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phesy in their hearing that Jerusalem was to be destroyed. And that his prophecy might make a strong impression on the imagination of the men who were with him, he was ordered, ver. 10. 66 To break the bottle in the sight of these men. 11. And to
say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel that cannot be made whole again.”
The same prophet was ordered, Jerem. xxvii. 2. to make bonds and yokes, and put them on his own neck, and to send them to all the neighbouring kings, by the messengers whom they had sent to Jerusalem to persuade Zedekiah to enter into the confederacy which they had formed against the king of Babylon: and by that symbolical action the prophet was to signify to them, that the issue of the confederacy would be certain captivity to them all. But we are told, chap. xxviii. 10 That the false prophet Hananiah, took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck and broke it, and spake in the presence of all the people, saying, “ Thus saith the Lord, Even so will I break the yoke 6 of Nebuchadnezzer king of Babylon, from the neck of all nations, within the space of two full years."
Once more, Jeremiuh having written in a book, his prophecy concerning the destruction of Babylon, recorded, Jerem. li. he gave it to Serajah, ver 60. and ordered him when he came to Babylon with Zedekiah, to read it, and having read it, to bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates. Ver. 64. 6. And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise " from the evil that I will bring upon her.”
With the same design of speaking by significant actions, Ezekiel was ordered to delineate Jerusalem upon a tile, and to besiege it by building a fort against it, raising a mount, and set. ting a camp with battering rams against it round about. This siege the prophet was to continue four hundred and thirty days, and during the continuance thereof, he was to eat and drink by measure : and his bread was to be baked, that is, prepared, ver. 15. with dung ; the fuel with which he was to prepare his bread was to be dung. By these symbolical actions, the prophet shew- . ed that Jerusalem was to be besieged, and that during the seige the inhabitants were to be punished with a grievous famine, Ezek. iv. In the following chapter the prophet was ordered, ver. 1. to shave his head and beard, and with a balance to divide the hairs thereof into three parts, and, ver. 2. when the days of the siege were fulfilled, he was to burn with fire a third part of
the hairs in the midst of the city : next he was to take a third part, and smite about it with a knife : and the remaining third part he was to scatter in the wind, except a few hairs which he was to bind in the skirts of his garment. The meaning of these symbolical actions God explained to the Israelites, as follows, ver. 11. « Because thou hast defiled my sanctuary, with all thy « detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore “ will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither « will I have any pity. 12. A third part of thee shall die with “ the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the “ midst of thee; and a third part shall fall by the sword round « about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds; 6 and I will draw out a sword after them. 13. Thus shall mine
anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon “ them, and I will be comforted.-15. So it shall be a reproach 6 and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment, unto the na6 tions that are round about thee, when I shall execute judg"ments in thee, in anger and in fury, and in furious rebukes. I “ the Lord have spoken it.”
For the illustration of the foregoing allegorical action, I will here transcribe B. Lowth's note on Isa. vii. 20. In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet : and it shall also consume the beard. " To shave with “ the hired razor the head, the feet, and the beard, is an expres6 sion highly parabolical ; to denote the utter devastation of the a country from one end to the other, and the plundering of the “ people from the highest to the lowest, by the Assyrians, whom “God employed as his instrument to punish the Jews. Ahaz him6 self, in the first place, hired the king of Assyria to come to help 86 him against the Syrians, by a present made to him of all the “ treasures of the temple, as well as his own: and God him66 self considered the great nations whom he thus employed, as chis mercenaries, and paid them their wages. Thus he " paid Nebuchadnezzar for his services against Tyre, by the
conquest of Egypt, Ezek. xxix. 18.-20. The hairs of the s head, are those of the highest order in the state ; those of 6 the feet or the lower parts, are the common people ; the « beard is the king, the high priest, the very supreme in « dignity and majesty. The eastern people have always held “ the beard in the highest veneration, and have been ex
tremely jealous of its honour. To pluck a man's beard is
an instance of the greatest indignity that can be offered, Isa. 661. 6. The king of the Ammonites, to shew the utmost con
tempt of David, cut off half of the beards of his servants ; and " the men were greatly ashamed : and David bade them tarry at “ Jericho till their beards were grown, 2 Sam. X. 4, 5, &c."
Once more God ordered Ezekiel, chap. xii. 3. to prepare stuff for removing, and to go forth with it at even in the sight of the people, as they who go forth into captivity, and having digged through the wall in their sight, to carry his stuff out thereby upon his shoulders in the twilight, with his face covered that he might not see the ground. The prophet having performed these actions in the sight of the people, when they said to him, What dost thou ? God ordered him to reply, ver. 11. “ I am
your sign : like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them : " they shall remove and go into captivity. 12. And the prince " that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twi“ light, 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. 13. My net also will .I spread upon “ him, and he shall be taken in the snare : and I will bring him “ 10 Babylon, to the land of the Chaldeans, yet shall he not see “ it though he shall die there, 14. And I will scatter towards
every wind, all that are about him to help him,” &c.
