Sidor som bilder

(4-11.) Still keeping the Great Deliverer in view, the prophet exhorts the faithful Jews to trust in him, and foretels their future restoration after the Babylonian captivity and the Roman dispersion, as also their conversion to Christianity. (li. lii. 1-12.) DISCOURSE 8. predicts the person, offices, humiliation, sufferings, and exaltation of Christ, the end of his death, and the blessings resulting to mankind from that event. (lii. 13— 15. lii.) DISCOURSE 9. foretels the increase of the church by the conversion

of the Jews and Gentiles, and its triumphant state in general. (liv.) DISCOURSE 10. describes the fulness, freeness, excellence, and everlasting nature of the blessings of the Gospel, and the conditions on which they are to be attained, without respect to persons or nations. (lv. Ivi. 1-8.) DISCOURSE 11. contains a prophecy of the calamities that would befal the inhabitants of Judah, in consequence of the sins which they would commit after the death of Hezekiah, particularly their idola. try and hypocrisy ; by the captivity of Manasseh and some others, and afterwards of the whole nation, first by the Babylonians, and subsequently by the Romans. (lvi. 9-12. lvi-ix. 14.) DISCOURSE 12. chiefly predicts the general conversion of the Jews to the Gospel, the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles, and the destruction of Antichrist ; also the restoration of the Jews, and the happy state of the Christian church. (lix. 15—21. lx. lxvi.) In ch. Ixi. 1-9. the Messiah is introduced describing his character and office, and confirming the ample promises made in the preceding chapter. The deliverance of the church from all her enemies by the GREAT REDEEMER, and the destruction of Antichrist and his followers, are delineated in ch. Ixiii. 1-6. with unequalled pathos, energy, and sublimity. And the two last chapters in the prophecy set forth, in the clearest terms, the calling of the Gentiles, the establishment of the Christian dispensation, and the reprobation of the apostate Jews. IV. Isaiah has, with singular propriety, been denominated the

evangelical prophet,on account of the number and variety of his prophecies concerning the advent and character, the ministry and preaching, the sufferings and death, and the extensive permanent kingdom of the Messiah. So explicit and determinate are his predictions, as well as so numerous, that he seems to speak rather of things past than of events yet future ; and he may rather be called an evangelist than a prophet. No one, indeed, can be at a loss in applying them to the mission and character of Jesus Christ, and to the events which are cited in his history by the writers of the New Testament. This prophet, says Bishop Lowth, abounds in such transcendent excellencies, that he may be properly said to afford the most perfect model of prophetic poetry. He is at once elegant and sublime, forcible and ornamented; he unites energy with copiousness, and dignity with variety. In his sentiments there is uncommon elevation and majesty ; in his imagery, the utmost propriety, elegance, dignity, and diversity ; in his language, uncommon beauty and energy; and, notwithstanding the obscurity of his subjects, a surprising degree of clearness and simplicity. To these we may add, that there is such sweetness in the poetical composition of his sen

tences, whether it proceed from art or genius, that, if the Hebrew poetry at present is possessed of any remains of its native grace and harmony, we shall chiefly find them in the writings of Isaiah : so that the saying of Ezekiel may most justly be applied to this prophet;

“ Thou art the confirmed exemplar of measures,

“ Full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." Ezek. xxviii. 12. Isaiah also greatly excels in all the graces of method, order, connection, and arrangement : though in asserting this we must not forget the nature of the prophetic impulse, which bears away the mind with irresistible violence, and frequently in rapid transitions from near to remote objects, from human to divine : we must likewise be careful in remarking the limits of particular predictions, since, 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.

Bishop Lowth has selected the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth chapters of this prophet, as a specimen of the poetic style in which he delivers his predictions, and has illustrated at some length the various beauties which eminently distinguish the simple, regular, and perfect poem contained in those chapters. But the grandest specimen of his poetry is presented in the fourteenth chapter, which is one of the most sublime odes occurring in the Bible, and contains the noblest personifications to be found in the records of poetry.

The prophet, after predicting the liberation of the Jews from their severe captivity in Babylon, and their restoration to their own country (verses 1-3.), introduces a chorus of them, expressing their surprise and astonishment at the sudden downfal of Babylon, and the great reverse of fortune that had befallen the tyrant, who, like his predecessors, had oppressed his own, and harassed the neighbouring kingdoms. These oppressed kingdoms, or their rulers, are represented under the image of the fir-trees and the cedars of Libanus, which is frequently used to express any thing in the political or religious world that is supereminently great and majestic : the whole earth shouts for joy ; the cedars of Libanus utter a severe taunt over the fallen tyrant, and boast their security now he is no more. (verses 4-8.)

