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THE PROPHET ISAIAH.
8 1. CONTEMPORARY HISTORY. From the period of their establishment, all the conflicts in which the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were involved with the neighboring nations were, so to speak, merely of a local nature. Only when they came in contact with Assyria and Babylon did they enter into relations with the worldpower (Weltmachi). If thereby, on the one hand, the danger became infinitely greater for the theocratic life, the theocracy, on the other, approached so much nearer the fulfilment of its task in the world's history. The relation to Assyria was brought about by the desire of Ahaz king of Judah to obtain protection against Syria and Ephraim. Out of the dependence on Assyria in which Ahaz became thereby involved, his successor Hezekiah sought to free himself by the aid of the southern world-power, Egypt. This, on his part, was an untheocratic procedure. Assyria was not to be hindered in subjugating Judah by human power. Jehovah Himself protected His people and compeller Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to make a hasty retreat by the fearful desolation which the angel of the LORD wrought in his army (2 Kings xix. 35). But even before Judah was entirely rescued out of the power of Assyria by this miraculous aid, it had initiated another relation to a Forld-power that was to become incomparably more fatal to it than the relation to Assyria.
The Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan, when Hezekiah recovered from a dangerous illness, had sent an embassy to him to congratulate him and to initiate friendly relations. Hezekiah, flattered by the honor shown him, met the Babylonian ambassador with too little reserve. Thereupon he was obliged to hear from Isaiah's lips the denunciation that all the treasures of his house, that he had displayed with such pride to those ambassadors, would be carried away as booty, and his children as captives to Babylon. In place of Assyria, therefore, now a thing of the past, Isaiah sees Babylon appear on the horizon as the enemy that was to prepare the end of the outward theocracy. The Babylonian captivity stands clear before his prophetic vision, but also the end of it, and therewith the beginning of the great period of salvation that was to reach to the end of the world, albeit with great alternations. Thus, therefore, it is a threefold conflict in which Isaiah sees the theocracy placed: that with Ephraim-Syria, Assyria and Babylon. One develops out of the other. The conflict with Ephraim-Syria was properly but the handle to the fatal complication with Assyria, and the latter in turn generated the relations with Babylon. For Merodach-Baladan, the great Babylonian patriot (see comment at xxxix. 1-8) and firm defender of the freedom of his country against the oppression of the Assyrians, would certainly not have congratulated Hezekiah on his recovery, had he not seen in him an ally against the common enemy, Assyria. Thus we see the Prophet Isaiah appearing at a period when the way was paving for the immediate relations of the theocracy with the great world-powers by which its ruin was threatened. Beyond doubt, this was an historical crisis of the utmost significance, and we see that only a man of the greatest spiritual power could be equal to the occasion. Isaiah was equal to it. When it was reported in Jerusalem that Ephraim had combined with Syria, hearts trembled like the trees of the forest shaken with the wind (vii. 2). But Isaiah declared that Rezin and the son of Remaliah were nothing but two smoking stumps of torches (vii. 4). But Assyria, in which Ahaz confided, was to be feared (vii. 17). However, when Assyria had fulflled its mission in Israel and Judah, and now in wicked arrogance would possess
the city of Jerusalem, and so swallow up Judah as it had done Ephraim, it was said: “I will put my hook in thy nose and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way which thou camest” (xxxvii. 29). And so it came to pass. What human wisdom could see danger for the theocracy in that embassy of Merodach-Baladan ? The Prophet detects the danger. He gives warning-he announces that Babylon will have the king of Judah and those that belong to him as captives in the midst of it. But much more than with the portrayal of this judgment he occupies himself with the consolation that will be extended to Israel for this visitation. His gaze is chjefly directed to the deliverance out of this exile, and every thing belonging to a glorious salvation for personal and natural life that lies in perspective, even to the remotest distance, is naked and open before his eyes.
Thus Isaiah is the great Central-Prophet who, stationed at a decisive turning-point, detects with a clear eye all the principal points of the perspective that open out from it, and becomes thereby to his people the prophetic mediator both of exhortation and warning, and also of consolation and instruction as occasion demanded. And by this njeans he becomes, at the same time, the one on whom all later prophets lean as on their greatest exemplar and highest prophetic authority.
