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odious. Isaiah was superior to Demosthenes in the honour of illus trious birth.” Comm. on 2 Kings xix. 2. It may be added here, that although his writings are not so ancient as those of Moses, or as those of Homer and Hesiod, yet they are more ancient than most of the admired classic productions of Greece, and are far more ancient than any of the Latin classics. As an ancient writer he demands respect. And laying out of view altogether the idea of his inspiration, and his religious character, he has a claim as a poet, an orator, a writer of eminent beauty and unrivalled sublimity, to the attention of those who are seeking eminence in literature. No reason can be given why in a course of mental training, Isaiah, and the language in which he wrote, should be neglected, while Hesiod and Homer, with the language in which they wrote, should be the objects of admiration and of diligent culture. In no book, perhaps, can the mere man of taste be more gratified than in the study of Isaiah; by no writingg would the mind be more elevated in view of the beautiful and the sublime, or the heart be more refined by the contemplation of the pure. Few, very few of the Greek and Latin classic writers can be put into the hands of the young without endangering the purity of their morals; but Isaiah may be studied in all the periods of youth, and manhood, and age, only to increase the virtue of the heart and the purity of the imagination, at the same time that he enriches and expands the understanding. And while no one who has just views of the inestimable value of the Greek and Latin classics in most of the respects contemplated in education, would wish to see them banished from the schools, or displaced from seminaries of learning, yet the lover of ancient writings; of purity of thought and diction; of sweet and captivating poetry; of the beautiful and sublime in writing; of perhaps the oldest language of the w and of the pure sentiments of revelation, may hope that the time will come when the Hebrew language shall be deemed worthy of culture in American schools and colleges as well as the Latin and Greek; and that as a part of the training of American youth, Isaiah may be allowed to take a place at least as honourable as Virgil or Homer-as Cicero or Demosthenes. It is indeed a melancholy reflection which we are compelled to make on the seminaries of learning in our land-a Christian land—that the writings of the Hebrew prophets and poets have been compelled to give place to the poetry and the mythology of the Greeks; and that the books containing the only system of pure religion are required to defer to those which were written under the auspices of idolatry, and which often express sentiments, and inculcate feelings, which cannot be made to contribute to the purity of the heart, or be reconciled with the truth as revealed from heaven. As specimens of taste; as models of richness of thought, and beauty of diction; as well as for their being the vehicles in which the knowledge of the only true religion is conveyed to man, these writings have a claim on the attention of the young. Were the writings of Isaiah mere human compositions ; had they come down to us as the writings of Demosthenes and Homer have done; and had they not been connected with religion, we may De permitted to express the belief that the Jewish classics, with the classics of Greece and Rome, would have been allowed an honourable place in all the seminaries of learning, and in all the public and private libraries of the land.
§ 3. The TIMES OF Isaiah. Isaiah, as we have seen, lived for the greater part of a century, and possibly even more than a century. It is probable also that for a period of more than seventy years he exercised the prophetic office. During that long period, important changes must have occurred; and a knowledge of some of the leading events of his time is necessary to understand his prophecies. Indeed a simple knowledge of historical facts will often make portions of his prophecies clear which would be otherwise entirely unintelligible.
The kingdom of Israel, which during the reigns of David and Solomon had been so mighty and so magnificent, was divided into two separate kingdoms 990 years before Christ, or two hundred and forty years before Isaiah entered on his prophetic office. The glory of these kingdoms had departed; and they had been greatly weakened by contentions with each other, and by conflicts with surrounding nations. In a particular manner, the kingdom of Israel, or Samaria, or Ephraim, or the ten tribes, as it was indiscriminately called, had been governed by a succession of wicked princes; had become deeply imbued with idolatry, and had so far provoked God as to make it necessary to remove them to a foreign land. It was during the time in which Isaiah discharged the duties of the prophetic office that that kingdom was utterly overturned, and the inhabitants transplanted to a distant country. In the year 736 before Christ, or not far from twenty years after Isaiah entered on his work, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria slew Rezin king of Damascus, the ally of Pekah the king of Samaria ; and he entered the land of Israel, and took many cities and captives, chiefly in Gilead and Galilee, and carried many of the inhabitants to Assyria. 2 Kings xvi. 5—9. Amos i. 5.2 Kings xv. 29. 1 Chron. v. 26. This was the first captivity of the kingdom of Israel. Shalmaneser succeeded Tiglath-Pileser as king of Assyria B.C.724. In the year 721 B. C. he besieged Samaria, and after a siege of three years he took it. He carried beyond the Euphrates the inhabitants which Tiglath-Pileser had not removed, and placed them in cities there. 2 Kings xvii. 3—18. Hos. xiii. 16. Í Chron. v. 26. This was the end of the kingdom of Israel, after it had subsisted two hundred and fifty-four years. Isaiah exercised the prophetic office during about thirty of the last years of the kingdom of Israel. But his residence was principally at Jerusalem; and not many of his predictions have reference to the kingdom of Israel. Most of his prophecies which have reference to the Jews relate to the kingdom of Judah, and to Jerusalem.
The kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, had greatly declined from the splendour and magnificence which had existed under David and Solomon. It had been greatly weakened by the revolt of the ten tribes, and by the wars in which it had been engaged with the kingdom of Samaria, as well as with surrounding nations. Though no kings were superior in virtue and piety to the kings of Israel, yet many of them had been unworthy to be the descendants of David, and their conduct had exposed them greatly to the divine displeasure.
When Isaiah entered on his prophetic office the throne was occupied by Uzziah; or as he is elsewhere called Azariah. He succeeded his father Amaziah, and was sixteen years old when he came to the throne, and reigned fifty-two years. He began his reign in the year 809 B. C. and of course his reign extended to the year 757 B. C. His general character was that of integrity and piety. He was a worshipper of the true God, yet he did not remove the groves and high places which had been established in the land for idolatrous worship. He greatly strengthened Jerusalem ; was successful in his wars with the Philistines, with the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and extended his kingdom somewhat into surrounding regions. Near the close of his life he was guilty of an act of rashness and folly in claiming as a monarch the right of going into the temple of the Lord, and of burning incense on the altar. For this sin he became a leper and remained so till his death. 2 Kings xv. 2 Chron. xxvi. He was of course regarded as unclean, and was obliged to dwell by himself in a separate house. 2 Chron. xxvi. 21. During this period, the affairs of the government were administered by his son Jotham. 2 Chron. xxvi. 21. It is probable that Isaiah exercised the prophetic office but for a short time, perhaps for a single year, during the reign of Uzziah. None of his prophecies can be certainly proved to relate to his reign except that contained in the sixth chapter. It is more natural, however, to suppose that those in the previous five chapters were delivered in his reign.
Uzziah, or Azariah, was succeeded by his son Jotham. He ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. The general character of Jotham was like that of his father. He was upright; and he was not guilty of idolatry. Yet the high places were not removed; the groves still remained; and the state of the people was corrupt. 2 Kings xv. 32–36. 2 Chron. xxvii. 1-9 He carried forward the plan which his father had commenced of fortify ing the city (2 Chron. xxvi. 3), and of enlarging and beautifying his kingdom.' In a particular manner, he is said to have built a high gate to the house of the Lord, and to have fortified Ophel. 2 Chron. xxvi. 3. Ophel was a mountain or bluff
, which was situated between Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. From the base of this mountain or bluff flowed the waters of Siloam. This bluff was capable of being strongly fortified, and of contributing much to the defence of the city, and accordingly it became one of the strongest places in Jerusalem. Jotham also built cities, and castles, and towns in the mountains and forests of Judea (2 Chron. xxvi. 4), and it is evident that his great aim was to beautify and strengthen his kingdom. The principal wars in which he was engaged were with the Ammonites, whom he subdued, and laid under tribute. 2 Chron. xxvi. 5.
It was during the reign of Jotham that very important events occurred in the vast empire of the East. The ancient empire of the Assyrians which had governed Asia for more than thirteen hundred years was dissolved on the death of Sardanapalus in the year 747 beforo Christ. Sardanapalus was distinguished for sloth and luxury. Ho sunk into the lowest depths of depravity ; clothed himself as a woman; spun amidst the companies of his concubines; painted his face anú decked himself as a harlot. So debased was he, that his reign became intolerable. He became odious to his subjects and particularly to Arbaces the Mede, and to Belesis the Babylonian. Belesis was a captain, a priest, and an astrologer; and by the rules of his art, he took upon him to assure Arbaces that he should dethrone Sardanapalus, and become lord of all his dominions. Arbaces hearkened to him, and promised him the chief place over Babylon if his prediction proved true. Arbaces and Belesis promoted a revolt, and the defection spread among the Medes, Babylonians, Persians, and Arabians, who had been subject to the Assyrian empire. They mustered an army of not less than four hundred thousand men, but were at first defeated by Sardanapalus, and driven to the mountains ; but they again rallied and were again defeated with great slaughter, and put to flight towards the hills. Belesis, however, persisted in the opinion that the gods would give them the victory, and a third battle was fought in which they were again defeated. Belesis again encouraged his followers; and it was determined to endeavour to secure the aid of the Bactrians. Sardanapalus supposing victory was secure, and that there could be no more danger, had returned to his pleasures, and given himself and his army up to riot and dissipation. Belesis and Arbaces, with the aid of the Bactrians, fell upon the army sunk in inglorious case, and entirely vanquished it
, and drew Sardanapalus without the walls of his capital. Here, closely besieged, he sent away his three sons and two daughters into Paphlagonia. In Nineveh he determined to defend himself, trusting to an ancient prophecy, “that Nineveh could never be taken till the river became her enemy;" and as he deemed this impossible, he regarded himself as
He maintained his position, and resisted the attacks of his enemies for two years, until the river, swelled by great rains, rose and overflowed a considerable part of it. Regarding his affairs as now desperate, he caused a vast pile of wood to be raised in a court of his palace, in which he placed his gold and silver and royal apparel, and within which he enclosed his eunuchs and concubines, and retired within his palace, and caused the pile to be set on fire, and was consumed himself with the rest. Universal History, Anc. Part, vol. iii. pp. 354-358. Edit. Lond. 1779.
