Zechariah and Jeremiah

Isaiah 40‑57; Isaiah 44‑65; Daniel 7; Zechariah 9‑11; Matthew 27:9  •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 8
I will not here discuss whether Zech. 9-11 I be really the prophecy of him whose name it bears. Many sincere Christians have doubted it, though not doubting its inspiration, partly on account of the word "Jeremiah" in Matthew. Mr. N. says it is agreed to be really from a prophet of unknown name, contemporaneous with Isaiah. But we must never trust these kinds of statements of rationalists. "It is agreed," means merely, "it suits our views," or "our logic." Thus De Wette himself, in his last edition, translated by Theodore Parker-an authority logical enough, I suppose, for Mr. N.-after stating the opinion alluded to, re-examines the language and allusions to previous prophets, and concludes, "These circumstances show that it could not have been written before the exile... therefore it may seem the most advisable to suppose that those parts which seem to belong to an earlier period were written with reference to the future, and that the form of a prediction was adopted in part." I have nothing to do with what it is "advisable to suppose," which is generally the just measure of rationalist proof. But the statement of De Wette gives a just measure of another thing; that is, the value of such phrases as "it is agreed." Nor is this all. "The genuineness has been defended by Carpzov, Beckhaus, Jahn, Rosenmiiller, Koester, Hengestenberg; Blayney also attempted it," so says Theodore Parker. It may be said, "Yes; but there are some of them at least twenty or thirty years past, some more." But then we have the awkward fact, that De Wette, in the fifth (and, I suppose, even in the fourth) edition, more modern, and, we must suppose, more mature than the first three, undoes the previous theory started originally by Mede-not from orthodox prejudices, certainly; but, it must be supposed, from his more exact inquiry. Koester, others think, has demonstrated the genuineness of these chapters; that is, their being the work of Zechariah.
One thing is certain, that those who do not receive it as genuine not only do not agree with one another, and demonstrate, each to his own satisfaction, what upsets the opinion of his neighbor (such as Flugge, Berthold, Hitzig, Credner, referred to by T. Parker), but they do not agree with themselves. De Wette, we have seen, concludes he was quite wrong in referring it to an earlier date. So Hitzig once placed the whole in the time of Uzziah, but is now compelled to place it after that time. In a word, it is a mere collection of guesses, without any real foundation to build a sober judgment upon. For my own part, I have not a doubt on the subject. The mention of Jeremiah:, in Matthew, creates a critical difficulty as to the quotation; but the solution which refers Zechariah to some unknown prophet of Isaiah's time-with the convenient formula "it is agreed," when nothing at all is agreed about among themselves-is, of all solutions, the most unfounded. Very few of the boldest agree in this.
The proofs that Zechariah wrote after the captivity are, to my own mind, decisive-I mean, wrote these chapters; for none question his prophesying after it. In the first place, they have always been received by the Jews as his prophecy. They form part of the Septuagint translation, which, allowing the Prophets to have been translated even a hundred years after the Pentateuch and Joshua, yet gives us Zechariah as we have it, more than a hundred and fifty years before Christ. Hody supposes the Prophets translated in the reign of Philometer, that is, it was then publicly and universally received by the Jews, as we have it. But the internal evidence is to my mind demonstrative of its being written after the captivity. Chapter 10:6 to the end clearly shows the condition of Judah and Ephraim. The cutting off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, connected with the dominion of Messiah, is the taking away war from the earth when the universal dominion of Messiah is established. The prophecy applies to the time "when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord," that is, to a time when the glory and dominion of the Lord, yet future, shall be completely established. The conflict of all Israel would be with Javanor Greece; a statement which would have no kind of sense on Mr. N.'s rationalist theory. What had Greece to do with the times of Shalmaneser? Indeed, as to his account of the prophecy, the best answer is to ask my reader to read it through; the flippancy of Mr. N.'s assertions will be apparent to every one who does. Obscurity we may doubtless find; but that it has "no remote or imaginable similarity to the historical life of Jesus," is an assertion which no reader of chapter 11 would have ventured, unless one who counted on the credulity of his readers, or upon, what is always an unwise thing, their confidence in the assertions of a rationalist. The accomplishment of the prophecy in its main intent is, I have no doubt, future, as is that of all which completes and makes good God's government of this earth; and necessarily so, for the result of that government we all know is not yet come.
I turn to Isa. 50; 53 Mr. N.'s "pseudo-Isaiah," a title than which there cannot be a greater absurdity imaginable.
