« ÎnapoiContinuați »
that it cannot constitute an original claim on the divine judgment, but becomes only an acceptance or rejection of the divine grace. This is the key-note of the apostle's thought; the immanence of the infinitely gracious and wise God, who does not leave men in individual isolation to work out their own destiny and receive a judicial award, but so binds men together, in each other, and in Him, and makes for them a world of gracious influence and association in which to dwell, and Himself dwells in them a constant source of light and love, that what they are, whether good or evil, receives its character from the free action of men, not in a world made by themselves, but in God's world, where the great tides of the ceaseless, divine activity are the central fact.
The Historical Testimony of the Prophet
BY PROF. H. FERGUSON.
CHE prophecy of Zephaniah is stated (i. 1) to have been uttered
in the reign of Josiah the son of Amon, King of Judah. The contents of the prophecy are entirely in accordance with this statement, and the authenticity of the book has never been questioned. To decide exactly to what period of the reign of Josiah it belongs, is more difficult. It was evidently, however, written before (but not long before) the destruction of Nineveh ii. 13-15), which event took place, according to the most generally received chronology, B.C. 606, some five years after Josiah's death. From the expression “remnant of Baal” (i. 4), and from the general tone of zeal for Jehovah, and reproof and reproach for his enemies, we may conclude that it was written after the beginning of the reformation of Josiah, in the twelfth year of his reign ;1 and probably after the discovery of the book of the Law, in his eighteenth year. It is therefore in the last nineteen years of Josiah's reign that we place the date of this prophecy; and as the “King's children "2 are denounced in it, it is most probable that it was not delivered until towards the end of this period, as otherwise these would have been too young to be responsible for their actions, or to inerit such bitter reproof and denunciation, since at the time of the discovery of the Law, Jehoiakim was only twelve years old, Jehoahaz only ten, while Zedekiah was not even born. We cannot be far wrong if we put the date of the prophecy at or near the twenty-fifth year of Josiah (B.C. 617-616).
So Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Rosenmüller, Jahn, Bleek, Hitzig, Keil, Delitzsch. De Wette (Schrader) considers it to belong to the first years of Josiah, before the Reformation began; so also Ewald and Hävernick.
2 On this point the majority of modern commentators are inclined to consider that children of some former king are meant; but the reasons adduced are not convincing, and there is no clear example of such a use of the phrase (II. Chron. xxii. 11, cited by Hitzig, does not seem to me to sustain his point).
Of the prophet himself nothing is known. He is described as the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah (i.q., Hezekiah). From this genealogy some have been inclined to consider him of royal blood, and a descendant of Hezekiah, King of Judah, the great-grandfather of Josiah. This can, however, be nothing more than a conjecture. More probably he was of priestly family, perhaps related to that Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah, who was “second priest” at the time of the destruction of the Temple (II. Kings xxv. 18; Jer. xxi. 1, al.). For other instances of the name, all in the tribe of Levi, see I. Chron. vi. 36; Zech. vi. 10, 14.
In his prophecy, Zephaniah foretells the sure coming of the Day of Jehovah ; i.e., of Jehovah's triumph and vengeance. When it shall come, Jerusalem shall be destroyed and the land depopulated. The Philistines, Moab and Ammon, shall be utterly destroyed, and their land eventually possessed, by the remnant of Judah. The Ethiopians also shall be slain by the sword. Assyria shall be destroyed, and Nineveh be made a wilderness. But the prophecy is not without its brighter side and note of promise, and foretells that, after Jerusalem shall have been punished, a remnant shall still be left which shall return, and shall be richly blessed, and shall be made a name and a praise among all people. Such, very briefly epitomized, are the contents of the prophecy.
