T H E P R O P H E C I E S O F T H E P R O P H E T S
A BRIEF SUMMARY
CONCERNING THE PROPHETICAL writings IN GENERAL, AND OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH IN PARTICULAR
Almost all translators among Christians follow this method, that is, to place after the books of king Solomon
the books of the prophets (although the Jews do not follow this order) under which are here meant, not in general the teachers and expounders of the mysteries of God, (as that word is used in Rom. 12:6, 7; 1 Cor. 14:1, 3, 32, 39; 1 Thes. 5:20) neither all the special and extraordinary teachers, sent by God at the erection or decay of the church, (of which there have been many from Moses’ time, of whom were also previously called seers, 1 Sam. 9:9), but only those prophets, whose prophetical books or writings do follow one another in order, and were delivered to His church by God the Lord, next to the other earlier canonical books, and hitherto most wonderfully preserved from ruin by His grace, against all crafts and devices from the devil, from tyrants, and from false teachers and their adherents, to the good and benefit of the church.
These prophets are sixteen in number, namely, four great and twelve small. They are all holy men, who were moved by the Spirit of God, in preaching unto the people, in reproving idolatry and many other sins, and revealed the will of the Lord with all manner of exhortation and comfort. They declared and published also many things to come, as well of judgments, both upon the people of God and upon the enemies thereof, as of deliverance of the church, not only corporal and temporal, but also, and principally, spiritual and eternal, by the Messiah
, on Whom they all principally look, describing Him most clearly His Person, office, Kingdom, and benefits; (compare Acts
3:24; 10:43; Rom
. 10:4, etc.); likewise using in their reproofs and consolations several visions, examples, parables, types and figurative speeches, and oftentimes speaking more of things that were to come in the past and present, then in the future tense, in respect of the certainty of the things, which shall assuredly come to pass, because God had decreed them in His counsel, and had revealed them unto His prophets. They were men full of the Spirit of God, full of knowledge, and of zeal, for the maintaining and propagating of true religion, and for reproving and confuting of false worship. They were eloquent, bold and undaunted to execute the charges and commands of the Lord, not being in fear of kings and tyrants. Their office and function differed from the office of the priests and Levites, who ordinarily expounded the law unto the people and offered the daily sacrifices, but the prophets were men extraordinarily called by God, sometimes out of one, and sometimes out of another tribe, especially in those times in which the priests and Levites did not perform their office aright.
Among the eminent prophets, the prophet Isaiah
is the first, and likewise the most important one, as well in regard of the excellent matter of which he treats, as also in regard of the excellent and lofty style which he continually uses. In his book he treats in the first twelve chapters several points which properly concern the people of Israel, whom he boldly reproves, strikingly instructs, earnestly exhorts and affectingly comforts. From the 13th chapter to the 29th are described the prophecies which concern the foreign nations, being enemies unto the people of God, and also the ten tribes of Israel, which had rent themselves from Judah
, announcing most heavy judgments against them. Notwithstanding it is intermingled with very sweet and comfortable promises of grace and mercy for the penitent, of which they would be made partakers for the Messiah’s
sake. From the 29th to the 36th chapter is spoken of the desolation of the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and the captivity or deportation of the Jewish people out of their own land unto Babylon; in which amongst them are also intermixed goodly and precious comforts concerning the Kingdom of CHRIST. From the 36th to the 40th is inserted by occasion the history of king Hezekiah
, from 2 Kings 18
, and from 2 Chronicles 32
. From the 40th to the 49th, the prophet foretells the coming of JESUS CHRIST and the spiritual deliverance of His church, represented by the deliverance of the Jews out of the Babylonian captivity by king Cyrus
; together with the restoration of them in their former estate. Moreover in the sequel to the end of the book, there are described several exceeding clear and plain prophecies concerning the Person and office of CHRIST, concerning His kingdom which would be spread throughout the entire world, concerning His suffering and death, and concerning His glorification, likewise concerning the preaching of the holy Gospel, concerning the calling of the Gentiles, who would be called unto CHRIST by the preaching of the holy Gospel, and who would be added unto His people; as also concerning the great benefits and privileges which CHRIST has purchased and obtained for His elect, and concerning the situation of the church of God, both here upon earth and in the life to come. All these things the prophet describes so plainly, and so perspicuously, that he rather seems to write an history of things that are already done, than a prophecy of things to come. In which respect some ancient fathers were of the opinion that Isaiah
might be justly called an evangelist as well as a prophet, some hundred years before the coming of CHRIST in the flesh, speaking sometimes almost as perspicuously of the Person, office and miracles of CHRIST, as the apostles and teachers of the New Testament did afterwards.
Now as concerning the person of the prophet Isaiah, it is understood that Amoz, his father, was the brother of Azariah, king of Judah, so that the prophet Isaiah has been a person of note, of royal offspring, as the Lord has called at all times persons to the prophetical office of all manner of degree, both high and low. Concerning the time when the prophet Isaiah has prophesied, this is spoken of in the first verse of the first chapter, namely, that he has prophesied in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah. When we reckon the years of the reign and government of these four kings, we may gather from this, that Isaiah has preached at least 47 years, which began in the last year of king Uzziah (at which time he saw the vision which he relates, Isa. 6) and end with the 14th year of king Hezekiah, when the ambassadors of the king of Babel came unto him, as appears, Isa. 39 and 2 Kings 20. But if the prophet Isaiah lived till the reign of king Manasseh, at whose command he was sawn asunder, and so put to death (as some do write) then he preached and prophesied more than 60 years, and consequently attained to a very great age.