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had been then already fulfilled or were then coming to pass. From the fulfilment of past promises and prophecies, that of those not yet accomplished, and then being given, might be justly expected; and with abundant reason might Ahaz therefore confide in what God had now declared to him in the 7th, 8th and 9th verses.
But to this it may be replied, that we may very justly question, even if we are not fully assured, that Ahaz would not understand this prophecy as referring to the Messiah; and what impression could a reference to such an event predicted, be expected to make on a mind so estranged from God as was that of Ahaz? The birth of the Messiah had never before been spoken of in such a manner, nor is there any thing in the connexion of the prophecy which should direct the attention to that event. And if the design of the Deity in delivering this prophecy had been such as was just mentioned, it is very reasonable to suppose that he would have spoken of that event in such a manner, as should infallibly direct the attention of Ahaz to it, and prevent his mistaking that reference, when we consider that this is supposed to be a testimonial that the prophecy of an event in which he was concerned, should certainly come to pass.
But farther, it seems not very consistent with the wisdom of the Deity, to suppose him making use of such means to gain the attention and faith of such a character as Ahaz was, in what he might say. Ahaz totally contemned the God of his fathers, and paid no regard to what had been actually done and promised to be done by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had no faith, he gave no credit to any of these things. To what purpose then, would it be to call his attention, especially in so obscure and ambiguous a manner as it must have been in this instance, to the recollection and consideration of such things, in order to confirm his faith in what the Lord now declared? It should seem altogether inconceivable and in vain. It would be unsuitable and consequently ineffectual to the intended purpose.
of in the 14th and 15th verses. For this would involve in it the absurdity so often objected on this passage, that the event whose prediction was to be confirmed, would precede that which was predicted in confirmation of it by several hundred years. The absurdity of which is too palpable to need any illustration with a thinking mind, and to others it would be of no effect to illustrate it. Such as wish to see this clearly set forth, may consult Postlethwaite's Discourse on this passage, Part 1st, as referred to by Dr. Blayney. It may not, however, be irrelevant to make a few general observations here on this subject.
It was said that the sign promised to Ahaz could not on Dr. K.'s supposition be the birth of the child spoken
The purpose to be answered by a sign in such cases was, to confirm the faith of the person to whom such a sign was given, and to establish the credit of the prophet by whom the promise was given or the prediction was foretold. The sign ought therefore, in the nature of it, to be adapted more immediately to strike the attention, more clearly to enlighten the mind and convince the judgment. The sign given will accordingly be always found to have been something which exhibited full proof and afforded clear evidence to the person addressed, that he who could do, or foresee what constituted the sign, must also be capable of doing or foreseeing that, for the confirmation of the promise or prediction of which the sign had been given; and that therefore the prophet was deserving of full credit. But how this could be accomplished by constituting as a sign of the certainty of a future event, the prediction of another future, more distant and more astonishing event, it will be difficult to shew, and it is impossible to conceive. It is more distant in futurity, therefore less likely to be foreknown: it is more remarkable in its nature, therefore less likely to gain credit. Nor is there any higher authority or superior ability manifested in the one case than in the other. If Ahaz did not believe in the former prediction of events regarding himself and his family, it is not possible that such a sign should convince him or so impress his mind as to assure his faith. The same principles which influenced him to discredit the first prediction, would induce him to
the Lord. And if it breathes a design to punish, it is in perfect harmony with what is said in the 9th verse, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." So in the 13th verse, if he continued perverse, and would not hearken nor believe the Lord, he would weary out the patience not only of men but of God also, and would then meet with that punishment which is predicted in the close of the chapter. There seems no reason to suppose that it breathed only a design to punish, except conditionally, on the ground of Ahaz persisting in his unbelief and sin. This is the usual mode of the divine dispensations.
1. But it seems that forcible objections may be made against this whole method of interpreting these prophecies. The connexion and scope_of the context seem to oppose it. The Lord continuing still to speak unto Ahaz, calls on him to ask for a sign. Now a sign of what can we suppose that Ahaz would imagine was meant, and would the connexion lead us to expect? If one had not read or heard of this prophecy being applied to Christ, would one from what is here said by the prophet, have ever been persuaded that the sign here spoken of, referred to an event in which Ahaz was intimately concerned, and which was foretold in order to confirm him in the belief of another event to which he as a wicked man and an idolater would pay no regard, and in which, as it would not happen till several hundred years after his death, he could feel no interest? Do not these things appear so clearly manifest, "that it would require no small degree of artifice and perverseness to give them any other application"? Blayney's Sermon, page 9. Every one, from attentively perusing this chapter, and unaffected by any hypothesis, would immediately say, that the sign must be a sign of the event which had been foretold, and of the truth of the prediction of which it was evidently the design of the Lord, by the mouth of the prophet, to convince the king.