But the book also bears witness to the condition of the people at the time it was written, and we may find in it some facts in regard to the social and religious condition of the people at the time of Josiah's Reformation, not elsewhere given with equal explicitness. The writer was an ardent supporter of Jehovah, and as such was doubtless in thorough sympathy with the band of reformers, who were struggling against heathenism and idolatry, and the attendant and inseparable immorality. Very probably he was joined to them, also, by ties of blood ; if of the royal seed, being related to Josiah ; if, as is likely, his grandfather Amariah was the priest of that name in the reign of Hezekiah (II. Chron. xxxi. 15), he was nearly related to Hilkiah and the other priestly reformers. It must always be remembered that Josiah's reformation was not at all a popular movement, but was carried with a high hand by the zealous and enthusiastic king, only to give place to a renewal of the former indifference and idolatry after his death at Hadad Rimmon. It is too much to say, as wellhausen does ("Encyclop. Britt.," art. Israel), that the people observed the covenant during Josiah’s lifetime. Such might be considered to have been the case were the books of Kings and Chronicles our only sources of information, as the annalist, carried away by the last gleam of prosperity to the people, is oblivious to the darker shadows that were cast upon it. But in the prophecies of Zephaniah and Jeremiah, making all necessary allowance for the different standpoint of historian and preacher, we cannot fail to find unmistakable proof that the covenant was not adhered to even while Josiah was alive, but that it was openly as well as secretly violated by all classes among the people. The Hebrews, or rather the Jews, at that day were syncretists in their religion ; it might have been said of them, as of their neighbors in Samaria, that they feared Jehovah and worshiped graven images at the same time; the priests were too often like Urijah in the reign of Ahaz, an hundred years before, pliant instruments of the will of a despotic king, and the prophets, with a few exceptions, made a trade of their prophetic powers, and were indifferent to the truth or falsity of their utterances. But a kernel of life was yet left in the nation ; as in Israel in the days of Elijah, so now there were some faithful men who had not bowed the knee to Baal or given in their adhesion to the fashionable indifference or toleration; and now, having gained to their side the young and enthusiastic king, who had wished to serve Jehovah when he only knew him as the “God of David his father” (II. Chron. xxxiv. 3), and who now was devoted to His cause, they enlisted all his youthful vigor and all his unlimited royal power in a re-establishment of the worship of Jehovah, in greater glory than had been ever known. Great repairs were undertaken in the Temple, which had been alternately neglected by the better and pillaged by the worse of the various monarchs who had preceded Josiah, from the days of Rehoboam down. There was, indeed, a strange condition of affairs, the wrong and incongruity of which does not seem to have been fully appreciated even by the servants of Jehovah themselves. In the Temple Solomon had built to Jehovah, and which had been most solemnly dedicated to His glory, were contained at this time (II. Kings xxiii. 4, ff.) vessels made for Baal, and for the Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and more than all this, even a "grove," or Asherah, a symbolical representation of the female divinity of the Canaanites. At the door of the Temple stood the horses consecrated to the sun, and chariots of the sun. By the side of the Temple were houses or stalls where male prostitutes plied their horrid trade, a part of the religious worship of the land. In the very courts of the Temple were altars for all the host of heaven, which Manasseh had made, and on the top of the upper chamber of Abaz, other altars, which had been placed there by former kings of Judah. Such was the condition of the Temple of Jehovah when the work of restoration began. And as it was defiled with these incongruous additions, so had it been despoiled of much that had made it rich and beautiful. The gold doors of the Temple, and the golden overlaid pillars, and all the silver in the Lord's house, had been given by Hezekiah to Sennacherib, as a bribe to purchase his favor (II. Kings xviii. 15, 16). Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, had already sacrificed for a like purpose the borders of the bases, and the brazen oxen that held the brazen sea, and the "covert for the Sabbath," and the King's entry (II. Kings xvi. 17, 18). (The silver and gold of the Temple seem to have been commonly used for this purpose in times of need. Cf. I. Kings xv. 18; II. Kings xii. 18, xvi. 8, xviii. 15.) The Temple had been twice plundered by a foreign enemy: once by Shishak, King of Egypt, in the reign of Rehoboam (I. Kings xiv. 25, 26), and once by Jehoash, King of Israel; in the reign of Amaziah the son of Joash (II. Kings xiv. 14). It is true that devout monarchs had from time to time restored the building and lavished their treasures upon it (I. Kings xv. 15; II. Kings xii. 4-16, xv. 35), but the dilapidations had been far greater than the repairs, and its beauty and glory must have been greatly diminished.
And outside the Temple walls, the condition was a strange one for the capital city of the people of Jehovah, who had remained faithful to Him, and to the central sanctuary of His worship, when the Ten Tribes had withdrawn from their allegiance to the House of David. Idolatrous priests (b'103) burned incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem ; others burned incense to Baal, to the sun and to the moon, and to the planets and to all the host of heaven. In the valley of the children of Hinnom, immediately without the city wall, men made their children pass through the fire to Molech ; and in the Mount of Olives were high places Solomon had built, where the worship of Ashtoreth and Chemosh and Milcom (probably identical with Molech) was carried on continually. And, as a hundred years before, in the days of Isaiah, so now were to be found, in both Judah and Jerusalem, workers with familiar spirits and wizards (II. Kings xxiii. 5, 10,
But, during the repairing of the House of Jehovah, Hilkiah, the High Priest, made a discovery of momentous importance, which at once enlarged the scope and changed the character of the reformation (II. Kings xxii. 8). He found in the Temple, where it had lain