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doom, which should press down the guilty people, as a burden does an animal or a man, when it is too weighty for him to bear.
Most of the prophets lived during the times of the kings of Israel and Judah, of which you have read. There were other prophets besides those whose writings are here gathered together; but all were not commanded to write what they wrote, but only those who foretold things which were far distant.
The prophets are not arranged in the order in which they wrote, but rather according to the extent of their prophecies, the large books being placed first.
The books of the prophets are sixteen in number. Four of these are called the Greater Prophets, not because they were more important than the rest, but because their prophecies are more extensive. The remaining twelve are, on account of their containing less, called the Minor Prophets.
The Jews were privileged with prophets to warn them against the consequences of sin, and to stir them up to serve the true God, from the time they left Egypt, to the time when they were carried away captives into Babylon, which occupied a period of nine hundred years.
But the written prophecies occupy a period of only three hundred and fifty-six years. The order in which the prophets wrote will be seen by the following list:
1. Hosea began to prophecy about the year 3194, in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham,
Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Jeroboam II. 2. Ayos began to prophecy about the year 3219, in the reigns of Uzziah and
Jeroboam II. 3. Isaiah began to prophecy about the year 3236, in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham,
Ahaz, and Hezekiah. 4. Jonah began to prophecy in the reigns of Manasseh, Joash, and Jeroboam II. 5. Micah began to prophecy about the year 3246, in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz,
and Hezekiah, at the same time with Isaiah. 6. NAHUM began to prophecy about the year 3291, in the reign of Hezekiah, at
the same time with Isaiah. 7. JEREMIAH began to prophecy about the year 3375, in the reigns of Josiah,
Jehoaz, and Jehoiakim. 8. ZEPHANIAH began to prophecy about the year 3381, in the reign of Josiah,
abont the same time with Jeremiah. 9. JOEL began to prophecy in the reign of Josiah. 10. DANIEL began to prophecy about the year 3398, and was taken captive into
Chaldæa in the reign of Jehoiakim, and prophesied during the Captivity. 11. HABAKKUK began to prophecy about the year 3394, in the reign of Jehoiakim,
at the same time with Jeremiah. 12. EZEKIEL began to prophecy about the year 3409, during part of the captivity. 13. OBADIAH began to prophecy about the year 3414, after the taking of Jerusalem,
14. Haggai began to prophecy about the year 3484. Born during the captivity.
Prophesied about the same time with Zechariah. 15. ZECHARIAH prophesied about the same time with Haggai. 16. MALACHI, the last of the Jewish prophets, prophesied after the death of
You must not be surprised if you find other dates and times given, by some writers, to the periods in which the prophets lived ; for as some of them can only be imagined from the contents of their prophecies, every one is left to have his own opinion on these matters.
The prophet Isaiah warned the Jewish people of their wickedness; exhorted them to repentance; and comforted those who truly loved God, with an assurance of better times, and the future coming and triumphs of Jesus Christ, the true Messiah or anointed Saviour.
Several very remarkable predictions appear in this prophecy. Let us just look at two.
The first relates to the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, on account of their sins, and their deliverance by Cyrus the Persian conqueror. You will find this prophecy in the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah.
In this prophecy, Cyrus the Conqueror is called by his name, as much as two hundred years before he was born. He was called the Lord's anointed, because he was raised up to be a king by the particular design of God, in order that he might deliver the penitent Jews out of their captivity in Babylon. By holding his right hand is meant God's giving him help and power,—the right hand usually meaning power in the prophecies, and frequently elsewhere. By loosing the loins of kings before him, is meant weakening them; and Cyrus overcame Croesus the rich king of Lydia, and Belshazzar the powerful king of Babylon. The prediction of opening the two-leaved gates, and that the gates should not be shut, was wonderfully fulfilled at Babylon. This city was so strong that Cyrus could never have taken it; but the night in which he did take it, the gates of brass were carelessly left open, whilst the king and his people were feasting and drinking, fancying themselves in perfect security. So God's word, by Isaiah, came true. Making crooked places straight, is an expression used in various places, and means the overcoming of difficulties. The words which mention the breaking in pieces the gates of brass and cutting in sunder the bars of iron well describe the strength of the gates of Babylon, which God opened to Cyrus. There were no less than a hundred gates in the wall which surrounded Babylon, and these were all made of solid brass; twenty-five being on each side of the city; and these, to make them as secure as possible, were all barred with iron.
