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love and union can she take than her King's highway—the way of love-provoking efforts,-of all efforts the evangelistic, and of all evangelistic efforts, that most neglected and yet most blessed,- the preaching of the gospel to the Jews ?
Art. II.-—Isaiah Unfulfilled; being an Exposition of the Prophet,
with new version and critical notes. By the Rev. R. Govett, Jun., M.A, Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, and Curate of St Stephens, Norwich. London: James Nisbet & Co. Pp. 467
There are two methods of studying prophecy:—the one, by viewing it as it has been arranged by the Spirit of inspiration in the books of the prophets; the other by arranging the predictions anew according to the subjects of which they treat. These two methods bear the same relation to each other as do systematic and expository theology. Both are useful, nay necessary, but as in theology so in prophecy, the views of the systematist, however accurate, will want the warmth and freshness of those which are drawn direct from the word of God. It is therefore with pleasure that we perceive in the prophetic' literature of the present day, a tendency toward the expository method. Nor is this difficult to account for. Before we can form a connected exposition of the prophetic writings, we must discover the principle on which they are arranged. It is plain that this principle, except in the chronological prophecies of Daniel and St John, is not the order of time, for events separated from each other by thou. sands of years, stand side by side in the sacred page. They are grouped, not according to their chronology, but according to their relation to the great event to which the course of God's providence is tending. Astronomers tell us that the thousand stars which to unlearned eyes seem scattered at random on the vault of heaven, are yet gathered into separate systems, each having its presiding orb, and that all these systems must have some central sun round which they collectively revolve. This economy in the work of creation may serve to illustrate a similar economy in the work of providence. Events occur in the church's history round which inspired predictions cluster. Those who heard them delivered, could only trace their relation to the times in which they lived; just as we who dwell in an orb of the solar system, know only the relations subsisting between the several bodies which compose that system, and can but faintly shadow forth our possible relations to some universal system to which all must belong. But there is one great central event to which all others have a reference, even the assumption by Christ of his millennial kingdom. To it all prophecy bears an ultimate relation. And as in the revolutions of ages we are approaching nearer to the date of its fulfilment, that relation is becoming daily more evident. This principle our author lays down as the foundation of his exposition in the following passage:
"First, That 'no prophecy is of any private in'erpretation.' Against this inspired rule those offend who, like Grotius, interpret the prophecies as fulfilled in the person of Isaiah, David, or Solomon, and in events which have no reference to us at the present day.
“ Secondly, That as, in the accomplishment of those prophecies declared by Scripture itself be fulfilled, the accomplishment was literal, so the fulgi. ment of those yet to be accomplished will be literal also. Hence the tendency of the present interpretation will be to regard every affirmation of the prophet as intended literally which, when so taken, does not involve absurdity. This principle is, in short, opposed to that popular mode of explaining prophecy, which interprets as many passages as possible in a figurative sense. It is founded on the Saviour's word, that one jot or title shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.' (Matt v. 18.) Here the word • law' is to be taken in its fullest sense, as including the Old Testament, and, indeed, the sacred Scriptures generally. That it comprehends more than the five books of Moses is evident from our Saviour's words, John x. 34, where the passage quoted is from the Psalms.”
For the purpose of illustrating this principle, let us turn to the seventh chapter of Isaiah, and hear Mr Govett's exposition.
“ We are informed, at its commencement, that the king of Assyria and the king of Israel confederated together to make war against Jerusalem, “and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal. Now this was not an ordinary war, as of one nation of the earth against any other nation of the earth. It was a war whose object, if carried, would have made God a liar; for he had predicted, that none but the family of David should rule over Judah. Even when, at Solomon's death, God rent the kingdom, he left to Rehoboam one tribe, that David his servant might have a light always before him in Jerusalem. (1 Kings xi. 36.). That tribe was the tribe of Judah, 10 which so many promises were attached. To attempt, therefore, to set up one of any other family as king in Jerusalem, was daringly to endeavour to contravene the pleasure of the Most High. It was a coutest, it merely against man, but against God.
