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We are convinced that the plan of inquiry here suggested would, if fairly carried out, have a tendency to bring the case of the Jews more clearly before the public. We shall, however, content ourselves at this time with the discussion of a few of those passages of Scripture which have been selected as decidedly favoring a literal gathering of the Jews. By showing their parallels, some tolerable idea may be obtained as to the amount of evidence corrobo. rating that notion.
We may be allowed two other preliminary remarks :-First. In the interpretation of Scripture prophecy, it is absolutely necessary to exercise a spirit of caution, reverential awe, and humble fear. As the Rev. Richard Watson well observes, " There is a moral ne. cessity that prophecy should be surrounded with a certain haze and indistinctness.” Perhaps no prediction was ever properly understood until its accomplishment. So the ancient prophets are represented as “searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify." Our ignorance of what has passed, and our greater ignorance of what is future, should guard us against extremes in the application of certain rules of interpretation. It is possible to literalize and spiritualize so as entirely to lose the sense of Scripture. Those are in great danger who have adopted an hypothesis, and are determined to make every thing subserve its purpose. Now, in reference to the case of the Jews, we candidly confess, that such are the complicated intricacies of the various predictions and histories relating thereto, that an hypothesis for or against their literal return may be supported with considerable show of argument and reason. Yet, after all, this is not a subject of mere fancy or speculation, but for the above reasons de. mands unbiased and calm investigation--close and sober thought. It is connected with facts and dates, and the well-authenticated his. tories of many nations. Such being our convictions, we have conscientiously endeavored to avoid the whirlpool of mysticism, as well as the shoals of an exclusively literal interpretation.
The second remark we wish here to make is in reference to chronology. In order to a right understanding of the prophecies, chronological accuracy is very essential. We should know as nearly as possible when the several prophets flourished, and what were the circumstances of the Jews at that time. In all the predictions respecting a captivity and restoration, it is necessary to ascertain the time of their delivery, and whether the revolted tribes, or the loyal tribes of Judah and Benjamin, be referred to; or, whether both in their associated capacity are to be understood. The literal and primary meaning of prophecy can only be ascertained by chronological accuracy. Now, it must have been remarked by every reflecting person, that the writings of the prophets are not arranged as they were delivered. The several books do not stand in chronological order. And in very many instances the chapters do not present a continuous succession of historically prophetic incidents. Jeremiah says, the word of the Lord, contained in the twenty-first chapter, came unto him when Zedekiah was king. But the contents of the forty-fifth and forty-sixth chapters were delivered in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. This was at least eight years before Zedekiah came to the throne ; so that, in a proper arrangement of Jeremiah's writings, the forty-fifth and forty-sixth chapters should precede the twenty-first. This may serve to teach us the necessity of great care in the application of certain texts and passages, since they may or may not refer to Judah and Israel separately or collectively. Many other remarks might be made in reference to this, especially as ignorance of chronology has been the fruitful source of error. However, as Bickersteth, in his Practical Guide to the Prophecies, remarks :-“ The mistakes of others should lead us to more caution and diligence and prayer in our researches, and more diffidence in our conclusions. But having now the advantage of a more lengthened manifestation of God's mind, from the past history of the church,”(we may add, the world,)“ we have with this, greater light for the true interpretation."
We now proceed to the examination of a few selections from prophecy, which have been considered as proving a future literal return of the Jews :- In Amos ix, 11-15, we have these words : " In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will build up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen that are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this. Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land, which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” We have quoted this passage at large, to save the trouble of immediate reference.
