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A.M. 3416. In the seventh year of Jehoiakim, and the second after the death B.C. 588. of the father of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel explained the first vision of
the king of Babylon, which elevated him to the highest dignities of
the empire. Succession The other events recorded in the book of Daniel, to the expulsion
of Nebuchadnezzar from society, follow in the order in which they are there narrated; and conduct us to the total overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuzar-adan, in the reign of Zedekiah; which was accompanied with the most horrible circumstances of rigour and cruelty. The temple was spoiled of all its riches and furniture, and was burned, together with the royal palace. The slaughter was dreadful: the city was totally dismantled: and the whole of its inhabitants, who escaped the sword, were led into captivity, or reduced to slavery. This event took place in the year of the world 3416, five hundred and eighty-eight years before Christ, and one hundred and thirty-four years after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, and the captivity of the ten tribes.
The prophets of this æra.
While Providence was thus pursuing its solemn and irresistible march to punish a people so distinguished by its favours, so notorious for ingratitude, and who were hastening to fill up the measure of their iniquities, many eminent prophets arose, as the ministers of mercy to the penitent, or the heralds of impending ruin to the obstinately rebellious. This is a feature in the moral government of God too prominent, and the messengers were themselves too eminent, to be passed by unnoticed. The first circumstance is stated, with the most touching simplicity and pathos, by the sacred historian : “the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place.” The last will appear, when it is recollected that amongst those who were employed as prophets, during that eventful period, to the Israelites and other nations, the names of Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Joel, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk, are conspicuous; and may here, therefore, with propriety precede those of their more illustrious contemporaries or successors Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Jonah, the son of Amittai, was a Galilean, of Gath-hepher, in the tribe of Zebulun, and lived in the reigns of Joash and Jeroboam, (that is, the second Jeroboam,) kings of Israel. Some have conjectured that he was the nameless prophet sent to by Elisha, to anoint Jehu: it is unnecessary to add, that this can be only conjecture, and of conjecture there is no end. We have never felt ourselves justified in indulging it, or we could amuse our readers with various plausible hypotheses respecting this prophet, of whom so little is known, some of which are destroyed by facts, and all of which must be necessarily uncertain.
The only history upon which any dependence can be placed, is A.M. 3416. that found in the book which bears his name, among the minor B.C. 588 prophets; so called, not because they were later, for some of them were still earlier than their more distinguished compeers; not because they were less inspired, for their predictions received the full confirmation of Providence; but because their prophecies were less numerous than those of others. We first become acquainted with Jonah, in the opening of his Sent to
Nineveh. commission against Nineveh, whose destruction he was commanded to foretell; when more jealous of his own honour, than concerned for the glory of God, or the salvation of the people to whom his commission related, he was only anxious to relinquish, or escape his arduous and difficult office. He adopted a singular method to effect Embarks this purpose ; in taking ship to Tarshish, “to flee from the presence Larshish. of the Lord.” The superstitious and irrational notions of the age in which he lived, which fancied gods of the mountains and of the vallies, the woods and the plains, the sea and the dry land; might almost induce us to suppose that he was willing to believe Jehovah to be a local deity; or did he imagine that, if he could shift the commission for a season, or evade it, by travelling abroad, it would be altogether relinquished, and so reluctant a messenger be exchanged for one more prompt to the service ?
He had no sooner embarked, however, than a tempest arose, and he was in imminent danger of shipwreck. In vain the mariners implored their idols to pity and save them; the storm increased every moment. After casting overboard whatever might tend to lighten the ship, and employing all possible means to save themselves, the captain, having missed one of his passengers, found Jonah asleep in the body of the vessel, apparently unconscious of the hurricane; and being, with all the seamen, satisfied that an extraordinary judgment had overtaken them, they resolved to decide the question by the prevailing custom of the day, in every doubtful case, and particularly if it were a religious one; they cast lots, to ascertain on whose account this calamity had befallen them, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Closely interrogated on the subject, he now confessed his fault and folly; and, impelled by the spirit of inspiration, assured them, that their only safety consisted in consigning him to the waves. Unwilling to proceed to such an extremity, they laboured to subdue their difficulties and escape their peril: but, finding all human effort unavailing, and the fury of the tempest augmenting, at length they yielded to their sad circumstances, and threw their dangerous and offending passenger overboard.
