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of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons."* In that message he delivered the famous prediction respecting the precise time of the duration of their captivity, which he limits to seventy years, and the study of which enabled Daniel to perceive its approaching termination. “ In the first year of his reign (i. e. of Darius) I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the destruction of Jerusalem.”+
As a part of the distinguishing favours which God said he had in reserve for the people, he promises that at their restoration the oppression of a foreign yoke should be broken, and they should be again ruled by princes of their own race, agreeable to the language of Isaiah respecting the same event; when the people shall first be purified and reformed by divine chastisement, and, afterwards, reinstated in a happy and prosperous condition. “ And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgement, and her converts with righteousness.” It is not only foretold that a native governor should be set over the house of Israel, but that he should be distinguished for his piety—“ The Lord will cause him to draw nigh unto him.”
* Jer. xxix. 5,6. Dan. ix. 2. Isa. i. 25–27.
The words of the text may be considered in three points of view.
I. As descriptive of the character of Zerubbabel, they were accomplished in the restoration of the Jews, after the seventy years' captivity, when a governor was appointed over them, named Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the great grandson of Jehoiachim. He was a person eminently devoted to God, who exerted himself with much zeal in rebuilding the altar and the temple, and establishing the worship of God. Under his auspices, the services of the sanctuary were renewed, after a cessation of seventy years. The feast of tabernacles was established in the seventh month. Masons and builders were hired from Sidon to assist in erecting the temple, the foundation of which was laid amidst confused expressions of joy and lamentation : joy on the part of the young men at witnessing the house of God rising up from its ruins; and lamentation on the part of the old, who had beheld the superior glory of the former. *
When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, envying their prosperity, hired counsellors against them, and procured an order from the king of Persia to put a stop to the work, it was of necessity suspended for a while; but he lost no time
* See Ezra ïï. 11-13.
in resuming it at the first opportunity, till it was completed in the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes. A feast of dedication was kept on this joyful occasion, and afterwards the feast of the passover was celebrated on the fourteenth of the first month, with great joy, as Ezra observes : “ The Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”*
He, and Joshua the high-priest, were represented in the visions of Zechariah, as the two candlesticks supplied through pipes from olive trees, to indicate the plenitude of that juice with which they were endued, which is thus explained by the angel :-" Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”+ The difficulties attending the work, which were very great in themselves, were extremely heightened by the malice and opposition of the enemies of God, particularly of the Samaritans; but the strength and fortitude with which he was endowed from on high enabled him to surmount them. “Who art thou, O great mountain ?” said the prophet; “ before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands also shall finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.”
* Ezra vi. 22. † Zech. iv. 14. & Zech. iv. 7–9.
II. The words of the text admit of being applied, with the greatest propriety, to the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecy contained in the thirtieth and thirty-first chapters looks forward to gospel times, and has an ultimate respect to the final restoration of the Jews, and their conversion to the Messiah, of whom Zerubbabel was an illustrious type. The prophet was wont, in connexion with the assurances of divine favour to the Israelites, in restoring their temple after the captivity, to mix predictions of the coming of the Messiah :“ Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord : even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne ; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”*
The prophet, foreseeing the coming of the Messiah, and descrying his character, spake with an air of surprise : “ And who is he that has engaged his heart to approach unto God ?” None ever approached unto God so nearly, or under the same character as he did. He, considered as man, was taken into an intimate personal union with the Deity, so as to become Immanuel, or “ God with us;”+ and he approached to God, in the office of a Mediator, to make peace between the offended Majesty of Heaven and his sinful creatures. He
* Zech. vi. 12, 13. + Isaiah vii, 14.
came, like Aaron, with incense, betwixt the living and the dead, to stay the plague, and arrest divine vengeance in its career. He approached unto God in our behalf, not with the trembling diffidence of a sinful mortal, who is conscious of his own danger and demerits, but with the holy, becoming boldness of a son to a father. He interposed with precious blood; and, on the ground of the stipulations which intervene between him and the Father, claims his church as his purchase, and asserts his authority to save them “ with an everlasting salvation :" “ Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom."* He made his approach to God by a vicarious sacrifice and spotless obedience, by enduring the awful penalty denounced on transgressors ; and by magnifying the law made it honourable.
His heart was also ineffably engaged in this work. None ever exhibited such a concern for the divine honour, such a zeal for the divine interests, as was exemplified by our blessed Lord. “ Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: in burnt offering and sin-offering thou hadst no pleasure. Then I said, To do thy will, O God, I come; thy law is in my heart.”+
Nor was he deterred by the greatest discouragements, nor dismayed by the greatest opposition, nor by the certain prospect of the most dismal sufferings, so as to desist from persevering in his undertaking till it was completed. He did not * Job xxxiii. 24.
Psalm xl. 6—8.