Amos prophesied in the days of Uzziah ; and it appears also that he did so while Jeroboam, the son of Joash, was king of Israel. It is highly probable he prophesied in both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah ; first in Israel, from whence he was requested to depart by Jeroboam, to whom Amaziah the high priest had brought a charge of conspiracy against this prophet, chap. vii, 10. The prophet, however, boldly declares the word of the Lord, and affirms, “ Israel shall surely go into captivity," chap. vii, 11-17. Being obliged to leave Bethel, he takes up his abode in a small place named Tekoa, where he continued to receive the Spirit of prophecy. The captivity threatened against Israel was that of the Assyrian: this is agreed on all hands. Horne, on this part of the prophecy, says, " The carrying of the Israelites into captivity beyond Damascus into Assyria is explicitly announced ; see its fulfilment 2 Kings xv, 29, and xvii, 5-23.” Dr. Clarke's note on chap. vi, 14, reads thus: “I will raise up against you a nation - The Assyrians under Pul, Tiglathpileser, and Shalmaneser, who subdued the Israelites at various times, and at last carried them away captive in the days of Hosea, the last king of Israel in Samaria.” In Amos ii, 5, we read," I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.” In Amos i, 2, the prophet says, “ The top of Carmel shall wither.” Now Carmel was a very fruitful mountain belonging to the tribe of Judah; and these two passages show that, in addition to prophesying against the kingdom of Israel, Amos is commissioned to threaten Judah. The frequent incursions of neighboring nations against Judah may be incidentally described, but it is probable their captivity under Nebuchadnezzar is more particularly alluded to. This is the opinion of Dr. Clarke ; see his note on Amos ii
, 4. It seems quite certain that both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and their captivities, are included in the prophetic annunciations of Amos; because in chap. iii, verse 1, we read, “ Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up out of the land of Egypt." No one ever imagined that the dispersion of the Jews under Titus Vespasian is here the subject of prophecy; but all agree that the punishments threatened against Israel and Judah for the crimes they were then committing were fulfilled in the sufferings they endured in Babylon and Assyria. But, though the prophet thus menaces the Jews, he is permitted to look through the dark vista of future ages, and represents them as being again prosperous and happy--brought again from their captivity, and again established by the Lord their God. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen." See above.
Some of these words are susceptible of a literal interpretation, some of them are not. As for instance,“ The mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.” The restoration of the tabernacle of David is referred by all Christian commentators with whom we are acquainted to the establishment of the gospel dispensation, by Messiah, David's royal descendant. Benson says, " This prophecy must be extended to the days of the Messiah, and to the calling of the Gentiles to the knowledge of the true God.” Some portions of this prediction then, it is clear, have a spiritual import. This is placed by the Holy Spirit beyond a doubt. When the apostles were assembled in council at Jerusalem respecting the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian Church, St. James quotes these very words of Amos, showing that it was the will of God that, under the Christian dispensation, both Jew and Gentile should enjoy equal religious privileges. That portion of the prophecy which can be understood literally was accomplished, as we shall hereafter show. As by the captivities Israel and Judah were deprived of their possessions, and the fruit of the labor of their hands, so when they were restored and returned they were to enjoy, as they did, the results of their own enterprise. Whatever spiritual or temporal blessings are promised to Israel in the passage under considera. tion, it is very clear that the “remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen that are called by” the name of the Lord, are to enjoy the same; and therefore, if the still future return of the Jews is therein promised, the Gentiles, or, at least, those who are converted, shall accompany them. But this is absurd and unreasonable ; and therefore the literal gathering of the Jews to their own land is not taught by the Prophet Amos. The following are parallel passages: Hosea iii, 4, 5; Joel iii, 18-21.
