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Scripture, nor so much as tradition for ito, The Objector, perhaps, was thinking of Ezekiel, (who indeed was a priest,) and through forgetfulness applied it to Hosea, as it struck his fancy, and furnished him with something plausible against the literal construction of the text. Hosea, I conceive, was no priest, but a prophet only; and therefore might (notwithstanding what this gentleman has urged) marry“ a wife of whoredoms :” though I understand here a wife which after marriage, however chaste before, should prove false to her marriage vow P: and so the case of Hosea and Gomer might be the apler parallel to represent the case of God and his people Israel.
It must be owned that commentators and critics have divided upon this matter; some believing it to be a relation of real fact, others looking upon it as a prophetic scheme, a vision, or a parable. A clear and succinct history of the dispute, together with a summary of the reasons offered by the contending parties, may be seen in Pococke upon the place. It would be tedious here, as well as superfluous, to repeat what he has said; and he has left but little room for addition. That
learned man, finding weighty reasons pleaded here and there, declined passing any decretory sentence, being content rather to report than to decide. Both parts of the question have considerable advocates and abettors: but still it must be owned, that the main stream of interpreters runs for the literal construction. The learned Carpzov, Professor of Divinity at Leipsic, (a very good judge of these matters,) is confident that what we here read in Hosea is a relation of real fact; but at the same time observing, that able and learned men are no less confident the other way 9. Augustus Pfeiffer, another eminent Leipsic Di
• Hosea was not of the family of Aaron, nor tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Issachar, as the generality of the learned seem to agree. See Carpzov. Introd. ad Lib. Bibl. part. iii. p. 274.
p See Lowth and Wells. . Certum tamen, non in visione, sed re vera conjugem fornicariam ab
vine, (who wrote his Dubia Vexata, A. D. 1685.) he also is a zealous advocate for the literal interpretation", condemning, with some tartness, those that recede from it. There is another learned foreigners who has now very lately (A.D. 1730.) maintained the literal construction in a way somewhat peculiar: for he supposes that God's words to Hosea, though imperatively expressed, bear a future signification; not commanding him to take a wife of fornications, but predicting to him that so it would be in such corrupt times, and making use of that instance in the way of emblem or similitude, to set forth the unfaithfulness of Israel, God's chosen people, towards him. Whether this hypothesis may be of any real service more than others, for the removing difficulties, I pretend not to say: but it shows, however, that the author is strongly persuaded that there is a necessity of maintaining the reality of the fact here related, as most of the interpreters, ancient and modern, have done. Pococke observes, that this is by the Jewish expositors looked on as the ancient opinion of some of their Talmudical doctors: and amongst their later Rabbins, it is embraced by Abarbinel. The Christian Fathers, in general, may be said to espouse
the same; as Irenæus, Basil y, (or whoever is the author of
Hosea, jussu numinis ductam, et liberos ab ea suscepisse : quod præter cæteros solide evicit Balth. Meisner. (Commentar. in Hos. i. p. 75, &c.) discussis et profligatis, quas in contrarium Polanus urget, rationibus. Quocum confer D. Steuberi Disp. in i. cap. Hoseæ T. V. Marpurg. Disp. xix. p. 235.
Utut me non fugiat, ingenti conatu oppositam nostræ sententiam astruere allaborasse Joh. Tarnovium Exercit. Bibl. lib. ii. class. 1. loc. vii. p. 605, &c. Qui videatur. Carpzov. Introd. ad Libr. Bibl. part. iii. p. 277.conf.
" Pfeiffer. Dub. Vexat. Centur. iv. loc. 73. p. 433. edit, ult. • Quasi igitur sic Prophetam Deus allocutus esset, verba accipio: “Tu de
conjugio ineundo consilium nunc cepisti ; fiet autem in tam communi cor. “ ruptela, ut feminam accipias scortationi deditam, et in uxorio etiam statu “ scortari non desituram.” Symbolum igitur illa aptissima erit gentis Israeliticæ, quippe scorto adulteræque simillimæ. Lakemacher, Observat. Philolog. vol. ii. p. 70. + Irenæus contra Hæres. lib. iv. c. 20. s. 12. p. 257. edit. Bened.
Basil. in Isa. c. viii. p. 933. edit. Bened. N. B. The last editor allows not
a comment under his name,) Austin, Theodoret y, and Cyril of 2 Alexandria : though it appears from the two last mentioned, that the common interpretation had been then called in question by some, whom they smartly condemn for disputing so plain a case, as they supposed it to be.
Modern critics and commentators on the same side with those Fathers, are not easily numbered up; though Pococke and Pfeiffer, taken together, go a good way towards it: and they two, with Steuberus a, are principally to be consulted in relation to this matter, as having entered the deepest into it, and handled it most at large. I shall only add here, that the three latest commentators I have looked into, Calmet, Lowth, and Wells, all contend for the literal construction, for real fact.
