he was slain by Manasseh, but he gives an account of the reign of Manasseh which renders it probable that if Isaiah were then alive he would have been put to death. Thus, he says (Ant. book 10, chapter 3, section 1) that ‘he barbarously slew all the righteous men that were among the Hebrews; nor would he spare the prophets, for he every day slew some of them, until Jerusalem was overflown with blood.’ In the Talmud the following record occurs: Manasseh put Isaiah to death. The rabbi said that he condemned him and put him to death, because he said to him, “Moses, thy lord, said, ‘No man shall see me and live’ Exo 33:20, but thou hast said, ‘I saw the Lord upon a throne high and lifted up’ Isa 6:1. Moses, thy lord, said, ‘Who will make the Lord so near that we can call to him’; but thou hast said, ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near’ Isa 55:6. Moses, thy lord, said, ‘The number of thy days will I fulfill’ Exo 22:26; but thou hast said, ‘I will add to thy days fifteen years’ Isa 38:5, etc. See Gesenius, Einlei. p. 12. The testimony of the Jews on this subject is uniform. Michaelis (the Preface to Isaiah) has referred to the following places in proof on this point. Tract. Talmud. Jabhamoth, 49; “Sanhedrin, fol. 103; Jalkut, part ii. fol. 38; Schalscheleth Hakkab.” fol. 19. Rashi and Abarbanel in their commentaries give the same statement.
(3) The testimony of the early Christian writers is the same. Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, speaking of Isaiah, says,ὄν πρίον ζυλῳ ἐπρίσατε on prioni zulō eprisate, ‘whom ye sawed asunder with a wooden saw.’ Tertullian (de patientia, c. 14) says, His patientiae viribus secatur Esaias. - Lactantius (lib. iv. c. 2) says, Esais, quem ipsi Judaei serra consectum crudelissime necaverunt. - Augustine (de Civit. Dei, lib. 18, c. 24) says, ‘the prophet Isaiah is reputed to have been slain by the impious King Manasseh.’ Jerome (on Isa 57:1) says, that the prophet prophesied in that passage of his own death, for ‘it is an undisputed tradition among us, that he was sawn asunder by Manasseh, with a wooden saw.’ These passages and others from the Jewish writers and from the fathers are to be found in Michaelis’ Preface to Isaiah; in Gesenius’ Introduction; and in Carpzov, Crit. Sacr. In a matter of simple fact, there seems to be no reason to call this testimony into question. It is to be remembered that Jerome was well acquainted with Hebrew, that he dwelt in Palestine, and no doubt has given the prevalent opinion about the death of Isaiah.
(4) The character of Manasseh was such as to make it probable that, if Isaiah lived at all during his reign, Manasseh would seek his death. In 2Ki 21:16, it is said of Manasseh that he ‘shed innocent blood very much, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.’ This account is in entire accordance with that of Josephus, quoted above. In the early part of his reign, it is recorded that he did evil, and especially that he raised the high places and the altars of idolatry which Hezekiah had destroyed, and endeavored to restore again the abominations which had existed in the time of Ahab, 2Ki 21:2-3. It is scarcely credible that such a man as Isaiah would see all this done without some effort to prevent it; and it is certain that such an effort would excite the indignation of Manasseh. If, however, Manasseh cut off the righteous men of Jerusalem, as Josephus testifies, and as the author of the Books of Kings would lead us to believe, there is every probability that Isaiah would also fall a sacrifice to his indignation. It is not necessary in order to this to suppose that Isaiah appeared much in public; or that, being then an old man, he should take a prominent part in the transactions of that period. That we have no recorded prophecy of that time, as we have of the times of Uzziah, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, leaves it probable that Isaiah had withdrawn from the more public functions of the prophetic office, and probably (see section 4 of this introduction) had given himself to the calm and holy contemplation of future and better times under the Messiah. But still Isaiah’s sentiments would be known to the monarch; and his influence while he lived among the people may have been materially in the way of the designs of Manasseh. Manasseh, therefore, may have regarded it as necessary to remove him, and in the slaughter of the good men and prophets of his time, there is every probability that Isaiah would have been made a victim.
(5) It affords some confirmation of this statement that Paul Heb 11:37 affirms of some of the ancient saints, that they were ‘sawn asunder.’ In the Old Testament there is no express mention of any one’s being put to death in this manner, but it has been common with all expositors, from the earliest periods, to suppose that Paul had reference to Isaiah. The universal tradition on this subject among the Hebrews makes this morally certain. It is certain that Paul could not have made such an enumeration unless there was a well-established tradition of some one or more who had suffered in this manner; and all tradition concurs in assigning it to Isaiah.
(6) The character of the second part of the prophecies of Isaiah Isa. 40–66 accords with this supposition. They are mainly employed in depicting the glories of a future age; the blessedness of the times of the Messiah. They bespeak the feelings of a holy man who was heart-broken with the existing state of things; and who had retired from active life, and sought consolation in the contemplation of future blessings. No small part of those prophecies is employed in lamenting an existing state of “idolatry” (see particularly Isa. 40; Isa. 41; Isa 56:1-12; Isa. 57; Isa. 65), and the prevalence of general irreligion. Such a decryption does not accord with the reign of Hezekiah; and it is evidently the language of a man who was disheartened with prevailing abominations, and who, seeing little hope of immediate reform, cast his mind forward into future times, and sought repose in the contemplation of happier days. How long Isaiah may have lived under Manasseh is unknown; and hence, it is not possible to ascertain Isaiah age when he was put to death. We may reasonably suppose that Isaiah entered into his prophetic function as early as the age of twenty. From Jer 1:6, we learn that an earlier call than this to the prophetic office sometimes occurred. On this supposition, Isaiah would have been 82 years of age at the death of Hezekiah. There is no improbability, therefore, in the supposition that he might have lived 10 or even 15 years or more, under the long reign of Manasseh. The priest Jehoiada attained the great age of 130 years 2Ch 24:15. Evidently, Isaiah lived a retired and a temperate life. It is the uniform tradition of the oriental Christians that he lived to the age of 120 years; see Hengstenberg’s Christol. vol. i. p. 278.
Where Isaiah lived is not certainly known nor are many of the circumstances of his life known. Isaiah’s permanent residence, in the earlier part of his prophetic life, seems to have been at Jerusalem. During the reign of the ungodly Ahaz, he came forth boldly as the reprover of sin, and evidently spent a considerable part of his time near the court, Isa. 7 and following. His counsels and warnings were then derided and disregarded. Hezekiah was a pious prince, and admitted Isaiah as a counselor, and was inclined to follow Isaiah advice. In Hezekiah’s reign Isaiah was treated with respect, and Isaiah had an important part in directing the public counsels during the agitating occurrences of that reign. If Isaiah lived in the time of Manasseh, he probably retired from public life; his counsel was unsought, and if offered, was disregarded. It is evident that he did not entirely withdraw from his office as a reprover Isa. 56–58, but his main employment seems to have been to contemplate the pure and splendid visions which relate to the happier times of the world, and which constitute the close of his prophecies, Isa. 40–66.
Of the family of Isaiah little is known. The Jewish writers constantly affirm that Isaiah was of noble extraction, and was closely connected with the royal family. The name of his father was Amoz, or “Amotz” -אמוץ 'âmôts; not the prophet Amos, as some have supposed, for his name in Hebrew is אמוס 'amôs, Amos. Amoz (Amotz), the father of Isaiah, the Jews affirm to have been the brother of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, 2Ki 14:1. Thus, David Kimchi on Isa 1:1, writes, ‘We are ignorant of his family, from what tribe he was, except that our doctors have handed down by tradition, that Amotz and Amaziah were brothers.’ And thus Rabbi Solomon says, ‘It is handed down to us from our ancestors that Amotz and Amaziah were brothers.’ The same is said also by Rabbi Levi (in Megilla, c. i. fol. 10); and by Abarbanel, Preface fol. 1 (quoted by Michaelis, Preface to Isa.) In this supposition there is nothing improbable: and the fact that he was admitted so freely to the counsels of Hezekiah, and that he went so boldly to Ahaz Isa 7:1, may seem to give some countenance to the idea that he was connected with the royal family.