"Vet idolatrous Ahaz and his people, who took no heed to the promises of God, were moved at the tidings of this war, ' as the trees of the wood are moved by the wind.' The heart of the believer is kept in perfect peace; the heart of the faithless is not so. Had they but recalled to mind the words of God, they would have perceived that wbile he lived and ruled, the design was impossible.
" But to qniet their fears, the prophet was directed to take his son, perhaps an infant, and named Shear Jashub, ( the remnant shall return,') and to as. sure Ahaz that these kings were now only two firebrands, no longer emitting flame but smoke, the signal of their being nearly extinguished. Also, because Ephraim must have known the prophecy respecting the integrity of the line of David, yet attempted to overthrow it; therefore, within sixty-five years it should be smitten, that it be not a people ;' which was accomplished by Shalmanezer's carrying captive the tribes of Israel out of their own land, since which day they have no more appeared as a people, and their very locality is a matter of doubt.”
Ahaz was also offered a sign, which, by happening within a very short time, might serve to confirm his faith in regard to those events which were more distant. This he obstinately refused, whereupon God gives him a sign, · Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Immanuel (God with us).' In regard to this prediction, there are only three possible suppositions :-). That it refers solely to some child born in Ahaz's days; 2. That it refers solely to Christ; and, 3. That it has a double reference to both. The first of these suppositions is contradicted by the application made of the prophecy by Matthew; the second is inconsistent with the purpose for which the sign was given, namely, to confirm the faith of Ahaz; and with the connection between the time of the birth and the calamities of Ephraim and Syria. For we cannot for a moment believe that the child spoken of in v. 15, 16, is not the same with the child mentioned in c. xiv. It remains, therefore, that we must consider the pro. phecy as having a primary reference to a child born near to the time when it was delivered, and an ultimate reference to the Redeemer himself. In this view there are three children who have been supposed to be the subject of the prediction ; Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, and Shear-jashub and Mahershalal-hash-baz, the sons of the prophet. Of these Hezekiah is out of the question, having been born before his father even came to the throne; and Shear. jashub, although strenuously contended for by Kennicott, lies open to the same objection. Assuming that the child to be born was, in the first instance, Mahershalal-hash-baz, it still remains to inquire of what his birth was to be a sign? There can be no question that one event intended to be signified was the complete ruin of the designs of Pekah and Rezin. Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and to choose the good, the land shall become desolate, by whose two kings thou art distressed.' Yet, in the very terms of the prediction there appears to be involved a warning, that Ahaz and his kingdom should participate in these calamities. • Butter and honey,' the predicted food of the child, are not a token of wealth, and plenty, and security, as Lowth supposes, but of a scanty population, supported on the spontaneous fruits of the earth. In this sense they are unquestionably used in the 21st and 2d verses of this chapter, in which the calamities to be brought upon Judah by the king of Assyria are predicted. History has recorded the fulfilment of these prophecies. Within two years and a half,
Pekah was slain ( 2 Kings xv. 29, 30, comp. with xvi. 9), and before this event took place the king of Assyria had invaded Damascus, and put Rezin to death. Over the kingdom of Judah also the clouds of misfortune were already gathering, even when the prophecy was delivered. In a former expedition Pekah had slain 120,000 men in one day. The Edomites had come and smitten them, and carried away captives ; and the Philistines, who had invaded the cities of the low country, and of the south of Judah (2 Chron. xxviii. 6, 17, 18), Tiglathpileser, to whom Ahaz sent for help, distressed him, but strengthened him not. Sennacherib afterwards took all the defenced cities of Judah, and was only prevented from taking Jerusalem by the timely interposition of Jehovah. And to complete the ruin to be brought upon them by the Assyrians, Manasseh, king of Judah, with a large number of his people, was carried into captivity, God declaring, in reference to this event, that he was about to stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab. (2 Chron. xxvii. 20; Isa. xxxvi. 2; 2 Kings xxi. 13.)
