By H. L. Ellison. (Please get the full version of this book at your bookstore)
Excerpts from the
“The Old Testament Prophets
— Men Spake from God”
To the Reader.
List of Abbreviations.
The Prophetic Books.
The Functions of a Prophet.
History as Prophecy.
The Form of the Prophetic Message.
The Shaping of the Prophetic Book.
Heralds of the
The Structure of Joel the Day of Jehovah.
Author and Date.
The Day of Jehovah.
The Swarm of Locusts.
The Giving of the Spirit.
The Judgment of the Nations (3:1-17).
Final Blessing (3:18-21).
The Author and Date.
The Purpose of the Book.
The Sufferings of Disobedience (Ch. 1).
The Psalm of Thanksgiving (Ch. 2).
Nineveh Repents (Ch. 3).
God’s Tender Mercy (Ch. 4).
The Structure of Amos.
The Crimes of Israel and her Neighbours (Chs. 1, 2).
Israel’s Crimes and Doom (Chs. 3-6).
Five Visions of Doom (Chs. 7-9:10).
Final Blessing (Ch. 9:11-15).
The Structure of Hosea.
The Author and His Book.
Hosea’s Wife (Chs. 1, 3).
Hosea and His Faithless Wife (Chs. 1-3).
Jehovah and Faithless Israel (Chs. 4-14).
The Structure of Isaiah.
The Unity of the Book.
The Problem of “Deutero-Isaiah.”
The Historical Background of “Proto-Isaiah.”
Introduction (Ch. 1).
Judah under Jotham and Ahaz (Chs. 2-12).
The Call of Isaiah (Ch. 6).
Immanuel (7:1-17; 8:5-8; 9:2-7, 11:1-10).
The Rejection of the Prophet (8:11-18).
The Judgment of the Nations and of the World (Chs. 13-27).
The Taunt-Song Against the King of Babylon (14:3-23).
Egypt and Ethiopia (Chs. 18-20).
The Resurrection Hope (25:6-8; 26:13-19).
Judah under Hezekiah (Chs. 28-33).
Judgment and Blessing (Chs. 34, 35).
Historical Chapters (Chs. 36-39).
The Historical Background of “Deutero-Isaiah.”
“Deutero-Isaiah” (Chs. 40-55).
The Spiritual Background.
The Vindication of Jehovah.
The Servant of Jehovah.
The Servant and Israel.
“I create evil” (45:7).
The Suffering Messiah.
The Resurrection of the Messiah.
“Trio-Isaiah” (Chs. 56-66).
Venal Rulers and an Idolatrous Population (56:9-57:21).
Sin and Redemption (Chs. 58, 59).
“Arise, Shine” (Chs. 60-62).
The Day of Vengeance (63:1-6).
A Prayer (63:7-64:12).
Final Blessedness (Chs. 65-66).
The Structure of Micah.
The Author and His Book.
God’s Anger against Samaria and Judah (Ch. 1).
The Sins of Judah (Chs. 2, 3).
The Establishment of God’s Kingdom (Ch. 4).
The Messianic King (Ch. 5).
Controversy of Jehovah with Jerusalem (Chs. 6-7).
The structure of Zephaniah.
Universal Judgment focused on Jerusalem (1:2-2:3).
Judgment on the Nations (2:4-15).
God’s Judgment on Jerusalem (3:1-8).
Universal Salvation (3:9-20).
The Fall of Nineveh.
A Triumphal Ode (Ch. 1).
The Siege and Fall of Nineveh (Chs. 2, 3).
The Structure of Habakkuk.
Woe to the Oppressor (2:6-20).
God Comes to Deliver (Ch. 3).
The Structure of Jeremiah.
The Neglected Prophet.
The Compiling of the Book.
Jeremiah the Young Man.
Jeremiah’s Call (Ch. 1).
The Northern Invader (4:5-31; 5:15-19; 6:1-8, 22-26).
Faithless Israel (2:1-4:4).
Increasing Obduracy (6:9-21).
Jeremiah and the Reign of Jehoiakim.
The Historical Background.
The Challenge (Ch. 7:1-15; 26:1-19, 24).
The Vanity of Outward Religion.
Jeremiah and the False Prophets.
The Moulding of the Prophet.
Jeremiah and the Fall of Jerusalem.
The new Covenant (31:31-34).