2. This method of understanding it, is abundantly confirmed by all parallel passages in which signs of any thing predicted are asked for, or are granted; while the method fol
reject the second given as the sign, there being not any more, yea rather much less reason why he should admit the latter than confide in the former. But when, in confirmation of any thing predicted, another event which at the time appears very improbable, is foretold and is seen actually to take place according to all the circumstances of the prophecy, proof is given of the ability of the person predicting to foresee; the attention of the person to whom the prediction is addressed is arrested, and strong, irresistible evidence is set before him that the other event foretold will assuredly come to pass.
II. In order to escape the charge of absurdity arising out of the former supposition of Dr. Kennicott's, Dr. Blayney proposes, while he still refers this prophecy to Christ, a new mode of interpreting the sign given to Ahaz. The prediction contained in the 14th and 15th verses according to Dr. B. is not the sign of the event foretold in the 17th to the 25th verses, but is the event of the accomplishment of which his latter prophecy, and that contained in the 16th verse, are the sign. The sign therefore, cannot be given to confirm Ahaz in the belief of what is said in the 7th, 8th and 9th verses, but to confirm the Judaites of that time, and the Jews of all succeeding ages, in the belief and expectation of the Messias. In vindication of this interpretation Dr. B. says, (Sermon, p. 6,)" It can hardly be supposed that God who was justly offended at the impious distrust of Ahaz, would make any fresh effort to conquer his fears, or soothe him with further hopes of deliverance." But is not the whole history of the Jewish nation, and of the divine dispensations to mankind, a proof that God does act towards sinners with such patience, long-suffering and mercy? Then, why can it be hardly supposed that he should act thus in the present instance towards a king of the royal race of David, especially if, in addressing the king, we suppose him to address the people at large?
Dr. B. proceeds: "The reproof that followed upon his refusal of the sign offered him, instead of comfort, breathes only a design to punish." True, here is a reproof and remonstrance with him for his contempt of
lowed by Dr. B. in his interpretation, is directly the reverse of all similar facts. He may perhaps, be confidently challenged to produce an instance in which any thing is said about a sign till after the prophecy has been delivered, of which the sign promised is a confirmation. For brevity's sake let the reader refer to Genesis ix. 8-17, xii. 2, 3, xiii. 14-17, compared with xv. throughout. Exodus iii. 12; Judges vi. 17, 21, 22, 36-40; 1 Samuel ii. 34; 1 Kings xiii. 3, 5, 6; Isaiah xxxviii. 7, 8, 22, compared with 2 Kings xx. 8, 9; Jer. xliv. 29, 30. To these may be added the prophecy given by our Saviour in Matthew xxiv. 3–24; Luke xxi. 7-31, to which Dr. B. indeed, refers and calls our attention. Again, in Isaiah xxxvii., after the prediction of an event, we have a sign given in the circumstances of time, very similar with the one in question. The event had been foretold in the preceding verses. Verse 30, "And this shall be a sign unto thee," &c. In about three or four years after the prediction, the sign by which it is confirmed, as in the present instance, is accomplished. Thus "though attempts have been made to dispossess us of such authority by representing things otherwise, the blaze of truth has shone superior to any fallacious misrepresentations. Here, therefore, I shall leave things as they stand, since from an attempt to explain further what is sufficiently clear already, seldom any thing arises but perplexity, darkness and error." Sermon, pp. 2, 9.
From what has been said it appears clear, and may be justly concluded, that the sign spoken of in the 11th verse, must be in confirmation of the prediction delivered in verses 7-9; that the child whose birth is foretold in the 14th verse, and that spoken of in the 16th verse, must be the same child, and therefore cannot be Shearjashub, but must be some child that would be shortly conceived, and in due time afterwards born. It is also plain that three prophecies of different events are delivered in this chapter. The first, in verses 7-9; the second, in verses 14-16; the third, in verses 17 to the end of the chapter, of a long train of events. Of these, that mentioned second would shortly
take place first, and would be a confirmation that that mentioned first would next take place in due time; and after these, in the course of events, would follow that mentioned last; though it might be at some distance of time, yet it would come to pass as assuredly as the others.
The meaning of the first and last of these three prophecies is sufficiently clear, and their fulfilment obvious. The difference of opinion and supposed difficulty of interpretation, lie in the second in the order of predictions, but first in that of fulfilment. This we shall now proceed particularly to explain, obviate objections which may be raised against it, and shew the prophecy accomplished in the event. With this latter article will be connected the fulfilment of the first prediction but second accomplished event. After this we may refer briefly to the history and fulfilment of the third prediction.
