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The Prophecies of Isaiah, Earlier and Later. By JOSEPH ADDISON ALEXANDER, Professor in the Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey. Reprinted under the Editorial superintendence of JOHN EADIE, LL.D., Professor of Biblical Literature in the United Presbyterian Church. Collins, Glasgow, 1848.

If we wished to indicate in the most emphatic manner our perception of the strong impulse which has of late years been given to the study of Scripture criticism and interpretation, we should at once point to the various translations of and commentaries on Isaiah, which have been produced in the English language since 1830. The translation and commentary of Lowth was published in 1778, and for more than fifty years this work was spoken of and described among ourselves, as leaving nothing further to be desired or hoped for on the prophecies of Isaiah. At length the versions of Jones, in 1830, and of Jenour, in 1831, followed by that of the American professor, Noyes, in 1833, gave sign that something more was wanted; and the intimation was not unheeded by men who were well fitted for the labour by familiar acquaintance with the stores of erudition which the continental writers had accumulated upon this book. Dr. Henderson in England, and the Rev. Albert Barnes in America, at once seized their pens, and the same year (1840) gave to the world The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, by the former, and the Notes on Isaiah, by the latter-works occupying altogether independent ground, and therefore both necessary, and both essential to the library of the theological student and the minister, who are bound to possess themselves with the meaning and full purport of the prophecies which Isaiah uttered. To this use, for which it was specially destined, the admirable work of Dr. Henderson will, from the multifarious learning and philological discrimination which it embodies, be for the most part confined; whereas the work of Barnes, although a book of much learned research, has its erudition relieved by so vast a body of exegetical and illustrative matter, that the common reader is not deterred from examining it by the dense array of Hebrew and other strange type-frightful to all but real students-which a more concise work with the same amount of learned matter must have exhibited. Hence this book, although far from a perfect example of a commentary, has been found the most generally acceptable of any of the works on Isaiah which have yet been produced. This is remarkable considering its great bulk and consequent expense. But there have been at least three rival reprints of it in this country, and we learn that the author has lately issued a new edition at home.

Both these writers felt themselves bound to say something of Lowth, who had so long reigned without a rival in this realm of sacred literature.

Henderson says:


'The pre-eminent position which Bishop Lowth has occupied for more than half a century in this department of sacred literature, may by some be thought sufficient to justify the charge of presumption against any attempt to improve upon the elegant production of his superior mind. Yet, who that has examined the serious discrepancies which exist between the renderings of his translation and those of our common version, or that adverts to the opinion, which has been delivered by the best judges, that these discrepancies are principally to be ascribed to the fondness for conjectural emendation in which the learned prelate so freely indulged, but must admit, that the study of the subject cannot justly be regarded as foreclosed, and that further efforts are required to satisfy the claims of a numerous class of readers, on whose minds it must press with no ordinary degree of interest.'—p. iii.

Barnes, on his part, intimates that when he commenced his undertaking, he designed nothing further than an enlargement of Lowth on Isaiah. It occurred to him that it might be useful to retain Lowth's notes as a basis, with some additional illustrations, somewhat in his manner. But this plan was soon abandoned; for valuable as are his notes, and beautiful as is his version, it was soon perceived, or thought to be perceived, that greater usefulness might be secured by enlarging the plan, and making a work entirely new.'



Scarcely five years had passed after the public appetite would seem to have been abundantly satisfied with these productions, when Professor Alexander came forth (in 1845) with his work on The Earlier Prophecies of Isaiah, which has lately been completed by the publication of The Later Prophecies of Isaiah. There are obvious distinctions between this work and those first noticed. In the first place, the Commentary, as a whole, is three times as large as that of Henderson, and about the same in extent as that of Barnes. But the intrinsic resemblances are much less to the book by Barnes than to that by Henderson. In fact, Alexander's work appears, when closely examined, to be an extension of the plan of Henderson. The same parts are all here, but expanded into larger proportions, and tinted with different colours. The philological illustration is indeed less various and extensive than in Henderson's Isaiah, but the grammatical investigations are more extensive, and the learned writer is justly not without hope that, by the course he has taken, some light may be thrown upon the darker parts of Hebrew grammar, and especially the doctrine of the tenses, which can never be completely solved, except by a laborious induction of particulars.' The writer also enters at greater length than Henderson into the reasonings and statements necessary to bring out the sense of the text, and the signification of the prophecy; and the opinions of recent continental writers are more numerously produced, and stated in more detail. It is by these various extensions that the work is to the eye so different from that which it most resembles. Yet the resemblance is more in the lines of investigation taken, than in the results, which, in many respects, are as different in these two works as in any other two Commentaries on Isaiah that exist. Professor Alexander has not therefore performed a needless labour, nor is his work unrequired. The book is every way welcome and valuable; and although he who possesses Henderson and Barnes may felicitate himself upon his wealth in Isaian literature, as compared with the poverty of his earlier days, he will be much richer if he places this work between


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them and, indeed, we do not know what more he has then to hope for or desire.

