Page images
PDF
EPUB

1849.]

Notes.

779

בָּיְתָה

VERSE 16. The shades, as he descends, fix on him their eyes, in doubt whether it is possible that such a king is brought low. In the second clause, they still speak.

VERSE 17. They continue to address him, recollecting the utter desolation and savage cruelty which had marked his wars. Din change from Part., in the last verse, to finite construction, 131. R. 2. 702 with the Art., to make it definite, like the desert, 5 107.3. R. 1. nnp to open, to let out of prison, Jer. 40: 4, opp. to 70. The not letting go his captives, is a mark of power and of cruelty. home, homeward, domum, “and the man went home," Gen. 24: 32.

Verses 18, 19. The tyrant now receives the just reward of his deeds. The kings, whom he oppressed on earth, now lie in honor, each in his own house, grave, or niche; their bodies are treated with respect, while thou art cast away from thy sepulchre, from the tomb designed for thee, as a branch which a man cuts off from a tree and casts from him. "

Away from,” not out of, as the body had not been placed in a sepulchre. as part constructed with nex. Comp. Job 7:5, “My body is clothed of, or with worms," 132. “ Stones of the pit.” The most probable sense of this much-disputed clause seems to be, a stony place, a pit where loose stones and refuse are thrown, where dead bodies are indiscriminately huddled. The dwellmgs of the dead, among the Persians and Egyptians, were esteemed as far more important, and were far more splendidly built than those of the living. Diod. Sic. 1. 51, says of the Egyptians : "The houses of the living they name lodgings, resting-places, lit. dissolvings, as we inhabit them but a short time; but the sepulchres of the dead they name eternal habitations ; as if in Hades we were to pass a boundless eter. nity." Hence the great national work, the pyramids (perhaps pauis, palace of the dead), the graves of kings, and the abodes of the dead among the Medo-Persians in Persepolis. The value that the Hebrews attached to an honorable burial is well known. 26: 16. 53: 6. 1 K. 13: 22.

VERSE 20. “With them,” with kings and others who are honorably buried, v. 18. The tyranny of a particular king is not here referred to; but the general course of the monarchs, marked as it commonly was, by acts of revolting barbarity ; e. g. the blinding of the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah. The king of Babylon, as a savage conqueror, was alike indifferent to the life of his own subjects and to that of his enemies. The triumphal song here concludes.

Verse 21. Spoken by the prophet, and addressed to the Medes and Persians. barn some interpret enemies ; but cities seems to be the more natural rendering, and accords with the previous clause.

VERSES 22, 23. Jehovah denounces utter destruction. The Babylonians shall be cut off, root and branch. bab Dat. incommodi. no paronomasia name and man.

, offspring and offshoot. The ruined city shall serve as a dwelling for the porcupine, Zeph. 2: 11. “Pools of water.” Marshy, overflowed by the Euphrates ; after the river has retired, stagnant pools of water abound.

Besom," lit. “I will besom her with the besom." The verb is denom. from 5 mud ; swept clean, utterly destroyed. Damir, quoted by Bochart, says expressly, that the hedge-hog was frequently found in Syria and Irak, and was of the size of a Maltese dog. According to Nearchus, in Strabo, 16. 1, they were numerous in the islands of the Euphrates.

Author of the Passage. Most of the later German critics maintain that this section was not composed by Isaiah. The grounds of this opinion, as stated by Knobel, follow:

1. “The subject. The writer speaks of a mighty Babylonian monarchy, under whose oppression the Jewish exiles languished, as a matter of the past and present; he sees the overthrow of this empire and the release of the exiles as near; he names the Medes as conquerors of Babylon. All this does not agree with Isaiah, who has constantly to do with the Assyrian monarchy, and at most could only predict a Babylonian empire as to arise from the Assyrian, and thence dangerous to the Jews."

