|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 6||Part 1|
A Christian scholar argued once with me, saying, "We have examined the words of the prophets, and have not found that even a single allusion was made or a prophecy revealed, concerning the captivity in which you at present are—namely, the captivity into which you were brought by the Romans. All the prophets speak only about the captivity and the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, yet not a word is contained in Holy Writ concerning your present captivity nor your deliverance from it, nor of the downfall of the Roman dominion. How can it then be known, that the appointed Messiah has not arrived, or that he is to arrive at some future period—since all the promises recorded in the works of the prophets were fulfilled at the time of the second temple—and it is this to which Matthew alludes, (11:13), ‘For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John [the Baptist].’"
Upon this I made the following reply:
It is not to be wondered at, that you do not find any statement in the writings of the prophets, concerning the present captivity and the redemption therefrom, etc., for it is written Psalm 147:19-20, "He declareth His word unto Jacob, His statues and His judgments unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any nation, nor has He made known His judgments unto them."
But I will show, first, distinct prophecies concerning our dispersion and our scattered state in this exile—a dispersion which is wonderful—a scattered state, which is unprecedented, for where have we seen any other nation spread throughout all parts of the earth?
Secondly. I will bring forward prophecies fixing our continuance in this captivity for a protracted period extending to the latter days; and also promises of the prophets regarding our redemption from this captivity; and likewise many predictions from the sacred writers respecting the overthrow of the Roman and other powers who must be deemed unworthy to be allied with the nation of Israel at the time of its restoration. There are several other prophecies yet unaccomplished, which will come to pass at the appointed season.
Now referring to the prophecy concerning the captivity: viz., the captivity effected by the Romans, we read in the law (Deuteronomy 28:64), "And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other;" for, in the Roman captivity, the Jews belonging to the second temple were dispersed and scattered in diverse countries then possessed by the Romans. They brought with them people of various nations to besiege Jerusalem for they could not make an easy conquest on account of the great valor of the Jews. Such was not the case at the destruction of the first temple, the Jews being then too few and weak, so that the unaided Babylonians were sufficient to reduce them and to lead them into captivity; they were, therefore, only banished to Babel, as we read at the end of the Second Chronicles (36:20), "And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon, where they were servants to him and his sons, until the reign of the kingdom of Persia." Thus we find also in Ezra (2:1), "Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had carried away to Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one into his city." See also in the same prophet (Ezra 1:11), "All the vessels of gold and of silver were 5400; all these did Sheshbazzar bring with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon into Jerusalem." You see here, from the testimony of Scripture, that the Israelites were only exiled to Babel, and returned only from thence. When we therefore read in Deuteronomy (3:3), "That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, etc., and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God has scattered thee," we cannot possibly ascribe it to the captivity of Babel, but only to that of Rome.
When, further, the prophet Ezekiel says (22:15), "And I will scatter thee among the heathen and disperse thee in the countries and cause thy impurity to cease," we cannot possibly refer it to any other than this last captivity, viz., the Roman captivity. For in the captivity of Babylon their impurity was not removed from them. When they had left Babylon and arrived in the Holy Land, there were still among them men who had taken heathen wives, who profaned the Sabbath and committed many more iniquities; hence they became again subject to captivity for their many sins. To this must be referred the remark of the prophet, that by reason of the length of this sad captivity, our sins and our impurities will be removed from us, so that we shall not be exiled again. See Lamentations 4:22, "The punishment of thy iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity, etc." See also Amos 1:6, "Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom;" and in the same chapter (verse 1:9), "Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant."
These prophecies referred to the future: viz., to the destruction of the second temple, for those who had escaped from the captivity of Titus and fled to the countries of the Philistines and to Tyre, both adjacent to the Holy Land, were seized and delivered up to the hand of Edom; that is Titus and his army; for the Nazarene Nations, and the Romans at their head, are alluded to in Scripture under the title of Edom, or daughter of Edom, in like manner as those nations which were converted to the creed of Islam, are called by the Hebrews, Ishmaelites, on account of their supposed ancestor Ismael.