The Glasgow reprint, in one closely printed volume, of the two portions of Dr. Alexander's work, has had the advantage of the able superintendence of Professor Eadie, from the rare combination in whom of the finest taste and the most eloquent expression, with high learning and laborious and patient research, Biblical scholarship is entitled to expect still higher services than he has yet rendered to it. The edition owes to him a short but well written and cordial preface; and it owes still more in the correction of very many errors, both in the Hebrew and English text of the American original. This is, for the most part, but a thankless labour; and none but those who are accustomed to it themselves can estimate it at its true value. We have compared this edition in parts with the original, and bear willing testimony to the pains which have been taken to give to the reprint that accuracy which is very essential in a work of this description.

It would be a great service to literature were authors generally to state with the distinctness of Dr. Alexander, the objects at which they aim, and the class of readers for which their works are intended. He informs us that his specific object is that of making the results of philological and critical research available for purposes of practical utility.

'In attempting to accomplish this important purpose, it was found indispensable to fix upon some definite portion of the reading public, whose capacities, acquirements, and wants might be consulted in determining the form and method of the exposition. Some learned and ingenious works in this department have been rendered to a great extent practically useless, by the want of a determinate fitness for any considerable class of readers, being at once too pedantic for the ignorant, and too elementary for the instructed. In the present case there seemed to be some latitude of choice, and yet but one course on the whole advisable. Works exclusively adapted to the use of learned Orientalists and Biblical scholars are almost prohibited among ourselves at present by the paucity of competent writers and congenial readers: works designed for the immediate use of the unlearned must of necessity be superficial and imperfect, and are found by experience to be not the most effectual means of influencing even those for whom they are expressly written. The obscurer parts of Scripture, or at least of the Old Testament, can be most effectually brought to bear upon the popular mind by employing the intermediate agency of an intelligent and educated ministry. The people may be best taught in such cases through their teachers, by furnishing a solid scientific basis for their popular instructions. Under the influence of these considerations an attempt has here been made to concentrate and economise the labours of the ministry in this field, by affording them a partial succedaneum for many costly books, and enabling them to profit by the latest philological improvements and discoveries, without the inconvenience and even dangers which attend a direct resort to the original authorities.'

We transcribe this for the information of our readers, and not in token of our entire approbation. The process of instruction proposed is somewhat too roundabout for our taste. The original authorities are to instruct Professor Alexander; Professor Alexander is to instruct the ministers; and the ministers are to instruct the people. The chain is too long; and perhaps some of its links might be dispensed with. Knowledge, at this remote distance from its source, is likely to reach the people in a very diluted shape indeed.

Having thus introduced the work as a whole to the notice of our readers, we shall confine our attention to the statement of our author's views on a very interesting subject—the interpretation of the later prophecies of Isaiah. As already intimated, this portion was published in America separately, and is furnished with a separate introduction, in which the writer's views are clearly and fully developed. It is to the views set forth respecting this portion, and particularly respecting the last six chapters of the Prophet, that our attention will be chiefly turned. This is a portion of Scripture regarding which there has been a large amount of discussion and much diversity of interpretation. It will therefore consist with the objects of the Journal of Sacred Literature' to put its readers in possession of the well considered views of a learned and able man who has given much thought to the subject, with the advantage of being fully acquainted with all that has previously been written on this important and interesting portion of the Sacred volume.


In the interpretation of these chapters of Isaiah, the views of Henderson and Alexander not only diverge considerably, but are entirely opposed.

