« PreviousContinue »
err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return, for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a very little while:* our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary: we are thine: thou never barest rule over them: they were not called by thy name. Oh! that thou wouldst rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down.
. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away
Be not wroth, very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee; we are all thy people. Thy holy cities are a wilderness; Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation! Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire; and all our pleasant things are laid waste. Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O Lord? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?” Isaiah lxiii. and Ixiy.
EZEK. xxxvii. 21, 22. "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take the
children of Israel from anong the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”
THESE words, and numerous predictions similarly worded, seem to require, for their fulfilment, the actual restoration of the twelte tribes of Israel to the land occupied by their forefathers, and their permanent establishment therein as one nation. We have already argued, and I trust on scriptural grounds (the only ground which in this question can supply firm footing for a moment), in favour of the opinion, that, at the conclusion of the times of the Gentiles, God will give to the Jewish people a penitent spirit, to confess their iniquity, and accept their deserved punishment at his hand, preparatory to their restoration to Judea; and we concluded by strengthening our interpretation upon this important point, by an analogy drawn from the doctrines of the New Testament, the revealed dealings and purposes of God, as they relate to the Catholic church of his elect people in Jesus Christ.
* Accor to the chronology of our most learned writers, about 3740 years have elapsed since the promise first made to Abraham, that the land of Canaan should be given to him and his seed for ever. During these 3740 years, it will be found that the whole period during which any part of the posterity of Abraham have possessed the promised land, has not exceeded 1481 years; for, from the entrance of Israel, under Joshua, into Canaan, till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, are 1551 years, from which, the seventy years captivity in Babylon being subtracted, there remain 1481 years; and as the ten tribes were carried captive into Assyria in the year 721 before Christ, this part of Abraham's seed have possessed the land of promise only 730 years out of the whole period of 3740 years. If there is to be no national restoration of Israel to the land of their fathers, we may well ask what is to become of the promises so often repeated, that God would give unto Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan for ever? Are we to suppose that, in this respect, there is to be a deviation from the general rule of the Divine procedure, as laid down by St. Paul, that "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance?" This would not only be contrary to those general assurances of the Divine faith and vera
Our present object is to state more expressly, and to defend, that interpretation on which our faith rests, in anticipating the
LITERAL RE-OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE by the Jews.
It may, perhaps, appear to some of you, that this point is so clearly and repeatedly stated by the prophets, and is now so generally admitted, that it does not require any detailed proof; and there may be some feeling of impatience among you, at our dwelling so long upon what you consider the plain, and easy, and obvious parts of the subject; anxious as you are to have the deeper and more neglected branches of the prophetic records pressed upon the attention of the church. I cannot, however, forget, that this fundamental point is still denied by many who profess, and who seem truly to enjoy the religion of the New Testament. Neither can I lose sight of the importance of being well fortified with scriptural authorities in support of this literal restoration, which seems to me to be inseparably connected with the glorious personal advent of the King of the Jews, his reign upon the earth, and the final and universal conversion of the nations. My heart's desire and prayer before God is, that I may be guided by the Holy Ghost to advance that interpretation which is according to his will, and that my Christian brethren who hear me, may be induced fairly to search the Scriptures for themselves, to ascertain whether these things be so.
The Jews shall be restored as a nation to the land of their forefathers. In proof of this, I refer to the language of our text, as plain, and explicit. For the further confirmation of this opinion, two modes may be adopted; either, first, the enumeration of parallel passages, asserting the application of them city, which are to be found in the Scriptures; but altogether inconsistent with the many express promises to the posterity of Abraham, of their restoration to their own land in the latter days.-- Jewish Expositor for 1821.
all to this view of the subject, and challenging any other interpretation which will bear comparison with the respective contexts; or, secondly, the selection of some one passage, and a detailed exposure of the inconsistency of every interpretation of it, except the one which maintains the literal return of the twelve tribes to their own land; leaving that one, therefore, in undisputed possession of the field of truth.
I shall now adopt the latter mode, and make choice of the words of our text, in connexion with the remarkable context in which they are found: “Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen; whither they be gone: and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” Here we have five particulars distinctly enumerated:
1. The land;
And, 5. The one king. And whatever interpretation we adopt in reference to any one of these particulars, let us be consistent, and carry that interpretation throughout, applying it fairly to the other four particulars.
I. The first interpretation of this prophecy, to which I would direct your attention, is that which makes the land to mean Judea literally; the children of Israel to mean the Jewish people; the restoration to mean the return of Judah from Babylon, and their re-settlement in their land under Ezra and Nehemiah; the two kingdoms to mean Judah, and some individuals of the other tribes, who returned from Babylon with Judah; and the one king to mean the rulers of the kingdom of Judah, subsequent to their return from Babylon.
