Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 23: Ezekiel, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
ON IMPORTANT SUBJECTS,
TREATED OF IN THESE LECTURES.
1 — On The Cherubim Ezekiel 1:1.
2 — Calvinus Judaizans An Orthodoxus?
3 — Calvin’s Severity Towards The Jews
4 — The Figurative Expressions Of Ezekiel
5 — On Eating The Roll α Ezekiel 3:1. The Great Rushing β Ezekiel 3:12 On Tel-Abib γ Ezekiel 3:12.
6 — Jerusalem Painted On A Brick α Ezekiel 4:1 The Three Hundred And Ninety Days β Ezekiel 4:5.
7 — The Septuagint Order Ezekiel 7:3-13.
8 — The Image Of Jealousy Ezekiel 8:1-14.
9 — The Man In The Linen Garment Ezekiel 9:2.
10 — The Coals Scattered Over The City Ezekiel 10:2.
11 — The Five-And-Twenty Evil Counsellors Ezekiel 11:1.
12 — The False Prophets α Ezekiel 13:1. On The Principle Of Accommodation. Β On The Phrase Prostituerunt Deum γ Ezekiel 13:19.
13 — Israel An Adulteress α Ezekiel 16:1 Captive Israel And Papal Rome. β Ezekiel 16:20. On The Word Nephesh, Soul γ Ezekiel 16:27 The Primitive Church And The New Testament δ Ezekiel 16:61.
14 — The Great Eagle α Ezekiel 17:3 The Lofty Branch Of The Tall Cedar. β Ezekiel 17:22
15 — The Eating Sour Grapes α Ezekiel 18:1. Usury And Interest. β Ezekiel 18:8. Perplexing And Thorny Questions γ Ezekiel 18:20
16 — The Sabbath A Sacrament And A Mystery. Ezek. 20:13, 14.
ON THE CHERUBIM.
THE Visions recorded in the first and tenth chapters of this Prophet have received much illustration, and yet remain involved in great obscurity. It seems desirable to supply some information, even at the risk of being tedious and minute. The living creatures of the first chapter are called in the ninth and tenth — cherubim. The derivation of the word is a point of some importance. Castell, in his elaborate Lex. Hept., connects it with the Chaldee root כרב, kereb, signifying “to plough,” and quotes Eze 1:10, where “an ox” occurs, “a strong animal, of great labor, especially in ploughing; and being used for the expiation of sins, becomes a type of Christ, who is there perhaps to be understood; for as the ox is the leader of the herd, so Christ is the head of the faithful.” Josephus says they were animals never seen by any one. (Antiq., lib. 3. chapter 6, and lib. 8 chapter 2.) The Arabic root of the same three letters, kereb, signifies anxiety and oppressive labor, anxit animum, invertit aratio terram; while the cognate forms of the Syriac signify ploughing and laborious effort. “The most probable,” says Gesenius, “among the many derivations of this word which have been proposed, is that from the Syriac, potens magnus fortis.” Professor Lee writes, in evident despair, “It would be idle to offer anything on the etymology: nothing satisfactory having yet been discovered. Castell, Simonis, Gesenius, etc., may be consulted by those who wish to see what has been said on this subject.” The cherubic form has been fully portrayed by our Commentator; and by engravings in the Cyclopcedia of Biblical Literature we are enabled to compare Egyptian and Persian winged symbols with those of the Hebrews. A sculptured bas-relief of a winged human figure as it existed before the time of Moses, and placed by the Egyptians over their sacred arcs, is worthy of comparison with the descriptions of Scripture. The Persian bas-relief at Moung-Aub, is a human figure arrayed in an embroidered robe, “with such quadruple wings as the vision of Ezekiel ascribes to the cherubim, with the addition of ample horns, the well-known symbols of regal power.” The opinions of divines relative to their design and signification are very diversified. Among the ancients Philo supposed them to signify the two hemispheres, the flaming sword showing the motion of the planets, and the lion and the man being Leo and Aquarius, the signs of the Zodiac. Irenaeus (Adv. Heres. 3:11) treats them as emblems of the four elements, the four quarters of the globe, the four gospels, and the four covenants. Tertullian (Apolog. cap. 47.) referred them to the torrid zone, while Justin Martyr treats Ezekiel’s figures as relating to Nebuchadnezzar eating grass like the ox, with his hand like a lion’s, and his nails like the claws of a bird, (Quaest. et Respons. 44, page 325, edit. Heidelbergae, 1593;) and that they were consolatory to the captive Israelites by setting before them the prospect of their own return, and their oppressor’s downfall. The analogy to the four gospels, as presented to us by Irenaeus, is peculiarly ingenious, and worthy of perusal. Spencer, in his Ritual Observances of the Hebrews, has ingeniously explained their form and description. (Lib. 3. Dissert. 5 cap. 3. and 4 section 2.) Grotius considers them to represent “the properties of God, and his actions towards his people,” (Annot. in Vet. Test.;) and Doederlin, while conceding the praise of ingenuity to the conjectures of his author, yet treats his speculations as the abortion rather than the legitimate offspring of a luxuriant fancy. (Vogel’s edit. Grot. continued by Doeder., volume 2 page 247.) Further information as to the views of ancient writers has been collected by Rosenmuller, on Eze 1:10, edit. see. Lipsiae, 1826. The translation of Houbigant may be consulted, and Spencer on the Laws and Ritual of the Hebrews, lib. 3. Dissert. 5, chapter 1, and folk The various readings on which different translations are founded are rendered very accessible to the English reader by the simple and comprehensive notes of Archbishop Newcome.
It is interesting to observe the way in which the learned Jesuit Maldonatus comments on this first: chapter. He interprets the four visions separately first, the tempest; next, the figure of the four animals; the third, the form of the wheels; and the fourth, the firmament., and the man sitting on the throne. He objects to the allegorical interpretation of Origen and in school, and considers that the tempest signifies the calamities which the Chaldaeans caused to the Jews and their city. By the whirlwind, the nearness of the calamities is pointed out; and by the north wind, its rapidity and destructive force. Some, he says, refer it to Babylon, making it symbolize the manners of the Chaldaeans, which were rough and boisterous. The great cloud seems to him to signify the army of the king of Babylon; and the fire, his wrath and fury: the surrounding brightness is an indication of the divine majesty, and the amber color is an image of God himself. Jerome takes the amber as a symbol of pity, since amber has an attractive power, and by placing it in connection with the army of the king of Babylon, it implies that God directed every event concerning the captivity. Gregory and others interpret the amber of Christ.
The Second Vision he considers more difficult; he first gives the views of other interpreters, and then brings forward his own formed divino beneficio, meditando, legendo, orando. Origen (Hom. 1. in Ezekiel) takes the four living creatures for the four affections of man’s nature: the man representing the reasoning faculty, the lion the inflammable passions, the ox concupiscence, and the eagle, as it soars upwards, the divine spirit, within us. St. Ambrose (Lib. 3. de virinibus) refers them to prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice. Jerome and Gregory understand them of the four evangelists; and the details respecting the wheels, the wings, and the sparks of fire, are consistently interpreted. Catina Syrius refers them to the camp of Israel in the desert: the face of a man meaning all Israel, that of a lion the tribe of Judea, that of an ox the tribe of Levi, and that of an eagle God looking down from above, and taking vengeance on the people. Theodoret (Comment. in loc.) considers them to represent the majesty and glory of God resident in these cherubim. It appears that in his day the opinion of Jerome was most popular; and it was necessary to give many reasons why the four evangelists were not signified by this vision. Philosophical interpreters also existed, no unworthy predecessors of the German rationalists. They supposed all things indiscriminately signified by these representatives of animated nature, while some preferred the changes of the events of providence to the manifestations of external nature. His own opinion he records as follows: that the cherubim represent four heathen kingdoms, Chaldean, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Tyrian. He supposes them placed under the firmament, and under the sapphire throne, to indicate the supreme power of the Almighty over all things. The wings are the human guards by which kings protect themselves; the hands represent human industry, strength, and labor; the fire indicates the Spirit of God in kings; and the various motions forwards and backwards show the changes in governments and the perturbations of empires, all under the control of a supreme governor. This scheme is well fortified by passages of Scripture, and has the merit of great exactness and ingenuity. 352
We now turn to a very different interpreter — Oecolampadius. His comments of this chapter is essentially spiritual. He sees in it a representation of God judging the world through Christ. The great truths of revelation he sees obscurely shadowed forth under carnal and Jewish images; and he is anxious to point out the spiritual reign of Christ as promulgated by these outward and visible representations of God’s glory. He refers these visions, first of all, to the Jews and their captivity; but he claims for them the office of tangibly illustrating the abiding glory of the universal assembly of the faithful. “The universal Church,” he says, “has three parts’ first, its head is Hasmal, represented as an old man seated on a throne next, animals, the just or living members, are those more perfect in the Church, adorned with a variety of gifts’ the wheels are the weaker and more ordinary members, which belong to the body, and form the common herd of believers, who belong to the more solid parts of the Church, since they are under the influence of the same Spirit, although they have not attained that fullness of which St. Paul speaks, and have not drunk into the peculiar and interior spirit of the Gospel.” 353 He then confesses the great difficulty of ascertaining the correct interpretation’ he rejects all Jewish comments, and approves of the spiritualizing method of referring it to the coming kingdom of Christ. The whirlwind, for instance, he asserts to be a figure of the devastation which preceded Christ’s first coming, and shall also signalize his second advent- the great cloud expresses God’s judgments on the world, and the fire the process of trial through which all things are to pass. Hasmal he regards as the name of an angel or fiery living one speaking, and blames Jerome for following the Septuagint, and translating it electrum.
This spiritually-minded reformer has furnished a valuable exposition of the mystery contained in the vision recorded in the tenth chapter, which is worthy of notice. The likeness of a man upon the throne he assumes to be our Savior, whose reign is supreme “in the consciences of his elect.” Most properly is he called Hasmal, “quod de eo admirabunda taciturnitate, et per cogitationes arcanas magnifica loquamur, opus dei in illo admirantes.” The cherubim are beneath him, because he is adored by angels, and has spirits for his messengers and attendants. The firmament, he says, is grace offered through Christ, which strengthens the hearts of the elect by being infused with in them. The living creatures, their wheels and machinery for motion, represent the progress of the Church, suffering as yet under corruption, but waiting and groaning for the redemption of the body. In each living creature all qualities are bound together; for the four faces represent the spiritual endowments of advancing Christians; the same animal is a man in judgment, a lion in patient endurance, a calf in usefulness and guileless sincerity, and an eagle in prompt and cheerful obedience to its lord the wings are faith and divine love, which veil the face, which is conscience, and of this there are four kinds corresponding Lo the human, the leonine, the infantile, and the aquiline appearances. “It is the property of a good conscience to by raised upwards towards God when confirmed in grace, and, forgetful of thing’s past to be more and more anxious to reach the firmament of grace.” The hands under each wing represent those good works by which living faith and active love manifest their divine power; while the wheels signify the inferior members of the Church, who, though not attaining to the same righteous standard, are animated by a similar spirit. The feet being straight and equable, and turning easily and constantly in all directions, are said to signify the messengers of God proclaiming’ his salvation throughout the world, and “bearing” all things to all men, that they may bring many profitably to Christ.” The sound produced by the motion of the wings means the fame of salvation arriving at, distant regions; and when the Prophet hears the voice exhorting the wheels, it seems to him to say, “O wheels, follow with alacrity the spirit of the living creature within you; let; nothing; delay you; let nothing tear you from the fourfold figure, which is the body of Christ; for if you cleave to this, even in its lowest part, you shall be raised up together with it.” The motion of each animal, in the direction of its face, signifies every Christian acting according to his conscience; and although there are differences of gifts, and each exercises his own independently, yet all follow one common leader, being animated by a common spirit. Thus the companion of Zuingle spiritualizes the passage with much consistency and at great length, affording a singular example of the method of throwing the light of matured Christian experience upon a scene so exclusively Jewish. To enable us to decide whether the view of Calvin or Ecolampadius is the correct one, we must state some general principles, which will be found in the following section.
