Verse 24. "For their worm shall not die" - These words of the prophet are applied by our blessed saviour, Mark ix. 44, to express the everlasting punishment of the wicked in Gehenna, or in hell. Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, was very near to Jerusalem to the south-east: it was the place where the idolatrous Jews celebrated that horrible rite of making their children pass through the fire, that is, of burning them in sacrifice to Moloch. To put a stop to this abominable practice, Josiah defiled, or desecrated, the place, by filling it with human bones, 2 Kings xxiii. 10, 14; and probably it was the custom afterwards to throw out the carcasses of animals there, when it also became the common burying place for the poorer people of Jerusalem. Our saviour expressed the state of the blessed by sensible images; such as paradise, Abraham's bosom, or, which is the same thing, a place to recline next to Abraham at table in the kingdom of heaven. See Matt. viii. 11. Coenabat Nerva cum paucis. Veiento proxies, atque etiam in sinu recumbebat. "The Emperor Nerva supped with few.
Veiento was the first in his estimation, and even reclined in his bosom. " Plin. Epist. iv. 22. Compare John xiii. 23; for we could not possibly have any conception of it but by analogy from worldly objects. In like manner he expressed the place of torment under the image of Gehenna; and the punishment of the wicked by the worm which there preyed on the carcasses, and the fire that consumed the wretched victims. Marking however, in the strongest manner, the difference between Gehenna and the invisible place of torment; namely, that in the former the suffering is transient: - the worm itself which preys upon the body, dies; and the fire which totally consumes it, is soon extinguished: - whereas in the figurative Gehenna the instruments of punishment shall be everlasting, and the suffering without end; "for there the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." These emblematical images, expressing heaven and hell, were in use among the Jews before our saviour's time; and in using them he complied with their notions. "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, "says the Jew to our saviour, Luke xiv. 15. And in regard to Gehenna, the Chaldee paraphrase as I observed before on chap. xxx. 33, renders everlasting or continual burnings by "the Gehenna of everlasting fire. " And before his time the son of Sirach, chap. vii. 17, had said, "The vengeance of the ungodly is fire and worms. " So likewise the author of the book of Judith, chap. xvi. 17: "Wo to the nations rising up against my kindred: the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; " manifestly referring to the same emblem.
Kimchi's conclusion of his notes on this book is remarkable:- "Blessed be God who hath created the mountains and the hills, And hath endued me with strength to finish the book of salvation: He shall rejoice us with good tidings and reports; He shall show us a token for good:-
And the end of his miracles he shall cause to approach us." Several of the Versions have a peculiarity in their terminations:-
And they shall be to a satiety of sight to all flesh. VULGATE.
And thei schul ben into fyllyng of sigt to all fleshe.
Old MS. BIBLE.
And they shall be as a vision to all flesh. SEPTUAGINT.
And the wicked shall be punished in hell till the righteous shall say, - It is enough. CHALDEE.
They shall be an astonishment to all flesh; So that they shall be a spectacle to all beings. SYRIAC.
The end of the prophecy of Isaiah the prophet.
Praise to God who is truly praiseworthy. ARABIC.
One of my old Hebrew MSS. after the twenty-first verse repeats the twenty-third: "And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord."
Number of verses in this book, 1295.
Middle verse, - Chap. xxxiii. 21.
Masoretic sections, 26.
qzj chazak, Be strong.
In the course of these notes the reader will have often observed two MSS. of the Septuagint referred to by Bp. Lowth, and marked i. B. II., i. D. ii. They are both in the British Museum. The former contains the prophets, and was written about the tenth or eleventh century; and because it once belonged to Pachomius, patriarch of Constantinople, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, the bishop often quotes it by the title MS. Pachom. The other contains many of the historical books, beginning with Ruth, and ending with Ezra; and has also the Prophet Isaiah. This MS. consists of two parts, - one apparently written in the eleventh or twelfth century; the other, in the beginning of the fourteenth. Dr. Grabe and Dr. Woide, as well as Bp. Lowth, considered these MSS. of great value and authority.
It may be necessary to say something of the Hebrew MSS. which I have also frequently quoted. The collations of Kennicott and De Rossi have been long before the public, and to describe them would be useless. The collections of the latter Bp. Lowth had never seen, else he could have strengthened his authorities: these, for the first time, I have in the precedlng notes incorporated with Bishop Lowth's references, and thus added double strength to the learned prelate's authorities. But of my own I should say something, as they form no part of the above collections; and yet are among the oldest MSS. known to exist. Independently of rolls, which contain only the Megillah, Esther, and the Pentateuch, they are ten in number, and formerly belonged to the Revelation Cornelius Schulting, a Protestant minister of Amsterdam. After his death in 1726, they were sold by public auction, and came into the possession of the Revelation John Van der Hagen, a reformed minister of the same place.
