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and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl-full of water.”
So when Jehovah was moved by the repentance of Hezekiah, and added fifteen years to his life, as is written 2 Kings xx. 8, and Isaiah xxxviii. 4, 5. 7, 8, the merciful grant was confirmed by a sign: “ Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold I will bring again the shadow of the degrees which is gone down in the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.”
But although both Gideon and Hezekiah are said by Mather to have been types, (of which, however, there is no satisfactory evidence,) yet whatever may be their claim to such a rank, few will contend that there was anything typical in these circumstances.
When Ahaz, king of Israel, feared a Syrian invasion, as we find by Isaiah vii. 14-16, God sent the prophet Isaiah to encourage him and his people in their distress. After making known to him the deliverance which God would effect, the king was allowed to ask a sign of the Almighty. This, however, he declined; and upon his refusal the prophet replied, “ Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”
The person here addressed is supposed by some to have been the wife of the prophet Isaiah ;* and from the circumstance of the prediction being alluded to by the Evangelist Matthew, who expressly says that the birth of Christ was a fulfilment of it, she is called by M‘Knight a typical person, and the birth of her child said to be typical of the birth of Christ; but whether it had any reference to the Saviour at all or not, is a matter of much dispute. It is true that the expressions of the Evangelist—" this took place, that it might be fulfilled"-are remarkable, and such as will not allow of our concluding that it was a mere accommodation of the passage to the event to which he alludes. Perhaps the true meaning is (as Dr. Smith supposest), that the prophecy was intended to serve two purposes, one immediate, and relating to Ahaz; but that then there was another class of persons for whom the prediction, in a more remote sense, was intended. But even allowing this, it does not follow that either the person or the event was designed to be typical. It was deficient in the principal
• McKnight “On the Epistles,” Sup. Essays; Es. 8. Sec. 5.
+ Messiah, on the Text.
thing to make it so. To give it that character it must have been miraculous ; that is, the mother of the child must have been a virgin at the time of his birth; which we cannot suppose, for this would take away the peculiarity of the birth of Christ. What seems to have led to the conclusion that it must be Christ who is spoken of in this passage, is the name by which he was to be designated—Immanuel; and if there be no other way of understanding the designation but in application to that child, then this is correct; but the appellation is applied by the writer above-named not to the child, but to God the deliverer, who was to give the sign.
Besides these signs, which owed their origin to God himself, and were the effects of his immediate interposition, there were others that were used among the people of God themselves which could claim no especial Divine appointment.
Thus Moses, when he was in Egypt, and began to discover the nation to which he belonged, and to feel within him a benevolent desire towards his own people, went forth to see his brethren ; and when he beheld an Egyptian exercise cruelty towards a Hebrew, moved by a Divine impulse, he slew the Egyptian.* This he did, not out of revenge, but to teach those to whom it might be known, that God had raised him up for an important purpose ; for it is expressly said, (Acts xii. 25,) that “ He supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them; but they understood not.” This transaction, however, although performed by Moses, who was
• Exodus ii. 12.
himself a type of Christ, does not appear, from anything contained in the Scriptures, to have had a typical character.
So the prophets; many of them did things as signs which, from their tendency to the injury of their own persons, or from the effects of them upon the morals of the people, would have been highly objectionable, and even absurd, if this had not been the design of them.
Thus when God, in punishment for the sins of Solomon, intended to rend away from his son Rehoboam ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, the prophet Ahijah was instructed to meet Jeroboam, and to give him a sign of what God was about to do; and therefore he rent a new garment which Jeroboam wore into twelve pieces.*
Isaiah,† at the command of God, walked naked and bare-foot for three years, for a sign upon Egypt,
Jeremiah was commanded to break a potter's vessel in the valley of Hinnom, which he intended to be an intimation of what was to come to pass.
So Elisha, when he was about to leave the world, and would show the king of Israel that he should engage in warfare with the Syrians, employed a remarkable sign : “ Elisha was fallen sick, of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash, the king of Israel, came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof! And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows: and he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put * 1 Kings xi. 30. + Isaiah xx. 2. I Jer, xix. 1.
thine hand upon the bow: and he put his hand upon it; and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands. And he said, Open the window eastward : and he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot: and he shot. And he said, The arrow of the Lord's deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria ; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek till thou hast consumed them. And he said, Take the arrows : and he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground : and he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times, then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice."*
Jeremiah was to dig through the wall of his house, for a sign to the people; and Ezekiel was, on many occasions, directed to use the same kind of means to convey instructions. Of a similar nature were many things recorded in the New Testament. Thus, when it was to be signified to the Apostle Paul what he would have to suffer for Christ, Agabus, a prophet, took Paul's girdle, and binding his own hands and feet, said, “ Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle."$
In addition to these signs, which were given and used under Divine direction and influence, there were many others which claimed no such origin, but were merely conformatory to the customs of the place or times in which those who used them lived. So, because the binding
* 2 Kings xiii. 14–19. † Acts xxi. 11.