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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; 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 his manner. 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 diction, and elegance of expression, he is scarcely inferior to any. The
same celestial Spirit, indeed, actuated Isaiah and Daniel in the court and Amos in the sheepfolds; constantly selecting such interpreters of the Divine will as were best adapted to the occasion, and sometimes from the mouths of babes and sucklings perfecting praise,'-constantly employing the natural eloquence of some, and occasionally making others eloquent." It should, however, be observed, that rustic employments were very general and honourable among the Hebrews; and that comparisons drawn from rural scenes, and the pastoral life, are by no means peculiar to Amos; the principal images, and those of the greatest beauty and elegance, both in the poetical and prophetical parts of Scripture, being derived from the same natural objects. "We cannot reasonably be surprised," as Bp. Lowth justly observes, "to find the Hebrew writers deducing most of their metaphors from those arts particularly, in which they were educated from their earliest years. We are not to wonder that those objects which were most familiar to their senses afforded the principal ornaments of their poetry; especially since they furnished so various and so elegant an assortment of materials, that not only the beautiful, but the grand and magnificent, might be collected from them. If any person of more nicety than judgment should esteem some of these rustic images grovelling or vulgar, it may be of some use to him to be informed, that such an effect can only result from the ignorance of the critic, who, through the medium of his scanty information and peculiar prejudices, presumes to estimate matters of the most remote antiquity; it cannot reasonably be attributed as an error of the sacred poets, who not only give those ideas all their natural force and dignity, but frequently, by the vivacity and boldness of the figure, exhibit them with additional vigour, ornament, and beauty. It would be a tedious task to instance particularly with what embellishments of diction, derived from one low and trivial object, as it may appear to some, the barn, or the threshing floor, the sacred writers have contrived to add lustre to the most sublime, and a force to the most important subjects. Thus Jehovah threshes out the heathen as corn, tramples them under his feet, and disperses them. He delivers the nations to Israel to be beaten in pieces by an indented flail, (Hab. iii. 12. Joel iii. 14. Jer. li. 33. Isa. xxi. 10.) or to be crushed by their brazen hoofs. He scatters his enemies like chaff upon the mountains, (Mic. iv. 13.) and disperses them with the whirlwind of his indignation, (Ps. lxxxiii. 14, 16. Isa. xvii. 13.)
Behold, I have made thee a threshing wain;
A new corn-drag with pointed teeth:
Thou shalt thresh the mountains and beat them small,
And reduce the hills to chaff.
Thou shalt winnow them, and the wind shall bear them away;
"But the instances are innumerable which might be quoted of metaphors taken from the manners and customs of the Hebrews. One general remark, however, may be made upon this subject, namely, that from one
simple, regular, and natural mode of life having prevailed among the Hebrews, it has arisen, that in their poetry these metaphors have less of obscurity, of meanness, or depression, than could be expected, when we consider the antiquity of their writings, the distance of the scene, and the uncommon boldness and vivacity of their rhetoric. Indeed, to have made use of the boldest imagery with the most perfect perspicuity, and the most common and familiar with the greatest dignity, is a recommendation almost peculiar to the sacred poets. We shall not hesitate to produce an example of this kind, in which the meanness of the image is fully equalled by the plainness and inelegance of the expression; and yet, such is its consistency, such the propriety of its application, that we do not scruple to pronounce it sublime. The Almighty threatens the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem in these terms:
And I will wipe Jerusalem,
As a man wipeth a dish:
He wipeth it, and turneth it upside down.-2 Kings, xxi. 13.
"But many of these images must falsely appear mean and obscure to us, who differ so materially from the Hebrews in our manners and customs: but in such cases it is our duty neither too rashly to blame, nor too suddenly to despair. The mind should rather exert itself to discover, if possible, the connection between the literal and figurative meanings, which, in abstruse subjects, frequently depending upon some delicate and nice relation, eludes our penetration. An obsolete custom, for instance, or some forgotten circumstance, opportunely adverted to, will sometimes restore its true perspicuity and credit to a very intricate passage.'
The style of JONAH is narrative and simple; and the beautiful prayer in the second chapter has justly been admired. We are here presented with a fine description of the power and tender mercies of God; and the impartiality of the prophet in detailing his own weakness and folly, (a conduct almost wholly restricted to the sacred writers,) is worthy of particular notice.t
The beauty and elegance of MICAH's style have been much admired. Bp. Lowth characterises it as compressed, short, nervous, and sharp. It is often elevated, animated and sublime, and generally truly poetical, though occasionally obscure, on account of his sudden transitions from one subject to another. There are, indeed, few beauties or elegances of composition of which examples may not be found in this prophet; and for strength of expression, and sublime and impressive diction, in several places, he is unrivalled. Paronomasias, which were reputed ornaments by all the prophets, are frequently employed by Micah, of which the following are instances:
Declare ye (7 tageeddoo,) it not at Gath, () weep ye not at all.
In the house of Aphrah (775) roll thyself in the dust, (y, áphar)
* See LoWTH on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, Lecture VII. Comprehensive Bible,