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Those Targums are the most ancient books the Jews have next to the Hebrew Scriptures. This is certain of the Targums of Onkelos on the law, and of Jonathan on the prophets: and although the others are of a later date, yet they were for the most part transcribed and composed out of other ancient glosses and Targums, which were in use long before. Such we have shewn they had soon after the time of Ezra; but these being written in the pure Jerusalem dialect of the Chaldee language must in those times, in which the language of the Jerusalem Talmud, and of the later Targums was spoken, be as much an unknown language to the people, as formerly the Hebrew was to them on their return from the Babylonish captivity.
They are all of them of great use for the better understanding not only of the Old Testament on which they are written, but also of the New. As to the Old Testament they vindicate the genuineness of the present Hebrew text by proving it the same, that was in use, when these Targums were made, contrary to the opinion of some who think the Jews corrupted it after our Saviour's time. They help to explain many words and phrases in the Hebrew original, for the meaning of which we should otherwise have been at a loss; and they hand down to us many of the ancient customs and usages of the Jews, which greatly help to the illustrating of those Scriptures, on which they are written.
They also very much serve the christian cause against the Jews, by interpreting many of the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament in the same manner as the christians do, and we shall here instance some of them.
Gen. iii. 15, God said unto the serpent, “ It (that is the seed of the woman) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Christians interpret this of the Messiah and his kingdom; and the Jerusalem Targum and that called Jonathan's on the law do the same.
Gen. xlix. 10. Jacob prophesieth that “ The sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh should come.” Christians understand this of the Messiah, and from thence prove against the Jews, that the Messiah must according to this
prophecy of him have been long since come; because long since, that is for many ages past, there hath been no regal power in Judah, no prince of that nation ruling 'with the sceptre over them; nor any from between their feet, that is any born of that people, to make laws or administer justice among them, and because for many ages past the whole Jewish polity hath intirely ceased, and they have no where, since the time of Jesus Christ the true Messiah, been governed by their own princes, or their own laws; but every where by strangers, and the laws of strangers, among whom they have lived. The Jews to evade the force of this manifest argument against them object, first, that the word Shebet in the Hebrew text, which we interpret a sceptre, the instrument of rule, signifieth also a rod, which is the in. strument of chastisement, and therefore say, that though this should be understood of the Messiah, the meaning would be no more than that their chastisement, that is the banishment which they now suffer in their dispersions among strange nations, should not cease (as they ali reckon it will not) till their Messiah shall come to deliver them from it. But in the second place they object, that they do not allow that the Messiah is meant by the word Shiloh in this prophecy. But in both these particulars the Chaldee paraphrases are against them. For the words of Onkelos in this text are, “ There shall not be taken away from Judah one having the principality, nor the scribe from the sons of his children, till the Messiah shall come.” And the Jerusalem Targum, or paraphrase, and that called Jona. than's agree with him in both these particulars. For they both interpret Shebet, of the principality, and Shiloh of the Messiah, and therefore all three of them help the christian cause in this matter.
Numb. xxiv. 17. Part of the prophecy of Balaam there recited, is, “ There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall bear rule over all the children of Seth.” The Christians interpret this of the Messiah, and so does Onkelos in his Targum on that place, for his words are, “A king shall rise out of the house of Jacob, and the Messiah shall be anointed out of the house of Israel, who shall rule over all the sons of men.” And
the Targum called Jonathan's interprets this of the Mes. siah in the same manner also, as that of Onkelos does ; and it is here to be observed that the Targumists rightly render this phrase, “ All the children of Seth,” by the phrase, “ All the sons of men.” For all the children of Seth, since the flood, are the same with all the children of Adam, and these are all men. And this shews, that according to this prophecy the kingdom of the Messiah was not to be a peculiar kingdom for the Jews, but universal for all mankind. bly hereto, Maimonides interprets this whole text. His words are as follow: “A sceptre shall rise out of Israel ; this is the king Messiah ; and shall smite the corners of Moab; this is David, as it is written (2 Sam. viii. 2.) and he smote Moab, &c. And he shall bear rule over the children of_Seth; this is the king Messiah, of whom it is written (Psalm lxxii
. 8.) He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." In Tract. Melakin, cap. 11. 1.
Isaiah ix. 6, 7. The words of the prophet are, “ Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; of the increase of his government there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment, and with justice from henceforth even for ever." Christians all hold that this is spoken of the Messiah, and Jonathan in the Targum which is truly his, does on that place say the same.
