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Dissertation Sixth.


Ezekiel 4:1

Bishop Warburton (book 4 section 4 of his Divine Legation) has ably discussed the Oriental and Egyptian methods of symbolical writing. He explains Ezekiel’s method of hieroglyphics, volume 2, page 57, edit. 1837. Oecolampadius comments very practically on this exercise of the ars σκιογραφίκη. “The Church is besieged by its enemies, because it is a despiser of God’s word. Heretics erect the towers of human traditions, and oppose the tower and doctrine of David, since it is not defended by any shield. They set up human righteousness, and are not subject to that of God.” The whole passage is worthy of perusal, and is in striking contrast with the sober and unimaginative comment of Calvin. The custom of writing on bricks is thus noticed by Pliny: “Epigenes informs us that the Babylonians had inscribed their observations on the stars for 720 years on burnt bricks, coctilibus laterculis.” Hist. Nat., book 8 section 57. The chief point of interest in this narrative is its visionary character. The best commentators agree that none of these actions were real the lying on the left side for 390 days was only in a vision. the left hand is supposed to refer to the ten tribes, as Samaria was situated to the left of Jerusalem. In the 4th verse, “you shall bear the punishment of their iniquity,” is correctly interpreted by Newcome, “you shall presignify the punishment which they shall bear.” This is the only sense which similar passages can have — St. Paul having shown us, that the picture-writing of the Jewish law had its real fulfillment in the work of Messiah.


Ezekiel 4:5

There is a difference in the number of days between the Hebrew text and that of the Septuagint. The latter assigns but 190 days to the kingdom of Israel, and yet agrees with the Hebrew in assigning forty days to the kingdom of Judea. Theodoret, in his comment on the passage, explains the Septuagint as follows. Although in the reign of Rehoboam the people were divided, yet they are considered as one nation, being separate, and yet conjoined. When, therefore, the Prophet had assigned 150 days to Israel and 40 to Judea, he combines them again, and makes 190 days. These forty days represent the forty years which remained of the original seventy. Thirty years of captivity were now passed for Ezekiel began to prophesy in the thirtieth year of the captivity; and Jeremiah shows us, that in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jeconiah, Evilad-marodach raised his head and led him from his prison-house in the first year of his reign. Then came Baltasar, and Darius the Mede; whence the forty days of Judea signify the forty remaining years and the 150 concerning Israel indicate the 150 years after the building of the city, and its becoming fined with inhabitants. This happened in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, in the time of Nehemiah. Beginning, then, at the fifth year of Jeconiah’s captivity, we shall find it forty years to the first year of Cyrus the Persian, then twenty-nine years for the reign of Cyrus, seven for Cambyses, thirty-five for Darius Hystaspes, twenty for Xerxes, and nineteen for Artaxerxes, since in the next year the walls were built. The Israelites participated in this return for though formerly destined from the tribe of Judea, they were afterwards united, and all inhabited their common metropolis together.

Jerome also notices this difference of numbering, being surprised that the common reading in his day was 190 years; while the Hebrew text, and Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, all read 390 years, and even those copies of the Septuagint which are not, vitiated. Some, he adds, compute it from the baptism of our Savior to the end of the world; others again from the destruction of Jerusalem, in the reign of Vespasian, to a period of prosperity for the once favored nation. The events of history have shown the fallacy of these computations. Ephrem, in his comments on this passage, speaks of the 430 years as beginning with the reign of Solomon, and as extending to the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. Jerome’s method of computing this period is worthy of notice. He dates its commencement from the reign of Pekah, the son of Remaliah, (2 Kings 15:29,) and its close during the reign of Artaxerxes Mnemon, who is the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther. He reckons the length of the reign of each thing in succession, and satisfies himself that he has computed the number which he finds it the prophets, since he reckons this historical period to consist of 389 years and four months. The sleeping on the right side for forty days he interprets, from Nebuchadnezzar’s carrying away Jehoiakim to Babylon, to the first, year of the sway of Cyrus, under whom the Jews obtained their freedom. The writers on Biblical Chronology do not acquiesce in this computation. J. G. Frank commences the period with the revolt under Jeroboam, and concludes it with the destruction of Solomon’s temple. Jeroboam’s first year agrees with the year 3215 of the Jubilee period, and the destruction of the kingdom of Israel in 3470. “If, therefore,” says he, “you add 390 years to 3214, the date of Jeroboam’s revolt, you will obtain 3604 Jub. per., corresponding to the destruction of Solomon’s temple.” 365365     See Nov. Syst. Chronol. Fund., lib. 1 chapter 4 section 92, page 165.

The Hebrew commentators, R. Solomon and David, do not suppose that a time of punishment for sin is represented, but the time during which it was committed, and so they date the beginning of the period during the early judges, and close it in the reign of Hosea. (Ecolampadius adopts this comment with approval, but Maldonatus pronounces it to be erroneous, “for the Prophet is not speaking of their sins, but of their punishment.” Grotius supposes it to represent the time of God’s patient endurance of the sins of the people. The settlement of this question depends upon the use of the phrase נשא עון, nasa ghon, to bear iniquity, or the punishment of iniquity. The word is used in both senses; it occurs in Genesis 4:13, and Genesis 19:15; Psalm 69:27, where the authorized version and the marginal readings imply that our translators were aware of the twofold use of the word. The idea of “punishment” seems most suitable here; and the adoption of this translation would cause us to neglect the Jewish interpretation, and to count the years forward from the times of Ezekiel, and to seek for the fulfillment of the prophecy in those events of Israel’s history which were then future.

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