Page images
[ocr errors]

myself, that many parts of it are to be referred to the last ages for their full completion *..

The prophet begins with foretelling the captivity of the Jews, primarily alluding to the Babylonian captivity, but ultimately directing our attention to that into which they were led by the Romans. He introduces the Lord solemnly declaring, that he will utterly consume all things from off the land, both man and beast, both fish and fowl; and repeating, as if particularly to engage our notice, that he will cut off man from off the land t. The whole of this threat plainly denotes, that there should be, what another prophet styles, a great forsaking in the midst of the land of Judea I. After this general denunciation, the Lord proceeds to particulars. He divides the men of Judah and Jerusalem into two classes, and, inasmuch as they have both grievously sinned though in very different manners, he threatens that he will stretch out his hand upon them all. They who worship Baal and the host of heaven, turning back from the Lord or apostatizing from him, and not seeking and inquiring for him; and they, who worship and swear by the Lord, even swear by their king : all these shall alike experience the divine vengeance. Hence it is plain, since the worshippers of Jehovah are thus involved in one common fate with the worshippers of Baal, and since God himself equally represents the punishment of both as being a judicial infiction, that these worshippers of Jehovah could not have worshipped him in spirit and in truth; but that their worship, although untainted with idolatry, was nevertheless an abomination unto him.

This double description exactly accords with the state of the Jews in the time of our Lord's first advent. Part of them were idolaters; and part of them, while they abhorred idolatry, and worshipped the true God, yet made void the law by their traditions, and rejected the promised Messiah. The existence of this second class

romised Mthe law by thorshipped thehem, while thart

* See the preceding notes on the prophecy itself extracted from Mr. Lowth's commentary.

† These words, as well as the whole passage, shew, that a dispersion of Fudah is here predicted. I cannot, with Dr. Gray, limit the prophecy to

the mere extirpation of idolatry by Fosiah. ! Isaiah yi. 12.

requires no proof; and, as for the first, “ It is said indeed, that, after the return from Babylon, the Jews scrupulously avoided idolatry, and have continued untainted with it to this day. But, generally as this is asserted by all commentators, one after another, it is not true. Among the restored Jews there was indeed no public idolatry, patronized by the government, as there had been in times before the captivity, particularly in the reign of Ahaz. But, from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes to the last moments of the Jewish polity, there was a numerous and powerful faction, which in every thing affected the Greek manners; and this Hellenising party were idolaters to a man *.” Both these classes are equally threatened by the Lord, and were equally carried away captive, when his righteous judgment cut off man, that is the whole multitude of the people, from off the land.

From this description of the state of the Jews at the era of their dispersion by the Romans, Zephaniah proceeds to foretell the sacking of Jerusalem by Titus. And first he announces, that he is about to treat of the great sacrifice, and the great day, of the Lord. In the prophetic language, a sacrifice is very frequently used to typify a great slaughter ; and by the day of the Lord we are generally to understand the day either of the first or second advent. Here the day of the first advent is intended, which is considered as including within itself the destrucs tion of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Jewish polity by the Romans t. Zephaniah declares, that at that time there shall be a cry from the fish-gate, and a great crashing from the hills, and a howling from that part of Jeru. salem which was called Mishnah or the second city: that those, who dwelt in the valley or deep glen which divides the upper city from the lower city shall howl, inasmuch as the metaphorical Canaanites or the idolatrous Hellenists are cut off [ : that the Lord will search Jerusalem with

* Bp. Horsley's Hosea, p. 8.

+ See Matt. xxiv. 15.-28. I have already observed, that, when the prophecy is considered as primarily relating to the Babylonian captivity, this siege of Jerusalem must mean its siege by the Chaldèans.

# “The original reads i he people of Canaan, which word signifies a merchant (Hos. xii. 7.) ; but the Chaldee understands it of those who resemble the

candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees, or the Saducean Jews, who had adopted the Epicurean maxim, that God will not do good neither will he do evil, that he does not interfere in the affairs of this world but leaves every thing to chance, and that the sacred volume itself is little better than a gross imposture : lastly he declares, that they shall be pillaged by the troops of that very nation, to the fear of incurring whose dis, pleasure they had sacrificed the promised Messiah * ; and shall behold the houses which they had built, and the vineyards which they had planted, become a desolation. In the great day of the Lord, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them ; but they shall suffer severe distress, because they have presumptuously sinned against the Most High. i "As the prophecy was, so was its accomplishment. At the very time when, as Josephus tells us, it was no uncommon thing to hear his hardened countrymen ridicule the oracles of their ancient prophets, and plunge into all the impieties of Saducean infidelity t; God brought great distress upon them, so that they walked like blind men. Within they were torn by the madness of civil war; without they were pressed by a powerful and unrelenting enemy. So that their blood was poured out as dust, and their fesh as the dung; it being computed by their own historian Josephus, that eleven hundred thousand perished in the siege, besides those who were slain in other places I.