Isaiah’s father was evidently well known; see Isa 1:1, and elsewhere, where his name is introduced. Indeed, it is not improbable that most of the prophets were descended from families that were highly respectable, since they generally mention the name of their father as a name that is well known; compare Eze 1:3; Jer 1:1; Hos 1:1; Joe 1:1; Jon 1:1; Zep 1:1; Zec 1:1. In the other prophets the name of the “father” is omitted, probably because he was obscure and unknown. It is morally certain that Isaiah was not connected with the Levitical order, since if he had been, this would have been designated as in Jer 1:1; Eze 1:3. The wife of Isaiah is called “a prophetess” Isa 8:3, and it is supposed by some that she had the spirit of prophecy, but the more probable opinion is that the wives of the prophets were called prophetesses, as the wives of the priests were called “priestesses.”
On the question as to whether Isaiah had more than one wife, see the notes at Isa. 7 and notes at Isa. 8. Two sons of Isaiah are mentioned, both of whom had names suited to awaken religious attention, and who were in some sense the pledges of the fulfillment of divine predictions. The name of the one was “Shear-Jashub” Isa 7:3, the meaning of which is, “the remainder shall return” - designed, undoubtedly, to be a sign or pledge that the remnant of the Jews who should be carried away at “any time” would return; or that the whole nation would not be destroyed and become extinct. This was one of the axioms or fundamental points in all the writings of this prophet; and whatever calamity or judgment he foretold, it was always terminated with the assurance that the nation would still be ultimately preserved, and greatly enlarged, and glorified. Isaiah seems to have resolved this idea to keep as much as possible before the minds of his countrymen, and to this end he gave his son a name that would be to them a pledge of his deep conviction of this truth.
The name of the other is “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” Isa 8:1, “haste to the spoil; haste to the prey” - a name significant of the fact that the Assyrians Isa. 7 would soon ravage and subdue the land, or they would extensively plunder the kingdom of Judea. Tradition says that the death of Isaiah occurred in Jerusalem near the fountain of Siloam. Just below this fountain and opposite to the point where Mount Ophel terminates is a large mulberry-tree with a terrace of stones surrounding its trunk, where it is said Isaiah was sawn asunder; Robinson’s Bib. Research, i. 342. The tradition further is, that his body was buried here, whence it was removed to Paneas near the sources of the Jordan, and from thence to Constantinople in the year of our Lord 442 a.d.
Great respect was paid to Isaiah and his writings after his death. It is evident that Jeremiah imitated him (compare the notes at Isa 15:1-9 and notes at Isa 16:1-14); and there is abundant evidence that Isaiah was studied by the other prophets. The regard with which he was held by the Lord Jesus, and by the writers of the New Testament will be shown in another part of this introduction (section 6). Josephus (Ant. book 11, chapter 1, section 2) says that Cyrus was moved by the reading of Isaiah to the acknowledgment of the God of Israel, and to the restoration of the Jews, and to the rebuilding of the temple. After stating (section 1) the decree which Cyrus made in favor of the Jews, he adds, ‘This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind of his prophecies: for this prophet had said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision, “My will is that Cyrus whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations will send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.”
This was foretold by Isaiah 140 years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition came upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them permission to go back to their own country and to rebuild their city Jerusalem and the temple of their God. In this passage of Josephus there is an undoubted reference to Isa 44:28; ‘That saith of Cyrus, He is my Shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid;’ compare Isa 45:1 ff. On the genuineness of this passage of Josephus see Whiston’s note. It is justly remarked (see Jahn’s observation, quoted by Hengstenberg, Christol. i. 279) that this statement of Josephus furnishes the only explanation of the conduct of Cyrus toward the Jews. It is only a commentary on Ezr 1:2, where Cyrus says, ‘Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.’ It is incredible that Cyrus would not have seen the prophecy Isa 44:28 respecting himself before he made this proclamation.
The writings of the fathers are full of the praise of Isaiah. Jerome says of him that he is not so much to be esteemed a prophet as an evangelist. And he adds, ‘he has so clearly explained the whole mystery of Christ and the church that you will regard him not as predicting future events but as composing a history of the past.’ In Jerome’s “Epistle ad Paulinum” he says, ‘Isaiah seems to me not to have composed a prophecy but the gospel!’ And in Jerome’s preface he says, ‘that in his (Isaiah’s) discourse he is so eloquent, and is a man of so noble and refined elocution, without any mixture of rusticity, that it is impossible to preserve or transfuse the beauty of his style in a translation;’ compare the Confessions of Augustine, ix. 5; De Civita. Dei. lib. viii. c. 29. Moses Amyraldus said of Isaiah that he ‘seems to thunder and give off lightning; he seems to confound and mingle not Greece, as was formerly said of Pericles; not Judea, and the neighboring regions, but heaven and earth and all the elements;’ see Michaelis’ Preface to Isaiah, pp. 8-10; compare Josephus, Ant. book 10, chapter 3; also Sirach 48:22.
‘The style of Isaiah,’ says Hengstenberg, Christol. vol. i. p. 281, ‘is in general characterized by simplicity and sublimity; in the use of imagery, he holds an intermediate place between the poverty of Jeremiah and the exuberance of Ezekiel. In other respects, his style is suited to the subject, even changes with it. In his denunciations and threatenings, Isaih is earnest and vehement; in his consolations and instructions, on the contrary, Isaiah is mild and insinuating; in the strictly poetic passages, Isaiah is full of impetuosity and fire. He so lives in the events that he describes that the future becomes to him the same as the past and the present.’
It is now generally conceded that a considerable portion of Isaiah, like the other prophets, is poetry. For the establishment of this opinion, we are indebted mainly to Dr. Lowth. ‘It has,’ says he, (Prelim. Diss. to Isaiah) ‘I think, been universally understood that the prophecies of Isaiah were written in prose. The style, the thoughts, the images, the expressions, have been allowed to be poetical, and that in the highest degree; but that they were written in verse, in measure, in rhythm, or whatever it is that distinguishes poetry the composition of those books of the Old Testament which are allowed to be poetical, such as Job, the Psalms, and the Proverbs, from the historical books, as mere prose, this has never been supposed, at least has not been at any time the prevailing feeling.’
The main object of Lowth, in his “Preliminary Dissertation,” was to demonstrate that the prophecies of Isaiah have all the characteristics of Hebrew poetry; a position which he has abundantly established, and which is admitted now by all to be correct. For a more extended view of the nature of Hebrew poetry, the reader may consult Barnes’ introduction to the Book of Job.
In all ages, Isaiah has been regarded as the most sublime of all writers. He is simple, bold, rapid, elevated; he abounds in metaphor, and in rapid transitions; his writings are full of the most sublime figures of rhetoric and the most beautiful ornaments of poetry. Grotius compares him to Demosthenes. ‘In his writings we meet with the purity of the Hebrew tongue, as in the orator with 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 describe things of an enormous nature, or that are grievous and odious. Isaiah was superior to Demosthenes in the honor of illustrious birth.’ Commentary on 2Ki 19:2. It may be added here, that although his writings are not so ancient as those of Moses, or as those of Homer and Hesiod, yet they are more ancient than most of the admired Classic productions of Greece, and are far more ancient than any of the Latin Classics. As an “ancient writer” he demands respect. And laying out of view altogether the idea of his inspiration, and his “religious” character, he has a claim as a poet, an orator, a writer of eminent beauty and unrivaled sublimity to the attention of those who are seeking eminence in literature.
