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the peculiarities of the climate of Judea. We find few comparisons founded on rivers or torrents; these were not familiar objects in Arabia. But the longest comparison that occurs in the book, is, to an object frequent and well known in that region, a brook, that fails in the season of heat, and disappoints the expectation of the traveller.”
The poetry, however, of the book of Job, is not only equal to that of any other of the sacred writings, but is superior to them all, except those of Isaiah alone. As Isaiah is the most sublime, David the most pleasing and tender, so Job is the most descriptive of all the inspired poets. A peculiar glow of fancy and strength of description, characterize the author. No writer whatever, abounds so much in metaphors. He may be said, not to describe, but to render visible whatever he treats of. A variety of instances might be given. Let us remark only those strong and lively colours, with which, in the following passages taken from the 18th and 20th chapters of his book, he paints the condition of the wicked: observe how rapidly his figures rise before us, and what a deep impression, at the same time, they leave on the imagination. " Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever. He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found; yea, he shall be chased away as the vision of the night. The eye, also, which saw him, shall see him no more; they which have seen him shall say, where is he? He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper's tongue shall slay him. In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits; every hand shall come upon him. He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through. All darkness shall be hid in his secret places. A fire, not blown, shall consume him. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The increase of his house shall depart. His goods shall flow away in the day of wrath. The light of the wicked shall be put out; the light shall be dark in his tabernacle. The steps of strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down. For he is cast into a net by his own feet, he walketh upon a snare. Terror shall make him afraid on every side, and the robber shall prevail against him. Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation. His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street. He shall be driven from light into darkness. They that come after him shall be astonished at his day. He shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty."
But there is one passage in Job, which, more than any other, demands our attention. Having, in the nineteenth chapter, bitterly lamented, that the reproaches of his friends were added to his other sufferings; he expresses, in the following terms, his expectation of deliverance at the general resurrection. For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and minc eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
About two hundred years after the call of Abraham, towards the end of the life of Jacob; his family, which had now increased to seventy persons, went down with him into Egypt, to avoid the calamitous effects of famine. They met with an hospitable reception from the king, who was induced to use them the more kindly, on account of the benefits he had derived from the premonitions of Joseph. They did not mingle with the other inhabitants of the land; but resided, as a distinct people, in the land of Goshen. Here they increased in numbers and in riches, but not in piety; for many of them became corrupted by the idolatry of their neighbours. But they soon reaped the fruit of their folly. A revolution having happened, which placed another race of princes, probably the shepherd kings, on the throne of Egppt; the Israelites began to
exoite suspicion in the breasts of their new masters, by their rapid increase; and it was first determined to break their spirits by slavery, and afterwards to destroy their new born male infants. Under all this persecution they still continued to prosper, and were, at length, miraculously delivered from the house of bondage.
In reviewing this dispensation of divine providence, it is easy to discover in it the footsteps of wisdom and goodness. The posterity of Jacob had become so corrupt before the death of that venerable patriarch, as not merely to grieve his spirit, but to bring an evil reproach upon that holy religion, of which they were professors: it was therefore better, that they should become stationary in a particular province; than that they should remove from one country to another, as their ancestors had done, in proof of their professed obedience to God. Their increasing numbers did also render this mode of life much less convenient, than it had been to the smaller families of Abraham and Isaac. Their subsequent idolatry of the land of Egypt served to shew, that their divine deliverance was the mere effect of mercy, and nothing which they could claim as the reward of their righteousness. Lastly, the long train of miraculous events, by which they were removed from Egypt, and, at length, put in possession of Canaan, displayed the power and providence of the Almighty in so eminent a manner; as not only to attract the present attention of the neighbouring nations, but to cause several relations of their history to be written by Pagan historians, which, though dark and confused, still serve to confirm the authenticity of the Mosaic writings.
Moses, who was distinguished by his meekness, and sustained the honourable appellation of the man of God, was more eminent as a lawgiver, than as a prophet; and was raised up, rather to teach his countrymen how they should practise, than what they should believe. Making but little addition to that collection of important truths, which the Israelites had already received by tradition; he gave them the precepts, which were necessary to form their character as a peculiar nation, subject to the immediate civil. government of God.
He has obtained celebrity, not only as a legislator and as a performer of miracles, but also as an historian, a poet, and a prophet. As an historian, he is one of the most valuable, as he is the most antient, whose writings are extant. Without attempting to unfold the secret springs of action, or giving us any copious account of the customs of those, whose actions he records; he tells their story with such lucid simplicity, that they appear to speak and act before us, and make us deeply interested in their successes and misfortunes. His language is the purest Hebrew, and is not excelled, nor even equalled, by David, Solomon, or Isaiah. His materials were probably derived, partly from traditional history, and partly from immediate inspiration.
