Ver. 3. "And He stands and feeds in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; and they dwell, for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth."
In this verse we are told what the Saviour shall do for awakened and, thus, inwardly united Israel. "He stands," has here not the signification of "He abides," but belongs merely to the graphic description of the habit of the shepherd; compare Is. lxi. 5: "And strangers stand and feed your flocks." The shepherd stands, leaning upon his staff, and overlooks the flock. The connection of "He feeds" with "in the strength of the Lord," we cannot better express than Calvin has done in the words: "The word 'to feed' expresses what Christ will be towards His people, i.e., towards the flock committed to Him. He does not exercise dominion in the Church like a formidable tyrant who keeps down his subjects through terror, but He is a Shepherd, and treats His sheep with all the gentleness which they can desire. But, inasmuch as we are surrounded on all sides by enemies, the prophet adds: 'He shall feed in the strength,' etc.; i.e., as much power as there is in God, so much protection there will be in Christ, when it is necessary to defend and protect His Church against enemies. We may learn, then, from this, that we may expect as much of salvation from Christ as there is strength in God." The great King is so closely united to God, that the whole fulness of divine power and majesty belongs to Him. Such attributes are never given to any earthly king. Such a king has, indeed, strength in the Lord, Is. xlv. 24; "The Lord giveth strength to His king, and exalteth the horn of His anointed," 1 Sam. ii. 10; but the whole strength and majesty of God are not his possession. The passage [Pg 518] in Is. ix. 5 (6) is parallel,—where the Messiah is called [Hebrew: al gbvr], God-hero.—The "name of God" points to the rich fulness in deeds, by which He has manifested the glory of His nature. The Messiah will be the brightness and image of this His glory,—a glory which is manifested by acts, and not a glory which is inactive and concealed. "They dwell" forms a contrast to the disquietude and scattering, and we are, therefore, not at liberty to supply "safely" before it. The last words are deprived of their meaning and significance by explanations such as that of Dathe: "His name shall attain to great renown and celebrity." The ground of the present rest and safety of the Congregation of the Lord rather is this,—that her Head has now extended His dominion beyond the narrow limits of Palestine, over the whole earth; compare iv. 3.—2 Sam. vii. 9 cannot here be compared, as there the name of the Lord is not spoken of as it is here. That the "being great" here implies real dominion (Maurer: auctoritate et potentia valebit), which alone can afford a pledge for the dwelling in safety, is shown also by the fundamental passages Ps. ii. 8, lxxii. 8; compare Zech. ix. 10. In Luke i. 32 the passage before us is referred to. The "now" does not by any means form a contrast with a former condition of the Messiah, but with the former condition of the Congregation when she did not enjoy so powerful a Ruler.
Ver. 4. "And this (man) is peace. When Asshur comes into our land, and when he treads in our palaces, we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight princes of men. Ver. 5. And they feed the land of Asshur with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in its gates; and He protects from Asshur when he comes into our land, and when he treads within our borders."
"And this man (He whose glory has just been described) is peace,"—He bestows that which we have so much needed, and longed for with so much anxiety in these troublous times before His appearing. In a similar manner, and with reference to the passage before us, it is said in Ephes. ii. 14: [Greek: autos estin he eirene hemon], compare also Judges vi. 24: "And Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-Peace, [Hebrew: ihvh wlvM]." Abandoning this explanation, which is so natural, Jonathan, Grotius, Rosenmueller, and Winer explain: "And there will be peace to us,"—an interpretation, however, which is inadmissible even on philological grounds, [Hebrew: zh] is nowhere used, either [Pg 519] as Adverb, loci = "here," or as Adverb, temp. = "then." As regards the latter, such passages as Gen. xxxi. 41—"These are to me twenty years," instead of, "twenty years have now elapsed"—are, of course, not at all to the purpose. But of such a kind are almost all the examples quoted by Nolde. In Esther ii. 13 [Hebrew: bzh] is used. The verb [Hebrew: hcil] in ver. 5 is likewise in favour of understanding [Hebrew: zh] personally; compare also Zech. ix. 10: "And He shall speak peace unto the nations."—There can scarcely be any doubt that the words allude to the name of Solomon, and that the Messiah is represented in them as the Antitype of Solomon. Upon this point there is the less room for doubt, because even Solomon himself called the Messiah by his name in the Song of Solomon; and in Is. ix. 5 (6) also, He is, with an evident allusion to the name of Solomon, called the Prince of Peace.