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“The Everlasting Father."
BY REV. T. W. CHAMBERS, D. D.
In Isaiah ix. 6, 7, there is a remarkable prediction of a child who is justly to bear titles of a very extraordinary character. One of these titles is rendered in our Authorized Version, The Everlasting Fatherthe Hebrew being . The force of this phrase, it is proposed now to consider. It is agreed by all that the first noun is in the construct state, and that its primary meaning is father.
The only questions that arise are as to the nature of the genitive and the meaning of the second noun.
1. An early opinion, originating with Abarbanel, and afterwards adopted by Hitzig, Knobel, and Kuenen, gives to the sense of booty, a meaning which it certainly has in Gen. xlix. 27, Isaiah xxxiii. 23, and Zeph. iii. 8, where, however, the connection imperatively requires it. In all other cases, nearly fifty in number, it denotes perpetuily. Nor is there any reason for departing from the ordinary sense here, since there is nothing in the attributes of the peaceful and righteous Ruler to suggest that he is a plundering conqueror who reigns by violence and fills his treasury with spoils, but, on the contrary, much that points in another direction.
2. A second rendering is that of the A. V., which retains the usual meaning of both words and makes the genitive one of attributeFather of everlasting=Everlasting Father. Thus Gesenius, Ewald, Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, and Maurer. This is certainly a possible rendering, since we have in Hab. (iii. 6) W7, where no one doubts that the second noun represents a quality of the first, viz., perpetuity. The difficulty in adopting this view here is the fact that it gives to the subject of the prophecy a title which is never applied to the Messiah elsewhere in the S. S., and one which it is perplexing either to explain exegetically or to apply homiletically. Christ's relations to his
people are set forth in a vast variety of ways by the Sacred Writers, but never by any borrowed from the paternal tie-the word father, with all its boundless wealth of meaning, being reserved for the first person of the Godhead, the Father of all, while Messiah is over and over set forth in the New Testament as the brother of his people.
3. A third view makes the genitive one of authorship (auctoris). a) Thus Grotius makes it=father of a numerous offspring.
b) The Douay version, with which Lowth agrees, identifying with abiy, makes the phrase mean father of a new age, or, as the older version has it, father of the world to come. (LXX. (Alex. text] TATİP Toù novios a'wvos. Vulg. Pater futuri sæculi.)
This again is a possible rendering, but certainly not probable. For it gives to the second noun a meaning which it has nowhere else in the Scriptures, and if Isaiah had intended to convey this sense he would have used awy which was ready at his hand. Besides, the idea thus given makes no perceptible addition either in dignity or in efficacy to what has already been ascribed to the child whose name is wonderful. If he is mighty God, he is of course father or founder of the new age just as he was of all preceding ages.
(c) Another modification of this view regards the phrase as showing Messiah to be the author of eternity, i. e., eternal life to his people. But while this is a certain and blessed truth, and one set forth with frequency and precision in the New Testament, it is not contained in the Old, except by implication. Nor does it seem natural to interject a purely spiritual conception like this into a description, which borrowing its terms from an earthly throne sets forth the inherent dignity of Messiah as a mighty, successful, peaceful and permanent monarch, the increase of whose government has no end. While the doctrine of immortality was certainly known to the ancient saints, yet it was not emphasized and repeated in such a way as to render it natural to expect that it would be identified with the person of Messiah so directly and distinctly as this interpretation would make it here.
4. A fourth view is that which makes the genitive one of possession. This is an Arabic usage of very common occurrence in ancient times and modern, but in Hebrew is found very rarely, and then only in proper names, e. g., Abitub 210 father of goodness, i. e., the good one. In Job xvii. 14, the patient man salutes the grave, saying, “Corruption, thou art my father," i. l., corruption possesses me.
And if we render now by pit, as some contend that we always
should, the sense is the same. If this view be adopted then we have the phrase indicating eternity as an attribute of the Messiah. He is self-existing and ever-living--a sense which admirably accords with the whole connection, especially the preceding clause. The prophet after saying that the future deliverer is the mighty God, specifies one of the divine perfections, that incommunicable excellence by which Jehovah is the first cause and last end of all things. Father of eternity because it is He that gives substance and body to the conception of infinite duration. Duration implies something that endures. Now God is the Being who having neither beginning of days nor end of years gives to us the concrete meaning of the abstract statement. And to ascribe this attribute to the Messiah, to him who is to be born as a child, is exactly in line with the rest of the marvellous prediction, and gives increased emphasis and meaning to the startling collocation of human qualities and divine in the future ruler of Israel. Born in time and seated on the throne of David, he is yet the Everlasting One, whose goings forth have been from of old, even from the days of eternity. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end, just because of his existence there has been no beginning
Finally, whatever be the meaning of the phrase, the English translation should be “father of eternity” in accordance witth the ancient Arabic and the modern (Dr. Van Dyck’s), the Syriac, ancient* and modern, the Chaldee Paraphrase, the French of Martin and the Dutch of the States Bible.
