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In this national emergency the prophet Isaiah again appears—and again in all that dignity and energy which always distinguished him. With characteristic force and beauty, he personified “the daughter Isaiah's of Zion, as laughing" her invader “ to scorn;" he showed, with prophecy. singular ability and propriety, the causes of the weakness of those nations whom Sennacherib had enslaved, in their idolatry; and he promised a miraculous and speedy overthrow of the large army which this imperious invader had sent against Jerusalem. Accordingly, it is said, “ the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp Destruction of the Assyrians, 185,000 men,” in a single night. Whether this Assyrians. destruction were effected by a spiritual, or by a natural instrument, it is still miraculous: since the prediction of such a fact, and the timing of it, argue, beyond question, a divine and immediate agency. We dare not say, that this slaughter was not effected by an angel ; more especially as we have learned always to respect the language of revelation ; and never to depart from its simple import, excepting in cases in which the expressions are evidently figurative, and accord with the common forms of oriental metaphor. The most likely opinion, on the part of those who understand by the term “ angel of the Lord,” only a delegated natural cause, is, that it was the simoom, or fiery blast of the desert, which surprised them; which often extends to the width of half a mile, which is peculiarly fatal to persons sleeping, and which affects those who survive with a languor and depression of spirits, that render them incapable of exertions, and overwhelm them with cowardice and despondency. The result was, that the army of Sennacherib was so diminished, that he was compelled to retreat; and, after his return to his kingdom, he was slain in the house of his idol, by two of his own sons. The alarming sickness of Hezekiah happened so near this time, Sickness of
Hezekiah. that it is not easy to determine absolutely, whether it occurred during the investment of Jerusalem by the army of Sennacherib, or after his defeat. The language of the prophet seems to decide in favour of the former; since, in promising the pious monarch an His addition of fifteen years to his life, he adds, “and I will deliver recovery. thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city.” Such an indisposition, at such a moment, must have added to the distress occasioned by the invasion in an inconceivable degree. The whole history is very singular; the first annunciation of approaching death; then the rescinding the sentence at the supplication of the dying monarch; the addition of fifteen years to his life; the number of years being precisely specified ; and finally, the miraculous sign by which this prolongation of his days was accompanied. We can add nothing to these facts, beyond the authority of the sacred writings, and the assurance that these things were well known at the time, as is evident from the embassy of congratulation from Babylon. But it is doubtful whether the Dial of dial of Ahaz were any thing more than a flight of steps in his
sion of the shadow.
palace, so constructed that the rays of the sun fell upon them during the day, throwing the shadow in different directions, which was noted in the different stages of its progress, and divided into spaces, sufficiently accurate to determine the larger Jewish divisions
of time since we read nothing of dials, constructed as such, in an Retrogres- age so remote as that of Hezekiah. As to the method of the per
formance of the miracle, there is no necessity to imagine a retrogression of the earth's motion, (which is, however, held by no less a man than Archbishop Usher,) since the inflection of the solar rays would produce all the results of this phenomenon. We held a different opinion relative to the miracle of Joshua, principally, because such a solution did not appear to us reconcileable with the Scripture narrative; also, that it seemed inadequate as a cause to the effect stated; in this instance, no contradiction of the sacred history is involved—the explanation is adequate to the phenomenon, and while it is unnecessary to multiply difficulties in the discussion of miracles, as to their mode, the event itself is no less miraculous for this interpretation, if we consider the occasion on which it was wrought, and the time at which it took place; on the recovery of Hezekiah, and as a confirmation of God's word, by the mouth of his
servant. Embassy of The mission of the Babylonians to inquire after the circumstances Babylonians of the king's recovery, seems to indicate that they had only reached
this people by report, and that their attention was not called to them by any astronomical observations, for the knowledge of which they were celebrated. It is merely said, that Merodach-baladan had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. Had there been a suspension of the earth's motion, the effect must have been universal, and could not have escaped the notice of such accurate students of astronomy as were the Chaldeans. Two things are, however, evident; and these are sufficient to the history and the occasion; it was a sign perfectly demonstrative of the divine mission of the prophet, and it was, on every hypothesis, a miracle wrought by the immediate interposition of God. We should not, however, omit to state, that some writers have thought that the astronomical effect of the miracle in question contributed to bring the Babylonian embassy to Jerusalem, to inquire more fully into the circumstances of the case.
This complimentary embassy from the king of Babylon became a snare to Hezekiah, and furnished an occasion for a prediction of the after ruin of his kingdom, which was then approaching; while it afforded, in the issue, a memorable example of his resignation to the Divine will.
About this time, ISAIAH received directions to walk naked and barefoot three years, as a type of the approaching degradation of Egypt and Ethiopia, by the hand of the king of Assyria. This circumstance illustrates a singular fact connected with prophecy. The prophets accompanied their predictions, by divine direction, Prophetical. with certain signs attached to persons, or things, and chiefly to symb themselves, which were as strikingly expressive of the events signified, as their ordinary language was bold in figure, and accurate in description. Isaiah, who abounded in majesty of diction, sublimity of thought, and richness of imagery, seems, in this solitary instance, to have taken the typical mode of conveying his predictions; while Ezekiel employs chiefly this method of instruction. Both acted unquestionably under the direction of the same Spirit; it was the language of symbols, where that of words failed ; and it is highly interesting thus to observe it used by some of the first writers of antiquity.
We ventured to say, that the predictions of Isaiah would be found, upon close inspection, to bear respect to certain historical facts, connected with the age in which he lived, which were not, however, specified by himself. His prophecies principally related to Tyre, Edom, Babylon, Egypt, and the Messiah. This last and most numerous class of his predictions, must be considered as common property—the Saviour, like the air which we breathe, and the sun which shines upon us, is not the right exclusively of any nation, but, as he was declared to be, the wealth of the world—“ a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.” With each of the other subjects the Jews had a peculiar relation, which was especially intimate at this part of their history. Tyre had Tyre. furnished them with workmen to consummate that temple which was the wonder of the world; and Solomon had brought them into an alliance with that enterprising state, although the peculiar habits of the Jews restrained their intercourse with other nations. This bond of friendship was soon to be broken. “Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre? the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth? The Lord of Hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.”-Édom, Edom. the possession of Esau, who ought to have felt sympathy with the posterity of Jacob, had exulted, with the most cruel malignity, in their misfortunes; and was not forgotten in the day of retribution. As the glory of Israel and Judah waned, this unnatural people aided in their oppressions. At this part, therefore, of the history of the Jews, we may judge of the force and effect of the prophet's denunciations against the Edomites.
Egypt had been always the resort of the Jews, when she was not Egypt. their tyrant. An undue confidence had been placed in this power. It seems as though the impression of her strength and superiority, derived from the bondage of their ancestors, had remained from age to age; and this feeling was certainly strengthened by the rank which Egypt held, as well for literature as for military glory, among the nations. But her sun had touched the meridian; and that orb,
which had illuminated the world, was now visibly on the decline,
with him the dynasty shall cease-terminates the majesty and terror of the delineation. Such are the leading predictions of the book of Isaiah, relative to the destiny of different empires; and it will be at once apparent to every reflecting mind, how closely allied these were with the events of his day, and the interests of his country, although certainly not influenced by them.
It remains to give a brief, but comprehensive view of the substance of his prophecies. As to the order, it is of little consequence to disturb the form in which they are presented, since it differs chronologically, in no important particular, from the course of the predictions. They shall, however, be stated in their actual succes- Chronologision, which will require an inconsiderable transposition of the cal order of
Isaiah's chapters. The prophecies open in the year 760 B.C. with an prophecies. affecting representation of the rebellions of Judah against God; a B.c. 760. dignified remonstrance against their hypocritical forms of worship, Prophecies while the power of religion was absent, and a lively contrast between against the national ruin which impended, and their future restoration, together with the universal beneficence which should characterize the reign of the Messiah. These prophecies occupy five chapters, in the course of which he furnishes some curious illustrations of the dress and manners of oriental nations, in his description of the female ornaments which were to be taken away; and exhibits the care of the Deity and the ingratitude of the Jews, under the beautiful parable of an unfruitful vineyard.
About two years subsequently he had the vision which is recorded Isaiah's in the 6th chapter, and the sublimity of which induced Saurin and vision. his Continuators to give it the pre-eminence in his critical and theological discourses on the Bible ; making it the centre around which all the remarks upon Isaiah and his prophecies revolved, in that laborious work. It is, indeed, an object of primary moment, whether we consider it as containing the credentials of the mission of this prophet to his countrymen, or whether we contemplate it as the point upon which the Evangelist fixed; thus ratifying its transcendent majesty, when he said of the Messiah, that “ Esaias beheld HIS glory.” And it may not be amiss to remark here, that visions Visions dis
tinguished and dreams, in prophetic communications, were perfectly distin- fir guishable—the circumstances of the two being essentially and entirely different, and the impressions of the former being greatly superior to those produced by the latter. Dreams were inspirations imparted when the prophet was asleep, the character and congruity of which distinguished them from the romantic and heterogeneous combinations of the fancy. Visions surprised the prophet when he was awake, and without suspending the ordinary functions of the senses or the understanding, absorbed them wholly in visionary scenes, inaccessible to others, but so powerfully operating upon the mind of the prophet, as to abstract him from all surrounding objects. This was sometimes accompanied by an actual transportation of his