—All which follows after these words, to the end of ver. 5, is only a particularizing expansion of the words: "And this (man) is peace." Interpreters have almost all agreed, that Asshur, the most dangerous enemy of the Covenant-people at the time of the prophet, stands here as a type of the enemies of the Covenant-people. Even L. Baur has translated: "And though another Asshur," etc., with a reference to the passage in Virgil to which allusion had already been made by Castalio: "Alter erit tum Tiphys et altera quae vehat Argo delectos heroas." That the prophet, however, was fully conscious of his here using Asshur typically, appears from iv. 9, 10. For, according to these verses, the first of the three catastrophes which preceded the birth of the Messiah, proceeds from a new phase of the world's power, viz., from the Babylonian empire, the rising of which implies the overthrow of the Assyrian. But the figurative element in the representation goes still farther. From ver. 9 ff.—according to which the Lord makes His people outwardly defenceless, before they become, in Christ, the conquerors of the world—it is obvious that the spiritual struggle against the world's power is here represented under the image of the outward struggle, carried on with the sword. One might be tempted to confine the thought of the passage to this: "The Messiah affords to His people the same protection and security as would a large number of brave princes with their hosts," inasmuch as the bestowal of these was, under the Old Testament, the ordinary means by which the Lord delivered His people. If, however, the spiritual character [Pg 520] of the struggle only be maintained, there is no sufficient reason for considering the seven and more shepherds and the princes as mere imagery, because, in the kingdom of Christ also, the cause of the kingdom of God is carried on by human instruments, whom He furnishes with His own strength. The words, "This (man) is peace," and "He protects," in ver. 5, show indeed with sufficient distinctness, that, in the main, Christ is the only Saviour,—the shepherds, His instruments only,—and their world-conquering power, a derived one only. The apparent contradiction of the passage before us to iv. 1-3, vii. 12—according to which the heathen nations shall, in the time of the Messiah, spontaneously press towards the kingdom of God—is removed by the remark, that we have here before us two different streams which may as well flow together in prophecy as they do in history. The zeal with which the nations press towards the kingdom is, in part, greatly called forth by the fact, that, in attacking the kingdom of Christ, they have experienced its world-conquering power. The circumstance that the words, "This (man) is peace," stand at the beginning, proves that the main idea is the security of the kingdom of God against all hostile attacks. For the like reason it is, towards the end, resumed in the words, "And He protects," etc. But this affords no reason for saying, with Caspari: "It forms part of the defence, it is indeed its consummation, that the war is carried into Asshur." In the first hemistich of ver. 5, it is intimated rather, that, in the time of the Messiah, the positions of the world and of the people of God are changed,—that the latter becomes world-conquering; and for this reason, every thought of their own insecurity must so much the rather disappear. "The land of Nimrod" is, according to Gen. x. 11, Asshur. The "gates" are those of the cities and fortresses, corresponding with, "When he treads in our palaces," in ver. 4. It weakens the sense to think of the gates of the country, as such, i.e., the borders. The attack, on the contrary, is directed against, and strikes the real centre of the seat of the world's power, just as, formerly, the stroke was always directed against Zion.
With regard to the remaining part of the chapter, we content ourselves with a mere statement of the contents. The Congregation of the Lord shall, at that time, not only be lovely and refreshing, ver. 6 (7), (this is the constant signification of the [Pg 521] image of the dew, compare Ps. cx. 3, cxxxiii. 3, lxxii. 6; the relative pronoun [Hebrew: awr] must be referred to the grass, mentioned immediately before; that which the dew descending from heaven is to the grass, Israel will, in his heavenly mission, be to the heathen world), but at the same time fearful and irresistible, vers. 7, 8 (8, 9); the latter of these qualities shall show itself not only as a curse in the case of obstinate despisers, but also as a blessing in the case of those who are estranged from the kingdom of God, through ignorance only. Resuming then the last words of ver. 8 (9), "All thine enemies shall be cut off," the prophet declares that before this word shall be fulfilled, the destructive activity of the Lord will be manifested in Israel itself. He will cut off by His judgments, and by the catastrophes described in iv. 9-14, everything in which, in the present, they placed a carnal confidence, everything by which they became externally strong and powerful (Caspari: "A cutting off, in the first instance, of all wherewith elsewhere enemies are commonly cut off"), and so likewise all idolatry, to which the Chaldean catastrophe already put a violent end. It is only of such a termination by force, and not of a purely inward effect of the "gentle power of the Spirit then poured out upon them," that the words here, as well as in reference to the horses, etc., permit us to think. The two kinds of objects of false confidence are then, in conclusion, in ver. 13 (14) once more summed up,—when the cities, just as in ver. 10 (11), come into view as fortresses only. If thus the path be cleared and prepared for the Lord, He will, on behalf of His people, execute vengeance upon the heathen world.