Now, what the prophet says (Amos 1:9) concerning the whole captivity, means, that there remained no fugitive or runaway who was not subject to the yoke of the Romans, while there had remained many remnants during the Babylonian captivity who did not yield to the supremacy of the Chaldeans; and therefore, went to Egypt, as Scripture testifies (see Jeremiah 43:7), "So they came into the land of Egypt, for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord." As to the expression of Amos (1:9), "And they remembered not the brotherly covenant," it alludes to the covenant that existed between Hiram, king of Tyre, and King Solomon; for Scripture says, "That they made a covenant together and addressed each other as brothers (see 1 Kings 9:13).
We shall now proceed to consult scripture respecting our continuance in this protracted captivity; and we shall perceive that after having surmounted many days of trouble and affliction, the Lord will have mercy again on us in the latter days; and we shall be convinced that, though our deliverance is so long deferred, the Lord will not forget His covenant and His oath which He swore unto our fathers. See Deuteronomy 4:30-31, "When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, thou shalt turn to the Lord thy God, and be obedient unto His voice. For the Lord thy God is a merciful God, and He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of they fathers which He sware unto them." Hosea 3:4, "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without Ephod, and without Teraphim—afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord, their God, and David their king, and shall reverence the Lord in the latter days." This prophecy evidently refers to our present exile; for we have no king, and no prince in Israel, but are under the dominion of Gentiles and their monarchs. We cannot offer sacrifices to God, or seek information by means of the Urim and Thummim, neither is there a false oracle of the Teraphim, which, according to the representation of idolaters, revealed coming events—besides all Israelites are now in captivity, and what the prophet says, "Afterwards Israel shall return," refers to the latter days, close to the time of salvation when the children of Israel shall come back penitently and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, for then they will regret their ejaculation (1 Kings 12:16), "What portion have we in David? Neither have we an inheritance in the son of Jesse;" for he who denies the kingdom of David is as sinful as if he had rebelled against the Lord himself, who has given an everlasting dominion unto David and his seed. At the time of salvation shall be fulfilled the saying of Jeremiah 30:9, "They shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them." We find besides an allusion to the redemption from the captivity by the Romans in the law, as well as in many passages of the Prophets (see Deuteronomy 30:3 "Then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity and have compassion on thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations;" and (verse 4) "If any of them be driven out to the uttermost of heaven, from thence will I the Lord thy God gather thee and from thence will He fetch them." (Verse 5) "And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it, and He will do thee good and multiply thee above thy fathers (verse 6). And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayst live." We see that these passages were not fulfilled on the return of Judah and Benjamin from Babylon; for the number of those who returned amounted to only 42,360, as recorded in Ezra 2. The majority remained in Babylon because they were unwilling to go back to Jerusalem. How then can it be maintained that the promise has been fulfilled, which declares "if any of them be driven out to the uttermost, part of heaven, from thence the Lord thy God will gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee."
If even at the time of the second temple, during an abode in the Holy Land, the Lord has not done us more good, nor multiplied us more than our fathers—how can it be asserted that the promises have been fulfilled? Viz. "And He will do thee good and multiply thee above thy fathers." For during all the days of the second temple we were in distress and trouble. See Daniel 9:25 "And after three score and two weeks the streets shall be built again and the wall even in troublesome times." See also the prophecy of Isaiah 43:5, "Fear not, for I am with thee; I will bring thy seed from the East, and gather thee from the West." (Verse 6) "I will say to the North give up, and to the South keep not back. Bring my sons from far and my daughters from the end of the earth." Again (11:12), "And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." See also the prophecy of Ezekiel 39:28, "But I shall gather them into their own land, and leave none of them any more there" (namely in the land of the enemy).
Assurances of this description, were not realized at the exit of the Israelites from Babylon to Jerusalem, for they not having been dispersed, after the captivity of Babylon, in the four quarters of the globe, how can the promise have been fulfilled that says, "And He shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth?"