This is followed (9.) by one of the boldest and most animated personifications of Hades, or the regions of the dead, that was ever executed in poetry. Hades excites his inhabitants, the shades of princes, and the departed spirits of monarchs. These illustrious shades arise at once from their couches as from their thrones';' and,

1“ The image of the dead,” so admirably described by the prophet, Bishop Lowth observes,“ is taken from their custom of burying, those at least of the higher rank, in large sepulchral vaults hewn in the rock. Of this kind of sepulchres there are remains at Jerusalem now extant; and some that are said to be the sepulchres of the kings of Judah. See Maundrell, p. 76. You are to form to yourself an idea of an immense subterraneous vault, a vast gloomy cavern, all round the sides of which there are cells to receive the dead bodies : here the deceased monarchs lie in a distinguished sort of state suitable to their former rank, each on his own couch, with his arms beside him, his sword at his head, and the bodies of his chiefs and companions round about him. See Ezek. xxxii. 27. On which place Sir John Chardin's manuscript note is as follows :--- En Mingrelie ils dor

[ocr errors]


advancing to the entrance of the cavern to meet the king of Babylon, they insult and deride him on being reduced to the same low state of impotence and dissolution with themselves. (10, 11.) The Jews now resume the speech (12.); they address the king of Babylon as the morning-star" fallen from heaven, as the first in splendour and dignity in the political world fallen from his high state : they introduce him as uttering the most extravagant vaunts of his power and ambitious designs in his former glory; these are strongly contrasted, in the close, with his present low and abject condition. (13—15.)

Immediately follows a different scene, and a most happy image, to diversify the same subject, and give it a new turn and additional force. Certain persons are introduced, who light upon the corpse of the king of Babylon, cast out and laying naked upon the bare ground, among the common slain, just after the taking of the city, covered with wounds, and so disfigured, that it is some time before they know him. They accost him with the severest taunts, and bitterly reproach him with his destructive ambition, and his cruel usage of the conquered : which have deservedly brought upon him this ignominious treatment, so different from that which those of his rank usually meet with, and which shall cover his posterity with disgrace. (16-20.)

To complete the whole, God is introduced, declaring the fate of Babylon, the utter extirpation of the royal family, and the total desolation of the city ; the deliverance of his people, and the destruction of their enemies ; confirming the irreversible decree by the awful sanction of his oath. (21—27.)

“How forcible,” says Bishop Lowth, “is this imagery, how diversified, how sublime ! how elevated the diction, the figures, the sentiments !--The Jewish nation, the cedars of Lebanon, the ghosts of departed kings, the Babylonish monarch, the travellers who find his corpse, and last of all JEHOVAH himself, are the characters which support this beautiful lyric drama. One continued action is kept up, or rather a series of interesting actions are connected together in an incomparable whole; this, indeed, is the principal and distinguished excellence of the sublimer ode, and is displayed in its utmost perfection in this poem of Isaiah, which may be considered as one of the most antient, and certainly one of the most finished, specimens of that species of composition which has been transmitted to us. The personifications here are frequent, yet not confused; bold, yet not improbable : a free, elevated, and truly divine spirit pervades the whole; nor is there any thing wanting in this ode to defeat its claim to the character of perfect beauty and sublimity. If, indeed, I may be indulged in the free declaration of my own sentiments on this occasion, I do not know a single instance, in the whole compass of Greek and Roman poetry, which, in every excellence of composition, can be said to equal, or even to approach it."1

enterre de mesme, leurs armes posées de cette façon.'” Bp. Lowth's Transla-
tion of Isaiah, vol. ii. p. 121.
Bishop Lowth's Translation of Isaiah, vol. ii. p. 301., and also his Lectures on


[ocr errors]


ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET JOEL. I. Author and date. — II. Occasion and scope. — III. Analysis of the

book. - IV. Observations on its style.

BEFORE CHRIST, 810—660, or later.


