« FöregåendeFortsätt »
sublimity of Ezekiel's style. Grotius observes, that he possessed great erudition and genius; so that, setting aside his gift of prophecy which is incoinparable, he may deserve to be compared with Horner, on account of his beautiful conceptions, his illustrious comparisons, and his extensive knowledge of various subjects, particularly of architecture. Bishop Lowth, in his twenty-first lecture on the sacred poetry of the Hebrews, gives us the following description of the peculiar and discriminating characteristics of this prophet. “ Ezekiel,” says he,
· “is much interior to Jeremiah in elegance; in sublimity he is not even excelled by Isaiah : but his sublimity is of a totally different kind. He is deep, vehement, tragical; the only sensation he affects to excite is the terrible ; bis sentiments are elevated, fervid, full of fire, indignant; his imagery is crowded, magnificent, terrific, sometimes almost to disgust; bis language is pompous, solemn, austere, rough, and at times unpolished: he employs frequent repetitions, not for the sake of grace or elegance, but from the vehemence of passion and indignation. Whatever subject he treats of, that he sedulously pursues, from that he rarely departs, but cleaves as it were to it; whence the connection is in general evident and well preserved. In many respects he is perhaps excelled by the other prophets; but in that species of composition to which he seems by nature adapted, the forcible, the impetuous, the great and solemn, not one of the sacred writers is superior to him. His diction is sufficiently perspicuous, all his obscurity consists in the nature of the subject. Visions (as for instance among others, those of Hosea, Amos, and Jeremiah) are necessarily dark and confused. The greater part of Ezekiel, towards the middle of the book especially, is poetical, whether we regard the matter or the diction." His periods, however, are frequently so rude, that Bishop Lowth expresses himself as being often at a loss how to pronounce concerning his performance in this respect. In another place the same learned prelate remarks, that Ezekiel should be oftener classed among
the orators than the poets; and he is of opinion that, with respect to style, we may justly assign to Ezekiel the same rank among the Hebrews, as Homer, Simonides, and Æschylus hold among the Greeks.
From this high praise of Bishop Lowth's, bis learned annotator, Michaelis, dissents; and is so far from esteeming Ezekiel as equal to Isaiah in sublimity, that he is disposed to think the prophet displays more art and luxuriance in amplifying and decorating his subject, than is consistent with poetical fervour, or indeed with true sublimity. Michaelis further pronounces Ezekiel to be in general an imitator, who possesses the art of giving an air of novelty and ingenuity, but not of grandeur and sublimity, to all his compositions; and is of opinion that, as the prophet lived at a period when the Hebrew language was visibly on the decline ; and also that, if we compare bim with the Latin poets who succeeded the Augustan age, we may find some resemblance in the style, something that indicates the old age of poetry. In these sentiments the English translator of Bishop Lowth's lectures
I Pref. ad Ezechiel, in Crit. Sacr. tom. iv. p. 8.
partially acquiesces, observing that Ezekiel's fault is a want of neither novelty nor sublimity, but of grace and uniformity; while Eichhorn minutely discusses his claims to originality. Archbishop Newcone, however, has completely vindicated the prophet's style. He observes, with equal truth and judgment, that Ezekiel is not to be considered as the franer of those august and astonishing visions, and of those admirable poetical representations which he committed to writing ; but as aqi-instrument in the hands of God, who vouchsafed to reveal hinnselt, through a long succession of ages, not only in divers paris constituting a magnificent and uniform whole, but also in different manners, as by voice, by dreams, by inspiration, and by plain or enigmatical vision. It be is circumstantial in describing the wonderful scenes which were presented to him in the visions of God, he should be regarded as a faithful representer of the divine revelations, for the purpose of information and instruction, and not as exhausting an exuberant fancy in minutely filling up an ideal picture. The learned prelate thinks it probable that Buzi, the prophet's father, had preserved his own family from the taint of idolatry, and had educated his son for the priestly office in all the learning of the Hebrews, and particularly in the study of their sacred books. Being a youth at the time of his captivity, — a season of life when the fervour of imagination is natural in men of superior endowments, - his genius led him to amplification, like that of some of the Roman poets; though he occasionally shows himself capable of the austere and concise style of which the seventh chapter is a remarkable instance. But the Divine Spirit did not overrule the natural bent of his mind. Variety is thus produced in the sacred writings. Nahum sounds the trumpet of war ; Hosea is sententious, Isaiah sublime, Jeremiah pathetic, Ezekiel copious. This diffuseness of manner in mild and affectionate exhortation, this vehement enlarging on the guilt and consequent sufferings of his countrymen, seems wisely adapted to their capacities and circumstances, and must have had a forcible tendency to awaken them from their lethargy.