The Messiah (23:5f; 30:9, 33:14-26).
The Last Days of Jeremiah (Chs. 40-45).
Jeremiah’s Prophecies against the Nations (Chs. 46-51).
Obadiah and Jeremiah.
The Date of Obadiah.
The Coming Destruction of Edom (vers. 1-14, 15b).
The Day of the Lord (vers. 15a, 16-21).
The Structure of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel’s Early Life.
The Call of Ezekiel (1:1-3:21).
A Prophet Restrained (3:22-27).
The Coming Doom of Jerusalem (Chs. 4-7).
The Desecration of the Temple (Ch. 8).
The Divine Judgment (9:1-11:13).
God’s Grace to the Exiles (11:14-25).
Zedekiah’s Fate (12:1-20).
On Prophecy and the Prophets (12:21-13:23).
The Inevitable Penalty of Idolatry (Chs. 14-16).
The Folly and Treachery of Zedekiah (Ch. 17).
The Citizen Basis of the Restored Community (Ch. 18).
The Deeper Meaning of the Sin (Chs. 20-23).
Imminent Judgment (Ch. 24).
Prophecies Against the Nations (Chs. 25-32).
The Prophet’s Recommissioning (Ch. 33).
Rulers past and future (Ch. 34).
The Restored Land (Chs. 35, 36).
The Last Enemies (Chs. 38, 39).
The People at Peace (Chs. 40-48).
Prophecy and Apocalyptic.
The Historical Background of Haggai and Zechariah.
The Prophet Haggai and His Message.
The First Message and the People’s Response (Ch. 1).
The Second Message (2:1-9).
The Third Message (2:10-19).
The Fourth Message (2:20-23).
The Structure of Zechariah.
The Problem of Authorship.
The Prophet and his Message.
The Eight Visions (1:7-6:8).
I. The Angel among the Myrtles (1:7-17).
II. Four Horns and Four Craftsmen (1:18-21).
III. The Unneeded Measuring Line (Ch. 2).
IV. The Acquittal of the High Priest (Ch. 3).
V. The Golden Lampstand (Ch. 4).
VI. The Flying Roll (5:1-4).
VII. The Ephah (5:5-11).
VIII. The Four Chariots (6:1-8).
The Crowning of Joshua (6:9-15).
The New Era (Chs. 7, 8).
The Establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom (Chs. 9-14).
The Structure of Malachi. “I Have Loved You.”
The Prophet and His Message.
The Proof of God’s Love (1:2-5).
Obstacles to the Enjoyment of God’s Love (1:6-3:12).
God’s Loving Protection of the Pious in the Day of Judgment (3:13-4:3).
The Final Call to Repentance (4:4ff).
The Structure of Daniel.
The Linguistic Problem.
When did Daniel enter the Canon?
The Miraculous Element.
The Moral Problem.
Daniel the Man.
The Stories of Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (Ch. 2).
The End of World History (Ch. 7).
The Enemy of the Saints (Ch. 8).
The Messiah the Prince and the “seventy weeks” prophesy (Ch. 9).
The Fortunes of Israel (Chs. 10-12).
The Literary Form of Lamentations.
The First Lament.
The Second Lament.
The Third Lament.
The Fourth Lament.
The Messianic Interpretation.
The Purpose of Lamentations.
Church's Heritage (Fr. M. Pomazansky).
To the Reader.
The conviction that the Bible is there to be read rather than to be read about is the only reason and justification for this book. But why then this book ?
The Prophets mirror their own times with their problems so vividly, and they often express their thoughts so poetically, that some help is needed by the reader who has not had a theological training, if many parts are to be really intelligible to him. Then, too, the Church, not content with the many obvious Messianic prophecies, early took over the rabbinic maxim, “No prophet prophesied save for the days of the Messiah,” and through most of its history has distorted what it could of the prophets to refer to Jesus Christ in His first or second coming, and has normally ignored the remainder, except for occasional texts, which were useful as pegs to hang sermons on. To take the Prophets simply and straightforwardly and to reap the spiritual reward of so doing is even today so difficult for many that some guidance is needed.