Isaiah's labors fall, according to i. 1, in the time of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. According to vi. 1 he was called to the prophetic office in the year that Uzziah died. It need occasion no surprise, therefore, that, with the exception of that information concerning the call of the Prophet, there appears no further piece of writing from Uzziah's time. But we find none also from Jotham's time. For there happened nothing under Jotham that could have moved Isaiah to prophetic activity. The period of sixteen years under Jotham may have been a period of inward collection and preparation for the Prophet. First under Ahaz his labors proper began. The first occasion was furnished by the Syro-Ephraimitic war, concerning the particulars of which see the commentary on vii, 1 sq. The combination of the military forces of Ephrain-Syria moved Ahaz to call in the aid of the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser. But Isaiah it moved to direct his prophetic gaze on Assyria, and, primarily, in the prophetic cycle, chapters vii. xii., to announce both the danger impending from Assyria and the final deliverance out of it. Tiglath-Pileser, in fact, complied with the desire of Ahaz for aid. It was welcome to him in the interests of his policy of conquest. He conquered and made subject the kingdom of Syria (2 Kings xvi. 9; comp. on Isa. xvii. 1). He conquered at the same time the north and east of the kingdom of Ephraim, and led the inhabitants away captive (2 Kings xv. 29). From that time onwards Palestine and the countries in its neighborhood remained a principal mark for the conquering expeditions of Assyria. Ahaz brought this down on himself by his policy of unbelief. He himself, indeed, was not yet to reap the fruits of his untheocratic conduct. Although by direct encouragement of foreign modes of religious worship (comp. 2 Kings xvi. 10 sqq.) he had added to his guilt, he still remained in possession of his land and throne to the end of his life (728 B. C.). But his successor, Hezekiah, although a prince devoted to the Lord with his whole heart, was obliged to experience all the distresses that sprang forth like mischievous fruit from the dragon seed of his father. When Hosea, king of Israel, sought to rid himself of the oppressive power of Assyria by an alliance with Egypt, Shalmaneser, Tiglath-Pileser's successor, besieged Samaria for two years. He was prevented by death from completing his undertaking. His successor, Sargon, took the city in the third year of the siege (722 B. C., 2 Kings xvii. 6) and led away the remnant of the ten tribes into captivity. But by that effort of the king of Israel to find protection against Assyria in Egypt, the attention of the Assyrian ruler was drawn to the latter power. From the middle of the eighth century, according to MANETHO, there reigned in Egypt the twenty-fifth Ethiopic dynasty. Three of its kings are mentioned by name: Sabako (Sevech, So) I. and II. and Tirhaka. According to the annals of Sargon (comp. SCHRADER, Die Keilinschriften und das A. T., pp. 258, 318), Sevech (II.), in union with Hanno of Gaza, encountered Sargon at Raphia (twenty-two milliaria south-west of Gaza) in the year 720 B.C. Sargon conquered and subdued Philistia. But the Philistine princes revolted. Therefore a new expedition of Sargon against Philistia, that resulted in the subjection of the insurgents in the year 711. This is the expedition conducted by Tartan (i.e., general in chief) to which Isa. xx. refers. All these conflicts had taken place without the kingdom of Judah becoming involved as a fellow-sufferer. The clouds big with destruction moved thrice along the north, west and south-west borders of Judah before they turned to empty themselves on Judah itself. It is related also, 2 Kings xviii. 7, that Hezekiah revolted from the king of Assyria, i. e., that he sought to relieve himself of the dependence to which Ahaz had submitted. At the same time Hezekiah-and this was the great weakness of