*That is, in the Ambrosian Codex, for the text in the London Polyglott omits the first word of the phrase and reads "mighty God of eternity."
The Relation of Ezekiel to the Levitical Law.
BY PROF. FREDERIC GARDINER, D. D.
In the discussions which have arisen of late years about the origin and date of the Mosaic legislation it has been generally recognized that the book of Ezekiel, especially in its later chapters, has a peculiar importance. The traditional view regards the laws of the Pentateuch as having been given through Moses to the Israelites soon after their Exodus from Egypt, and as having formed in all subsequent ages their more or less perfectly observed standard of ecclesiastical law and religious ceremonial; the view of several modern critics, on the other hand, is that this legislation was of gradual development, having its starting point, indeed, quite far back in the ages of Israel's history, but reaching its full development only in the times succeeding the Babylonian exile. Especially, the exclusive limitation of the functions of the priesthood to the Aaronic family, and the distinction between the priests and their brethren of the tribe of Levi, as well as the cycle of the feasts and other like matters, are held by these critics to be of post-exilic origin.
The writings of a priest who lived during the time of the exile, and who devotes a considerable part of his book to an ideal picture of the restored theocracy, its temple, its worship, and the arrangement of the tribes, cannot fail to be of deep significance in its bearing upon this question. Certain facts in regard to Ezekiel are admitted by all: he was himself a priest (i. 3); he had been carried into captivity not before he had reached early manhood; and, whether he had himself ministered in the priest's office at Jerusalem (as Kuenen positively asserts, Relig. of Israel, vo\ ii. p. 105) or not, he was certainly thoroughly conversant with the ceremonial as there practiced and with the duties of the priesthood; further, he began his prophecies a few years aster Zedekiah was carried into captivity, and continued them until near the middle of the Babylonian exile, the last nine chapters being dated "in the 25th year of our captivity," which corresponds with the
33d of Nebuchadrezzar's reign. If any development of Israel's religion, therefore, were going on during the captivity, it must have been already well advanced at the time of this vision. So far there is a general agreement. The main point necessarily follows:--that in such case Ezekiel's vision must present an intermediate stage on the line of progress from that which we certainly know to have existed before to that which we know, with equal certainty, was practiced afterwards.
It is indeed theoretically conceivable that in the course of this development of religion Ezekiel may have been a strange, erratic genius, who was both regardless of the traditions of his fathers and was without influence upon the course of his successors; but such strange estimation of him is entertained by no one, and needs no refutation. It would be contradicted by his birth, his position as a prophet, his evident estimation among his contemporaries, and his relations to his fellow prophet-priest, Jeremiah.
It may be assumed that his writings were an important factor in whatever religious development actually occurred.
This argument is the more important on account of the great weight attached by some critics to the argument e silentio. This argument can be only of limited application in regard to historical books, fully occupied as they are with other matters, and only occasionally and incidentally alluding to existing ecclesiastical laws and customs; but it is plainly of great importance in this prophetical setting forth of quite a full and detailed ecclesiastical scheme. The omission of references to any ritual law or feast or ceremony in the historical books can occasion no surprise, and afford no just presumption against the existence of such rites and ceremonies, unless some particular reason can be alleged why they should have been mentioned; but a corresponding omission from the pages of Ezekial is good evidence either that the thing omitted was too familiar to require mention, or else that he purposely excluded it from his scheme. In other words, it shows that what he omits, as compared with the mosaic law, was either already entirely familiar to him and to the people; or else that the law he sets forth was, in these particulars, different from the Mosaic law. To illustrate by an example: There can be no question that circumcision was a fundamental rite of the religion of the Israelites, practiced in all ages of their history; yet, after the Pentateuch and the few first chapters of Joshua, there is no mention of it, and the words circumcise, circumcised, circumcision, do not occur in the sacred literature down to the time of Jeremiah; neither does the word foreskin, except in connection with David's giving the foreskins of the