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BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH.
ON the term prophet, and on the nature and several kinds of prophecy, I have already
discoursed in different parts of this work. See the notes on Gen. xv. 1, xx. 7, and the preface to the four Gospels, and Acts of the Apostles. A few things only require to be recapitulated. xnaba signifies not only to foretell future events, but also to pray and supplicate ; and x'3) nabi, the prophet, was by office not only a declarer of events still future, but the general preacher of the day; and as he frequently foresaw the approach of disastrous times, such was the wickedness of the people, he employed his time in counselling sinners to turn from the error of their ways, and in making strong prayer and supplication to God to avert the threatened judgments : for such predictions, however apparently positive in their terms, were generally conditional ; strange as this may appear to some who, through their general ignorance of every thing but the peculiarities of their own creed, suppose that every occurrence is impelled by an irresistible necessity.
To his own conduct, in reference to such matters, God has been pleased to give us a key (see Jer. xviii.) which opens all difficulties, and furnishes us with a general comment on his own providence. God is absolute master of his own ways; and as he has made man a free agent, whatever concerns him in reference to futurity, on which God is pleased to express his mind in the way of prophecy, there is a condition generally implied or expressed. As this is but seldom attended to by partial interpreters, who wish by their doctrine of fatalism to bind even God himself, many contradictory sentiments are put in the mouths of his prophets.
In ancient times those who were afterwards called PROPHETS were termed SEERS; 1 Sam. ix. 9.
on haroeh, the seeing person ; he who perceives mentally what the design of God is. Sometimes called also nin chozeh, the man who has visions, or supernatural revelations; 1 Kings xxii. 17; 2 Kings xvii. 13. Both these terms are translated seer in our common Version. They were sometimes also called men of God, and messengers or angels of God. In their case it was ever understood that all God's prophets had an extraordinary commission, and had their message given them by immediate inspiration.
In this the heathen copied after the people of God. They also had their prophets and seers; and hence their augurs and auguries, their haruspices, priests, and priestesses, and their oracles; all pretending to be divinely inspired, and to declare nothing but the truth; for what was truth and fact among the former, was affected and pretended among the latter.
Many prophets and seers are mentioned in the sacred writings; but, fragments and insulated prophecies excepted, we have the works of only sixTEEN; four of whom are termed the former or larger prophets, and twelve, the latter or minor prophets. They have these epithets, not from priority of time, or from minor importance, but merely from the places they occupy in the present arrangement of the books in the Bible, and from the relative size of their productions.
The Jews reckon forty-eight prophets, and seven prophetesses ; and Epiphanius, in a fragment preserved by Cotelerius, reckons not fewer than seventy-three prophets, and ten prophetesses ; but in both collections there are many which have no Scriptural pretensions to such a distinguished rank.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH. The succession of prophets in the Jewish Church is well worthy of note, because it not only manifests the merciful regards of God towards that people, but also the uninterrupted succession of the prophetic influence, at least from Moses to Malachi, if not before ; for this gift was not withheld under the patriarchal dispensation ; indeed we might boldly ask any man to show when the time was in which God left himself without a witness of this kind.
To show this succession, I shall endeavour to give the different prophets in order of time.
1. The first man, Adam, has an undoubted right to stand at the head of the prophets, as he does at the head of the human race. His declaration concerning marriage, “ For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife,” is so truly prophetic, that no doubt can be formed on the subject. There was then nothing in nature or experience to justify such an assertion ; and he could have it only by Divine inspiration. The millions of instances which have since occurred, and the numerous laws which have been founded on this principle among all the nations of the earth, show with what precision the declaration was conceived, and with what truth it was published to the world. Add to this, his correct knowledge of the nature of the different animals, so that he could impose on them names expressive of their respective natures or propensities ; which proves that he must have acted under a Divine inspiration ; for known only to God are all his works from the beginning.
2. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, is expressly called a prophet; and St. Jude, ver. 14, 15, has preserved a fragment of one of his prophecies, relative to the corruption of the antediluvian world, and the approaching judgments of God.
