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also to state the ground on which I believe the citation of this passage by the Evangelist Matthew does not necessarily infer, that he re. garded the words of Isaiah as an express prediction of the miraculous birth of Christ. The first of these topics will find a more suitable place for consideration when we come to what is said concerning another son of the Prophet, Maher-shalal-hash-baz; and I shall confine my present remarks to the latter topic.
After having recited the circumstances which attended on the birth of Jesus Christ, the Evangelist, Matt. i. 22, observes, “all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet,” and he then quotes the passage of Isaiah, which is before us. On this I must remark, 1. That the Evangelist does not copy exactly the Hebrew text, as will be seen by comparing the version that I have given, with the citation as it stands in our common version of Matthew's Gospel; neither does he exactly copy the Greek of the LXX, which is ide, napfévos év yaspà Anverai, kai τέξεται διον, και καλέσεις το όνομα αυτ8 Εμμανουήλ: and when exactly translated, is, “ Behold! the virgin shall conceive, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel." I observe in passing, that Matthew has done, in this instance, what is common with the writers of the New Testament,-he has rather given the sense according to his memory, than strictly copied either the Hebrew or the LXX. From this observation it appears, that the translation which I have given in the words, “O virgin," &c. agrees more nearly with the LXX, than with the Greek of Matthew. 2. It is of more importance to observe, that the words of Matthew, iva anpw27 önlèv, which our common version translates, “ that it might be fulfilled which was spoken,” do not necessarily anıl exclusively mean that the event happened for the sole and express purpose of accomplishing the Prophet's language, which is evidently a sense too restricted. We may with perfect justice render these words, “ Now the whole of this was done, that there might be a fulfilment (or a verification, or an illustration) of what was spoken;" meaning that the events which he had narrated were so analogous to the words of the Prophet, that they might be taken as illustrative of them. In the second chapter of Matthew, we have two instances of the use of admpwon tò pn sèv, scil. verses 15 and 17, which must be understood in the way which I have expressed, or we shall be driven to the adoption of interpretations in whicb, as it appears to me, no theologian of sound and competent understanding can possibly acquiesce, as it is little short of monstrous to maintain that the two texts from Hosea and Jeremiah, which the Evangelist quotes, are to be looked upon by us as strictly prophetical of the events to which he applies them. There can be no reasonable doubt but that, in these cases, the citations are merely allusive, and meant to show a correspondence or agreement between the different events to which they are applied. It would be superfluous to cite examples of the use of such quotations, as they abound in all sorts of writings, and no sufficient reason can, I think, be assigned why the quotation from Isaiah, which we are now considering, should not be so understood. If, then, the
observations now made, be valid, as I am fully convinced they are, they place before us a clear, intelligible, and reasonable explication of what appears, on any other principles, to be insoluble.
III. As the version of chap. vii. 25, which I have (given, differs considerably from the common translation, a few words may be requisite to point out the propriety of the alteration. The common version is, “ On all hills that shall be digged with the mattock there shall not come thither the fear of briars and thorns, but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle." It is quite certain that no one ever understood what the verse thus translated means, as it is without meaning. We must suppose the Prophet meant to be understood, and his own original writing is sufficiently clear, but the version which we have of it, in the English Bible, so confounds the tenses of the verbs as to render it contradictory and inexplicable. The Prophet is describing the desolate and ruined state of the land, which he foretells would be produced by the ravages of the Assyrians; and he first says, that a thousand vineyards which, at the time of his predictions, were worth a thousand pieces of silver, would cease to be cultivated, and the neglected soil become prolific only of thorns and briars, the covert of wild beasts, to defend themselves against which, the few remaining inhabitants would arm themselves with arrows and bows : he then adds, that the entire country would become thus desolate, and the fruitful hills, which, at the time of his prophecy, were carefully cultivated, so that no fear of briars and thorns springing up upon them was then experienced, should be left to the spontaneous growth of a scanty herbage, on which a few cattle should pick up a precarious existence.
This communication would be extended beyond all due limits, if I were to enter on a defence of the version and interpretation which I have given of this part of the seventh chapter ; I shall therefore only observe, that the clearness and coherence of the passage, when so taken, may afford a probable ground for the correctness of what is stated, in the judgment of the less learned readers; and that I submit the whole, with due deference, to the critical skill of such readers as may be qualified to make a comparison of what has been advanced with the common version and the Hebrew text.