Dr. Henderson says, in his Preface,—

'On one point it is necessary specially to bespeak the indulgent consideration of my readers, the position which I have taken respecting the future restoration of the Jews to Palestine. That such a restoration is taught in Scripture, I had been accustomed to regard as more than questionable, how firmly soever I believed in their future conversion to the faith of Jesus. On examining, however, the different prophecies of the Old Testament, which treat of a return of that people, I have had the conviction forced upon my mind, that while the greater number decidedly apply to the restoration which took place on the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, there are others which cannot, without violence, be thus applied; but which, being, upon any just principle of interpretation, equally incapable of application to the affairs of the Gentile church, must be referred to events yet future in Jewish history. In this class I particularly include the last six chapters of Isaiah, which immediately follow the remarkable prediction respecting the future conversion of the Jews, at the close of the fifty-ninth. Not the most distant allusion is made throughout these chapters to any circumstances connected with the deliverance from Babylon; while, on other hand, they contain a distinct recognition of various things belonging to the new Dispensation,—such as the Divine Mission of the Messiah, the abolition of the Jewish worship, the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection of the Jews, and certain features of their present dispersion. At the same time there is such a marked distinction uniformly kept up between the persons spoken of and the Gentiles; such an appropriation to their condition of language elsewhere only used of the natural posterity of Abraham; such an obvious description of the desolation of Palestine; and such express mention of a restored land, mountains, vineyards, fields, houses, flocks, &c., which cannot be figuratively understood, that, with no hermeneutical propriety, can the scene be placed in the Gentile world, or regarded as exhibiting the state of Gentile Christianity.

'That the Jews shall cease to exist as a distinct race on their incorporation into the Christian church, the Bible nowhere teaches; nor is such an event probable in the nature of things. But, if they shall exist as believing Jews, on what principle can it be maintained that they may not live in Palestine, just as believing Britons do in Britain, believing Americans in America, &c.? Christianity does not destroy nationality, nor require an amalgation of the different races of mankind, however it may insist that, in a spiritual point of view, all its subjects constitute but one nation, and one people, holy and peculiar-the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. If the Jews had received the Messiah, when preached to them by the

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Apostles, there is no reason to suppose that they would have been expelled from their own land; so that whatever admissions of Gentiles there might have been into their community, it would still, in the main, have been made up of Jews, as in fact the churches of God" were, "which in Judea were in Christ Jesus."

Nor is there anything in what I conceive to be the doctrine of Scripture on this subject, at all at variance with its representations respecting the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ. The Jews, when converted, will be required to conform, in every point, to the laws of that kingdom, precisely as the Gentiles are on their becoming subject to its Head and Lord. Not the slightest hint is given that any forms of ecclesiastical polity or any modes of worship will obtain among the restored Jewish converts, different from those instituted by the Apostles.

As to the degree of temporal prosperity promised to them, it appears to have special respect to the long-continued circumstances of adversity in which they have lived; and may perhaps, after all, differ but little from that which shall be enjoyed by the members of the Divine Kingdom generally, during the happy period of the Millennium.'

The conclusions reached by Professor Alexander are very different. He says, in his preface :

In the exposition of the last seven chapters too polemical an attitude, perhaps, has been assumed with respect to a distinguished living writer, Dr. Henderson, to whose abilities and learning I have elsewhere endeavoured to do justice. The prominence here given to his book has arisen from his happening to be not only the best but the sole representative of certain views among the professed expounders of Isaiah. As to the question in dispute, the ground which I have taken and endeavoured to maintain is the negative position, that the truth of these "exceeding great and precious promises" is not suspended on the future restoration of the Jews to Palestine, without denying such a restoration to be possible or promised elsewhere.

The substance of our author's views on this particular matter are stated concisely enough in a few pages of his copious and interesting Introduction to the Later Prophecies. But the force of his arguments depends so much upon his large preliminary survey of the essential distinction between Israel as a church and Israel as a nation, that we shall more satisfactorily perform our duty by reporting the substantial contents of this portion of the work, than by discussing the views which it embodies.

It is to be understood that the Later Prophecies to which this Introduction is prefixed, comprise the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah: and we wish it to be clearly apprehended that what follows is an abstract of the positions maintained by this writer, exhibited mainly in his own words.

One of the most important functions of the prophetic office was the exposition of the Law, that is to say, of the Mosaic institutions, the peculiar form in which the church was organised until the advent of Messiah. This inspired exposition was of absolute necessity, in order to prevent, or to correct mistakes which were constantly arising, not only from the blindness and perverseness of the people, but from the very nature of the system under which they lived. That system, being temporary and symbolical, was necessarily material, ceremonial, and restrictive in its forms; as nothing purely spiritual could be symbolical or typical of other spiritual things, nor could a catholic or free constitution have secured the necessary segregation of the people from all others for a temporary purpose.


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