« AnteriorContinuar »
which I would translate , HB ,יְשׁוּפְךְ ראש וְאַתָּה תִּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב :
the second place, the use of the pronoun 1177, he, restricts this posterity to one person only, who is moreover described as one who should obtain some singular advantage over the tempter. By these qualifying terms the prediction is made sufficiently definite ; and, as these are such as to imply nothing short of miracle in their fulfilment, there was no possible danger of their being counterfeited by impostors. Some of the terms of this prediction, however, have been inadequately rendered; for "it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” fall very far short of the terms of the original, both in definiteness and force. The words are 1977 :I , shall bruise (or rather break) thee capitally, though thou bruise (or break) him partially. 328, I know, signifies the heel; but as this is opposed here to the head implying the seat of life or the entire person, the heel, when so opposed, must have been intended to signify only a part, and that perhaps the least important in the human body. This sense is generally extracted from the authorised version ; but, as the version is itself defective, I have thought proper thus to notice it. There is still another circumstance worthy of remark. The position of the words win, head, and 37, heel, plainly shews that they should be construed as adverbs, and not as nouns ;* which, I think, gives emphasis to the whole, and intimates that in the one instance victory is to be complete, in the other only partial : and if this appears upon the face of the text itself, it is surely more authoritative than when found in a commentary.
We may now remark, that we find, in this prediction what ought to be found in every other, in order to entitle it to the name of prophecy, particularity of circumstance, such as could neither be foreseen by human prudence, nor counterfeited by human endeavour. Besides, the whole is such as could have left no doubt on the mind of
every reasonable person, before it was fulfilled, that it had not yet come to pass; and, after the event had taken place, that its fulfilment was now no longer to be expected.
Let us, in the second place, take a few instances of up to a woman as its founder ; nor any promise made, if we except this case, in which a woman is to give birth to any remarkable person, family, or nation.
* See my Hebrew Lectures, art. 234. and 251.
the prediction made by signs. In Ezekiel, chap. xii. 3, 4, &c., we have a remarkable example of this sort. Therefore,” it is said, “ thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house. Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by day in their sight, as stuff for removing; and thou shalt go forth at even in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity. Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby. In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight : thou shalt cover thy face, that thou see not the ground; for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel."
From the general tenor of Ezekiel's prophecies to the Jews in Babylon, there could remain no doubt on the mind of any considerate person, as to what he intended by this proceeding. The symbols were sufficiently intelligible, and, there can be no doubt, they were generally well understood. But, that no difficulty may possibly remain on this subject, and that others who did not witness this symbolical exhibition might also understand it; and further, that posterity may not be in the dark as to its intention, the following explanation is given. Ib. v. 8, &c. : “ And in the morning came the word of the Lord unto me, saying, Son of man, hath not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said unto thee, What doest thou? Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; This burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are among them. Say I am your sign : like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them; they shall remove and go into captivity. And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth : they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby : he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes."
Here, then, we have the symbolical exhibition, with its interpretation; and in all such cases, it will not only be absurd to doubt what the intention of the prophet was, but a high degree of impiety to put any other construction upon his words. There are cases, however, and those not a few, in which the symbols are given without any accompanying interpretation; and the question will now be: What are we to do in these? My answer is: We must carefully consider the general character of these symbols in connection with the context, and interpret accordingly.* If such symbols happen to be elsewhere explained, then we must try those explanations; and if they are found to suit our context, which I believe they generally will, our work will be done ; for we shall then have Scripture interpreted by itself. But if they are no where explained, all we can do will be, to take an extensive view of the context, and of similar symbols, and then to propose our interpretation, as that which seems to be the most suitable to our prophet.
But, that we may the better understand the general character of these symbolical exhibitions, it will be worth while to consider a few further instances of their occurrence; and this we shall now do, not more for the purpose
of insisting on what we ought to understand by them, than of inculcating what we are not to understand by them; or, in other words, to shew where our explanation of them ought to end : for here, as in almost every thing else, it is an important part of wisdom to know where we ought to stop.