I have not written this book as an introduction to modern views about the prophets and their writings. There are quite enough books on the subject already. But certain far-reaching views on some of the prophetic books have become so widely known, at least by hearsay, that they could not be ignored, especially as they affect, whether accepted or rejected, our understanding of the prophetic message. Some will disagree with what I have dealt with and what I have omitted; probably all will disagree with some of my conclusions. As regards the former, I have learnt much from the difficulties of my own students; as regards the latter, though I have learnt from many, I have become the blind follower of none, and the only criticisms I shall regret are those based on the blind acceptance of the views of others however eminent.
In fairness to my non-technical readers I have given them the possibility in vexed questions of studying the views of others for themselves. The books mentioned in the footnotes have been chosen for the most part with an eye to whether they are likely to be available in libraries.
The chapters on the Major Prophets, and the Appendix, in their original form, first appeared as lessons in the Bible School of The Life of Faith. That they should have been expanded by the addition of chapters on the Minor Prophets is due mainly to the encouragement given by Mr. F. F. Brace, Head of the Department of Biblical History and Literature, University of Sheffield, and “Rev. H. F. Stevenson, Editor of The Life of Faith. Let this book be my expression of thanks. If I do not express thanks to others, it is not that I am not indebted to many, but to too many, and to have picked out some for mention would have been invidious.
The way in which this book has grown has inevitably involved inequality of treatment between prophet and prophet, with the longer prophets being the worst sufferers. I do not regret this. The shorter prophets are normally the least known and less has been written about them. In addition, if I interest anyone sufficiently to stir him to further reading, he is much more likely to spend money on a book to help him with one of the longer than one of the shorter prophets.
You will not really understand this book unless you read it with your Bible open at the same time, and you will understand it better if you use the R.V. I have only rarely pointed out the differences between the R.V. and the A.V., but have simply assumed that you would be using the former.
The Bibliography at the end is intended only to give you a list of books that may help in a deeper study of the text of the Prophets. They do not necessarily agree with my views and expositions.
The dates given may not agree in all points with the average reference book. They are based on the latest authority, P. van der Meer: The Ancient Chronology of Western Asia and Egypt.
I hope my more learned readers wilt not sniff at my use of “Jehovah.” Though Jahveh, or Yahweh, whichever you prefer, is nearer to the real form of the name, it is not at all certain that it is the real form. So if I had chosen your preference, I should have sacrificed the very real spiritual connotation that Jehovah has for many without having achieved absolute accuracy.
It only remains for me to hope that your reading will bring you nearer to Him of whom all the Prophets spoke in sundry ways and divers manners, and that the ways and will of God will become more clear to you. If so, my work will not have been in vain.
List of Abbreviations.
a, b, etc. — Where only part of a verse is referred to, this is indicated by the use of one of the first four letters of the alphabet after the reference.
ad loc. — at the place.
A.V. — Authorized Version.
C.B. — Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.
Driver LOT — Driver: Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament — the page references are to the sixth and later editions.
Finegan — Finegan: Light from the Ancient Past.
G. A. Smith I or II — G. A. Smith: The Book of the Twelve Prophets, Vol. I or II.
HDB — Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible — 5 vols.
ibid. — in the same place.
I.C.C. — International Critical Commentary.
ISBE — International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia — 5 vols; an American work not easily procurable in Britain.
Kenyon — F. Kenyon: The Bible and Archaeology.
Kirkpatrick — A. F. Kirkpatrick: The Doctrine of the Prophets.
op. cit. — in the work previously cited.
LXX — The Septuagint; the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament.
mg. — Margin.
N.B.D. — New Bible Dictionary
R.S.V. — Revised Standard Version.
R.V. — Revised Version.
Young — E. J. Young: An Introduction to the Old Testament — the best conservative introduction, almost unprocurable in Britain.
Also standard literary abbreviations and generally recognized ones for the books of the Bible.
The Prophetic Books.
In popular speech the Prophetic Books are the sixteen books of the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Malachi, including Lamentations as well. They are further subdivided into the four Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) and the twelve Minor Prophets.
This enumeration and sub-division is not to be found in the Hebrew Bible. It is divided into the Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). The second section, the Prophets, consists of eight books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings (the Former Prophets), and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve (the Latter Prophets). The reasons for the omission of Daniel, which belongs to the Writings, are considered in ch. XVII. For the moment it is sufficient to say that the rabbis made a correct distinction between normal prophecy and the apocalyptic visions we find in Daniel.