In 1733, Jo. Christ. Wolf described these MSS. in the fourth volume of his Bibliotheca Hebraea, p. 79. A few years ago I had the singular good fortune to purchase the whole of these at Utrecht; a collection of MSS., which Dr. Kennicott complains that he could not by any entreaties obtain the privilege of collating. These are his own words, "Wolfius, (Bib. Heb. iv. 79-82,) memorat codices 10. olim penes Schultingium; quorum plurimi postea erant penes Revelation Joh. Van der Hagen. Usum Codd.
Hagenianorum obtinere nulla potuit a me precatio. " Dissert. Gener. p. 78.
sub Cod. 84. Dr. Kennicott supposed that three of those MSS. had been collated for him: but in this I believe he was mistaken; as he was also in supposing that only the greater part of the ten MSS. of Schulting had fallen into the hands of Mr. Van der Hagen; for the fact is, the whole ten were purchased by Van der Hagen, and the same ten are now in my library, being precisely those described by Wolfius, as above. I have collated the Prophet Isaiah throughout, in two of the most ancient of these MSS.; and have added their testimony in many places to the various readings collected by Kennicott and De Rossi. The very bad state of my health, and particularly of my eyes, prevented a more extensive collation of these very ancient and invaluable MSS. Some of the oldest are without any date. They are marked with the ten first letters of the alphabet. Cod.
C. was written A.D. 1076, - D. in 1286, - G. in 1215, - H. in 1309,- I. in 1136. In most of these there is an ample harvest of important various readings.
Bishop Lowth, in giving an account of his labours on this prophet, takes a general view of the difficulties and helps he met with in his work. This being of considerable importance, I shall lay an abstract of it before the reader, as a proper supplement to the preceding sheets. He observes:- "The Masoretic punctuation, - by which the pronunciation of the language is given, and the forms of the several parts of speech, the construction of the words, the distribution and limits of the sentences, and the connection of the several members, are fixed, - is in effect an interpretation of the Hebrew text made by the Jews of late ages, probably not earlier than the eight century; and may be considered as their translation of the Old Testament. Where the words unpointed are capable of various meanings, according as they may be variously pronounced and constructed, the Jews by their pointing have determined them to one meaning and construction; and the sense which they thus give is their sense of the passage, just as the rendering of a translator into another language is his sense. The points have been considered as part of the Hebrew text, and as giving the meaning of it on no less than Divine authority. Accordingly our public translations in the modern tongues, for the use of the Church among Protestants, and so likewise the modern Latin translations, are for the most part close copies of the Hebrew pointed text, and are in reality only versions at second hand, translations of the Jews' interpretation of the Old Testament.
"To what a length an opinion lightly taken up, and embraced with a full assent without due examination, may be carried, we may see in another example of much the same kind. The learned of the Church of Rome, who have taken the liberty of giving translations of Scripture in the modern languages, have for the most part subjected and devoted themselves to a prejudice equally groundless and absurd. The Council of Trent declared the Latin translation of the Scriptures, called the Vulgate, which had been for many ages in use in their Church, to be authentic; a very ambiguous term, which ought to have been more precisely defined than the fathers of this council chose to define it. Upon this ground many contended that the Vulgate Version was dictated by the Holy Spirit; at least was providentially guarded against all error; was consequently of Divine authority, and more to be regarded than even the original Hebrew and Greek texts.
"But a very fruitful source of error proceeded from the Jewish copyists consulting more the fair appearance of their copy than the correctness of it, by wilfully leaving mistakes uncorrected, lest by erasing they should diminish the beauty and the value of the transcript, (for instance, when they had written a word or part of a word wrong, and immediately saw their mistake, they left the mistake uncorrected, and wrote the word anew after it;) their scrupulous regard to the evenness and fullness of their lines, which induced them to cut off from the ends of lines a letter or letters for which there was not sufficient room, (for they never divided a word, so that the parts of it should belong to two lines,) and to add to the ends of lines letters wholly insignificant, by way of expletives to fill up a vacant space: their custom of writing part of a word at the end of a line, where there was not room for the whole, and then giving the whole word at the beginning of the next line.
"These circumstances considered, it would be the most astonishing of all miracles, if the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament had come down to us through their hands absolutely pure, and free from all mistakes whatsoever.
"The ancient VERSIONS, as the principal sources of emendation, and highly useful in rectifying as well as in explaining the Hebrew text, are contained in the London Polyglot.
