"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 1. Jacob's Prediction Fulfilled
1. Agreeably to promise, I will now endeavor to show that the time predicted for the first advent of the Messiah has long since expired. You will observe, I mention his first advent, for the Scriptures plainly point out three advents of the Messiah. First, in a state of humiliation, to redeem his people; second, in a state of glory, to reign a thousand years upon the earth; and thirdly, to judge the whole world. A want of proper and careful attention to these different appearances of the Messiah, has first led our nation to reject Jesus of Nazareth, because he did not answer their worldly expectation. For they could not bear the idea of a suffering Messiah, (as has already been stated, and shall be shown more fully hereafter,) and having been convinced since that the prophets spake of a suffering Messiah, as well as of a glorious one, they have, as you well know, invented an unscriptural notion, viz. that of two distinct Messiahs; one of which should be the Son of Joseph, a miserable and afflicted man, who, attempting to rescue our people from their captivity, should be slain in war, and his party crushed by their oppressors; and that after him should arise Messiah, the Son of David, a flourishing and potent prince.(1) 1. See Mashmia Yeshua, fol. 53, c. 3. Pseudo Jonath. Exod. 40:11. Targum on Cant. 4:5. Tal. Bab. Succath, c. 5. fol. 52.
2. That the opinion of two distinct Messiahs is a mere fiction of our Rabbins, is evident; 1. From the many passages of Scripture where the Messiah is spoken of as one and the same person, who was first to suffer and then to enter into his glory. See Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22
; Psalm 91:13-15; Isaiah 52:13-15, chapter 53
Psalm 22 (To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.)
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
; Daniel 9:24-27; Zechariah 9:9, 13:7. 2dly. From the question put to John the Baptist, and afterward frequently to Jesus Christ himself, by all classes of people, "Art thou the Christ?" "Art thou he that was to come?" Always speaking of one and the same person. We find the expression the son of David, repeatedly used by our ancient Rabbins, and by the Jews in our Lord's time, but never the son of Joseph. 3dly. From the omission of the whole story of Messiah ben Joseph, by Maimonides, in his relation of the Messiah.(2) 2. See Dr. Pocock's App. on Mal.
Isaiah 52:13-15, chapter 53
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
3. To return to our subjectthe first advent of the Messiah to be the Savior of sinners. That God had determined and revealed the exact period for this advent, we might reasonably expect; for we know that God revealed the times of various other occurrences, that have been verified at the exact predicted period. He informed Noah how many years should pass from the time he spake to him of the flood until it should come, and at the end of that period the flood came (Gen 6:3). He told Abraham how many years his posterity should be in bondage in Egypt, and at the end of that period he delivered them (Gen 15:13). By the prophet Ezekiel he made known the number of years from the revolt of the ten tribes to the destruction of the first temple, which accordingly came to pass (Eze 4:5-8); and the period of 70 years of the Babylonish captivity foretold by Jeremiah, was exactly fulfilled.
4. Now is it credible that the Spirit of God, which predicted those several events, should not have foretold what time the Messiah should come?Christ, the end and scope of the law and the prophets, the hope of the church, and the joy of the patriarchs?he to whom the nations were to gather, and of whom they expected an everlasting redemption? Is it credible, I say, that a prefixed time, more necessary than all the former events, should have been omitted? No, my dear brother, God has revealed, at sundry times, and in divers manners, the exact period for the Messiah's advent.
5. Remarkable is the prophecy of Habbakkuk, chapter 2:2, 3, "The Lord answered me and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." It is the general opinion of our most eminent Rabbins, that this prophecy relates to the coming of the Messiah.(3) 3. R. Abendani, Note in Michlal Yophi in Loco. Tal. Sanhed. f. 97, 2. Maimonides, in Pocock, Port. Mos. p. 176, and Gedalia in Shal. Hakab. in Wagenseil, Lip. Car. Conf. p. 617-625. The expression, "it will surely come," may and ought to be translated, "He that shall come, will come," and is a general description of the Messiah. Hence, when John the Baptist sent to Jesus to inquire whether he be the promised Messiah, the question is expressed thus : "Art thou he that should come?'' (Matt 11: 3-5). "At the end it shall speak," saith the prophet, i. e. at the end of the Jewish dispensation, when the civil and religious state was near its dissolution. Hence we are told that the prophets diligently searched into the time of the Messiah's advent (1 Peter 1:11). And the apostle assures us, " that when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal 4:4,5). Besides, our Rabbins themselves acknowledge that the time for the Messiah's advent was determined and foretold; but, convinced that the period is elapsed, and unwilling to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah, although he came at the exact time, they have pronounced a curse upon every one that attempts to compute the end. Now, from the writings of Moses and the prophets, it appears that the Messiah was to come whilst the tribe of Judah was distinctly known by genealogy: during the existence of the second temple, and before the sacrifices ceased.
