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perceives mentally what the design of God is. Sometimes called also “Chozeh," the man who has visions, or supernatural revelations (I Kings xxii., v. 17; II Kings xvii., v. 13). They were sometimes also called men of God, and messengers of God. They had all an extraordinary commission, and had their message given them by immediate inspir. ation.
In this the Heathen copied after the people of God. They also had their Prophets and Seers ; and hence their Augurs and Auguries, their Haruspices, Priests, and Priestesses, and their oracles ; all pretending to be divinely inspired, and to declare nothing but the truth ; for what was truth and fact among the former, was affected and pretended among the latter.
Many Prophets and Seers are mentioned in the Sacred Writings but fragments and insulated prophecies excepted, we have the works of only sixteen; four of whom are termed the former or larger Prophets, and twelve the latter or minor Prophets. They have these epithets not from priority of time, or from minor importance, but merely from the places they occupy in the present arrangement of the Books of the Bible, and from the relative size of their productions.
At an early period the twelve minor Prophets were regarded as forming one collective body of writings, for in the Talmud, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, are styled the four latter Prophets.
The Books are not arranged in the same order in the Hebrew and Septuagint texts, and in neither is the chronology exactly observed, as may be seen from the following table :
Newcome, Boothroyd, and some other translators, have adopted the order which appeared to them to be chronologically correct; but in the present work that is retained which is found in the Hebrew Bible, and followed in the Vulgate, in all the authorised European versions, and in those of Michaelis, Dathe, De Wette, and others, on the ground of the facility of reference, which the other arrangement does not afford, but which is practically of greater importance than any advantage derivable from the change.
The writings of the Prophets, the most sublime and beautiful in the world, lose much of that usefulness and effect which they are so well calculated to produce on the souls of men, from their not being more generally understood. They are delivered in such lofty and figurative terms, and with such frequent allusions to the customs and manners of times and places the most remote. that ordinary readers cannot, without some help, be supposed capable of understanding them. It is therefore useful to make the language of prophecy as intelligible as may be, by explaining those images and figures of speech in which it most frequently abounds.
The obscurity which sometimes attends prophecy does not always proceed from the circumstances or subject; it frequently proceeds from the highly poetical and figurative style in which prophecy is, for the most part, conveyed, and of which it will be proper to give some account. To speak of all the rhetorical figures with which the Prophets adorn their style, would lead us into a field too wide, and would be more the province of the rhetorician than the commentator. It will be sufficient for our purpose to attend to the most common of them ; consisting of
3. METAPHOR; and then to consider the sources from which the Prophets borrow their images in these figures, and the sense which they wish to convey by them.
By Allegory, the first of the figures mentioned, is meant that mode of speech in which the writer or speaker means to convey a different idea from what the words in their obvious and primary signification bear. Thus, Jer. iv., v. 3: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns,” is to be understood not of tillage, but of repentance. And: “The rowers have brought thee in great waters, the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas” (Ezek. xxvii., v. 26), allude not to the fate of a ship, but of a city, &c.
To this figure the Parable, in which the Prophets frequently speak, is nearly allied. It consists in the application of some feigned narrative to some real truth, which might have been less striking, or more disagreeable, if expressed in plain terms. Such is the following one of Isaiah (v., 1-2):
“My beloved had a vineyard,
“But it brought forth poisonous berries." The 7th verse tells us that the vineyard was the house of Israel, which had so ill requited the favour which God had shown it, etc.
But of all the figures used by the Prophets the most frequent is the Metaphor, by which words are transferred from their primitive and plain to a secondary and figurative meaning. This figure, common in all poetry, and in all languages, is of indispensable necessity in Scripture ; which, having occasion to speak of Divine and spiritual matters, could do it only by terms borrowed from sensible and material objects. Hence it is that the sentiments, actions, and corporeal parts, not only of man, but also of inferior creatures, are ascribed to God Himself; it being otherwise impossible for us to form any conceptions of His pure essence and incommunicable attributes. But though the Prophets partly from necessity, and partly from choice, are thus profuse in the use of metaphors, they do not appear, like other writers, to have the liberty of using them as fancy directed. The same set of images, however diversified in the manner of applying them, is always used, both in allegory and metaphor, to denote the same subjects, to which they are in a manner appropriated. This peculiar characteristic of the Hebrew poetry might perhaps be owing to some rules taught in the prophetic schools, which did not allow the same latitude in this respect as other poetry. Whatever it may be owing to, the uniform manner in which the Prophets apply these images, tends greatly to illustrate the prophetic style ; and, therefore, it will be proper now to consider the sources from which those images are most frequently derived, and the subjects and ideas which they severally denote. These sources may be classed under four heads :
I. The first and most copious, as well as the most pleasing source of images in the prophetic writings, as in all other poetry, is Nature ; and the principal images drawn from nature, together with their application, are the following
The sun, moon, and stars, the highest objects in the natural world, figuratively represent kings, queens, and princes or rulers ; the highest in the world politic. “The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed." “I will cover the heavens, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.”
Light and darkness are used figuratively for joy and sorrow, prosperity and adversity. “We look for light, but behold darkness ; for brightness, but we walk in obscurity.” (Isa. lix., v. 9.)
An uncommon degree of light denotes an uncommon degree of joy and prosperity, and vice versa. “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold.” (Isa. XXX., v. 26.)
Immoderate rains, hail, floods, deep waters, torrents, and inundations denote judgments and destruction. “I will rain upon him with an overflowing shower, and great hailstones” (Ezek. xxxviii., v. 22); “Waters are coming from the north, and shall become an overflowing torrent. (Jer. xlvii., v.2).
Fire also, and the east wind, parching and hurtful, frequently denote the same.