IV. The declaration concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz, chap. viii. 1-4, is next to be considered. The birth and infancy of this son of the Prophet were appointed to be significant of the truth and certain accomplishment of the denunciation that, “ before the child shall know how to call my father and my mother, the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be carried away before the king of Assyria." Isaiah was commanded to make a legible and express declaration on this subject before the conception of the child, in order that the document might afford a satisfactory proof of the perfect foresight by which the whole transaction was directed. For this purpose the written instrument was executed, and witnessed by two persons of rank, who were well known, Uriah the Priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, that their testimony might place beyond question the time and rectitude of the whole procedure. The narrative proceeds, verses 5 to 8,“ Because this people reject the waters of Shiloah,” &c. Shiloah was a small rivulet, the water of which was inconsiderable, flowing in a gentle stream, yet very useful to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and it is contrasted with the Euphrates, ver. 7, “ the waters of which were strong and many." The two streams are figuratively put; that of Shiloah, to represent the comparative want of grandeur and power in the condition of the royal house of David, though, through the protection which God extended to it, it was the source of great advantages to the people; and that of the Euphrates, to depict the power and superiority of the king of Assyria. As the inhabitants both of Judah and Israel despised the blessings they enjoyed under the administration of the rulers whom God had sanctioned, and longed to resemble the surrounding nations, which had become conspicuous by their policy and conquests, the Prophet is instructed to declare to them the tremendous judgments by which they should be visited, for their un. grateful and impious disregard of the favours which they had received at the hands of God. He executes his commission by announcing that the armies of the Assyrians, like a mighty and resistless stream, should inundate the land of Israel, sweep away its inhabitants, and inflict upon them incurable ruin; while the inhabitants of Judah should also suffer extreme calamities, which would reduce them to the very verge of destruction.
As that part of this denunciation which relates to Judah concludes, in our common version, with an address to Immanuel, I wish it to be noticed that the Hebrew term, both in this place, and in chap. vii. 14. is rendered by our translators as a proper name, by retaining the Hebrew word pupy. This mode answers very well in the case of chap. vii. 14., but in chap. viji. 8. it is productive of difficulty, as it does not appear why the land of Judah should be described as the land of Immanuel. The Hebrew word, or words more strictly, occurs three times, in the paragraph which is before us, scil. in the two instances here specified, and in chap. viii. 10. It appears to me that in all the three instances, the word should be translated, as I have done it, by “ God-with-us," and should be taken in vii. 14. as a proper name given to the child, which was meant to express that God was still with his people; but that in the two remaining instances, viii. 8. and viïi. 10. “ God-with-us," should be taken as an Epiphonema, or chorus, thus repeated, to confirm the faith and hope of those who, in the midst of so great degeneracy and consequent public distress still retained their fear and reverence for the God of Israel. This view of the case is in agreement with the exhortation which the prophet proceeds to ad. dress to persons of this character, ver. 11. « For thus hath Jehovah spoken to me,” &c. The purport of this address is to instruct the pious Jews not to unite in the panic and consternation which the confederacy of Israel with Syria against Judah had occasioned; but to retain with firmness their dependance upon God, who, though he would inflict condign punishment upon their guilty and obdurate countrymen, would continue to be for a sanctuary and refuge to those who made him their fear and their dread.
In pursuance of the same purpose, the prophet calls upon such as were willing to listen to him, ver. 18, “ Behold! I and the children whom Jehovah hath given to me, to be signs and portents," &c. He here calls attention to the children whose birth had been foretold, and who were expressly meant to be for signs and assurances, that God would preserve, and eventually rescue his people, from the fearful evils by which they were surrounded. Their unbelieving and idolatrous countrymen might, if they pleased, have recourse to the necromancers and false prophets, who were ever ready to betray them, by " crying peace, peace, when there was no peace," but the course of duty and safety was to pay a sacred regard“ to the law and to the testimony.” There can, I think, be no doubt that by “ the law," the prophet intended the command which he had addressed to them to sanctify Jehovah," by making him the object of their fear, and of their dread; and by " the testimony," the written document, which was attested by Uriah and Zechariah, and which was given to be an assurance that the designs of Rezin and Pekah should be entirely frustrated and overthrown. This testimony was to be bound up, and this law to be sealed, and kept in safe custody by the disciples of the prophet, as the guarantees of their safety, ver. 16, and to be brought forth at the period when God should have fulfilled his denunciations of vengeance on his adversaries, and his gracious promises of support and deliverance to his servants.
