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have expected that the fact would have been distinctly mentioned.
And what intimation is there that either Isaiah's wife, or the wife of Ahaz, ever had such a son ? Dr. Pye Smith and others think, indeed, that Hezekiah was the son referred to; though never called by the proper name of Immanuel. And to meet the fatal objection to such a supposition from the fact, that at that very time Hezekiah was about ten years old, Dr. Smith conjectures that the numeral letter for twenty, both in 2 Kings xvi. 2, and 2 Chron. xxviii. 1, must have been put by the mistake of the copyists for the numeral letter for thirty.* But, again ; how could the appellation of Virgin apply to either of these women ? The word translated “ Virgin” occurs, says Dr. Pye Smith, “but seven times in the Old Testament, in all of which places it undoubtedly denotes a young woman, who is, properly and strictly, a Virgin.” He gives various reasons, however, for doubting “whether, from this paucity of instances, we are warranted to regard the latter part of this explanation as essentially included in the meaning;" and then observes, that it appears probable, if not absolutely certain, that the word, though generally denoting a young virgin in the strict sense, was also applied (by a national courtesy, perhaps,) to a young woman of high rank very recently married.
But even if it were granted that the meaning of this word might be stretched to the extent for which Dr. Smith contends, it never could by any possibility apply to either of these women. Isaiah's wife had borne him one son at least, viz., Shear-jashub; and as Isaiah had exercised the prophetic office for at least eighteen years, we may well suppose that he had been for several years married to her. The wife of Ahaz had borne him “children," whom he had burnt in the fire (2 Chron. xxviii. 3); and her son Hezekiah, as we have seen, was about ten years old.
To suppose that Isaiah pointed to some Virgin who was present, and of whom we have not the slightest notice, either then or afterwards,—though she became the mother of such a marvellous son; and especially if she became so, as many even of our opponents suppose, by a miraculous conception,-involves a difficulty of an almost incurable character.
But now take the ordinary interpretation of the passage. “Behold,” says the prophet, “The Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. She who will emphatically be The Virgin,—who will be distinguished from all other Virgins that ever were or ever shall be, by bringing forth a son whilst a Virgin,-she who will bring forth the Saviour of the world, and whose appearing all Israel, and mankind in general, have so earnestly been expecting ;-she will conceive and bear a son. The promise of a deliverer given to our first parents contained an expression which on the ono hand distinctly declared that he would be a man, and on the other hand would suggest that he would not have a human father. “The seed of the woman," remarks Maclaurin, “is a title not applicable to any that comes into the world in the ordinary way, neither according to the style of Scripture, or common language, or any propriety of words.” From this promise the expectation seems to have been general, that a Deliverer would be born of a Virgin. “It is to be considered,” observes Frederick Rosenmüller, who maintains the ordinary interpretation of this passage, “ that, in the time of Isaiah, and particularly among the Jews, the belief was extensively cherished, and had been indeed received among many other nations of antiquity, that a kind of Divine Hero or King would be born of a spotless Virgin, who should redeem men from wickedness, release them from troubles, and deliver them from miseries : in a word, who should restore to the world the happiness of the golden age. The Hebrews looked for that divine sovereign among themselves, to be the Son of a Virgin of the house of David, and they expected that he would be in an especial manner the Redeemer and Deliverer of his own nation. Those of them who relied upon that ancient and brilliant divine promise (2 Sam. vii. 16), on the perpetual duration of the kingdom of David, looked for his appearance whenever they were so heavily oppressed with great public calamities, that they supposed the last or iron age of the world to be certainly near its close. As then total ruin seemed to be impending over the royal race of David and the entire kingdom of Judah, from the confederacy of the kings of Israel and Syria, the prophet encourages their troubled and dejected minds by the hope that the Divine Prince, so ardently longed for, would shortly be born of a Virgin.
* Dr. Smith asserts that if the read. ings in these two texts be admitted as correct, it will follow that Ahaz was only eleven years old at the birth of his son! But Dr. Lowth, in his Com.
mentary on 2 Kings xviii. 2, calcu. lates that Ahaz might have been nearly fourteen years old when he begat Hezekiah ; and in other ways also meets this difficulty.
Dr. Pye Smith maintains that the word translated “shall conceive,” can only properly be rendered, “has conceived," or “is conceiving.” But this does not affect the meaning of the words. It is only in accordance with the custom of the prophet to speak of a future event as being already accomplished ;-just as in the 9th chapter Isaiah exclaims, « Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." If any inference may be drawn from the use of the past tense, instead of the future, it would be that the Prophet was still more manifestly speaking of a woman
who would bear a son at the time that she was a Virgin; and not of a woman who was then a Virgin, but afterwards would conceive and bear a son in the ordinary way.
"And shall call his name Immanueľ—(God with us). In the language of Scripture, a person is sometimes said to be called by any name, when he really is, or is acknowledged really to be, what that name designates. Now before the Messiah was born, his mother's husband-not his mother-was directed to call him Jesus, as his proper name: the name by which he was to be spoken of and addressed and distinguished from others. (Matt. i. 21.) “ Jesus” was at the same time both his proper name, and his descriptive title. But he was known and acknowledged both by his mother, (“ She shall call him,”) and by all his people, to be “Immanuel," i. e. “God with us:”—God and man; God united with man; and God with, or on the side of, man, to aid and deliver and save him. But according to the view taken by our opponents, the son that was brought forth could not be called, in this latter sense, “Immanuel :' and yet there is not the slightest intimation that any one who was born at that time was called by the proper name“ Immanuel.”