The poetical parts of the writings of Moses are numerous, but generally short, Two of the most remarkable, are the triumphant song, which was sung by the Israelites after having passed through the Red Sea ; and the Prophetic ode, which he delivered a little before his death.
The principal prediction of Moses concerning the Messiah, is contained in the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, 15..19 verses. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God; neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak wnto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will! Not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
Balaam, the son of Beor, was a very singular character, whom it is difficult to class, either with the prophets of the true God, or the sooth-sayers, who were much encouraged among idolatrous nations. His predictions, which were delivered contrary to his wishes, under the influence of divine inspiration, are expressed in the most sublime and elegant language of poetry. The following are believed to refer to the kingdom of the Son of God, Numbers, xxiv. 15..19. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam, the son of Beor, hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said; He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy [or rule over] all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
The age immediately succeeding that of Moses, affords us but little matter for observation; as we discover very few indications of a religious or literary prosperity, and have. only here and there a dark hint respecting the coming of Christ. Joshua has been supposed to have been a type of the Messiah; and the similarity of the names, Joshua and Jesus, which is perfect in the Greek and Hebrew languages, is adduced to confirm this opinion. The angel which appeared to the mother of Samson, has been supposed to be the eternal word, from the circumstance of his declaring that his name was seoret. Gibeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, and Samuel, are mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, as having performed wonders by the power of faith but whether that faith did, in every one of these instances, mean the faith of God's elect, or only a confidence in his protecting care of the Jewish nation; we shall not attempt precisely to determine. In the time of Samuel, we find the first mention of the schools of the prophets; an institution, which we shall endeavour to describe in the words of Bishop Lowth, who is speaking concerning the nature of Hebrew prophecy.
The prophets were chosen by God himself, and were, certainly, excellently prepared for the execution of their office. They were, in general, taken from those who had been educated from childhood, in a course of discipline adapted to the ministerial function. It is evident from many parts of the Sacred History, that, even from the earliest times of the Hebrew republic, there existed certain colleges of prophets; in which the candidates for the prophetic office, removed altogether from an intercourse with the world, devoted themselves entirely to the exercises and study of religion: over each of these, some prophet of superior authority, and more peculiarly under the divine influence, presided as the moderator and preceptor of the whole assembly. Though the Sacred History affords us but little information, and that in a cursory manner, concerning their institutes and discipline; we, nevertheless, understand, that a principal part of their occupation consisted in celebrating the praises of Almighty God, in hymns and poetry, with choiral chants, accompanied by stringed instruments and pipes.
David, the son of Jesse, was eminent in many different respects. Equally distinguished by his exemplary piety, and his exalted dignity; he was, at the same time, a king, a poet, and a prophet; an ancestor, and yet a type of the blessed Redeemer. His reign was one of the most prosperous eras in the Jewish history, when the power of the Israelites extended over many of the surrounding nations. The excellencies and defects. of his character, are easily to be perceived from the examination of his history but that which more particularly merits the attention of christians, is that collection of Psalms, which bears his name; and which is composed of pieces, generally, either wris
ten by himself, or by some of those singers who were employed in the worship of the tabernacle.
Whatever traces of inimitable beauty we are enabled to discover in the Psalms; there is no reason to doubt, but much more could be discerned, if we were, in all cases, acquainted with the subject to which they refer, and the occasion on which they were composed. Much of the harmony, propriety, and elegance, of the sacred poetry, must pass unperceived by us, who can only form distant conjectures of the general design, but are totally ignorant of the particular applications.
David has predicted so much concerning evangelical times, that, in the opinion of some commentators, every Psalm has a reference to the Messiah.
If we trace the history of the chosen people, from the days of Abraham to those of Solomon, we shall find them assuming a considerable variety of forms. For the three first generations, they were only one pious family, with a venerable patriarch at its head; subject to none of the princes of the earth, and usurping no authority over its neighbours. Next, they became a distinct race of subjects to the Pharaoh's; at first, treated with friendship, then with oppression, and at last, with extreme cruelty. Then for forty years they subsisted without harvest or vintage; a military wandering nation, supported by miracles. From their invasion of Palestine to the death of David, they were equally devoted to agriculture and to war; sometimes trampled on by their enemies, but ultimately victorious. During the reign of Solomon, they were a commercial, rich, luxurious people; enjoying the respect, rather than exciting the fear, of surrounding nations.