1 Archbishop Newcome's Preface to his Translation of Ezekiel, pp. xxvii. xxviii. To justify the character above given, the learned prelate descends to particulars (which we have not room to specify,) and gives apposite examples, not only of the clear, the flowing, and the nortous, but also of the sublime. He concludes his observations on the style of Ezekiel by stating it to be his deliberate opinion, that, if the prophets' “style is the old age of the Hebrew language and composition, it is a firm and vigorous one, and should induce us to trace its youth and manhood with the most assiduous attention.” (Ibid. pp. xxviii.- xii.)
OF THE PROPHETS WHO FLOURISHED AFTER THE RETURN OF THE
JEWS FROM BABYLON.
ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET HAGGAI. 1. Author and date. - II. Argument and scope. - III. Analysis of
its contents. — IV. Observations on its style.
BEFORE CHRIST, 520–518.
1. NOTHING is certainly known concerning the tribe or birth-place of Haggai, the tenth in order of the minor prophets, but the first of the three who were commissioned to make known the divine will to the Jews after their return from captivity. The general opinion, founded on the assertion of the Pseudo-Epiphanius, is, that he was born at Babylon, and was one of the Jews who returned with Zerubbabel, in consequence of the edict of Cyrus. The same author affirms that he was buried at Jerusalem among the priests, whence some have conjectured that he was of the family of Aaron. The times of his predictions, however, are so distinctly marked by bimself, that we have as much certainty on this point as we have with respect to any of the prophets.
II. The Jews, who were released from captivity in the first year of the reign of Cyrus (Ezra i. 1. et seq.), having returned to Jerusalem and commenced the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra ii. 1-4.), were interrupted in their undertakings by the neighbouring satraps
, who contrived to prejudice the Persian monarch (the Pseudo-Smerdis) against them (Ezra iv. 1. with 24.) until the second year of Darius. Discouraged by these impediments, the people ceased, for fourteen years, to prosecute the erection of the second temple, as if the time were not yet come, and applied themselves to the building of their own houses : but God, disposing that sovereign to renew the decree of Cyrus, raised up the prophet Haggai about the year 520 before Christ; and, in consequence of his exhortations, they resumed the work, which was completed in a few years.
Further, in order to encourage them to proceed in this under: taking, the prophet assured them from God, that the glory of this latter house should far exceed the glory of the former.
III. The book of the prophet Haggai comprises three distinct prophecies or discourses, viz. DISCOURSE 1. contains a severe reproof of the people, especially of
their governor and high-priest, for their delay in rebuilding the temple, which neglect was the cause of the unfruitful seasons, and other marks of the divine displeasure, with which they had been
visited. (i. 1-11.) The obedience of the governors and people to the prophet's message is then related. (12-15.) DISCOURSE 2. The prophet comforts the aged men, who when young had beheld the splendour of the first temple, and now wept for the diminished magnificence of the second temple, by foretelling that its glory should be greater than that of the first. (ii. 1-9.) This prediction was accomplished by Jesus Christ honouring it with his presence and preaching. Haggai then predicts a fruitful harvest as a reward for carrying on the building. (10—19.) DISCOURSE 3. The prophet foretels the setting up of Messiah's kingdom under the name of Zerubbabel. (ii. 20—23.)
IV. The style of this prophet is for the most part plain and prosaic, and vehement when he reproves; it is, however, interspersed with passages of much sublimity and pathos when he treats of the advent of the Messiah, whom he emphatically terms “the desire of all nations."
ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH.
I. Author and date. - II. Analysis of its contents. - III. Observations
on its style.
BEFORE CHRIST, 520-518.
