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believe, and, believing, am saved by my faith ; but which it were presumption and folly and madness for me, or any one, to say that he is able to fathom. Here is the mystery; here lieth the love, the grace, the condescension, that ever from the boundless infinite, he should be condescending into the bounded finite of reason. No man indeed can name that name, but he himself: Immanuel alone knoweth what Immanuel meaneth. We know only this, that it is the harmony of the human and the Divine nature, the at-one-ment, or, I might say, in-onement of God and man: and beyond this we cannot go; to how it taketh place, who shall tell but God alone? As to the fact that it hath taken place, and that all peace is therein wrapped up, my soul rejoice thou therein.
If now this interpretation of the sign, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel," be sound and complete, it shews us how in the prophetic method, within the scope of one verse, the whole duration and action of the mystery of God manifest in the flesh can be comprehended. It shews us moreover, that the Spirit of God doth not divide the humiliation from the exaltation, but contemplateth them as essentially one and indivisible; both necessary to represent the purpose, and to accomplish the end of God. But these and other reflections we leave to the reader's mind, confining ourselves as we do strictly to the method of pure interpretation.
The Prophet next proceeds to denounce the judgments of God upon the two kings, Rezin and Remaliah, with respect to whom he had said nothing as yet; and this he doth by reference to the child Shearjashub, whom he was commanded to take along with him. For I will never allow, that the Son whom the virgin is to bear, and the child, over whom the Prophet prophecies the downfall of these two kings, are one and the same. The words in the original are different. The word used for child is the proper Hebrew word for such an one as the prophet's son; and for this end the prophet's son was taken, that over the head of the youth he might prophecy the downfall of these two kings; to the end that Shearjashub, as well as Maharshal-alhashbaz, might be for a sign unto the people of Israel, and that the Prophet might be able to say (ver. 18), “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion.” To the end, therefore, of constituting Shearjashub a living sign of the destruction of these two kings, the Prophet, addressing his discourse to Ahaz again, and dropping the more noble and enlarged style of addressing the house of David, doth thus speak unto the king, in a language which the king could not mistake, when there was but himself, Isaiah, and the lad, present together. Ahaz would never understand the Prophet to be speaking of the Virgin's Son, which was not presented to him as a reality, but as a prophetic sign; but now the Prophet begins to speak, not the language of a prophetic sign, but of a reality, saying, “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to choose the good and refuse the evil. Surely, (it is so translated in verse 9,) before the youth (this is the proper rendering of the word) shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good,
the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” The reason for which butter and honey are mentioned is, that they are the most nourishing of meats; wherefore, Canaan is said to be a land flowing with milk and honey: and the mention of them doth import, that the child should have the best of nourishment to bring him forward to years of discretion. Yet surely, before that time could arrive, hasten it as ye might, these kings should be cut off from their land. Accordingly, within three years from the giving of this Prophecy, was Pekah, the son of Remaliah, cut off by Hoshea the son of Elah (2 Kings xv. 30); and in the same year, or the year before, he did the like by Rezin, king of Damascus. (2 Kings xvi. 9.) So exactly was this part of the
prophecy fulfilled, and so hastily were these two kings cut off with condign punishment.
Seeing then that we have the judgment upon the two kings separated and set apart from the judgment upon Ephraim as a people, we can now go back and apply the sign of the Virgin's conception in a more extensive sense than we have hitherto done. We applied it, in general, to the large and comprehensive object of the prophecy, the establishment of David's house and David's throne, and no doubt this is that which it chiefly avoucheth. But, forasmuch as .a particular and special judgment hath been denounced upon Ephraim as a people, and this sign is immediately thereafter introduced, we do think that there is reason for believing, that the birth of Jesus is, in some way or other, the sign unto the house of David, of Ephraini being broken from being a people. With respect to the manner how, I shall have an opportunity of speaking at length when I come to treat of the prophecy of Ephraim's dispersion, given in the xxxist of Jeremiah, where and where alone, besides this place, the wonder is announced, that “a woman shall compass a man;" a prophecy which we shall be called upon to examine in the very next interpretation but two, grounded upon Matt. ii. 17 and 18, which is quoted from this very Prophecy of Jeremiah, being the prophecy of Rachel weeping in Rama for her children.
Therefore, deferring further remark upon this particular until we shall have it fairly and fully before us, we go on with our interpretation of the prophecy of Immanuel, which thus proceedeth (ver. 17) to address itself to Ahaz in person, and to deliver the burden of the Lord against himself:
The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come from the day
that Ephraim departed from Judah, even the king of Assyria. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria; and they shall come and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes, (or as it is in the margin, commendable trees).”