I. CONCERNING the family, condition, and pursuits of this prophet, there is great diversity of opinion among learned men. Although several persons of the name of Joel are mentioned in the Old Testament, we have no information concerning the prophet himself, except what is contained in the title of his predictions (i. 1.), that he was the son of Pethuel. According to some idle reports collected and preserved by the Pseudo-Epiphanius," he was of the tribe of Reuben, and was born at Bethhoron, a town situated in the confines of the territories of Judah and Benjamin. It is equally uncertain under what sovereign he flourished, or where he died. The celebrated Rabbi Kimchi and others place him in the reign of Joram, and are of opinion that he foretold the seven years' famine which prevailed in that king's reign. (2 Kings viii. 1-3.) The authors of the two celebrated Jewish Chronicles entitled Seder Olam (both great and little,) Jarchi, and several other Jewish writers, who are also followed by Drusius, Archbishop Newcome, and other Christian_commentators, maintain that he prophesied under Manasseh. Tarnovius, Eckermann, Calmet, and others place him in the reign of Josiah ; but Vitringa, Moldenhrawer, Rosenmüller, and the majority of modern commentators

, are of opinion (after Abarbanel) that he delivered his predictions during the reign of Uzziah : consequently, he was contemporary with Amos and Hosea, if indeed he did not prophecy before Amos. This opinion, which we think more probable than any, is supported by the following arguments :- 1. Only Egypt and Edom (iii. 19.) are enumerated among the enemies of Judah, no mention whatever being made of the Assyrians or Babylonians :-2. Joel (iii. 4—7.) denounces the same judgments, as Amos (i. 9–11.) against the Tyrians, Sydonians, and Idumæans (who had invaded the kingdom of Judah, carried off its inhabitants, and sold them as slaves to the Gentiles) ; --- 3. It appears from Joel ii. 15-17. that at the time he flourished, the Jews were in the full enjoyment of their religious worship :-- 4. More prosperous times are promised to Judea, together with uncommon plenty (ii. 18, 19.): -5. Although Joel foretels the calamity of famine and barrenness of the land, it is evident from Amos (iv. 6. 7.) that the Israelites had not only suffered from the same calamity, but were even then labouring under it.

[ocr errors]

1 See Simonis Onomasticon Vet. Test. p. 517. 2 De Vitis Prophetarum in Epiphanii op. tom. ii. p. 245. 3 Relandi Palestina, p. 633. 4 Typus Doctrine Prophet. cap. iv. p. 35. et seq. 5 Introductio in Libros Canonicos Vet. et Nov. Test. pp. 120, 121.

6 Scholia in Vet Test Partis sentima yol i 433 434

II. From the palmer-worm, locust, canker-worm, caterpillar, &c. being sent upon the land of Judah, and devouring its fruits (the certain forerunners of a grievous famine), the prophet takes occasion to exhort the Jews to repentance, fasting, and prayer, promising them various temporal and spiritual blessings.

III. This book consists of three chapters, which may be divided into three discourses or parts, viz. Part I. is an exhortation, both to the priests and to the people, to

repent, by reason of the famine brought upon them by the palmerworm, 8c. in consequence of their sins (i. 1--20.); and is followed by a denunciation of still greater calamities, if they continued impenitent. This discourse contains a double prophecy, applicable, in its prima

ry sense to a plague of locusts, which was to devour the land, and was to be accompanied with so severe a drought and famine as should cause the public service of the temple to be interrupted; and, in its secondary sense, it denotes the Babylonian invasion, and perhaps also the invasions of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans,

by whom the Jews were successively subjugated. Part II. An exhortation to keep a public and solemn fast

(ii. 12–17.), with a promise of removing the calamities of the Jews on their repentance. (18—26.) From the fertility and prosperity of the land described in these verses, the prophet makes an easy transition to the copious blessings of the Gospel, particularly the effusion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ; with these he connects the destruction of the Jewish nation and polity in consequence of their rejecting the Gospel ; interspersing promises of safety to the faithful and penitent, which were afterwards signally fulfilled to the Christians in that great national

calamity. (27—32. Compare Acts i. 17-21.) Part III. Predicts the general conversion and return of the Jews,

and the destruction of their opponents, together with the glorious state of the church that is to follow. (ii.)

IV. The style of Joel, though different from that of Hosea, is highly poetical : it is elegant, perspicuous, and copious; and at the same time nervous, animated, and sublime. In the two first chapters he displays the full force of the prophetic poetry, and his descriptions of the plague of locusts, of the deep national repentance, and of the happy state of the Christian church, in the last times of the Gospel, are wrought up with admirable force and beauty.

1 Early in the last century, M. Hermann Von der Hardt, whom, from his love of philosophical paradoxes, Bp. Lowth has termed the “ Hardouin of Germany," attempted to reduce Joel's elogies to iambic verse. He accordingly published the three first elegies at Helmstadt, in 1708; and again, with additions, at the same place, in 1720, in 8vo.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »