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phets: “As in wisdom one wise man may be greater than another, so in prophecy one prophet may be greater than another prophet. All of them see, however, the apparition of prophecy in a dream only, in a vision of the night, or on some day when deep sleep falls upon them, Numb. xii. 6. Moreover, the limbs of all of them shake at the time when they are prophesying, their bodily power fails, and their mind, undisturbed by any other impression, is left to conceive that which it sees, as is declared of Abraham, Gen. xv. 12, and of Daniel, x. 8. The things thus revealed are revealed to them by way of allegory; but the interpretation is also at once impressed upon their minds, so that they know what it means; as the ladder which Jacob saw; the living creatures and the roll Ezekiel saw; the almond tree Jeremiah saw; and the ephah Zechariah saw. And so it was with the other prophets : some, like these, related the allegory, and also gave the interpretation ; others told the interpretation only, and sometimes they related the allegory
The highest degree of inspiration was a direct communication to the mind of a prophet; this the Jewish writers would restrict to Moses, to whom the Lord spoke face to face, Exod. xxxiii. 11. They considered, and still consider him, as the greatest prophet ever yet raised up in the world. The confession of faith used in the latter ages of their state declares, “that all the prophecies of Moses our master are true; and that he is the father of all the sages, whether they went before or after him.” And the Jews expect that the Messiah will be a prophet “like unto Moses,” considering him as the triumphant deliverer of his people. Upon this part of the character of their lawgiver they dwell, even as Stephen, Acts vii. 37, referred to the same passage, Deut. xviii. 15, but enlarged upon that part of his history which represents him as suffering for his people. There appears no cause for this limitation to Moses. A direct communication also appears to have been sometimes made by a voice to other prophets, as to Samuel. The ministry of angels has already been mentioned. At times a prophet could not refrain from delivering his message, even when it seemed disadvantageous to declare it, see Jer. xx. 7—10; but it is probable, that usually, when charged with a Divine communication, he was directed or led to select the opportunities most suitable for the purposes in view.
A prophet, when called to stand forth among
trymen, to reprove sin, to warn of judgments to come, and to set forth the Divine promises, was about to enter upon a course both difficult and dangerous. The history of Jeremiah fully shows this; and few have read unmoved the minute and graphic description of his sufferings in the dungeon, Jer. xxxviii. But the Divine protection was promised, and if wicked men were suffered to prevail, a better recompense awaited the prophet than any earthly advantage. He had to manifest, in his life and conversation, that he dedicated himself wholly to his office. His apparel was simple, and his food coarse. Isaiah wore sackcloth, Isa. xx. 2. Elijah was clothed in skins, 2 Kings i. 8. So usually was this the garb of the prophets, that it was assumed by the false prophets after the captivity, in order to deceive, Zech. xiii. 4; a rough garment, or garment of hair, either of skins or hair-cloth. The appearance of Elisha probably occasioned the scoffs and mockery of the young men of Jericho, 2 Kings ii. 23, 24. By this plain and self-denying course of life their disinterestedness was manifested, as in the instance of Elisha and Naaman, 2 Kings v. 16.
From many circumstances it is plain, that the prophets often possessed the respect and regard of persons of the first rank in the state. Elijah and Elisha commanded this even from the wicked kings of Israel, 1 Kings xviii. 17; 2 Kings iii. 14. Isaiah had extensive influence with the good king of Judah, Hezekiah, Isa. xxxvii. 2. Nor did he hesitate boldly to deliver his message, even when the ralers of the land were men of a different stamp. The reproof to Shebna, Isa. xxii. 15—25, is supposed to have been delivered publicly to him, when one of the idolatrous ministers of Manasseh ; and at a time when probably he was superintending the erection of some stately monument, thinking thereby to perpetuate his memory. Some consider that this solemn personal warning was so resented by the wicked ruler, that he caused the prophet to be put to a cruel death, by being sawn in sunder by a wooden saw, which is the Jewish tradition respecting the martyrdom of Isaiah. But the most remarkable instance of political power and influence enjoyed by a prophet, is that of Daniel. The fearlessness with which he risked his life, rather than cease from the worship of God, at a time when he enjoyed the highest honours of the realm, shows the excellent spirit he was of ; see Dan. vi. The conduct of the princes to Jeremiah, chap. xxxvi. 19, proves the respect and regard manifested to him, even by the courtiers of Jehoiakim. That chapter also shows, that the messages or discourses of the prophets sometimes were delivered publicly in the temple, ver. 5–8. Many passages confirm these statements, and the reverence required towards the prophets and their messages, 2 Chron. xx. 20, and xxxvi. 16; proving that the neglect and ill-treatment many among them experienced, added much to the national guilt. Their words were often confirmed by the exhibition of miracles, as in the case of Moses; and at other times by judgments, immediate or shortly to come to pass, as in the instances of Jeroboam, whose hand withered, 1 Kings xiii. 4, the captains sent to take Elijah, 2 Kings i. 10, 12; and the death of Hananiah, Jer. xxviii. 17.
The attentive reader of the historical books of the Bible must perceive that they differ widely from the common histories of nations. They not only record the events which befell the Jews, with a minuteness and fidelity very different from the early records of other nations, but they give details and particulars, which unfold the springs and sources of their actions, and show the results of their proceedings on succeeding generations, so as to furnish the most excellent moral and religious instructions. The principles upon which the laws and polity of the Jews were founded, are fully developed in the Bible, they are therefore written for our instruction, and should be fully considered in connexion with their history. From thence we may learn how fully this policy was calculated to promote their national happiness, and how clearly it appears that their national sufferings were the result of their departure from the laws which God had given them. It is by thus taking a view of the polity, in connexion with the history of the Jews, that the sacred narrative presents the most impressive lessons. Their covenant with the Lord, as a people, was really the foundation of their national power and strength, which were only preserved and continued to them whilst they adhered to that covenant. It was in this view that the psalmist exclaimed, “ Happy is that people whose God is Jehovah !" Psa. cxliv. 15; and that the prophet, anticipating the calamities about to fall upon the nation, showed the evil effects of disobedience, Jer. ii. 19.
“Know, therefore, and see
That it is an evil and bitter thing
It must also be remembered, that this national covenant was closely connected with the still more comprehensive covenant made by the Lord our God with the lost children of men,
every kindred, tongue, and people, for their salvation. The national covenant with the Jews had direct reference to the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, the love of God for his chosen nation was a type of his love for his children of every country. The Jewish polity shadows forth the rich designs of saving grace; the Jewish history proves how fully and freely this grace was imparted by Him who is “rich in mercy,” Eph. ii. 4. Here then we see at once our danger and the remedy. Let us enter upon the consideration of the Jewish polity with a view to our own improvement. Let individuals, families, and nations, remember that Jehovah changeth not, that the principles of his government are ever the same, that the Bible alone contains his revealed will, and that it is vain for any, whether the largest community or the humblest individual, to think that they can sin against God, and yet prosper ; that they can reject the principles of His law, and yet escape the punishment deserved by disobedience. And also, that God the Lord will not forsake those who obey his word, for he is “ a just God and a Saviour,” Isa. xlv. 21.
We must ever remember that Moses was not the author of the laws and polity of the Jews; he did not frame them from his own devisings, or borrow them from other countries. There doubtless is much similarity between the