which this otherwise admirable prince was guilty-sought protection and help from Egypt against the danger impending from Assyria. On this account he is sharply reproved by Isaiah. Chapters II, xxviii.-xxxiii, are meant to warn against this untheocratic policy. Judah must trust in the Lord who promised by His prophet not to yield it up to the Assyrian, but that he would free it by a mighty act of deliverance. Sargon was murdered in the year 705. He was succeeded by his son Sennacherib. The third expedition of this king that occurred in the year 700 B.C. passed through Phænicia to the south of Palestine. The land of Judah was traversed and desolated. Only the city
of Jerusalem remained to Hezekiah, in which he was shut up “like a bird in its cage.” In order ope to save at least Jerusalem, Hezekiah paid Sennacherib to retire thirty talents of gold and three hun
dred talents of silver (2 Kings xviii. 14 sqq.). Sennacherib took the money and then still demanded the surrender of the city. In this great strait Hezekiah cried to the LORD and received through Isaiah a comforting proniise. At Eltekeh, a Levitical city in the territory of Dan (Josh. xix. 44; ari. 23) the armies of Sennacherib and Tirhaka encountered. The victory was undecided. But shortly after 185,000 men perished in the camp of the Assyrian in one night, likely of a pest. This compelled Sennacherib to retreat (comp. 2 Kings xviii. and xix.; Isa. xxxvi. and xxxvii.). Thus
Judah was rescued. 11 This event forms the conclusion of the history of Isaiah as far as known to us. For not long
after this miraculous deliverance Hezekiah died. It is doubtful if Isaiah still lived to see the reign of Manasseh. Isaiah i. 1 is against it. For there Hezekiah is named as the latest king under whom Isaiah lived. Isaiah knew that after that overthrow (xxxvii. 36) Assyria was done away, and was Do more to be dreaded by the theocracy. His gaze, as early as the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, since that embassy related in Isaiah xxxix., had turned in another direction. He knew that the greatest danger threatened the theocracy, not from Assyria, but from Babylon. At this time, toward the end of his life, before or after the Assyrian overthrow, he must have occupied himself with the relation of his nation to Babylon. But he is not especially interested in the victory of Babylon and the captieily of his people there. This point he leaves to others whom the matter more nearly touched. Only the thoughts of salvation and redemption employ him at the end of his life. In this period must have originated the great book of consolation (xl.-lxvi.), along with the smaller pieces that relate to Babylon (xiii. xiv. 23; xxi. 1-10; xxxiv., xxxv.).
& 2. THE PERSON AND PROPHETIC LABORS OF ISAIAH. The name 1790? (abbreviated me, which form, however, is never used in the text of the Old Testament as the name of the Prophet) can mean salus Jovo, or Jova salvat (salvavit). yu comtined with 7 must properly have sounded procesor 1970, abbreviated "(which actually ccurs 1 Chron. ii. 31; iv. 20; v. 24). Still there prevails a certain freedom in the formation of ompound proper names. On the other hand, the compounds with 17, whose first part is a verbd that Kal-are extremely numerous, so that it is natural here to take you for a verbal form. t the meaning of 07107' j'owould be primarily: Jova salvus est. Still it happens not unfrequently , in compounding names, Kal is taken in the sense of Piel or IIiphil (comp. KOEHLER, Komm. ech., p. 3 sq.); so that here too yo, might be taken in the sense of you in. There remains still
irregularity, whether we derive you from you, or yor. But the sense remains the same. ST (in his Lexicon) takes a substantive yung for the root, and translates “Jah is helper;" whereas Comcordance he translates it “deliverance of God.” In JEROME, too, the same difference is only that once he renders the name owinpia kvpiov, and again salvator Domini. Other men
name are mentioned i Chr. iii. 21; xxv. 3, 15; Ezr. viii. 7, 19; Neh. xi. 7. Concerning mpt of ABARBANEL to establish a connection between the names of the prophets (and thus - also) and prophecy, see KOEHLER, 1. c., p. 5, Anm. e know almost nothing concerning the outward relations of the Prophet. His father is called
TiDx). Who this was is wholly unknown. Only ignorance of the language could identify h the prophet Amos roisy); only Rabbinical jugglery could make out of him a brother to $ Amaziah (IDX). The latter is the source of the saying that Isaiah came of a royal race.