These famous rationalists, because the prophet places himself as if in Babylon, or at least speaks of it as a present thing, have "agreed" that the author must have lived there (as if it were not the style of the prophets in unnumbered other instances), and thus one of the most complete, perfect, and connected prophecies in existence (developing the present relationship of Israel with God, God's intentions as to their restoration; the witness against idolatry to which they were called; rejection of Messiah; return in the latter days to idolatry; the Lord's judgment; and their final glory unfolded in incomparable language, which does not for a moment, in point of style, admit the supposition of the Babylonish captivity as a date) has been foisted by some unknown author on the Jews, as that of Isaiah! The prophecy is the noblest incomparably of all scripture. It is very little matter, to us who believe it to come from God, whether Isaiah or any other prophet be its author, save collaterally, as shaking the general credibility of all testimony; but to suppose that nobody ever heard of the real writer, though his prophecy entitled him to the very first place, and hence that it was ascribed to a more obscure one, is perfectly incredible. Supposing I were to say Isaiah was the author of chapters 40-66, and that men have ascribed the former part to him, that it might get the credit of the great name of the author of the latter part, the only answer would be, "You may say anything."
The reader may judge of the candor of rationalist arguments from the following: "The one continuous prophecy of Isa. 40-66 has given a color to the style, which is unique. Some expressions, such as `burden of the Lord' are not found in it." This could not be otherwise if the subject be considered. It is a long moral reasoning with Israel on idolatry (they being witnesses of Jehovah), in contrast with Babylon-Messiah's rejection-their state in the end of time-the admission of the Gentiles-and their future glory. The burdens on particular places had no application here whatever. They would have been wholly out of place. This is a proof it is not Isaiah's! But there are peculiarities of Isaiah's language which are found to be such as are connected with essential and permanent subjects. How are these to be got rid of? "But these peculiarities, which it has in common with the genuine portion, and others adduced by Jahn and Muller, prove nothing." Will the reader guess why? "Their agreement in this respect cannot have been accidental, and must be explained as an imitation of the genuine, or in some other way." Our logic! Here are the reasons given by the chief of the learned rationalist school: "There is a difference in style." Of that in a moment. "There is a difference in the political relationship of the people." This is because restoration is predicted as if Jerusalem were already desolate. Were it even so, it would not be less prophecy; but the fact is, it proves nothing. The prophet, as is so constantly the case, transports himself into the times he speaks of. He does so as to John Baptist; he does so as to the times of Christ (chap. 53)-as to the times of the Jews owning Christ, in the same chapter. They say, "He was wounded," &c. So chapter 65 the admission of the Gentiles, "I am sought," &c. So in what is confessed to be Isaiah, "To us a son is born, to us a king is given." This, therefore, proves just nothing. "The internal condition of the nation is different." The proof of this is Isa. 56:10-1210His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. 11Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. 12Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. (Isaiah 56:10‑12): "It has only overseers or watchmen to govern it." But in Babylon it had not even these, nor is there a word about government. Besides, we have already seen the prophet himself in the scene he describes, only that this proof contradicts the theory, because in Babylon they had nobody to govern them but Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. Moreover, the reader may see that the prophet refers to quite a new dispensation, in which those excluded by the law, and the Gentiles, would be admitted into God's house. (Chap. 56: 3-7.) His house is to be called a house of prayer for all people.
It is said, that the idolatry mentioned "chapter 57: 3, seqq." may very properly be ascribed to the Babylonian Jews. In verse 3 there is no idolatry mentioned at all; but this "seqq.," thus slightly passed over, has something rather awkward in it. In verse 5 it is said, "Enflaming yourselves under every green tree." It is hard to suppose that the hanging gardens made for Nebuchadnezzar's queen were the resort of the "Babylonian Jews." But, further, we have "slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks." I am afraid this was beyond even the royal imitation of Median mountains, and that this "seqq.," if we look beyond the four letters, is a very serious obstacle to this Babylonian "internal condition of the nation." But the writer slips off with an "especially" to Isa. 65:33A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; (Isaiah 65:3)-I I. But here other difficulties arise. Verses 1, 2 give the call of the Gentiles, which hardly suited Babylonish times. Not only so, but verses 6, 7 declare that the Lord is going to judge them and recompense them for their iniquity-a singular threat, if they were already Babylonish Jews. We are told that in Isa. 66:1-31Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 2For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. 3He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. (Isaiah 66:1‑3), "it is not supposed that there is an actual temple existing, where service is performed." "Where is the house that ye build me?" is the word. Not in Babylon, I suppose. But we have not our "seqq." here; which, however, I must beg leave to introduce, as having something to say to the point in hand. "A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple "-I suppose that implies "an actual temple existing." And yet we have the Lord coming to judgment and to plead with all flesh, yet rejecting the mass of the Jews, and only sparing a remnant; destroying these idolaters, Jew or Gentile, yet at a time when all flesh come up to worship Jehovah, and bring Israel as a clean vessel unto the house of the Lord; and the carcases of the transgressors are found in the neighborhood, as a spectacle to them who come up.