CALVINUS JUDAIZANS AN ORTHODOXUS?
“Calvinus Judaizans“ was the title of a work published at Wittemberg, A.D. 1595, by AEgidius Hunnius. It contained a sharp censure for applying to the temporal state and circumstances of the Jews those prophecies which were supposed to refer spiritually to the Christian Church. The year, however, did not pass away before David Pareus replied, under the title of “Calvinus Orthodoxus.” And all who have perused his comments on this Prophet must vindicate him from the charge of favoring Judaism, and applaud him for wisely neglecting all allegorical significations and mystical expositions. While it will be impossible to discuss the whole question of prophetic interpretation, it will be necessary to state some general views by which we ought to be guided.
The prophecies of the Old Testament were in many instances a divinely provided introduction to the events of the New. In them we may see the outlines of the process by which God was ever educating man for ultimate restoration to His image. They contain a suggestive method of destruction by palpable signs and. wonders, which addressed the soul through their influence on the senses. Their value to the Jew was very different from that to the Christian. To the former they were the highest revelation attainable, while for us they do not reveal a single attribute or purpose of Deity which is not more fully made known through the Gospel dispensation. The Hebrew visions stand to us in the relation of porch to temple, and of dawn to day. They are to the Christian a divine first lesson-book, and contain a series of condescending instructions suited to a low stage of religious and mental life. They were specially appropriate to the people to whom they were bestowed, and of a structure and material in accordance with the dispensation to which they ministered. They were prefigurative and preformative throughout. They were preparatory and thus far excellent, but not “chiefest of all” because not permanent. Like the scaffolding, the growing blade, the finished portrait, they fail in comparison with the stately building, the ripened corn, the living person. Now Calvin avoids the extremes of the merely literal system and of the mystical allegories of the double sense. The former system treats the Old Testament as if it were all written at the same time, and every part of it addressed equally to all men. It excepts the ceremonial observances, and then considers that every sentence is reconcilable with all the rest by a spiritual process of traditionary reasoning. It is sternly opposed to all discrimination between the records of different eras; it admits of nothing gradual, variable, or local. Of the latter system we have an excellent example in the quotation just made from the comparison of Zuingle. He sees Christ and justification by faith everywhere. Not only must Hasmal — a mere color — be an emblem of the Son of God, but all who cannot receive this are branded as unenlightened. The truths which he has received through the gospel are so vividly impressed upon his soul and so thoroughly leaven his spirit, that he sees everything scriptural by this bright light of his inner man. His deficiency is of judgment, not of grace. The question thought not to be, what series of Christian doctrine can be grafted upon the cherubic emblem, but what truths it was intended to convey to the soul of the Prophet and the people, — surely not those of the Augsburgh Confession of Faith. We have to guard against a twofold error: on the one hand, a merely critical and rationalistic interpretation which never proceeds beyond the surface; and, on the other, against a fanciful exposition of figurative language, as if in every case the doctrines, the graces, and the experiences of the New Covenant were intended to be revealed to Hebrew prophets.
Apposite, indeed, was the exclamation of the Jew, when he said of Ezekiel, “Doth he not speak parables?” He had to take a the and draw a city upon it; to shave his head, and divide the her into three significant parts; and the Jew might fairly ask, How is all this to benefit his soul? It could only do so by appealing to the spiritual principle in man’s soul. As the Prophet must eat the roll, so we must to comprehend the meaning of divine emblems, that they may become to us the bread of life. There is a husk around many a spiritual fruit, and often times a stone within it, which seems devoid of nutriment; but still this is the way in which it pleases our heavenly Father to nourish us. All signs, emblems, and sacraments of any true religion are beneficial to us only when we spiritually perceive their inward and animating grace. All that is outward in form and ceremony and machinery is only the vehicle, not the substance, of our support as God’s children, and our growth in his likeness. This foundation truth must be laid firmly as a basis for every portion of the superstructure. The carnal mind never did and never can comprehend the things of the Spirit of God. The power of understanding the meaning must come from the same Deity who sends the vision. On this broad rock of truth we may build every sound interpretation of all the figurative language of Scripture. This principle we may gather from the way in which the early Christian writers explain the symbols of Holy Writ. St. Chrysostom, for instance, treats clearly the lesson we should learn from the seraph’s taking the coal from the altar and touching the Prophet’s lips with its hallowed fire. 354 St. Ambrose seems scarcely satisfied with the image — bread of life: he must “eat life.” “Whoso then,” says he, “eateth life cannot die. How should he die whose food is life?” 355 “and this bread,” he adds, “is the remission of sins.” St. Augustine speaks of “angels feeding on the eternal word,” and of “men eating angels’ food.” 356 Language like this implies the struggle of the spiritual mind to express itself fully through the medium of carnal language; and what were the Shechinnah and the Seraphim, the Urim and the Thummim, the live goat and the slain goat, but symbols receiving all their significance from the Divine truths which they conveyed to the soul? The worship of the one God through the appointed Mediator was ever the same in its hidden essence, and ever must be, while it is ever varying in its, form, according to the divers needs of our frail humanity. It is flexible exceedingly to the eye and the ear, and unchangeable only in its living spirit. All nature, organic and inorganic, has been used to illustrate it and communicate it, but this never has made, nor can make, the unseen visible. Still the question will recur, Where must we draw the line between the human and the divine in these prophetic visions? No man can draw such a line with accuracy except for himself. Let all who doubt this assertion try to divide mind from matter in the living man. Many have attempted it, and their failures remain to mark the narrow lib, its of their knowledge and the assumed regions of their ignorance. The matured Christian instincts of the cultivate worshipper will be every man’s best guide under the promised teaching of the Holy Spirit. An infallible interpreter is not for us in the flesh; the interpreting Spirit must dwell within us, otherwise we shall see nothing but the outward aspect of the gorgeous vision. The inspiration within must harmonize with that without, which is not verbal but ideal. The heaven-wrought ideas of the Hebrew Prophets protect themselves.
We do not require either a verbal or literal theopneustia: the truths themselves by their own imperishableness defeat the mortality of the language with which they are associated. They reverberate and percolate through all the pages of the mighty record; they hide themselves obscurely in one chapter only to emerge more clearly in another; they diverge in one book only to recombine in another; so that to the sympathizing soul Scripture is ever a self-sufficing interpreter. Hence we are not careful to defend Calvin’s interpretations as faultless: theology as a science has advanced rapidly during three hundred years; and while some of his expositions have become antiquated, we still uphold him as “orthodoxus.” The law of development operates in the moral as well as in the physical universe. “Draw a cordon sanitaire,” says a modern reviewer, “against dandelion or thistle-down, and see if the armies of earth would suffice to interrupt this process of radiation, which yet is but the distribution of weeds. The secret implications of the truth have escaped at a thousand points in vast arches above our heads, rising high above the garden wall, and have sown the earth with memorials of the mystery which they envelop.” 357
A second principle which we must bear in mind is, that every prophetic revelation was expressly adapted to the capacity of its original recipients. The extrinsic agency is always transitory. We of later generations learn enough if we profit by the latent and permanent essence. Hence the interpretation of the cherubim by the four evangelists is utterly untenable: and all such suppositions are indexes of a state of mind wholly incompetent to unfold prophetic mysteries. The very occurrence of hundreds of crude guesses like this, implies the necessity of submitting the prophetic emblems to some general laws of exposition. The highest criticism and the profoundest scholarship should be applied to them, that we may at once ignore all traditions which are proved to be corruptions. These prophecies presuppose a moral responsibility in the people to whom they were addressed; and hence they were fitted to awaken this feeling when dormant, to frighten it when morbidly perverted, and to animate it when righteously sensitive. Calvin’s assertion that the living creatures and the wheels imply that God by his angels guides the physical motions of the earth, the air, and the sea, (Eze 1:21,) is altogether untenable. Revelation does not teach anything which human philosophy can discover. It manifests its whole aim and essence to be moral, lying in that region of our nature which is under the sway of the conscience, and the will rather than of the intellect. These emblematic visions appeal to the affections and aspirations of soul, to the energies of reverence and faith, of wonder and of love. They have to do with what is infinite and unseen, the immeasurable and the unattainable. Hence they are rather divine agencies for quickening, stimulating, and directing man’s highest nature. They assist us towards attaining a true idea of God, they show us our own insignificant vileness and littleness, and suggest the possibility of an atonement of these two. They stir up our attention to the threatenings and the promises of an Invisible Person, which can influence us only by being believed, and enforce the commands of ineffable wisdom, which can benefit us only by being obeyed. They present to our thoughts the idea of condescending mediation, the infinitely holy condescending to purify and to abide with the morally unclean. They may further imply the general providence over the chosen race, as well as the special guidance of individuals; the molding into its preordained shape all their future history, and yet not sensibly controlling the will of agents left responsible for their every action. No discoveries of science can ever interfere with such an interpretation as this, and those who adopt it need never fear the necessity for changing it when the progress of physical knowledge must lead us to alter our views of other interpretations. It, belongs to a region of our nature completely separable from that which comprehends either the niceties of language, or the laws of the physical universe. There is a wide gulf, deep and impassable, between the moral and the intellectual departments of our nature. The imperfect state of physical science at the time of the Reformation is a sufficient apology for the mistakes of reformers; but their ignorance is not pardonable in us. We need not Judaize, and yet we may be apt scholars in all Hebrew lore, and orthodox interpreters of the Sacred Word of the Most high.
CALVIN’S SEVERITY TOWARDS THE JEWS.
IN addition to the charge of Judaizing, our author has been accused of dwelling too copiously on our Prophet’s severity towards the Jews. And if we can read the signs of the times in modern publications, there is reason to fear that various delusions are abroad on this subject. There are those who treat the Jews as in the present day, so peculiarly favored by God, that they invest them with the halo of a special sanctity. Reverencing as Christians thought the designs of the Almighty in past ages, they entertain far too exalted ideas of the personal holiness of the agents by whom those designs were accomplished. Old Testament characters are too often treated as “saints,” when they have few moral or religious qualities which entitle them to that sacred appellation. And regarding the people as a body, it is scarcely possible to find anywhere worse specimens of moral culture. If we estimate responsibility according to the amount of light and guidance and privilege, then, indeed, Tyre and Sidon were far less culpable than Hebron and Jerusalem. How opposite, for instance, is their history to what might have been expected from reading the book of Deuteronomy. Instead of binding their written law “as frontlets between their eyes,” no ancient nation were so careless of its sacred books. The Hindus cling tenaciously to their shasters, while Israel utterly neglected their Mosaic code. One would have supposed that they would have been superstitiously careful of the five books of their inspired leaders. Why should they not have multiplied copies of them? Why not have constituted the Levites the authorized guardians and expounders of them? From the time of Joshua to David there is no notice of the existence of any sacred books which now belong to us: and more than this, reference is made to other records not now existing. And after Solomon’s temple was solemnly dedicated, how soon ten of the tribes relapsed into the grossest idolatry; and even in Judea, how remarkable is the occurrence in Josiah’s time. The very priests seem to have been ignorant of the existence of a written copy of the law. The unexpected discovery of one has such an effect upon the king and the people, that it led to a thorough restoration of the national worship; and you, we find a command that every king should write for himself a copy of the law from that preserved by the priests. Both kings and priests seem to have neglected their duty; and even the prophets do not charge them with this crime among others. The loss of the original autographs is never mentioned; nor have we the slightest hint of what became of the second original of the two stone-tables. During the short period of their captivity they lost their spoken language and the characters in which it was written, so that on their return they were obliged to read Hebrew through an interpreter. Was not this an unmatched instance of want of reverence for the will of Jehovah? When a nation could act with such deliberate carelessness and irreverence in various epochs, can we be surprised at their falling into the grossest depths of immoral profanity? When the divine records have been thus despised, all folly and all wickedness is possible for such a people, and both are generated with a fearful rapidity. How different, then, is their real history from what one might expect of a people chosen by the Almighty as his earthly representatives of religion before the heathen! They were miraculously trained to typify and receive the Messiah, and yet they constantly appear to be frustrating the very purpose of their choice. If we speak of the mass of the nation, they seem in every respect to have thrown away their privileges, and to have sudiously incurred God’s anger, and to have determined to brave his vengeance. Under such a view of the ancient people, no language of Calvin’s can be too strong; and it is only to obviate the consequences of modern erroneous suppositions that it becomes necessary to defend him. In stimulating the compassion of the Christian Church towards the salvation of Jews at present existing, the most fallacious views are sometimes presented of their past history and their loveliness in God’s sight. To be beloved for their fathers’ sake by no means implies ally innate moral loveliness in the conduct of those fathers; and every erroneous view of Jewish history, and every false interpretation of Jewish prophecy, does but Judaize the Christian Church, and prevent it from going onwards to perfection, by keeping it in trammels to either exploded prejudices or to unwise innovations. False views of the Jewish history are now so very common, that they naturally create a distaste for that emphatic condemnation of their conduct which prevails through these Lectures.