6. That the Messiah was to appear whilst the tribe of Judah was yet distinctly known by genealogy, is evident from Jacob's prophecy concerning Judah. The patriarch, sensible that the "time of his departure was at hand," "he called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last day"; and having constituted them into twelve distinct tribes, he declared, by the spirit of prophecy, the most remarkable events that should befall each of them, the truth and correctness of which is abundantly confirmed by the pages of history. The prediction concerning Judah is that which I propose to consider. It is thus expressed ; "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies: thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be: binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk" (Gen 49:3-12). The first and the last two verses are expressed in striking images and emblems, to represent the invincible force, the secure dignity and majesty, and the rich abundance to be enjoyed by the posterity of Judah; but the language of the middle verse is plain and simple, announcing the coming of the Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. I shall endeavor to show, that by Shiloh is meant the Messiah, and that the time for his coming is long since past.
7. That by Shiloh is meant the Messiah, will appear, if we consider, first, the occasion of this prophecy. We have already seen that, at the close of Jacob's life, he was endowed with the spirit of prophecy to foretell the most remarkable events that should befall his sons in succeeding ages; and it might reasonably be expected that the most remarkable of all events, the coming of the Messiah, could not be omitted. Besides, our Rabbins are agreed that where the expression "the latter days" is used, it refers to the days of the Messiah.(4) 4. See Kimchi, Isa. 2:2, M. B. Israel de Ress, 1. 3, c. 3. But this expression is used here; and if the prediction concerning Judah does not refer to the Messiah, the subject is then altogether omitted. The nature of this prediction is perfectly in unison with the revelation of the Messiah from its commencement. At first the promise of a Messiah was made to Adam (Gen 3:15); then to Shem, the son of Noah, when Japhet and Ham were passed by (Gen 9:26,27); afterward it was renewed to our father Abraham (12:3); and from him it was transmitted to Isaac, Ishmael being passed by (Gen 22:18); from Isaac it was conveyed to Jacob, Esau being passed by; and Jacob, guided by the Holy Spirit, restricts the promise of the Messiah to Judah.
Secondly, The signification of the word Shiloh showeth that it meant the Messiah. It is true, the learned, both amongst Jews and Christians, differ about the signification of this word, yet each agrees well with the Messiah. Kimchi says it signifies "his Son," i. e. Judah's: now, what son can it be but that famous renowned son of his, called Nagid, the Prince Messiah, who was to spring from this tribe? Yarchi and Onkelos paraphrase it, "whose it is," i. e. the kingdom, and apply it to the Messiah, of whom it is said, Ezekiel 21:27, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." This passage is applied to the Messiah.(5) 5. Abendani note in Mich. Yophi, in loco. Others consider it a compound, and signifying, "to whom gifts belong" or "shall be brought." This also agrees well with the Messiah, of whom it is said, Psalm 72:10, 15, that presents and gifts should be brought to him. Others, again, derive it from the root which signifies to be quiet, peaceable, and prosperous. This also suits the character of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, whose voice was not to be heard in the streets, who was to make peace between God and men, and in whose hands the pleasure of the Lord was to prosper.
Thirdly, That the Messiah is intended by Shiloh, is farther evident from the sentence immediately following. Whether it signifieth "to him shall the gathering of the people be," or "to him shall be the expectation" or "obedience of the people," it suits none so well as the Messiah, "in whom all the nations were to be blessed," and of whom Isaiah saith (11:10), "In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." Micah also predicted the same glorious event (4:1), "The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it." And by the prophet Haggai (2:7), he is emphatically called "the desire of all nations."