"The Greek Version, commonly called the Septuagint, or of the seventy interpreters, probably made by different hands, (the number of them uncertain,) and at different times, as the exigence of the Jewish Church at Alexandria and in other parts of Egypt required, is of the first authority, and of the greatest use in correcting the Hebrew text, as being the most ancient of all; and as the copy from which it was translated appears to have been free from many errors which afterwards by degrees got into the text. But the Greek Version of Isaiah is not so old as that of the Pentateuch by a hundred years and more, having been made in all probability after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, when the reading of the prophets in the Jewish synagogues began to be practiced; and even after the building of Onias' temple to favour which there seems to have been some artifice employed in a certain passage of Isaiah (chap. xix. 18) in this Version. And it unfortunately happens that Isaiah has had the hard fate to meet with a Greek translator very unworthy of him, there being hardly any book of the Old Testament so ill rendered in that Version as this of Isaiah.
"The Arabic Version is sometimes referred to as verifying the reading of the Septuagint, being, for the most part at least, taken from that Version.
"The Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan ben Uzziel, made about or before the time of our saviour, though it often wanders from the text in a wordy allegorical explanation, yet very frequently adheres to it closely, and gives a verbal rendering of it; and accordingly is sometimes of great use in ascertaining the true reading of the Hebrew text.
"The Syriac Version stands next in order of time, but is superior to the Chaldee in usefulness and authority, as well in ascertaining as in explaining the Hebrew text. It is a close translation of the Hebrew language into one of near affinity to it. It is supposed to have been made as early as the first century.
"The fragments of the three Greek Versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, all made in the second century, which are collected in the Hexapla of Montfaucon, are of considerable use for the same purpose.
"The Vulgate, being for the most part the translation of Jerome, made in the fourth century, is of service in the same way, in proportion to its antiquity.
"In referring to Dr. Kennicott's Collections, I have given the whole number of manuscripts or editions which concur in any particular reading; what proportion that number bears to the whole number of collated copies which contain the Book of Isaiah, may be seen by comparing it with the catalogue of copies collated, which is given at the end of that book in the doctor's edition of the Hebrew Bible.
"Among the manuscripts which have been collated, I consider those of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries as ancient, comparatively and in respect of the rest. Therefore in quoting a number of manuscripts, where the variation is of some importance, I have added, that so many of that number are ancient, that is, are of the centuries above mentioned.
"The design of the notes is to give the reasons and authorities on which the translation is founded; to rectify or to explain the words of the text; to illustrate the ideas, the images, and the allusions of the prophet, by referring to objects, notions, and customs which peculiarly belong to his age and his country; and to point out the beauties of particular passages. If the reader would go deeper into the mystical sense, into theological, historical, and chronological disquisitions, there are many learned expositors to whom he may have recourse, who have written full commentaries on this prophet to which title the present work has no pretensions. The sublime and spiritual uses to be made of this peculiarly evangelical prophet, must be all founded on a faithful representation of the literal sense which his words contain. This is what I have endeavoured closely and exactly to express." IN conclusion, it may be necessary to give some account of what I have ventured to superadd to the labours of this very learned prelate. After consulting the various commentators, who have spent much time and labour in their endeavours to illustrate this prophet, I found their interpretations of many of the most important prophecies strangely different, and often at variance. Former commentators have taken especial care to bring forth in the most prominent point of view all those passages which have been generally understood to refer to our blessed Lord, and the Christian dispensation. Later critics, especially those on the continent, have adopted the Jewish plan of interpretation, referring the parts belonging to the Messiah in his sufferings, &c., to the prophet himself, or to the children of the captivity in their state of suffering; and those passages which speak of the redemption of the world, and the glorious state of the Christian Church, they apply to the deliverance of the Israelites from the Babylonish captivity. It is really painful to see what labour and learning these critics spend to rob the prophet of his title of evangelical; and to show that even the sacred writers of the New Testament, in their application of select passages to our Lord, only followed the popular custom of accommodating passages of the Sacred Writings to occurrences and events, to which their leading circumstances bore some kind of resemblance, the application being only intended to convey the idea of similitude, and not of identity.
While I have cautiously handled those passages, the application of which was dubious, I have taker care to give my opinion with firmness on those which seem to have no other meaning than what they derive from their application to the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ, and the glory that should follow the outpouring of his Spirit. Many readers will no doubt suppose that I should have dwelt more on the spiritual parts of this inimitable book; but to this there would be scarcely any end. Who could exhaust the stores of this prophet! and if any thing were left unsaid, some would still be unsatisfied, to say nothing of the volume being thereby swollen beyond all reasonable bounds. I have marked enough for the reader's meditation; and have thrown out a sufficient number of hints to be improved by ministers of the word of God. To another class it may appear too critical; but this chiefly applies to the learned bishop, whose plan, as by far the best in my judgment, I have followed; and whose collection of various readings I felt it my duty to complete, a thing that none of his editors have attempted before. I have therefore added the various readings collected by De Rossi to those of Dr. Kennicott, which the bishop had cited as authorities, on which he built his alterations and critical conjectures.