« PreviousContinue »
gently, and see if there be such a thing. Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit,” Jer. ii, 9, 13. This aw. ful ingratitude is augmented by the consideration, that every means had been used to reclaim them from idolatry, and save them from crime ; yet they had persevered in sin, and even said, “I am innocent.” When the hand of God was upon them in wrath they fled to foreign powers for assistance. Ahaz went to Assyria, and returned in shame. So saith the Lord to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in the context caled Israel,“ Thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria,” Jer. ii, 36. This prediction was accomplished when Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. Pharaoh-hophra, king of Egypt, came out to assist Zedekiah, where. upon Nebuchadnezzar raised the siege, and routed the Egyptian army. Thus were the “confidences of Judah rejected,” and they did not prosper in them.” In the third chapter the prophet more forcibly to portray the sin of Judah, represents her as worse than Israel, or the ten tribes, whom the Lord had already put away, or to whom he had "given a bill of divorce.” Judah ought to have improved from beholding the fate of Israel; but, instead of this, she had become worse. And as Judah had had more privileges than Israel, and at this time nearly a hundred years' respite from punishment, and opportunities of grace; the Lord said, “The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.” See the proof of this in chap. iii, 6-11. Israel had been driven into the land of the north; and now, in order to bring Judah to repentance, Jeremiah is directed to proclaim pardon and deliverance to those of Israel who would return to the Lord, to which they are freely invited. All this time, and throughout this prophetic discourse, the threatened punishment of Judah, if she persevered in impenitence, is understood and implied. It is beheld as it were in the distance. Their captivity is foreseen, and their return alluded to. Then, in the fourth and fifth chapters, the prophet distinctly announces their calamities, and the instrument thereof: “I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.” And again: “Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the Lord: it is a mighty nation; it is an ancient nation; a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.” But the Lord promises a deliverance, saying, “ Nevertheless in those days I will not make a full end with you." It is also affirmed that Israel and Judah shall come together out of the land of the north. As the period of Judah's punishment approaches, the predictions of Jeremiah are more explicit and clear, as in the sixteenth chapter. Then, in the twenty-second chapter, the downfall of Jeconiah or Coniah is foretold. His destruction, with that of his mother, came to pass ; see 2 Kings xxiv, 12, 13. A farther prediction is given respecting the fall of Judah and their return from captivity. The language employed is very similar to that in the sixteenth chapter, and was fulfilled in the same train of events. But here the prophet is more elevated and evangelical, and in a very lucid manner exhibits the Messiah as the righteous Branch raised unto David, under whose benign authority all animosity should cease between Israel and Judah." In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel dwell-safely." Their mutual deliverance from the land of the north, and safety under the Lord our righteousness, are here connected, because the one event is typical of the other, and both equally certain. Moreover the Lord had just said of Coniah,“ Write this man childlessa man that shall not prosper in his days; for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of Judah, and ruling any more in Judah." But God had before said to David, " Thy throne shall be established for ever.” So here the prophet renews the divine engagement; and though neither Jeconiah nor any of his posterity should occupy the throne, a genuine branch of David's house should, even “ the Lord, our righteousness.'