Now what has all this to do with writing in captivity in Babylon, or even a return at that time from thence? Why do I cite these things? To show that rationalist statements must never be credited without examining for oneself; to show that they are most excessively "superficial," and their authors totally ignorant of the scope of scripture, and indeed of the contents of the books on which they pretend to comment.
"There are references to earlier prophecies." God challenges the idolatrous prophets to utter a prophecy which should show their divine knowledge. He declares that He knows the end from the beginning-that His former words had taken effect. Well, I believe that; but how it proves that it was written when the Jews were in Babylon, or why Isaiah could not have said it, I am, I avow, unable to discover. The reader has only to examine the passages, to see that there is a general statement of the certainty of God's word, and the folly of idolaters. No particular prophecy is referred to, though there were such, and had been many in Israel's history. Not a word of Samuel's fell to the ground; and a multitude of others had appeared, noticed in the historical books, to say nothing of Joel, Amos, &c.; so that this reference to God's prophetic word does not prove much.
Lastly, "there are predictions of a splendid future uttered with as much distinctness as if it were present, and not in harmony with the state of things in Isaiah's time and the actual result." Well, "there are predictions of a splendid future." But how does that show the Jews were in Babylon? "They are uttered with great distinctness." But why could not Isaiah, the son of Amoz., do that in Jotham's, Ahaz's, or Hezekiah's reign? But they are "not in harmony with the state of things in Isaiah's time." What are not? The "predictions of a splendid future, uttered with as much distinctness as if it were present?" But I suppose they were "not in harmony with the state of things in Isaiah's time," or it would not have been "a splendid future" at all.
You have now, reader, all the reasons alleged by the most learned rationalists-those Mr. N. particularly refers his readers to-for stating, without leaving room for a question, that the last twenty-seven chapters of what we believe to be the word of God by the mouth of the prophet are the production of a pseudo-Isaiah. As to the style, which does resemble in many peculiarities, and must be disposed of by supposing imitation, or in some other way, the following is the judgment of one who has examined it with the help of all the rationalist writers and the answers to them: "The argument has been completely taken out of the hands of those who regard the latter part of his [Isaiah's] prophecies as unauthentic."
I turn to what Mr. N. says of the contents. We have more rationalist logic here, but which I shall notice without dwelling upon. "Still," says Mr. N., "I could not conceal from myself that no exactness in this prophecy, however singular, could avail to make out that Jesus was the Messiah of Hezekiah's prophets. There must be some explanation." (Phases, p. 196.) That was settled, at any rate: the only business was to find it. Let me suggest one here to Mr. N., which he need not have been very long looking for. He had told us in the page before, that it is a pseudo-Isaiah; so that he was not one of Hezekiah's prophets at all. How hard to remember one's own system, if it is only made up!
Mr. N. says that the prophet "introduces to us an eminent and 'chosen servant of God,' whom he invests with all the evangelical virtues, and declares that he is to be a light to the Gentiles. In chapter 44 (ver. 1: also ver. 21), he is named as `Jacob my servant'... chapter 49:1-12 is eminently Messianic to the christian ear, except that in verse 3 the speaker distinctly declares himself to be (not Messiah, but) Israel.... It is essential to understand the same `elect servant' all along." (Ib.) The word "servant" does give the running key to all this part of Isaiah. In chapter 42 the servant is described as one in whom God's soul delighted, on whom He would put His Spirit, and He should show forth judgment to the Gentiles. It is the well known passage universally applied to Christ, in which Israel is not mentioned; but some one on whom the Spirit should be to show judgment to the Gentiles. In general, in this part of the prophecy, Israel is called God's "servant," though in this description Christ is introduced. From chapter 42:19, Israel, "the people robbed and spoiled," is repeatedly referred to as Jehovah's servant in contrast with the worshippers of idols; thus in this verse (19), then all through chapter 43 (see ver. 10, 44:1), "Israel my servant." All here is controversy with idols. Cyrus is introduced by name. (Chap. 45:1.) Jacob is God's servant. (Ver. 4.) Babylon is judged. (Chap. 46, 47.) Rebellious as Israel is, the Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob. (Chap. 48.) This closes that part of the prophecy, with the word repeated at the end of chapter 57, "There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked." Jew or Gentile (for in this part of the prophecy the Spirit opens out into larger spiritual views, without departing from God's actual government in Israel), he must come under God's moral judgment.