This, so far, is in itself consistent. Let us examine, then, how it will bear comparison with the language of the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of the Prophet. First, the land in the prophecy is here understood to mean Judea literally; that is to say, the whole district of country lying between the Nile and the Euphrates, as marked out in the promise of God to father Abraham. With this interpretation, every thing that the Prophet has written concerning the land, its restored fertility and beauty, and the multiplication upon it of both men and beasts, will naturally and obviously accord. This interpretation, therefore, so far seems undeniable. Secondly, the children of Israel, in the prophecy, are here understood to mean the Jewish people. With this, every thing that the Prophet has written concerning the children of Israel, their division and dispersion, their regathering and reunion, will most naturally accord. This branch also, therefore, of the interpretation before us, appears to be conclusive. Thirdly, the restoration in the prophecy is here understood to mean the return of Judah from Babylon; and in order to maintain this consistently, the two kingdoms in the prophecy are understood to mean Judah, and some companions of Judah from the other tribes: also, the one king in the prophecy, is understood to mean the rulers of the kingdom of Judah, subsequent to the return from Babylon. With this view of the subject, much that the Prophet has written, will not and cannot be made to accord. The return of Judah from her captivity in Babylon, was doubtless the fulfilment of the restoration promised in some prophecies, as Jeremiah xxv. 11, and xxix. 10–14; but does it therefore follow, that the same event was the fulfilment of this prophecy of Ezekiel? Surely not. That must be examined, by comparing the prophecy itself with the event.
The two kingdoms are thus described in the prophecy, (v. 16, 17, 18, 19;) the one consisting of Judah, and some of the other tribes, his companions; the other consisting of the whole body of the ten tribes of Israel. These two are said to become one. The two kingdoms of the alleged event, according to the interpretation now before us, consist, the one of Judah, the other of Judah's companions from the other tribes. Thus in the prophecy, Judah's companions are combined with Judah, and made in the aggregate one of the kingdoms; but in the interpretation, Judah's companions are separated from Judah, and made another distinct kingdom; therefore, the interpretation does not agree with the prophecy. In the prophecy, the whole body of the ten tribes is specified as one of the two kingdoms: in the interpretation, no mention is made of that whole body; therefore, the interpretation does not agree with the prophecy.
Again, the one king in the prophecy is thus described (v. 24, 25): “David, my servant, shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd, . ..and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. These words point out either king David himself, raised from the dead, in order to reign again in Jerusalem over all the twelve tribes, as he did before; or some individual descendant of David, called after his illustrious ancestor; or at least a line of kings of the family of David, thus designated in honour of the great conqueror of Israel's enemies, as the Roman emperors were from Cæsar.
The one king of the alleged event, according to the interpretation now before us, was neither David, nor any individual descendant of David, nor a line of kings of the family of David; but a series of governors, the most remarkable of whom we know to have been of other families. The Maccabees were Levites, concerning whose tribe neither Moses nor any of the prophets spake any thing of royalty. The king, therefore, of the prophecy does not correspond with the king of the event, which is proposed as the fulfilment; and, consequently, the interpretation grounded thereupon cannot be maintained as the meaning of the prophecy.
On this subject a celebrated commentator, after advocating this interpretation, makes the following acknowledgment: “This prophecy was fulfilled very imperfectly in the persons of the Jews after the captivity; both because neither the tribe of Judah nor the other tribes returned entire, and because they were not governed by kings of the family of David."* In all fairness, then, the interpretation which makes the return from Babylon to be the fulfilment of the restoration here predicted by Ezekiel, must be relinquished.
II. Another interpretation of this prophecy, is that which makes the land to mean the Christian church; the children of Israel to mean the elect people of God, the true, the spiritual Israel, gathered from all nations; the restoration to mean the conversion of sinners; the two kingdoms to mean Jews and Gentiles in one church; and the one king to mean Jesus Christ, of the house and lineage of David, now exercising spiritual dominion over all believers.
I am not conscious of any unfairness in thus stating it; but to remove all doubt, I will repeat it in the words of one of its advocates: “This prophecy certainly looks further to the kingdom of Christ. He is that one King, in allegiance to whom all God's spiritual Israel shall cheerfully unite, and under whose protection they shall all be gathered. All believers unite in one Lord, one faith, one baptism; and the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in the Gospel church, their becoming one fold under Christ, the one great Shepherd, is doubtless the union that is chiefly looked at in this prophecy.”+ The prophecy describes Judah and Ephraim united in the land. This is interpreted to mean the union of Jews and Gentiles in the Gospel church. To be consistent with itself, therefore, the interpretation must maintain, that by the land in the prophecy, is meant what this popular commentator calls the Gospel church.
Now, let us examine it. The general statement of doctrine * Calmet, apud Mant and D'Oyly in loco. + Matthew Henry, in loco.