The distinction between Major and Minor Prophets is first found in the Latin Churches, and Augustine rightly explains that it means a difference in size, not in value (De Civitate Dei: 18. 29). Though we are not dealing with the Former Prophets in this book, we shall profit by grasping the implications of books we call historical being considered prophetic.
The Functions of a Prophet.
The prophet is not defined or explained in the Old Testament; he is taken for granted. This is because he has existed from the very first (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21), and has not been confined to Israel, e.g. Balaam (Num. 22:5), the prophets of Baal (IKings 18:19). There are true and false prophets among the nations, as there are in Israel. But Amos makes it clear that the prophets of Israel are a special gift of God (Amos 2:11) without real parallel among the Canaanites.
In the Bible, persons are called prophets whom we normally never call by that name, e.g. Enoch (Jude 14), Abraham (Gen. 20:7), the Patriarchs generally (Ps. 105:15). Moses is not so much the law-giver as the prophet par excellence (Deut. 18:15; 34:10).
All this should prepare us for the realization that the popular conception of the prophet as primarily a foreteller is alien to the thought of the Bible. Indeed, the alleged antithesis of the Old Testament fore-teller with the New Testament forth-teller, should have saved us from this error. The two Testaments are not two books in opposition to one another, but two parts of the same book, and speaking the same spiritual language.
The best picture of the true function of a prophet is given by Exod. 7:1f. The prophet is to God what Aaron was to Moses. When Moses stands before Pharaoh (“I have made thee a god to Pharaoh”), Aaron does all the speaking, even when the narrative might suggest otherwise, but they are Moses’ words — Exod. 4:15f, “Thou shalt be to him (Aaron) as God.” In other words, the prophet is God’s spokesman. Speaking for God may involve foretelling the future, and in the Old Testament it normally does, but this is secondary, not primary.
While the foretelling of the true prophet may normally be expected to come to pass (Deut. 18:21f), that does not necessarily establish his credentials (Deut. 13:1ff). Ultimately it is the spiritual quality of his message which shows whether a man is a prophet or not. In any case the foretelling of the future is never merely to show that God knows the future, or to satisfy man’s idle curiosity; there is normally a revelation of God attached to it. We can know the character of God better now, if we know what He will do in the future. And as the future becomes present we can interpret God’s activity the better for its having been foretold.
From this there follows that the prophet speaks primarily to the men of his own time, and his message springs out of the circumstances in which he lives. So some slight knowledge of the history and social background of the prophet are a help to the understanding of his message. But for all this, the source of the message is super-natural, not natural. It is derived neither from observation nor intellectual thought, but from admission to the council chamber of God (Amos 3:7; Jer. 23:18, 22), from knowing God and speaking with Him (Num. 12:6ff; Exod. 33:11). Though the ordinary prophet might not rise to Moses’ level, and had to be satisfied with vision or dream, yet Moses’ experience represented the ideal.
Since, then, the prophetic message is not merely a revelation of God’s will, but of God Himself, it follows that it has a depth beyond the prophet’s own understanding of it (I Pet. 1: 10ff), and that its significance extends beyond the prophet’s own time, though its application at a later period may be rather different. In so far as a prophetic message is a revelation of the unchanging God, it has an unchanging significance. But none-the-less we will be better fitted to grasp its significance for us now, as we understand what the message meant to those who first heard it. Our study will, therefore, normally approach the prophets from this standpoint.
History as Prophecy.
We can now understand why Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, are reckoned as prophetic books. The anonymous authors of these books — or it might perhaps be better to say editors — may well have been prophets themselves. At any rate they were given to see that the history of Israel was, in itself, a revelation of God. Their record of it sought less to give a history of the doings of Israel and more an account of the doings of God in and through Israel. This explains the stress on what the modern historian would consider non-essentials and the omission of apparent essentials.
This thought of Jehovah as the God of history permeates the Latter Prophets. The partial loss of this vision in our day has largely weakened the Church’s preaching.
In the historical books we are introduced to prophetic activity of a strange nature, e.g. ISam. 10:10-13; 19:20-24. It is reasonable to attribute this partly to the baleful influence of Canaanite religion during the period of the Judges. However that may be, there is little, if any, trace of it in the written prophets. The wild men had degenerated into professional prophets, with their ecstasies and dreams (Jer. 23:25), and are repeatedly condemned by the written prophets. Their last pitiful state is described in Zech. 13:2-6. Amos indignantly refuses to be called a prophet, if it involves his being classed with them: “I am no prophet, neither am I one of the sons of the prophets” (Amos 7:14, R.V. mg.).