The Jewish kingdom, or rather empire, now extended from the banks of the Euphrates to the frontiers of Egypt; and numbered among its subjects, many kings of the remaining Canaanitish nations, many Syrian princes, and, probably, all the emirs of Arabia. The kings of Tyre and of Egypt, and the celebrated queen of Sheba, were included in the list of allies. From the cities of Elah and Ezion-Gaber, they navigated the whole of the Red sea, and appear to have extended their commerce from Sofala to India; their caravans passed through Palmyra, to distant regions of the east; the spice trade of Arabia enriched them by its tributes, while they derived considerable emolument from their performing the office of carriers between the Egyptians and the Syrians,
The incredible abundance of wealth, which was derived from all these sources, and from the plunder of those cities which had been taken by David, was employed by Solomon in erecting several public. buildings, of which the most celebrated was the magnificent temple of Jerusalem. This wonderful pile of building consisted of the inner temple, or oracle, which was esteemed the most holy place; of the outer temple, or holy place, which was separated from the former by chain-work; and of the several courts, for the accommodation of different worshippers. The prayer which Solomon offered on the dedication of this holy edifice, would have given us a high idea of his piety and wisdom, though he had left us no other memorials: he is, however, the author of three books of scripture, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles.
The Proverbs of Solomon are a work consisting of two parts. The first, serving as a procm or exordium, includes the nine first chapters; and is varied, elegant, sublime, and truly poetical: the order of the subject is, in general, excellently preserved, and the parts are very aptly connected among themselves. It is embellished with many beautiful descriptions and personifications; the diction 'is polished, and abounds with all the ornaments of poetry; insomuch, that it scarcely yields in elegance and splendor to any of the sacred writings. The other part, which extends from the beginning of
the tenth chapter to the end of the book, consists, almost entirely, of détached parables or maxims, which have but little in them of the sublime or poetical, except a certain energetic and concise turn of expression.
It is believed by many, that the wisdom of the book of Proverbs is no other than the eternal Logos, or word of the evangelist John. This book is quoted in Hebrews, in the following words, And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
There is another didactic work of Solomon, entitled, Kohelet, [Ecclesiastes,] or the Preacher; or rather, perhaps, Wisdom of the Preacher, the general tenor and style of which is very different from the book of Proverbs, though there are many detached sentiments and proverbs interspersed. For the whole work is uniform, and confined to one object, namely, the vanity of the world, exemplified by the experience of Solomon; who is introduced in the character of a person, investigating a very difficult question, examining the arguments on either side, and, at length, disengaging himself from an anxious and doubtful disputation. It would be very difficult to distinguish the parts and arrangement of this production; the order of the subject, and connexion of the arguments, are involved in so much obscurity, that scarcely any two commentators have agreed concerning the plan of the work, and the accurate division of it into parts or sections. The truth is, the laws of the methodical composition and arrangement, were neither known by the Hebrews, nor regarded in their didactic writings. They uniformly retained the old sententious manner, nor did they submit to method, even where the occasion appeared to demand it. The style of this work is, however, singular; the language is generally low; it is frequently loose, unconnected, approaching to the incorrectness of conversation, and possesses very little of the poetical character, even in the composition and structure of the periods; which peculiarity may possibly be accounted for, from the nature of the subject. Contrary to the opinion of the Rabbies, Ecclesiastes has been classed among the poetical books; though, if their authority and opinions were of any weight or importance, they might, perhaps, on this occasion, de
serve some attention.
There is scarcely any part of scripture, the interpretation of which, has excited more dispute among Christians, than Canticles, or the Song of Solomon. While some have considered this elegant poem, as affording an allegorical description of the intimate and endearing connection between our blessed Redeemer and his faithful people: others have assigned to it no higher character, than that of a mere nuptial song, celebrating the mutual affection of Solomon and his Egyptian bride.
In examining attentively the Old Testament history, we distinguish four periods, during which the prophetic spirit appears to have descended with more abundant influence, on the minds of the faithful. For the ease of recollection, we may denominate the first of these, the age of David; the second, the age of Jehoshaphat; the third, that of Isaiah; and the fourth, that of the captivity.
The first of these prophetic periods, to which we have attached the name of David, commences with the life of Samuel, and terminates with the reign of Jeroboam. The most distinguished characters of this period, were Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, Nathan, Gad, Ahijah the Shilonite, Shemaiah, Iddo the Seer, the man of God who was slain by the lion, and the old prophet who deceived him of the four first some notice has been already taken. Nathan was much respected by David, to whom he was the bearer of several divine messages, particularly that which forbade him to erecti