The declaration which is contained in ver. 18. “Behold! I and the children whom Jehovah hath given to me to be signs and portents," supplies the authority on which my opinion is founded, that the child, whose birth was foretold in chap. vii. 14. was a child of the prophet, as I have before intimated. The consideration of this topic was referred to the present, as the most suitable occasion for explaining and sustaining that opinion. I must then beg it to be observed, that three children are mentioned in the course of the paragraph, Shear-jashub, God-with-us, (sc. Immanuel,) and Mahershalal-hash-baz, (making speed to the spoil, making haste to the prey.) The first of these children, Shear.jashub, vii. 3. was to accompany Isaiah to meet Ahaz: of the age of this son of the prophet we have no express information, but the circumstances imply that he was old enough to go with his father, to listen to the conversation that took place, and to be prepared to give testimony to the time at which the declaration respecting the virgin, and her future offspring, was made. No intimation whatever is given that Shear-jashub was one of the children to whom the words “ to be signs and portents” relate, for the significant character of these children was involved solely in the prophecies that were delivered respecting their birth, before it took place, and the accomplishment of the events that were to happen before they arrived, one at the capacity of rejecting what was bad, and choosing what was good, and the other at the ability to cry my father and my mother. As then the prophet's words make express mention of children, to be signs and portents," the very children to whom he requires attention, the inevitable conclusion seems to be that as Maher-shalal-hash-baz was indisputably one of N. S, VOL. IV.
them, so God-with-us, (Immanuel) was the other. Having stated with as much brevity and plainness as I can, the conclusion to which I have come on this subject, I shall request the reader not to discard it on the ground of its novelty, since if it be a reasonable conclusion, novelty is no argument against its correctness; nor to stumble at the removal of what he may have supposed to be an express prediction of the miraculous conception of the blessed Redeemer, as this important fact is supported by most indubitable testimony, and needs no aid from misinterpretations, however ancient their origin, or by whatever names they may be supported; nor finally to treat the whole as a matter rather of curious inquiry, than of important truth, as nothing ought to be more highly valued by considerate and christian men, than a satisfactory elucidation of any of the numerous difficulties, by which a comprehension of the sacred writings may be retarded.
V. My disquisition must be terminated by a few sentences, the object of which will be to show the connection of the first seven verses of the ninth chapter, with the concluding part of chapter the eighth; and very briefly to advert to the momentous topics which are contained in them.
The last two verses of chap. viji. furnish a description of the miseries that would be brought upon both the countries of Judah and Israel; but chiefly, I apprehend, upon Israel, for the many provocations of divine justice with which their inhabitants were chargeable, and especially for their disregard of “ the law and the testimony" which had lately been promulgated among them. Great numbers of these guilty and wretched people were made to pass through their own land in bondage to their Assyrian conquerors, who drove them into distant regions, far remote from their once happy homes; and during their transportation, they suffered the deepest horrors of famine, which impelled them even to frantic desperation; so that they uttered bitter curses, and blasphemous imprecations against both God and man. When they raised their eyes to heaven, they found no succour; and when they looked upon their country, no sights were to be contemplated, but the ravages and desolations, which inflicted upon them intolerable anguish; and overwhelmed them in the darkness of despair. The whole of this prediction received its fulfilment, when Israel was carried into that captivity, whence they never returned.
* Yet," continues the prophet, chap. ix. 1. “There shall not be darkness," &c. In this verse I have supplied the word “perpetual," which is required by the context, as it is the design of the passage to fortell, that though the misery which has been described, was to be prolonged, yet still a period was advancing, when these desolated regions should see happier days, and be favoured with the most glorious displays of divine goodness, when Zebulon and Naphtali, the districts of the land of Israel, which had suffered the direst effects of God's indignation, should be blessed with a heavenly illumination, by the advent of the promised Messiah, and by the glorious effects of the dominion that should be given to him. This application of the prophecy is made by the evangelist Matthew, and