In contradistinction to these false prophets, the written prophets seem to have obtained most of their messages verbally — we cannot go further in our explanation than this — though we do meet with visions from time to time. As the prophets never really explain how the message came to them, it would be unwise for us to speculate too far on the subject.
The Form of the Prophetic Message.
The majority of the true prophets were bitterly unpopular — Ezekiel is apparently a major exception and there is no evidence for this after the exile. As a result, they could seldom rely on a large audience for any length of time. Their messages had normally to be packed into short pregnant form, generally in poetry, that they might be the more easily remembered. It should be remembered that before the days of printing, the only possibility of a message becoming widely known was for it to be passed from mouth to mouth (For the form of Hebrew poetry see Appendix, p. 150.).
The best example of the prophetic message in its simplest form is given in Jonah 3:4. We need not doubt that Jonah expanded it, whenever questioned about it, but basically this was his message. We find the prophetic tradition carried on by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2), and our Lord (Mark 1:15).
The fact that the bulk of the earlier prophets and not a little of the later (not Daniel) is written in poetry should serve as a warning to us in our interpretation. It means that we are dealing not merely with the natural exuberance of Oriental language, but with the vivid metaphors and pictures of poetry as well.
At times the prophet became so unpopular that he could only gain public attention by unusual actions. Examples are Isaiah’s vintage song (5:1-7), and his going about dressed as a slave (20:1-6). Jeremiah had to do this kind of thing a number of times: among them his remaining unmarried (Jer. 16:2), his breaking of the bottle (ch. 19), his wearing a yoke (chs. 27-28), his buying of land (32:7-15), his use of the Rechabites (ch. 35), his hiding of stones in front of Pharaoh’s palace (43:8-13), his sinking of the scroll against Babylon in the Euphrates (51:59-64). This element is very common in Ezekiel, e.g. his acting the siege of Jerusalem (ch. 4), the symbolizing of the scattering of the people (5:1-4), the removal of his goods (12:1-16), the rationing of his food (12:17-20), his refraining from mourning (24:15-27). It is the more remarkable here, as there seems to have been no necessity for it. It may be that such actions had come to be expected of a true prophet. The non-mention of such details in connexion with the Minor Prophets may well be due to the virtually complete lack of personal details in their writings.
The Shaping of the Prophetic Book.
Apart from Jer. 36, there is no indication given us how the prophetic books were put together. It should, however, be clear that the recorded prophecies cannot represent the whole of the prophet’s activities, even if we allow for frequent repetition of his messages. The most obvious explanation is that the prophet only preserved those of his prophecies which best expressed the character and purposes of God, and would best make them real to the future.
This probably explains why we have almost nothing of the messages of men like Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, preserved for us. They were so intimately connected with the circumstances of their own times that they had but slight importance for later generations. We may be sure that the same was true of much that the prophets dealt with in this book said. It does not take any very close study to reveal long periods in their lives from which we have few, if any, prophecies.
In most of the longer prophets the main guide in the putting together of the prophecies preserved was spiritual connexion. Chronology is not neglected, but it is obviously secondary, and there are clear cases where it has been ignored for the sake of spiritual connexions.
In Jeremiah’s case we know from 30:2, 36:32 that there were at least two collections of his prophecies in existence already during his lifetime. Isa. 8:16; 30:8 may well point to something similar in the case of the earlier prophet especially when we consider Micah’s knowledge of him (see p. 63). Nothing will really satisfy the evidence offered by Jeremiah, except the theory that it was put together after the prophet’s death by Baruch. In ch. VI in considering the evidence for the authorship of Isaiah 40-66, we have had to assume the transmission of Isaiah through a group of disciples, even though the book may well have been given definitive form by the prophet before his death. With Ezekiel there is every evidence that the prophet looked forward to publication from the first, and that it was he who shaped the book from first to last. A number of the Minor Prophets give the impression that they were put together by the prophet himself.
One of the major problems in the study of the prophetic books is the problem of unfulfilled prophecy. The question is normally shirked either by referring the fulfilment to the Millennium, or by spiritualizing the prophecy and referring it to the Church.