3. Noah was a prophet and preacher of righteousness, and predicted the general deluge, and the time of respite which God in his mercy had granted to the offenders of that age.
4. ABRAHAM is expressly called a prophet also, Gen. xx. 7; and it appears from Psa. cv. 15, that he partook of the Divine anointing.
5. Isaac, Gen. xxvii. 27, predicted the future greatness of his son Jacob, and of the race that was to spring from him.
6. Jacob was so especially favoured with the prophetic gift, that he distinctly foretold what should happen to each of his sons. See. Gen. xlix.
7. Joseph was favoured with several prophetic visions, and had the gift of interpreting dreams which portended future occurrences; (see Gen. xxvii., xl., xli.;) and foretold the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt; Gen. 1. 25. Thus far the prophetic influence extended through the patriarchal dispensation for about two thousand three hundred and seventy years from the creation.
With the Jewish dispensation the prophetic gift revived; and,
8. Moses became one of the most eminent prophets that had ever appeared. He not only enjoyed the continual prophetic afflatus, but had such visions of and intercourse with God as no other person either before or since was favoured with; and by which he was highly qualified to perform the arduous work which God had given him to do, and to frame that Code of Laws which had no equal before the promulgation of the Gospel. See Deut. xxiv. 10. He predicted expressly the coming of the Messiah. See Deut. xviii, 18.
9. Aaron, the brother of Moses, his prime minister and God's high priest, was also a partaker of his Divine influence, and declared the will of God to Pharaoh and the Israelites, not merely from information received from Moses, but also by immediate communication from God. See Exod. iv. 15.
10. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, is expressly called a prophetess, Exod. xv. 20; Num. xii. 2.
11. Joshua, who succeeded Moses, was a partaker of the same grace. He was appointed by Moses under the especial direction of God; Num. xxvii. 18–23: Deut. xxxiv. 9; and has always been reckoned among the Jews as one of the prophets. See Ecclus. xlvi. 1-6.
Though I cannot place them in the same rank, yet it is necessary to state that, by the Jews, several of the judges are classed among the prophets ; such as Othniel, Ehud, Samson and Barak.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH..
12. DEBORAH, the coadjutor of Barak, is called a prophetess, Judg. iv. 4. During her time, and down to the days of Eli the high priest, prophecy had been very scarce, there having been very few on whom the Spirit of the Lord had rested; for “the word of the Lord was scarce in those days, and there was no open vision ;" 1 Sam. iii. 1.
13. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, is supposed to have partaken of the spirit of prophecy, and to have foretold, at least indirectly, the advent of the Messiah, and the glory that should be revealed under the Gospel. See her Song, 1 Sam. ii. 1–10. And what renders this more likely is, that it is on the model, and with many of the expressions, of this song, that the blessed Virgin composed her Magnificat, Luke i. 46–55.
14. Samuel, her son, was one of the most eminent of the Jewish prophets, and was the last, and indeed the greatest, of the judges of Israel. In his time the prophetic influence seems to have rested upon many; so that we find even whole schools or colleges of prophets which were under his direction. See 1 Sam. x. 5, 10, xix. 20, and elsewhere.
15. David united in himself the character of prophet and king, in the most eminent manner; and from his reign down to the captivity the succession was not only not interrupted, but these extraordinary messengers of God became very numerous.
16. Gad flourished under his reign, and was emphatically called David's Seer, 2 Sam. xxiv. 11; 1 Chron. xxi. 9, 19, 20; and it appears that he had written a Book of Prophecies, which is now lost, i Chron. xxix. 29.
17. Nathan lived also under the same reign, 2 Sam. vii. 2; and, in conjunction with Gad, composed a book of the acts of David, 1 Chron. xxix. 29.
18. To Solomon also, son of David, the prophetic gift has been attributed. This might be implied in the extraordinary wisdom with which God had endowed him, 1 Kings iii. 5–9; 2 Chron. i. 7, vii. 12; and in his writings several prophetic declarations may be found, even independently of the supposed reference to Christ and his Church in the Canticles.
