Abbildungen der Seite

ill. He cursed the day of his birth; he expostulated with God for giving way to the treachery of his people; he prayed that he might see God's vengeance on them; and very unwilling to die, he at last capitulated for his life. Jer. 12: 1-4; 20: 12, 14, 37, 38. Let the learned Grotius and his followers say whether this be the carriage that suits the “meekness of the lamb, and the silence of the sheep before her shearers ?" Does it come up to "interceding for the transgressors, or the making himself freely an offering for sin ?" His sufferings possessed no merit. They did not procure him a seed, a long succession of disciples ; nor were they the means of converting Gentile kingdoms.

8. Much less does this prophecy relate to the supposed Messiah ben Joseph. The person characterized is to suffer and die for the sins of his people, that they might be healed and justified; but our Rabbins tell us that Messiah ben Joseph is to be engaged in war, and that he and his people are to be slain in battle. Again, this person is said to rise again, to be very prosperous, to have many kings subjecting themselves to him, and to have a multitude of people as his followers; but no such things are believed concerning Messiah ben Joseph. Besides, I have already shown that the whole story of two Messiahs is without foundation in the sacred Scripture, and is a mere fiction of our Rabbins.

§ 9. Once more I will show that this prophecy does not relate to the sufferings of our nation. It has been said that our nation's sufferings are to atone for the sins of the Gentiles, and to be the means of their becoming proselytes to Judaism. But this cannot be the case. For it has already been observed, that the sufferer is described as a most innocent, blameless, and holy person, who deserved no punishment on his own account. Has this been the character of our people at any time? Ask the prophets, and they will tell you

that those in their days were a sinful and rebellious people; and they prophesied of those who should live under the second temple, that their sins would be the ruin of the city,

and the cause of the dispersion of our nation. Ask our historian Josephus, and he will confirm the truth of their predictions. For thus he testifies : " If the Romans had delayed to come against them, the earth must have opened and swallowed them up, or fire been rained upon them, as on Sodom ; for the Jews were then a much wickeder generation than those that had suffered these extraordinary punishments.” Josephus De Bel. ch. 6: 16; 11:30. Nor do our Rabbins differ; for, as has already been shown, they affirm that the coming of the Messiah has been delayed because of the sins of our people.

Again, the sufferer is said to put himself voluntarily in the place of the guilty, and to bear his sufferings with unparalleled patience; but this is not applicable to our people. Notwithstanding their obedience to the laws of the countries where they live, and their prayers and supplications for “the powers that be;" yet their sufferings are not voluntary. It is well known that the obstinate resistance of our fathers to the Roman power was the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem, together with our beautiful temple, and the awful ca lamities which succeeded, too heart-rending to be described; nor would they willingly continue any longer in exile, if the God of our fathers were to open a door for their return to the land of promise, as he will surely do in his own time, as will be shown hereafter. Hence their daily prayers for deliverance.

Again, the person is said to be cut off from the land of the living, to be buried and to rise again; which expres. sions are to be understood literally, as all the rest of the prophecy, and consequently are not applicable to the suffer ings of our nation.

§ 10. Before I dismiss this part of the subject, I will just take notice of “a Jewish Tract, on the 53d chap. of Isaiah, written by Dr. Montalto, in Portuguese, about the year 1650, and translated and published in London, by Philo-Veritas. An. 1790." The author agrees in the opinion just stated, that


the sufferer mentioned means our people collectively; bu he asserts that they suffer for their own sins, and not for the sins of any other. For in ver. 8th he translates the last clause, "for the transgressions of my people were they stricken," and in his explanation he saith, God declares that the

punishments of Israel were for his own iniquities, and not for ihose imputed to them by different nations.” Again, he saith, " It becomes us to bear with fortitude those inflictions which our own transgressions have merited.”

