Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

HEBREW PROPHECIES.

209

The bright prophetical waters, however, after gradually emerging from polytheism, flow smoothly and peacefully onward to the full perception of the truth, without receiving the slightest impression from the laws and ordinances of the Pentateuch.

Prevailing ideas respecting the predictions of the Hebrew prophets are generally so incorrect, and so much influenced by religious prejudice, that Jahn actually brings himself to declare, that “ he will not enter into any historical or critical discussion with an author who does not admit that there are any true prophecies.” In this work we are especially bound to devote considerable attention to the prophetical writings, as they form a natural transition to similar prophecies in the Pentateuch, and they present in some measure a standard with which we can compare those prophecies.

Every prediction, whether more or less precise, which is fulfilled in the same sense in which it was originally uttered, and for the same reasons that were originally assigned, yields a certain presumption of the reality of the fact it describes, and defines the date of the writing which contains it; for it could not have been committed to writing at a later period than that in which its fulfilment might have been foreseen, or in which it had already taken place; and, in the latter case, the narrator must have lived a sufficient time after the date of the fact, to enable him to gain credence for his prophecy. If in any instance some international crisis could have been dimly foreseen, it must be remembered that no individual would have ventured openly to predict it, until one nation had actually assumed a threatening aspect towards another; and when such a conjuncture arrived, the political seers gave utterance to

VOL. I.

210

RULES OF INTERPRETATION.

their hopes and fears as to the immediate issue, and were not unfrequently completely deceived in their expectations.

The following rules may be laid down as the fundamental principles of interpretation, which ought to be strictly observed in the explanation of the Hebrew prophecies :1st, That their interpretation must be derived solely from the circumstances of the time in which they were delivered; 2nd, That whatever circumstances explain a prophet's meaning also belong to the time in which he lived; and 3rd, That the fulfilment of each prophecy must not be anxiously sought for in history, unless it can be proved from clear internal evidence that the prophecy was copied from the circumstances of the time in which it was fulfilled'.

We shall now proceed, after the example of Gesenius, to enumerate some prophecies which have never been fulfilled. 1.) “ The prophecy of the devastation of Judah by the Assyrians and Egyptians was not fulfilled at the specified time, although the threats of the prophet were subsequently justified by a succession of unfortunate events 2.9 2.) The complete desolation and destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians did not take place suddenly, but was rather the work of times. 3.) The denunciations against the Moabites were not fulfilled to the whole extent of the prophecy 4. 4.) The threatened destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar was not fulfilled in the way which had been foretold by Ezekiel. 5.) The siege of Jerusalem by

See the admirable observations of Hitzig on this subject, in his work on Isaiah, p. 466.

2 Gesenius on Isaiah vii. p. 270. 3 Gesenius on Isaiah xiii. p. 449. 4 Gesenius on Isaiah xv. 5 Ezek. xxvi.-xxviii. Gesenius on Isaiah xxiii. p. 711. Hitzig, p. 273.

UNFULFILLED PROPHECIES.

211

the Assyrians did not actually take place', nor 6.) were the Idumæans ever utterly ruined and extirpated?, for even Herod the Great belonged to the Edomitish nation. 7.) Gaza, the city of the Philistines, was repeatedly doomed to destruction, and yet it exists to the present day, so that even St. Jerome was obliged to create an older Gaza, in opposition to all history, in order to maintain the authority of the ancient prophets. 8.) The predicted union of Judah and Israel never took place4. 9.) The general expectation that the Hebrews would conquer Gog and Magogo was never fulfilled ; and 10.) the common hope of the Jews, that after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (B.c. 170) they would become the sovereigns of the world', was also never realized.

There is little difference between these prophecies (which

i Gesenius on Isaiah xxix. p. 827.

2 Gesenius on Isaiah xxxiv. p. 909, compared with Obadiah and Jerem. xlix.

3 “ Thus saith the Lord ; for three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom.”- Amos i. 6.

“ For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation : they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon-day, and Ekron shall be rooted up."Zeph. ii. 4.

Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron ; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.” Zach. ix. 5.

“The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza.”—Jerem. xlvii. 1, &c.

4 “And I will make them one nation 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. 22.

5 Ezekiel xxxix.
6 See Daniel ii. vii.-ix.

212

PROPHETICAL LANGUAGE.

"contain abundance of general threats, warnings, and consolations) and the blessings and predictions of the Pentateuch; and in these latter, allusions to political events deserve the more attention, when they appear not to have any particular object in view.

The pious anticipations of a glorious future, which are called the Messianic prophecies, only begin to appear with the decline of the Hebrew nation, and in their case the miraculous foundation creates a suspicion as to the facts connected with them. These prophecies were necessary for the theocratical interest of the epic, but they commonly refute themselves by too minute a detail of subsequent events?.

A prophetical form of language was one to which the ancient world in general was remarkably partial, and the Hindoos freely confess that they have put descriptions of later events into the mouths of their own most celebrated sages?. Virgil in like manner represents Jupiter as disclosing to Venus the future destiny of the Romans, and as predicting their brilliant deeds (in the first book of the Æneid) with a special reference to the times of Augustus.

Nascetur pulchra Trojanus origine Cæsar,

Imperium oceano, famam qui terminet astris,

Julius.” The prophecy is still more precise in the sixth Æneid, 750–787, where it is uttered by the lips of a mortal (An

See Ammon De Vaticiniis post Eventum (On Prophecies after the Event). Hartmann, Pentateuch, p. 505.

? See Asiat. Res. viii. p. 486.

3 Æn. i. 260-300. [Julius Cæsar shall be born of illustrious Trojan origin; his empire shall only be limited by the ocean, and his fame by the stars.]

CUSTOM OF POETICAL PREDICTIONS.

213

chises), and in Æn. viii. 625, &c., where Vulcan prefigures on a shield the whole course of the Roman history'.

“ Illic res Italas Romanorumque triumphos,

Haud vatum ignarus venturique inscius ævi,
Fecerat Ignipotens ; illic genus omne futuræ

Stirpis ab Ascanio, pugnataque in ordine bella,” &c. And in the case of the Hebrew nation, if it be supposed that, whilst that people were still almost in their infancy, they could have formed such brilliant conceptions of the future as the patriarchs disclose to us in the Pentateuch, the narrator at least would have been wise enough to wait until their hopes had been realized. Besides, in all other nations, it has happened that the advance has been made in the later periods of their history; and poets have never begun to celebrate the deeds of their nation, or to attribute to their ancestors prophetical visions of its glory, until it had already attained to grandeur and distinction?; but it is in the Pentateuch alone (deeply impressed as it is with the stamp of national pride), that we are called upon to believe, that in the first instance mere shepherds and afterwards the leader of a wandering multitude were able to penetrate into the future with the glance of the Deity. The particular prophecies of Genesis will be noticed in their proper place, and a striking example of the prophetical predictions in the Pentateuch is given in the prophecy of Balaam. The Israelites were then encamped on the further side of the Jordan, and were threatening an attack on Balak the king of the Moabites, who thereupon summons his prophet Balaam to curse the tents of

| Compare, under a similar form, Ovid, Metamorph. xv. 814–842. ? Hartmann, 311, &c. 3 Num. xxii.-xxiv.

« ZurückWeiter »