Page images

יען כי יעץ עליך רעה אפרים וארם לאמר

“ Inasmuch as Ephraim and Syria have devised evil against thee, saying,”

Verse 6. -" and let us make a breach therein for us;” rather, “ and let us cleave it asunder for ourselves;” or, “ split it between us." The scheme was to divide the greater part of the dominions of the king of Judah between the two confederate kings, and leave a vassal-king in the country to take care of their interests.

Verses 8, 9. “ For the head of Syria,” &c. The text here hath certainly suffered a transposition. The true order seems to be this:

8 For Damascus is the head of Syria,

And Rezin is the head of Damascus;

9 And Samaria is the head of Ephraim,

And the son of Remaliah is the head of Samaria.

And within sixty and five years Ephraim shall be broken

that he be no more a people.”. Houbigant thinks that a line is lost between the last line of the 8th verse and the first of the 9th, which lost line fixed the time of the approaching subversion of the kingdom of Syria by the Assyrians.

_" within sixty and five years"- This prediction was delivered, perhaps in the first, certainly not later than in the second year of Ahaz; for in his third year, the Syrians of Damascus were subdued, and Rezin, their king, was slain by Tiglath-pilezer, the Assyrian. Salmanassar's conquest, therefore, of the ten tribes was within twenty, or at the utmost within twenty-three, years of the delivery of this prediction. What then is this period of sixty-five years, which the prophecy seems to assign for the duration of Ephraim as a people? Various solutions of this question have been attempted. The Hebrews, as St Jerome relates, counted these sixty-five years, not from the delivery of this prophecy of Isaiah's, but from the earlier prediction of Amos, who first of all, as these expositors conceived, foretold the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel ; assigning the twenty-fifth of Uzziah for the time of that prophecy of Amos. But Amos delivered his prophecies, as we learn from the title of his book, at the time when Uzziah reigned in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel. But Jeroboam king of Israel died in the fourteenth or fifteenth of Uzziah, namely, in the year of the Julian period 3922. This, therefore, is the latest time that can be assigned to Amos's prediction; and the interval between that prophecy and the conquest of the ten tribes by Salmanassar in the year of the Julian period 3995, could not be less than seventy-three years. Add to this, that the assumption is false, that Amos's was the first prediction of the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. The thing had been foretold, as Vitringa well observes, long before Amos, by the prophet Ahijah, in the reign of the first Jeroboam. See 1 Kings xiv, 15. For these, and other reasons, this interpretation of the Hebrews could not be admitted, were it reasonable to suppose that the phrase “ within sixty-five years” could refer to a period taking its commencement from a past time, not mentioned by the speaker.

Archbishop Usher conceives, that it was not by Salmanassar's conquest that Ephraim was “ so broken as to be no more a people.” It appears

from Ezra iv, 2, that the settlements mentioned in 2 Kings xvii, 31. were made by Ezerhaddon. Hence Archbishop Usher infers, that although Salmanazzar captivated the greater part of the Israelites, a few were allowed to remain, and that among these some shadow of a polity subsisted, till the settlement of Ezerhaddon's colonies, when the deportation of the old inhabitants was completed by that prince. This,

[ocr errors][merged small]

the learned prelate thinks, was the complete excision of the kingdom of Israel ; and supposing that it took place about the twenty-second of Manasseh, the year of Manasseh's own captivity, or the year of the Julian period 4040, he conceives this to be the event which the Prophet refers to the sixty-fifth year from the time of his prediction. This is the best interpretation of these sixty-five years that has yet been given. It is not however without its difficulties, as Houbigant hath shewn; which however are not so great as to justify the liberties which that learned critic would take with the sacred text.

Vitringa’s conjecture deserves attention. He supposes the passage might be originally written thus, 07309 UONI , ou 71931; that is, in words at length,

), " and as yet sixteen and five (i.e. twenty-one) years." From've, igno

. From the beginning of Ahaz's reign to Salmanazzar's conquest of the ten tribes was twenty-one years. But that this prophecy was delivered in the first of Ahaz is highly improbable, as Houbigant has clearly shewn. Verse 11. _" ask it either in the depth or in the


,ובעור שש עשרה וחמש שנה

.ששים rant and careless copyists might easily make

are verbs ; IHipliil הגבה and העמק 2.height above

C 3

imperative. “ Go deep to the grave (rather to Hades], or mount on high.” Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and Bishop Lowth.

Verse 12. “ But Ahaz said, I will not ask,” &c. This is not an answer of pride or irony, but of consternation; a consternation, however, little less cri. minal than pride, as bespeaking, if not a positive disbelief and contempt of God's promises made by the Prophet, yet the want of that reliance and trust in them, which would have laid the fears of a true believer quite asleep. Accordingly the answer offends, and draws menaces of God's wrath from the Prophet.

Verse 14. “ Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign,” &c. A sign of what? A pledge of the truth of the prediction which promises the ill-success of the confederate kings in their expedition against Jerusalem ? No: of that favour the irreligious king of Judah had shewn himself unworthy. But God, wearied out with the disloyalty of David's degenerate sons, will at the due season of himself exhibit such a sign of his own power, his sovereignty, and his providential care of men, as shall strike idolaters and unbelievers like thee, O Ahaz! with dismay. That sign shall be the miraculous birth of that pro

« PreviousContinue »