There having remained many in the captivity of Babylon, as we have mentioned above, how was the prophecy brought to pass which states "And I will leave none of them there any more?" We have further to show that during the time of the construction of the second temple, the prediction was not fulfilled which is contained in Isaiah 60:10, "And the son of the strangers shall build up the walls; and kings shall minister unto thee." For at that time the heathens derided the Jews, saying (Nehemiah 4:2) "What are these feeble Jews doing?" etc. And they prevented and interrupted them in building up the walls; moreover the passage, "And kings shall serve thee" was not fulfilled at that period; for we read in Ezra 9:9 "We are bondsmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia." This is also written in Nehemiah 9:36, "Behold we are servants this day, and for the land that Thou gavest unto our Fathers to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold we are servants in it." (Verse 37) "And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings who thou hast set over us, because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in the greatest distress." Further, we find in Isaiah 60:11, "Therefore thy gates shall be open continually, they shall not be shut day or night." This prediction did not come to pass during the second temple. For we observe in Nehemiah 7:3, "And I said unto them, let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot," etc. Hence you may conclude, that not only these promises, as well as the above-mentioned assurances, were not fulfilled during the time of the second temple, but that just the contrary took place in respect to them as we have already related. We must therefore arrive at the conviction, that these prophecies and promises, and many others not mentioned here, referred to our redemption from the captivity in which we now are.
We shall now proceed to consider the predicted downfall of the Gentile nations, which is to take place in the days of the expected Messiah. Concerning that period, we read in Numbers 24:17, "I see it, though it will not happen now; I behold it, though not nigh, there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, it breaketh down the corners of Moab and crusheth all the children of Seth." The king Messiah, whose grandeur and luster make him comparable with the stars of heaven, will, according to this prophecy, subject to his power all the children of Seth and He will perform such heroic deeds as were never accomplished before Him.
To the exploits of this king, are referable the conquests predicted in the above chapter of Numbers (24:18-19), "And Edom shall become an inheritance, and Seir shall be a possessor of its enemies, and Israel shall do valiant deeds; and he who is descended from Jacob shall rule, and he that escapeth from the city [of the enemy] shall perish."
The many predictions regarding Edom recorded in Isaiah, Obadiah, and other prophets, have, by our laws, been explained as alluding to Rome, which, since the time of the destruction of the second temple, has exhibited the fiercest persecutors, and most implacable enemies of the Jews and their faith.
To this effect, Isaiah says, (34:8), "For the Lord hath a day of vengeance, a year of retributions for the controversy of Zion." Every iniquitous act committed by the adversary of Zion will meet with condign visitation, and human liberty shall triumph on the ruins of tyranny. Hence he says, "And the redeemed of the Lord shall return and enter Zion with joy, and ever-lasting gladness shall be upon their head. Exultation and rejoicing shall reach them, and sorrow and affliction shall flee from them far away." The comfort promised in the Lamentation of Jeremiah will then be realized, for in 4:22, it is said: "The punishment of thine iniquity, O daughter of Zion, has been fulfilled; he will no more lead thee into captivity. He has visited thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he hath laid bare thy sins." Love will then be shown by the Gentiles to the Jews, and according to Isaiah 66:20, "They will bring your brethren from among all the Gentiles as a gift unto the Lord . . . . to Jerusalem, my holy mountain." An objection has been raised against a complete restoration of the Jews, grounded on some partial texts of Scripture; but let us refer those who make the allegation, to the following scriptural passages which afford a complete refutation of such a supposition: For Joel says (4:19, or 3:19 in the English bible), "Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom a howling wilderness, on account of the violence done to the children of Judah, and on account of the innocent blood which they shed in their land. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation."
We should not take these words in the narrow limits in which they may present themselves to readers, who fix upon a single scriptural passage without comparing it with the more extensive detailed passages of a similar character. In fact, we have already stated, that by Edom we understand Rome; and we must, with justice to truth, submit that Egypt means the heavy yoke of the Mahommedan power.
The Ishmaelites (or Mahommedans) have traced their origin back to Hagar, "the Mitzrith," or Egyptian bondwoman, and were, therefore, called by the prophet, Mitzrayim (Egyptians).
It appears also perfectly accountable that the prophet speaks of the children of Judah rather than of the whole house of Israel. For, on the overthrow of the Ten Tribes, the name of the prevailing and distinguished tribe of Judah was adopted to designate the whole nation of Israel. Hence he says, "And Judah shall remain there and for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation." Obadiah actually predicts that all Israel (not only Judah) shall obtain the ultimate victory. He says (verse 1:18), "And the house of Jacob shall be as a fire, and the house of Joseph as a flame, and the house of Esau as stubble," etc. And he concludes by saying (1:21), "And the saviours shall go up to the mount Zion, to judge the mount of Esau, and the kingdom shall belong unto the Lord."
