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dent. "Id vult Jesaias, non esse plus lapsum in temporis, inde a quo hæc locutus est verba, usque ad terram, cujus duo reges Judæos vexabant, spoliatam ac desertam, quàm elaboretur a tempore concipiendi et nascitur Immanuelis, usque ad illud ætatis ejusdem tempus, quo ratio vires suas in ipso perfectius exereret." It might perhaps be an objection of
little force against this interpretation, to observe, that the Hebrew adverb, like the English before," is descriptive simply of priority or precedence of event, not of length of intervening time. For it were easy to reply, that the same force of ecstasy which presented remote futurity as present to the Prophet's imagination, would necessarily influence his language; insomuch that his expressions were to be interpreted, not by the common rules of grammar, but with relation to his particular state of mind. But it should be recollected, that though the Prophet was in ecstasy, those, to whom the prophecy was delivered, were in their ordinary state of mind. They therefore would be little aware of the presence of the Emanuel as actually born, or as just now to be born, to the entranced imagination of the Prophet; consequently the Prophet's words would not convey his own meaning to his hearers. Or if any
of them were quick-sighted enough to discern, that the force of ecstasy rendered the Emanuel present as already born to the Prophet's imagination, by what means could they discern, that the deliverance, which he referred to the times of the Emanuel's infancy, was not an event in reality equally remote, and present, or imminent, to the Prophet only in the ecstatic vision? This seems indeed the just and natural view of the whole prophecy, if Vitringa's hypothesis be admitted, that the Prophet, in the ecstatic vision, contemplates the Emanuel as already born, and under that prepossession, as it were, refers the events of his own time to the life of the Emanuel. And this proves that his hypothesis is inadmissible, since it makes the amount of the supposed promise nothing more than this, that before the end of the period of the Emanuel's infancy, the kingdom of Judah would see the downfall of confederate enemies, by whom, however, it would be harassed till the season of the Emanuel's birth. And this would have been a prophecy nugatory in itself, and inconsistent with the event.
But it is a further objection to this, in common with every interpretation yet mentioned, that it makes this 16th verse a promise of providential de
liverance, abruptly introduced in the midst of a comminatory discourse. The prediction of the birth of the Emanuel, addressed to Ahaz, an idolatrous prince, was certainly, with respect to him, a threat, (although it is not considered as such by Vitringa). The whole discourse, subsequent to the 16th verse to the end of the chapter, is threatening. It is certainly strange, if a promise is introduced among these threats without any thing in the connexion of the sentences to mark the transition from threatening in the 15th verse to promise in the 16th, or back again from promise to threatening. The want of which, in the latter instance, was so strongly felt by Houbigant, that he makes a conjectural emendation of the text at the beginning of the 17th verse, to produce that mark of transition, which he was aware was necessary in the scheme of interpretation which he adopted.
It seems to me that all this confusion may be avoided, and all obscurity of the passage removed, if the word be taken for a noun substantive in apposition with the pronouns. For the passage may be thus rendered,
"Surely before this child shall know
To refuse evil, and set his choice upon good,
This land of which thou art the plague* [literally, the
Shall be left destitute of both her kings."
-" before this child"— the child just mentioned, the Emanuel.
-"this land," Palestine, the country of the speaker and of him to whom he spake. Of this land. Ahaz was the thorn, or plague, by his wickedness, which brought that train of calamities on the Jewish nation, which ended in the Babylonish captivity. See 2 Kings xvi, and 2 Chron. xxviii. "Before this wonderful child, whose birth I now predict, shall attain to an age to distinguish between good and evil, this land of which thou art the plague and scourge, shall be left destitute of both her kings." That is, no king shall remain in either branch of the Jewish nation, but the monarchies both of Israel and Judah shall be demolished. Thus this 16th verse is a prediction, that both these monarchies should be brought to an end, before the Emanuel should have passed his infancy. Accordingly, the last of the two, at that time extending over the dominions of both, the kingdom of Judah was extinguished in the second year of our Lord's age, by the death of Herod
* Compare Ezek. xxviii, 24.
the Great. For although it was ten years later before Judea was reduced to the form of a province, Archelaus, with the title of ethnarch, was in the meanwhile the mere vassal of the emperor, who assigned him, for the short time he suffered him to govern, but the half of his father's dominions.
The chief objections that may be made to this interpretation I take to be these two. 1st, That the word PP, written defectively without the ", occurs in no other place as a noun substantive, in the singular number; though P, for thorns, is frequent. 2dly, That the better Hebrew phrase for "of which thou
But אשר אתה קוץ לה art the plague, would be
these objections seem less considerable than the dif ficulties which press the other interpretations.
The learned Dr Sturges, in his letter to the Layman (printed for Cadell, 1791), in defending Bishop Lowth's translation as preferable to the Layman's, says, "that cannot properly be constructed with, but may very properly with P." If this criticism be just, it makes equally against my translation and the Layman's, and should be mentioned as a third grammatical objection. The objection, however, seems pretty strongly overruled by the united authorities of the LXX, Theodotion, Symma