ON THE FIGURATIVE EXPRESSIONS OF EZEKIEL.
THE most cursory observers of Ezekiel’s peculiarities must notice the highly figurative character of his visions. The princes of Israel are whelps, their mother a lioness. A great eagle comes down with one fell swoop upon the mountains of Lebanon, and plucks off the topmost boughs of its lofty cedars. Here we have to connect what logicians call the protasis with the Apodosis, and out of the sensible similitude to ascertain the mystical explanation. The canon laid down by Glasse is of constant utility: — “In parabolis, si integre accipiantur, tria, sunt: radix, cortex, et medulla sive fructus. Radix est scopus in quem tendit parabola. Cortex est similitudo sensibilis, quae adhibetur, et suo sensu literali constat. Medulla seu fructus est sensus parabolae mysticus, seu ipsa res ad quam parabolae fit accommodatio, seu quae per similitudinem propositam significatur.” Philologia Sacra, lib. 2 pars. 1 tr. 2, sect. 5, canon 3: Lipsiae, 1725. It only is it necessary to ascertain the literal meaning of the figurative expression, but we must always proceed one step farther before we can profi, by the metaphor. The medulla — the res ipsa — is still to be discovered, and this alone it is which brings profit to the soul. We must not only comprehend the figure and its literal interpretation, but we must take one step beyond this, and comprehend what divines call the mystical sense. We may attain to the “science of correspondences” without adopting the fancies of Emmanuel Swedenborg; but what he diligently and erroneously thought we must endeavor to find. With VanMildert, in his Bampton Lectures, we use the word mystical in its true and classical rather than in its present and popular meaning; and though we have no special affection for the word: we contend earnestly with the lecturer for the idea which it expresses. This inner sense will not, from its very nature, be crippled by the details of the natural allegory. The very essence of spiritual thought is mobility and indefiniteness. The great master of Roman eloquence has wisely observed — “Non enim res tota toti rei necesse est similis sit: sed ad ipsum, ad quod conferetur, similitudinem habeat, oportet.” 358 The same idea is expressed by Saurin in his Historical Discourses — “Non seulement il n’est pas necessaire que chacun de leur membres ait une veu particuliere, qui se rapporte directement au but de celui qui la propose: il faut meme que ce but soit en quelque sort cache sous des images etrangeres destinees a l’enveloper.” 359 As the correct elucidation of these points is of the greatest importance, every light which can be thrown on them has its value. Bishop Warburton, for instance, in the midst of his elaborate and in-digested paradoxes, is led to discuss the nature of types and symbols, visions and figures, and he treats them with clearness, precision, and ability. He lays the foundation for their use in the compound nature of man. He shows how the Egyptians, Mexicans, and Chinese, communicated ideas through the senses by signs, hieroglyphics, and picture-writing of all kinds. He quotes Eze 31 as a striking instance of well-applied metaphor: “for men,” says he, “so conversant in matters, still wanted sensible images to convey abstract ideas.” 360 He adduces Eze 24, as an instance of a parable purposely used “to throw obscurity over the information,” just as the tropical hieroglyphic was turned into the tropical symbol. He treats the “dark saying” of Eze 17:2, as a riddle more involved than a parable; “for the nature of God’s dispensations required enigmas, and the genius of those times made them natural.” The course of his argument leads him to comment at full length on the celebrated vision of the dry bones in Eze 37, 361 and to discuss the logical value of the assertion, “All words that are used in a figurative sense must be first understood in a literal.” Perhaps it may be better to say, All figures of speech are intended to convey to the mind an image of something real, and they are useless to us unless we thus apprehend their literal meaning. But Warburton did not see the next step in the process of deriving spiritual destruction from the visions of the Holy Spirit of God. He was not spiritually enlightened, and failed to do more than expound the letter of Scripture. We need, besides this, the divine teaching of the Holy Spirit, that we may apprehend what Bishop Van Mildert calls, in his celebrated Bampton Lectures, the mystical sense. “The importance” says Bishop Horne, in his preface to the Psalms, “of the mystical interpretation can hardly be called in question;” “without it, the spirit and power of many passages will almost wholly evaporate.” The learned Rambach, in his Sacred Hermeneutics, (page 81,) has adduced several instances in confirmation of these observations. The spiritual man only can thus pierce through the letter, and grasp the very marrow of God’s word: the carnal mind is in this respect utterly blind, for these things are only spiritually discerned. The word mystical may seem fanatical to some, but, taken in its scholastic sense, it is easily appreciable by all who know anything of profound criticism. Rambach has justly laid it down — “Est regula theologorum, sensum mysticum non esse argumentativum.” (Just. Hem. Sac., p. 72.) It appeals not so much to the intellect as to the conscience, not to the mental comprehension, but to the heaven-born life of the soul; and if this be wanting, all argument on the point is thrown away. The spiritual interpretation may be abused, like all other good things. Cocceius, for instance, affords a remarkable instance of this error, as well as some of the Puritan Divines; but no sensible man denies the value of a possession because some are foolish enough to misuse it. 362
On all sides we have to tread with the utmost caution, and may well listen to the voice of Jerome on Galatians 1. “Nec putemus in verbis Scripturarum esse Evangelium, sed in sensu. Non in superficie, sed in medulla: non in sermonum foliis, sed in radice rationis.” But even this view, truthful as it seems, may be abused; for in our own day we find the anti-materialism of the universe denied. Who would suppose, that at the close of the first half of this nineteenth century we should hear of a publication, bearing’ the ominous title, “The Anti-Materialist: Denying the reality of Matter, and Vindicating’ the Universality of Spirit?” 363 If this were the whole title, it would not concern us here; but when it is added, “proved chiefly by a reference to Holy Writ,” with another sentence, implying that such speculations can settle the points in dispute between those who affirm and those who deny the orthodoxy of Established Churches, such assumptions cause us to sigh over the endless follies of our nature. Such reasoners first of all assume what is Holy Writ., and then apply their own previously-conceived notions to distort and derange it. The very title of such a work implies the greatest possible irreverence for the Divine Oracles; the most unjustifiable assumptions, and the most unfair contrasts. “The universality of spirit” is strictly and essentially co-existent with “the reality of matter.” Every word which we have uttered in this short epilogue is intended to uphold and illustrate such a proposition’ it is only necessary to append to it, that through material existences — as trees, cities, food, and clothing — we become capable of comprehending the wants, the nourishment, and the nature of our spiritual manhood. Suitable in every respect; is the judicious reasoning of Origen, which sixteen centuries have rather confirmed than confuted. “If ever, in reading Holy Scripture, you encounter an idea which becomes to thee a stone of stumbling or a rock of offense, accuse only thyself: doubt not that this stone of stumbling and rock of offense has an important meaning: νοήματα — food for thy mind. Begin by believing, and you shall soon find, under this imaginary source of offense, abundant utility.” He then compares the skillful interpreter of Scripture to an intelligent botanist, knowing the different uses and properties of various plants, and shows how every “holy and spiritual botanist of the word of God” will find the virtue of the word, without esteeming the slightest portion of it either redundant or superfluous. 364 The preceding Lectures are a good illustration of the sagacious wisdom of these remarks.
α. ON EATING THE ROLL.
This method of conveying destruction is peculiarly Oriental. Jarchi, for instance, writes: “Parabolica est locutio, ac si dicat: attende aurem tuam et audi.” The Septuagint translate, מגלת-ספר, megleth-sepher, volumen libri by λις βιβλίου, which does not seem sufficiently accurate. Both Fuller, in his Miscell. S.S., book 2nd, chapter 10, and Vossius de Sept. Int. agree with Jerome in remarking the inaccuracy. Pro involuto libro, he says, 70 capitulum libri transrulerunt; capitulum intelligamus exordium. The opinion of J. H. Maii, Jun., is preferred by Rosenmuller, viz., that, מנלה, menleh, signifies the roller on which the volumes of the Ancients were rolled, as we learn from Maimonides, in his ספר תורה, sepher-toreh, chapter 9:2, 14. The writing on both sides was very uncommon the Greeks call it ὀπισθόγραφον, which is illustrated by Juvenal, Sat. 1:5, 6.
— aut summi plene jam margine libri
Scriptus, et in tergo, necdum finitus Orestes?
The Chaldee paraphrast explains the sense of eating the roll correctly — “anima tua saturabitur;” and in this way the Prophet was to be strengthened to become literally “firm of forehead, and hard of heart,” for contending with “peoples deep of lip and heavy of tongue.” This firmness is represented by the gem, שמיר, shemir, which Bochart terms smiris, adamant according to Jerome, since the corresponding Arabic word is samoor. See also Schindler’s Lex. Pentag. col. 1897, and R. Sal. Jarchi in loc., who gives the view of the Jerusalem Targum.
β. THE GREAT RUSHING.
The physical disturbances accompanying the prophetic visions are worthy of notice. It is impossible to reduce them to any class of natural phenomena. The Prophet is suddenly removed by the Spirit into the midst of the exiles; in extasi, says Rosenmuller — “the mind was separated from the body by a divine instinct.” Oecolampadius considers that he seemed to be seized as by a wind,” and “thought he heard the voice of a great tumult” “The glory of the Lord,” he adds, “came out of its place, and left the temple and the people,” “and the Church and heavenly Jerusalem praise the Lord for this act of his grace.” He then comments most spiritually on this removal of the visible glory from the natural temple, taking it as an instance of populus credentium, being at all times locus Dei. Maldonatus takes the same view when he writes, “I seemed to be seized by the Spirit, or an angel, and. to be transferred to Jerusalem.” He considers it too Rabbinical to treat the Spirit as if it were merely wind, and the voice only thunder, as R. David and Jonathan do. tie prefers the opinion of Jerome to that of the Jewish interpreters. R. Sal. Jarchi implies that the Spirit really raised him: “Deus praecepit Spiritui ut eum portaret ad locum ubi Judaei exules degebant.” As to the last word in this verse, ממקומו, memkomo, it seems to refer to the place where the vision was seen: scil. personent ejus laudes per mundum universum, uti Mal 1:5. If the whole scene is treated simply as a vision offered to the Prophet’s mind through his senses, it becomes very intelligible and impressive.
γ ON TEL-ABIB.
