Page images
PDF
EPUB

NOTES,

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY.

NOTE I. Page 4.

THE venerable Author very properly adverts to those preludes of his intended advent which the Messiah was pleased to give, by appearing in a human form to Abraham, Jacob, and others. These appearances, he adds, prepared the way for the prediction in Isaiah lii. 8. " Thy watchmen lift up the voice; with the voice together do they sing; for they behold before their eyes"—or as the expression might possibly have been better rendered, for they see face to face; or as it is in the common version, they shall see eye to eye. At all events, the Author considers these words, and those which he immediately quotes from the 6th verse of the same Chapter, as referring to that manifestation of the Son of God in human flesh, of which these ancient appearances were remarkable anticipations. The whole passage of which these verses are a part, without doubt, relates, in the first instance, to that striking display of Jehovah's presence, power, and goodness, which the watchmen and other friends of Zion had the happiness to behold, at the restoration of the Jews from their Babylonish captivity. It ought, however, to be ultimately referred to a more glorious salvation than that temporal deliverance; and whilst the expression " they shall see eye to eye,” may justly be applied to those clear spiritual discoveries of the character of the Messiah, and of the glory of the Divine perfections, as manifested in him and his work, with which the watchmen of Zion were to be blessed in latter days, it cannot well be deemed unnatural to include those opportunities of seeing and conversing with Christ in his human nature on the earth, which were granted to Apostles and some other primitive preachers of his Gospel. These holy men saw the King of Zion with their own eyes, and were permitted to eat and drink with him, not only during his abasement,

but even after his resurrection from the dead. Being eye and earwitnesses of his words and works, they were the better prepared to "lift up the voice" with confidence; and their testimony was the more valuable and satisfactory. See John i. 14. Acts iv. 20. 1 John i. 1.

The Hebrew expression translated eye to eye, occurs also in Numb. xiv. 14. though rendered differently in that passage. It may be compared with Jer. xxxiv. 3. We read also of seeing face to face in Gen. xxxii. 30. and Exod. xxxiii. 11. and of speaking mouth to mouth Numb. xii. 8. Jer. xxxii. 4. The expression under consideration, as Parkhurst remarks, may be rendered eye with eye, i. e. with both eyes, agreeably to the Targum, and to the French translation de leur deux yeux. It denotes, at any rate, clear vision, or familiar and distinct knowledge. See Pool's Synopsis and Annotations, Vitringa on the place, and Parkhurst's Hebrew Lexicon on 7.

NOTE II. Page 7.

Whatever veneration be due to the ancient writers of the Christian Church, and however excellent and useful their works may be in many respects, it cannot be denied that these Fathers often exhibit marks of human infirmity; and that their comments on Scripture are sometimes more fanciful than just. This remark seems fairly to apply to the notion to which our Author here refers in too favourable terms, that the three Angels, who, as we read in Gen. xviii. appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, were the three persons of the sacred Trinity. That one of these Angels was the Angel of the covenant, the second person of the Trinity, agreeably to the views of Calvin and many other judicious Interpreters, is indeed highly probable, if not incontestably evident. For that Angel, in the course of his interview with the Patriarch, ascribed to himself Divine characters and works, and also received and answered Abraham's earnest supplications on behalf of Sodom. It is sufficiently manifest, however, from the narrative itself, that the other two who accompanied him in his visit to Abraham, and then proceeded by themselves to the habitation of Lot, were only created AngelsSince neither the Father nor the Spirit was to become incarnate, it might not have been so proper that these Divine persons should appear even for a little in a human shape.

Some writers have endeavoured to find a mystery in Abraham's bowing himself towards the ground before the Angels at their first appearance, Verse 2. and alleged that, while he adored one of the

three, he by faith discerned Three Persons in one God. But Calvin justly remarks, that this idea is frivolous, and obnoxious to the scoffs of adversaries; and adds, that Abraham was not immediately aware that these " strangers" were more than men, and that his bowing himself was only an expression of civil respect. * The notion that the Father and the Holy Spirit were, at all, two of the three Angels who appeared to Abraham in a human form, seems equally illfounded, and equally calculated to expose the truth to the ridicule of enemies.

NOTE III. Page 14.

The passage in Zech. vi. 12, 13. relative to "the man whose name is the BRANCH," is one of the most pleasant and most remarkable Old Testament predictions. That the Messiah is in reality its subject, few have ventured to deny. Some of its clauses, however, have been variously understood by various Interpreters. The most obvious sense of the expression, " he shall grow up out of his place," seems to be, that, whatever difficulties might intervene, and whatever improbability might attach to the event, the Son of God should certainly appear in human nature at the appointed place of his birth—that, however low might be the state of the Jews, and however hopeless the condition to which the family of David might be reduced, this glorious Branch should spring up in due season in the land of Canaan, and in Bethlehem the city of David. This interpretation is justified by comparing the original with the same and similar expressions, as in Exod. x. 23. xvi. 29. Lev. xiii. 23. Josh. v. 8. The interpretation, at the same time, which the Author quotes with approbation from Aben Ezra, and which is adopted too by Calvin and Drusius, † cannot be considered as either unjust or unnatural. The expression may fitly be rendered de sub se, ex seipso, that is, of himself, by his own proper power; and in this view it may be referred to his miraculous conception. From this comment of Aben Ezra, too, we may remark in passing, it appears that even posterior to the publication of the Christian religion, it has been admitted by some learned Jews, that the Messiah was to be born of a Virgin. On this point compare Doddridge's Paraphrase and Note upon John vii. 27.

