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The same judicious critic has also shewn that there is really a deepseated sameness of character pervading all the works attributed to Isaiah; and this he establishes by a minute investigation. Gesenius, indeed, (in his Commentar über den Jesaia, iii. Theil, Einleit. pp. 1-4, 18-33,) has taken a similar course of dissecting style, and deduces the opposite conclusion; but I must confess that he appears to me to be partial, prejudiced, and unduly wedded to his system.
But to attribute these compositions to the period of the return from the captivity, is about as reasonable as it would be to maintain that the Orations of Cicero were written in the age of Vopiscus. “The language is so pure, the style so elevated, the whole method and character of composition so beautiful, as might be justly expected from the times of Hezekiah or Manasseh, and from the genius of Isaiah himself; but could not, without the strongest liistorical proof, [of which not a particle is pretended] be ascribed to the declining age under and after the captivity.-An extremely sınall number of expressions, of which examples do not occur in the undisputed writings of Isaiah or his contemporaries, are not a proof of a later age; for it cannot be imagined that, in the few Hebrew writings which remain of the age of Isaiah, we have all the words and phrases then in use.” (Juhn's Einleitung", II. ii. 485.)
“ The style of Isaiah is so beautiful, so majestic, so different from any of the compositions which we find at the termination of the Babylonish oppressions, and so free from foreign words which are often found in the later writers, that to suppose the prophecies concerning Babylon to have been written in the first year of Cyrus, is as improbable as Harduin's notion, that the finest Odes of Horace were the work of inonks in the barbarous middle ages. In the Babylonish captivity, the Hebrew language lost all its beauty and magnificence. Even Ezekiel, who lived in the early part of the captivity at Chaboras, no one can call elegant; nor Daniel, though he resided at court. The former has also a multitude of Chaldaisms in matters of grammar; and the latter, various foreign words, which do not occur before his time. Ezra and Nehemiah write very inferior Hebrew. Among the prophets who lived after the return, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, there is not one whose style is pleasing, though Zecharialı has some fine imagery. But the prophecies of Isaiah are, next to Job and the poetry of Moses, the most splendid compositions in the Hebrew language." (Michuelis Anmerkung zum Jes. xiii.)
But there is much positive evidence which Gesenius treats too lightly. I give this very brief sketch of it, chiefly from Jahn's Einleitung.
i. There is every where as much similarity in the modes of thought and expression as can reasonably be expected in any author, through so long a period of life, and having his feelings and style affected by so gr variety of circumstances and subjects. His favourite sources of imagery are every where the same: from trees and forests, cedars, pines, oaks, planes, myrtles ;- light and darkness, and the heavenly bodies;—the pangs of child-birth; the state of primeval innocence, as ch. xi. 6, lxv. 25,
xxxv., xliii. 20, li. 3.-Every where, he commences a prediction by rushing into the heart of the subject. --Frequently, hymns or odes of devotion are introduced in the course of the prophetic declarations; as in ch. V., xii., xiv. 4-23, xxv., xxvi., xxvii., xlv. 8, 15, lxi. 10, Ixiv.; or references and exhortations to them; as ch. xlii. 10, xliv. 23, xlix. 13, li. 11, lii. 9, liv., lxiii. 7.-Every where is the same mixture of clearness and obscurity;
- the same repetition of cognate ideas ; some peculiar expressions, which occur rarely or not at all in other parts of the Hebrew Bible, are found throughout the whole book; – the threatenings and the promises have, throughout, a remarkable resemblance.
ii. The language is not tinctured with Chaldaisms ;-it is not like that of Jeremiah and Ezekiel ;-it is extremely unlike all the existing monuments of Hebrew composition in the age of the captivity and the period ensuing. I must, however, remark that Gesenius brings near twenty examples, and some of them occurring several times, of what he deems Lower Hebrew or Chaldaizing acceptations of words. His skill as an Orientalist, and especially as a Hebrew scholar, is indeed surpassingly great : but I must be allowed to repeat my apprehension that he labours under strong prejudices.
iii. There is an unaffected similarity of plan and arrangement between the earlier and the later parts of the book. As the narrative in ch. vii. of danger from the Assyrians, is followed by predictions concerning that nation, beginning abruptly, ch. viii. to xii.; so the narrative in ch. xxxix. concerning Babylon, is followed by abrupt predictions relating to Babylon, ch. xl., &c. In both instances, the predictions are interspersed with doctrines and prophecies concerning the Messiah. As, in the former part, the predictions concerning Assyria predominate; so, in the latter, a similar ascendancy is given to those which refer to Babylon and the subjects growing out of the captivity. The mournful declaration in the inaugural vision, ch. vi. 9, 10, meets with a correspondent fulfilment in ch. xl. 27, xlii. 16, 19, 23, xlviii. 4, xlix. 4, liii. 1. The descriptions of irreligion, impiety, idolatry, child-sacrificing, and profligacy, with which the nation, and especially its rulers and nobles, are charged, (ch. lvi. to lix.,) admit of no application to the state of the Jews in or after the captivity; but are in perfect verisimilitude with all that the Old-Testament history informs us upon their moral state in the reign of Manasseh; and they have both the resemblances and the differences which are reasonably to be expected in comparison with the moral state of the nation under Ahaz, described in ch. i. and iii.
