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do to Jerusalem and her idols," that therefore this prophecy was delivered after Shalmaneser had dispersed Israel, and alludes to Sennacherib's invasion of Judah. But though Assyria's attempt upon Judah is the subject of prophecy in this chapter, yet it was delivered before the captivity of Israel.
Every one must therefore perceive the impropriety of the opinion just alluded to, especially since the prophets, particularly Isaiah, frequently speak of things to come as already accomplished, because of the absolute certainty of the events. The whole scope of the premature and presumptuous boastings attributed to Assyria is this: As I am fully able, so I am determined to invade and destroy both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah." God declares that Assyria shall be successful as far as Israel is concerned, whose sins are so forcibly set forth in the preceding chapters. "With arrows and with bows shall men come thither." To Israel it is said, “ Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught: speak the word, and it shall not stand; for God is with us," Isa. viii, 9, 10. This could only refer to Israel, for Judah was preserved from the wrath of Assyria according to the word of the Lord. These predictions began to be fulfilled while Pul and Tiglath-pileser were kings of Assyria. Especially under the reign of the latter, who committed extensive ravages upon the territories of Israel, and took many away captive. "In the days of Pekah, king of Israel, came Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-bethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria," 2 Kings xv, 29. In 1 Chron. v, 26, it is more particularly stated that "the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul and Tiglathpilneser, king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan, unto this day." It is also stated that "Tiglath-meneser carried away captive" Beerah, the "prince of the Reubenites."
It is evident from these recorded facts that the ravages committed by the Assyrian kings were very extensive, comprising nearly the whole country east of Jordan, penetrating considerably into the interior, and entering the heart of the country where was situated the half tribe of Manasseh. Thus Assyria began to lift up the rod of God's anger, and punish this wicked people, called a "hypocritical nation." As yet the Assyrian makes no attempt upon Judah. This "remnant of Israel," spoken of in chap. x, 20-23, escape at present the fury of the oppressor. But Ahaz, king of Judah, was very soon after this time insulted and menaced by Pekah, king of Israel, and Resin, king of Assyria. At this critical juncture Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, and by presenting to him treasures of silver and gold, obtained his assistance against the confederated powers. Thus the "remnant of Israel stayed upon him who afterward smote them." And now it is only the power of covetousness that seems to subdue the tyrannical disposition of Tiglath-pileser; and it is more than probable that Pekah
or Resin could have obtained the assistance of Assyria at the same price. Moreover this same king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser, actually perplexed Judah in a short space of time afterward; for when the Edomites smote Judah and carried away captives, and the Philistines invaded the low country and possessed several cities and villages, Ahaz thought again to obtain aid from Assyria. "And Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, came unto him and distressed him, but strengthened him not." And then, it is added, that after Ahaz had given him presents, "he helped him not," 2 Chron. xxviii, 16– 21. This furnished a valuable lesson to the future kings of Judah, and so the Prophet Isaiah applies the circumstance.
