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prove the inspiration of the prophecy, this might be strikingly contrasted with the kingdom of Israel; in which, during a part of the same period, one dynasty after another was cut off, and the crown transferred from family to family. This might naturally have excited, in the people of Judah, some apprehensions of similar disasters in their kingdom. And when they beheld the great wickedness of some of their kings; when they heard of insurrection, and conspiracy, and domestic treason in the state, and of confederated invasion from without, for the avowed purpose of setting up another king in Jerusalem ; their only security against the success of such attempts, lay in their reliance on the faithfulness of the prophecy literally interpreted. It is manifest that any swerving from the simply literal interpretation would, in this case, have totally defeated the main object of the prophecy; or, in other words, that if any relaxed interpretation of the terms of the prediction had been admitted, the nation might as well have been left without any prediction at all. This is what strictly belongs to our present subject. During the whole of the period in question, we have, in the history of the kingdom of Judah, a continuous fulfilment of the prophecy of Nathan, literally interpreted ; and any interpretation, other than the literal, would not accord with the facts of the case.
VI. In the reigns of the last of the kings of Judah, Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the kingdom, the captivity of the people in Babylon for seventy years, and their restoration to their own land, at the expiration of that period. The terms of these predictions are briefly these : “ This whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. .... After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit
perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” (See Jer. xxv. 8–14; and xxix. 10.) In these prophecies, three things are plainly asserted, and a fourth very obviously implied. It is asserted—1. That the nation of Judah should be carried captive to Babylon, leaving their own land desolate. 2. That their captivity would last seventy years. 3. That at the termination of those years they would be restored to their own land and city; and by these assertions, it is obviously implied, 4. That during their captivity they would be preserved a separate people: for if amalgamated with the Babylonians, how could they be again separated, and brought back as a nation to the possession of their fathers ? * We have only to advert to the plain terms of the subsequent history, to see how accurately all this was fulfilled, in the obviously literal meaning of the language of the prophet. For the captivity of Judah, and desolation of her land, see 2 Chron. xxxvi. 17-21. For the fact of their providential
preservation as a separate people during their captivity, see Esther iii. 8. For the history of their return at the end of the predicted period, when God raised up Cyrus, of whom he had spoken long before, see Isaiah xliv. 28; see Ezra i. ii. and iii.
In order to appreciate this part of the subject, it
may be well briefly to contemplate the position of the prophecy in the days of Daniel. Daniel was in possession of the roll of Jeremiah. Comparing, then, the state of affairs, as they existed around him, with the terms of the prophecy; he would observe, that the assertion of the prophet, concerning the captivity of his nation, had found a plain and literal fulfilment; he would observe, also, that the implication of the prophecy concerning his nation being kept separate, and not reckoned among the Babylonians, was receiving, up to the moment of his observation, a similarly literal fulfilment : what, then, could be so natural, nay, so imperative, as to be guided by the facts of the case so far, in his interpretation of the remainder of the prophecy concerning the restoration of his people to Judea, and, consequently, to anticipate the literal fulfilment of that also ? That such was Daniel's view of the subject, he has plainly told us; and when he understood further, by his studies, that the period mentioned by Jeremiah was drawing near its close he recognised, in his calculation of the time, connected with his interpretation of the language of the prophecy, an animating stimulus to prayer and supplication, with fasting, before the Lord his God. (Dan. ix. 2, 3, &c.) The event fully justified his literal interpretation; and our contemplation of the whole, supplies us with another important lesson on the subject of prophetic interpretation, in addition to those which we have already learned in the school of history.
Similar lessons may be learned, by comparing the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel, concerning Tyre, Egypt, and Babylon, with the histories of these places respectively. In each case the events justified, we should rather say demanded, the most obviously literal interpretation of the prophecy : and no interpretation, other than the literal, will bear comparison with the facts of the case. The natural and truly important inference is, that other prophecies, conveyed in similar language, shall, in their respective times, find a similar, that is, a literal fulfilment.
We now conclude for the present, merely observing that up to this period of the history of the Jewish nation; their predicted characteristic of separation from all other nations, was evidently maintained to the letter of the prediction. That it has continued so up to this day, and shall so continue, till the end of this dispensation, are the topics next in order before us.
NUMBERS xxiii. 9.
“Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not
be reckoned among the nations."
From these words, we have already considered the separation of the Jewish people from all the surrounding nations, during the early periods of their history. - We observed the literal fulfilment of some of the prophecies given to Abraham ; of the celebrated prophecy of Nathan addressed to David; and of some of the prophecies of Jeremiah, respecting the captivity of Judah in Babylon, for seventy years, and their restoration to Judea at the close of that period. From all this we inferred, that other prophecies, conveyed in similar language, would, in their respective times find a similar, that is, a literal fulfilment; and we concluded, leaving the people re-established in their own land, under Ezra and Nehemiah, in consequence of the predicted decree of Cyrus, king of Persia. · So far, the application of the language of Balaam