We notice these words simply to caution the reader against over-allegorizing. There can be no doubt that it is the name of a place; as, תל חרשא, tel chersha, and תל מלח, tel melech, in Ezra and Nehemiah. Syrian villages often have the name of tel, which simply means inn or mountain. Burckhardt (Travels in Syria, p. 149) observes this: but Jerome and Cocceius, who adopt the allegorizing system, are not content with this. The former takes the words for “a heap of new fruits,” which is symbolical of the state of the Israelites: the latter translates “the time of new fruit;” both interpretations being systematically erroneous. As the Chebar runs into the Euphrates from Mount Masius, the captives were situated up the river to the north of Babylon. A various reading, too, in this verse has been the source of some perplexity. The common text (chetib) has ואשר, vasher, derived from, שרא, shera, habitavit, commoratus est; but some MSS. adopt ואשב, vasheb, “and I sat” (keri); according to Kennicott and De Rossi, “etiam Hispanici, Soncinensis Bibliorum editio, Brixiensis et Complutensis.” The Septuagint adopts the former reading; and Vogel, in his edit. of Capell. Crit. Sac., page 231, adopts the latter. The sense will then be, “And I dwelt, since they dwelt there, I even dwelt.” Both Dathe and Rosenmuller reject this, and agree with Calvin’s version. His critique on the word שמם, shemem, Eze 3:15, is quite in accordance with the English version, and with foreign comments. Newcome paraphrases thus: “Astonished at the commission with which I was entrusted; and affected by the overpowering splendor of the visions.” The Chaldee has שתק, shethek, “silent.” Maldonatus adds, “so that I could not speak for seven days.”
α JERUSALEM PAINTED ON A BRICK.
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.
β THE THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY DAYS.
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, (2Ki 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.” 365
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 Ge 4:13, and Ge 19:15; Ps 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.
THE SEPTUAGINT ORDER.
These verses are much confused in the Septuagint, and this seems to have been the case in Jerome’s time. The Greek Codexes of the Alexandrian version do not agree, as we find from Theodoret and the Arabic version. Theodoret and the Chaldee paraphrast follow the Hebrew order; and the latter, from גיני, gnini, “my eye,” puts מימרי, mimri, “my word,” for the sake of avoiding “these anthropomorphic phrases.” The thirteenth verse evidently refers to the year of jubilee. Both Theodoret and the Vulgate translate correctly, and Jerome explains it satisfactorily. There is a difference in reading between the Hebrew and the Septuagint here also; the last clause is sufficiently important to note these differences. Jerome explains it thus’ “Non proderit homini iniquitas sua, nec ei praebebit aliquam similitudinem.” The translation of the Syriac is, “et vir iniquitate sua non conservabit vitam suam;” and of the Chaldee paraphrast, “quisque sibi in peccatis suis sibi placet, et dum viri permanent, poenitentiam non apprehendent.” The Syriac reading makes the sense as follows: “Neither shall any strengthen his life by his iniquity.”
THE IMAGE OF JEALOUSY.
THE singularity of the Vision of this chapter renders it worthy of special notice. It illustrates very strikingly the difference between the worship of Judaism and of the Gospel. The contrast is so remarkable, that every inference from it respecting Christian obligation must be most indirect. These “visions of God” occurred to the Prophet in the place of his captivity. Jerusalem and its temple, and its chambers of imagery, are all brought rapidly before his mind. Theodoret and Jerome maintain that the Prophet was not removed to Jerusalem, but that the scene was presented to his mind in a trance. Newcome continues the trance to the twenty-fourth verse of chapter 11, Eze 11:24. The appearance of fire in the second verse (Eze 8:2) is supposed by some to be better changed to “man,” by reading איש, aish, for אש, eesh, with various codexes of the Septuagint, the Complutensian edition of the Arabic version; but, in the second clause, זהר, zohar, signifies the brightness of a star, just as zoharat, in Arabic and Amharic, means the planet Venus. In the Complutensian and Aldine editions of the Septuagint it is translated “breeze,” or “light air,” according to the view of Theodotion. The best translation seems to be, to take the first clause as “the appearance of a man,” and the second as “the appearance of brightness.”
This remarkable vision is a singular instance of the manner in which the Almighty instructed his prophets. The sixth year of (Eze 8:1) is to be understood of the reign of Jeconiah. “The appearance of fire” thought most probably to be “of a man;” (Eze 8:2) for אש, ash, “fire,” may have been substituted for, אוש, aish, “a man.” The Septuagint, Theodoret, the Complutensian and Arabic versions, all take it so; but the De Rossi does not find it in any of the codexes; and only one of Kennicott’s (No. 89) has אוש, aish. Still the best, modern critics prefer it. Eze 8:3. When the Prophet is taken by a lock of his hair, Kimchi supposes it to signify the violence by which the exiles of Judea would be treated; but all modern writers suppose that this was only a vision: οὐ τοίνυν σωματικὴ ἦν μετάθεσις οὐδὲ τῶν τὢς σαρκὸς ὀφθαλμῶν ἡ Θεωρία “there was no bodily change of place, nor any real view by the eyes of the flesh,” says Theodoret. The first object presented to the visionary eye of the Prophet was an idolatrous image, metaphorically denominated “jealousy,” from the provocation which the idolatries of the people occasioned. The derivation of the word “Tammuz” (Eze 8:14) is obscure. It is supposed to refer to Adonis, as worshipped by the Syrians. Lucian de Dea, Syria, volume 3, and Maerobii Saturnalia, chapter 21., illustrate this point; but what “The Image of Jealousy,” which rivaled Jehovah and provoked his anger, really was, cannot be determined; most probably it was a statue of Moloch or Baal. Selden “on the Syrian Deities” enters at large on the subject. 366 The whole of this scenery Bishop Warburton pronounces to be Egyptian, and versed as he was in Egyptian antiquities, his judgment is deserving of notice. “They contain.” says he, “a very lively and circumstantial description of the so celebrated mysteries of His and Osiris.” 367 The rites were celebrated in a subterraneous place by the Sanhedrim or elders of Israel, and the paintings on the wall correspond with the descriptions of the mystic cells of Egypt. The woman “weeping for Tammuz” (Eze 8:13) he treats as a Phoenician superstition, while the worship of “the sun towards the east” (Eze 8:15) is a Persian custom. “When the Prophet is bid to turn from the Egyptian to the Phoenician rites, he is then said to look towards the north, which was the situation of Phoenicia witch regard to Jerusalem consequently, he before stood southward, the situation of Egypt with regard to the same place. And when from thence he is bid to turn into the inner court of the Lord’s house, to see the Persian rites, this was east, the situation of Persia. With such exactness is the representation of the whole vision conducted.” He sees “these three capital superstitions” portrayed again in Ezekiel 16, when the Egyptians are described as “great of flesh.” This phrase Warburton considers to apply to Egypt, because it was “the grand origin and invention of idolatry.” The “mark upon the forehead,” in Eze 9:4, he treats as an expression of God’s special and particular providence. Jehovah was their Tutelary Deity, and their sin was immeasurably heightened by the theocratic privileges which they preeminently enjoyed. Hence this learned writer is enabled to press into his service Eze 14:13, and Eze 25:8, while he forcibly illustrates both the language and the idea of the Prophet. His view is confirmed by a passage in Diodorus Sieulus, who, in lib. 1 p. 59, edit. Wess., records: “Round the room in Thebes where the body of King Osymanduas seemed to be buried, a multitude of chambers were built, which had elegant paintings of all the beasts sacred in Egypt.” Notices of the worship of the Persians will be found in Perronius’s Itinerary, p. 665, and D’Auquetil’s Voyages, tab. 3. n. 3, 4. Hebenstreit has written a dissertation on the rites of Bacchus to illustrate this chapter; and Hyde’s Religion of the Ancient Persians, lib. 1 chap. 27 edit. Oxon., 1760, may be consulted with advantage.
THE MAN IN THE LINEN GARMENT.
Calvin (Eze 9:2) does not altogether reject the idea that this person prefigured Messiah. Theodoret’s view seems judicious. “The dress of the seventh person was that of a priest: for he did not belong to those who punished, but to those who redeemed those worthy of preservation.” In Jerome’s day it was thought to represent the Savior, “who is a priest,” says he, and quotes Ps 110:4, very appropriately. C. D. Michaelis has remarked the customary method of carrying the inkhorn in the East in the present day. Syl. Com. Theol. Edit. Pott., volume 2, page 75. The fourth verse explains the reason why it was carried. Calvin’s allusion to the use of the mark תו, tho, (Ezek. 9:3, 4,) is fully explained by Origen, as quoted by Montfaucon in his notes to the Hexapla. The invention which Calvin calls “puerile” is recorded by Jerome, who made good use of Origen, and added other conjectures. Rosenmuller has quoted in full the passages to which Calvin merely alludes. Pradus and Vitringa have also amply illustrated the point.
On Eze 9:9, Calvin translates correctly “fined with bloods.” (Eze 9:9,) Although this is the common reading, it is not without exception., חמס, chemes, “violence,” has been found instead of דמים, demim, “bloods.” A Jewish critic of some note, R. Sal. Norzi, published a critical commentary in 1742, at Mantua, and states that the reading “violence” is found in one accurate and ancient MS., and in one ancient edition. Kimchi attests the same thing; but neither De Rossi nor Kennicott were able to verify the statement. This destruction was to begin at the sanctuary, or, as the Septuagint and Theodoret understand it, with the holy ones, (ἀπο τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ,) meaning the priests, who were the leaders in the desecration of the temple worship. Pradus agrees with Calvin in the reason given for the slaughter of the priests and elders first. (Eze 9:6.) Although the person mentioned in Eze 9:11 is clothed as before, yet the Septuagint omits the word “linen,” using simply ποδὴρη: Theodotion is satisfied with the Hebrew word Baddein, and Aquila has stola. There is a marginal reading, too, suggested by the Masoretes; but most of the codexes of Kennicott and Be Rossi support the received text, as well as the Soncine and Complutensian editions, and the Babylonian Talmud. Calvin’s translation and interpretation of this chapter is in accordance with the researches of modern critics. Maldonatus may be consulted for the opinions of Jewish writers on important words and phrases.
THE COALS SCATTERED OVER THE CITY.
Jerome, explains this scattering of the coals over the city as a symbol of its punishment and cleansing by fire, and quotes Isa 10:17, in support of his interpretation; and in accordance with Ps 120:3, he calls them “hot burning coals,” the penalty of “the false tongue” — remedium lingua, atque mendacii, and justifies his idea of purifying by Isaiah 6. S. Jarcin explains as follows: “Sanctus ine Benedictus dixit Gabrieli, qui petiit a cherubino, ut ine sibi daret prunes quo ini paululum refrigescerent leviusque efticerentur decretum pcena, quoad Judmos sive urbem Heirosolyroam;” and refers to the commentary of Abarbenel, fol. 170, col. 4 reed. Maldonatus supposes the coals to indicate not the cleansing but the destruction of the city; and their collection by the angel at the command of God, and “from amidst the wheels,” implies that this burning did not arise by chance and by man’s design, but by God’s providence and commandment. At Ezekiel 10, we have already referred to OEcolampadius, but as his comments are most spiritual, and very inaccessible to the ordinary student of prophecy, we shall quote a few explanatory passages here. The sprinkling of the coal, he thinks, to be an image of the burning city,” quod ex neglecto aut certo male administrando cultu.” Has real he supposes to represent “those celestial tabernacles into which the Great high Priest entered once by his own blood, after procuring eternal redemption.” In the whole vision he sees “Christ the head of his body, in which the law and spirit of life is included,” and “how the golden consummation of the elect turns its face towards Christ. For the are of the Church contains all its parts most elegantly (elegantissime).” He sees Christ in all parts of the Scriptures, as their end, scope, and spirit; and especially the man clothed in linen he says is “Christ acting in this dispensation on the outside of the eternal tabernacles which he at length entered with his blood.” The third verse refers to “that judgment which Christ as man shall exercise by God’s authority.” The voice of the wings signifies “horrenda vox mah ingruentis,” and the motion of the wheels “summa in administratione concordia.” To us these comments seem very fanciful, as it is obvious that any writer may put forth similar guesses according to his own private though fallible judgment. The cherubim on the right side Jerome considers as representing those holy and exalted beings who dwell at God’s right hand, while evil spirits dwell on his left hand. Michaelis, however, with less display of fancy, takes a simpler new, not dwelling on reproaching punishment, but upon the departure of God’s glory from the temple and city. See Sylog. Corn. Theol., volume 5 page 134; Eichhorn die Bibl. Proph., part 2, page 456; and Pradus in loc. especially on Eze 10:20.