In some of those prophetic scenes to which we are introduced by Jeremiah during the reign of Zedekiah, there is an unusual degree of evangelical beauty. In the thirtieth chapter, we have a vivid description of the prosperity of Judah after the captivity; and in the thirty-first the prophet foretells the blessed state of both Israel and Judah, which should take place at the same time. As far as these predictions are susceptible of a literal interpretation, they have been fulfilled. Some of all the tribes have returned to Zion with weeping and supplication; they have sung with gladness for Jacob, and have said, "O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel,” Jer. xxxi, 7. " Husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks," have dwelt since the captivity in all the cities of Judah, ver. 24. But there is a higher and evangelical sense in which that God, who “ watched" over the “house of Israel,” and the “house of Judah," to "pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict,” shall watch over them "to build and to plant,” verses 27, 28. For“Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which very covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord of hosts. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, saith the Lord. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more," Jer. xxxi, 31-34. We have given this whole quotation, as it fully illustrates the kind of a restoration yet future, which Judah and Israel may expect, and shall have. This very passage determines the fallacy of the “literal gathering." The restoration of the Jews, set forth in the above words, is spiritual. This is their legitimate interpretation, for which we have the testi. mony of an infallible author. Sometimes Scripture undesignedly interprets Scripture ; but when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews intentionally illustrates and comments upon a portion of the Jewish Scriptures, in order to show his countrymen its true and gospel meaning, all conjecture is vain, and all speculation is folly. St. Paul in the epistle just mentioned is explaining to the Christian Jews the glorious character of the gospel dispensation, and its
superiority to that of the Mosaic. His affirmation is, that the new covenant is better than the old. The old one guarantied to the descendants of Abraham the use and possession of the land of Canaan, together with an extraordinary civil and religious polity. They wholly nullified the contract by violating the divine law in all its parts. They therefore forfeited their right to all these privileges and possessions, and are now according to the prediction of Moses
scattered among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other.” “ Hath God then cast away his people ?" No! he has made a new covenant, by which, instead of Canaan and its fruits, he will conditionally give them salvation and its fruits. Does the apostle argue, they shall under the New Testament be " gathered to their own land ?" No such thing! That was the nature of the former covenant which God had made to their fathers. The new one is not "according to that. “ In that he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old.” He is not under obligation to fulfil it : it is therefore dispensed with, and all the legal ceremonies which were demanded under it. And a glorious substitute has the blessed God given! For, instead of Canaan, the whole world is now consecrated by the sacrifice of Christ for the display of the divine glories and perfections. And instead of the Jews remaining the appointed witnesses for God, under the new covenant every believer is distinguished as an Israelite. By this argument of the apostle we ascertain the meaning of the Spirit who spoke by the mouth of Jeremiah. And so the future restoration of the Jews is not to “their own land,” though some may live and die there, but to Jesus the Messiah-to the ensign spoken of by Isaiah ; and then, to use the words of Hosea, “Great shall be the day of Jezreel,” the seed of God. "O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
We now direct attention to some of the prophecies of Ezekiel. It will be remembered by those who have carefully examined the history of Judea that that country was invaded three several times by the Chaldeans. The first resulted in the capture of Jehoiakim who was put to death. Jehoiachin or Jeconiah was appointed king in his stead; but reigned only a very short time, about three months. He was then taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, together with his mother, his wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land. And all the men of might even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon,” 2 Kings xxiv, 15, 16. Among these captives was Ezekiel, who with many others took up their abode by the river of Chebar, which was situated about two hundred miles north of Babylon. While there, “in the fith day of the month, which was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity," Ezekiel says “the heavens were opened, and he saw visions of God.” From this time may be dated the commencement of Ezekiel's prophetic work, and the remarkable predictions which are made known in his writings receive illustration from the events which succeed that date. The words of Jeremiah, which foretold the entire subjugation of the kingdom of Judah, are ratified and corroborated by the testimony of Ezekiel
. This prophet frequently sets forth the truth by symbolical actions; so when he would deVOL. X.-Oct., 1839.