“They shall cut down thy choice cedars, and shall cast them into the fire.” (Jer. xxii., v. 7.) “He drove her forth with his rough blast on the east wind's day.” (Isa. xxvii., v. 8.)
Wind in general is often taken in the same sense: (See Hoshea viii., v. 7.
Lebanon and Carmel; the one remarkable for its height and stately cedars, was the image of majesty, strength, or anything great or noblé
. “ And he shall hew the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty hand.” (Isa. x., v. 34). “He is as a tall cedar in Lebanon.” (Ezek. xxxi., v. 3.) The other mountain (Carmel) fruitful, and abounding in vines and olives, denoted beauty and fertility. “The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the beauty of Carmel.” (Isa. XXXV., V. 2). The vine alone is a frequent image of the Jewish Church.
“I have planted thee a choice vine. (Jer. ii., v. 21.)
Lions, eagles, sea-monsters, or any animal of prey are figures frequently used for cruel and oppressive tyrants and conquerors. lion is gone up from his thicket.” (Jer. iv., v. 7.) “A great eagle came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar.” (Ezek. xvii., v. 3.) “Thou art like a crocodile in the seas." (Ezek. xxxii., V. 2).
II. The ordinary occupations and customs of life, with the few arts practised at the time, were another source from which the Prophets derived many of their figures, particularly :—From husbandry in all its parts, and from its implements. “Sow to yourselves righteousness, reap according to piety, break up for yourselves the fallow ground.” (Hoshea X., v. 12.) * Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. (Joel iii., v. 13.) Threshing, the operation of which was performed on rising grounds, where the chaff was driven away by the wind, while the grain remained ; a fit emblem of the fate of the wicked, and of the salvation of the just.
“ Behold, I have made thee a threshing-wain : a new corndrag armed with pointed teeth; thou shalt thresh and beat small the mountains, and the hills shalt thou make as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall disperse them; and the whirlwind shall scatter them." (Isa. xli., vv. 15-16).
The vintage and wine-press also furnish many images, obvious enough in their application. “ The wine-press is full, the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great." (Joel iii., v. 13.), “I have trodden the wine-press alone– I will tread down the people in mine anger.' (Isa. lxiii., v. 3).
As the vintage was gathered with shouting and rejoicing, the ceasing of the vintage-shouting is frequently one of the figures that denote misery and desolation. “And wine from the presses I have made to cease—the shouting is no shouting.” (Jer. xlviii., v. 33).
From the occupation of tending cattle, we have many images. “Woe unto the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture.” (Jer. xxiii., v. l.) The people are the flock; teachers and rulers the shepherds.
It was customary in deep mournings, to shave the head and beard, to retire to the house-tops (which in those countries are flat, and furnished with little chambers adapted for the purposes of devotion, or of sequestered grief,) also to sing dirges at funerals, and to accompany them with a mournful sort of music; and from these and the like circumstances, images are frequently borrowed by the Prophets to denote the greatest danger, and the deepest distress. See Jer. xlviii., vv. 36-38.
According to the barbarous custom of those times, conquerors drove their captives before them almost naked, and they were exposed to the intolerable heat of the sun, and the inclemencies of the weather. They afterwards employed them frequently in grinding at the hand mill, hence nakedness and grinding at the mill, and sitting on the ground (the posture in which they wrought) express captivity.
" Descend and sit in the dust, О virgin daughter of Babylon-take the millstones—thy nakedness shall be uncovered.”
From the method of refining metals in the furnace, images are often borrowed to denote the judgment inflicted by God on His people, with a view to cleanse them from their sins, as metal from its dross.
“ Israel is-dross in the midst of the furnace. (Ezek. xxii., v. 18.) “He shall sit refining and purifying the silver.” (Mal iii., v. 3).
Among the other few arts, from which the Hebrew poets derive some of their images, are those of the fuller and potter. (Jer. xviii., v. l; Mal. iii., v. 2), of which the application is obvious.—No less so is that of images derived from fishing, fowling, and the implements belonging to them; the hook, net, pit, snare, etc., which generally denote captivity or destruction. “I will send for many fishers, and they shall fish them—and for many hunters, and they shall hunt them for their iniquity is not concealed from mine eyes." (Jer. xvi., vv. 16-17.) “I will put hooks in thy jaws.” (Ezek. xxix., V. 4.) “Terror, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the land.” (Isa. xxiv., v. 17.)
III. Religion, and things connected with it, furnished many images to the sacred poets.
The ceremonial law, and especially its distinctions between things clean and unclean, furnished a number of images, all obvious in their application. (Isa. i., v. 16 ; Ezek. xxxvi., v. 17).
The killing of sacrifices and feasting upon them, serve as metaphors for slaughter. “The Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozra." (Isa. xxxiv., v. 6.)
“Gather yourselves from every side, to my sacrifice which I make for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel.” (Ezek. xxxix., v. 17).
The Pontifical robes, which were very splendid, suggested several images, expressive of the glory of the Jewish nation. (Isa. lxi., v. 10; Ezek. xvi., v. 10).
The Prophets wore a hairy upper garment ; false prophets wore the like, in imitation of true ones; and to this there are frequent allusions. They shall not wear a hairy garment to deceive." (Zech. xiii., v. 4).
From the pots, and other vessels and utensils of the temple, are likewise borrowed a few metaphors obvious enough without explanation. “Every pot in Jerusalem and in Judea shall be holiness.” (Zech. xiv., V. 21).
The Prophets have likewise many images that allude to the idolatrous rites of the neighbouring nations, to their groves and high places. (Isa. xxvii., v. 9), and to the worship paid to their idols, Baal, Moloch, Chemosh, Gad, Meni, Astaroth, etc. (Ezek, viii., vv. 10-14).
IV. Many of the metaphors and images used by the Prophets are likewise borrowed from history, especially sacred.