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• Having thus explained the fulfilment of that part of Noah's prophecy relative to the descendants of his son Ham, let us now consider the promises he made to Shem and Japheth. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. The wickedness of men proceedeth from themselves, but their good from God; and therefore we find the old patriarch, in a strain of devotion, breaketh forth into thanksgiving to God as the author of all good to Shem. God can certainly bestow his particular favors according to his good pleasure, and salvation was to be derived to mankind through Shem and his posterity. By the Lord being called the God of Shem, is plainly intimated that the Lord would be his God in a particular manner. Accordingly we find the church of God was among the posterity of Shem for several generations, and of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Rom. ix. 5.
The promise made to Japheth was this: God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Cañaan shall be his servant. That Japheth was more enlarged than the rest is evident, he having much greater possessions, and a more numerous offspring than either of his brothers. The territories of Japheth's posterity were very large, for besides all Europe, great and extensive as it is, they possessed the Lesser Asia, Media, part of Armenia, Iberia, Albania, and those great regions towards the north, which were anciently inhabited by the Scythians, and at present by the Tartars.
That the progeny of Japheth was enlarged, as well as his territories, evidently appears from the 10th chapter of Genesis, wherein we find that Japheth had seven sons, whereas Ham had only four, and Shem only five. 6 And the northern hive (as Sir William Templeman denomi. nates the descendants of Japheth) was always remarkable for its fecundity, and hath been continually pouring forth swarms, and sending out colonies into the more southern parts, both in Europe and in Asia, both in former and in latter times."
The expression and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, is capable of a double construction; for thereby may be meant either that God, or that Japheth shall dwell in the
Sowards the north berta, Albania. av Lesser Asia, Me
tents of Shem. Those who prefer the former construction found their authority on the literal sense of the words in the text, there being no other noun to govern the verbs in the period than the word God. The whole sentence, there. fore, according to this, should run thus, God will enlarge Japheth, and will dwell in the tents of Shem.
But let the sense of this expression be taken either way, it is certain that the prophecy hath been most punctually fulfilled. In the former sense it was fulfilled literally when the Shechinah, or Divine Presence, rested on the Ark, and dwelt in the tabernacle and temple of the Jews. In the latter sense it was fulfilled first, when the Greeks and Romans, who sprung originally from Japheth, subdued and possessed Judea and other coun. tries of Asia belonging to Shem; and again spiritually, when they were proselyted to the true religion, and those who were not Israelites by birth, became Israelites by faith.
This first prophecy of Noah's is certainly a most extraordinary one indeed. It was delivered near four thousand years ago, and yet hath been fulfilling through the seyeral periods of time to this day. It is both wonderful and instructive; and is, as it were, an epitome of the history of the World.
Of the Prophecies concerning Ishmael, the son of Abraham,
by his maid Hagar.
THE next great patriarch we meet with in the Old Testament after Noah, is the pious Abraham, who was favored with several Divine revelations. From him two very extraordinary nations descended, namely, the Ishmaelites and the Israelites, concerning each of which people there are some prophecies of the most extraordi, nary nature.
Ishmael was the son of Abraham by his hand-maid Hagar, who was an Egyptian; and though he was not properly the child of promise, yet he was distinguished by some express predictions for the comfort and satisfaction of both his parents.
When lagar fled from the face of her mistress, Sarah, who had dealt hardly with her (see Gen. xvi.) the angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness, and said unto hor, Keturn to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael, because the Lord hath seen thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
In the next chapter God promises Abraham a son by his wife Sarah, whoni he should call Isaac; but notwithstanding this, he still reserved a blessing for Ishmael: Behold (said he) I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly: twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. After this, when Hagar and Ishmael were sent forth into the wilderness, God said unto Abraham, And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed, Gen. xxi. 13. And the same is repeated to Hagar, (ver. 18.) I will make him a great nation. .
Now if we attend to the particulars mentioned in this prophecy, and trace the course of events which afterwards took place, we shall find the whole strictly fulfilled, and that a part of it is fulfilling even at this present period.
I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And again, Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. From these two passages it is manifestly evident that the prophecy does not so much relate to Ishmael himself, as it does to his descendants, whom it is foretold shall be exceeding numerous; and this part of the prediction was most amply verified.
VOL. iii, X
e shall be bar fulfillede
The mother of Ishmael was an Egyptian, and when he grew to years of manhood he married a woman of the same country. In the course of a few years his own children and their descendants became so numerous, that they formed a considerable body of people, and were particularly distinguished for the great traffic they earried on in different parts of Egypt. See Gen. xxi. 21. After this Ishmael's descendants were greatly multiplied in the Hagarenes, who were probably so called from his mother Hagar: in the Nabathæans, who were so denominated from his son Nabaioth: in the Itureans, who were so called from his son Jetur or Itur; and in the Arabs, (especially the Scenites and Saracens) who over-ran a great part of the world; and his descendants the Arabs are at this day a very numerous people.
Twelve princes shall he beget. This part of the prophecy is of a very particular nature indeed; notwithstanding which it was most strictly fulfilled. The names of these princes are recorded by Moses, (Gen. xxv. 16.) who, after mentioning them, says, These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. We are not however to understand by this expression that they were so many distinct sovereign princes; but only the heads of so many clans or tribes. Strabo frequently mentions the Arabian phylarchs (as he denominates them) or rulers of tribes; and Melo, an heathen historian, tells us, " That Ishmael had, by his Egyptian wife, twelve sons, who, departing into Arabia, divided the region between them, and were the first kings of the inhabitants; whence (even to our days, says he) the Arabians have had twelve kings of the same names as at the first.” After the time of Melo, the Arabs were governed by what was then called phylarchs, and lived in tribes; and this they still continue to do, as appears by the testimony of Thevenot, Middleton, and other modern travellers.
And I will make him a great nation. This part of the prophecy is repeated several times, and, as soon as the regular course of nature would admit, was fully accomplished. The descendants of Ishmael, in process of time,
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grew up into a great nation, such they continued for several ages, and, when we consider the prodigious numbers of them that still inhabit the country, they may be still justly called a great nation.
And he will be a wild man. Ishmael and his posterity were to be wild, fierce, savage, ranging in the deserts, and not easily softened to society; and whoever has read the accounts given of these people by different travellers must know it to be a true and genuine character. It is said of Ishmael (Gen. xxi. 20.) that he dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer; and the same is no less true of his descendants than of himself. He dwelt in the wilderness; and his descendants still inhabit the same wilderness, and many of them, from the best accounts we have, both ancient and modern, are total strangers to agriculture, neither sowing or planting, but living entirely by plunder and rapine. And he became an archer; such were the Itureans and mighty men of Keder mentioned by Isaiah, chap. xxi. 17. and such the Arabs have been from the beginning to the present time. It was very late before they admitted the use of fire arms in their country, and the greater part of them are still strangers to that instrument of defence; they constantly practice the bow and arrow, and are esteemed the most skilful archers in the universe.
His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him. This part of the prophecy has been already explained, as the reader will find by referring to the note in page 55; and therefore we now proceed to the last part, namely, And he shall dwell in the presence of his brethren; that is, shall dwell in tents, as many of the Arabs still do, and are therefore called Scenites.
If we reflect on this part of the prophecy we shall, on the first view, think it very extraordinary, that his hand should be against every man, and every man's hand against him, and yet that he should be able to dwell in the presence of all his brethren. But extraordinary as it was, this also hath been fulfilled, not only in the person of Ishmael, but likewise in his descendants. With respect to Ishmael himself, the sacred historian tells us, that the years of the life of Ishmael were an hundred and thirty
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