If then symbolical exhibition (or language) is intended to supersede that given by words in their usual significations, it will be but reasonable to assume, that the one kind of instruction will, in most respects, be analogous with that of the other; i. e. the one will instruct us in words or sentences respecting some one definite person, or thing, and no more, in each parcel of its context: the other will, in like manner, have some one object, and no more, in each parcel of its exhibition, to teach and to enforce. For example: If in one case we are told that “ God created the heaven and the earth,” the truth intended to be taught is, that God, and no other being, is the creator of all things. So, in Ezekiel's vision above cited, the carrying away captive to Babylon is the principal subject inculcated; and, that this may be
The principal errors, which have injured and harassed the Church of Christ, appear to me to have arisen either from taking the declarations of Scripture too figuratively on the one hand, or too literally on the other. Some of the early orthodox Christians were exceedingly unhappy in the first, the heterodox or heretical in the second ; in which both indeed followed the unbelieving Jews. The same causes still operate in a very great degree, and very much to the injury of Christianity.
the more deeply impressed upon the minds of the Jews, some particulars, such as digging through the wall, carrying out the stuff at twilight, covering the face, &c. are added. These particulars, then, are not given, in order to detract from the interest of the main object, but, on the contrary, to add to it; and to shew, that as the prophet marked out the very particulars, the exhibition itself must have come from God, who alone could thus point out and define the exact circumstances of this event. In this case, therefore, we have particulars perfectly of a piece with those pointed out in the first prophecy given to Eve, which it has been said are necessary to every thing claiming the character of particular prophecy. It is of the greatest importance to bear this in mind, for the following reasons: 1. If prophecy was really ever given, either in words or symbols, there must have been an intention on the part of him who gave it, that it should be understood; and for this end, there must have been unity of design. For, if not, and if the same thing had been intended to teach more than one main truth, it might be asked : How could it have been possible to exhibit to men, such as they are, either words or symbols, sufficiently explicit to unfold this double, triple, &c. object to their understandings? And would not the very attempt itself have so encumbered either the main or the secondary objects, either the context or the symbols, as to have left them unintelligible in any and every point of view? If, for example, in Zedekiah's horns of iron * we are to understand, not only their strength, which is no doubt intimated by the iron, and hence a certainty of the victory so promised, but also the nature of the iron, whether it be cast iron or steel, and the like, and also their shape, the mode of their fixture to the head, &c.; then, I say, there will be no unity of design in the subject, and, that by dwelling on these inferior particulars, we shall diminish or destroy the effect evidently intended by the whole; and finally perhaps, lose entire sight of the intention of the prophet. We do not object, let it be remembered, to these inferior considerations wholly, but only to their being raised to a place in these questions, which neither the nature of the case, nor the apparent intention of the prophet will allow. In the great image of Daniel, for example, no objection can be
* 1 Kings, xxii. 11.
made to the consideration of the toes being partly of iron and partly of clay; for this was evidently intended to shew, that a mixture of weakness and strength should exist in the thing predicted : but we contend, that this was the main and the principal thing inculcated, and not that these toes should be counted and farther dissected, so as to intimate a definite number of other particulars.* So likewise, in the sacrament of our Lord, which is purely symbolical : “ This do in remembrance of me,” is the main object of the teacher; for by this, the origin of the institution is evidently pointed out: “ This is my body,” and “this is my blood,” are added to give a sanctity to the foregoing words, and strongly to impress upon the mind of the hearers, that as often as they did this, they shewed forth the Lord's death; the bread being the symbol of his flesh, and the wine of his blood. When they are commanded to eat of this, a mystical union with Christ, and with one another, is manifestly intended to be taught. See John, vi. 56. 1 Cor. x. 16, 17. Rom. xii. 5. I Cor. vi. 15; xii. 27. Eph. v. 30.+ For here we have no intimation whatever either of power or of miracle ; the disciples were simply enjoined to continue to repeat this rite by way of remembrance, not of Christ's victory, but of his sufferings; not of his glorified, but of his humiliated state; for here he humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross, and condescended to be made a curse for us. And if we have no miracle, then no miraculous conversion of the elements could have taken place ; nor, by parity of reasoning, can they on any other similar occasion: the persons present, moreover, seem to have had no idea whatever of such conversion ; nor has St. Paul, in mentioning this rite, ever intimated any thing of the kind, which he surely would have done, had a miracle always taken place upon the occa
* Dan. ii. 41, 42. Some of the fathers, however, as Irenæus contra Hæreses, lib. iv. cap. 26. Theodoret. Com. in Dan. cap. 7, go farther (edit. 1642. p. 630.); although on chap. ii., where the passage occurs, the latter ventures not beyond Daniel's own interpretation, which is quite sufficient.
+ See an admirable exposition of this rite in Justin Martyr's first Apology for the Christians, Grabe's edit. Oxford, 1700. p. 125, &c., with his valuable notes. Justin here represents this rite as mystically, not really, uniting the body of Christ with that of his disciples, the church ; which is no doubt its true object and end.