We will now, for the sake of clearness, review in regular order the prophecies which are unfulfilled, and are yet to come to pass in the days of the expected Messiah.
1. The ingathering of the Ten Tribes, and their union with Judah and Benjamin under the dominion of one king of the house of Judah (see Ezekiel 37:16), "And now, O son of man, take unto thee one staff, and write thereon, for Judah and Israel," etc.
2. The rise of Gog and Magog, and their incursions into the territory of Israel (see Ezekiel 38 and 39. See also Zechariah 14:12), "And this shall be the plague which shall strike all the nations who have carried their hosts against Jerusalem," etc.
3. The Mount of Olives shall be rent asunder (see Zechariah 14:4), "And his feet shall stand on that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem, and the mount of Olives shall be rent asunder in the midst of the east and the west, so as to become a very extended valley," etc.
4. The river of Egypt shall be divided, and dry up prior to the gathering of the exiles of Judah (see Isaiah 11:15-16). "And the Lord shall cause the tongue of the sea of Egypt to be dried up, and He will wave His hand against the river in the strength of His spirit; and He will smite it into seven rivers. And men shall walk through it dry shod, and it shall be a path for the remnant of his people which shall remain from Assyria as it was unto Israel on the day when they went out of Egypt."
5. Ezekiel 47, verse 1 and 12, "The waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward. And by the river shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, nor the fruit thereof be consumed. It shall bring forth new fruit according to his month. Because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary, and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine." Zechariah 14:8, "And it shall be in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea, in summer and in winter shall it be." Joel 3:18, "It shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters; and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Sheetim."
6. The conversion of the Gentiles to Judaism, see Zechariah 8:23, "They will say (to the Jews), We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
7. The annual pilgrimage of the remnant of all nations to Jerusalem "to bow down to the King the Lord of Hosts," etc. see Zechariah 14:17.
8. The celebration of the Sabbath, and the new moons by all the Gentiles (see the end of the Book of Isaiah verse 66:23).
9. The total extinction of idolatry. See Isaiah 2:18, "And the idols he will consume completely;" and Isaiah 42:17, "They shall turn backward, and be filled with shame who trust in images, and say unto the molten statues, Ye are our gods!" See also Psalm 97:7.
10. Unity of faith shall prevail throughout the world. See Isaiah 45:23., "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, righteousness hath come forth from my mouth, and a word which shall not emptily return, namely, that unto me every knee shall bend, and by me every tongue shall swear." Zechariah 14:9 "And the Lord shall be a King over the whole earth; on that day shall the Lord be one and his name One.
11. The kingdom of Israel shall be the principal one in existence. See Isaiah 60:10, "And the children of strangers shall build thy walls, and their kings shall serve thee." Also, ibid, "For the nation and the kingdom which shall not be willing to serve thee shall perish, and the people shall be utterly destroyed." Daniel 7:27, "And the kingdom and the dominion and the multitude of kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of saints of the most high, whose kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers shall serve and obey Him."
12. Peace shall be restored after the subjugation of the resisting powers. See Isaiah 2:4, "And they shall strike their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall no more lift up sword against nation, and they shall no more learn warfare." Hosea 2:20 [2:18], "And the bow and the sword and the warfare I will break down and remove from the land, and ye shall rest in security."
13. That there should be peace and harmony even among the animals, in the land of Israel; nor should they harm man. See Isaiah 11:6, "The wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." (Verse 7) "And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox." (Verse 8) "And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den." (Verse 9) "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
The like auspicious promises are repeated and amplified Isaiah 65:6 and Ezekiel 34:25. Also, in Hosea 2:28, we read, "And in that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground," etc.