From this kingdom, thus destroyed, arose the two kingdoms of Assyria, as mentioned in the Scriptures, and of Babylonia. Arbaces, who, according to Prideaux, is the same as Tiglath-Pileser (comp. nowever Universal History, vol. v. 359), obtained a large part of the empire. Belesis had Babylon, Chaldea, and Arabia. Belesis, according to Prideaux (Connex. book i. p. 114), was the same as Nabonassar, or Baladan (see Note on ch. xxxix. 1); and was the king from whom was reckoned the famous era of Nabonassar commencing in the 747th year before the Christian era. It is not improbable that there was some degree of dependence of the Babylonian portion of the empire on the Assyrian; or that the king of Babylon was regarded as a viceroy to the king of Assyria, as we know that among the colonists
sent by Shalmaneser to people Samaria after the ten tribes were carried away, were some from Babylon, which is there mentioned in such a manner as to leave the impression that it was a province of Assyria. 2 Kings xvii. 24. The kingdom of Babylon, however, ultimately acquired the ascendency, and the Assyrian was merged into the Chaldean monarchy. This occurred about one hundred years after the reign of Nabonassar, or Baladan, and was effected by an alliance formed between Nabopolassar and Cyaxares the Median. See Rob. Cal. Art. Babylonia. Comp. Note on ch. xxxix. 1. It should be observed, however, that the history of the Assyrian empire is one of the obscurest portions of the ancient history. See the article Assyria in Rob. Calmet.
There is not any decided evidence that Isaiah delivered any prophecies during the reign of Jotham. Most commentators have supposed that the prophecies in ch. ii.-V. were delivered during his reign; but there is no internal proof to demonstrate it. See the Analysis of these chapters.
Jotham was succeeded by Ahaz. He was the twelfth king of Judah. He came to the throne at the age of twenty years, and reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years, and of course died at the age of thirty-six. He ascended the throne, according to Calmet, 738 years before the Christian era. See 2 Kings xvi. 2. 2 Chron. xxviii. 5. The character of Ahaz was the reverse of that of his father; and, excepting Manasseh his grandson, there was not probably a more impious prince that sat on the throne of Judah. Nor was there a reign that was on the whole more disastrous than his. A statement of his deeds of evil, and a brief record of the calamitous events of his reign, is given in 2 Chron. xxviii. and in 2 Kings xvi. He imitated the kings of Israel and Samaria in all manner of abominations and disorders. He early made images of Baalim. He burnt incense in the valley of Hinnom to idol gods, and burnt his children in the fire. He established idolatrous places of worship in every part of the land ; and caused the worship of idols to be celebrated in the groves, and on all the hills in Judea. Ae a consequence of this idolatry, and as a punishment for his sins and the sins of the nation, his kingdom was invaded by the joint forces of the kings of Syria and of Samaria. A large number of captive Jews were carried to Damascus; and in one day Pekah the king of Samaria killed one hundred and twenty thousand, and took captive two hundred thousand more whom he purposed to carry captive to Samaria. This he would have done but for the remonstrance of the prophet Obed, who plead with him, and represented the impropriety of his carrying his brethren into bondage; and at his solicitation, and from the apprehension of the wrath of God, the captives were returned to Jericho, and set at liberty. 2 Chron. xxviii. 15. It was at this juncture, and when Áhaz trembled with alarm at the prospect of the invasion of the kings of Syria and Samaria, that he resolved to call in the aid of the Assyrian, and thus to repel the apprehended invasion. Though he had been able to defeat the united armies of Syria and Samaria once (2 Kings xvi. 5), yet those armies again returned, and Ahaz in alarmu determined to seek the aid of Assyria. For this purpose he sent ines