No reason can be given why in a course of mental training, Isaiah, and the language in which he wrote, should be neglected, while Hesiod and Homer, with the language in which they wrote, should be the objects of admiration and of diligent culture. In no book, perhaps, can the mere man of taste be more gratified than in the study of Isaiah; by no writings would the mind be more elevated in view of the beautiful and the sublime, or the heart be more refined by the contemplation of the pure. Few - very few of the Greek and Latin Classical writers - can be put into the hands of the young without endangering the purity of their morals; but Isaiah may be studied in all the periods of youth, and manhood, and old age, only to increase the virtue of the heart and the purity of the imagination, at the same time that he enriches and expands the understanding. And while no one who has just views of the inestimable value of the Greek and Latin Classics in most of the respects contemplated in education would wish to see them banished from the schools, or displaced from seminaries of learning, yet the lover of ancient writings, of purity of thought and diction, of sweet and captivating poetry, of the beautiful and sublime in writing, of perhaps the oldest language of the world, and of the pure sentiments of revelation, may hope that the time will come when the Hebrew language shall be deemed worthy of culture in American schools and colleges as well as the Latin and Greek; and that as a part of the training of American youth, Isaiah may be allowed to take a place “at least” as honorable as Virgil or Homer - as Cicero or Demosthenes.
It is indeed a melancholy reflection which we are compelled to make on the seminaries of learning in our land - a Christian land - that the writings of the Hebrew prophets and poets have been compelled to give place to the poetry and the mythology of the Greeks; and that the books containing the only system of pure religion are required to defer to those which were written under the auspices of idolatry, and which often express sentiments, and inculcate feelings, which cannot be made to contribute to the purity of the heart, or be reconciled with the truth as revealed from heaven. As specimens of taste; as models of richness of thought and beauty of diction; as well as for their being the vehicles in which the knowledge of the only true religion is conveyed to man, these writings have a claim on the attention of the young. If the writings of Isaiah were mere human compositions; if they had come down to us as the writings of Demosthenes and Homer have done; and if they had not been connected with “religion,” we might be permitted to express the belief that the Jewish “Classics,” along with the Classics of Greece and Rome, would have been allowed an honorable place in all the seminaries of learning, and in all the public and private libraries of the land.
Section 3. The Times of Isaiah
As we have seen, Isaiah lived for the greater part of a century, and possibly even more than a century. It is probable also that for a period of more than 70 years he exercised the prophetic function. During that long period, important changes must have occurred; and a knowledge of some of the leading events of his time is necessary to understand his prophecies. Indeed, a simple knowledge of historical facts will often make portions of his prophecies clear which would otherwise be entirely unintelligible.
The kingdom of Israel, which during the reigns of David and Solomon had been so mighty and so magnificent, was divided into two separate kingdoms 990 years before Christ, or 240 years before Isaiah entered into his prophetic office. The glory of these kingdoms had departed; and they had been greatly weakened by contentions with each other and by conflicts with surrounding nations. In a particular manner, the kingdom of Israel (Samaria, Ephraim, the ten tribes, as it was indiscriminately called) had been governed by a succession of wicked princes, had become deeply imbued with idolatry, and had so far provoked God as to make it necessary to remove them to a foreign land. It was during the time in which Isaiah discharged the duties of the prophetic function that that kingdom was utterly overturned and the inhabitants were transplanted to a distant country. In the year 736 b.c., or not far from 20 years after Isaiah entered into his work, Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria killed Rezin, king of Damascus, the ally of Pekah, the king of Samaria. Tiglath-Pileser entered the land of Israel and took many cities and captives, chiefly in Gilead and Galilee, and he carried many of the inhabitants to Assyria; 2Ki 16:5-9; Amo 1:5; 2Ki 15:29; 1Ch 5:26.
This was the first captivity of the kingdom of Israel. Shalmaneser succeeded Tiglath-Pileser as king of Assyria in 724 b.c. In the year 721 b.c. Shalmaneser besieged Samaria, and, after a siege of three years, he took it. He carriedthe inhabitants which Tiglath-Pileser had not removed beyond the Euphrates he and placed them in cities there 2 Kings 17:3-18; Hos 13:16; 1Ch 5:26. This was the end of the kingdom of Israel, after it had subsisted for 254 years. Isaiah exercised the prophetic function during about 30 of the last years of the kingdom of Israel. But his residence was principally at Jerusalem; and not many of his predictions have reference to the kingdom of Israel. Most of his prophecies which have reference to the Jews relate to the kingdom of Judah and to Jerusalem.
The kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, had greatly declined from the splendor and magnificence which had existed under David and Solomon. It had been greatly weakened by the revolt of the ten tribes, and by the wars in which it had been engaged with the kingdom of Samaria, as well as with surrounding nations. Though its kings were superior in virtue and piety to the kings of Israel, yet many of them had been unworthy to be the descendants of David and their conduct had exposed them greatly to divine displeasure.
When Isaiah entered into his prophetic office, the throne was occupied by Uzziah; or as he is elsewhere called, Azariah. He succeeded his father Amaziah, and was 16 years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for 52 years. Uzziah began his reign in the year 809 b.c., and, of course, his reign extended to the year 757 b.c. His general character was that of integrity and piety. He was a worshipper of the true God, yet he did not remove the groves and high places which had been established in the land for idolatrous worship. He greatly strengthened Jerusalem, was successful in his wars with the Philistines, with the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and extended his kingdom somewhat into surrounding regions. Near the close of his life he was guilty of one act of rashness and folly in claiming as a monarch the right of going into the temple of the Lord, and of burning incense upon the altar. For this sin he became a leper and remained so until his death; 2 Kings 15; 2 Chr. 26. Of course, he was regarded as unclean and was obliged to dwell by himself in a separate house; 2Ch 26:21. During this period, the affairs of the government were administered by his son, Jotham; 2Ch 26:21. During the reign of Uzziah it is probable that Isaiah exercised the prophetic function for only a short time, perhaps for a single year. None of Isaiah’s prophecies can be proved with certainty to relate to Uzziah’s reign except what is contained in Isa 6:1-13. It is more natural, however, to suppose that those in the previous five chapters were delivered durring the reign of Uzziah.
Uzziah (Azariah) was succeeded by his son, Jotham. He ascended the throne at the age of 25, and reigned for 16 years in Jerusalem. The general character of Jotham was like that of his father. He was upright; and he was not guilty of idolatry. Yet, the high places were not removed, the groves still remained, and the state of the people was corrupt 2Ki 15:32-36; 2Ch 27:1-9. Jotham carried forward the plan which his father had commenced of fortifying the city 2Ch 26:3 and of enlarging and beautifying his kingdom. In a particular manner, Jotham is said to have built a high gate to the house of the Lord, and to have fortified Ophel; 2Ch 26:3. Ophel was a mountain or “bluff,” which was situated between Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. From the base of this bluff flowed the waters of Siloam. This hill was capable of being strongly fortified and of contributing much to the defense of the city, and, accordingly, it became one of the strongest places in Jerusalem. Jotham also built cities, and castles, and towns in the mountains and forests of Judea 2Ch 26:4, and it is evident that his great aim was to beautify and strengthen his kingdom. The principal wars in which he was engaged were with the Ammonites, whom he subdued and laid under tribute 2Ch 26:5.
It was during the reign of Jotham that very important events occurred in the vast empire of the East. The ancient empire of the Assyrians which had governed Asia for more than 1,300 years was dissolved upon the death of Sardanapalus in the year 747 b.c. Sardanapalus was distinguished for sloth and luxury. He sunk into the lowest depths of depravity, clothed himself as a woman, spun amidst the companies of his concubines, painted his face and decked himself as a harlot. So debased was he that his reign became intolerable. He became odious to his subjects and particularly to Arbaces the Mede, and to Belesis the Babylonian. Belesis was a captain, a priest, and an astrologer.
So, by the rules of his art, he took it upon himself to assure Arbaces that he should dethrone Sardanapalus, and become lord of all his dominions. Arbaces listened to him, and promised him the chief place over Babylon if his prediction proved to come true. Arbaces and Belesis promoted a revolt, and the defection spread among the Medes, Babylonians, Persians, and Arabians, who had been subject to the Assyrian empire. They mustered an army of not less than 400,000 men, but were at first defeated by Sardanapalus, and driven to the mountains; but they again rallied and were again defeated with great slaughter, and put to flight toward the hills. Belesis, however, persisted in the opinion that the gods would give them the victory, and a third battle was fought, in which they were again defeated. Belesis again encouraged his followers; and it was determined to try to secure the aid of the Bactrians.