Notwithstanding what has been said in favour of the literal interpretation, it will be but just to the reader to give some account of the figurative construction, that he may at least know what it is, or what it means, and why some have
gone into it. I cannot represent it to better advantage than I find it already laid down in the words of the learned Mr. Bedford, as follows b:
“ In the first chapter (of the Prophet Hosea) God, in a “parable, orders him to marry an adulterous wife; and « so he takes Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim; a name “ which may be thus interpreted, a complete and final de“ solation, the effect of a general corruption, like decayed
the commen to be Basil's, but thinks it as ancient as the fourth century, or fifth at the latest. * Augustin. contra Faust. lib. xxii. c. 80. p
410. y Theodoret. in loc. Oper. tom. ii. p. 704. z Cyrill. Alex. in loc. Oper. tom. iii. p. 11.
a Steuberus's Dissertation has been lately reprinted in the first volume of the Thesaurus Theologico-Philologicus, among the critics, p. 938.
Pfeiffer, reckoning up the principal moderns of his side, names these following: Lyranus, Ribera, Calovius, Pappus, Gesnerus, Meisnerus, Waltherus, Glassius, Finkius, Danhawerus, Steuberus. To which I may add, Le Cene, Projet d'une Nouvelle Version, p. 436, &c. with his translator Ross, p. 114, &c.
b Bedford's Scripture Chronology, p. 646.
“figs, which are good for nothing. In this parable he is
supposed to have children, by whose names he foretells “ several calamities : first, the ruin of the house of Jehu, “ by calling the first son Jezreel, &c.” There is nothing in this method of construing the text but what appears easy and natural ; excepting only that it is not called a parable in the text itself, and so it may be thought too presuming to make such of it. Jerome', among the Christian Fathers, and Maimonides, with several others among the Jewish interpreters, have not scrupled to depart from the common construction, preferring the visional or parabolical: and they have been followed therein by several learned moderns d mentioned in Pococke and Pfeiffer; to whom more may be added that have appeared since e. Now the ground of the difference between the two kinds of interpreters seems to lie chiefly in this: one side thinks, that while there is nothing plainly immoral or absurd in the thing itself, the letter of Scripture ought not to be receded from, lest the taking such a liberty should be an injury done to sacred Writ, and should lead to greater. The other side thinks, that while there is no plain force committed upon Scripture, (especially considering that the prophetic style is not subject to common rules,) it may be allowable to take such an interpretation as is least clogged with difficulties from the nature and reason of the thing. I may shut up this article with the calm and moderate words of the learned Pococke :
“ Seeing each is backed by great authority, and the “ maintainers thereof will not yield to one another's rea
sons, but keep to their own way, and accuse those that “ go otherwise, either of boldness or blindness, and some
very learned men have not dared positively to deter“ mine in the matter; it must be still left to the consi
Hieronym. Proæm. ad Osee. in Ezech. iv. 9. d Schafmannus, Junius, Polanus, Drusius, Hakspanius, Pareus, Zanchius, Riretus, Calvin, Smith.
e Witsius, Miscellan. vol. i. p. 9. Stillingfleet's Letter to a Deist, p. 129, 130, Jenkins, vol. ii. p. 52.
“ derate reader to use his own judgment; only with this “ caution, that he conceive nothing unworthy of God, or “ unbeseeming his holy Prophet, nor draw from the “ words any unsavoury or unhandsome conclusionsf."
Micah VI. 7. SHALL I GIVE MY FIRSTBORN FOR MY TRANSGRESSION, THE FRUIT OF MY BODY FOR THE SIN OF MY SOUL? Here, because the sacrificing of children is mentioned among several other better things, whereby foolish men hoped to expiate their guilt, without leading a good life ; our Objector from thence infers, that human sacrifices were required or approved by the Jewish law 8. His words are : “ The Prophet Micah reckons the put“ ting every devoted thing to death among the Jewish “ institutions. Here the sacrificing a man's own children “ is mentioned equally with the sacrificing of beasts; which “ is allowed to be a Jewish institution. How absurdly “ must the Prophet be supposed to have argued, after he “ hath preferred justice and mercy to a thing commanded
by God, if he should go on to prefer it to a thing ab“ horred by God?” The Prophet understood good reasoning much better than his corrector understands the Prophet: for he entirely mistakes the case. The Prophet's business and design was to enumerate those vain expedients (of whatever kind they were) which men were apt to rely upon, in lieu of a good life: and because the sacrificing of their own children was one of the foolish expedients made use of for appeasing the Deity, he rejects that also, by name, among the rest, as vain and unprofitable. The Prophet, very probably, had an eye to what king Ahaz (in whose reign, and after, he prophesied h) had committed in that kind. Ahaz was one that had learned of the Moabites, or other idolaters, to sacrifice his own childreni. HE MADE HIS SON TO PASS
f Pococke on Hosea, p. 6. h Micah i, 1.
& Christianity as Old, &c. p. 95. i See 2 Kings iii. 27.