19. Iddo is termed a Seer, 2 Chron. xii. 15, xiii. 22; and was one of Solomon's biographers.
20. SHEMAIAH lived under Rehoboam ; he is called a man of God, and to him the word of prophecy came relative 10 Judah and Benjamin, 1 Kings xii. 22–24. Some think this was the same person who was sent to Jeroboam relative to his idolatry ; see 1 Kings xiii. 1, &c.
21. AHIJA), the Shilonite, prophesied to Jeroboam, 1 Kings xi. 29–39.
23. Jehu, son of Hanani, prophesied under Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings xvi. 1,7; 2 Chron. xvi. 7, xix. 2, and xx. 34.
24. Azariah, the son of Oded, prophesied under Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 1. 25. Elijah prophesied under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel.
26. Elisha succeeded Elijah under the same reigns. And these eminent men had many disciples on whom the spirit of prophecy rested. They, and their masters, Elijah and Elisha, prophesied in the kingdoms both of Israel and Judah. Their historios make a prominent part of the first and second Books of Kings; and are well known.
27. MICAIAH, the son of Imlah, prophesied under the same reign, 1 Kings xxi. 9.
28. Hosea prophesied under Jeroboam the second, king of Israel, and under the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.
29. Isaiah was contemporary with Hosea, but probably began to prophesy a little later than he did.
30. Amos prophesied about the same time.
32. ELIEZER, the son of Dodavah, prophesied against Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah, 2 Chron. XX. 37.
33. Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, prophesied against Judah and Israel under the same reign, 2 Chron. xx. 14.
34. Micah prophesied against Samaria and Jerusalem, in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
35. ODED, father of Azariah, prophesied against Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 8
41. IGDaliah, called a man of God, and probably a prophet, was contemporary with Jeremiah, Jer. xxxv. 4.
42. HABAKKUK lived about the end of the reign of Josiah, or the beginning of that of Jehoiakim.
43. Ezekiel lived under the captivity; and prophesied in Mesopotamia, about the time that Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem.
44. Obadian lived in Judea, after the capture of Jerusalem, and before the desolation of Idumea by Nebuchadnezzar.
45. Daniel prophesied in Babylon during the captivity.
48. Zechariah, son of Barachiah, flourished in the second year of Darius, after the captivity.
49. MALACHI lived under Nehemiah, and some time after Haggai and Zechariah.
Here is a succession of divinely inspired men, by whom God at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers, from the beginning of the world down to the restoration from the Babylonish captivity, a period of three thousand six hundred years. From the time of Malachi, who was the last of the prophets, till the advent of Christ, a period of nearly four hundred years elapsed without vision or prophecy: but during the whole of that interval the Jews had the law and the prophetical writings, to which, till the time of Christ, there was no necessity to add any thing; for God had with the writings of the last mentioned prophet completed the canon of the Old Testament, nothing being farther necessary, till he should, in the fulness of time, superadd the Gospel; and this having taken place, vision and prophecy are now for ever sealed up, and the temple of God is established among all genuine believers in Christ Jesus.
It is not easy to ascertain the order in which the sixteen prophets, whose writings are preserved, have succeeded to each other. There are chronological notes prefixed to several of their prophecies, which assist to settle generally the times of the whole. Several were contemporary, as the reader has already seen in the preceding list. The major and minor prophets may be thus arranged :
1. Jonah, under the reign of Jeroboam the second. 2. Hosea, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, &c. 3. Joel, contemporary with Hosea. 4. Amos, under Uzziah and Jeroboam the second. 5. Isarah, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Ilezekiah. 6. Micah, contemporary with Isaiah. 7. Nauum, under the reign of Hezekiah. 8. HABAKKUK, under the reign of Manasseh or Josiah. 9. ZEPHANIAH, under Josiah. 10. JEREMIAH, from Josiah to Zedekiah. 11. DANIEL, under the captivity, after Zedekiah. 12. EZEKIEL, at the same time. 13. Obadiah, during the captivity. 14. Haggai began to prophesy in the second year of Darius. 15. ZECHARIAH, about the same time. See Zech. i. 1, vii. 1. 16. Malachi, under Nehemiah. The last of all the prophets.