“Butter and honey,” it is said in the next verse, “shall he eat, that he may know (or rather, till he shall know] to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.”
According to the ordinary interpretation, a truth of the most wonderful and consoling and encouraging nature is here de. clared. He who was Immanuel-God with us-was born subject to all the wants and weaknesses of human infancy. He would not be nourished in any miraculous manner; he would not know instinctively what kind of food would be good, and what would be injurious or evil; but, like all other infants, he would be nourished with butter and honey, and, like them, he would only learn by degrees, and by his own experience and the teaching of others, what sort of food would be good for him. Thus the Messiah would indeed "empty himself” of his glory, and prove that he had become flesh and a real partaker of our nature, able to sympathize with us (even with little children) in all our wants and weaknesses, and fitted to be a real sacrifice for our sins.
The next, the 16th, verse has been supposed to create an insuperable difficulty in the way of the ordinary interpretation, and to prove conclusively that the son to be born was born within a year from the giving of the Prophecy. Now it is at once conceded that if the child in the 16th verse is the child whose birth is predicted in the 15th verse, the interpretation must be abandoned. And it is further conceded that, at first sight, such appears to be the case. The two verses, read together, are as follows:-"Butter and honey shall he eat, till he knows [or, when he knows] to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For, before the child shall know to refuse the evil and to choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” But the article “the,” or “this," prefixed to the child in the 16th verse, may equally well designate either the child in the 15th verse, or some child in the company pointed out by the Prophet's finger. And, surely, nothing can be more probable than that it was Shear-jashub, the Prophet's own child, and perhaps about a year old. It seems utterly unaccountable that the Lord should direct the Prophet to take Shear-jashub with him to be present at the interview with Ahaz, and then that no use whatever, as far as is recorded, should be made of him. Our opponents maintain that when the Prophet says "The Virgin," he must have been pointing with his finger to some virgin then present; though there is no intimation given that any virgin was present, unless it was the wife of Ahaz, the mother of a child ten years old; and yet, though we are expressly told that Isaiah's child was present, they will not allow that the Prophet could have pointed to him, and said of him, “this child &c.” It is true that the child in the 15th verse is spoken of as not knowing how to refuse the evil, and to choose the good; and that the same words are also used of the child in the 16th verse; but this does not by any means prove that the same child was meant in both verses. It only shows that Shearjashub was a very little child.
There is yet one point more which remains to be considered. The Lord was pleased to give a “SIGN.” What was this sign?
Our opponents say that it was a sign that the predictions of the prophet (ver. 4, 10) would be fulfilled. Judah need not fear Rezin and Pekah : they were only two tails of smoking firebrands. Rezin should never be anything beyond the Head of Damascus, which was the Head of Syria : and Pekah should never be anything beyond the Head of Samaria, which was the Head of Ephraim. And as to Ephraim, within sixty-five years it should be broken, so as to be no more a people. And what sign did God give them, according to our opponents, to allay their fears of the fierce anger of these two kings; who had each of them, singly, overthrown Judah with a tremendous slaughter, and were now with their united forces approaching Judah in its weakened and helpless state ? Surely a sign was needed that would be plain, and immediate. But neither of these conditions are fulfilled. A woman-distinctly, they say, pointed out to the Royal Family, but not named for the benefit of those that were not present and could only read the prophetic roll--would conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel. There was no plain sign thus far. Any young woman might conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel, if she pleased. And this child, again, would be fed on butter and honey till he was three or four years old ;-just like any other child. But then, some time before it was a year or two old, Rezin and Pekah would be dead! So that there would be nothing like a plain indisputable sign for at least a year or two : and the sign that they need not fear these kings would not be given-in its completeness—till the kings were both dead :-i.e., till a sign was perfectly unnecessary! It would, indeed, serve as a sign that Ephraim should be broken in sixty-five years, so as not to be a people; but as a sign of the failure of the plans of these powerful and enraged monarchs leagued together against Judah—the thing of such pressing importance, and needed immediately-it must have proved useless.
No consistent explanation, moreover, can be given of the connection between the 15th and 16th verses that is at all satisfactory, or agreed upon bị our opponents.
But now apply the principle of interpretation which recognises the prophecy as referring directly to the Messiah ; and how full of consolation is the sign, under all dangers that would threaten the utter destruction of the nation, or of the House of David !
We must take the word “sign” in a far broader and more comprehensive sense than to apply it simply to the overthrow of Rezin and Pekah, and the destruction of Ephraim. After the assurance that Rezin and Pekah should not succeed, and that Ephraim itself should soon cease, and cease for ever, to molest Judah ; the Lord makes a pause :—“Moreover," it is said (ver. 10), “ The Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God.” The pause seems to show that the sign was to have a wide and general application. In chap. vi. (ver. 11 to end) the Lord had declared, referring to the Babylonian invasion, that the cities would be wasted with. out inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate; and that the Lord would rernove men far away;" but that the remnant would return. The very name of the prophet's son, “ Shear-jashub," who accompanied the prophet, would remind Ahaz of this tremendous overthrow as well as of the preservation of the remnant which would return. The kings of Israel and Syria at that very time threatened the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem and the house of David. On the removal, moreover, of this source of danger, countless hosts of Assyrians and Egyptians would cover the land; and the Lord would bring upon Ahaz and upon his people, and upon his father's house, days that had not come from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah-(see ch. vii., ver. 17 to end.)
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