iv. Though in ch. lxiv. 10, 11, Jerusalem and the temple are pictured as burned and ruined, (in prophetic vision, as we conceive,) yet in lxvi. 6, the temple is mentioned as standing. Now this must have been the temple of Solomon; for upon the return there was none, and no hint ever occurs relative to the obligation of building a new temple, the subject so predominant in the books of Haggai and Zechariah.
v. Our Divine LORD and his inspired followers, in several passages, (Matt. iii. 3, xii. 17-21; Luke iii. 4, iv. 17; John i. 23, xii. 38; Acts viii. 28–35; Rom. x. 20, 21,) have quoted the latter part of this book as Isaiah's, expressly by name. This I conscientiously take as decisive; for I can by no means satisfy myself to dispose of this authority as Gesenius, though by no means the worst of his party, does : “ The writers of the New Testament speak in the expressions which were at that time generally used, without having made any investigation into these critical questions."
I add one remark more. The favourite object of the critics whose hypothesis has occasioned this tedious note, is not gained by even allowing them what they contend for. That object, with regard to most of them, is to annihilate all revealed or divinely-inspired prophecy. See pp. 6, 7, of this Discourse. But many particulars, especially respecting the fates of Babylon and Tyre, the Messiah and his kingdom, and the attraction of the Gentiles to the true religion, lay in the far distant future at the time of the return from the exile, quite as effectively as in the time of Isaiah, one hundred and sixty years before. It is true that the writers alluded to put forth all the strength of their philology and criticism, to pervert the meaning of the passages in question : but it will not, I hope, be deemed inconsistent with modesty in me to remark that, including Gesenius, the last and greatest of them all, they have signally failed. “ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
Michaelis's Annotation on Ps. xviii. 13, is deserving of being cited here, not only for its immediate application, but because it may suggest a wider range of useful hints for the interpretation of other passages.
This passage receives illustration from the description in Ezekiel i. of the chariot in which God is represented as riding upon the clouds. As the flashes of lightning dart from the clouds without ever seeming to be exhausted, the poetical idea of the Hebrews was that, in the midst of the clouds, there existed a repository of fire and burning coals, and that the clouds themselves were a kind of sea of ice or a vast collection of hail-stones, which, when melted by the interior repository of fire, overflowed and fell to the earth in drops of rain. It would betray a great ignorance of the spirit and art of poetry, for any man to understand these descriptions literally, or to complain of the poet because he does not construct his descriptions in the strictest terms of physical accuracy. It is not his object to explain the theory of Meteorology in a philosophical lecture-room; but it is what it ought to be, to draw a poetical picture of a storm, as it appears to the senses; and which was indeed the actual opinion of the generality. Exactly so do our finest painters and poets even now proceed: and it must be either ignorance or an unjust enmity to the Bible, which leads any to make those things matter of oh
jection to the Scriptures, which are admired as beauties in those poets who are regarded as the undisputed models of good taste.”
In the splendid imagery of Habakkuk, quoted in the Discourse, there is a ineasure of the same sensible ideas, but with an allusion to the awful phænomena which attended the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
The remarkable passage, Zechariah xiv. 4, is evidently the description of an earthquake; but it is poetically represented as produced by the descent of the Almighty, imagined as in a human form of immense magnitude and grandeur, at the touch of whose feet the mountain gives way and is shivered to pieces. If I may venture to give an opinion upon the interpretation of this passage, I must say that to me the reference appears to be the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, plainly described in ver. 3. The earthquake is the usual prophetic symbol to express a revolution. The particular mention of the mount of Olives associates in our minds the origin and diffusion of Christianity, as taking place in connexion with the subversion of the Jewish state ; and the symbol in ver. 8, of “the living waters,” with other parts of the scenery, coincides with this general idea. The entire passage is certainly difficult ; but I venture to think that no interpretation can be just but such as shall proceed upon the ground of impartially translating the established emblems into their known significations.
Note G, p. 34. A difficulty to this interpretation presents itself, in the occurrence of “ Moab,” apparently in the vocative form, in ver. 4. But it appears absolutely impossible to construe the passage so: for nothing can well be clearer than that vers. 2—4 contain the supplication of “the daughters of Moab," that is, the fugitive population, standing on the bank of the frontier-river, and imploring Judæa to grant them an asylum. Either, therefore, we must take Moab as introduced in apposition with the possessive pronoun, q. d. “Let the Moabites, mine outcasts, dwell with thee;" or, by an extremely slight alteration in one vowel-point, which is sanctioned by the Septuagint and the Syriac Version, we may read “Moab's outcasts.”
G. SMALLFIELD, PRINTER, HACKNEY.
SYNOPTIC TABLE OF THE PROPHETS,
THE CONTEMPORARY KINGS OF JUDÆA
THE OTHER STATES CONNECTED WITH THE TIMES AND
HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS.
The first column expresses the year before the Christian Era in which it is supposed that each Prophet commenced his public ministry; and the figures, placed after the names of some of the Prophets, denote the estimated period during which the public office of each continued, or through which the delivery of his extant predictions or other writings appears to extend. Where no such figure is subjoined, it is to be understood that either there are no intimations of the time, or that it was short.