Fourthly, We have also the unanimous testimony of the best and most ancient commentators of our nation, that by Shiloh is meant King Messiah. To their testimony I shall frequently appeal; first, because it shows what were the sentiments and opinions of our ancient fathers; and secondly, because the generality of our people give more credit to the sayings of our wise men than to the word of God itself. But to quote their expressions, and especially in Hebrew, would take up too much room: I shall therefore give only references. Targums of Onkelos, Jonathan and Jerusalem in loco. Zohar Numb. f. 101, 2. Raya Nechimna Ex. f. 4. Tal. Sanhed. f. 98. c. 2. Ber. Rab. Yarchi, and Baal Hatt, in loco. Kimchi in lib. Shorash Rad. Shil. Niz. Vet. p. 29. Nach. Disp. cum. frat. Paulo, p. 53.
8. Thus, dear Benjamin, I have endeavored to show you that by Shiloh is meant the Messiah. Let us now see at what time he was to appear. It is evident that he was to come before the sceptre and lawgiver ceased from Judah, or rather during the existence of the tribe of Judah, distinctly known by genealogy. The Hebrew word here translated, sceptre, is shevet, the radical signification of which is a rod or staff of any kind. Now, although the word is sometimes used figuratively as a sceptre, yet that cannot be the meaning in this passage; for (as Bishop Sherlock and others have justly observed) that it could not with any sort of propriety be said that the sceptre should not depart from Judah, when Judah had no sceptre, nor was to have any for many generations afterward; beside, the royal authority departed from Judah above five hundred years before the birth of Christ. The true and legitimate meaning, therefore, of the word, is the same as in verses 16 and 28 of this very chapter, "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel." "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel." The import of this part of the prediction, therefore, is plainly this: that the tribe of Judah should not be scattered and confounded, as the rest of the tribes of Jacob would be, but should remain a distinct tribe, known by genealogy until the Messiah should have come. Thus great care was taken, by numbering this tribe (1 Sam 11:8; 2 Sam 24
), to preserve its genealogy (2 Chron 12:15, 13:22).
2 Sam 24
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people. And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing? Notwithstanding the king's word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel. And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer: Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon, And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man. So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite. And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house.
And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite. And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded. And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
9. The next sentence descriptive of the time of Messiah's advent is thus expressed: "Nor a lawgiver from between his feet." The word mechokek is variously translated. The radical meaning of the word is "to engrave." Hence are derived laws, statutes, kings, rulers, leaders, scribes, teachers. Now the word in this passage cannot mean a lawgiver; for no tribe had a right to make any laws; for God himself was the lawgiver, and by his laws the king himself was to be governed. But each tribe had its prince or ruler, not to make laws, but, like magistrates, to judge the tribe by the laws of God; or, as the three Targums and other Jewish writers expound it, "the scribes and teachers of the law."
From what has been said, I trust my dear Benjamin will perceive that Shiloh, the Messiah, was to appear whilst Judah was a distinct tribe, having its genealogies, and its magistrates, scribes, lawyers, and expounders of God's laws. But it is an undeniable fact that the tribe of Judah, as well as all the other tribes, has lost its genealogies for more than seventeen hundred years; and therefore the Messiah must nave appeared, or the prediction is false. To assert the latter, would be blasphemy; to deny the former, is unreasonable. Farewell.
Letter 2. The Temple is Destroyed, and Daniel's Weeks Expired
1. It was a law in Israel, that "at the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter was to be established." In my last letter I have shown, from the testimony of the patriarch Jacob, that the Messiah must have come long since, for the distinction of the tribe of Judah has utterly departed. I shall now appeal to the testimony of the prophets, who declare that the Messiah was to appear during the existence of the second temple. We shall first attend to that of Haggai, chapter 2:1-9, "In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts. According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts." I shall endeavor to show, that by this house is meant the second, and not a third temple; and that by the desire of all nations is meant the Messiah.
2. To begin with the former, viz. that by this house is meant the second temple, and not a third. Our Rabbins, convinced that, if the second temple is meant, the Messiah must have come, have recourse to those passages of Scripture which speak of a third temple. That a third temple will be built, I have no doubt, but what has that to do with the subject under consideration? It is certain the prophet spake of the temple that was then building, as appears, a, from the design of the prophecy, which was to encourage them in their work. No sooner had our fathers commenced the work of the Lord, and laid the foundation of the second temple, but they were greatly discouraged, partly by the opposition and actual prohibition of the kings of Persia, who had given credit to slanderous and false reports; (as it will ever be the experience of those who are sincerely engaged in doing the Lord's work;) and partly by the consideration of their poverty and inability to make this house any thing like the glorious and magnificent temple of Solomon. Hence, the old men among the people, who had seen the former house in its glory, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this laid (Ezra 3:12). This caused the building to cease for some years. The former of these discouragements being removed by the good will of Darius Hystaspes, the Lord sent the prophet to remove the second, and to support them by the promise, that notwithstanding their own poverty and inability to make this temple as splendid and glorious as the former was, yet he would make it exceed the former in glory, by sending the Desire of all nations, &c. This was calculated, indeed, to produce the desirable effect which it actually did produce, viz. to encourage and animate them in the good cause of building the house of God; but if a third temple had been understood, what encouragement would that have been to the generation who could not expect to behold its glory?