Now my dear Benjamin will easily anticipate an objection against this author's sentiment. As he acknowledges that Israel is a sinner and deserves punishment, therefore Israel cannot be the sufferer described by Isaiah; for he is said to be innocent, and to suffer on account, in the place, and for the good of others. Again, he saith that the persons speaking and the sufferer are distinct. The former he saith are the Gentile nations, and the latter our nation, spoken of coliectively as one man. “ In the 14th and 15th verses (chap. 52,) is expressed, the astonishment of all nations, to behold our redemption !—In the 1st, 2d and 3d verses of the 53d chapter, their wonder breaks out at this sudden exaltation, by the hand of God, of a people, in whose countenances nought but shame and dejection had appeared during their long dispersion." But these persons contradict the author; whilst he asserts that the sufferer is afflicted for his own sin, they repeatedly affirm that he suffered for their sins. See ver. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12. Yea, this author contradicts himself, for he thus paraphrases verse 4th : "the nations exclaim, that surely Israel had borne the punishment of all their sins and violations." Such is the confusion and contradiction which runs through the whole of this tract; an awful speci. men of the blindness which has in part happened unto Israel.”

$11. At the close of this tract the author has an observation which is too true, even in the 19th century. It is as follows: "I hope I may be permitted to advert with more of


[ocr errors]


pleasantry than asperity to the extreme readiness of Christians to leave us in undisturbed possession of all the evil foretold us, and which we at present experience, whilst they kindly interpret of themselves those pleasing promises which hold forth with equal certainty the felicity of our latter days."

§ 12. Having, I trust, satisfactorily refuted the misapplication of this prophecy, I shall now show that our ancient Rabbins understood it of the Messiah. Instead of those words, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently,” the Targum hath it, “ behold, my servant the Messiah shall be exalted, and increase and grow up, and shall greatly increase and prevail.” R. Tanchuma says, “Behold my servant, &c. this is King Messiah, who shall be established above Abraham, shall be exalted above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels." Aben Ezra says, " This chapter is very difficult, and many have explained it of the Messiah." R. Solomon Yarchi, on the place, saith, our Rabbins understand this of the Messiah ;” and the reason he assigns for their interpretation is "that they say that the Messiah is stricken, as it is written, 'He took our infirmities and bare our griefs,'” which are the words of the 4th verse of the 53d chapter. Hence, it appears, that our ancient Rabbins joined the last three verses of the 52d chapter with the 53d, and applied the prophecy to the same person. Besides, he cites a certain Midresh out of Bereshith Ràb. on Gen. 28 : 10, where mention is made of Zach. 4:7, “Who art thou, O great mountain ?" he answereth, " That great mountain is the Messiah.” Again, he asks, “Why does he call the Messiah a great mountain ?" he answereth, “ Because He is greater than the fathers; as it is written, Behold my servant, &c. this is the Messiah.' In the same book, on Gen. 24 : 67, it is said that Messiah the King was in the generation of the wicked; that he gave himself to seek for mercies for Israel, and to fasting and humbling himself for them, as it is written," he was wounded for our transgressions," &c. See also


the same author on Ruth, 2:14. R. Moshe Alshech saith,

Behold, our doctors of blessed memory, concluded with one mouth, as they have received from their ancestors, that this is spoken of the Messiah.” In the Talmud Bab. Sanhed. the question being asked what is the name of the Messiah? It is answered, “the Leper, as it is written, Isa. 53 : 4, Surely he hath borne our griefs," &c. Certainly, our people have no cause to blame the evangelists and apostles in applying it to the Messiah. Some of our ancient Rabbins have plainly taught that the Messiah was to suffer and die in the place of his people. In Neve Shalom it is thus written : “ The purification which the Messiah will make, shall be for the expiation of sin in general, for destroying transgression and making an end of sin, which retains mankind under its yoke. For as the first Adam was the first that sinned, so Messiah shall be the last, who shall completely take away sin." Lib. 9. c. 5. In the same sense are the words, Ps. 2 : 12, explained in Medrash Thil. “This may be illustrated by a parable. A certain king was angry with his subjects. They therefore went and made his son their friend, that thus they might conciliate the mind of their king. The son de parted and reconciled his father, as they had reconciled to themselves the son. They went to give thanks to the king, but the king said to them, you give thanks to me, but go and offer them to my son, for had it not been for him, I should have destroyed the province.” Lamp. John, 1:18.

§ 13. It is evident, therefore, dear Benjamin, that the prediction under consideration respects the Messiah, and describes his sufferings and death as a real vicarious sacrifice for the sins of his people; and the language is so significant, that there is no way by which it could be more clear. ly denoted, or more properly expressed. Thus what the Messiah had engaged in the eternal covenant, to suffer in the place of his people, was predicted by the prophets. In my

next letter I will endeavor to show that Jesus of Naza. reth answered all that was typified and predicted concern.

« ZurückWeiter »