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THE PROPHETS AND PROPHECY IN ISRAEL.
HE recent work by Professor Kuenen, of the University
of Leyden, entitled “The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel, ” is written from the standpoint of the most ultra criticism and of absolute anti-supernaturalism.
According to Dr. Kuenen's view as stated by himself, "prophecy is one of the most important and remarkable phenomena in the history of religion, but just on that account a human phenomenon, proceeding from Israel, directed to Israel.” It is from God in no other sense than as “ from him are all things.” It is “a testimony not as out of heaven to us, but a testimony to men's need, and to Israel's peculiar destination to seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him.'” (A destination, by the way, which in the Scriptures is ascribed not to Israel, but to the Gentiles before Christ's coming.) “A preparation for Christianity? Yes; but in another sense than that which tradition means by these words—no prediction of facts in the life of Christ, but a preparation of the soil out of which Christianity was to spring, the prelude to the new religious creation which mankind owe to Jesus of Nazareth" (pp. 4, 5).
Prof. Kuenen proposes to settle the strife between the supernatural and.the naturalistic view of prophecy by the single test of their fulfilment. To this we cheerfully assent. It is a test to which the sacred writers themselves appeal (Deut. 18:21, 22 ; Isa. 43 : 9-12; Jer. 28 :9); it is palpable, obvious, and easily applied. If these predictions have been fulfilled, they are from God; if not, they cannot be from him.
1 “The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel.” An Historical and Critical En. quiry, by Dr. A. Kuenen, Professor of Theology in the University of Leyden. Translated from the Dutch by the Rev. Adam Milroy, M.A., with an Introduction by J. Muir, Esq., D.C.L. London. 1877. 8vo, pp. 593.
He divides (p. 25) the sources of our information respecting the predictions in the Old Testament into three classes, viz. :
“ ist. Writings of prophets.
“ 2d. Historical accounts regarding what the prophets have done and spoken.
“ 3d. Words of God addressed to historical personages, and incorporated in the narratives concerning them.
It would divert us too much from our present purpose to undertake here the defence of those books, or parts of books, which Dr. Kuenen sets aside as not genuine. They have been abundantly vindicated by able critical scholars. We simply remark, in passing, that the allegation that these predictions were written after the event is equivalent to a confession of the accuracy of their fulfilment which cannot otherwise be evaded. But the question at issue can be settled by prophecies whose genuineness no one has yet ventured to dispute. After all that has been done in the way of attempted elimination, enough remains to establish unmistakably the divine origin of prophecy. If this can be first settled by what Dr. Kuenen himself confesses to be the genuine productions of the prophets, he will no longer have the same motive to deny the genuineness of the rest, especially when it appears, as is in truth the case, that, even as his own critical hypotheses, these latter still afford evidence of divine prescience; for they contain predictions reaching beyond the date at which he alleges that they were written, and which have been manifestly fulfilled.
Dr. Kuenen groups what he calls the unfulfilled prophecies under three heads, as they severally relate to (1) the destiny of the heathen nations ; (2) the judgments pronounced upon Israel ; and (3) the expectations of the prophets with regard to Israel's future. It will be convenient to follow him in this arrangement.
The first instance adduced is this (p. 102): “The prophets are unanimous in announcing the destruction of the cities of the Philistines." Whereupon he confesses : “ It is true, indeed, that scarcely any traces remain of the very ancient glory of the five cities. They have shared in the same fate that has smitten the whole of Palestine. They have been laid desolate or have gradually decayed ; after Jerusalem, indeed, but still like her
they too have fallen.” This, however, he refuses to accept as the proper fulfilment of the predictions for two reasons. First, because “ the judgment contemplated is plainly one that would be executed soon. When delayed for a long period it ceased to be a judgment, especially in such cases as we find in Amos (1:6-8) and Ezekiel (25:15-17), where a specific sin is mentioned as the reason of Jahveh's displeasure.” But why the divine retribution forfeits its character if it does not occur soon is not very clear. There is something striking, no doubt, in a penalty that follows swiftly upon the heels of transgression. And yet most men would concede equal impressiveness to a doom which is sure to come, however long delayed. The length of the interval renders it all the more certain that God does not forget, and that even-handed justice will not fail eventually to strike its mark. And that the prophets in particular, with whom it is that we are now concerned, did not judge it essential that a recompense must be speedy appears both from their directly declaring the reverse (Hab. 2 : 3), and from their undisturbed confidence when this very demand was made by presumptuous sinners of their own day (Isa. 5:19; Jer. 17:15; Amos 5:18). This Dr. Kuenen seems here to have overlooked, though his memory is less treacherous in another place when he has an end to answer by it (p. 360) : “ The fulfilment of their predictions can be to themselves, to a certain extent, matter of indifference ; that is to say, the fulfilment in this or that specific form at that specific time. It is to them a settled truth that Jahveh is righteous, and not less that at some period his righteousness shall be revealed in a dazzling and unmistakable manner ; but how and when this revelation shall take place is a question of subordinate importance. If it is not fulfilled now, then it will be fulfilled at a later time. If now, by Dr. Kuenen's own confession, the element of time enters so little into the prophet's expectations, by what right can it be demanded that the prediction must be fulfilled speedily or it is no fulfilment at all in the sense intended by the prophet? This is surely unreasonable, unless he has himself specified some limit within which it must occur.