Footnote 1: After the example of Hofmann, Caspari gives this exposition: "And the remnant of His brethren, viz., the inhabitants of Judah, shall return from the captivity to Canaan, along with the sons of Israel, i.e., the ten tribes." But the return from the captivity never appears in the prophets, as a work of the Messiah. It has here taken place long before His appearing: chap. iv. 10, iv. 11-14 supposes it to have taken place, and Zion to be in existence. The "brethren of the Messiah" can neither be the inhabitants of Judah especially, nor the sons of Israel, the ten tribes, unless the antithesis to Judah be distinctly expressed. It is absurd to suppose that the ten tribes should appear as those chiefly who are to be redeemed. [Hebrew: wvb], which means "to return," cannot be used simply of a return to the country, while [Hebrew: wvb] with [Hebrew: el] can, according to the usus loquendi, be understood only in the sense of "to return to," etc., etc.
CHAP. VI. VII.
We shall now, in conclusion, give a survey of the third and closing discourse of the prophet. After an introduction in vi. 1, 2, where the mountains serve only to give greater solemnity to the scene (in the fundamental passages Deut. xxxii. 1, and in Is. 1, 2, "heaven and earth" are mentioned for the same purposes, inasmuch as they are the most venerable parts of creation; "contend with the mountains" by taking them in and applying to [Pg 522] them as hearers), the prophet reminds the people of the benefits which they have repaid with ingratitude, vers. 3-5. (In ver. 5 those facts also which served as a proof of its truth, are considered as part of Balaam's answer.) He then, in vers. 6-8, shows the fallacy of the imagination that they could satisfy the Lord by the observance of the mere outward forms of worship, though such should be increased to the utmost, and performed in a manner totally different from that in which it was in the present, and points out the spiritual demands already made even by the law, and especially by Deut. x. 12, a compliance with which could alone be pleasing to the Lord. From vi. 9-vii. 6, he shows to how limited an extent these demands are complied with by the people,—how true and cordial piety and justice have disappeared from the midst of them,—and how, therefore, the threatenings of the law must, and shall be fulfilled upon them. The reproof and threatening are then followed by the announcement of salvation, which refers indeed to the Messianic times, but without any mention in it of the person of the Messiah, the brightness of which meets us only in the main body of the prophecy. The main thought here also is the entirely altered position of Israel in their relation to the heathen world. "A day is coming"—so it is said in ver. 11—"to build thy walls; in that day shall the law be far removed." [Hebrew: gdr] is used especially of the walls and fences of vineyards; and under the image of a vineyard, Israel appears as early as in the Song of Solomon. The wall around the vineyard of Israel is the protection against the heathen world; Is. v. 5. The "law" is, according to the context, in which the heathen oppressors are spoken of, that which is imposed by them upon the people of God; Ps. xciv. 20. Ver. 12. "A day it is when they shall come to thee from Asshur, and from the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the river, and to sea from sea, and to mountain from mountain." It is not enough that the people of God are freed from the servitude of the world. They shall become the objects of the longing of the nations, even the most powerful and hostile. They become the magnet which attracts them; compare iv. 1, 2. From among the heathen nations Asshur and Egypt are first specially mentioned, as the two principal representatives of hostility against the kingdom of God in the present and past, and, at the same time, as the two most powerful empires at the time of the prophet [Pg 523]—the latter quality being indicated by the circumstance of Egypt's appearing under the name [Hebrew: mcvr], "fortress." But then, by the expressions "from sea to sea," "from mountain to mountain," which are equivalent to "from every sea to every sea," etc., all barriers in general are completely removed; compare in v. 3 (4) the words: "He shall be great unto the ends of the earth." (The subject in [Hebrew: ibva] can only be the inhabitants of these countries themselves, not the Jews living there. If the latter had been intended, a more distinct indication of it would have been required. The Masculine Suffix [Hebrew: ediK] "to thee," i.e., not to Zion but to Israel, is opposed to such a reference. This shows clearly that they who come are different from Israel. In entire harmony with this prophecy is Is. xix. 18-25.) But, before such glory can be bestowed upon the people of God, the irrevocable judgment must first have done its fearful work, ver. 13; compare the fundamental passage Lev. xxvi. 33, and Is. i. 7. In ver. 14 the announcement of salvation takes a new start. Vers. 18-20 form the sublime close, not only of the last discourse, but also of the whole book, as is clearly indicated by the coincidence of the words, "Who is, O God, like unto Thee?" ver. 18, with the mention of Micah's name in the inscription. The name of the prophet, by which he is dedicated to the incomparable God, has been confirmed by the contents of his prophecy. The New Testament parallel passage is Rom. xi. 33-36: "Who is, O God, like unto Thee; pardoning iniquity, and remitting transgression to the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy." "Who is, O God, like unto Thee?" so the people once already sang after the redemption from Egypt. Thus it resounds still more loudly in the view of the antitypal redemption, by which the fundamental definition of the divine nature in Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7, and David's praise of divine mercy in Ps. ciii., are fully realized. "He will return and have compassion upon us (according to the promise in Deut. xxx. 3), will overcome our iniquities (which, like a cruel tyrant, like Pharaoh of old, subjected us to their power, Ps. xix. 14), and cast all their sins into the depth of the sea," as once He cast the proud Egyptians, Exod. xv. 5-10. "Thou wilt give truth to Jacob, and mercy to Abraham, as Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old."