The former method is seldom legitimate. Prophecies which refer to the last things normally do so quite unmistakably. There seems no justification for picking out others and making them do so too, just because we know that they were not fulfilled in the prophet’s own time.
For the latter, there seems nothing to be said. Very many prophecies find a fuller meaning and fulfilment in the Church than they ever found in Israel. But this is by their having gained in spiritual depth. If a prophecy obviously does not refer to the Church in its primary meaning, its non-fulfilment in the prophet’s time cannot be explained away by discovering a spiritual application to the Church.
The problem is really brought to a head in Ezek. 26. This is a prophecy of the complete destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. Lest there should be any doubt as to its meaning, it is followed by a lamentation over Tire (ch. 27), its prince (28:1-10), and its king (28:11-19). Yet Tyre was not captured and destroyed and its king killed. Sixteen years later (cf. 29:17 with 26:1) the king of Tyre was able to come to honourable terms. Ezekiel simply says that Nebuchadnezzar has had no gain from Tyre, but God has given him Egypt instead (29:17-20). This is re-affirmed in the next chapter (30:10 seq.). In spite of this, and Jer 43:8-13, there is no clear evidence that Nebuchadnezzar ever crossed the Egyptian border; he certainly never conquered the country.
The very fact that Ezekiel neither apologizes nor explains in 29:17-20 shows that he must have recognized a principle in prophetic fulfilment which we tend to overlook. This is probably to be found in Jer. 18:7-10. Every prophecy is conditional, even when the condition is unexpressed. A prophecy of good may be annulled or delayed, if men do not obey, while repentance may suspend or reverse a prophecy of evil. We must make an exception when it is confirmed by God’s oath.
It is only because we have the story of Jonah as well as his message that we have no difficulty with the “unfulfilled” prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh. Could we know all the circumstances, we should doubtless find similar circumstances elsewhere, where prophecy has not been fulfilled. The recording of such “unfulfilled” prophecies without explanatory comment is ample evidence that the prophet thought little of the evidential value of fulfilled prophecy.
For all this, “unfulfilled” is not in every case the best word; “suspended” would often be better. Nineveh was not destroyed in forty days, but some 150 years later it ceased to be a city. Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Tyre, but the day came when it became a bare rock, a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea. Egypt was never uninhabited for forty years (Ezek. 29:11), but it has become a base kingdom, which has no longer ruled over the nations (Ezek. 29:14f). Babylon did not sink like a stone in the Euphrates (Jer. 51:64), but surely, slowly it went down into oblivion.
If this is so, he would be a very rash man who would maintain that the prophecies concerning Israel in Isaiah 40-66 are abrogated and not just suspended; that they have found their fulfilment in the Church.
A number of these points have been expanded in my Ezekiel e.g. the use of symbols, the problem of false prophets and the conditional nature of prophecy.
Heralds of the
The fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and especially the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, were most terrible blows and upheavals on an unprecedented scale for the Hebrew people. This was God's judgment for the betrayal of their covenant with Him and for their profound moral corruption. A night of utter darkness and, it seemed, hopelessness had begun for the people. Then there appeared a whole galaxy of persons to console them in their sufferings. Reproof and consolation; these are the two subjects of their proclamations and of their prophetic books, which comprise the last grouping of the books of the Old Testament.
The prophets' reproofs precede the last blows that sealed the fate of the Hebrew people, when there were still some remnants of prosperity, and the people's conscience was still slumbering. These reproofs are incomparable in their force, in their unsparing veracity.
Woe, O sinful nation, a people full of sins, an evil seed, lawless children... Why should ye be smitten any more, transgressing more and more? The whole head is pained, and the whole heart is sad. From the feet to the head there is no soundness in them; a wound, a bruise, a festering ulcer. they have not been cleansed, nor bandaged, nor mollified with ointment... Though ye bring fine flour, it is vain; incense is an abomination to me; I cannot bear your new moons, and your sabbaths, and the festival assemblies... Wash ye, be clean, remove your iniquities from your souls before mine eyes, cease from your iniquities, learn to do good, diligently seek judgment, deliver him that is suffering wrong, plead for the orphan, and obtain justice for the widow. And come, let us reason together, saith the Lord, and though your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow; and though they be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool, proclaimed the Prophet Isaiah (Is. 1:4 6; 13; 18).
