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numbers; a mode which did not obtain after the captivity, when they were distinguished by Chaldaic names.*
The character of EZEKIEL, as a writer and a poet, is thus pourtrayed by Bp. Lowth : “ Ezekiel is much inferior to Jeremiah in elegance ; in sublimity, he is not even excelled by Isaiah: but his sublimity is of a totally different kind. He is deep, vehement, tragical; the only sensation he affects to excite is the terrible; his sentiments are elevated, animated, full of fire and indignation; his imagery is crowded, magnificent, terrific, and sometimes bordering on indelicacy; his language is grand, solemn, austere, rough, and at times unpolished : he abounds in repetitions, not for the sake of grace or elegance, but from vehemence and indignation. Whatever subject he treats of, that he sedulously pursues; from that he rarely departs, but cleaves, as it were, to it; whence the connection is in general evident and well preserved. In other respects, he may perhaps be exceeded by the other prophets; but, for that species of composition to which he seems adapted by nature, the forcible, impetuous, grave, and grand, not one of the sacred writers is superior to him. His diction is sufficiently perspicuous; all his obscurity arises from the nature of his subjects. Visions (as for instance, among others, those of Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah,) are necessarily dark and confused. The greater part of Ezekiel, particularly towards the middle of the book, is poetical, whether we regard the matter or the language. But some passages are so rude and unpolished, that we are frequently at a loss to what species of writing we ought to refer them.' Michaelis, however, so far from esteeming him as equal to Isaiah in sublimity, is inclined to think, that he displays more art and luxuriance in amplifying and decorating his subject than is consistent with the poetical fervour, or indeed with true sublimity; and pronounces him to be in general an imitator, who has the art of giving an air of novelty and ingenuity, but not of grandeur and sublimity, to all his compositions; and that, as he lived at a period when the Hebrew language was visibly on the decline, so if we compare him with the Latin poets who succeeded the Augustan age, we may find some resemblance in the style, something that indicates the old age of poetry. But, as Abp. Newcome judiciously observes, the prophet is not to be considered merely as a poet, or as a framer of those august and astonishing visions, and of those admirable poetical representations, which he committed to writing ; but as an instrument in the hands of God, who vouchsafed to reveal himself, through a long succession of ages, not only in divers parts constituting a magnificent and uniform whole, but also in different manners, as by voice, by dreams, by inspiration, and by plain or enigmatical vision. “Ezekiel is a great poet, full of originality; and, in my opinion, whoever censures him as if he were only an imitator of the old prophets, can never have felt his power. He must not, in general, be compared with Isaiah, and the rest of the old
prophets. Those are great, Ezekiel is also great; those in their manner of poetry, Ezekiel in his; which he had invented for himself, if we may form our judgment from the Hebrew monuments still extant. To justify this character, the learned prelate descends to particulars, and gives apposite examples, not only of the clear, flowing, and nervous, but also of the sublime; and concludes his observations on his style, by stating it to be his deliberate opinion, that if his style is the old age of the Hebrew language and composition, it is a firm and vigorous one, and should induce us to trace its youth and manhood with the most assiduous attention.' As a prophet, Ezekiel must ever be allowed to occupy a very high rank ; and few of the prophets have left a more valuable treasure to the church of God than he has. It is true, he is in several places obscure ; but this resulted either from the nature of his subjects, or the events predicted being still unfulfilled ; and, when time has rolled away the mist of futurity, successive generations will then perceive with what heavenly wisdom this much neglected prophet has spoken. There is, however, a great proportion of his work which is free from obscurity, and highly edifying. He has so accurately and minutely foretold the fate and condition of various nations and cities, that nothing can be more interesting than to trace the exact accomplishment of these prophecies in the accounts furnished by historians and travellers; while, under the elegant type of a new temple to be erected, a new worship to be introduced, and a new Jerusalem to be built, with new land to be allotted to the twelve tribes, may be discovered the vast extent and glory of the New Testament Church.*
DANIEL, as a writer is simple, yet pure and correct, whether he write Hebrew or Chaldee; and is so conscientious, that he relates the very words of the persons whom he introduces as speaking. Though his style is not so lofty and figurative as that of the other prophets, it is more suitable to his subject, being clear and concise ; his narratives and descriptions are simple and natural; and, in short, he writes more like an historian than a prophet. His predictions are the most extraordinary and comprehensive of all that are found in the prophetical writings ; for they include the general history of the world, as well as that of the church of God under the Jewish and Christian dispensations, from the period in which he lived to the final consummation of all things; and he alone, of all the prophets, foretold the exact time when the Messiah should appear and finish the great work of human redemption. At the same time his prophecies are so minute and circumstantial, especially concerning the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria, from the death of Alexander to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, that, as Bp. Newton remarks, there is not so complete and regular a series of their kings, there is not so concise and comprehensive an account of their affairs, to be found in any author of those times. The prophecy is really more perfect than any history. No one historian hath related so many circumstances and in such exact order
* Comprehensive Bible, Concluding Remarks to Ezekiel.
