Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

dition, the Apostle does not determine; that a considerable length of time will be necessary for the complete organization of the great confederacy, seems only reasonable to imagine; but that the fall of the Ottoman empire pave the way for it, appears to be almost asserted by St. John.

will

The tenor both of the present and the preceding prophecy necessarily leads us to conclude, that, at the period of their accomplishment, the Jews will abound in the land of Egypt. Mr. Niebuhr accordingly informs us, that "the Jews are the most numerous class in Ciaro, next after the Mohammedans and the Copts. Some Pharisees or Talmudists reside here, as well as Karaites; who, though not numerous, have a synagogue of their own. The Talmudists are numerous and powerful. They have long farmed all the customs; an undertaking, which brings them both wealth and credit. In the republican government of Egypt they find it easier to gain steady protectors, than in the other provinces of Turkey, where all depends upon the caprice of a Pacha who knows not how soon he may lose his place, or of the superintendant of the customs who resides in Constantinople. One proof of the consequence, which the Jews enjoy under the aristocracy of Cairo, is, that the offices of the customs are shut upon their sabbath, and no goods can pass on that day, although belonging to Christians or Mussulmans*."

The prophet, having now foretold the temporary calamities which the Egyptians should experience from the invasion of Antichrist, proceeds to announce their conversion to genuine Christianity. In the midst of their troubles, when they cry unto the Lord because of their oppressors, he shall send them a Saviour and a Great One, and he shall deliver them. In consequence of this happy change in their circumstances, the Lord shall be known to Egypt; and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall minister sacrifice and oblation: Assyria likewise shall partake of the blessing, and join with Israel and Egypt in praising God. Now, since this knowledge of the Lord is the evident result of a Saviour and a Great

* Travels, Vol. i. p. 102.

One being sent to the Egyptians, I know not what person we can reasonably understand by THE SAVIOUR, except the MESSIAH.

What precise five cities are alluded to, as adopting the religious confession of Canaan, and. as swearing by the Lord of hosts, can only be satisfactorily determined by the event. The most natural explanation seems to be, that the five principal cities of Egypt are considered as including all the rest; and that this phraseology is only a varied method of declaring, what the prophet in the course of the same prediction more explicitly declares, that the whole land of Egypt should be converted to the profession of the true faith. It perhaps may not be altogether unworthy of notice, that D'Anville, in his map of Egypt, assigns to the Delta precisely five principal cities, the names of which he writes in capitals: Alexandria, Rashid, Damiat, Fouah, and Mahalle Kebir. He likewise divides the Delta into exactly five provinces: Bahire, Garbie, Dakelie, Sharkie, and Menufie. As for Cairo, it is situated at the head of the Delta, somewhat higher than the grand division of the Nile. In one of these provinces stood, I believe, the ancient Heliopolis, or city of the_Sun*.

At the conclusion of the present prophecy, Isaiah predicts, as he had already done at the conclusion of his former prophecy, that there should be a close intercourse and religious connection between Assyria, Israel, and Egypt. They should be united together, as the different parts of a single kingdom are, by a common highway; and they should jointly experience the benefit of being the blessed of the Lord of hosts †.

In the interpretation, which I have here given of the 19th chapter of Isaiah, I am conscious that I have most materially differed from Bp. Newton and his precursor Vitringat. The Bishop conceives, that the cruel lords and the fierce king primarily mean Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylomans; but principally Cambyses, Ochus, and

See the Map prefixed to the report of Citizen Ripaud. tCompare Isaiah xi. 15, 16. with xix. 5, 23, 24, 25.

Bp. Lowth follows Bp. Newton in his opinion respecting the accomplishment of this prophecy.

the Persians that what is said, respecting the exhaustion and diversion of the river, alludes to the consequences of the subjection and slavery to which Egypt was reduced by the Persians, her poverty and want, her mourning and lamentation, her confusion and misery: that the saviour and the mighty one, who delivered the Egyptians, is Alexander the great*; that their conversion is the partial diffusion of religious knowledge by the instrumentality of the Jews, who are thence represented as the medium of religious connection between Egypt and Assyria: that the five cities were Heliopolis, mentioned by the prophet himself, and four others spoken of by Jeremiah as being the places of the residence of the Jews; namely, Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph, and some other in the country of Pathros, the name of which is not particularized and that the building of the altar in the midst of the land of Egypt alludes to the building of a Jewish temple by Onias in the prefecture of Heliopolis +.

The whole of this interpretation appears to me to fall very far short of the most natural and obvious meaning of the original. The immediate connection of the 19th chapter with its two predecessors certainly leads one prima facie to conclude, that its subject is the same: because we find Egypt and Assyria similarly, almost indeed in the very same words, connected with the restoration of the Jews by Isaiah himself in his 11th chapter; because Zechariah again, still almost in the same words, unites the restoration of Israel with the fates of Egypt and Assyria‡; and because Daniel exactly in the same manner predicts, that at the era of the restoration of the Jews Egypt should be conquered by Antichrists. But, if the 19th chapter of Isaiah be connected with the restoration, as the general harmony of prophecy seems to require, and as its situation immediately after the 17th and 18th chapters naturally suggests, I know not now it can have any relation to events long since past. What the Bishop says respecting

* His Lordship seems to think, that not only Alexander may be intended by the Saviour and the great one, but also his immediate successor in Egypt, Ptolemy, who like himself was styled the great, and Ptolemy Soter or the Saviour. This play upon words would have better become a less grave commentator than the excellent Newton. † Dissert. xii.

Zechar. x. 10-12.

$ Dan. xi. 42, 43, xii. 1.

the exhaustion of the river seems scarcely allowable on the common principles of symbolical interpretation. If the Nile is here to be understood figuratively, the drying up and diversion of its streams can with difficulty be conceived to mean the introduction of poverty, lamentation, and confusion, among the Egyptians: it would rather typify, as I have already stated, the subversion of their polity and their gradual depopulation and emigration. As for the Saviour and the great one, the evident connection, in which that person is placed with a general diffusion of real religion throughout Egypt, will not allow us, without a singular degree of harshness, to suppose him to be Alexander the great. Whatever increase of religion there might be in Egypt during his reign and those of his successors, the Egyptians, as a nation, were undoubtedly idolaters. The same remark applies with equal force to the Assyrians. Hence I cannot but think the introduction of comparatively a few Jews into those countries a most imperfect and unsatisfactory solution of the predicted religious unity of Egypt, Israel, and Assyria. Is it reasonable to believe, that the Lord of hosts would esteem Israel the third with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; and that he should be represented as saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance ; merely because Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jews captive to Babylon, and because many of the same people had emigrated to Egypt in the days of Alexander and the Ptolemies? How then will our doubt respecting the propriety of this interpretation be increased, when we find Bp. Newton himself confessing, that the Egyptian Jews "were generally very wicked men, and disobedient to the word of the Lord, and that upon that account the prophet Jeremiah denounced the heaviest judgments against them." His Lordship adds indeed, as if with a view to anticipate the objection which so naturally arises out of his own statement, that "some good men might be ming. led among them, who might open his prophecies to the Egyptians, and they themselves when they saw them fulfilled might embrace the Jewish religion." But in the case of a prophecy, which is said to be already accom

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« ÎnapoiContinuă »