In reply, we object to the method of these critics, who first reject the largest portion of the prophecies, which go under the name of Isaiah, as not genuine; and thus, when we are considering the genuineness of one of the remaining sections, shut us out from all opportunity of collation and comparison, except in exceedingly narrow limits. The last twenty-seven chapters are not genuine, it is said, because they contain many words and phrases which are not in Isaiah's genuine productions. But if it be shown that the style is similar to that of chs. xiii. and xiv., it is very convenient to reply that those chapters are anonymous. But, allowing that Isaiah limits his view to the As. syrian monarchy mainly, does this preclude him from uttering special predictions against Babylon? Why should Babylon be passed by, any more than Tyre, Egypt, or Ethiopia? The twenty-third chapter contains a prophecy against Tyre, the author being Isaiah, according to Knobel's confession; and the captor of it is evidently Nebuchad1849.]

Isaiah the Author.

781

nezzar, as most modern critics allow; for Shalmanezer, though he besieged it, did not take it. Secondly, Isaiah did predict the overthrow of Judah by the Babylonians, 2 K. 20: 16—19, “all shall be carried into Babylou," etc. So that Isaiah has something to do with Babylon. Thirdly. He paints, indeed, the overthrow of Babylon, and the release of the Jews, as near. But this is in conformity with the nature of prophecy, and of the manner of Isaiah in particular. The Messianic times, ch. ix., are represented as present.

2. “Spirit and Views. The author is full of bitter hatred and of glowing revenge against the Babylonians. He feeds with delight, in the outset, on their terrible destruction; and he paints with pleasure, how Babylon shall forever be a heap of ruins, uninhabited, its king lying unburied. But such a degree of fanaticism is foreign to Isaiah, and betrays one suffering under Babylonian oppression, and in general the later period, when this fanatical spirit specially prevailed as the result of longer oppression," etc.

Such objections, of course, proceed on the ground that a prophet, in delivering his message, is, at the same time, indulging his private pique, and may be a fanatic or an enthusiast. The objection really deserves no answer. But is it not conceivable that the people of God, as well as other nations, had suffered for a long time, extraordinary oppression, at the hands of the Babylonians? And might it not consist with the justice of God, to denounce severe calamities, even to annihilation, against a proud and impious oppressor? The deeper feeling and the more terrible anathema, were justified by the circumstances. But the same fearlessness in delivering his message, the same spirit of denunciation in substance, characterize the prophet elsewhere, in relation to Syria, the Ten Tribes, Tyre, etc. If the spirit of the one is unjustifiable, so is that of the other. Knobel seems to forget that there may be several aspects and even opposite tendencies in the character of a great prophet. “ The man of sorrows" uttered terrible denunciations.

3. "Style and language. The style has not only no characteristic peculiarities of the style of Isaiah — being in general far more flowing, smooth, and facile - it also contains many expressions which are only to be met with in the later writers.” But is the style more unlike that of the portions of Isaiah which are acknowledged to be genuine, than is that of ch. xviii. ? In seven verses, in the latter, there are at least twelve words and phrases not found elsewhere, in what are said to be the oracles of this prophet.? Is it asserted that the

i , messengers, , } Vol. VI. No. 24.

66

,הָ לְאָה , מוֹרָט , מְמְשָׁךְ ,in the sense of neessengers צִירִים , צִלְצֵל 1

new topic in ch. xviii. requires a new style? Why is not the same remark applicable to chapters xiii. and xiv. ? Besides, there is a wonderful variety in the diction and manner of this prophet, in those portions which our critics acknowledge to have been written by him. Compare the smooth, flowing, elevated style of 2: 1–5 with the short, abrupt, impetuous diction in 10: 28-34.

4. “ This is confirmed by the frequent coincidences of this author with the later prophets." But there are striking coincidences in those portions which are confessedly genuine, with passages in other prophets. Compare Isa. 2: 1-5 with Mic. 4:1-5; Isa. 7: 14. 9: 6 with Mich. 5: 2, 3; Isa. 5: 1–7 with Ps. 80: 8-16 and Ez. 17.

In short, we see no adequate reasons for rejecting the genuineness of this passage. The arguments adduced by the opponents are mainly subjective.