THE FIVE-AND-TWENTY EVIL COUNSELLORS.
IT is very probable, says Pradus, that as there were twenty-four rulers, and as many regions into which Jerusalem was divided, and a chief over them all, so the magistracy of the city is here brought before us. He recognizes the analogy to the twenty-four elders in the Apocalypse. But there seems to be no authority for this division of the city into twenty-four “regions” or wards. See on this point Jahn Bibl. Arch., part 2 volume 2 section 187. The conduct of these evil counselors is well portrayed by Theodoret. Some commentators take this third verse as a question, so do the Arabic and Syriac versions, “Is it. not near?” but Calvin’s view is the best, and he is supported by good authorities. Jarcin understands the prophetic denunciations to be intended, “ina mala de quibus prophetic vaticinantur nec in propinqua est poena.” The death of Pelatiah (in Eze 11:13,) as well as the 12th verse, (Eze 11:12) are omitted in the Roman and Alexandrian codexes; and in the Arabic version of the London and Paris Polyglotts. See Wakon’s Proleg. 14:21. There are some minor variations in the readings of Theodoret, the Complutensian edition, and the Syriac version. From the concluding verses of the chapter, the old commentators understand that the prophets were not bodily transferred to either Jerusalem or Chaldeea. The whole scene is called an “ecstasy.” The Spirit of God acting on that of the Prophet, and enduing him with this celestial eye sight.
α THE FALSE PROPHETS.
The very existence of such a chapter as this suggests some instructive reflections. It may first remind us of the great moral difference between the position of the Jew and our own. The existence of prophets implies the corresponding possession of miraculous witness. A new prophet was a new herald of a fresh truth; and before he could claim attention he was called upon to show his new credentials. The false prophets had in reality no such proofs that they were sent, of God, and yet by speaking smooth things they succeeded in deluding the people. If surprised at the possibility of such complete success, we may be reminded of similar instances in the practice of medicine in our own day among the uneducated. How blindly they rush to any clever impostor who settles among them with no better credentials than his ready skin and his audacious pretensions. The more unenlightened men are the more they catch at any prophet who asserts roundly and audaciously his mission from God. Now the Jew was called upon not to inquire first into the doctrine taught, but into “the sign” worked by the teacher — his first inquiry was to be not what God had revealed, but whom he has commissioned to teach it. Our position is rather the reverse. St. Paul assures us, that if an angel from heaven were to teach any other gospel than that taught by him we are to reject it. We, then, the readers of the Old Testament prophecies, are not to find in them a revelation of the Gospel, but, pointing to the coming Author of the Gospel. “Search the Scriptures,” but for what? “they testify of Me.” Types are fulfilled in the great Antitype — shadows become substance, and dimness splendor. This chapter of Ezekiel makes the teacher and his authority the subject of questioning, not the matter of his instructions. His coming in his own name is his first and all absorbing sin. However smooth his after communications, this is the great test of his unholy imposture. The Reformers, in the earnestness of their zeal, often append such chapters as these directly to themselves and their enemies. This led them to deal forth the wrath of God with too indiscriminating a name, and has given rise to the assertion that their system was a compound of “Moses and the Inquisition.” 368 CEcolampadius, for instance, designates the false teachers of his day, “pinlauti, indocti, stulti, somniatores, caeci, vuloes dolosae, rapaces, in desertis et it neglectis locis agentes, timidi, et canes muti.” 369 Whenever there is a strict parallel between true and false teachers in our own times, such language may be justifiable, but where the right of private judgment is so largely exercised by ourselves, it is but consistent to allow others an equally extensive sphere for its operation. Contending earnestly for the faith and the truth is possible, without the accumulation of strong epithets on the heads of others.
Β ON THE PRINCIPLE OF ACCOMMODATION.
Our Commentator, in various passages throughout this Prophet, finds it necessary to introduce the principle of accommodation. And as this necessity has been so largely insisted on by succeeding interpreters, we may well attempt to discover the true method of applying so elastic a principle. For instance, in this thirteenth chapter, on Eze 13:9, he says — “Ezekiel here accommodates his language to the common usage of mankind,” attemperat sermonera; and also, “pro modulo et ruditate roentis nostrae;” on Eze 13:16, he asserts that false prophets are so called “improprie,” not implying any want of propriety in using the name; but showing that the name only is intended, and that the reality is not asserted. The formidable list. of German writers on this important point, collected by Wegscheider in his Institutiones Theologicae, page 99, Hal. 1826, shows it to be worthy of our attentive notice; for when once we permit ourselves to resolve everything into “dictio gnomica et parabolica,” we may refine away the force and meaning of the prophecies altogether. While we confine ourselves to the topic immediately before us, a few general suggestions may be here thrown out. 1. In judging of the correctness of Calvin’s language, we should remember the peculiar intellectual tendencies of the Reformers, in consequence of their religious antagonism to the prevailing doctrines of their day. They saw all around them the grosset superstitions; they lived among a people who believed in a real and permanent moral efficacy, proceeding from sacred rites and ceremonies. They naturally supposed an analogy to exist between the false teachers of Rome then rampant, and of Israel once beloved. The majority of the divines of the day were in all their habits of thought and reasoning — realists; that is, they treated abstract religious ideas as if they were undoubted realities. “Grace,” for instance, must be something infused, and must be received only through one holy rite, and communicated fresh and fresh, in union with the elements of another. The schoolmen, who taught that our nature was actually stained and polluted by the propagation of original infection, held also that the laver of regeneration actually washed away this original depravity: if, in after life, fresh pollution was incurred, then through penance and the eucharist, fresh grace was transfused by actual and corporal union with the real body and blood of Christ. The language of Dr. M’Hale in the present day states the peculiarity of a sacrament to be, that it impresses an indelible character. 370 Chateaubriand speaks of those “who receive their God” at the altar, “while each incorporates with his own flesh and blood the flesh and blood of his God.” 371
This is Realism run to seed’ and against all this the Nominalist contended, not by denying the spiritual realities, but by looking for them in the right places. In the fourteenth century the University of Paris was famous for its learning, its resources, and influence over the mind of Europe. The majority in power and rank were Realists. At length William Occam, an English friar, assailed their philosophy, and damaged their religious influence. Himself a disciple of the great Scotus Erigena, he gathered around him a band of devoted adherents, and became in philosophy what Luther and Calvin afterwards were in religion. He succeeded sufficiently to attract the notice of the reigning pope, John 22nd. who was sharp-sighted enough to see that if Nominalism spread Romanism must perish. Hence by his command in 1339, the University of Paris publicly condemned and denounced the philosophy of Occam. 372 As usual, when the man is denounced, the principles take root and flourish. In another age, Luther and Melancthon own him as their master and their guide. The former calls him “Carus maister meus;” the latter “Deliciae quondam nostrae.” 373 The next century finds the disputes at Paris as fierce as ever. The famous Gerson and his persevering disciples caused their enemies to respect their mental sway, till Rome again interfered. In 1743, the Bishop of Avrancis felt the philosophy of the schools, on which the false doctrines of Rome were built: in danger, and then he persuaded Louis 11th, the ruling monarch of France, to order their writings to be seized and their persons imprisoned. But as time passed on, the king relented, for about eight years afterwards he revoked his edict, and restored the party to their former philosophical position. The Reformers lived amidst this perversion of ideas on religious subjects, and their writings show them to be unconsciously tinged with the sentiments of the Realists. The schoolmen, for instance, still argued for a corporeal propagation of what was termed fomes or concupiscentia, calling it a qualitas corporis, derived either from contagione pomi, or afflatu serpentis 374 While the Lutherans took one step in the right direction, the Zuinglians added another: and the influence of the prevailing opinions of their day is very perceptible in the tone in which the Reformers comment on the prophets. Calvin, for instance, is remarkable for his sound common-sense view of difficulties: if an apparent inconsistency occurs, he is ready at once with his phrases, forma loquendi, per concessionem, ironice, καταχρηστικῶς, improprie, all implying his own riglit to use his private, judgment in solving a difficulty according to his pleasure. He often finds it necessary to exercise it. In Eze 20:28, he ventures to suppose a phrase used in a sense directly contrary to its obvious meaning; and in verses 5-8, (Eze 20:5-8,) he treats the Prophet’s words as “translatiae locutiones.” His desire to identify the prophetic teaching with the law of Moses on the one side, and with the precepts of the gospel on the other, leads him to invent these varying schemes for avoiding the literal meaning. The inexperienced student will learn wisdom by allowing the Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles, to speak their own separate language, and gradually to develop the designs and the character of God without either confusion or distortion. Still, the use of the word improprie must not mislead us; it does not signify “improperly” in the ordinary sense, but is used as in and proprie in Latin. It implies that a phrase does not bear the meaning which it seems to have it denies the Realist’s view of a question, and asserts that of the Nominalist. For instance, righteousness infused is the doctrine of one school; righteousneiss imputed that of the other the text of the fifty-fifth lecture speaks the language of the former; the comment of Calvin that of the latter. The Reformers have taught us to look for spiritual realities where only they can be found, and to deny their necessary connection with outward observances and tangible elements, whether under the temple rites, or the prophetic visions, or the apostolic ordinances.
γ ON THE PHRASE “PROSTITUERUNT DEUM.”