In our brief remarks respecting chronological accuracy, it was remarked that the several prophetic books do not stand in chronological order, and in very many instances the chapters do not present a continuous succession of prophetic incidents. This suggestion is strikingly applicable to the first twelve chapters of Isaiah. We mention these, because the following words in the eleventh chapter are applied to the return of the Jews as yet future and literal. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall
be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcast of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” That these words do not refer to a literal gathering still future is very clear to our mind; but, in order to understand the prophet, it is necessary to examine his whole discourse. By so doing we shall establish Isaiah's character for beauty of composition, comprehensiveness of expression, and for elevated and evangelical views of Jehovah's moral administration and spiritual government. Horne says, " Isaiah greatly excels in all the graces of method, order, connection, and arrangement." But adds of "particular predictions," that, " as they are now extant, they are often improperly connected, without any marks of discrimination; which injudicious arrangement, on some occasions, creates almost insuperable difficulties." We have felt the force of this remark in our analysis of the first twelve chapters of Isaiah, for no two of these chapters can be read together without considerable embarrassment. Every attentive reader will have observed this; and we are obliged to add with humility, and deference to high authorities, that no arrangement of these chapters which we have seen either satisfies our mind, or removes the difficulties which stand in the way of consistent interpretation. Lowth, and after him Clarke and Benson, have given it as their opinion, that the discourse of which the eleventh chapter forms a part, begins with the fifth verse of the tenth chapter, and ends with the twelfth chapter ; and that it embraces that period in the history of Judah when Sennacherib menaced and planned the destruction of Jerusalem, and whose army was arrested, overthrown, and destroyed :
“For the angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass'd." But this opinion, though correct as far as it goes, only embraces a small part of the prophet's intent. We shall endeavor to prove this; and, in order thereto, beg to propose a new arrangement of Isaiah's first twelve chapters. We do so after a very careful and rigid inquiry into the history of the times referred to; and we are sincerely convinced of the consistency of this arrangement with that history, and the prophetic impulse which first described it.
To proceed then:-The first verse of the first chapter may be considered a general statement of the time in which the prophet flourished, perhaps added by a later hand. The sixth chapter contains a solemn account of the prophet's divine call and special ordination, and may therefore be considered as the first in the order of time. The first chapter should follow the sixth, omitting the first verse; and the second chapter properly succeeds the first, except. ing the first five verses. The third chapter naturally follows the second, to which should be added the first verse of the fourth chapter. The remainder of the fourth chapter should be preceded by the five verses first in the second chapter, between which there is an obvious and beautiful connection. The whole of the fifth chapter follows the fourth ; and to complete this discourse we must add from the eighth to the twenty-first verse of the ninth chapter, and the first four verses of the tenth chapter. Whether we are to consider what are above enumerated as forming one discourse or more is not a matter of great importance. There are probably two, the second commencing with the first verses of the second chapter, according to the above plan. It is evident that the latter part of the ninth chapter should precede the seventh; because therein we have a distinct prediction of a conspiracy against Judah, by the confederated powers of Syria and Israel, which is historically described in the seventh chapter; see chap. ix, 8-12, 21. Moreover, there is an appropriate and poetical symphony between the twenty-fifth verse of the fifth chapter, and the twelfth, seventeenth, and twentyfirst verses of the ninth chapter, as also the fourth verse of chapter tenth. And with this tender and thus oft-repeated expostulation the discourse concludes: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”
A new discourse commences with the seventh chapter, in which the prophet describes the unsuccessful attempt of "Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel," against Judah and Jerusalem. Because of this wicked conspiracy God, by the mouth of the prophet, declares that he will bring against these his enemies the Assy. rian, “and all his glory," Isa. vii, 17–19. The eighth chapter continues this prophecy, expressing more clearly the determination of God. Verse fourth says,
“ The riches of Damascus, and the spoil of Samaria, shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.” Judah should also be involved in the trouble which came upon Israel. Both kingdoms deserved punishment. Their profligacy and wretched apostacy had been set forth, and they had been faithfully warned to repent of their doings; but they persevered in their ingratitude, pride, arrogance, and injustice. “Now, therefore, behold the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over; he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, 0 Immanuel." This annunciation is continued throughout the tenth chapter, commencing with the fifth verse, and should therefore immediately follow the eighth chapter. Here Assyria receives her commission, as the instrument of God's wrath. This kingdom is described as “the rod” of God's “ anger," and “the staff in their hand” is the divine “indignation.” The Assyrian receives “a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets." “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so." Assyria's proud boastings are prophetically described from the eighth to the eleventh verse. Some have thought, that because Assyria is represented as saying, “Shall I not as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so VOL. X.-Oct., 1839.