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the invasion of Sennacherib; the great distress of the Jews while it continued; their sudden and unexpected deliverance by God's immediate interposition in their behalf; the subsequent prosperous state of the kingdom under Hezekiah; interspersed with severe reproofs, and threats of punishment, for their hypocrisy, stupidity, infidelity, their want of trust in God, and their vain reliance on the assistance of Egypt; and with promises of better times, both immediately to succeed, and to be expected in the future age.*
In conformity with the preceding view of the agency employed by the Lord in effecting this miraculous overthrow, are the other terms employed by the prophet in these chapters. In foretelling the distress of Jerusalem he exclaims, (ch. xxix. 1, 2,) "Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow and it shall be unto me as Ariel." Or, as Bishop Lowth renders it, and it shall be unto me as the hearth of the great altar;' that is, it shall be the seat of the fire of God, which shall issue from thence to consume his enemies. The hearth of the altar is expressly called ", ariel, by Ezekiel, ch. iii. 15; which is put, in the former part of the verse, for Jerusalem, the city in which the altar was.* So again in Isa. xxx. 31, 33, "For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared: he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” Tophet was a part of the valley of Hinnom, south-east of Jerusalem, where the Canaanites and afterwards the Israelites, sacrificed their children to Moloch; and it is here used by metonymy, for the place where the Assyrian army was destroyed, which appears to have really happened on the opposite side of Jerusalem, near Noh, Isa. x. 32.†
(18.) The recovery of Hezekiah from a dangerous sickness, 2 Kings xx. 7. “And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered." rw, shechin, from the Arabic w, shechin, from the Arabic, sachana, to be hot, signifies an inflammatory tumour, or burning boil: and some think that Hezekiah's malady was a pleurisy; others, that it was the plague; and others, the elephantiasis, a species of leprosy, as one of the Hexapla versions renders in Job 2. 7. A poultice of figs might be very proper to maturate a boil, or dismiss any obstinate inflammatory swelling, and the propriety of such an application is expressly mentioned by Pliny (1. xxii. c. 25, l. xxiii. c. 7); but we cannot discuss its propriety in this case, unless we were certain of the nature of the malady. It was, however, the natural means which God chose to bless for his recovery; and without this interposition, he must have died.†
(19.) The going back of the shadow ten degrees on the sun-dial of Ahaz, 2 Kings xx. 8—11. "And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What
* Comprehensive Bible, Note on Isa. 29. 2.
+ Idem, Note in loco.
shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day? And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken ; shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz." What these degrees were, or how dials were then constructed, is wholly uncertain. It is probable that this miracle was effected by refraction, rather than by arresting the motion of the earth.* The Hebrew might be rendered the steps of Ahaz.' The researches of curious travellers, in Hindostan, observes Bp. Stock, have lately discovered in that country, three observatories of similar form, the most remarkable of which is to be seen within four miles of Delhi, the ancient capital of the Mogul empire. A rectangled triangle, whose hypothenuse is a staircase, (apparently parallel to the axis of the earth), bisects a zone, or coping of a wall, which wall connects the two terminating towers at right and left. The coping itself is of a circular form, and accurately graduated, to mark, by the gnomon above, the sun's progress before and after noon. According to the known laws of refraction, a cloud, or body of air, of different density to the common atmosphere, interposed between the gnomon and the coping, or dial plate below, would, if denser, cause the shadow to ascend the steps on the coping by which it had gone down, and if rarer, a contrary event would take place.†
(20.) The miraculous defeat of the Philistines in behalf of David.— 1 Chr. xiv. 15, 16. "And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry-trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle for God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines. David therefore did as God commanded him: and they smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gazer." Some, taking the word , bechaim, translated mulberry-trees,' as a proper name, render, ' when thou shalt hear a sound of going upon the summits of Bechaim ;' others understanding wx, rosh, 'a top,' in the sense of beginning or entrance, read, when thou hearest a sound of footsteps at the entrance of the grove of mulberry-trees;' and others think a rustling among the leaves is intended. The Targumist reads, ' When thou shalt hear the sound of the angels coming to thy assistance, then go out to battle; for an angel is sent from the presence of God, that he may render thy way prosperous.' If there had not been an evident supernatural interference, David might have thought that the ruse de guerre, which he had used, was the cause of his victory.*
(21.) The miraculous preservation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the fiery furnace.-Dan. iii. 26, 27. "Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said,
Shadrach, Mechach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of thefr heads singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them." The heathen boasted that their priests could walk on burning coals unhurt; and Virgil (Æn. 1. xi. 785) mentions this of the priests of Apollo of Soracté, Varro, however, tells us that they anointed the soles of their feet with a species of unguent that preserved them from being burnt; but here all was supernatural, as the king himself acknowledged.*
(22.) The madness miraculously inflicted on Nebuchadnezzar, according to the interpretation of his dream by Daniel, Dan. iv. 25.—“That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beast of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will," &c. Compare ver. 29-36. All the circumstances of Nebuchadnezzar's case, says Dr. Mead, (Medica Sacra, ch. vii.) agree so well with a hypochondriasis, that to me it appears evident he was seized with this distemper, and under its influence ran wild into the fields: then fancying himself transformed into an ox, he fed on grass, after the manner of cattle; and, through neglect of himself, his hair and nails grew to an excessive length, so that the latter became thick and crooked, resembling birds' claws. Virgil (Ecl. vi. 48.) says of the daughters of Prætus, who are related to have been mad, Implerunt falsis mugitibus agros, 'With mimic lowings they filled the fields.'* Every thing was fulfilled that was exhibited in the dream and its interpretation; and God so ordered it in his providence, that Nebuchadnezzar's counsellors and lords sought for him and gladly reinstated him in his kingdom. It is highly probable that he was a true convert, and died in the faith of the God of Israel.*
(23.) The preservation of Daniel in the lion's den, Dan. vi. 16-23. "Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel." All this precaution served the purposes of Divine Providence. There could be no trick or collusion here: if Daniel be preserved, it must be by the power of Jehovah the God of Israel. And he was delivered; and when the king enquired at the den after his safety, he said, "O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his
*Comprehensive Bible, Note in loco.
angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God."
(24.) The miraculous preservation of Jonah in the fish's belly, &c. Some writers, from the supposed difficulties of this Book, have considered it as a parabolic history, or allegory; others have thought that the account of his being swallowed by a great fish, praying in its belly, and being cast on dry land, was a dream which he had when fast asleep in the ship; and others, with equal propriety, have contended that by 27, dag, we should understand, not a fish, but a fishing cove, or fishing-boat! Such absurd opinions are scarcely worthy of notice; they are plainly contrary to the letter of the text, and the obvious meaning of language; and are completely overthrown by the appeal of our Lord to the main facts of this history, and especially by the use which He makes of it. (Mat. 12. 40. Lu. 11. 39.) This testimony puts an end to all mythological, allegorical, and hypothetical interpretations of these great facts; and the whole must be admitted to be a miracle from beginning to end, effected by the almighty power of God. God, who commissioned Jonah, raised the storm; He prepared the great fish to swallow the disobedient prophet; He maintained his life for three days and three nights in the bowels of this marine monster; He led it to the shore, and caused it to eject the prophet on dry land at the appointed time; He miraculously produced the sheltering gourd, that came to perfection in a night; He prepared the worm which caused it to wither in a night. And how easy was all this to the almighty power of the Author and Sustainer of life, who has a sovereign, omnipresent, and energetic sway in the heavens and in the earth! The miraculous preservation and deliverance of Jonah was surely not more remarkable or descriptive of almighty power, than the multiplied wonders in the wilderness, the protection of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the fiery furnace, of Daniel in the lions' den, or the resurrection of the widow's son ;—all were deviations from the general laws of nature, and the ordinary course of human events, and evident demonstrations of supernatural and miraculous interference. But foolish man will affect to be wise, though born as a wild ass's colt; and some, because they cannot work a miracle themselves, can hardly be persuaded that God can do it !*
(25.) The star which guided the Magi to Bethlehem, Mat. ii. 9. "When they had heard the king, they departed, and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." It seems evident, that this was neither a star, planet, or comet; but a luminous meteor, of a star-like form, in our atmosphere, formed by God for the express purpose of
guiding the magians, not only to Bethlehem, but to the very house where the child lay:*
(26.) The dumbness of Zacharias, in accordance with the prediction of the angel, Luke i. 20. "And, behold, thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season." Compare, ver. 22, 62-64. The word rendered dumb, oɩwπwv, is properly silent; for in this case there was no natural imperfection or debility of the organs of speech, as in dumbness; and the following words, μn duvaμevos λaλnoaι, thou shalt not be able to speak, may be regarded as merely explicative. This was at once a proof of the severity and mercy of God: of severity, in condemning him to nine months' silence for his unbelief; of mercy, in rendering his punishment temporary, and the means of making others rejoice in the events predicted.*
(27.) The raising of Jairus's daughter from the dead, Mark v. 41-43. "And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat." This was to shew that she had not only returned to life, but was also restored to perfect health; and to intimate, that though raised to life by extraordinary power, she must be continued in existence, as before, by the use of ordinary means. The advice of a heathen on another subject is quite applicable: Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit. (Horace.) When the miraculous power of God is necessary, let it be resorted to; when not necessary, let the ordinary means be used.'-To act otherwise would be to tempt God.*
(28.) The healing of a woman who had had an issue of blood twelve years, &c. Mark informs us, that she had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse." (ch. 5. 26.) No person will wonder at this account, when he considers the therapeutics of the Jewish Physicians, in reference to diseases of this kind, (for an account of which, see Drs. Lightfoot and Clarke): from some of their nostrums, she could not have been bettered; from others, she must have been made worse; from all she must have suffered many things; and from the persons employed, the expense of the medicaments, and the number of years she was afflicted, it is perfectly credible that she had spent all that she had. She was therefore, a fit patient for the Great Physician.* Having heard of Jesus," she came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me?" &c. (Luke 8. 44, 45.) Not that he was ignorant who touched him,' says Epiphanius, (Ancorat. § 38. cited by Bulkley,) but that he might not be himself the
* Comprehensive Bible, Note in loco.