Chapter 49 introduces an entirely new ground of controversy with Israel-their refusing to listen to and receive the Christ. Hence chapter 49 drops the question of idolatry. It introduces Israel, in a formal way, as God's servant on the scene. "Then," if Israel is he in whom Jehovah is to be glorified, "I," says some one, "have labored in vain." If Israel is the one, my labor is fruitless. That this "I" is not Israel, as Mr. N. would make it, is beyond all controversy. It is easy to say, after speaking of the servant of chapter 42. "In chapter 44 he is named as `Jacob my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen.'" (Phases, p. 196.) He is not named at all. It is easy to say, "The speaker distinctly declares himself to be (not Messiah, but) Israel, in verse 3." Yes, the speaker in verse 3 is Israel undoubtedly, and says so;
but that is what makes the speaker in verse 4 say, that he has labored in vain; and if my reader desires a proof that it is so, he has only to read verse 5—"And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.... Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth," &c. Is this speaker Israel? Is it "in vain to call rationalists superficial?" I find them astonishingly so; that is all I can say.
We have, then, clearly some one substituted in the place of Israel as the servant of God in testimony, and the rejection of Him (for He was Jehovah, though He had got the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that was weary, and hid not His face from shame and spitting), assigned as the reason for Jehovah's divorcing Israel. This is the subject of chapter 1. The full result in final blessing for Zion and Israel is pursued to chapter 52: 12 (the remnant who listen to the servant, at the end of the age, being marked out in the midst of the sorrow in chapter 1:10). In chapter 52:13 the servant is introduced again; and it is shown that He whose visage had been marred more than any man's shall in that day be acknowledged by Israel with profound and touching repentance, which referred itself to Him and to His rejection. He had, indeed, in His rejection, borne their iniquities. Then some truths in general terms are introduced, to allow of the bringing in of the Gentiles; and Israel, as a whole, is judged for its moral state at the end-as, indeed, in the prophet's day. This is the general character of the prophet's reasoning to the end of chapter 57. In a word, Gentiles can come in; all will be judged by their works.
Chapter 57 addresses itself specially to Israel, and goes on, after denouncing their sin, to their final glory, to the end of chapter 60. In chapter 61 Christ appears as coming in His grace, as when on earth; but His character is pursued until He executes judgment, chapter 63:6. From chapter 63:7 to the end of chapter 64 is a touching pleading of the prophet with God for the people of His holiness. In chapter 65 we have the answer of the Lord, unfolding the letting in of the Gentiles, His patience with the Jews, their return to idolatry and extreme wickedness in the latter days, the sparing of the remnant, the rejection of the temple they would build, and their sacrifices, but the taking possession of it by the Lord in judgment, the full blessing of Jerusalem, the judgment of all flesh, and the bringing in of the whole dispersion of Israel to worship, all flesh coming up, but recognizing the judgment. In this we find the servants definitely distinguished-the remnant who hear and obey, and are faithful amid unfaithfulness (chap. 65:8, 9, 13, 15); who are then manifested as the elect people in joy, prolonging their days under the government of Him who will then no more allow evil to abide on the earth. If any one be surprised that the Jews should turn to idolatry again, I reply, The Lord declared that the unclean spirit, which went out and had left the house empty, swept, and garnished, would return with seven others worse, and the last end be worse than the first. Dan. 2 teaches, I doubt not, the same truth.
Thus we have, first, Christ set forth as the true servant of Jehovah; then, in the order of God's dealings, Israel is found to be so. Christ takes their place, they refusing to hearken; He is rejected; and then, redemption being accomplished, and Gentiles let in, the remnant of Israel in the latter day enter into the position of servants.