The rod of God's anger is still in the hands of Assyria. The bounds of Israel are not fully removed, nor their treasures robbed. The inhabitants are not trodden down like the mire of the streets. Shalmaneser is the next king of Assyria, and seems completely to imbibe the aggressive spirit of his predecessor. He has a charge against Israel, which he fully executes, and the whole of the ten tribes are carried away captive. The sacred historian thus describes the event: "In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into captivity, and placed them in Halah and in Habor, by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes," .2 Kings xvii, 6. Thus is the prediction of Isaiah fulfilled, and the rod is now taken out of the hand of the Assyrian, the "Lord having performed his whole work upon Zion and on Jerusalem," as far as the instrumentality of Assyria is concerned. Retributive justice must now have its course, and Jehovah prepares to inflict punishment upon the King of Assyria, and abase the pride of his heart. He had unconsciously done the will of God. But his haughtiness and detestable covetousness were insufferable. In the wicked arrogancy of his heart he had robbed God of his glory. But He who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," declares by the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah, chap. x, 12, "I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks." In the seventh verse the prophet says, "It was in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." The successive kings of Assyria were bent on the annihilation of Israel and Judah. Tiglathpileser had taken Damascus. Shalmaneser was equally bold and proud, and believed he could take Samaria. He did so by the permission and appointment of God. Sennacherib imagined he could therefore subdue Jerusalem. Thus these kings thought to reduce the whole country of Palestine to the Assyrian yoke. That the last-mentioned king would make the attempt is clearly foretold, Isa. x, 24. He inherited all the ostentatious haughtiness of his predecessors; so in the reign of Hezekiah he went up against Jerusalem and took some of its defenced cities. Sennacherib, at this time, sends an insulting letter full of blasphemy to Hezekiah. 2 Kings xix, 1013. The command of the Assyrian army is committed to Rabshekah, who, with proud boastings and insolent reproaches, came near the city. But "the remnant of the house of Israel" trusted in God, having learned a lesson of wisdom from the miserable Ahaz-his, conduct, and fate. The prophet had said, "They shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth." This prediction was strikingly
fulfilled in Hezekiah, as will hereafter be seen. Still, however, the Assyrian, elated with past successes, proudly advances toward Jerusalem. He is making progress, spreading dismay and terror all around. Isaiah's description of Assyria's aggressive march is eloquent and energetic; chap. x, 28-32. As Bishop Lowth well observes, "The spirit and rapidity of the description are admirably suited to the subject. You see the affrighted people fleeing, and the eager invader pursuing. You hear the cries of one city echo to those of another; and groan swiftly succeeds to groan, till at length the rod is lifted over the lost citadel." But now the Assyrian has gone beyond his bounds, and therefore "the Lord, the Lord of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror, and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled." Hezekiah receives this assurance from Isaiah, and trusting in God, fervently prayed for deliverance; Isa. xxxvii, 16. The prayer concludes thus: "Now therefore, O Lord, our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only." So God said, "I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake." "The yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." The word of God thus explicitly declared, was literally and miraculously accomplished: "Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses," Isa. xxxvii, 36.
"Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
Thus Judah is preserved, and the Assyrian destroyed. Sennacherib only "shook his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem," Isa. x, 32. He was not permitted to enter Jerusalem. It is true he had alarmed and dispersed many of the adjacent villages. The inhabitants were terror-struck and fled. But these insolent enemies of God could proceed no farther than the Divine will permitted; and their destruction was as marked a display of divine power and special providential interference as we have any account of.
The military splendor of the Assyrian army, and the preparations for resistance on the part of Hezekiah, must have almost overpowered the mind of the Prophet Isaiah. But while he, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, foretells these warlike exploits, he is aided to bear the overwhelming grandeur. And when he, by the prescience of faith, discovered the awful presence of the "angel of the Lord," he must have felt as when he first received the divine afflatus, and said, "Wo is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." No wonder that under such an impulse his mind should be directed to contemplate and describe scenes far more glorious and distant, and which should be achieved by the same King, even the "Angel of the Lord."