In these words are contained the heavy and sore judgments which were to be visited upon the house of David, upon that very house whose eternal establishment the Lord had sworn to long ago, and had just pronounced the wonderful sign of it. But let us not wonder at this, seeing in the very covenant itself (2 Sam. vii. 14), it is said of him whose throne God had just promised to establish for ever, that he would be his father, and he should be his son. “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.” And in the Psalm of the oath (Ps. lxxxíx), where this covenant with David is celebrated in worthy strains, and especially that promise recounted again (ver. 26)," he shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation, and I will make him my first-born,
higher than the kings of the earth:” the Psalm concludeth with a long complaint and enumeration of the violation of the covenant, and the forgetfulness of his loving kindnesses. In like manner must not this prophecy of the sign conclude without the mention of the same sad and melancholy burden; because God, in all these instances, doth contemplate David, and David's whole line, as one in Messiah, and the sin committed by them is viewed as Messiah's; and the punishment of them in their long humiliation is viewed as Messiah's, and the blow aimed at them is resented by God as aimed at Messiah; and so prophecy teacheth beforehand what the New Testament teacheth afterward, that every promise made to guilty men, of grace, honour, and dignity, is made for and to Messiah, the great meritorious one; and every judgment endured by the church is by Messiah endured, the great, I may say, the only sufferer: for his people suffer with a remedy, but he bears their naked and complete sufferings without a remedy, in order that, after he had sucked all the poison of suffering out, and into himself, into his body, compressed all the venom of sin, he might, by dying, make it all die, and, by rising again, triumph over it in the souls of his people, who, if they had faith, would have no suffering, as they would have no sin, the flesh being killed both as to power of sin and as to passiveness of suffering. But this is a great mystery; whose exposition prospereth only in the ear of a few faithful ones; and seeing that I am writing at present for the whole church, I resume the work of plain and strait-forward interpretation.
Verses 17, 18: “ The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah ; even the king of Assyria. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall kiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” I consider the prophecy, from the 17th verse unto the end of the chapter, to be unto Ahaz and his people, and the house of David, what the former prophecy was to Ephraim ; the burden which they should have to bear for their sins from the hand of the Lord their God. It is a burden of sore oppression and grievous disaster, but no more. It is not a burden destroying them from being a people, as it is that of Ephraim. The king of Assyria brings on the evil day, which accordingly he essayed to do in the next reign of Hezekiah, but was overthrown in virtue of the repentance and faith of the king, as you find it recorded at length in the xxxv, xxxvii, and xxxviii chapters of this Prophet. Unlike Ahaz his father, Hezekiah believed the Prophet, and was established. He asked for a sign, and he received it; and Sennacherib's host was overthrown by the angel of the Lord. The same burden of Jerusalem's overthrow, and the abiding wrath of God upon her people, was pronounced by Huldah the Prophetess, in the reign of the good king Josiah. (2 Kings xxii. 15.) And again respite was granted during the days of that faithful king; but in the days of his son, Jehoahaz, the Lord began to accomplish the word of his servant Isaiah, by hissing for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt. Hissing is the mode by which in the East a man calls the attention of any bystander, answering to our Ho! or hem! and the fly in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt is an emblem of the people who dwelt upon the Nile, and all its streams, which produce from the mud innumerable swarms of this insect; and the bee, perhaps from its daring and sharp and painful sting, and from a certain nobility both of nature and appearance, as well as from its proceeding in swarms, standeth as an emblem for the Assyrian power. Egypt was the first to bring dishonour upon the house of David, and oppression upon the land of Israel by the hand of Pharoah-Nechoh, who slew King Josiah, at Megiddo (2 Kings xxiii. 29), and put his son, Jehoahaz, in bonds at Riblah, and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold (ver. 33), and dethroned Jehoahaz and set up Jehoiakim in his stead, and made the land tributary. Then came Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the fruit of the Assyrian, and laid him under tribute three years more; after which (xxiv. 2), the Lord gathered bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and “sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servants the prophets.”—The next king was Jehoiakim, against whom the Lord brought Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who took him, and his princes, and all his family, captive into Babylon, dishonoured and spoiled the temple, and otherwise vexed Jerusalem and the whole land. And, instead of the king, he set up Zedekiah, who, contrary to his treaty and oath of allegiance to the king of Babylon, made overtures unto, and entered into treaty with, the king of Egypt, and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar his liege lord. Whereupon, Nebuchadnezzar came up with force and great wrath against Jerusalem, and broke it up entirely, and demolished it, and slew the king's sons, and put out the king's eyes, and carried him captive to Babylon, from which time until this the house of David have been captives, or tributaries, or exiles, the throne of David and his tabernacle fallen down, and woe to the uttermost, wreaked upon him, and upon his people, and upon his father's house; first, by the power of Egypt, and then by the power of Assyria, and then by the power of Persia, and then by the power of Greece, and then by the power of Rome, and then by the power of the Saracens, or Ishmaelites, and then by the power of the Turks, who, proceeding from the Euphrates (Rev. ix), and possessing both Nineveh and Babylon, do represent the Assyrian power again. .
Verse 19 : “And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes." This verse sets forth the desolation of the land through the swarms of invaders, by the emblem of the fly and the bee resting upon every place, and sucking out the sap and verdure of every growing thing. How truly it hath been accomplished, let the narrative of every traveller in the Holy Land declare.
Verse 20 : “ In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired; namely, by them beyond the river, and by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet, and it shall also consume the beard.” This language is taken from the law of the Nazarite; according to which, a man, when he was consecrated to the Lord, did separate himself and was holy, and no razor came upon his head : but, when the time of his consecration ceased, and he became common, like another man, he was required (Numb. vi. 18) to “shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and to take the hair of the head of his separation and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace-offering.” To this the language of the prophecy referreth, when it is said, that “the Lord should shave with a razor the head and the hair of the feet, and it shall also consume the beard.” And the thing signified by this language is, that the land, and the people, and the royal family, should, from henceforth, cease to