Those who serve God shall not go unrewarded. Though Cyrus does not appear to have been a good man, yet as he did good and fulfilled the purpose of God in releasing the Israelites from Babylon, God rewarded him by giving him “the treasures of darkness ;” by which are meant much gold and silver which come out of the dark bowels of the earth, and, perhaps, also much which were hidden and laid up in concealed places, by those princes whom he conquered. Pliny, a Roman writer, says, that when Cyrus conquered Asia, he carried away thirty-four thousand pounds of gold, besides golden vessels and other treasures. Babylon was a rich and powerful city: being forty-five miles round, which is double the size of London and its suburbs; its kings had long been gathering wealth from their large conquests, and all these spoils now fell to the share of Cyrus.
The wonderful prophecy of Isaiah, is said, by a very ancient writer, to have been read by Cyrus ; and, if so, it must greatly have encouraged him, and induced him to help the suffering Jews.
The second remarkable portion of this prophecy relates to the sufferings of Christ. (Isaiah liji.)
Isaiah lived seven hundred and seventy years before Christ, of whom he so particularly wrote. Our Lord greatly honoured this prophet by preaching his first sermon out of this prophecy.
JEREMIAH. Jeremiah lived nearer the time of which he prophesied, than did Isaiah. He saw the approaching decline of his country, and wept over it, while, as God taught him, he warned the people, and urged them to repent. He lived to see what he threatened come to pass—the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and the captivity in Babylon. He was persecuted very much for his faithful prophecies, and he was contradicted, as if he had been a false prophet. As a sign of the bringing of the people under the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck. This yoke a false prophet named Hananiah tore off, and broke it, and prophesied of the speedy restoration of the Jews from their captivity. For this act God instructed Jeremiah to pronounce his speedy death, and Hananiah died
the same year.
After the princes and people were carried away captive with Jeconiah, Jeremiah wrote to them to comfort them; and he told them that, in seventy years' time, they should be restored, if they repented and turned unto God, and, till that time, they ought to submit themselves to God's decree, and make themselves as contented as they could in their captivity; for it is indeed of no use to fight against God. Jeremiah also told them how God would punish all the false prophets who should spring up among them in Babylon, and prophesy their more speedy delivery.
When Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem, Jeremiah was imprisoned. When the siege was suspended, and Nebuchadnezzar had retired, Jeremiah was released; but he foretold that Nebuchadnezzar would return, and burn the city to ashes. At this time he tried to escape from Jerusalem, but he was discovered by an officer as he was going out of one of the gates, and was again thrown into prison, till the king ordered him to be set at liberty.
Nebuchadnezzar did return; and as the chief men of the city thought that Jeremiah's prophecies discouraged the people, they got leave from Zedekiah to cast him into prison ; and they let him down with ropes, into a muddy well, where he must soon have perished, if God had not inclined the heart of Zedekiah to release him; and he was kept prisoner in the palace till Jerusalem was taken.
A little before this last fatal event, Zedekiah asked Jeremiah what he should do. And Jeremiah, being instructed of the Lord, told him to give himself up to Nebuchadnezzar, and it would be better for him, and his family, and for the safety of the city; but if he persisted in opposing the Chaldeans, he and his family would be ruined, and the city wholly destroyed.
Zedekiah now respected the prophet, yet did not quite like his advice, and so following his own counsel, instead of believing the word of the Lord by Jeremiah, he tried to escape from Jerusalem by night, but was pursued by the Chaldeans, and being taken, his sons and nobles were put to death, his own eyes were put out, he was carried to Babylon bound in chains, and the city was burned.
BALM. (JER. VIII. 22.) Jeremiah was taken among the captives, but by order of Nebuchadnezzar, he was set free, and had the choice of going to Babylon or staying in Judea. Jeremiah chose to stay in his country. Here he was quiet till the rebellion against Gedaliah, Nebuchadnezzar's officer. When Jeremiah was then consulted whether it would be safest to stay in Judea or escape into Egypt, the prophet advised the people to stay. They, however, thought proper to refuse his advice, and even obliged him to go with them. Here he prophesied also against the King of Egypt.