Sardanapalus, supposing victory was secure, and that there could be no more danger, had returned to his pleasures, and given himself and his army up to riot and dissipation. Belesis and Arbaces, with the aid of the Bactrians, fell upon the army, sunk in inglorious ease and vanquished it entirely. Somehow they drew Sardanapalus outside the walls of his capital. Here, closely besieged, he sent away his three sons and two daughters into Paphlagonia. In Nineveh Sardanapalus determined to defend himself, trusting to an ancient prophecy, “that Nineveh could never be taken until the river became her enemy;” and as he deemed this impossible, he regarded himself as secure. He maintained his position, and resisted the attacks of his enemies for two years, until the river, swelled by great rains, rose and overflowed a considerable part of it. Regarding his affairs as now desperate, he caused a vast pile of wood to be raised in a court of his palace, in which he placed his gold and silver and royal apparel, and within which he enclosed his eunuchs and concubines, and retired within his palace, and caused the pile to be set on fire, and was consumed himself with the rest; Universal History, the Ancient Part, vol. iii. pp. 354-358. London edition, 1779.
From this kingdom, thus destroyed, arose the two kingdoms of Assyria, as mentioned in the Scriptures, and of Babylonia. Arbaces, who, according to Prideaux, is the same as Tiglath-Pileser (compare however, Universal History, vol. v. 359), obtained a large part of the empire. Belesis had Babylon, Chaldea, and Arabia. Belesis, according to Prideaux (Connection, book i. p. 114), was the same as Nabonassar, or Baladan (see the note at Isa 39:1); and was the king from whom was reckoned the famous era of Nabonassar, commencing in the 747th year before the Christian era. It is not improbable that there was some degree of dependence of the Babylonian portion of the empire upon the Assyrian empire; or that the king of Babylon was regarded as a viceroy to the king of Assyria, since we know that among the colonists sent by Shalmaneser to populate Samaria after the ten tribes were carried away were some from Babylon, which is there mentioned in such a manner as to leave the impression that it was a province of Assyria 2Ki 17:24. The kingdom of Babylon, however, ultimately acquired the ascendency, and the Assyrian kingdom was merged into the Chaldean monarchy. This occurred about 100 years after the reign of Nabonassar, or Baladan, and was effected by an alliance formed between Nabopolassar and Cyaxares the Median; see Robinson, Calmet, “Babylonia”; compare the note at Isa 39:1. It should be observed, however, that the history of the Assyrian empire is one of the most obscure portions of ancient history; see the article “Assyria” in Robinson, Calmet.
There is no decided evidence that Isaiah delivered any prophecies during the reign of Jotham. Most commentators have supposed that the prophecies in Isa. 2–5 were delivered during his reign; but there is no internal proof to demonstrate it. See the analysis of these chapters.
Jotham was succeeded by Ahaz. He was the 12th king of Judah. He came to the throne at the age of 20 years and reigned in Jerusalem for 16 years, and, of course, died at the age of 36. He ascended the throne, according to Calmet, 738 years before the Christian era; see 2Ki 16:2; 2Ch 28:5. The character of Ahaz was the reverse of that of his father; and, excepting Manasseh, his grandson, there was probably not a more impious prince who ever sat on the throne of Judah, nor was there a reign that was on the whole more disastrous than his. A statement of his evil deeds and a brief record of the calamitous events of his reign is given in 2 Chr. 23 and in 2 Kings 16. He imitated the kings of Israel and Samaria in all manner of abominations and disorders. Early on, he made images of the Baalim. He burned incense in the Valley of Hinnom to idol gods and even burned his own children in the fire. He established idolatrous places of worship in every part of the land and caused the worship of idols to be celebrated in the groves and upon all the hills in Judea.
As a consequence of this idolatry, and as a punishment for his sins and the sins of the nation, his kingdom was invaded by the joint forces of the kings of Syria and of Samaria. A large number of captive Jews were carried to Damascus; and, in one day, Pekah, the king of Samaria, killed 120,000, and took captive 200,000 more whom he planned to carry captive to Samaria. This he would have done but for the remonstrance of the prophet Obed, who pled with him, and represented the impropriety of his carrying his brethren into bondage; and, at his solicitation, and from the apprehension of the wrath of God, the captives were returned to Jericho, and set at liberty 2Ch 28:15. It was at this juncture, and when Ahaz trembled with alarm at the prospect of the invasion of the kings of Syria and Samaria, that he resolved to call in the aid of the Assyrians, and thus to repel the apprehended invasion.
Though he had been able to defeat the united armies of Syria and Samaria once 2Ki 16:5, yet those armies returned once more, and Ahaz in alarm determined to seek the aid of Assyria. For this purpose he sent messengers, with terms of most humble submission and entreaty, and with the most costly presents that his kingdom could furnish, to secure the alliance and aid of Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria 2Ki 16:7-8. It was at this time, when Ahaz was so much alarmed, that Isaiah met him at the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field Isa 7:3-4, and assured him that he had no occasion to fear the united armies of Syria and Samaria; that Jerusalem was safe, and that God would be its protector. He assured him that the kingdoms of Syria and Samaria would not be enlarged by the accession and conquest of the kingdom of Judah Isa 7:7-9. So, Isaiah advised Ahaz to ask for a sign (demonstration) from Yahweh that this would be fulfilled Isa 7:10-11.
Ahaz indignantly, though with the appearance of religious scruple, said that he would not ask for a sign Isa 7:12. The secret reason, however, why he was not solicitous to procure a sign from Yahweh was that he had formed an alliance with the king of Assyria and scorned the idea of recognizing his dependence upon Yahweh. Isaiah, therefore, proceeded Isa 7:13. to assure him that Yahweh would himself give a sign anyway and would furnish a demonstration to him that the land would be soon forsaken of both the kings which Ahaz dreaded. See the notes at Isa. 7. Isaiah then proceeded to state the consequences of his alliance with the king of Assyria and to assure him that the result would be, that, under the pretence of helping him, he would bring up his forces upon the land of Judah and spread devastation and ruin, and that only Jerusalem would be spared (Isa 7:17 ff and Isa. 8). The prophecy respecting the speedy removal of the two kings of Syria and Samaria was accomplished (see the notes at Isa 7:16).
At about the same time, the kingdom of Judah was threatened with an invasion from the Edomites and Philistines 2Ch 28:17-18. In this emergency, Ahaz had recourse to his old ally the king of Assyria 2Ch 28:20-21. To secure his friendship, Ahaz made him a costly present obtained from the temple, from his own house, and from the princes 2Ch 28:21. The king of Assyria professedly accepted the offer, marched against Rezin the king of Syria, took Damascus, and killed Rezin, agreeably to the prediction of Isaiah Isa 7:16. While Tiglath-Pileser was at Damascus, Ahaz visited him, and being much charmed with an altar which he saw there, he sent a model of it to Urijah the priest to have one constructed like it in Jerusalem 2Ki 16:10. This was done. Ahaz returned from Damascus, offered sacrifice upon the new altar which he had had constructed, and gave himself up to every kind of idolatry and abomination 2Ki 16:12. Ahaz offered sacrifice to the gods of Damascus on the pretence that they had defended Syria and that it might be rendered propitious to defend his own kingdom 2Ch 28:23. Then Ahaz broke up the vessels of the temple, shut up the doors, and erected altars to the pagan deities in every part of Jerusalem 2Ch 28:24-25. Thus, Ahaz finished his inglorious reign in the 36th year of his age, and he was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but not in the sepulchres of the kings, on account of his gross abominations 2Ch 28:27.