Mr. Ν. borrows the views by which infidel Jews seek to meet Christians; but the examination of the chapters leaves no ground for the argument to stand upon. "He was wounded for our transgressions," meaning "we were wounded for our own," may suit a Jew or a rationalist, but I know not whom else. Still Mr. Ν. is forced to admit, "It still remained strange that in Isa. 53 and Psa. 22, 69 there should be coincidences so close with the sufferings of Jesus;" for, after all, whenever it was, they were written centuries before that great event. No doubt. "But I reflected, that I had no proof that the narrative had not been strained by credulity, to bring it into artificial agreement with these imagined predictions of his death." (Phases, p. 197.) Had he any proof that it had? Not a trace of one. We have Mr. N.'s own answer to this question in the preceding page: "There must be some explanation."
Quod volumus facile credimus. "And herewith," says Mr. Ν., "my last argument in favor of views for which I once would have laid down my life, seemed to be spent." Accordingly, he turns to arguments against these views. He continues: "Nor only so; but I now reflected that the falsity of prophecy in Dan. 7 (where the coming of a Son of man to sit in universal judgment follows immediately upon the break up of the Syrian monarchy), to say nothing of the general proof of the spuriousness of the whole book of Daniel, ought long ago to have been seen by me as of more cardinal importance. For if we believe anything at all about the discourses of Christ, we cannot doubt that He selected 'Son of man' as His favorite title, which is a direct annunciation to us that He based all His pretensions on Dan. 7 from which that title is adopted. On the whole, then, it was no longer defect of proof which presented itself; but positive disproof of the primitive and fundamental claim." (Ib. pp. 197, 198.) This is a startling leap indeed; but I confess I am at a loss here to know the ἀφορμὴν, the starting point of this amazing result.
In vain I look for some proof here. "Our logic" does not condescend to give a hint here of any proof of what is asserted as to Dan. 7, that the fourth beast is the Syrian monarchy. I turned to De Wette: "Chapter 7," he tells me, "in Chaldee contains Daniel's vision of the four beasts, which signify so many kingdoms. They are the same as in chapter 2; but their meaning is contested." Then the note tells us "the first is Babylonian. Secondly, doubtless the bear means the Medo-Persian kingdom, though some think only the Median; in which case the three ribs are only emblems of frailty(?). Then some think the third, Alexander and his successors; some, only Alexander. By the fourth beast some understand the Roman empire [a good many, no doubt]; some Alexander's successors; some, Alexander and his successors." In conclusion, we are told, since the last explanation is necessary in chapter 7:7, therefore those which harmonize with it are the true ones (that is, the third beast is Persia). "Necessary" it is, no doubt, to the system-there must be "some explanation." Because, as there cannot be prophecy (for a Jewish prophet cannot, even like an oracle, hazard a mistake), therefore the last event spoken of must be in the time Daniel lived (that is, as he certainly speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes, in the days of that king). But then, if we examine the passage (which, indeed, for a theory which has settled all by begging the question, is not "necessary"), there seems to be no sort of applicability of the fourth beast to the Syrian monarchy. Four wings on a Grecian beast every one would understand. The division of the Grecian empire into four is given by Daniel himself in chapter 8. What had they to do with Persia? Then, how does chapter 7:7 go on? It describes a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. What has this really to do with the Grecian empire, Alexander and his successors? What are the ten horns? "Four" is intelligible; but who are the ten? But with Mr. Ν. it is the break up of the Syrian monarchy; but there is no break up here at all-quite the contrary. The other beasts broke up; their dominion was taken away, but their lives prolonged; but this was slain, destroyed, and given to the burning flame. And this, mark, is the judgment. There is no "break up," and then the judgment. The Son of man, then, takes not the judgment, but the kingdom. The ten kings were ten kings that shall arise. So that they were future in Daniel's time, which in the rationalists' theory they were not. And who were the ten up to Antiochus Epiphanes? There had not been even ten kings of Syria. In a word, the moment the passage is looked at, there is not the smallest possible ground for Mr. N.'s assertion.
The examination of the explanation in the latter half of the chapter makes it still more absurd; for the fourth beast entirely occupies the scene. To make Alexander's successors a fourth kingdom, Alexander being the third, and to leave out Egypt, Thrace, and Macedon, is itself an absurd idea for one who is supposed to have the history before him. Again, in what were Alexander's successors more destructive, more powerful, more all-subduing than Alexander? Did the Syrian monarchs stamp with their feet more than the mighty, conqueror of the East? Who is the little horn who subdued three others? If it be Antiochus Epiphanes, how did he do that? If not, what are the three and a half times? But the fact is, there is no breaking up of a monarchy.