The remarks of the last article apply directly to Calvin’s language respecting the Almighty he says about the wicked “defile his glory,” “corrupt his justice,” and “prostitute even God himself,” (Eze 13:19,) and then “drown in the lowest abyss of hell the whole world when disappointed of their gains.” This is the language of Realists, who suppose it possible for men thus to treat either the Almighty or their fellow-creatures. The anathemas of the Council of Trent are founded on the same fallacious bases, and the strong language of the vulgar savors of the same innate belief. The modern reader at once supplies the word “name” after the offensive verb “to prostitute.” Calvin probably understood it so, but, he did not write it so. His phraseology is largely tinctured with the errors of his times, though he has written enough to be correctly interpreted by himself. When we moderns think on the subject for a moment, we admit that no man can defile God’s glory, or corrupt his justice, or devote his fellow-sinner to the lowest abyss: we take any such expressions as simply denoting the views of the speakers or writers about matters immeasurably beyond them. If we more thoroughly understood the teaching of Locke and the continental Nominalists respecting abstract ideas, we should live without any fears of the success of those who unchurch all sects but their own, and who assert the cleansing efficacy of suffering, and the possibility of discovering the whole body of Catholic tradition. With us, for instance, altars are not only prohibited, but impossible. They are now a mere name — their reality is confined to the one altar, the Cross. It is equally as impossible to prostitute God as to erect an altar. The reader of these Commentaries must have observed that Calvin’s idea of God is rather more familiar than infinite he introduces his name into the minutest concerns, and thinks of him not as acting by general and settled laws, but as personally and constantly intervening between the conduct and the destined of men. He naturally transfers the conceptions and instincts of morality and holiness which he finds within himself to the Almighty — he clothes his idea of an awful Spirit with the attributes of a human conscience he imagines his Deity a divine man, purified, exalted, and unlimitedly endowed. Our acquaintance with the physical sciences leads us to see the Great Supreme acting through the visible universe by fixed and undeviating laws: so we expect that revelation will unfold to us laws of similar harmony, although apparently disturbed by the anomaly of rebellion and the mystery of sin. But Calvin without hesitation supposes ]the to interfere perpetually with the ordinary processes of our animal nature. For instance, in the 14th verse of this chapter, he supposes the Almighty to withdraw from the ordinary bread of this life its usual nourishment by way of punishing the wicked. He is said to break the staff of bread by puffing it up, and depriving it of its power of affording aliment to the body. He repeats this singular comment as the correct explanation of the language of Moses in De 8:3. (Eze 14:14.) It may be perfectly true, that “unless God breathes into the bread the virtue of nourishment the bread is useless;” but where is the proof that he withdraws this nourishing power when the bread is tasted by the ungodly? The ignorance of the Reformers of those physical laws by which it pleases the Almighty that the natural universe should be governed, was very injurious to them as commentators on sacred writ’ they were constantly in danger of being like men who write on glass with diamonds, and thus obscure light with scratches. And not. only so, when Calvin speaks of “a secret virtue infused into the bread,” he adopts the language of the Realists: he assumes the existence of a quality which is philosophically incorrect. A disciple of Locke will be aware that this supposed virtue is only an abstract idea existing in the mind of man and not in the bread, and that it is only an admissible form of speech when it is understood as a general term for the aggregate of those chemical agents and properties which are realities. If God then withdraws this “infused virtue,” it is only a form of saying that he withdraws or suspends certain chemical agencies’ and who will now confidently assert this to be his method of interfering with the never-ceasing operations of his creation? So in Eze 13:14, the action of Pinnehas, Numbers 25, is said to be infectum aliqto vitio. This again is the language of the Realists, and is erroneous. His work could not be infected morally either way it must have been his mind or his affections. The language erroneosly transfers moral attributes to the deed instead of to the man.
And here it may appositely be stated, that a correct exposition of the Prophecies never requires any violation of either physical or moral truth. Faith in the unity and supremacy of truth is one form of faith in God. The prophecies are rather illustrated than obscured by our increasing knowledge of the material universe. No true success in prophetic interpretations can be attained without a hearty reliance on the unity and majesty of all truth, without a calm confidence that contradictions are only apparent, and if we cannot explain them now, they will become clear hereafter. Reason, in its calmest and clearest vision, can be superseded only by being surpassed; feeling, in its tenderest mood, must still be ennobled by trust; and conscience must witness audibly and reverently to our need of the Spitit’s mysterious guidance “into all truth.”
Throughout the Prophet Ezekiel, Calvin is nobly consistent in pleading for God’s justice. There is no instinct more deeply seated in the human soul than this, — the Godlike must be just nothing can be permanently opposed to this essential principle. It must sooner or later be vindicated, and bring a certain measure of retribution, which must follow hard upon its transgression. Still many traditional modes of thought concerning the Almighty occur in these Commentaries, which modern information has very largely modified. God’s handwriting is now legible in many ways, where of old it was a blank. If his interposition is not now recognized in cherubs, and wheels, and burning flame, we are more conscious of the natural wonders developed in the dewdrop and the flower. Our age believes so many things of which the Reformers were ignorant, and disbelieves so much on which they laid stress, that we are in danger of overlooking the existence of great primeval truths, which constitute the essential religious life in man in all ages unchangeably. Veneration for what we believe God to be must be at the foundation of all diety; and imitation of what we believe God to do must ever be the substance of all duty. ‘The first qualification for persuing Ezekiel with advantage is the spiritual purification of self; and in this attainment Calvin materially assists us, by setting before us large conceptions of the Almighty’s character, and mature judgments of his purposes.
α ISRAEL AN ADULTERESS.
The allegory which runs through this chapter is by no means an unusual one in the Prophets. The beginning of Eze 16:3 has occasioned some variety of remark. OEcolampadius takes מכורה, mekoreh, meaning “birth,” “origin,” for מגורה, megoreh, meaning “dwelling;” as Calvin translates it habitationes. Houbigant derives it from כרה, kereh, “to dig,” which Newcome prefers: it may come from מכר, meker, “to sell,” and thus means “dealings;” but this is not so appropriate here. Rosenmuller reviews these derivations, adding as another, viz. formationes; but approves of the sense “origin,” effossione, from כור, cor, “to dig.” This is clearly the best, the Jews having constantly before them the digging out of a rock — as in Isa 51:1. Both Theodoret and Jerome explain Eze 16:3 with precision’ the former has — ἀραῖς γὰρ ὁ Χανααν ὑπεβλήθη κὰι δουλείαν ὑπὸ τοῦ προπάτορος Νῶε κατεδικάσθη; the latter writes — Cham quippe, pater Chanaan, princeps fuit gentis Aegvptiae... radicem Ierusalem terram AEgypti esse dicemus. In Eze 16:4 the salting and swaddling the body is said to represent the Almighty’s care of the people when under Egyptian bondage. The custom of throwing the skirt over the female is alluded to by Theocritus Idyll. 18:19; and a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobaeus. This cleansing from pollution is explained by the Chaldee paraphrast to mean the deliverance from Egypt. Those who are curious in the various articles of clothing in Eze 16:10 to 14 may consult Schroeder de Vestitu Mul., chapter 14 page 221; Bochart Hieroz., part 1 lib. 3.; Jablonskii Opuscula, t. 1 p 290, etc.; and J. D. Michaelis in Suppl., page 1565. “The images of men,” (Eze 16:17,) Jerome interprets of the idols of Bel, Chemosh, and Ashtoreth, which were made out of the sacred gold and silver of the temple. The passing through the fire, (Eze 16:21,) the Vulgate renders consecrans illos; but Aquila, Synmachus, and Theodotion take the same view as Calvin. Theodoret interprets the 26th verse of the grossness of the Egyptian idolatry in worshipping the ibis, the cow and the crocodile. The punishment of the Jews (Eze 16:36-43) is figuratively predicted by similar language, which Theodoret clearly illustrates — οὐ γυναῖκας τὰς γυναῖκας ὀνομάζει ἀλλὰ τροπικῶς τὰς πόλεις οὔτω καλεῖ ἐπαιδὴ καὶ αὐτὴν πόλιν οὖσαν δίκην γυναικὸς εἰς τὸ δικαστήριον εἰσάγει The comment of OEcolampadius on Eze 16:20 and Ezekiel 16: 23 is copious and instructive.
β CAPTIVE ISRAEL AND PAPAL ROME.
In commenting on this verse, Calvin draws a striking comparison between the Jews of Ezekiel’s day and the Romanists of his own. And as the controversy with Rome is at present a subject of absorbing interest, it is very important to ascertain the exact views of the Reformers as to that giant apostacy. The parallel between them seems to our Reformer most complete. He allows both to be true Churches, while he condemns them as breakers of God’s covenant. Both Israel and the Papacy are still said to be under covenant with God; so, had “our baptism requires no renewal” (Eze 16:20,) yet still the devil reigns in the Papacy without quite extinguishing God’s grace. The Church is there amidst all its corruptions; otherwise Antichrist could not sit in God’s temple. The papal priests are said to imitate the Jewish in all things, even to the material of which the surplice is made. The priests of Rome are called “papales sacrifici“ — the language of the Realists; which is erroneous, bee,, use it admits too much. It asserts that they offer sacrifice: the Protestant denies the fact, and disallows the term. In the controversy with Rome, we should be more careful than even Calvin in the terms we employ. To allow the analogy here pointed out, is to allow too much. While we assert, that the pretense to sacrificial functions is a gross imposture, we must at the same time refuse their claim to be acknowledged as priests. We must instantly erect the standard of nominalism, showing that there is but one high Priest, but one sacrifice, and one altar in the religion of Christ. This is real — all the rest mere accommodation. On this ground, too, Calvin’s view of the covenant actually remaining among them, and of their being such a temple that Antichrist can be seated therein, is very questionable. It is necessary that the reader should see the consequences of allowing too much to the advocates of the papacy: there are many reasons, on which we cannot enter here, for believing that St. Paul did not refer in any way to Papal Rome by the phrase, “the temple of God“ and if this be conceded, then Calvin’s argument concerning Antichrist falls to the ground. It is very important to be aware of the tinge which the theological language of the sixteenth century gave to all the writings of that stirring age.
γ ON THE WORD “NEPHESH,” SOUL.
Calvin expresses himself rather hastily when he says (Eze 16:27,) this word נפש, nepesh, means “lust,” or desire, “appetite.” It occurs eighteen times in these twenty chapters of Ezekiel; and in every case except this, when our version reads “will,” it is properly translated “soul,” or “person.” As the word is in itself exceedingly important, and occurs some hundred times throughout the Old Testament, it is desirable to ascertain how far it admits of so many various meanings. We thought to lay it down as a general rule, that the usual sense of a word is not to be departed from without extreme necessity; and there seems none here for deviating from the ordinary meaning. Both Castell and Shindler, in their Lexx., give all the various uses of the word at full length; and both Gesenius and Lee fall into the error of stating too great a variety of meanings without giving the reasons for such discordant senses. Its original meaning is “breath;” and as “life” was supposed to reside in the breath, hence it expresses anything that has life, any living energy or mental activity, so that “the soul” is said to hunger and thirst, to fast and become cold. (See Proverbs, Psalms, and Job.) Schroeder de Vestitu Mulierum, and Gesenius, both give the sense of “fragrance” on Isa 3:20. The Rabbis distinguish three kinds of nepish in man, the vegetative, the brutal, and the intellectual. This description is philosophically correct, since it is now ascertained that “the life” of man strictly partakes of the elements of vegetable and animal vitality, together with the intellectual power and the moral sentiments, usually termed, ”soul” in modern divinity. Connecting this word with לב, leb, “heart,” we observe that Gesenius agrees with Calvin on Eze 16:30, that it signifies “the seat of intelligence.” The Hebrews supposed that the human heart “was actually the seat of the affections;” these are now known to ‘act through the brain, and hence the old phraseology of “giving the heart to God” should be allowed to become obsolete. There is no proof that the word nephesh implied this immortal principle in man; the hunting souls, and slaying them, as in the thirteenth chapter, refer to the destruction of life. In the time of the translators, and in the distant counties of England at this day, the word “soul” is used where more refined speakers use the word “person.” For instance, in Ezekiel 18, “the soul that sinneth it shall die,” may be reduced to modern English by saying, “the person who sins shall die himself.” It is by no means necessary, in Eze 16:27, to deviate, with Calvin and our translators, from the ordinary sense; it is readily rendered, “and delivered thee up to the persons who hate thee, viz., the daughters,” etc. Thus two English words only are required as the correct equivalent for nephesh throughout Ezekiel — a point on which we thought to insist, as giving certainty and definiteness to any version of the Prophet’s language.
δ THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH AND THE NEW TESTAMENT.
It is worthy of notice, that in Calvin’s time, as in our own, appeals were frequently made to the teaching of “the primitive Church.” The Reformers were especially anxious to ascertain what the primitive Church really taught, and to compare it with Holy Scripture they did not repose implicitly on its dicta, because they looked upon the phrase as an idea rather than a reality. Here again the necessary collision between realism and nominalism arises. There is no such thing as the primitive Church in the sense in which it was used in Calvin’s day, and has been revived in our own. The words stand for an abstract idea, comprehending many single churches, and stating what is held to be common to all. For instance, the Church at Antioch was in reality the primitive Gentile Church; its doctrines, discipline, and worship, were realities, and, could they be ascertained accurately, would present to our minds a destined and definite object; but any representation of doctrines and ceremonies said to be common to many Churches, and thus spoken of as appertaining to the primitive Church, is a mental deduction after the process of selection and assortment has been carried on. We have to guard against the erroneous view of the Realist, lest we should look to the primitive Church “to reveal what is to be believed, rather than to teach what has been revealed.” See an admirable letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rev. W. Maskell.