Nor, b, would a third temple agree with the time mentioned, "yet a little while," which, if the Messiah has not yet come, is more than two thousand years, and can in no sense be called a "little time."
c. The pronoun this, prefixed to the word house, and the repetition of the definite article, is as if the prophet had pointed with the finger, and said, this house which you now build, which you see before your eyes, and which is considered so contemptible, will be more glorious than the former.
d. The manner of expressing the comparison, by opposing the latter to the former, is the same as in Exodus 4:8, 9, where it is allowed on all hands, that it means the first and second, and not a third.
e. Our modern Rabbins tell us that the Messiah himself shall build the third temple; but the prophet here saith that the temple which they had already commenced, was to be completed, and then the Desire of all nations should come unto it.
f. That the prophet spake of the second, and not of a third temple, is acknowledged by the most ancient and most learned of our Rabbins: Zohar Ex. fol. 431. R. Azaria Meor Enayim. Yarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, and Targum Jonathan in loco.
Lastly, it is confirmed by a similar prediction delivered by the prophet Malachi (3:1), which I shall presently notice more particularly.
3. I will now proceed to show, that by the desire of all nations, is meant the Messiah. This is indeed acknowledged by some of the ancient Jewish writers;(6) 6. Sanhedrim, fol. 97, 2. but the modern Rabbins, to evade the argument in favor of the opinion that the Messiah must have come already, will persuade us, that by the "desire of all nations," is meant the "desirable things," such as gold and silver, as presents, to be brought into this temple. This opinion scarcely deserves our notice. I will, however, observe, that it is contrary to the grammatical construction of the text; foreign to the design of the prediction; utterly unworthy of the solemn expression "thus saith the Lord of hosts," repeated so often in the text; far too low for the circumstances mentioned, to usher in the coming of the Messiah, as shaking the heavens and the earth, &c. &c.; it is an opinion contrary to facts, for far greater presents were brought to Solomon's temple than to this; it is in direct opposition to the intimation of Jehovah, that the glory should not consist in gold or silver; it is beyond all contradiction that this temple fell far short of the glory of the former temple, in all that the world would call great and glorious, as well as in matters of religion and worship; as our Rabbins themselves confess that five things were wanted in the second temple, viz. the ark with the propitiation and cherubims; the fire from heaven; the Holy Spirit, or spirit of prophecy: the presence or glory of Jehovah; and the Urim and Thummim; lastly, the description given in this prediction, and in the paralleled one of Malachi, perfectly suits and agrees with the Messiah. It was promised that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed; and again, that to him should be the expectation or desire, the gathering or obedience of the people; and the prince, the pattern, and procurer of peace. Now, my dear Benjamin, after this plain and brief statement, am I not justified in concluding that the Messiah must have come long since; for it is evident he was to appear in the second temple, and to be its glory, excelling the glory of the former temple; but the second temple was destroyed nearly 1800 years ago, therefore the Messiah must have come, or the prediction is false; to say the latter, would be to make God a liar, to believe the former, is my duty and my happiness.