The principle upon which events are grouped in this prophecy, seems then tolerably obvious. An attempt had been made, the object of which avowedly was to set aside the line of David from the throne of Judah. This was, however, contrary to God's express prophetic declarations, and therefore never could succeed. But in declaring by his prophet that it should come to nought, God does not confine his denunciation to that single instance of antichristian malice, but provides a sign which might equally serve as a witness against every conspiracy to dethrone his anointed to the end of time. Before the child, to be born of one then a virgin, should be able to discern between the evil and the good, Samaria and Damascus should both be laid waste. This was the sign to Ahaz. The name of the child was Immanuel; and this significant name was a sign to those who witnessed the confederacy of Jews and Gentiles against our Lord. The sceptre was never to depart from Judah, till he came for whom it was reserved. Not many years after the reign of Ahaz, God removed the crown for a season from the worthless race of David, saying, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, till he come whose right it is, and I will give it him.' When, therefore, the child Immanuel was born into the world, and born of a virgin in the full sense of that phrase, it was a sign to all, that he had come whose right the crown of Judah was, and this was intimated in the language of the angel addressed to Mary, The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever.' Undoubtedly also, the name God with us,' was intended to rebuke the sinful distrust of Ahaz. Had he accepted the gracious offer of a sign, God would without doubt have himself provided the means of his deliverance, but he would not believe, and therefore he was not established.' (v. 7.) His own efforts to avert the danger which threatened him by purchasing the aid of the king of Assyria, accomplished indeed the promise which had been given, but also involved himself and his kingdom in unspeakable calamities. The evil consequences of this alliance are enlarged upon in the succeeding chapter, which opens with an account of the birth of the promised child. Mr Govett supposes that in the circumstances of his birth there is a reference to that of Christ; and although we do not altogether agree with him in this, we shall quote the passage as illustrative of his mode of interpretation.
“In this prophecy, as has been remarked above, there was given an earnest At the time then present, of the greater things in store. The prophetess con. ceived and bore a son, whose name was called, in obedience to the Lord's cowmand, Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And within three years Tigleth Pileser weut up against Damascus and took it, and carried captive of the spoil of Israel. But in the opinion of Jerome and Eusebius, (and probably the reader will agree with them,) it was intended to conceal beneath the apparently simple words of verse 3, an intimation of the miraculous conception of the Saviour. God pledges his perfections as witnesses to the truth of the promise, and then adds- l approached unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bare a son.' Parallel certainly with this are the words of the angel to Mary, · The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, sball be called the Sou of God.' And that Mary was a 'prophetess,' we are sure from her prophetic song in the same chapter of St Luke. Nor is the mystical meaning deserted at this point. For it was threatened, that as the ill-disposed Jews of that day · refused the waters of Shiloah that flowed softly,' that is, as afterwards explained, the heir of David for their king; and would rather have had Rezin and Pekah succeed in their project, therefore they should not only not attain their desire, but the Lord would bring on them the waters of the river strong and many, even the king of Assyria and all his glory. They refused the gentle brook of their own land, therefore God should bring on them the devastating waters of a foreign river. Now the pool of Siloam' is mentioned also in the Gospel by St John, where Jesus bid the man blind from his birth, · Go wash in the pool of Siloam ;' to which is added the Evangelist's remark,' which is by interpretation, Sent.' Now no end is answered by this information respecting the interpretation of the name of the place, unless beneath the obvious meaning was also couched one that did not strike the mind at once; which meaning is thus presented by Jerome. " We read in the Gospel according to Jobn, that the Lord sent to the waters of Siloam the man blind from his birth; in which, when the blind had washed, he received the dear light of the eyes; which, beside the greatness of the miracle, signifes that the blindness of the Jews can be healed only by the ductrioe of Christ,'the Shiloh, or Sent of God, whom St Paul, as Procopius notices, calls the Apostle of Salvation. Apply the same remark to the prophecy before us. This people (of the Jews) refuseth the waters of Shiloh that go softly, (Jesus the Sent or Apostle of God, whose life, both by prophecy and fulfilment, was meck like a gentle brook.) · Therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria,' that is, Antichrist and his host, in whom the Jews will beliere : according to the im