Rule of Interpretation. In the prophecy and in the mode of its fulfilment, we are taught that we are not to descend to minute particulars in order to justify the words of the seer. Cyrus took Babylon, but did not destroy it. It was a flourishing city for many years afterwards. Even now Hillah, probably on the site of the ruins, is a city of considerable size and of some prosperity. In such cases, we are to look at general results, or at the spirit of the passage. Viewed in this manner, the prediction has been followed by a most signal accomplishment.

Note on Babylon. Babylon was taken by Cyrus B. C. 539. It was not destroyed, nor essentially injured. The walls remained entire. On the contrary, Cyrus determined to make it his winter-residence, and, after Susa and Ecbatana, the third city of his empire. It was not till the insurrection of the Babylonians, in the reign of Darius Hystaspes, that the walls and gates were demolished, and the city so depopulated that women were forcibly taken from the neighboring districts to aid in repeopling it. Xerxes carried off the golden statue of Belus, and, according to some, caused the destruction of the temple of that god. The design of Alexander, to rebuild the city, was broken off by his death. The building of Seleucia, in the vicinity, still further depopulated Babylon. About 130 B. C. it was ravaged by the Parthian satraps. At the time of Diodorus and Strabo, the greater part of the city within the walls was a waste. According to Curtius, only a fourth

, , , , , .

.שי ,עַיִט , זַלְזַלים ,בּסֶר ,צַח , בָּזאו ,in the sense nost mighty , קַו-קו

1849.]

Ruins of Babylon.

783

part was inhabited. Jerome, from the report of a Persian monk, states that it was a hunting.ground of the Persian kings, and that the walls were, from time to time, repaired in order to confine the beasts. The reports of Benjamin of Tudela, Rauwulf, and Della Valle, in relation to the ruins, are not important. They were first thoroughly investigated by Claudius James Rich, the British resident at Baghdad, who communicated the results in his “Memoirs on the Ruins of Babylon,” 3d edition, London, 1818. In place of one of the most flourishing cities of the world, there is now found only a gigantic mass of ruins, in the vicinity of Hillah, a town of six or seven thousand inhabitants, 32 deg. 38 min. N. Lat., on the east bank of the Euphrates, forty-eight miles from Baghdad. The ruins begin nine miles east and five north of Hillah. They consist of heaps and hillocks of burnt and unburnt tiles and bricks, the greater part reduced to earth, mostly on the east side of the river. On this side, they are bounded by three walls of earth and by the river, and form a kind of parallelogram. They consist of three principal groups, which, without any trees, rise between one and two hundred feet above the Euphrates. On the northernmost part are the great ruins, which the Arabs name Mukallibé, considered by Rennell as the lower of Belus; an oblong, 274 yards on its northern side, 256 on its south, 226 on its east, and 240 on its west, and its greatest height 139 feet. It is the abode of various kinds of wild beasts, porcupines, owls, etc. ; and, as the natives say, of satyrs and wood-demons. The second great ruin is one mile south, called by the Arabs El Kasr, the fortress. It consists of many walls, and pillars, and subterranean courses. No trace of the city wall remains. The most important ruin is on the west side of the river, about six miles south-west of Hillah, and is considered by Niebuhr and Rich as the remains of the tower of Belus. The Arabs call it Birs Nimroud. The ruins form a hill, entirely of bricks, in an oblong form, 762 yards in circumference. On the west side, it is from fifty to sixty feet high; on the east it rises, in a conical form, 198 feet. The ruins are imposing, simply by their colossal greatness, not by their beauty. The most beautiful portions were taken to build Seleucia and Ctesiphon.

In Jan. 1835, the ruins were visited by Janies Baillie Fraser, the well known British traveller. “ The Mukallibé," he says, “is now but a mass of crumbled and crumbling bricks, both raw and fire-baked, mingled with the usual débris of pottery, glass, and slag, in a confusion worthy of its name, which means the overturned.” Indeed, so completely have the form and structure of this remarkable mass been destroyed by time, and season, and the hand of man, that, to a passing

Mignon, who says he measured them carefully.

« PreviousContinue »