The prediction of Isaiah Isa. 7–8 that his calling for the aid of the king of Assyria would result in disaster to his own land and to all the land except for Jerusalem (see the note at Isa 8:8) was not accomplished during the time of Ahaz, but was literally fulfilled in the calamities which occurred by the invasion of Sennacherib in the time of Hezekiah (see the notes at Isa. 8; Isa. 36–39).
It is not known with certainty what prophecies were delivered by Isaiah in the time of Ahaz. It is certain that those contained in Isa. 7–9 were uttered during his reign, and there is every probability that those contained in Isa. 10–12 were also given then. Perhaps some of the subsequent predictions were uttered during his reign as well.
Ahaz was succeeded by his son, Hezekiah, one of the most pious kings that ever sat upon the throne of David. He was 25 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for 29 years 2Ch 29:1. Hezekiah’s character was the reverse of that of his father. One of the first acts of his reign was to remove the evils introduced during the reign of Ahaz, and to restore again the pure worship of God. Hezekiah began the work of reform by destroying the high places, cutting down the groves, and overturning the altars of idolatry. He destroyed the brass serpent which Moses had made, and which had become an object of idolatrous worship. He ordered the doors of the temple to be rebuilt, and the temple itself was thoroughly cleansed and repaired 2Ki 18:1-6; 2 Chr. 29:1-17. He restored the observance of the Passover, and it was celebrated with great pomp and joy (2 Chr. 30ff), and he restored the regular worship in the temple as it was in the time of Solomon 2Ch 28:18. Successful in his efforts to reform the religion of his country and in his wars with the Philistines 2Ki 18:8, he resolved to cast off the inglorious yoke of servitude to the king of Assyria 2Ki 18:7. Therefore, Hezekiah refused to pay the tribute which had been promised to the Assyrian monarch which had been paid by his father, Ahaz.
As might have expected, this resolution excited the indignation of the king of Assyria, and led to the resolution to compel submission. Sennacherib, therefore, invaded the land with a great army; spread desolation through no small part of it; and was rapidly advancing toward Jerusalem. Hezekiah saw his error, and, alarmed, he sought to avoid the threatened blow. So, he put the city in the best possible posture of defense. He fortified it, enclosed it with a second wall, erected towers, repaired the Millo fortification in the City of David, stopped up all the fountains, and made darts and shields so that the city might be defended 2Ch 32:1-8. He tried to prepare himself as well as possible to meet the mighty foe; and he did all that he could to inspire confidence in the true God among the people (see the notes at Isa 22:9-11).
Yet, as if not quite confident that Hezekiah could be able to hold out during a siege, and to resist an army so mighty as that of Sennacherib, he sent ambassadors to him, acknowledged his error, and sued for peace. Sennacherib proposed that Hezekiah should send him 300 talents of silver, and 30 talents of gold, and gave the implied assurance that if this were done his army should be withdrawn 2Ki 18:13-14. Hezekiah readily agreed to send what was demanded. And to accomplish this, Hezekiah emptied the treasury, and stripped the temple of its ornaments 2Ki 18:15-16. Sennacherib then went on down to Egypt (see the notes at Isa. 36 and notes at Isa. 37) and was repelled before Pelusium by the approach of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, who had come to the aid of the Egyptian monarch. Upon his return, however, Sennacherib sent messengers from Lachish, and a portion of his army to Jerusalem to demand its surrender Isa 36:2. To this embassy no answer was returned by the messengers of Hezekiah Isa 36:21-22; and the messengers of Sennacherib returned to him at Libnah (see the note at Isa 37:8). At this period, Sennacherib was alarmed by the rumor that Tirhakah, whom he had so much reason to dread, was advancing against Sennacherib Isa 37:9, and again Sennacherib sent messengers to Hezekiah to induce Hezekiah to surrender, intending evidently to anticipate the news that Tirhakah was coming, and to secure the conquest of Jerusalem without being compelled to settle down before it in a long siege. This message, like the former, was unsuccessful. Hezekiah spread the case before Yahweh Isa 37:15-20, and Hezekiah received the answer that Jerusalem was safe. Sennacherib advanced to attack the city, but, in a single night 185,000 of his men were destroyed by an angel of the Lord, and he himself fled to his capital, where he was slain by his two sons Isa 37:36-38.
These events were among the most important in Jewish history. Isaiah lived during their occurrence; and a large portion of his prophecies from Isa. 14–39 are occupied with allusions to and statements of these events. Isaiah gave himself to the work of preparing the nation for them, assuring them that they would come, but that Jerusalem should be safe. Isaiah seems to have labored to inspire the mind of Hezekiah and the minds of the people with confidence in God, that when the danger should arrive, they might look to Him entirely for defense. In this Isaiah was eminently successful; and Hezekiah and the nation put unwavering confidence in God. An accurate acquaintance with the causes, and the various events connected with the overthrow of Sennacherib is indispensable to a clear understanding of the Book of Isaiah, and these causes and events I have endeavored to present in the notes at the several chapters which refer to that remarkable invasion. Soon after this, Hezekiah became dangerously ill, and Isaiah announced to him that he must die Isa 38:1. Hezekiah prayed to God for the preservation of his life, and an assurance was given to him that he would live 15 years longer Isa 38:5. In attestation of this, and as a demonstration of it, the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz was made to recede ten degrees (see the notes at Isa 38:8).
Hezekiah, after his signal success over his foe, and the entire deliverance of his kingdom from the long dreaded invasion, and his recovery from the dangerous illness, became eminently prosperous and successful. He was caressed and flattered by foreign princes, presents of great value were given to him, and he surrounded himself with the usual splendor and magnificence of an oriental monarch 2Ch 32:23, 2Ch 32:27-28. As a consequence of this, his heart was lifted up with pride; he gloried in his wealth and magnificence, and even became proud of the divine interposition in his favor. To show what was in his heart, and to humble him, he was left to display his treasures in an ostentatious manner to the ambassadors of Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon 2Ch 32:25, 2Ch 32:31, and, for this act, received the assurance that all his treasures and his family would be carried in inglorious bondage to the land from whence the ambassadors came (2Ki 20:12-18; see the notes at Isa 39:1-8). The rest of the life of Hezekiah was in peace Isa 39:8. He died at the age of 54, and was buried in the most honored of the tombs of the kings of Judah 2Ch 32:33, and was deeply lamented by a weeping people at his death.
The reign of Hezekiah stretched through a considerable portion of the prophetic ministry of Isaiah. A large part of his prophecies are, therefore, presumed to have been uttered during this reign. It is probable that to this period we are to attribute the entire series from Isa. 13–39 inclusive. The most important of Isaiah’s prophecies, from Isa. 40–66, I am disposed to assign to a subsequent period - to the reign of Manasseh. The reasons for this may be seen, in part, in section 2 of this introduction.
Hezekiah was succeeded by his son, Manasseh. The reasons for thinking that any part of the life of Isaiah was passed under the reign of this wicked prince have been stated above. He was the 15th king of Judah, and was 12 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for 55 years. It was during Manasseh’s reign, and by him, as it is commonly supposed, that Isaiah was put to death. He forsook the path of Hezekiah and David, restored idolatry, worshipped the idols of Canaan, rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah had destroyed, set up altars to Baal, and planted groves to false gods. He raised altars to the whole host of heaven even in Jerusalem and in the courts of the temple, made his son pass through the fire to Moloch, was addicted to magic and divination, set up the idol of Astarte in the house of God, and caused the people to sin in a more aggravated form than had been done by the pagans who had formerly inhabited the land of Canaan. To all this, he added cruelty in the highest degree, and ‘shed innocent blood very much, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.’ Probably most of the distinguished men of piety were cut off by him, and among them, it is supposed, was Isaiah (see 2 Kings 21; 2 Chr. 33).