Is this done in the present instance? There is no pretence of it in Amos, Joel (3:4-8), Ezekiel, Zephaniah (2 :
4-7) or Zechariah (9:5-7); only Isaiah (14:31) and Jeremiah (47 : 2) speak of a calamity to come upon Philistia from the north ; and “whenever Isaiah and Jeremiah make mention of an enemy out of the north, they intimate, in no doubtful manner, that they are thinking, the former of the Assyrians, the latter of the Chaldeans." Well, did the Assyrians and Chaldeans bring the predicted distress upon Phil. istia ? Assyrian monuments furnish abundant evidence on this point. Sargon took Hanun King of Gaza prisoner and led him away into Assyria.' The King of Ashdod made his submission to Sennacherib, while the King of Ashkelon with his whole family were carried captive to Assyria, and a vassal placed upon the throne in his stead; the princes of Ekron were slain and impaled, numbers of the people sold as slaves, and a king created subject to Assyria.' Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal include the kings of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Ashdod in their lists of tributary monarchs.' And as Nebuchadnezzar subdued Phenicia and Syria, and carried his arms into Egypt,' he must have overrun the whole Philistine region. So far, therefore, from these prophecies remaining unaccomplished, the very fulfilment that Dr. Kuenen asks for did take place. The Philistines were chastised by both Assyria and Babylon, and the judgment predicted, instead of ceasing with these preliminary fulfilments, went on until the region was reduced to the desolation that it now is.
But Dr. Kuenen's second objection is that “the punishment of the Philistines takes place, according to the prophets, in the interest of Israel. It is against the people of Jahveh that they have transgressed ; it is the people of Jahveh, therefore, that shall reap the fruits of their destruction, take possession of their territory, and incorporate the remnant of them with themselves. In other words, with the prophets the lot of the Philistines forms a contrast to that of the Israelites. In the prophecy of Isaiah, Zion, founded by Jahveh, and a safe refuge for the poor of his people, stands in opposition to Philistia, whose inhabi
1 "Les Inscriptions Assyriennes des Sargonides," p. 36.
Josephus, “Against Apion,” i. 19.
tants perish by famine and sword. The same prophet expects that the reunited tribes 'shall fly upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west'--that is, shall extend their dominion in that direction and make the Philistines subject to them.” We might point him to the fact that the Jews under Jonathan Maccabæus and Alexander Jannæus did capture the Philistine cities; that the name Philistine thenceforward ceased out of history; and that the population of the region was subsequently absorbed into or supplanted by Jewish residents. But has not the ancient glory of Israel faded away as well as that of the Philistines? Instead of the contrast which prophecy leads us to anticipate, have they not alike fallen into decline and ruin? The answer to this question obviously involves the correctness of the prophetic expectations regarding Israel, and, to avoid needless repetition, must be reserved until the prophecies respecting Israel come regularly before us in the course of our inquiry. Meanwhile let it be noted here that all that the prophets have said concerning the Philistines has been in the fullest and strictest sense accomplished. The only point which, for the reason stated, we leave unsettled at this stage of the discussion is, Do the fortunes of Israel stand in the required contrast to those of Philistia ?
The next prophecies adduced are those against Tyre by Isaiah (chap. 23) and Ezekiel (chaps. 26–28). Of the latter Dr. Kuenen says (p. 107): “What he predicts for Tyre is nothing less than entire destruction. The many nations that march against her to battle ‘shall destroy her walls and break down her towers.' Jahveh ‘ shall sweep away her dust—the layer of earth on which her houses and gardens were placed-and make her a bare rock.' Thus she shall become 'a place where men spread nets in the midst of the sea.' The multitude of nations that execute this judgment are led by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of kings. He shall lay siege to the city, and finally shall enter in through her gates as men enter into a conquered town.' Then plundering and devastation follow until Tyre has ceased to exist."
Now, Dr. Kuenen confesses that “ Tyre capitulated ”to Nebuchadnezzar at the end of his long siege of thirteen years, and
wholly or partially lost her independence." And that this was really the case is abundantly demonstrated in Movers' elab