Although Calvin’s language throughout this chapter is precise and correct, yet he inadvertently falls now and then into that of the earliest. On Eze 16:29 he uses the phrase “guttam pietatis in animis“ — the erroneous language of his Romanist adversaries. Piety, he knew well enough, was not a thing infused into man — righteousness infused is the doctrine of realism — righteousness imputed is nominalism: the former has of late been revived and systematized by Newman and Ward; while the latter has the inspired sanction of the Pauline Epistles. In his comments on this verse, our Reformer uses the word “testament” and “covenant” for the same idea. It is better to avoid this partial confusion. The word “testamentum“ should properly be applied to the record, which informs us of the “foedus.” Grotius has expressed the difference accurately: with him “testamentum“ is equivalent to “libri feoderis,” and, as accuracy in theological expressions is most desirable, it is wiser to translate διαθήκη in every instance by “covenant,” and to confine the word testament most strictly to the written record. This will aid us in keeping before our minds the covenant between the Almighty and his living Church; we shall appreciate our position as children of the New Covenant, and avoid the error of regarding the Old Testament, with it’s laws, and ceremonies, and sacrifices, as binding upon us, who are no longer “children of the bond woman, but of the free.”
α THE GREAT EAGLE.
The allegory of “The Great Eagle” is well sustained throughout this chapter. A golden eagle with extended wings was the standard of the king of Persia in the time of Cyrus, (Xenoph. Cyrop., lib. 7 chap. 1,) and it was probably adopted from the Assyrian empire. The length of its wing is supposed by Grotius to apply to the widely-extended empire of Nebuchadnezzar. Kimchi interprets “the variegated color like a peacock” of the majesty and dignity of his kingdom; but Michaelis agrees with Calvin. The interpretation of Lebanon, to which Calvin objects, is adopted by Jerome and Theodoret; but Rosenmuller agrees with our Author. He also takes the word כנען, ken-men, (Eze 17:4,) exactly in Calvin’s sense, quoting Pr 31:24, “quod incolae ejus terrae, utpote maris accolae, mercaturae erant deditissimi.” See also Dathe’s edit. of Glass. Phil. Sac., p. 1184. The sense which Calvin disapproves is adopted by the Septuagint, the Roman Codex, the Arabian version, Theodoret, and the Chaldee paraphrast. The criticism in the note to Eze 17:8 is correct; and the interpretation generally is in accordance with the explanations of Jarcin, Kimchi, Jerome, Michaelis, Grotius, and other critics ancient and modern. Newcome has noticed some various readings, and others are easily gathered from De Rossi, and the different versions and codexes; but they are not of sufficient interest, to need further detail.
β THE LOFTY BRANCH OF THE TALL CEDAR.
The interpretation of Eze 17:22 is worthy of remark. Kimchi and Grotius think that Zerubbabel is intended here, but Rosenmuller agrees with Calvin in referring it to Christ. The Chaldee paraphrast and Jarchi apply it to “King Messiah.” (See Talm. Schabba,, fol. 30, and Cholin, fol. 139, b., and R. Abendana ad Michal Jopin.) Calvin’s supposition, however, that where the prophets speak of “this hope of freedom to the elect,” it should be dated from the rebuilding of the temple, and continued to the end of Christ’s kingdom, is incorrect. It causes him, to date this kingdom from the rebuilding of the temple, in forgetfulness of the many disasters which happened to the people between the times of Ezra and of our Lord. The building of the second temple was not an event of any immediate spiritual import to the Jews’ it was followed by overwhelming temporal disasters; so that the reign of Messiah did not commence till the Mediator of the New Covenant was revealed, and “the new kingdom of the heavens” fully heralded into the world at large.
THE EATING SOUR GRAPES.
THE proverb of the fathers eating sour grapes and the children’s teeth being set on edge, requires a few remarks, in consequence of the conjectures of some modern writers on sacred subjects. Andrew Norton, in his elaborate notes on “The Genuineness of the Gospels,” 375 has attempted to show a discrepancy between Ezekiel and the Pentateuch. He compares this proverb with the language of Exodus, Exodus 20, where God is said to visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children; he then quotes the Talmud as objecting to Ezekiel’s prophecies, as contradictory to the Pentateuch and thus he insinuates that the two passages cannot be reconciled. If this be so, it is further implied that the Divine authority of either Exodus or Ezekiel is doubtful. But there seems no reason to conclude these two passages to be contradictory. The circumstances under which they were spoken give the tone and meaning to each. Moses enunciates a general law of God’s moral government, which we see carried out every day before our eyes. Let the parent of a family, by honest industry and religious conduct acquire for himself the esteem and respect of his fellow-men, then it follows by an established law of God’s providence, that his family gain honorable advantages by their parent’s reputation. But let a parent by intemperance and dishonesty bring disgrace and poverty on himself, and it is equally a law of providential government that his children will suffer by his misconduct. The wickedness of the father will often fall dreadfully on his unconscious offspring. This is an undeviating, an irreversible law applicable at all times, and daily operating before us in ten thousand instances. But the Jews attempted to excuse their own sins by throwing them on their fathers. The generation which Ezekiel addressed were personally blameworthy; the language of this passage was theirs it is the language of a false excuse — an attempt to charge the Almighty with unfairness, that they might throw the blame from themselves. No argument, then, can be drawn from its occurrence contrary to the Divine authority of the Pentateuch. Ezekiel records the language and chastises it, thereby upholding the authority of the law, and vindicating rather than destroying the unity of the Divine records. The destruction to be received from the chapter has been well pointed out by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, in his “Apostolic Preaching.” — Sixth edit., page 69.
A translation of a work: of the Professor of Biblical Criticism at Heidelberg having been published in London, it becomes desirable to notice the result of his critical labors on this chapter of our Prophet. G. L. Bauer, in his “Theologie des alten Testaments,” has the following comment “The whole book of Ezekiel is an illustration of the Judaic belief, that Jehovah is the King and Governor of his people Israel. He rewards and punishes them: blesses them with prosperity, and afflicts them with adversity. Ezekiel teaches (in direct opposition to the Mosaic doctrine that God will visit the sins of the fathers. upon the children unto the third and fourth generation), that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father that moral conduct will ensure to the individual length of days that the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him, and that the soul that shineth he shall die. The eighteenth chapter is the most beautiful and the most useful in the book, but it has reference exclusively to God’s conduct towards his own people.” Here we have the usual mixture of Neologian wisdom and folly. There is no real contrast between Moses and this Prophet. Moses states a general law of God’s moral government of mankind, and Ezekiel protests against an abuse of that doctrine. The Jews of his day wished to throw all the blame on their fathers, and to charge the Almighty with unfairness in punishing’ them for the faults of their ancestors. They forgot their own personal share in rebellion against the Most high. Nor is it the slightest objection that “it has reference exclusively to God’s conduct towards his own people.” Here the Jews are specially addressed, and the principle is readily applicable to all mankind as soon as it is shown that they are under similar relations to the Almighty as the Jews. The writer who cannot see how easily Moses and Ezekiel are reconciled has but very slight pretensions to occupy a divinity chair; he may make hasty assertions, and give shrewd guesses; but his opinion thought to be well weighed before it is reckoned either valuable or trustworthy. Bauer’s criticisms on various passages of this Prophet are by no means so objectionable as those on the other Old Testament writers; though he is open to the charge of exercising that “fertile imagination” 376 which he brings so irreverently against Ezekiel.
A question of still larger import arises naturally out of their own defense of this eighteenth chapter; namely, what degree of authority have the laws of the Old Covenant over us, the children of the New? If, on the one hand, the reasonings of Professor Norton, as contained in the notes to his second volume of his “Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels” are unsound, the following assertion of a writer, in reply to the Queen’s Professor of Modern History at Cambridge is unwise — “One inspired declaration is all that is needed, and whether it be found in the Old Testament or in the New, is all one to us Christians; it is God’s word, and God’s word cannot deceive.” 377 It is clear enough that the Old Testament is God’s word — but is it so to us? Is its authority the same “to us Christians” as that of the New? He who would avoid Judaizing must answer in the negative: he who best understands the nature of our New Covenant in Christ Jesus will destined carefully between the authority of the inspired records of the two covenants over the conscience of the disciples of the new kingdom of the heavens. When we speak of Holy Writ collectively, as contrasted with all uninspired compositions, it is emphatically the Word of God; but when we are attempting to define the relation in which each Testament separately stands to ourselves, we must not hastily adopt the mere popular language of the day. By doing so, we are unable to repel the assaults of the worldly wise, and are in danger of lowering the value of the Sacred Oracles in the eyes of the scientific inquirers of our times.
To the scholar who is acquainted with the difficulties which are reviewed by Professor Norton, the following observations will appear elementary; but as there are some simple-minded believers who may be perplexed by the specious arguments of the skeptic, a few remarks may be instructive. First of all, we should not treat the Old Testament as one book all written at the same time. It should be divided into various portions corresponding to the periods in which each book was written. The Pentateuch, for instance, should be studied separately from the Prophets; while the interval of nearly 1000 years, between the death of Moses and the visions of Ezekiel, should be constantly borne in mind. The Pentateuch, but not exactly as we have it, was the Word of God for Jews — its authority as a law to Christians was never admissible. St. Paul’s whole life was a protest against this going back again to Moses, instead of going forward to Christ. The ministration of death was exchanged for a dispensation of life while God’s moral law remains unchangeable, its authority rests on other grounds to us than the thunders of Sinai and the tables of stone. Thus, again, the prophetic announcements were direct and special for Israel and Judea; but they contain guidance and warning for us only when we are placed in a similar position morally before God. Ezekiel, for instance, is a watchman to us only so far as it can be shown that our sins, needs, and responsibilities are similar to those of the Hebrews. It must be uttered again and again that we are discipled into the New Covenant of which St. Paul was a chief herald unto us Gentiles; and our highest attainment is to stand fast in the liberty wherewith our Redeemer has made us free. Wherever there is a spiritual analogy between our state and that of the captives at Chebar, Ezekiel is for us; his stirring voice is for our reproof and destruction in righteousness; but wherever the difference of condition is so great that this analogy fails, then Ezekiel is only indirectly our monitor from heaven. The light from heaven is reflected directly upon us through Jesus and his Apostles, and only obliquely through Moses and the Prophets. 378
By the expression of this view of the value of the Old Testament to us, we do but give form and voice to the feelings which exist in the minds of many earnest and thoughtful Christians. They cannot receive all that is in the Old Testament as equally binding on them with what is revealed in the New. Their cannot sympathize with the antagonist of the Queen’s Professor of History: they feel that many proposed solutions of acknowledged difficulties are superficial and evasive rather than self-evident and satisfactory. Such obstacles are not necessarily connected with the Christian verities, they are not essential portions of our religion: we may safely confess ourselves ignorant of the true solution, without endangering a single particle of “the faith once delivered to the saints.” By upholding the Pentateuch as the Word of God to the Jews of former ages, we defend and enforce its inspiration and suitability for its original time and purpose; by treating the prophecies of the era of the Captivity as spoken originally to the people alive at the time, we vindicate the Divine inspiration of the Prophet, and we prepare our own minds to receive intelligently any indirect destruction which may be applicable to ourselves. The integrity of the Jewish canon is thus acknowledged and preserved, while we are free to inquire how far its sacred books are instructive for all times and all nations. The whole life and ministry of St. Paul taught one invariable truth on this important question, and its significant witness was clear and emphatic to our higher privileges and nobler aims under the New Covenant in Christ Jesus our Lord.
β USURY AND INTEREST.
The manner in which this subject is treated illustrates our remarks on the non-application of the Jewish law to Christian duties. Calvin is evidently at a loss how to distinguish between lawful and unlawful interest. He does not clearly say that one law was applicable to the Jew and another to us. Usury may be sinful, but not because it was forbidden to Israel of old. The comment on this verse is not based upon principles in accordance with the New Covenant. It may fairly be stated that this eighteenth chapter is not law to us; our duties depend upon another foundation. The law which is to decide what is “interest” and what “usury,” must rest upon the golden rule of doing unto others as we would that they should do unto us. If we be formed after the image of Christ, we shall educate conscience, and cultivate justice and mercy, and decide these points by a different standard from that of the Jewish law; and when Calvin states “in lege ea est perfectio ad quam nihil possit accedere,” he does not state the sense in which he uses ‘qege,” and seems to confine it to the Mosaic precepts. This instance is sufficient to show the true use which we are to make of the Old Testament, and to guard us against a misapplication of its statements.
A singular instance of the fallacy of applying the Old Testament directly to the events of the world in the present day occurs in the State Trials in the reign of James the Second. In the case of the East India Company 5 Sandys, a question arose respecting the right of the King’s subjects to trade with nations eastward of the Cape of Good Hope without the King’s license. Holt, afterwards the celebrated Chief-Justice, argued his point with more, zeal than discretion. He gravely cites the doctrine of Lord Coke, that “infidels are perpetual enemies;” and then, in the same breath, quotes the book of Judges, to show by analogy, that as the Jews were restrained from merchandise with the Canaanites, so Christians thought to be restricted in their dealings with Pagans. 379 One instance out of many may suffice to remind us, that the assumption that Christians are in all cases to act according to God’s commands to the Jews, is the bashes of modern Judaism; and the frequency of such reasonings, though supported at times by the writings of some of our venerable Reformers, calls loudly for the voice of another Paul to proclaim, “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free.”
The imprudent manner in which some commentators have connected the incidents of the Old Testament with the doctrine of the New is readily illustrated by a passage in the first epistle to the Corinthians by Clement of Rome. In quoting the narrative of Rahab receiving the spies before the destruction of Jericho, he adverts to their suggesting the hanging out a scarlet thread from her house, and then adds directly, “making: it manifest that by the blood of the Lord redemption shall be to all those who believe and trust upon God. You see then, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy in the woman.” 380 if this method of illustration be considered allegorical, and as only suggestive of a remote comparison, it is tolerable; but if it be intended to imply any typical connection between the accident of the scarlet color and the redemption through Messiah, it is irreverent and inappropriate in the extreme. The learned Wotton defends Clement by the example of his master, Paul, and quotes Justin Martyr, who treats the same event “as a symbol of the blood of Christ.” 381 Guided by such illustrious names, the Reformers often adopted the same “spiritualizing” system. The sounder and soberer criticism of later days has instructed us not to adopt the imaginations of men as if they were inseparably bound up with the supreme word of God. The following extract is worthy of notice, as illustrating the principles for which we contend: —
“The same freedom of thought [as that of Luther] on topics not strictly theological formed a prominent feature in the character of Calvin. A curious instance of it occurs in one of his letters, 382 where he discussed an ethical question of no small moment in the science of political economy, ‘How far it is consistent with morality to accept of interest for a pecuniary loan?’ On this question, which, even in Protestant countries, continued till a very recent period to divide the opinions both of divines and Lawyers, Calvin treats the authority of Aristotle and that of the Church with equal disregard. To the former he opposes a close and logical argument not unworthy of Mr. Bentham: to the latter he replies, by showing that the Mosaic law on this point, was not a moral, but a municipal prohibition — a prohibition not to be judged of from any particular text of Scripture, but upon the principles of natural equity.” 383
γ PERPLEXING AND THORNY QUESTIONS.
In this and the following verses Calvin pronounces rather too dogmatically upon matters which are beyond human comprehension. He strives to reconcile statements apparently contradictory, and in doing so enunciates principles which cannot be positively determined. For instance, the will of an infant, before its birth, is said to be “perverse and rebellious against God,” Eze 18:20. Although we are reminded (Eze 18:23) that God’s secret counsels are inscrutable to us, yet the assertion is hazarded that he “has devoted the reprobate to eternal destruction, and wishes them to perish.” Some effort is made to reconcile the freeness of this will with the certainty of the destruction the knot is said to be “easily untied;” but the experience of nearly three centuries has proved that these exciting disputes have not been satisfactorily settled: they are still what they are called in Eze 18:25, “perplexing and thorny questions,” and must remain so till the promise is accomplished, that faith shall be exchanged for sight. It does not seem desirable to enter upon these abstruse points when commenting upon a Hebrew Prophet: the revelation to Ezekiel was far different in its subject-matter from that to St. Paul: there is no necessity for supposing either that the evangelical doctrines were fully made known to the Prophets, or that their language is verbally binding upon us — the offspring of the far-off Gentiles.
In these “Dissertations” we only venture to suggest some general principles of correct interpretation, and to point out some errors into which our Reformer has fallen, partly through the infirmity natural to man, and partly through the philosophical systems and the false divinity current in his times. While he so evidently surpassed his own age in stern and devoted piety, and avoided the fanciful conjectures in which many of the Reformers indulged; Calvin is at times open to the charge of teaching dogmatically questions which have never been decided by Revelation. Let us bear with him on this point, while we profit by his judicious and instructive lectures; remembering that within the fringes of his shadow his modern revilers are not worthy to tread.
Another instance of perplexity occurs in Eze 20:39. The “Indecision” refers to the decree of the Emperor Charles V. called “The Interim.” Calvin’s hatred of it was sincere but injudicious. It was a first step to better things. See Mosheim, cent. 16 sect. 1, and the authorities quoted in Maclaine’s note.
THE SABBATH A SACRAMENT AND A MYSTERY.
Ezek. 20:13, 14
We have already cautioned the modern reader of Calvin not to be startled at his assertion, that “the Sabbath is Sacrament.” We have in these days become so thoroughly imbued with the notion that; there can be but two Sacraments, that we reject at once the possibility of, third. This causes us again to call the reader’s attention in detail to the principles expressed in the note to the 20th verse of this chapter.
A number of words occur in theological discussions which are not met with in Holy Scripture. Among these are the words Sacramentum, Persona, Trinitas, Unitas. If these were merely translations of equivalent Greek words found in the New Testament, all difficulty would cease; but they are not although they express the ideas of the Apostles correctly, if taken in the sense in which they were originally used. The Protestant of these later times, if he would understand them aright, should study their use in the Schoolmen, and by the leading writers of the Church of Rome, and then, approach the writings of the Reformers. Lawrence’s Bampton Lectures have already been mentioned: besides these, Bishop Davenant’s Determinationes of theological questions, when Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, are a valuable specimen of the subject-matter of theological dispute in the days immediately preceding his own. (See edit. 1634, and also 1639, in Lib. of Queen’s Coll., Cam.) The greatest mistakes have been committed by English writers on Theology in consequence of their unconscious subjection to a traditional phraseology. It may fairly be called a slavery to words. They have lost sight of realities, through anxiety for a verbal orthodoxy. This has led them to look for spiritual realities where riley are not to be found. In tracing the cause of this, we find it to arise from our receiving so many of our theological expressions through the Latin Vulgate. And not only are the words, but the ideas, of the Reformers tinctured by their education under the religious philosophy which they rejected. Calvin, for instance, in Eze 20:16, uses the phrase “guttam pietarts;” in Eze 20:20, “guttam fidei;” and in Eze 20:19, “suis commentis inficiunt legem ipsius,” the two former expressions implying that piety and faith are qualities within the soul, measurable by quantity’ and the latter, that the fictions of man can in any way affect the purity of the law of God. Instances of this kind are here pointed out, that we may be aware of the principle on which Calvin’s expressions on many interesting points frequently rest. Other words as well as sacramentum are used by Calvin in a sense rather different from their modern meaning. For example, virtus and virtutes, doctrina and religio, occur throughout these Lectures, and sometimes need a circumlocution for their English equivalents. In Eze 20:29 religio occurs for respect paid to idols, and “mysterium“ must be taken rather in its classical than its familiar meaning. The Greek μυστηριόν was translated “sacramentum“ in the copies used by Tertullian, Cyprian, and Ambrose. Tertullian accordingly calls the doctrines of the Trinity and of our Lord’s Incarnation “sacramenta.” Prudentius uses it for “the whole Christian doctrine,” as St. Paul does the word μυστηρίον 1Co 4:1. It is sufficient to point out this difference in the use of terms, that no reader may judge Calvin hastily, but rather be led to discover the error or the unsoundness in himself. Those Reformers who were more strenuous Nominalists than Calvin, did not deny the realities of the faith but they thought for them where they are only to be found: not in rites, and words, and creeds, and ceremonies, but in the inner soul of man; in our moral and spiritual nature; in the character and revelation of God; in the teachings and guidings of the Holy Spirit; and in the renewed lives and peaceful deaths of all who are new-created in Christ Jesus their Lord.
Maldon. in Ezekiel 1, etc., edit. Moguntiae 1611. Here the reader may see the Jewish comments of Rabb. David, Solomon, and the Chaldee paraphrast; also R. Moses, lib. 3, cap. 6.
Comment. in om. lib. Proph., page 5, Ez., Genev. 1558.
Hom. 5 section 3, and compare the Litany of St. James, Ass. Cod. Lit. 5:56.
In Psalm 118. Lit. 18, sec. 28, 48.
In Psalm 33 En. 1 section 6, and Ps 78:26.
Review of “Vindication of Protestant Principles.” — Tait’s Mag. page 758. 1847.
M. T. Cicero ad Herennium. Edit. Bipont, volume 1 page 122.
Volume 3. page 405.
Div. Leg., lib. 4, section 4.
Div. Leg., lib. 6 section 2.
For Cocceius, see Mosheim, Ecc. Hist. Cent. 17 section 2, page 2; and for cautions against over spiritualizing, see Revelation J. J. Conybeare’s Bampton Lectures for 1824; and Bishop Van Mildert’s Bampton Lectures, page 241, and following.
By John Dudley, Clerk. 1 volume 8vo.
Hom. 39, in Jer 44:22.
See Nov. Syst. Chronol. Fund., lib. 1 chapter 4 section 92, page 165.
Synt. 2 cap. 1 page 195.
Div. Leg., lib. 4 section 6.
See Spectator: January 19, 1850. Review of T. H. Dyer’s “Life of John Calvin.”
See Com. in Ezekiel 13:5.
The Evidences and Doctrines of the Catholic Church, page 402.
Genie du Christianisme.
Boulay Hist. Acad. Par., volume 4 page 257; and volume 5 page 708.
See Admon. Ad Eccl. ap. Coelest., page 261; et Orat. pro M. Luth. Opera, volume 2 page 58.
See Apol. Confess. ap. Coelest., page 2, and Scotus, lib. 2. destined. 32.
Vol 2, page 140.
See Edit. London. Eng. trans., page 125.
See a Pamphlet by the Revelation W. B. Hopkins, in reply to Sir James Stephen, LL.D., Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge, section 2, page 37.
See Augustine De Civit. Dei, lib. 18 chapter 38 page 836. Ed. Paris. 1838.
See State Trials, 10, 519, and Lord Campbell’s Lives of the Chief-Justices, volume 2 page 126.
See Wotton’s Edit., 1718, Cantab., chapter 12 page 54.
Dial. cum Tryphone.
See also his views expressed in his Tracts.
Prof. Dugald Stewart’s Preliminary Dissertation to the Encyc. Britt.