14. Sin shall no longer prevail. See Deuteronomy 30:6, "And the Lord shall circumcise thy heart and the heart of they seed to love the Lord thy God," etc. Isaiah 60:21, "And thy people, being righteous altogether, shall possess the land forever. They are scions of my planting, the work of my hands, my glory." Jeremiah 3:17, "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall straightway flock into it, and shall no more go after the perversion of their evil heart." Ibid, chapter 50:20, "In those days and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought and not be, and the sin of Judah, and it shall not be found, for I shall forgive those I shall leave behind." Ezekiel 36:25-26, "And I shall sprinkle upon you pure water, and ye shall be clean; from all your impurities will I cleanse you," etc. "And I will give unto you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put into you, and I will remove the heart of stone out of your flesh; and I will give unto you a heart of flesh, and my spirit will I put into you, and I will do it so that you shall walk in my statutes, and observe my judgments and do them." Again, ibid 37:23 and 24, "Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them, so that they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in my judgments and observe my statutes and do them."
15. Ancient troubles and sorrows shall cease forever. See Isaiah 65:16, "He that blesseth himself in the land shall bless himself with the God of Truth, and he that sweareth in the land shall swear by the God of Truth; for the former troubles shall be forgotten, and be withdrawn from mine eyes." Again (verse 19), "And I shall exult in Jerusalem, and rejoice in my people. The voice of crying shall not be heard," etc.
16. The Divine presence (Shechinah) shall be restored, as is promised in the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:26-28, "And I shall make unto them an everlasting covenant it shall be unto them. And I shall favour them and multiply them, and I shall put my sanctuary in the midst of them, my divine presence shall for ever be among them, and I shall be unto them as a God, and they shall be unto me as a people, and all the nations shall know that I the Lord am sanctifying Israel, since my sanctuary shall for ever be amongst them." Again, ibid 39:29, "And I shall not hide any more my countenance from them, since I have poured my spirit over the house of Israel, saith the Lord God." Joel 2:27, "And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and I am the Lord your God residing in Zion my holy mountain; and Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall no more pass through it." See also Isaiah 11:9, " And the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
17. The prophet Elisah will appear before the coming of that "great and awful day" (see the end of Malachi).
18. The future temple will be rebuilt according to the design predetermined by the Almighty (see Ezekiel 40 to 45).
19. The ancient division of the Holy Land will be resumed. See Ezekiel 47:13, commencing "Thus saith the Lord your God, This is the border whereby ye shall inherit the land according to the twelve tribes of Israel," etc.
20. The resurrection will take place in those latter days. See Deuteronomy 32:39, "Behold I, even I, am ever the same, and there is no other god with me. I bring to death, and I bring to life again; I crush and I heal again," etc. Isaiah 26:19, "Thy dead shall live again, together with my dead body shall rise again. Awake and sing, ye that live in the dust," etc. See also Daniel 12:2, "And many of those that sleep in the dust shall awake; these for eternal life and those for disgrace and everlasting horror."
These points are subjects of ardent expectation, and will surely be fulfilled at the appointed time of the King Messiah. Nothing that is promised will be withheld, "for God is not a man who lieth."
A strong corroboration of our belief in the triumphs of the Messiah is afforded us by the description of the fifth kingdom in Daniel 2. The fifth kingdom, not represented by any part of the image seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, will subsist for ever; that is to say, the state and the faith of Israel will supersede all other kingdoms and creeds. This is predicted in the following words of Daniel 2:44:- "And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and his kingdom will not be left to another people, but it will crush and demolish all those kingdoms, and it shall last for ever." Israel is called "The people of saints (or holy people) of the most High," a designation of which we find many instances in our Holy Scriptures.
The epithet "holy people" is given us, for example, in Deuteronomy 7:6, "For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and He has chosen thee to be unto Him a people select from all the nations" etc. Isaiah 62:12, "And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord." Jeremiah 2:3, "Israel is holiness unto the Lord, the firstling of his produce," etc.
The important passage in Daniel 7:18, "And the saints of the most high shall receive and possess the kingdom to eternity and to the eternity of eternities," etc., relates, therefore, as every unbiased reader must perceive, to the people of Israel, and to no other nation, for surely the same Providence which has established us, and has blessed us with a holy revelation, will also watch over us and render our future condition great, glorious, and free from the recurrence of past dangers.