So great were his crimes, that God brought upon the land the king of Assyria who took Manasseh from the hiding place where he sought a refuge amidst briers and thorns, and bound him, and carried him away to “Babylon” 2Ch 32:11 - another proof that Babylon was at this time a dependent province of the Assyrian monarchy. In Babylon, Manasseh repented of his sins and humbled himself, and he was again returned to his land and his throne. After his restoration, he removed the worship of idols, and re-established the worship of Yahweh. He built a wall on the west side of Gihon, and extended it around to Mount Ophel, and put Jerusalem in a posture of defense. He broke down and removed the altars which he himself had erected in Jerusalem and in the temple; and he removed all traces of idolatrous worship except the high places, which he still allowed to remain. There is evidence of his reformation, and the latter part of his reign appears to have passed in comparative happiness and virtue.
It was only during the early part of his reign that Isaiah lived, and there is in his prophecies no express mention made of Manasseh. If Isaiah lived during any part of it, it is evident that he withdrew entirely, or nearly so, from the public exercise of his prophetic functions, and retired to a comparatively private life. There is evidently between the close of Isa 39:1-8 of his prophecy, and the period when the latter part of his prophecies commences Isa. 40 an interval of considerable duration. It is not a violation of probability that Isaiah after the death of Hezekiah, being an old man, withdrew much from public life, that he saw and felt that there was little hope of producing reform during the impious career of Manasseh, and that, in the distress and anguish of his soul, he gave himself up to the contemplation of the happier times which would yet occur under the reign of the Messiah. It was during this period, I suppose, that Isaiah composed the latter part of his prophecies, from Isa. 40 to Isa. 66.
The nation was full of wickedness. An impious prince was on the throne. Piety was banished, and the friends of Yahweh were bleeding in Jerusalem. The nation was given up to idolatry. The kingdom was approaching the period of its predicted fall and ruin. Isaiah saw the tendency of events; he saw how hopeless the attempt at reform would be. He saw that the captivity of Babylon was hastening on, and that the nation was preparing for that gloomy event. In this dark and disastrous period, he seems to have withdrawn himself from the contemplation of the joyless present, and to have given his mind to the contemplation of happier future scenes. An interval perhaps of some 10 or 15 years may be supposed to have elapsed between his last public labors in the time of Hezekiah, and the prophecies which compose the remainder of the book.
During this interval, Isaiah may have withdrawn from public view, and fixed his mind upon the great events of future times. In his visions he sees the nation about to go into captivity. Yet he sees also that there would be a return from bondage, and he comforts the hearts of the pious with the assurance of such a return. He announces the name of the monarch by whom that deliverance would be accomplished, and gives assurance that the captive Jews would return to their own land again. But Isaiah is not satisfied with the announcement of this comparatively unimportant deliverance. With that he connects a far greater and more important deliverance, that from sin, under the Messiah. Isaiah fixes his eye, therefore, on the future glories of the kingdom of God, sees the long promised Messiah, describes his person, his work, his doctrine, and states in glowing language the effects of his coming on the happiness and destiny of mankind. As Isaiah advances in his prophetic descriptions, the deliverance from Babylon seems to die away and is forgotten or it is lost in the contemplation of the event to which it had a resemblance - the coming of the Messiah - as the morning star is lost in the superior glory of the rising sun. He throws himself forward in his descriptions, places himself amidst these future scenes, and describes them as taking place around him, and as events which he saw. He thinks and feels and acts as if he is in that period; his mind is full of the contemplation; and he pours out, in describing it, the most elevated language and the sublimest thoughts. It was in contemplations such as these, I suppose, that he passed the close of his life; and in such visions of the glorious future, that he sought a refuge from the gloom and despondency which must have filled a pious mind during the early part of the reign of the impious and blood-thirsty Manasseh.
Isaiah was contemporary with the prophets Jonah, Hosea, and Micah. They, however, performed a less important public part, and were not favored with visions of the future glory of the church like his. In a single chapter, however, the same language is used by Isaiah and by Micah; see Isa 2:2-4; compare Mic 4:1-4. In which prophet the language is original, it is impossible now to determine.
Section 4. Divisions of Isaiah
Various modes of classifying the prophecies of Isaiah have been proposed, in order to present them in the most lucid and clear manner. Gesenius divides the whole into four parts, exclusive of the historical portion Isa. 36–39; the first, comprising Isa. 1–12; the second is Isa. 13–23; the third is Isa. 24–35; and the fourth is Isa. 40–66.
Horne proposes the following division: Part I: Isa. 1–5; Part II: Isa. 7–12; Part III: Isa. 13–24; Part IV: Isa. 24–33; Part V: Isa. 36–39; Part VI: Isa. 40–66; See his Introduction, vol. ii. 157ff.
Vitringa divides the book into the following portions:
(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 Isa 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 Isa 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 Isa 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, Isa. 1.
II. Judah, its sins, Isa. 2–4.
III. Judah, a vineyard, Isa. 5.
IV. The Vision of Yahweh, Isa 6:1-13.
V. Ahaz; impending calamity; prediction of the birth and character of the Messiah, Isa. 7–9:7.
VI. Samaria, Isa 9:8-21; Isa 10:1-4.
VII. Sennacherib; deliverance from him; advent and work of the Messiah, Isa. 10:5-34; Isa. 11; Isa 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, Isa. 13; 14:1-27.
IX. Philistia, Isa 14:28-32.
X. Moab, Isa. 15–16,
XI. Damascus, Isa 17:1-11,
XII. Sennacherib, Isa 17:12-14.
XIII. Nubia, or Ethiopia, Isa 18:1-7.
XIV. Egypt, Isa. 19.
XV. Egypt and Assyria, Isa 20:1-6.
XVI. The destruction of Babylon, Isa 21:1-10.
XVII. Dumah or Idumea, Isa 21:11-12.
XVIII. Arabia, Isa 21:13-17,
XIX. Jerusalem, when about to be besieged by Sennacherib, Isa 22:1-14.
XX. The fall of Shebna, and the promotion of eliakim, Isa 22:15-25.
XXI. Tyre, Isa. 23.
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, Isa. 28.
XXIV. The siege and deliverance of Jerusalem, Isa. 29.
XXV. An alliance with Egypt condemned, Isa. 30.
XXVI. Denunciation on account of the contemplated alliance with Egypt, Isa 31:1-9.
XXVII. The virtuous and yet unsuccessful reign of Hezekiah, Isa. 32.
XXVIII. The destruction of the Assyrian army, Isa. 33.
XXIX. The destruction of Edom, and of all the enemies of God, and the final triumph and security of the people, Isa. 34; Isa 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.
Section 5. The Historical Writings of Isaiah
It is evident that Isaiah wrote more than we have in the book which bears his name. In 2Ch 26:22; it is said, ‘Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.’ But the only portion of the book of Isaiah which can with any certainty be referred to the time of Uzziah is Isa 6:1-13. And even if, as we may suppose, the five previous chapters are to be referred to his time, yet they contain no historical statement; no record of public events sufficient to constitute a history of “the acts of Uzziah, first and last.” It is therefore morally certain that there were other writings of Isaiah which we do not have in this collection of his prophecies.
Again, in 2Ch 32:32; it is said, ‘Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz.’ In the Book of Isaiah we have a record of some very important events connected with the life of Hezekiah (see Isa. 36–39). But there is no formal record of the events of the early part of his reign or of his death. What is said relates to the invasion of Sennacherib Isa. 36–37, to the sickness and recovery of Hezekiah Isa. 38, and to the visit of the ambassadors from Babylon, Isa 39:1-8. But this would scarcely deserve to be called a record, or history of his “acts,” and his “goodness,” (margin, “kindnesses”), that is, his actions or plans of beneficence to promote the happiness and piety of his people. It is not, however, upon this passage so much that reliance is to be placed to prove that he wrote other documents, as on the passage quoted from 2 Kings.