It was then that a miracle was wrought which has amused infidelity, and employed its criticisms, in all ages. “Now Jehovah Swallowed had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah: and Jonah was in by the fish. the belly of the fish three days and three nights." We cannot admit that any vessel is intended by the term 17 in the Hebrew, or
A.M. 3416. xntos, which is employed by our Lord; because, although such a B.C. 588. deduction is possible from mere verbal criticism, the result is at
variance with the context in both cases, and can only be deduced by doing violence to the natural import of the expressions. The terms 5172 27 and xntos, signify alike a great fish, without determining the species ; although our translators have rendered the latter, in the New Testament, a whale. This fact removes the objection arising from the narrow passage of the throat of the whale, in comparison with his size, which, it is said, renders it impossible for him, to swallow a man. The fish, if of any natural species, might be of the shark kind, of whose voracity and ability to swallow so considerable a bulk as the human body we have other instances : but what is not affirmed in the narrative, we are not called upon to decide. It is further expressly said, that “ Jehovah prepared a great fish;' it is evident, therefore, upon every possible interpretation, that a miracle was wrought in this case; and when once the ordinary limits of nature are exceeded, it rests not with man to fix the bounds of the operation. As if to anticipate the cavils of scepticism upon a history so brief, so simply narrated, and so replete with miracle, our Lord pledges his own character to its veracity, by two appeals to its circumstances, (not to mention other, and constant allusions to it, throughout the subsequent Scriptures ;) the one, the repentance of the Ninevites, as a condemnation of the age and generation in which he lived—the other, the miraculous event just recited, as a sign of his own death and resurrection—precisely agreeing with the time he should occupy the tomb. It is not to be imagined that he would refer an event of such infinite moment that all Christianity rested upon it, as well in its principles as in its prospects, to any fact disputable in itself, or doubted by his countrymen: or that a Teacher of Truth, (and such even his adversaries have allowed him to be,) a man of unimpeachable veracity and integrity, should adopt a mere legend, or give any countenance to a fable. Yet the matter so stands, that the authenticity of the history of Jonah must be admitted in all its miraculous features, or the judgment, integrity, and authority of Jesus Christ impeached. It is further remarkable, that among the few fragments of antiquity remaining to us, this
little history should receive from them larger confirmation than some Heathen others of greater extent and magnitude. The heathens have pretraditions of of served the fact, but applied it to Hercules ;
Τριεσπερς λεοντος, ον ποτε γναθοις
Τριτωνος ήμαλαψε καρχαρος κυων.
Triton's carchariani dog, with horrid jaws
Devour'd.” Æneas Gazæus, recording the same event, which also he refers to Hercules, employs the very term xntos, adopted by the LXX.
1 The canis carcarias is the shark.
and by St. Matthew. Notep xoo 'Hpaxinns aòETC., drceópayelons ons A.M. 3416. YEWS, Q 'ns eneo UTO KHTOTE YALTA Toonvoro nero orokowegfel. “ As B.C. 588. Hercules is also reported, when he was shipwrecked, to have been swallowed by a (xntos) whale (or great fish ;) and yet to have been saved.”—(Æneas Gazceus Theophrasto.) That Hercules should have been substituted for Jonah can excite no just astonishment; since Tacitus himself acknowledges, that to advance the fame of this distinguished favourite, they do not hesitate to ascribe to him whatever is extraordinary or noble in history, to whomsoever the real praise is due. They plunder every other celebrated character, of whatever country, of all his merit, to adorn their fabled hero with the spoils stolen from truth, and honestly belonging to others.