Witsius, as the reader will observe, understands that part of the

VOL. II.

Calvin. Commentar. in Gen. xviii.

+ See Pool's Synopsis on the place.
3 R

37.

prediction in Zech. vi. which foretells the building of the temple, as relating both to the temple of his natural body, and the temple of the Church. It refers, no doubt, in the first instance, to the building of the second temple at Jerusalem, a work which Zerubbabel could never have accomplished, without aid and support from above. The chief design of the prophecy, however, was to cheer the hearts of the pious with the prospect of the erection of a still more important and glorious edifice, of which the ancient temple was a type. There is some respect, it may be admitted, to the human nature of Christ, which the temple of Jerusalem unquestionably prefigured, and which our Lord himself, in John ii. 19. expressly denominates a "temple." The building of the New Testament Church seems, however, to be the subject chiefly intended here; and the repetition of the words, "He shall build the temple of the Lord, even He shall build the temple of the Lord," may have been intended to intimate, that the building of this spiritual temple is a work of unparalleled difficulty -that none but Christ could dare to undertake it-that He is fully equal to the arduous enterprize-and that in due time he should accomplish it with signal and glorious success.

For some farther illustration of this striking prophecy, and in particular for an explanation and defence of the true meaning of its concluding part, "the counsel of peace shall be between them both,” the reader may consult Witsius on the Covenants.*

NOTE IV. Page 15.

That the Messiah was not only to belong to the family of David, but to appear at a season when that royal house should have exchanged its splendour for a state of indigence and obscurity, is very properly observed by the Author. The sense which he attaches to the expression, rendered by our Translators "the stem of Jesse," (Isaiah xi. 1.) when he represents it as denoting "a decayed trunk," truncus succisus, is quite just, and is supported by the authority of eminent critics. Though the Septuagint and Jerome somewhat improperly render it by the same term, ea and radix, by which they translate a different Hebrew word, rendered roots, at the end of the Verse; the term truncus, or truncus succisus, or concisus, is adopted by Calvin, Tremellius and Junius, and by Vitringa. Parkhurst+ also renders it "the stump or stock of a tree that hath been cut own." Vitringa regards the use of the same expression in Job xiv. and Isaiah xl. 24. as decisive in favour of this interpretation;

Book ii. chap. 2. sect. 7, 8.

Heb. Lex. on the word

[ocr errors]

and Parkhurst adds in its support, that the same word in Arabic used as a Verb, signifies to cut, cut off. Bishop Lowth understands the term in precisely the same sense, and accordingly he renders the first part of the verse in question; "But there shall spring forth a rod from the trunk of Jesse." In his Note on the place, the Bishop clearly points out the beauty and force of the expression, as well as its connexion with the preceding context.

"The Prophet," says this elegant Critic, " had described the destruction of the Assyrian army under the image of a mighty forest, consisting of flourishing trees, growing thick together, and of a great height; of Lebanon itself crowned with lofty cedars; but cut down, and laid level with the ground by the ax wielded by the hand of some powerful and illustrious agent: In opposition to this image, he represents the great Person who makes the subject of this Chapter, as a slender twig shooting out from the trunk of an old tree, cut down, lopped to the very root, and decayed; which tender plant, so weak in appearance, should nevertheless become fruitful and prosper," &c.

This and other predictions, as Amos ix. 11. relative to the depressed state of the family of David at the time of the Messiah's coming, as our Author shows, were remarkably fulfilled. The treatment which he represents some near relatives of Christ as having experienced from Domitian the Emperor, if it really took place, was a striking illustration of the change of circumstances which that family had undergone. The story is related by Eusebius; and the learned Mosheim, in the first Volume of his " Commentaries on the affairs of Christians before the time of Constantine the Great," expresses his conviction that it was not at all improbable in itself that that tyrannical Emperor, knowing that Jesus of Nazareth was honoured by his followers as their Lord and King, began to suspect that his surviving Relatives in Palestine might claim a temporal sovereignty, and summoned them to appear before him to give him satisfaction with regard to their views and intentions. Perceiving that he had no cause to entertain any serious apprehensions of danger from such plain and humble individuals as he found them to be, he deemed it sufficient to gratify his arrogance and malignity, by making the indications of their poverty the subject of his mirth.

NOTE V. Page 18.

That the Messiah was to be born of a Virgin was obscurely intimated even in the first promise, Gen. iii. 15, and plainly foretold in subsequent predictions, particularly those in Isaiah vii. 14, and Jer.

« PreviousContinue »