Isaiah xi. This whole chapter the Christians understand to be of the Messiah, and the peaceableness and happiness of his kingdom. Jonathan does the same in his Targum, and in it twice makes mention of it, that is on the first verse, and on the sixth.
Isaiah lii. and liï. What is contained in these two chapters from the seventh verse of the first of them to the end of the other, is all a continued prophecy of the Messiah. So St. John in his gospel xii. 38, and St. Paul to the Romans, x. 16, teach us, and so all Christians hold, having such authority for it. But the description there given of a suffering Messiah not agreeing with the notion which the Jews have of him, who expect a Messiah reigning in temporal pomp and power, several of them reject this interpretation, and wrest the whole prophecy to other meanings ; some of them understanding it of Josiah, some of Jeremiah, and others of the whole people of Israel. But the Targum of Jonathan interprets it of the MESSIAH, as the christians do, and twice within the compass of the prophecy (that is, ch. lii. 13, and ch. liii. 10,) applies it to him. Jonathan having composed this Targum before Christ's time, the serving of neither party can be supposed then to have influenced him to have written otherwise, than appeared to him to be the plain sense of the passage, and that this prophecy can be understood of none other than the Messiah is manifest from the whole tenor of it, and it is as manifest, that it was all completed in Christ the Lord. And therefore others among the Jews having rightly judged, that the wrestings abovementioned are not sufficient to baffle the true meaning of this prophecy, have for the evading it, invented another device; that is, that there are to be two Messiahs, and both yet to come, one of which they say is to be of the tribe of Ephraim, (and they therefore call him Messiah the son of Ephraim, and sometimes Messiah the son of Joseph) and the other of the tribe of Judah, and the lineage of David; and they therefore call him Messiah the son of David. The first of these (who they say, will be the forerunner of the other) they make to be a suffering Messiah, and tell us of him, that he is to fight against Gog, and having overcome him shall afterwards be slain by Armillus, whom they hold to be the greatest enemy that shall ever appear against the church of God in this world. And of this Messiah the son of Ephraim they interpret all that is foretold in the Old Testament of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, especially what is foretold of him in this prophecy of Isaiah, and in that of Zechariah xii. 10, in which last they interpret the words, “whom " they have pierced,” of his being to be pierced and run through by the sword of Armillus, when he shall be slain
by him. The other Messiah, that is, Messiah the son of David, they make to be a conquering and reigning Messiah, that shall conquer and kill Armillus, and restore the kingdom of Israel, and there reign in the highest glory and felicity; and of him they interpret all that is said in the Scriptures of the Old Testament of the glory, power, and righteousness of Christ's kingdom. But all that they thus tell us of their twofold Messiah is a mere fiction, framed without so much as a pretence to any foundation in Scripture for it; a pitiful fetch invented only to evade what they cannot answer; and their being forced to have recourse to such a wretched shift is a plain giving up of the cause they cannot dcfend.
Micah v. 2. The words of the prophet are, “And thou Bethlehem Ephratah shalt be chief among the thousands of Judah; out of thee shall come forth unto me ne, that is to be ruler in Israel.” This is the true translation of the Hebrew text, and this, all christians understand of the Messiah, and so, anciently did the chief priests and Scribes of the people of the Jews, when consulted by Herod. But since that time, in opposition to the gospel, Jewish wri. ters have endeavoured to give this text another meaning, some interpreting it of Hezekiah, some of Zerubbabel, and some otherwise. But Jonathan, who probably was one among those Scribes, whom Herod consulted, gives the true meaning of it by interpreting it of the Messiah, in the same manner as Christians do. For his version of this text is, OUT OF THEE SHALL COME FORTH BEFORE ME THE MESSIAH, WHO SHALL EXERCISE SOVEREIGN RULE OVER ISRAEL.
Psalm ii. This Psalm the Christians interpret to be a prophecy of the Messiah, and hold it to be all fulfilled in our Saviour and the erection of his kingdom against all opposition, which it met with from Jews and heathens, and the princes, and rulers of the earth. And so the Ho. ly apostles understood it of old, Acts iv. 25, 26, 27, and ch. xiii. 33. Hebrews i. 5. In opposition hereto the Jews apply it wholly and solely to David himself, and will allow it no other meaning either literal or typical, but what is terminated in his person. But the Targum is on our