Page images



[ocr errors]

If I am right in this inference, the Syriac should be rendered " populum temulentum et conculcatum ;" " a people drunk, and trodden under foot.” The drunkenness is that drunkenness of intellect which makes them blind to the prophecies relating to the Messiah and to themselves, and keeps them to this hour in expectation of another Messiah, than him whom they crucified. " they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For Jehovah hath poured upon them the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed their eyes ; their prophets, their rulers, and their peers, hath he covered." Isaiah xxix, 9, 10. The Syriac, só rendered, gives a sense perfectly equivalent to that of the other antient versions, though under an image borrowed, as it should seem, from other parts of the prophetic writings. But I have a suspicion that this interpreter somehow or other connected or confounded the word up in this place with the root map, or sp, to vomit, and so brought it to the sense of ' drunken.' Compare Syr. Is. xxviii, 10 and 13.

" whose land the rivers have spoiled;” or “ despise,” margin. To this effect the passage is rendered by all interpreters, except Coverdale, the learned Julius Bate, and Bishop Lowth. Coverdale's interpretation deserves to be mentioned only for its singularity, for it is impossible to trace it to any principle; .“ whose londe is devyded from us with ryvers of water.” Julius Bate and Bishop Lowth give the verb 1893, by all others' rendered spoiled,' a sense directly opposite to that of spoiling. The former in his Critica Hebræa, under the word 813, says, “ by the context (viz. in this place] it may be overflow, or inrich, or fatten, or," &c.; and Bishop Lowth renders it by the word nourish.”

It is certain the root XiS occurs nowhere in the Bible but in this one passage; and it passed with all interpreters before Schultens, Coverdale alone excepted, and some one perhaps, or more, of the unknown interpreters whom Coverdale followed, for an unusual form of the root), to spoil,, But Schultens thought the change of 1993 into 1812 would be an anomaly, to which nothing similar is. to be found in the whole compass of the Hebrew language. He would refer the word therefore to the root 70, rather than to , is signifiesto slight, to despise, to insult.' And he thinks that, to say of a river that it despises or insults a country, is a noble metaphor for overflowing and destroying. And he attempts to confirm this exposition by the senses of

the verb My in the Arabic language. Upon the whole, therefore, Schultens agrees with others in the sense of the passage; only he imagines that the verb N'S expresses, by a metaphor, what all interpreters before him thought it expressed literally.

Bishop Lowth, assenting as it should seem to Schultens's objection to the usual exposition of this word, gives it the contrary sense of nourishing ; upon the suggestion, as he tells us, of a learned friend, who reminded him that the noun lp in Syriac,' and Nons in Chaldee, - signifies a breast, dug, or teat. This sense of nourishing, the learned Bishop says, would perfectly well suit with the Nile; " for to the inundation of the Nile Egypt owed every thing; the fertility of the soil, and the very soil itself. Besides, the overflowing of the Nile came on by gentle degrees, covering, not laying waste the country.” All this is most unquestionably true. But the mention of it here only shews, that this conjectural interpretation of nourishing, an interpretation not transferred directly to the Hebrew verb from the actual sense of a corresponding word in any of the dialects, but derived indirectly, by critical theory, from the sense of a noun of the same letters in the Syriac; that this conjectural interpretation is put upon the word upon the ground of assumptions, which the learned prelate himself considered as doubtful; 1st, that the word “rivers' in this passage is to be understood literally of some natural rivers ; 2dly, that Egypt is the country described in this second verse.

Whence indeed it would follow that the Nile in its various branches must be the rivers, and that this clause must be so interpreted as to describe the effects of the inundation of the Nile upon the land of Egypt. But in the same degree that these assumptions are doubtful, the supposed discordance of the received interpretation, and the supposed agreement of this new interpretation, with the subject matter of the prophecy, will be likewise doubtful. Deny these assumptions, and nothing will be found in the context, to which Julius Bates appeals, and on which Bishop Lowth in effect relies, in favour of this interpretation.

Schultens's objection to the common rendering appears to me, I confess, more subtle than solid.

“. maly of which the like is not to be found in the whole compass of the Hebrew language,” I conceive he means that an instance is not to be found, among the verbs that double the second radical, of a change

-would be an ano " בזזו for באו When he says that

[ocr errors]

of the radical so doubled into *. At the same time he seems to admit, in the very next sentence, that among the verbs which end in 07, the change of the final 17 into * is not uncommon. Now we very often find three verbs in the Hebrew differing in their form no otherwise than thus, that the one shall be a verb ain), the second a verb doubling ain, and the third a verb lamed 17. Three such verbs have not only so near a resemblance in the letters, that, in the oblique forms, the reader will find it difficult to distinguish one from another, otherwise than by the differences of the Masoretic points, which, holding the points to be of no authority, I consider as no distinctions ; but though each may have strictly its

proper sense, yet in many instances, in the latitude of usage, they have often an intercommunity of signification. When this happens, it is because there is some general radical meaning common to them all, comprehending under it the several specific meanings of each, and producing something of an indiscrimination in the application of them, even in these secondary meanings.

Thus the old lexicographers give us three roots MD, PID, and 13. , to brand with infamy, to disgrace ;' 113, to despise, to slight;'15, “to plunder,

« PreviousContinue »