moreover uninformed about the time of Isaiah's birth and death. The opinion that Isaiah's cic labors extended through the whole, or at least the greater part of the reign of Uzziah, is
founded on the false exposition of the date given i. 1, and also of the position that the account of the calling of the Prophet occupies in the book (comp. on this GESENIUS in his Commentary, p. 5 sqq.). That the call of the Prophet is first narrated chap. vi. has quite another explanation (comp. our commentary, in loc.). We can only infer from vi, 1 that Isaiah was called to the prophetic office in the year of Uzziah's death, i. e., therefore in the year 759 B. C. How old he was at that time, we know not. If we assume that he could hardly have been younger than Jeremiah, who calls himself and when he was called (Jer. i. 6 sq.), and if we further assume that Jeremiah was twenty years old, then Isaiah would have lived from that time 16+ 16+ 29, thus at least sixty-one years, and consequently must have attained an age of at least eighty-one years. Concerning the period and manner of his death we have only rumors. Manasseh, Hezekiah's successor, is said to have caused the Prophet to be sawn asunder. The Prophet having fled to a hollow cedar from the king's wrath, and having been “enfolded” by it, the king let him be sawn in this tree (comp. the passages from the Talmud relating to this in GESENIUS, in loc.). In itself it is not at all improbable that Manasseh inflicted a martyr's death on the faithful prophet of Jehovah. As is well known, he is described to have been the wickedest and cruelest of all the kings of Judah. It is expressly said of him that he shed very much innocent blood (2 Kings xxi. 16). JOSEPHUS (Antiq. X. 3, 1) adds to this that he did not spare the prophets. But opposed to all this is the fact that, chap. i. 1, the reign of Manasseh is not named, which certainly would not have been omitted, especially if the Prophet had been put to death by that king. At the spot where the three valleys, Jehoshaphat, Gihon and Tyropæon, come together, there stands an ancient gnarled trunk (it is, however, the trunk of a mulberry tree) that is called the tree of Isaiah (comp. GRAF VON WARTENSLEBEN, Jerusalem, Gegenwärtiges und Vergangenes, 3, Aufl., Berlin, 1875, p. 83) [Dr. ROBINSON's Researches, etc., Vol. I., p. 232, 336.—TR.) At the same spot the fountain Siloam issues, of which the report says that God sent it to the Prophet to still hís thirst when he was near his death (comp. LEYRER in HERZOG'S R. Encycl. XIV. p. 375). We have no hint of Isaiah's ever having lived any where else than in Jerusalem. That he was married appears from vii. 3 (comp. x. 21 sq.), where his son is called Shear-Jashub, and from the accoumt viii. 3 that Isaiah, at God's command, “went unto the prophetess,” who bore him a son, whom, also by divine command, he named Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Moreover, viii. 18, Isaiah speaks of the children “that God had given him.” From what is related in the passages just cited, we see that the family of the Prophet was quite drawn into the sphere of his prophetic activity. That Isaiah was the instructor of king Hezekiah, as Nathan had formerly been of Solomon (2 Sam. xii. 25), is mere conjecture that PAULUS sets up in the clavis on Isaiah ix. 15. A double notice in Chronicles has occasioned the conjecture that Isaiah was annalist of the kingdom. Thus we read 2 Chron. xxvi. 22 that Isaiah wrote (ang) the 17X'???, the first and the last. And 2 Chron. xxxii. 32 it reads: "Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah, the Prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel" [" (which is received) into the book of the kings,” etc. Dr. N.'s translation.—TR.). According to this, therefore, Isaiah composed historical works on the lives of the two most distinguished kings that were his contemporaries, and one of these works was incorporated, though perhaps only partially, in the great annalistic historical work of the kings of Judah and Israel, from which the Chronicler drew (comp. ZOECKLER, Chronik., p. 16 sq.). When the Chronicler calls the work on Hezekiah piņ, it is most natural to explain this designation by saying that that historical work was regarded as a part of our prophetic book, which in fact bears the title 1,7°30' pon. And this might happen for the reason that chapters xxxvi.:-xxxix. contain historical sections that are common to our book of prophecy and to the canonical book of Kings, as well as to the annals of the kingdom of Judah that were the source of the latter. The book of prophecy might easily be regarded by the Chronicler (who lived later, and could hardly have had before him the writing of Isaiah about Hezekiah) as the source of Isaiah's accounts concerning Hezekiah which he found in his annalistic historical work. But the statements of the Chronicler by no means justify the assumption that Isaiah filled the office of a p. In the writings that we have from him the person of the Prophet is kept in the background.' They speak of him and of what belongs to him only so far as they have to tell of his direct and personal interference in what occurred (comp. vi. 1 sqq.; vii. 1 sqq.; viii. 1 sqq., 16 sqq.; xx. 1 sqq.; xxii. 15 sqq.; xxviii. 9 sqq.; xxxvii.-xxxix.). The secret foundation of all his prophetic activity was the consciousness that he was an instrument of God, chosen, equipped and called to His service (comp. vi.). This consciousness generated in him the most devoted obedience and the most implicit trust in God. Consequently he had no fear of man and no