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Works Published by T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh.
ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIAN LIBRARY.
MESSRS CLARK of Edinburgh, Publishers of the Foreign Theological Library, beg respectfully to invite attention to the Prospectus of a Collection of all the works of the Fathers of the Christian Church, prior to the Council of Nicaea, to be Edited by
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THE writings of the early Christians are allowed on all hands to be of great importance, and to be invested with a peculiar interest; and regrets have often been expressed that it should be so difficult to know their contents. Many of them are mere fragments; and where complete works exist, the text is often so corrupt, and the style is so involved, that even a good classical scholar is repelled from their perusal. If the student of Latin and Greek meets with obstacles, the merely English reader is absolutely without the means of information. The greater part of the most important writings have never been translated; and those translations which have been made are, with the exception of the few executed in recent times, for the most part loose, inaccurate, and difficult to procure. To supply this great want is the object of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library. All the Christian writings antecedent to the Nicene Council have been put into the hands of competent translators. These will make it their first and principal aim to produce translations as faithful as possible, uncoloured by any bias, dogmatic or ecclesiastical. They will also endeavour, in brief notes, to place the English reader in the position of those acquainted with the original languages. They will indicate important variations in the text; they will give different translations of the same passage where more than one have been proposed; they will note the various meanings attributed to the words in ecclesiastical controversies; and when the ancient documents appear in widely different forms, the various forms will be presented. At the same time, they will strive to combine with this strict accuracy and faithfulness as much elegance as may be consistent with the main aim. Short biographical [Pg 526] and explanatory notices will be prefixed to each translation; and in every case where there is variety of opinion, the writer will abstain from expressing his own sentiments, and confine himself simply to an impartial statement of the opinions of the most noteworthy critics on the point.
The following are the works which are now being translated:—
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THE COMPARATIVE GEOGRAPHY
By CARL RITTER,
PROFESSOR OF GEOGRAPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN.
Translated and Adapted to the use of Biblical Students, by
WILLIAM L. GAGE.
CARL RITTER, the late Professor of Geography in the University of Berlin, is known by name to many who are comparatively uninformed respecting the extent and value of his labours. In portraying the connection of geography with the physical sciences, Alexander von Humboldt had no superior; while in establishing the relation between geography and history, CARL RITTER was as unquestionably pre-eminent. A chair was created for him in the Berlin University as early as 1820. He lived to occupy it for forty years, and to confer no less honour upon the city where he resided, and the institution in which he taught, than upon his own name. And though but slight glimpses of his career have been caught by the people of Great Britain, yet such references to him as that in the Preface to Robinson's Biblical Researches, and works of a similar character, will convince the readers of this country that whatever comes from his pen must have great and permanent value.
Professor RITTER'S main work relates to Asia, and includes therefore all of that territory which is known as the Holy Land. To this,—including the Lebanon district, Palestine proper, the country east of the Jordan, and the Sinaitic Peninsula,—RITTER devotes a space equal to 6000 pages of the size employed in Messrs Clark's publications. To translate a mass so voluminous as this would be evidently impracticable; and yet the immense erudition and power of graphic description of Professor RITTER, conjoined with the fact that he brought to the study of the Holy Land, not the unbelief of a rationalist, but living faith of a genuine Christian, has convinced the publishers that a portion of his great work would be a welcome offering to all students of Biblical Geography.
Messrs Clark accordingly now publish a translation executed by REV. WILLIAM L. GAGE, a pupil and friend of the lamented RITTER, comprising that portion of the volumes relating to the Holy Land, which, in his judgment as editor, shall be the most acceptable addition to our biblical literature. The work is comprised in four octavo volumes. MR GAGE has been engaged for several years in the study and interpretation of Professor RITTER'S writings, and has enjoyed the active co-operation of many of the most eminent living geographers.
The main object which has been held in view in condensing and in selecting from the original, is to prepare the work for the use of biblical students. Everything illustrating the Bible bas been considered of prime importance, and everything has been retained, needful to maintain the unity of the work. Notes are added, indicative of discoveries made since RITTER wrote, and the object has never been lost from sight—to make the work worthy of taking the same place in English that it has already done in German literature.