scribe the certainty of Jerusalem's overthrow, and the destruction of the temple, he scatters coals of fire over the city, and represents the glory of the Lord, or shekinah, ascending from off the city. He also removes his property and himself from his place of residence in open day for a sign unto the people; which signified, that Zedekiah, and those of his people who had not already been taken captive into the land of the Chaldees, should “ remove and go into captivity.” All these threatening menaces are accompanied with eheering promises of future blessedness. It is distinctly said, " I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries whither ye are scattered with a mighty hand, and with a stretched-out arm," &c. Ezek. xx, 20, 34. It is intimated in verse 38, that some would be rebellious and persevere in transgression ; these are to be purged out, but not to return to the land of Israel. Then we are assured that those who will return, and worship their God upon" the holy mountain, the mountain of the height of Israel," shall be accepted and prospered. In succeeding chapters the prophet pronounces awful judgments against some of the nations that bordered on Judea, and who had maliciously taunted the Jews, as they were taken captive to Babylon. In order that they might return happily and safely to their own land, these “pricking briers" should be taken out of their side—these grievous thorns removed from their borders. These prophecies were fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar subdued the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and Philistines, about five years after the destruction of Jerusalem. The downfall of Tyre took place nineteen years after the prophecy was delivered; and thus these enemies of Israel, who had troubled them in their distress, and reproached them when they were going to Babylon, were destroyed or subdued before their return, and suffered according to their deserts. So that without molestation the favored descendants of Abraham could return to their long-lost homes.
The thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel may be considered as commencing another series of prophecy. While the prophet was engaged in his ministerial work, a messenger who had escaped from Jerusalem came and told him that the city was smitten. He was immediately favored with an unusual degree of divine assistance in declaring to some of his unbelieving countrymen the certain fact, that the land of Israel should be desolated, and the people banished. The information he had just received was only corroborative of his former and oft-repeated declarations, that the inhabitants should be punished for their flagrant transgressions. Ezek. xxxiii, 21-29. In the thirty-fourth chapter the shepherds are reproved for feeding themselves instead of the flock. These are to be removed from office, and another shepherd is to fill their place. “I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd,” ver. 23. In these, and the following verses, the prophet indulges in a strain of lofty thought and sublime contemplation, the fulfilment of which, in its consummate spirituality and elevated sense, is reserved for our times the gospel dispensation. Under the reign of Prince David, the glorious Messiah, the Jews as well as Gentiles shall be safe and happy. They shall be sustained and led with the delightful fruit which proceeds from the plant of renown.” “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.”
In the thirty-sixth chapter we have a still farther manifestation of the divine intentions toward the Israelites. They are to be restored and blessed, not because of their deserts, having no claims on God's mercy, but for his truth and righteousness. The tendency of their conduct had been to profane the name of God before the heathen, who had verily been led to believe that it was profitless to serve the God of Israel, considering him as inferior to their own gods; but, by the deliverance and future prosperity of Israel, these heathen would discover their deception and folly. Verses 22, 32.
In the thirty-seventh chapter the same subject is continued. The vision of the dry bones is replete with beautiful imagery, descriptive of that series of events by which the inhabitants of Judea should be restored to their own land. The figures have undoubtedly a higher signification, but this is their primary meaning. The several edicts of the Persian kings, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, were the means of impowering the inhabitants of Judea with re. newed nationalty, and defending themselves from the aggressions of their enemies they lived and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” The prophet then represents, by a symbolical action, the entire annihilation of all distinction between the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It is thus predicted, that, after their restoration, they shall be one kingdom, as they were before the revolt under Rehoboam : “ The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, for Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions: then take another stick and write upon it, for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions : And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.” Every person must be satisfied with the expla. nation given of this strikingly symbolical language by the inspired prophet himself. He was commanded to inform his countrymen of its meaning, as they were sure to inquire: “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land : and I will make them one na. tion in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all
, and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all," Ezek. xxxvii, 15-17, 21, 22. The predictions quoted above were delivered during the Babylonish captivity; and we venture to assert, that, in so far as they are to be understood literally, they have been literally fulfilled. No such gathering yet future can be deduced from these words of Ezekiel, without greatly torturing the spirit of prophecy. It is admitted on all hands that the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel does refer to the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the political union of Israel and Judah subsequent thereto, and commencing probably before. Dr. Clarke briefly says on the 22d verse : There was no distinction after the return from Babylon." It is also well known that, after the settlement of Judea, all the descendants of Jacob were known by the common appellation of Jews. Thus the sticks of Judah and Ephraim are united, and