|Vol. II, No. 4
Tamuz 5604, July 1844
I think it necessary, before we proceed, to clear up the objections generally made against such prophecies, as declare and foretell the deliverance of the Jews, from their present dispersion; and the glorious restoration to God's favour, and the different methods which are taken in the explanation and application of those prophecies. And first—
Some pretend that the promises were made good, and that the prophecies received their accomplishment, at the return from the Babylonish captivity; and that consequently, the hopes of a future deliverance are vain and without foundation. In order to clear up this point, let the prophecies be compared with what Ezra and Nehemiah relate befell the nation at their return from Babylon, and let us see if all those glorious promises did then receive their accomplishments. To those passages which I transcribed in my last, I shall here add one whole chapter of Isaiah, that according to his description of those glorious time, the comparison may be made.
"Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee, and the gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah ; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee: the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea those nations shall he utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee: and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings; and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day: neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light; and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time."*
This is the glorious state of the Jews, according to the prophet's description. It will be tiresome to make extracts from Ezra and Nehemiah, to prove that nothing like this appeared to the nation at their return from Babylon. I shall, therefore, refer you to the accounts which these writers give of this miserable return, and the many hardships and interruptions the buildings meet with, together with the weakness and wickedness of those few who did return. I shall content myself with giving you a few passages from the history now in the greatest vogue.
"It will be convenient (says the historian) to premise some few things concerning the state of the Jews during this new epoch; for, from this time, they are no more to be looked upon as that free, rich, and glorious people which they had been, either under the former theocracy, as Josephus justly terms it, or under their opulent and warlike monarchs, and the direction of their prophets. Their condition, government, manners, their very name is now entirely changed; and though some of them we find to have attained to very considerable posts, or growing exceeding rich in the land of their captivity, yet these are but few in comparison of those who groaned under the heavy hand of their oppressors. Neither were they the former, but the latter, that is, the poorer sort, that came back into Judea; and even of these, the whole number of all that came, either with Zerubabel, Ezra, or Nehemiah, scarcely amounted to 70,000, among whom a multitude of strangers were likewise intermixed, either by marriages or otherwise; most of them so indigent, that they were forced to be supported in their journey by the charitable contributions of those that stayed behind. They were indeed to be governed by their own laws; but as they still continued in subjection to other nations, to the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, that privilege, as well as the exercise of their religion, very much depended upon the arbitrary will of their conquerors. Even whilst they were under the Persians, the lives and estates of the whole nation were on the brink of being sacrificed to the ambition of a favourite.* Now, from this description, it plainly appears that none of the prophecies did receive their accomplishment at the said return, nor at any time after; so that the promises therein made are still unfulfilled.
I think proper, now we are on this subject, to observe the exact description which Moses makes of the present dispersion of the Jews, which, according to the circumstances he foretells, cannot be applied to any other. “And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth even unto the other: and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these notions shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy feet have rest: But the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind, and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, and shall have none assurance of thy life."*
It is impossible that any historian could describe the state of the Jews in their present dispersion more exactly; for what more could he say concerning their miserable state, than that they are scattered from one end of the earth to the other? that they are obliged to worship strange gods, unknown to their ancestors, made of wood and stone? that they neither have ease nor rest? continual fear and trembling, both day and night, with never-ceasing sorrows and doubts? persecuted, imprisoned, and delivered to the flames? This has been the miserable state of the Jews in many places, and is still their case in Spain and Portugal.* There is not in this prophecy the least resemblance of what the Jews suffered in any other captivity. In the time of the Judges they were often overcome, and made tributary, but never dispersed. At the first destruction of Jerusalem they were made captives, and carried to Babylon, but so far were they there from worshipping other gods, that it entirely cured them from idolatry; so that from that epoch the Jews are never accused of that heinous crime. And their being obliged to worship gods unknown to them and their ancestors, plainly points out a new system of idolatry, invented and introduced long after that time. And as all the circumstances do wonderfully agree to their present dispersion and oppressions, so their return (described in the following passage): “That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee; and will return and gather thee from among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee:—If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God will bring thee unto the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers,”† can only be from their present captivity, as the circumstances which were promised them were never accomplished nor made good in any of their former deliverances.
Now if the promises made to the Jews by all the prophets have not been fulfilled at the return from Babylon, not at any time either before or since: it follows that their hopes of a Messiah, or a person whom God is to appoint to make good his promise to the nation, in their deliverance and restoration, are just and well grounded; and it must be vain and presumptuous to pretend that the prophecies have been fulfilled, whilst they find themselves in a situation so very opposite to that which the prophets foretell and describe; a contradiction so glaring, that I wonder any one should pretend to affirm it.