From these examples of significant actions, concerning which God declared that they were commanded to be done for the purpose of prefiguring future events, we may conclude, that those uncommon actions, which he commanded without declaring the purpose for which they were commanded, had, like the others, a typical meaning. This conclusion is warranted by the inspired writers, who in after times have pointed out the things signified by these actions.—For example, when God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his only son, although he did not tell him the purpose for which that difficult command was given to him, yet from the apostle's terming the suspension of that command, a receiving of Isaac from the dead for a purable, Heb. xi. 19. we learn, that by the command to sacrifice Isaac, and by the suspension of that command, the death and resurrection of God's only Son was prefigured.--In like manner, when the sacrifice of the Passover was instituted, although no intimation was given of its having a typical meaning, we know that it prefigured the sacrifice of Christ, together with the influence of that sacrifice in procuring the salvation of believers. For we are told expressly,
John xix. 36, that when our Lord hung on the cross his legs were not broken, that the command concerning the paschal lamb, Exod. xii. 46. “ Neither shall ye break a bone thereof,” might be fulfilled. Besides, in allusion to the typical meaning of the Passover, Christ is called, 1 Cor. v. 7. Our Passover ; and is said to be sacrificed for us.--Farther, when God ordered Moses to lift up the image of a serpent on a pole, that the Israelites in the wilderness who were stung with serpents might be healed by looking at it, although nothing was said concerning its having a typical meaning, yet that it had such a meaning we learn from our Lord himself, who thus explained it, John iii. 14. “ As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, “ even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever “ believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Wherefore, the lifting up of the brazen serpent, was a type of Christ's being lifted up on the cross : and the health which the Israelites obtained by looking to it, represented the salvation of those who believe on Christ as the Saviour of the world. Hence, in allusion to the typical meaning of the brazen serpent, Isaiah introduces Messiah saying, chap. xlv. 22. « Look unto me and 66 be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”
Upon the whole, it appears, that the uncommon actions performed by the Jewish prophets, were all of them significant ; both those whose meaning was declared, and those whose meaning was not declared ; and that they were commanded by God for the purpose of prefiguring, in a symbolical manner, future persons and events. It is true, the long duration of some of these symbolical actions, the labour with which they were per. formed, and the pain which they occasioned to the persons who performed them, have afforded infidels a pretence for speaking of the prophets as fanatics and madmen, who by such doings debased the prophetic office. For which reason, to vindicate the character of these holy men, soine of the learned Jewish ductors have given it as their opinion, that these uncommon actions were transacted only in visions, in which the prophets seemed to themselves to do them. But this supposition is contradicted by the scriptures, which represent the actions under consideration as done in the presence of the people, for the purpose of drawing their attention to the informations with which these actior.s were accompanied : : an effect which the relation of a vision could not produce, because the incredulous and prophane would naturally consider such a vision either as a fiction or as an illusion. The character, therefore, of the Jewish prophets will be more effectually vindicated, if we recollect what they themselves constantly affirmed ; namely, that all the uncommon things which they did, they were commanded by God to do : and that, after the events prefigured by these actions came to pass, no doubt could be entertained of their being commanded by God to do them.Next, if we remember, That in the early ages, it was usual to convey instruction by symbolical actions, we.shall be sensible, that the things for which the prophets have been censured as madmen, did not appear to their contemporaries in the light in which we moderns view them : that they excited , the curiosity of the people among whom they were transacted, and led them to inquire of the prophets what they meant by them, as in the instances mentioned, Ezek. xii. 9. xxi. 7 : That being addressed to the senses of mankind, they must have conveyed the instruction with which they were accompanied in the most forcible manner: And that instruction thus forcibly conveyed, making a strong impression on the mind of the spectators, must have been long remenbered, and could be communicated to others with great accuracy:--Thus it appears, that in the early ages, when the art of writing was little known, the most effectual method of communicating and diffusing knowledge was to instruct the people by significant or symbolical actions, and that in fact this method was commonly practisert, especially among the eastern nations.
Wherefore, the Jewishi prophets are not to be ridiculed for the symbolical actions with which they accompanied their predictions. The importance of the end for which they performed these actions, and the success with which they accomplished that end, are a sufficient vindication both of the wisdom of God in commanding them, and of the good sense and piety of the prophets in performing them. For which reason, I think we cannot be mistaken in believing they were all performed exactly, as related in the scriptures.
Of Instruction conveyed by some Actions and Events happening in
the ordinary Course of Things.
I. It is now time to proceed to the consideration of a method in which God communicated the knowledge of things future, which though different from that described in the preceding section, and more removed from common observation, was