1. ALTHOUGH the names of Zechariah's father and grandfather are specified (Zech. i. 1.), it is not known from what tribe or family this prophet was descended, nor where he was born; but that he was one of the captives who returned to Jerusalem in consequence of the decree of Cyrus, is unquestionable. As he opened his prophetic commission in the eighth month of the second year of Darius the son of Hystaspes, that is, about the year 520 before the Christian æra, it is evident that he was contemporary with Haggai, and his authority was equally effectual in promoting the building of the temple. From an expression in ch. ii. 4. we have every reason to believe ihat Zechariah was called to the prophetic ministry when he was a young man.
II. The prophecy of Zechariah consists of two parts, the first of which concerns the events which were then taking place, viz. the restoration of the temple, interspersing predictions relative to the advent of the Messiah. "The second part comprises prophecies relative to more remote events, particularly the coming of Jesus Christ, and the war of the Romans against the Jews. Part I. contains the prophecies delivered in the second year of Darius
king of Persia. (i.vi.) DISCOURSE 1. The Jews are exhorted to repentance, and to go on with the building of the temple (i. 1–6.), which it is predicted that Darius should permit (7-17.); and that the Samaritans should be compelled to suspend their opposition to the building: (18-21.) Further, to encourage the Jews in their work, the prophet foretels the prosperity of Jerusalem (ii. 145.), and admonishes the Jews to depart from Babylon before her destruction (6—9.), promising them the divine presence. (10—13.) These promises, though partly fulfilled by the prosperity of the Jews under the Maccabees, remain to be still more fully accomplished after the restoration of the Jews, and their conversion to the Gospel. DISCOURSE 2. The adversaries of the Jews having endeavoured to interrupt their work (Ezra v.), in order to encourage them, the restoration of the temple and its service is foretold under the vision of Joshua the high-priest, arrayed in new sacerdotal attire (iii. 17.); whence by an easy transition the prophet proceeds to set forth the glory of Christ as the chief corner-stone of his church. (2-10.) DISCOURSE 3. Under the vision of the golden candlestick and two olive trees is typically represented the success of Zerubbabel and Joshua in rebuilding the temple and restoring its service. (iv.) DISCOURSE 4. Under the vision of a flying roll, the divine judgments are denounced against robbery and perjury (v. 1—4.); and the Jews are threatened with a second captivity, if they continue in sin. (5--11.) DISCOURSE 5. Under the vision of the four chariots, drawn by several sorts of horses, are represented the successions of the Babylonian, Persian, Macedo-Greek, and Roman empires (vi. 1-2.) and by the two crowns placed upon the head of Joshua are set forth, primarily, the re-establishment of the civil and religious polity of the Jews under Zerubbabel and Joshua : and, secondarily but principally, the high-priesthood and kingdom of Christ, here emphatical
ly termed the Branch. (9--15.) Part 2. Prophecies delivered in the fourth year of the reign of Da
rius. (vii.-xiv.) DISCOURSE 1. Some Jews having been sent to Jerusalem from the exiles then at Babylon, to inquire of the priests and prophets whether they were still bound to observe the fasts that had been instituted on account of the destruction of Jerusalem, and which had been observed during the captivity (vü. 1–3.), - the prophet is commanded to take this occasion of enforcing upon them the weightier matters of the law, viz. judgment and mercy, lest the same calamities should befal them which had been intricted upon their fathers for their neglect of those duties. (
414.) In the event of their obedience, God promises the continuance of his favour (viii. 1-8.); they are encouraged to go on with the building (9– 17.), and are permitted to discontinue the observance of the fasts which they had kept during the captivity. (18_23.) DISCOURSE 2. contains predictions of the conquest of Syria, Phenicia, and Palestine, by Alexander the Great (ix. 1—7.), and of the watchful providence of God over his temple in those troublesome times. (8.) Whence he takes occasion to describe, as in a parenthesis, the advent of Christ (9, 10. with Matt. xxi. 5. and John xii. 15.); and then returning to his former subject, he announces the conquest of the Jews, particularly of the Maccabees, over the princes of the Grecian monarchy. (11-17.) Prosperity is further