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external signs of distress or degradation—as when Isaiah walked naked, or but partially clothed, and barefoot. Many writers, however, maintain that these things merely passed in vision to the prophets, and were not real transactions; and to this opinion some considerable probability at least may be attached.
With regard to the peculiar nature of prophetic inspiration, it would be unsuitable here to enter upon those controversies which have arisen from this subject. The prophet's understanding seems in general to have been influenced, rather than his fancy or passions, though in some instances, doubtless, all were engaged. That he was himself sensible of a divine control is obvious, and fully capable of appreciating its reality, by the distinctness and grandeur of the impressions ; but what might have been the peculiar mode of its communication cannot always be ascertained : probably sometimes by one method, sometimes by another-in dreams, and visions, and voices, and angelic messengers, and secret, but infallible impulses. By these means they were enabled to record accurately what they had seen, what was past, or what was yet to come. Generally, it is probable, the sense, or matter, rather than the precise words, was conveyed, a supposition which is justified by noticing that our Saviour wholly quotes the prophecies in this manner, and not with verbal accuracy: but, in many cases of express supernatural communication, the very words themselves were doubtless inscribed upon the prophet's memory, and conveyed by his pen to his page. While in no case were they permitted to err, this statement of the nature of the inspiration admits of that diversity of style which is observable in their writings, as comporting entirely with the uniformity of truth.
The following Table of the order and time of the appearance of the Jewish Prophets, accords with that of Archbishop NEWCOME, who follows, as we have done, with some slight variations, the chronology of Blair's Tables.
THE PROPHETS, IN THEIR SUPPOSED ORDER. [CHAP, XVI.
THE PROPHETS, IN THEIR SUPPOSED ORDER OF TIME.
Micah, ......Between 758 and 699, Jotham
"| Pekah and Hoshea.
Probably towards the Nahum, .... Between 720 and 698, close of Hezekiah's Overthrown.
reign, Zephaniah, Between 640 and 609, 'n
In the reign of Josiah,
chap. i. 1, Jeremiah,... Between 628 and 586, 1
se | In the thirteenth year
THE ILLUSTRIOUS WOMEN OF ANCIENT ISRAEL.
In pursuing the general course of Sacred History and Biography, we have hitherto referred, in an incidental manner only, to certain individuals of the female sex, some of whom, on account of their position, as well as their personal peculiarities, demand a more distinct consideration. Instruction may be gained from a view both of their virtues and their faults, which, with characteristic impartiality, are detailed in the Scripture narrative.
SARAH. It seems remarkable that Sarah, the wife of Abraham, should be B.C. 1920 celebrated in the epistle to the Hebrews for her faith, while in the Sarah.. history in Genesis her unbelief is so strikingly represented; for she Gen Vill.i. even laughed at the intimation of the heavenly messenger that she should have a son. This circumstance has induced some commentators to maintain that it is not the faith of Sarah, but of Abraham that is commended, as connected with the birth of a child in extreme age. But the very determinate character of the expression seems to forbid this, for it is said, “ Sarah herself (xali avtn za boce) received strength.” Besides the promised seed was appropriated to her no less than to Abraham ; “I will bless her, and she shall Gen. xvil. 16. be a mother of nations.”
The fact appears to have been, that at the first announcement of the divine purpose she was overwhelmed with astonishment and a momentary incredulity, because it was so extraordinary and, according to human calculation, impossible; but that upon a little reflection “she judged him faithful that had promised.” (v. 11.) This was her settled state of mind though she had first laughed at the idea, and though, alarmed at the detection of her guilt, she at the instant denied the charge. We must not determine upon character by occasional failures, or even absolutely by some gross acts of misconduct, such as we afterwards find, not only both in Abraham and Sarah, as well as in many other eminent saints, but by the test of principle pervading the course of conduct on the whole, producing substantial excellence and general consistency. By faith Sarah “received strength to conceive seed ” and bear a child when past age; for although at first confounded by the thought, she soon exercised a confidence in God which nothing could shake, being per
suaded that “nothing was too hard” for him, and thus manifesting
a belief analogous to that of Abraham himself, when he hesitated Dr. Owen's not to proceed to the sacrifice of his son. “When she first heard
the promise,” says Dr. Owen, “she considered only the thing promised, and was shaken in her faith by the improbability of it, being that which she had lost all expectation, and even desire of. But when she recollected herself, and took off her mind from the thing promised, unto the promiser, faith prevailed in her. This is manifested in the especial object of her faith herein; and that was Toy En ayyesha usvov,him that promised,' that is, God himself in his promises.'
At an advanced period of life Abraham removed from Chaldea to Canaan, taking with him his wife and nephew. A famine having occurred, he hastened with his family to Egypt, where, to avoid a danger, they were both guilty of sad prevarication. Sarah was possessed of great personal beauty, and this led to the apprehension that she might be exposed in consequence to the licentious practices of the Egyptians, who might assassinate him to obtain his wife. She was to say that she was his sister. This was in a sense true, according to the Jewish method of estimating consanguinity; but the intention was to deceive, by concealing the fact that she was
his wife. This artifice was of the essence of a lie, and hence the Gen. xii. 18 subsequent reproach of Pharaoh—“What is this that thou hast -20.
done unto me? why didst thou not tell me she was thy wife? why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife.”
The next transaction is still more disgraceful to Sarah. Notwithstanding the divine assurances that the posterity of Abraham should become a great nation, Sarah begins to think there is no probability
of her becoming a mother. Ten years having elapsed, she requested Hagar.
her husband to receive Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid, to his embraces. Impatient and distrustful, she sought progeny by this means; and, perhaps, Abraham in consenting imagined that in this woman he might be the father of the promised seed. His error was to “ hearken,” as it is said he did, “ to the voice of Sarah.” Both he and she should have hearkened to the voice of God. The consequences of this connection were what might have been expected. Elated by the distinction she had attained, and especially by the well grounded prospect of a child, the maid became vain and insolent, the wife irritable and resentful, and suspicious of her husband's connivance at the wrongs she suffered, Abraham avoided all interference, and yielded to Sarah's resentment. Hagar was driven from the abode where she was entitled to protection, but returned in obedience to divine direction, which she received by an angel in the wilderness.
After the birth of Hagar's son, thirteen years elapsed before the announcement of a son by Sarah ; on the circumstances of which we
have before remarked. The birth of Isaac was attended with great Birth of rejoicings; Sarah in the rapture of the moment exclaimed, « God Isaac. hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear me will laugh with Gen. xxi. 7, 8. me.” This feeling originated his name, which signifies laughter; and she who hailed him with a mother's gladness, nursed him with a mother's care. The time of his weaning was celebrated with great festivities, and he was recognized as the heir of the family. Ishmael was irritated, and Sarah observing him engaged in mocking them, the old spirit of jealousy revived, and she demanded his and Hagar and his mother's instant expulsion. The good old patriarch yielded with dismissed. the best grace, and dismissed them with a kind provision.
Sarah, notwithstanding the occasional outbursts of temper, was, however, eminent, as we have seen, for her faith, and moreover for her conjugal virtue. She understood her domestic character and duties to her husband, so as to endear herself to him, and generally to promote his happiness. For this she is especially celebrated, and held up by St. Peter as an example. (Comp. 1 Peter ïïi. 1–6.)
At the distance of thirty-seven years from the birth of Isaac, and Sarah's at the age of one hundred and thirty-seven, Sarah died at Kirjath- death. Arba, or Hebron, in the plain of Mamre, deeply lamented by her B.C. 1859. attached husband, and was buried with all honour. Of her it may be affirmed, she was at once notorious for her defects and her excellences. Abraham doubtless forgot her faults while he wept over her tomb; but Scripture has faithfully recorded them, that they may not be forgotten by future times, but serve as a warning against the dangers of beauty, the sins of prevarication, and the consequences of domestic strife.
RЕВЕКАН. After the death of Sarah, Abraham naturally felt an increased degree of solicitude respecting his family, and especially the welfare of his son Isaac. He wished to obtain a suitable connection for him in marriage, and for this purpose explained his views confidentially to the steward of his house, Eliezer; and having sought divine direction, despatched him on a journey of inquiry, to Haran in Mesopotamia. The beautiful simplicity of those times here unfolds itself in one of the most interesting recitals that can well be imagined. Eliezer immediately proceeded to the place appointed by his master, a distance of four hundred and sixty miles; and having reached the neighbourhood of the city of Nahor, he halted at a well to refresh his camels and his retinue. It was evening, a time when the women of the country usually repaired thither for a supply of water. He offered on the occasion a remarkable prayer, strongly indicative of his confidence in providence, and his full participation in the sentiments and faith of Abraham—“O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray Eliezer's thee send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my prayer. master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and