of time, as the prophet hath foretold them : so that it was necessary to have recourse to several authors, Greek and Roman, Jewish and Christian, to collect here something from one, and to collect there something from another, for the better explaining the great variety of particulars contained in this prophecy.' It was the circumstantial fulfilment of these predictions which induced Porphyry to maintain that they were written in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, after the events to which they refer had occurred; though the book of Daniel had been translated into Greek one hundred years before Antiochus; was particularly commended by Josephus; and is frequently cited and appealed to in the Targums and Talmuds, and other Jewish writings. *
The style of Hosea is remarkably concise, sententious, and unconnected; and some parts are peculiarly pathetic, animated, and sublime. “He delights in a style,' says Bp. Horsley, 'which always becomes obscure when the language of the writer ceases to be a living language. He is commatic, to use St. Jerome's word, more than any other of the prophets. He writes in short, detached, disjointed sentences; not wrought up into periods, in which the connexion of one clause with another, and the dialectic relations, are made manifest to the reader by an artificial collocation, and by those connexive particles that make one discourse of parts which otherwise appear as a string of independent propositions, which is left to the reader's discernment to unite. His transitions from reproof to persuasion, from threatening to promise, from terror to hope, and the contrary, are rapid and unexpected. His similes are brief, accumulated, and often introduced (as in the best Greek and Roman writers) without the particle of similitude. Yet these are not the vices, but the perfections of the holy prophet's style ; for to these circumstances it owes that eagerness and fiery animation, which are the characteristic excellence of his writings, and are so peculiarly suited to his subject.'. With this description of the prophet's style agrees that of Bp. Lowth. • It exhibits,' says he, the appearance of very remote antiquity : it is pointed, energetic, and concise. It bears a distinguished mark of poetic composition, in that pristine brevity and condensation which is observable in the sentences, and which later writers have in some measure neglected. This peculiarity has not escaped the observation of St. Jerome. He is altogether, says he, laconic and sententious. But this very circumstance, which anciently was supposed to impart uncommon force and elegance, is, in the present ruinous state of the Hebrew literature, productive of so much obscurity, that, though the general subject of this writer be sufficiently obvious, he is the most difficult and perplexed of all the prophets. There is, however, another reason for the obscurity of his style : Hosea prophesied during the reigns of the four kings of Judah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; the duration of his ministry, therefore, in whatever manner we calculate, must include a very considerable space of time. We have
only a small volume of his remaining, which it seems, contains his principal prophecies ; and these are extant in a continued series, without any marks of distinction as to the times in which they were published, or the subjects of which they treat. There is, therefore, no cause to wonder, if, in perusing the prophecies of Hosea, we sometimes find ourselves in a similar predicament with those who consulted the scattered leaves of the Sybil.' Another reason of this obscurity has been assigned by some very learned men, who have used very strong language upon the subject—the supposed corrupt state of the present text; and abundant corrections have been proposed, some on very slender authority, others purely conjectural, some when they might seem to render the sense clear, and others, when they appear to render it more obscure. But this mode of emendation, if such it may be termed, is a desperate remedy; and without absolute necessity, and good authority from manuscripts and versions, is often dangerous, and always rash and futile; and if freely encouraged, would substitute the conjectures of men, instead of the infallible word of God. In some instances, with much caution and sobriety of judgment, on the united authority of manuscripts and versions, a slight alteration may be admissible; but, in general, it is probable that industry, accompanied with fervent piety, in endeavouring to understand the sacred oracles, would do more to render them intelligible, explicit, and impressive, than all the labour which is taken to correct and improve the text.*