We are of opinion that the first seven verses of the ninth chapter of Isaiah should follow the tenth chapter, and so precede the eleventh, with which it is beautifully connected in style and subject. Moreover, the incidents included in the first seven verses of the ninth chapter, naturally follow the transactions prophetically described in the tenth chapter, and they have no connection with any other part of the prophecy. The prophet foretells the several invasions of the Assyrian kings, Zebulun, Naphtali, and Manasseh; that is, the country of Galilee, all around the sea of Gennesereth were the parts that suffered most from the aggressions of Tiglathpileser. Sennacherib approaches Jerusalem, and the people "sit in darkness." "But," says the prophet, (quoting Lowth's translation,) "there shall not hereafter be darkness in the land which was distressed;" that is, the Assyrian king shall not be successful as heretofore. So that these verses of the ninth chapter are naturally a continuation of the tenth. The prophet, solemnly impressed with the attributes of the "Angel of the Lord," the breath of whose lips should slay the wicked Assyrian, very eloquently introduces him as the deliverer of all people, who should "in the fulness of time" become incarnate, and whose spiritual conquests should be far more extensive and glorious than those of any earthly king, or even than he should gain over the Assyrian king. "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." The prophet proceeds in the eleventh chapter to foretell the human parentage of the Messiah: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots;" and then sets forth in glowing and vigorous language the character and power of the Branch, and the vastness of the conquest which he should obtain. The peace and righteousness which shall through his influence and authority overspread the world are described in language and imagery at once magnificent and exhilarating. The miraculous deliverance of "the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem," from the terrible forces of Sennacherib, and this too by the power of the "Angel of the Lord," formed an admirable introduction to this splendid prophetic display of Messiah's advent, and victorious advancements through the world. So the prophet, animated by military successes, represents the ensign of Messiah, "the gospel banner," as uplifted and unfurled. The glorious names of the Messiah shall be inscribed upon it, "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Ever. lasting Father, the Prince of peace." All stained with hallowed blood, the nations shall behold the ensign, and adore their King. "To it shall the Gentiles seek," and they shall feel that the peace and rest of the gospel are glorious-that "his banner over them is love." The prophet then shows that the influence of Messiah's authority shall not be confined to the Gentiles, but that the Jews are to participate in those glorious blessings. To the ten tribes who had been scattered by Shalmaneser a future literal gathering is promised. To Judah, also, many of whose cities had been dispersed by Sennacherib, a restoration is promised. These events formed an easy introduction to such announcements as included their spiritual conversion. It is probable, also, that the restoration of Israel to their own land, which actually took place, was set forth as the pledge and assurance of their conversion to Christ. Yet
there is some obscurity in the chapter as to their literal restoration; for although such is the general interpretation," their own land" is not mentioned, and is only inferred from their flying "upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west." But this is far from being conclusive, since they are also to subjugate the east. Moreover Lowth's translation removes the supposition that Judea can be referred to in either case-for the words are," But they shall invade the borders of the Philistines westward; together shall they spoil the children of the east." It seems most consistent with the scope of the whole chapter and context, that the political liberty and union of Israel and Judah after the Babylonish captivity is what the prophet portrays, first to be accomplished. As a natural transition of thought, the Spirit of God reveals to the prophet the fact of their liberty and unity under the gospel dispensation. The Jews shall be "assembled"-" gathered together!" But where? Why certainly to the same ensign which the Gentiles shall seek. And these "outcasts of Israel" shall participate in the same "glorious rest" of peace and unity, which the Gentiles by seeking have found. All enmity between Israel and Judah shall be cut off. The hostility of their bitterest enemies shall cease. Every impediment to their being assembled under the ensign of the "root of Jesse" shall be removed, and their salvation shall be as conspicuous, and as miraculous, as when their forefathers were delivered from the tyranny of Pharaoh, by going over the Egyptian or Red Sea "dry shod," and far more glorious. Here as elsewhere, to admit their literal gathering, would drive us to the absurdity of a Gentile gathering also, for the very same ensign is to be displayed for both. But if we conceive, as all Christian interpreters do, that the spiritual conversion of the Gentiles is in the chapter before us matter of prophecy, so we are bound to admit that the future conversion of the Jews is specially intended. This is the general tenor of all those prophecies with which we are furnished by Isaiah. He is very judiciously called "the evangelical prophet," because of the sublimity and Christian character of his annunciations. He frequently predicts the Babylonish captivity, and promises a return: he even mentions Cyrus by name, who it is well known issued a general proclamation for the return of the Jews to their own land. These events form the ground-work of more glorious promises, and from these the prophet shows, in many places, the glories of Messiah's kingdom, the calling of the Gentiles, and the conversion of his countrymen.
Jeremiah began his prophetic work, as is generally believed, about the thirteenth year of Josiah; that is, when that prince began the work of reformation in the religious worship of Judea. He was probably incited to this by the ministry of Jeremiah. The commission of this prophet refers more particularly to Judah, for Israel had been at the period just mentioned about ninety years in capti vity. So in Jer. ii, 2, the Lord says, "Go, cry in the ears of Jerusalem." The design of Jeremiah is to show the inhabitants of Jerusalem their heinous ingratitude, grievous treachery, and shameful backslidings. He does this, first, by showing that they were more fickle and inconstant than the worshippers of idols: "For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; send unto Kedar, and consider dili.