Jonah was emancipated from his terrific and miraculous prison; and thus admonished, upon the repetition of the original command, advanced to Nineveh; to compass which required three days journey, Preaches at it being, according to Diodorus Siculus, twenty-five leagues in circumference, and contained 120,000 persons “ who could not discern between their right hand and their left," by which we may presume children to be especially intended ; and as these are usually estimated at not more than one-fifth of the whole population, the result will be, that Nineveh contained 600,000 inhabitants—“and also much cattle.” This is the compassionate argument used by the Father of mankind for sparing his creatures; and in his expostulation with the angry prophet, he showed that he “ cared for oxen.”
At the awful message of Jonah, the Ninevites fasted and repented; and the threatening, being conditional, was repealed. The example of humiliation was set by the sovereign, who descended from his throne, clothed himself with sackcloth, and deprecated the Divine vengeance. Calmet supposes this king to have been the father of Sardanapalus, known in profane authors by the name of Anacyndaraxa, or Anabaxanis; and called Phul in the Scriptures. That he might have been the Phul of the Bible is not improbable ; but, whether known by his scripture or his heathen name, he was the father of Sardanapalus, must remain a question, while it is even doubtful whether such a man as Sardanapalus ever lived; two persons of the most opposite qualities being called by that name, and both of those, perhaps, fictitious.
Jonah, having fulfilled his commission, retired to the environs of the city, resolved to wait the result, and seems rather to have chosen the destruction of the place than that his prediction should appear to fail. The climate of Nineveh was most trying-scorchingly hot by day, and intensely cold at night. He made a booth as a temporary shelter; and a gourd, a plant of the country, of remarkably rapid growth, (kikajon,) sprang up over his retreat, and afforded him a deeper shadow by day, and a better covering at night. As it was said to be “prepared,” it was probably distinguished from ordinary plants, as well by the completeness of its
A.M. 3416. umbrage, as by the rapidity of its production. Jonah rejoiced in B.C. 588. its shadow: but a worm was also “prepared ;” an insect devoured
the root, and it perished in a night, so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that the prophet, finding himself exposed to the united action of a scorching sun and a parching east wind, was moved with anger and impatience. It was then that the noble reproof was given, already adverted to, which placed in so striking a point of view the selfishness of the man, and the compassion of the Deity. After this Jonah disappears. We read of him in another portion of the Scriptures, and on another occasion; when he foretold the second Jeroboam, that he should “restore the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath, unto the sea of the plain,” (2 Kings xiv. 25;) but whether this prediction were uttered before or after the events which we have recited, it is impossible to determine; and nothing further respecting him is known from any authentic record.
Amos also flourished about this time. His birthplace is unknown. He tells us himself that he was not educated among the sons of the prophets, nor was he the descendant of a prophet, but a man of no pretensions, and occupying a humble station in life. “I was a ħerdman, and a dresser of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people of Israel.” He began to prophesy in the reign of Uzziah, two years before the earthquake. He was charged with a conspiracy against Jeroboam the Second, because of the sharpness with which he reproved the sins of his people ; and was severely threatened by Amaziah, the high priest of Bethel—with how little effect, the fidelity of his plain, but pointed predictions will testify. He retired, however, into the kingdom of Judah, and dwelt at Tekoah. He foretold the invasions of Phul and Tiglath-pileser: and reproved the Israelites in language as distinguished for its energy as for its sublimity. The time and manner of his death cannot be ascertained. He lives only in his prophetic testimony—and this shall outlive the world.
Hosea, whose predictions, from their extent and variety occupy a larger space among the minor prophets, does not appear more conspicuous than Amos on the page of history. He lived in the kingdom of Samaria, and his prophecies principally regard that state, then fast verging towards its ruin. He is said to have prophesied under the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; and must have been, therefore, contemporary with Isaiah, and not inferior to him in length of life. The most singular circumstance attending the prophecies of Hosea, is not that they are very pathetic and energetic, for his style is rather concise, sententious, and abrupt, nor that they were enforced by symbols, for this mode was also prescribed to, and practised by Ezekiel; but that he was permitted, nay enjoined, to