I. We are to explain this prophecy according to what appears to be the most consistent and just method of interpretation. As far as the beginning of the 14th verse has been al ready explained. The prophet then proceeds, "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." It is asked, who is this person here called a virgin? The reply is, it is the prophetess spoken of in the 3rd verse of the following chapter; and the child spoken of in this prophecy is that which in chapter viii. is called Maher-shalal-hash-baz. The reason of applying the prophecy to these is the coincidence between vii. 16 and viii. 4. Before the child, mentioned vii. 16, shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land which Ahaz abhorred (that is Syria, of which Damascus was the head, and Ephraim, of which Samaria was the head) shall be left desolate of both her kings, Rezin and Pekah. Before the child, mentioned viii. 4, shall have knowledge to cry my father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
And still farther does this appear confirmed by the close connexion there is between what is related in the last chapter and at the beginning of this. Isaiah was commanded to
go to Ahaz, and deliver him a mes-
By this it seems to be intimated
manifests the propriety of his so doing.
Upon the supposition that Maher-
When this interpretation is considered minutely, it gives us the reason of his taking, as witnesses, the persons who are there specially named, and
It also appears from the interpretation now given, that the essence or principal point of the sign did not consist in the birth of the child. The
circumstances relating to that are mentioned merely to designate the child intended; the son of the prophet Isaiah and of the prophetess, who might still be a young woman, if the predicted child were even not her first child. Nor is there any thing to oppose this latter supposition, for Shearjashub might be his son by another wife, who was now dead, and the prophet might then be about to marry, if he had not just then betrothed, this other wife; and he might even have possibly taken Urijah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah to be witnesses of this his marriage with the prophetess. The particular circumstance which constitutes the sign to Ahaz, is that mentioned ch. vii. ver. 16, and ch. viii. ver. 4, the death of the two kings and the desolation of their countries taking place before this particular child should know to cry my father and my mother, or to refuse the evil and to choose the good.
this name the prophetess may have
2. Another objection may be urged from the mother being called a virgin. But this does by no means imply that she had not known man till after the birth of this child. It may justly be said of a female conceiving her first child, that a virgin shall conceive. But the Hebrew term here used, ¡N'ın, does not necessarily signify one who still retains her virginity. It may signify merely a young woman. Agreeably to this observation, the Septuagint translate this word sometimes by Tapθενος, and more frequently by νεανις. Пaç@evos, it is acknowledged, is the Greek word which properly signifies a pure, undefiled virgin. But years cannot be made to signify more than a young woman, corresponding with vɛavias, a young man, and yɛaviokos, the diminutive of the other and the proper term for a youth.
But it may be objected that the Septuagint, in the present passage under discussion, translate by maps, a virgin, and, therefore, we should understand the term in the strict sense. It may, however, be replied, the old fable of Aristeas is now too well exploded by Hody and others for it to obtain credit in the present day. We no longer consider those translators as inspired men, and, therefore, are not bound to look on every letter of their version as infallibly just; notwithstanding in some cases it may elucidate, and in others its authority may determine the extent of meaning which particular words will bear. For this latter purpose its authority is now produced, while we reject its guidance in the specific instance in question, for the reasons alleged above, why the context requires an explanation that does not admit or need such
3. But this leads us to another objection. Though the authors of the Septuagint Version were not inspired, the Evangelist Matthew was, accord
II. The objections which may be urged against this interpretation are next to be considered.
1. The difference of the names of this child may be objected by some. In ch. vii. ver. 14, he is called Immanuel; in ch. viii. ver. 4, Mahershalal-hash-baz. The same difficulty will occur in applying ch. vii. ver. 14, to Jesus Christ, for the name Immanuel occurs only thrice in the Old and New Testament-Isa. vii. 14, viii. 8, and in Matt. i. 23, which is a quotation of the former text. In the second passage, it seems to refer, as shewn above, to the child who should be the sign to Ahaz, and of whose birth mention was made in ch. viii. ver. 3, and whom the prophet seems to apostrophize in the 8th verse, as hath been already stated.
Besides, it was not uncommon among the Jews for the same person to have two different names; espeeially when the sacred name of God occurred in one of them. The child, in such a case, was generally called by the other name, that they might avoid mentioning lightly and frequently the name of the Most High. This was the case in the present instance. But again, in ch. vii. ver. 14, it is not said that the child should be called Immanuel, nor was any direction given to name him so; but only that his mother would call him so. And by