In regard to these historical records which are not now found in the Book of Isaiah, there can be only two opinions:
(1) One is that they are lost, that they formed a part of the record of times which was then of value, and which was lost when more full and complete records were made in the Books of Kings and Chronicles. Many such writings are mentioned which are now lost or which are not found under the names of their authors. Thus, we have accounts of the writings of Gad, and Iddo the Seer, and Nathan, and the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilomite, and the Book of Jehu 1Ch 29:29; 2Ch 9:29; 2Ch 20:34; 1Ki 16:1, all of which are now lost, unless they have come down to us under some other name. Nor is there any improbability that some portions of the once-inspired writings are lost. They may have been inspired to accomplish a certain object; and, when that goal was gained, they may have been lost or destroyed as not further necessary, or as superseded by superior clearness of revelation. No man can tell why it should be regarded as more improbable that divine communications which are written should be lost when they have accomplished their purpose, than it is that divine communications spoken should be lost. In the mere act of writing, there is no special sacredness that should make it necessary to preserve it. And yet no one can doubt (compare Joh 21:25) that a very large portion of what our blessed Lord spoke, who always spoke inspired truth, is now irrecoverably lost. It never was recorded, and there can be no impropriety in supposing that portions of truth that have been recorded have likewise perished. The whole Bible will be consumed in the conflagration of the last day - but truth will live on. God has preserved, with remarkable care, as much truth as He saw was necessary to illuminate and edify His church to the end of time. There is, however, no indispensable necessity of supposing that in fact any part of the sacred record has been destroyed. For,
(2) The records which were made by Isaiah, Iddo, Nathan, Ahijah, etc., may have been public documents that were laid up in the archives of the state, and that were subsequently incorporated into the historical books which we now have. It is probable that the history of each reign was recorded by a prophet, a scribe, or a “historiographer” (see the note at Isa 36:3). From the following extract from the travels of Mr. Bruce, it is evident that such an officer is known in modern times as attached to a court. The extract will also be descriptive of the duties of such an officer, and perhaps may be regarded as descriptive of some of the functions discharged by the prophets. ‘The king has near his person an officer who is meant to be his historiographer. He is also keeper of his seal; and is “obliged to make a journal of the king’s actions, good or bad, without comment of his own upon them.”
This, when the king dies, or at least soon after, is delivered to the council, who read it over, and erase everything false in it, while they supply every material fact that may have been omitted, whether purposely or not.’ Travels, vol. ii. p. 596. Such a record is also kept of all the sayings and purposes of the Emperor of China by an officer appointed for this purpose. It is carefully made, and sealed up during his life, and is not opened until he dies. This is regarded in that empire as an important public security that the Emperor will say or do nothing that he will be unwilling should be known by posterity; see the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, “China.” It would seem probable, therefore, that this is an oriental custom extensively prevalent. There is every reason to believe that a part of these royal biographies, or records of important events in each reign, were written by prophets (see the analysis of Isa. 36).
These records would be deposited in the archives of state, and would be regarded as authentic documents, and placed under the custody of proper officers. When the connected history of the nation came to be written; when the Books of the “Kings” and the “Chronicles” were composed, nothing would be more natural than to take these documents or historical records, and arrange and embody them as a part of the sacred history. They may have been incorporated entire into the narratives which we now have; and the name of the writer simply referred to as the “authority” for the document, or to preserve the recollection of the original author of each fragment or part of the history. This I regard as by far the most probable supposition. And, if this is correct, then we still have substantially the portions of history which were composed by Isaiah, Gad, etc., and they have been, with perhaps some slight changes necessary to constitute a continuous narrative, or to supply some omissions, incorporated into the historical records which we now possess. These requisite changes may have been made by Ezra when the canon of the Old Testament was completed. The reasons for this opinion may be seen more at length in the analysis of Isa. 36.
Section 6. Quotations of Isaiah in the New Testament
Isaiah refers more fully to the times of the Messiah than any other of the prophets. It is natural, therefore, to expect to find his writings often quoted or appealed to in the New Testament. The frequency of the reference, and the manner in which it is done, will show the estimate in which he was held by the Saviour and by the apostles. It may also contribute in some degree to the explanation of some of the passages quoted to have them convenient for reference, or for examination. The meaning of Isaiah may be often determined by the inspired statement of the event referred to in the New Testament; and the meaning of a New Testament writer llkewise by a reference to the passage which he quotes. In regard to these quotations, also, it may be of use to bear in remembrance that a portion is made directly and literally from the Hebrew, and agrees also with the Septuagint version, or is in the words of the Septuagint; a portion agrees with the Hebrew in sense but not in words; a portion is made from the Septuagint translation even when the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew; and in some cases there is a bare allusion to a passage. It may be useful to furnish a classification of the entire passages which are quoted in the New Testament, under several heads, that they may be seen at one view, and may be compared at leisure. For this selection and arrangement, I am mainly indebted to Horne. Introduction vol. ii. p. 343ff:
So numerous are these quotations, and so entirely do the writings of Isaiah harmonize with those of the New Testament, that it may be regarded almost as an indispensable part of the work of explaining the New Testament to explain Isaiah. They seem to be parts of the same work; and an exposition of the apostles and evangelists can hardly be deemed complete without the accompaniment of the evangelical prophet.
Section 7. The Character and Nature of Prophecy
1. The words “prophet” and “prophecy” are used in the Bible in a larger sense than they are commonly with us. We have attached, in common usage, to the word “prophet,” the idea simply of one who foretells future events,προφήτης prophētēs from πρόφημι prophēmi, “to speak before, to foretell.” To a correct understanding of the prophetic functions, and of the writings of the prophets, however, it is necessary to bear in remembrance that the office of foretelling future events comprised only a small portion of their public duties. They were the messengers of God to His people and to the world. They were appointed to make known His will, to denounce His judgments, to rebuke the crimes of rulers and people, to instruct in the doctrines of religion, and generally to do whatever was necessary in order to effectually promulgate the will of God. The prophet was, therefore, a man who was commissioned to teach and rebuke kings and nations, as well as to predict future events.
With the idea of a prophet there is necessarily connected the idea that he spoke not his own thoughts, but that what he uttered was only received directly from God in one of the modes in which that will was made known. He was God’s ambassador to people; and, of course, was a man who was raised up or designated by God Himself. He was not trained for this office, since a man could not be trained for inspiration; though it was a matter of fact that several of the prophets were taken from the “school of the prophets,” or from among the “sons of the prophets;” 1Ki 20:35; 2Ki 2:3, 2Ki 2:5,2Ki 2:7, 2Ki 2:15; 2Ki 4:1, 2Ki 4:38; 2Ki 5:22; 2Ki 6:1. Yet the choice from among them of anyone to perform the functions of the prophet under divine inspiration, seems to have been incidental, and not in a uniform mode. A large part of the prophets had no connection with those schools. Those schools were doubtless usually under the direction of some inspired man, and were probably designed to train those educated there for the functions of public teachers, of for the stations of learning under the theocracy; but they could not have been regarded as intended to train for that function which depended wholly upon the direct inspiration of God.
The word rendered “prophet,”נביא nâbîy', is derived from נבא nâbâ', not used in the Qal, which is probably, according to Gesenius, the same as נבע nâba‛ - the (ע) sound being softened into (א) - and which means “to boil up, to boil forth,” as a fountain; hence, to pour forth words as they do who speak with fervour of mind, or under divine inspiration. The word, therefore, properly means, to speak under a special fervor, animation, inspiration of mind produced by a divine influence; to speak, either in foretelling future events, or denouncing the judgments of God when the mind was full, and when the excited and agitated spirit of the prophet poured forth words, as water is driven from the fountain.
But the word also denotes all the forms or modes in which the prophet communicated the will of God, or discharged the functions of the prophetic office. Hence, it is used to denote:
(1) the predicting of future events (see Taylor’s Hebrew Concordance or Cruden’s Concordance);
(2) to speak in the name of God, or as His messenger, and by His authority, Exo 7:1; Exo 4:16;
(3) to chant or sing sacred praises to God while under a divine infiuence-- 1Sa 10:11; 1Sa 19:20 : 1Ch 25:3 -- because this was often done by the inspired prophets;
(4) to rave, as, for example, to utter the frantic ravings of the prophets of Baal, 1Ki 18:29; 1Sa 18:10.
