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SECTION THE FIRST.
A RESTORATION OF THE JEWS TO THEIR OWN LAND,
Previous to their general restoration, and to the coming of the Messiah
in his glory.
It has been observed in the Introduction, that in our looking forward to the great day of the Lord, of the few events foretold, and as yet unaccomplished, respecting which we may say, in the language of St. Paul, “For that day shall not come, except there come” this "first,” one event that stands most prominent in the prophetic vision, is a previous return of some parts of the natural Israel, to the Holy Land, and their quiet settlement there : “When he shall have accomplished to scatter the
power of the holy people,” is indeed a note of time given to the prophet Daniel.*
The great majority of the students of prophecy, whether they understand its language more or less literally, expect a final restoration of Israel to the land of their fathers, under a miraculous and most glorious dispensation of Providence, This is the lofty theme of many of the scriptural prophecies. The attendant circumstances of this restoration, and the undoubted issue, are, from the descriptions of the prophets, so extraordinary and manifestative of the immediate interposition of the Deity, that we cannot mistake them ; whether they form the undisguised subject of the divine oracle, or whether in its symbolical and typical style less important occurrences in the history of the church and of the world, are employed to shadow them forth to posterity.
But there are passages in Scripture which may lead us to conclude, that before this grand and final restoration, in which the power of the present Deity is so evidently displayed, there is to be a restoration of the Jews to the land of Palestine,--a restoration of a more partial and confined character, not so astounding in the eyes of the nations as is implied in the descriptions above referred to,-a restoration which perhaps may take its rise from events of no very extraordinary character, and may pass in the eyes of the world as no very unusual occurrence in the political changes and renovation of nations: If Greece is to be restored as a nation, why not the common-wealth of the Hebrews ? Nay, from so small beginnings may this prediction of holy scripture proceed to its full accomplishment, that the scoffers of these last days may for some time have to produce it as an instance, where as they will affirm a prophecy has led through the credulity of mankind to its own fulfilment.
* Daniel xii. 7. “In the completing” or “finishing the dispersion of the holy people,” (Sept.) shall all these wonders be completed, or finished.
I come to this conclusion respecting a previous, partial restoration of the Jews, from the fact revealed in prophecy: that, after their abode for some time, as it should seem, in their recovered country, they are the object of attack from their earthly foes. It is argued, therefore, that in the first “turning again of his hand unto this people,” Jehovah cannot have so “ laid bare his holy arm in the sight of the nation” as, at length, he is described as doing, to the entire discomfiture of all the enemies of his people. For although we know that the wonders wrought in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the Wilderness, after an interval of forty years, while Israel was concealed in the desert, were not sufficient to awe the warlike nations of Canaan into unresisting submission; yet, in the present improved state of civilized man, of the intercourse of nations, and intelligence of governments, it is not to be supposed that miraculous interpositions of Providence, surpassing in greatness—as according to the prediction they will surpass in greatnessthe wonders of the first Exodus, could have been already displayed in the restoration of this people,
and the political rulers of the earth still count them as a common prey.
This, however, several prophecies predict to be the case. That, found in Ezekiel, ch. xxxviii. is very clear and express. There, after the period of Israel's restoration, their last great enemy is addressed in the following language:
Ver. 8.“ In the latter days thou shalt come into the land, that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many peoples, against the mountains of Israel, that have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.”—“Thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages : I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates; to take a spoil and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places” that are now “ inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.”
We have here a description of Israel, or of some portion of it, restored to their own land, after its long desolation, gathered from the nations, brought back from the sword that had dispersed them, and to a certain degree made to thrive and flourish in peace, on the site of their ancient inheritance. They “ have gotten cattle and goods ;” but their prosperity is soon disturbed by the invading foe. This description by no means agrees with the view which the spirit of prophecy gives us of the eternal and undisturbed felicity of Israel, at the period of their grand final restoration. Hence I argue for the necessity of a previous restoration of the Jews to Palestine: brought about, indeed, by the same
wholly to the concerns of that remnant which returned from Babylon. It must have reference to “ the times of the end :” for the scene described, as we learn from the latter part of the first chapter, is presented to us after the four “ horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it,” have been “cast out.” Like the former prophecy in Ezekiel, I conclude, therefore, it is to be applied, to the first periods of a restoration of Israel, when the times of the Gentiles have been, or are about to be, fulfilled. This habitation of the land in “ village fashion," appeared in the eyes of the last enemy in Ezekiel as an exposed and defenceless situation, provoking the cupidity of the spoiler. This is anticipated in the prophecy before us.
It follows: “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.”*
The effectual protection here described has certainly never yet been afforded to Jerusalem since the restoration from the Babylonian captivity; but “the destruction from the Almighty,” which awaits the last invader of “the land of unwalled villages” in Ezekiel, well illustrates this wall of fire for a protection, when the apparently defenceless state of the victim shall encourage the foe. And as her God will appear as the defender of restored Jerusalem, when the danger comes, so will he afterwards manifest his glory in the midst of her. For it appears from the eighth and ninth verses, that it is after he hath poured his vengeance upon the nations which came
* Zechariah ji. 5.