Having foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews, the prophet next calls our attention to their restoration and to other matters connected with it. He raises his voice on high ; and loudly com

Canaanites in their idolatries and corrupt manners : so Judah's mother is called an Hittite, and her father an Amorite, because they did after the works of the Canaanites, the ancient inhabitants of the land, Ezek. xvi. 45.” Mr. Lowth in loc.

* John xi. 48. 1 Καλεπαλείτο μεν σας αυτοις θεσμος αιθρωπων, εγελαλο δε τα θεια, και 785 Tony w poonwy dou8S ÚTTEP ayuptixas nogomariXS Exaevažoy. Joseph. de bell Jud. L. iv. C. 6.

* Joseph, de bell. Jud. L. vi. C. 9. Sect. 3,

mands a nation not desired to gather themselves together, ere the decree conceive wrath and bring forth trouble, ere the day of the Lord's anger come upon them: he exhorts all the meek of the earth to seek the Lord, that they may be hid in the day of his fierce anger. By the nation not desired I understand the long despised, but at length converted Jews; and by all the meek of the earth, both the Jewish converts, and their protectors the maritime nation of faithful worshippers. The exhortation of the prophet is, that they should hide themselves, that they should not presume to interfere in the day of the Lord's vengeance, but that they should leave it to him to decide his own controversy with the faction of Antichrist *. However he may in an inferior degree employ them as instruments t, by the supernatural interference of his own right arm he will get himself the victory... · Previous however to Zephaniah's more fully predicting these matters, he tells us, that God will destroy the Philistines, and give their coast to the remnant of the house of Judah: that he will turn the captivity of his people, and that in the allegorical evening of their national existence they shall lie down in the houses of Ashkelon: that they shall spoil Moab and Ammon, and shall take their land into their possession : that idolatry shall be for ever abolished; that men shall worship God in all the isles of the nations, and that the Cuthites shall be slain by his sword. All these particulars are similarly predicted by Isaiah as about to happen at the era of the restoration of Israel. The ancient people of God are to Ay along the coast of the Philistines towards the west; they are to spoil those of the east together. Moab and Ammon, or the nations which shall then possess their territories I, are to obey them ||. The Cushim, or the Egyptians who inhabit the banks of the Cushean streams of the Nile, are to be delivered into the hand of a fierce

* It is right to observe, that Mr. Lowth interprets this part of the prophecy differently from myself; but the subsequent context induces me to prefer my own exposition, more especially since he allows that a part of that context will not receive its full completion until the last ages. See his note on Zeph. ii. 9. cited above.

Zech. xii. 6. Micah iv. 13.

These had escaped out of the land of Antichrist, Dan. xi. 41. | Isaiah xi. 14.

king, to be compelled humbly to attend his footsteps, and to be smitten as by the Lord himself *. And, when the restoration of Israel is completed, all nations are to worship in the holy mountain of Zion t.

But there is one great enemy of the Lord, one remarkable persecutor of the Church, whose destruction at this wonderful period is with united voice celebrated by the ancient prophets. This great enemy is sometimes mystically denominated Edom; at other times, Babylon, or Tyre. From Daniel and St. John we learn, that it is the fourth beast, or the Roman empire, both ecclesiastical and civil, in its last form, or under its last head; that is to say, as recent events have shewn, under the civil domination of Antichrist united with the spiritual domination of the papal man of sin. Zephaniah styles it Nineveh, which was the capital of the first Assyrian empire: and, while he predicts the fate of the literal Nineveh, he interweaves with his prophecy various circumstances which are only applicable to the mystical Nineveh ; and directs us to look for the final accomplishment of it to the day when the nations are gathered together, to the day of the Lord's vengeance, to the day when the daughter of his dispersion is brought back by his faithful mari. time worshippers beyond the rivers of Cush.

The beginning of this part of the prophecy, which primarily relates to the literal Nineveh, may be compared with the opening of the 18th chapter of the Revelation; all the rest of it can only relate to the mystical Nineveh. I consider the first verse of the 3d chapter of Zephaniah, as immediately connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter; so immediately indeed, that they ought both to be included in the same paragraph: accordingly I have thus arranged them in my transcript of the prophecy. The city, mentioned in the one yerse, is, I think, the same as the city, mentioned in the other verse: the exulting city that boasts of her superiority over all others is the city that swelleth with pride and yet is polluted.

* See Isaiah xi. 15. xix. 4, 20, 22. «He shall have power-over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Lubim and the Cushim shall be at his steps.” Dan. xi. 43. f Isaiah ii. 1..-5. et alibi.

« PreviousContinue »