This latter meaning is in accordance with the customs among the pagan, where the prophet or the prophetess professed to be full of the divine influence, and where that influence was manifested by writhings and contortions of the body, or by a pretended suspension of the powers of conscious agency, and the manifestation of conduct not a little resembling the ravings of delirium. Hence, the Greeks applied the wordμαντις mantis, (from μάινομαι mainomai “to be mad, to rave, to be delirious”) to the frenzied manner of the soothsayers, prophetic oracles, etc. It is possible that the true prophets, occasionally under the power of inspiration, exhibited similar agitations and spasmodic affections of the body (compare Num 24:4; Eze 1:28; Dan 10:8-10; 1Sa 19:24; Jer 20:7), and that this was imitated by the false prophets. The two main ideas in the word “prophecy” relate:
(a) to the prediction of future events, and
(b) to declaring the will of God, denouncing vengeance, threatening punishment, reproving the wicked, etc., under the influence of inspiration, or by a divine impulse.
II. In order to obtain a clear idea of the nature of prophecy, it is important to have a correct apprehension of the modes in which God communicated His will to the prophets, or of the manner in which they were influenced, and affected by the prophetic “afflatus” or inspiration. Of course, all the light which can be obtained on this subject is to be derived from the Scriptures; but the subject is involved still in much obscurity. Perhaps the following will include all the modes in which the will of God was made known to the prophets, or in which they received a knowledge of what they were to communicate to others.
(1) a direct commission by an audible voice from heaven, spoken in a solemn manner, and in circumstances in which there could be no doubt of the call. Thus, Moses was called by God at the bush, Exo 3:2-6; Isaiah in the temple, Isa 6:8 ff.; Samuel by God, 1Sa 3:4, 1Sa 3:6,1Sa 3:8, 1Sa 3:10; Jeremiah, Jer. 1; Eze 1:3; and perhaps Joel in Joe 1:1; Amo 1:1; Jonah, Jon 1:1; Micah, Mic 1:1; etc. In these cases there was no doubt on the mind of the prophet of his call, since it was usually in such circumstances, and probably in such a manner, as to leave the fullest demonstration that it was from God. There is no evidence, however, that the whole message was usually communicated to the mind of the prophet in this manner. Perhaps the first call to the prophetic office was made in this mode, and the nature of the message imparted in the manner that will be specified soon. All that is essential to the correct understanding of this is that there was a CLEAR designation to the prophetic function.
(2) the will of God was made known by dreams. Instances of this kind are common in the Sacred Scriptures, as one of the earliest modes of communication between God and the soul. The idea seems to be that the senses were locked up, and that the soul was left free to hold communication with the invisible world, and to receive the expressions of the will of God. The belief that God made known His will in this manner was by no means confined to the Jewish nation. God informed Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was the wife of Abraham, Gen 20:3, Gen 20:6. Joseph was early favored with prophetic dreams which were so clear in their signification as to be easily interpreted by his father and brethren, Gen 37:4-6. The butler and baker in Egypt both had dreams predicting their future destiny, Gen 40:5; and Pharaoh had a dream of the future condition of Egypt, which was interpreted by Joseph, Gen 41:7, Gen 41:25. God spoke to Jacob in a dream, Gen 31:11; and it was in a dream that He made His promise to impart wisdom to Solomon, 1Ki 3:5. Nebuchadnezzar had dreams festering his future destiny, and the kingdoms that should arise after him, Dan 2:1, Dan 2:5; and the will of God was made known to Daniel in a dream, Dan 1:17; Dan 7:1. God expressly declared that He would make known His will by dreams. Num 12:6 - ‘If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.’ Thus also in Joe 2:28 - ‘Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.’ The false prophets pretended also to have dreams which conveyed them the will of God. The ancient belief on this subject is expressed in most sublime manner in the language of Elihu as addressed to Job:
For God speaketh once,
Yea, twice, when man regardeth it not;
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falleth upon men,
In slumberings upon the bed--
Then he openeth the ears of men,
And sealeth up for them admonition,
That he may turn man from his purpose,
And remove pride from man.
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,” Isa 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 Eze 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. Jer 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 1Sa 19:20, ‘The Spirit of God was upon the messengers (of Saul) and they also prophesied.’ In 1Sa 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 Gen 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, Num 24:4, Num 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 Godἐν 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, Rev 1:17, ‘And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.’ So of Ezekiel (Eze 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 Dan 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 Dan 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 2Ki 9:11; Jer 29:26. The nature of the strong prophetic impulse is perhaps indicated also in the expression in 2Pe 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 Jer 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 1Co 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, 1Co 14:29-31, 1Co 14:33, 1Co 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 Isa 1:1, and in 2Ch 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, Num 24:4, Num 24:16; 1Sa 3:1; 2Sa 7:17; Pro 29:18; Oba 1:1; Isa. 21; Isa 22:1, Isa 22:5; Jer 14:14; Lam 2:9; Eze 7:13; Dan 2:19; Dan 7:2; Dan 8:1, Dan 8:13, Dan 8:16-17, Dan 8:26; Dan 9:21, Dan 9:23-24; Dan 10:1, Dan 10:7-8, Dan 10:14, Dan 10:16; 2Ch 9:29; Eze 1:1. The prophets are called “Seers”ראים ro'îym; and חזים chozîym, and their prophecies are designated by words which denote that which is seen, as חזיון chîzzâyôn, 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, 1Sa 3:1 : ‘And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision’ -נפרץ חזון châzôn nîperâts - 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. Num 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.’ Num 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, Eze 1:1, ‘The heavens were opened, and I saw the visions of God;’ Eze 8:3; Eze 40:2, ‘In visions he brought me to the land of Israel,’ compare Luk 1:22.
(c) Instances where it is applied to dreams: Dan 2:19, Dan 2:28; Dan 4:5; Dan 7:2; Dan 8:1, Dan 8:13, Dan 8:16-17, Dan 8:26-27; Dan 9:21, Dan 9:23-24; Gen 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, Isa 21:6; compare Isa 21:8, Isa 21:11; Mic 7:4; compare Jer 6:17; Eze 3:17; Eze 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 Isa 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 Isa 6:1-5, compare Joh 12:41, he sees him as the Lord of glory, sitting on a throne, and filling the temple. In Isa 7:14, he sees him as a child, the son of a virgin. In Isa 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 Isa 9:6-7, he sees him as the exalted Prince, the Ruler, the mighty God, the Father of eternity. In Isa. 11 he sees him as the descendant of Jesse - a tender sprout springing up from the stump of an ancient decayed tree. In Isa 25:8, he sees him as destroying death, and introducing immortality; compare 1Co 15:54. In Isa 35:1-10 the happy effects of his reign are seen; in Isa 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 Isa 7:14; compare Isa 8:8; Isa 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 Isa 9:6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Isa 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,: Isa 53:2-3. Thus, in Isa 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,” Isa 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.; Isa 52:14-15; Isa 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 Isa 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 Isa 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 Dan 9:26-27.
(c) Events are apparently connected together, which in fact were to be separated by long intervals. Thus, Isa. 11 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 Isa 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 Isa 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 Matt. 2.
(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.
Section 8. Works that Are Illustrative of Isaiah
Probably no book of the Bible has occupied so much the attention of critics, of commentators, and of private Christians, as Isaiah. The beauty, grandeur, and power of his prophecies; their highly evangelical character; the fact that they are so frequently quoted in the New Testament; the number and minuteness of his predictions in regard to cities and kingdoms; as well as the intrinsic difficulty of many portions of his writings, all have contributed to this. Of the numerous works which may be consulted in reading, or in explaining Isaiah, the following are among the principal:
I. The Ancient Versions.
(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, Isa 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 Isa 17:12-14; Isa 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 (Isa. 2; Isa 4:1-6; Isa. 7; Isa 8:2-3; Isa 9:1-6; Isa. 11; Isa 12:1-6; Isa. 40 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; Isa. 23 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 Isa 16:1-14; Isa. 34. 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.