The Prophet Jeremiah castigates, and he laments the people's fall with even stronger words. Trust not in yourselves, in lying words, for they shall not Profit you at all, when ye say, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord... But whereas ye have trusted in lying words, whereby ye shall not be profited; and ye murder, and commit adultery, and steal, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and are gone after strange gods whom ye know not, so that it is evil with you. Yet have ye come, and stood before Me in the house whereon My name is called, and ye have said, We have refrained from doing all these abominations. Is My house, there whereon My name is called, a den of thieves in your eyes? (Jer. 7:4; 8 11).
Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? then would I weep for this, my people, day and night, even for the wounded of the daughter of my people. Who would give me a most distant lodge in the wilderness, that I might leave my people and depart from them? for they all commit adultery, an assembly of treacherous men... Every one will mock his friend; they will not speak truth; their tongue hath learned to speak falsehoods; they have committed iniquity and they have not ceased, so as to return... Shall I not visit them for these things, saith the Lord?... And I will remove the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and make it a dwelling place of dragons, and I will utterly lay waste the cities of Judah, so that they shall not be inhabited. Who is the wise man, that he may understand this?... Thus saith the Lord, Be ye prudent and call ye the mourning women, and let them come... and let them take up a lamentation for you, and let your eye pour down tears, and your eyelids drops of water! (Jer. 9:1-18).
And when the disasters befell them and unheard of woes were heaped upon them, the Babylonian captivity came and there was no longer any consolation and then those same prophets became the people's only support.
Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith God. Speak, ye priests, of the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away; for she hath received at the Lord's hand double the amount of her sins... O thou that bringest glad tidings to Zion, go up on the high mountains; lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest glad tidings to Jerusalem. Lift it up, fear not; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold the Lord. The Lord is coming with strength, and His arm is with power. Behold, His reward is with Him, and the work of each man is before Him. He shall tend His flock as a shepherd, and He shall gather the lambs with His arm and hold them in His bosom, and shall soothe them that are with young (Is. 40:1 2, 9-11).
Thus the Prophet Isaiah comforts, becoming in those days of lamentation a prophet of God's future deliverance and good will.
One cries to me out of Seir. Guard ye the bulwarks. I watch in the morning and the night. If you wouldst inquire, inquire and dwell by me. (Is. 21:11-12)
The night will pass, God's anger will pass. Be glad, thou thirsty desert; let the wilderness exult, and flower as the lily. And the desert places of Jordan shall blossom and rejoice... Be strong ye hands and palsied knees. Comfort one another, ye faint hearted, be strong and fear not; behold, our God rendereth judgment, and He will render it; He will come and save us. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall speak plainly; for water hath burst forth in the desert, and a channel of water in a thirsty land... But the redeemed and gathered on the Lord's behalf shall walk in it, and shall return, and come to Zion with joy, and everlasting joy shall be over their head; for on their head shall be praise and exultation, and joy shall take possession of them; pain and sorrow, and sighing have fled away (Is. 35:1 6; 10).
What is it that especially inspires the prophets with bright hopes in these distant visions of the future? Is it the political might of their people, her victories and triumphs which they see before them? Or is it a vision of plenty, riches and abundance in the future which is presented to them? No, it is not these objects of material prosperity or national pride that attract their attention. Could these holy men, who had resigned themselves to a life of suffering, and sometimes even to a martyr's death (the Prophet Isaiah was sawn in two with a wooden saw), really inspire their people with these earthly desires alone? They were contemplating another revelation of God: an unprecedented spiritual rebirth, times of justice and truth, meekness and peace, when the whole world is filled with the knowledge of the Lord (Is. 11:9). They proclaimed the coming of the New Testament.
But this is the covenant that I shall make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, Giving, I will give My laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts; and I will be to them a God and they shall be to Me a people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, for I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more (Jer. 31: 33 34).Thus prophesies Jeremiah.
The same is proclaimed by Ezekiel. And I will give you a new heart, and will put a new spirit in you; and I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you, and will cause you to walk in Mine ordinances and to keep My judgments, and do them (Ezek. 36:26 27; and 11:19 20).