The style of Joel is allowed by the most competent judges to be inimitably beautiful; containing such an assemblage of elegance, pathos, and sublimity, as can be found in few remains of ancient poetry. The style of Joel,' says Bp. Lowth, differs much from that of Hosea ; but, though of a different kind, is equally poetical. It is elegant, perspicuous, clear, diffusive, and flowing; and, at the same time, very sublime, nervous, and animated. He displays the whole power of poetic description in the first and second chapters; and at the same time his fondness for metaphors, comparisons, and allegories; nor is the connection of his subjects less remarkable than the graces of his diction. It is not to be denied that in some places he is very obscure; which every attentive reader will perceive, especially in the end of his prophecy.' This obscurity, however, does not proceed from the language, which is uncommonly perspicuous, but wholly from the nature of the subjects : the beauties of his expression being somewhat shaded by allusions to circumstances yet unfulfilled. His descriptions are highly animated; and his language in force, and often in sound, well adapted to his subject. The contexture of the prophecy in the first and second chapters is extremely curious, and wrought up with admirable force and beauty ; in which by an animated representation he anticipates the scenes of misery which loured over Judea. It is generally supposed, that the prophet blends two subjects of affliction in one general consideration, or beautiful allegory;
• Comprehensive Bible, Concluding Remarks to Hosea.
and that, under the devastation to be produced by locusts in the vegetable world, he pourtrays the more distant calamities to be inflicted by the armies of the Chaldeans in their invasion of Judea. Hence probably, the studied ambiguity of some of the expressions; while the double destruction to be effected by these fearful insects, and those enemies of which they were the harbingers, is painted with the most expressive force, in terms reciprocally metaphorical, and admirably adapted to the twofold character of the descriptions. These predictions are followed by a more general denunciation of God's vengeance, delivered with such force and aggravation of circumstances, as to be in some measure descriptive of that final judgment, which some temporal dispensations of Providence may be said to prefigure. These several declarations are intermingled with earnest exhortations to solemn fasting, repentance, and prayer, and with promises of deliverance and returning prosperity productive of Gospel blessings; in treating of which, he foretells, in the clearest terms, the general effusion of the Holy Spirit, which was to characterise the Gospel dispensation, predicting, in the fullest and plainest manner, the awful consequences of obstinately rejecting the sacred influence, especially to the Jews, the event of which to this day, fully attests his Divine inspiration. In conclusion he foretells the righteous judgments of God in the final excision of his enemies, and the glorious state of prosperity to be yet enjoyed by the church; representing its perfections and blessings under the poetic emblems of a golden age.*
Amos was by profession a herdman and a dresser of sycomore fruit; and hence, as Abp. Newcome observes, he borrows many images from the scenes in which he was engaged : but he introduces them with skill, and gives them tone and dignity by the eloquence and grandeur of hismanner. We shall find in him many affecting and pathetic, many elegant and sublime passages. No prophet has more magnificently described the Deity; or more gravely rebuked the luxurious, or reproved injustice and oppression with greater warmth, and a more generous indignation.' St. Jerome is of opinion, that there is nothing great or sublime in the style of Amos; and calls him “rude in speech, but not in knowledge,' applying to him what St. Paul modestly professes of himself, (2 Cor. xi. 6.) Calmet and many others have followed the authority of Jerome, in speaking of this prophet, as if he were indeed quite rude, void of eloquence, and destitute of all the embellishments of composition. The matter, however, as Bp. Lowth has remarked, is quite otherwise. “Let any person, who has candour and perspicacity enough to judge, not from the man, but from his writings, open the volume of his predictions, and he will, I think, agree that our shepherd' is not a whit behind the very chief of the prophets.' (2 Cor. xi. 5.) He will agree, that as in sublimity and magnificence he is almost equal to the greatest, so in splendour of dietion, and elegance of expression, he is scarcely inferior to any. The