The prophets speak much about the requital of the other nations, the enemies of Israel, the pagan peoples, who were only the instruments of God's anger and His chastisement of Israel. They will receive their cup of wrath. But the future blessing of Israel will be a light for them also. And in that day, there shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall arise to rule over the nations; in Him shall the nations hope, and His rest shall be a reward, predictsIsaiah(Is. 11: 10).
The fulfillment of these hopes is linked with the mystical promise of granting Israel an eternal king. My servant David shall be a prince in the midst of them; for there shall be one shepherd of them all, for they shall walk in Mine ordinances... And David My servant shall be their prince for ever. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, we read in Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:24 26).
In consoling their contemporaries, the prophets direct the attention of all towards their future King. They present His image before them in these colors: in the light of meekness, gentleness, humility, righteousness. Jacob is My servant, I will help him: Israel is my chosen, My soul hath accepted him; I have put My Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor shall his voice be heard without. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench; but he shall bring forth judgment to truth (Is. 42:1 3).
In such and similar words, the prophets depict the coming of the Saviour of the world. Before us, scattered throughout various passages of the prophets' writings, but abundant when taken all together, is a depiction of the future events of the Gospel and its portrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Here, in Isaiah, is a reference to Galilee, the place where the Saviour first dwelt on earth and appeared to people: Do this first, do it quickly, O land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali, and the rest inhabiting the seacoast, and the land beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations. O people walking in darkness, behold a great light. ye that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, a light will shine upon you... For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given, Whose government is upon His shoulder. And His name is called the angel of great Counsel, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty One, the Potentate, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the age to come (Is. 9:1 2, 6).
Here is a reference to the Lord's glorification of Jerusalem: Shine, shine, OJerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and there shall be thick darkness upon the nations, but the Lord shall appear unto thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And kings shall walk in thy light, and nations in the brightness (Is. 60:1 3).
Here is the prophecy about Christ by this same prophet, which Christ Himself used in the synagogue of Nazareth to begin His earthly preaching: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me, He hath sent Me to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to declare the acceptable year of the Lord (Is. 61:1 2).
Does the prophet foresee that the Saviour will not be recognized or accepted by the leaders of the Jewish people, or by those people that follow them? Yes, he makes an oblique reference to this in the great depiction of Christ's sufferings which he gives in Chapter 53 of his book, which is one of the greatest prophecies, if not the greatest of them all:
O Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? We brought a report of a Child before him; He is as a root in a thirsty land, He hath no form nor comeliness, and we saw Him, but He had no form nor beauty. But His form was ignoble, and forsaken by all men; He was a man of suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness … His life is taken away from the earth, because of the iniquities of My people He was led to death. And I will give the wicked for His burial, and the rich for His death; for He did no iniquity, neither is there guile in His mouth (Is. 53:1 9).
The Gospel narrative testifies that the Jewish people did not recognize the time of its visitation. However, we cannot say that the prophecies of consolation were not fulfilled. For no one can take away from the Jewish people the boast that from their race came the Most holy Virgin Mary, that Jesus Christ was of the seed of David, that Christ's Apostles were of the same people, and that Jerusalem has become for all time the place of the glory of the Risen Christ. From Jerusalem, the preaching of the Gospel went forth into the whole world, and of her the Church sings: “Rejoice, holy Zion, thou mother of the churches, and dwelling place of God: for thou wast first to receive remission of sins through the Resurrection” (Octoechos, Tone 8, Sun. Sticheron on “Lord, I have cried”).
A full explanation of the fact that it was principally people from the pagan nations who entered the Church of Christ, and that the majority of the Jews remained in unbelief, is given to us in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul. In his writings, we find an exhaustive interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies concerning this. The Apostle writes:
“What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endureth with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the nations? As He saith also in Hosea, I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not My people, there shall they be called the people of the living God. Isaiah also crieth concerning Israel: Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved... What shall we say then? That the nations which have followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense, and whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed...
But I say, continues the Apostle in the next chapter, did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation will anger you. But Isaiah is very bold, and saith: I was found by them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked after Me. But to Israel He saith: All day long I have stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 9:22 27; 30 33; 10:18 21).
This would seem to be too harsh a fate and too strict a sentence for the chosen people of old. But the Apostle Paul himself becomes a comforter of his people, saying, “For I wish not, brethren, that ye be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits; that hardness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the nations be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob... For God hath enclosed them all in disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all. O the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”(Rom. 11:25 26; 32 33).