4. I have already hinted that the prediction of Haggai is strengthened by a parallel prophecy of Malachi (3:1), which needs but a moment's consideration. It is ex pressed thus: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and Jehovah, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." In this prediction the coming of the Messiah is again promised; with the addition, that he shall have an harbinger to prepare his way; and that his coming would be an awful judgment to the wicked, and great joy and consolation to the righteous. This promise of the coming of the Messiah was occasioned by the scoffing, wicked, and blasphemous inquiry with which the preceding chapter closed, viz. "Where is the God of judgment?" In answer to it the prophet declares, "he shall suddenly come to his temple"; which some of the Rabbins thus explain; "God will raise up a righteous king to set things in order, even the king Messiah." On the present occasion, I shall not take notice of the harbinger, (which must be considered in a future letter,) nor of the effects of Messiah's coming, but observe,
5. First, That by "Jehovah who should come" and "the messenger of the covenant," is meant the Messiah. Most of our learned Rabbins agree that Jehovah and the messenger is one and the same person; and Kimchi, Ben Melech, and Ber. Rab.(7) 7. Sect. 16, f. 219, c. 4. and others, acknowledge that the messenger of the covenant is the Messiah; yea, R. Tanchum saith,"without doubt it is the Messiah."The titles well agree with him, who is frequently called "Jehovah," and the "angel Jehovah," and is promised as a "covenant to the people" (Isa 42:6, 49:8). The description given of him as the person "sought after," and "delighted in," also agrees best with the Messiah; as we have seen already that he was to be "the desire of all nations," and that such a desire existed especially about the time of the coming of Jesus Christ.
6. I observe, secondly, that the Messiah shall come "to his temple,"the temple built in the days of Malachi, the second temple; peculiarly his temple, for he was to appear in it to be its glory, and the substance of all it was designed to shadow forth by all its rites and ceremonies. To this temple he should come "suddenly," i. e. immediately, after his harbinger had appeared to prepare the way before him. Thus, my dear Benjamin, it is evident, from the united testimony of the prophets Haggai and Malachi, that the Messiah was to appear during the existence of the second temple; but the second temple has been utterly destroyed more than seventeen hundred years ago, and therefore the Messiah must have come long since.
7. But as this subject is the hinge of the whole religious controversy between Jews and Christians, as has already been observed, and is therefore of so much greater importance to be well established, I shall produce another proof that the Messiah must have come long ago, for he was to appear before the sacrifices and oblations ceased. This will clearly appear, if we consider the very remarkable prophecy contained in the ninth chapter of Daniel, from the 24th to the 27th verse: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city, and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
8. The pious and learned Dr. Pye Smith, of London, hath made some judicious and important alterations in his translation of this passage."Seventy weeks are determined on with regard to the holy city, to restrain the rebellion, and to put a complete end to sin, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to introduce a righteousness (which shall be for) ages, and to put a complete end to vision and prophecy, and to constitute the most Holy One the Messiah. Know thou, and deeply consider, (that) from the going forth of the (Divine) word for the return and for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, to the Messiah, the Leader, shall be seven weeks and sixty two weeks. Thou shalt return, and it shall be rebuilt, both the street and the ruined wall, even in distressful times. And after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah shall be cut off; but not for himself. And the people of a leader to come shall destroy both the city and the sanctuary; and its end shall be with an invasion, and to the end of the war desolations are determined. Also, one week shall confirm the covenant with many; and half a week shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease. And upon the pinnacle shall be the abominations of desolation; and yet he will pour out the consolation determined upon the desolate."9. The occasion of this important prophecy seems to have been this: the prophet Daniel, having understood by books, especially the prophecy of Jeremiah, that it would be a seventy years' captivity, fell into a very great concern of mind for his people, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple, and therefore set apart some time in fasting and prayer to God. His prayer was very quickly heard, and a gracious answer returned. Even at the beginning of his supplication, the commandment came forth, orders were given, and Gabriel was despatched as a messenger, informing Daniel that there would be a royal edict in favor of the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem; and that after a certain period of time, here specified, the Messiah, the Prince, would be cut off; and quickly after that the city and the temple would be destroyed, and the Jewish nation dispersed. In a word, in this prediction we have a summary of the Old Testament, the substance of all temple-service or institution, the centre of all promises, and a brief but most comprehensive description of the whole work of the Messiah.
10. Two inquiries, if properly answered, will make this important prediction plain and conclusive. We must first inquire into the period of time, how many years it contains, and when it commenced; and secondly, into the events that were to take, place during this period. This will be the subject of my next letter. Meanwhile, my beloved brother, Farewell.
Letter 3. The Subject Continued
Dear Brother, agreeably to my promise, I will now endeavor to answer the questions proposed relative to the prediction recorded in Daniel 9:24-27.
1. First, it is asked, how many years are included in the 70 weeks? and when did they begin? With respect to the first part of the question, it is agreed by all, that the seventy weeks are weeks of years, i. e. every week is seven years, making, in the whole, four hundred and ninety years.(8) 8. Sal. Yarchi, Saad. Gaon, and Aben Ezra in loco. Abendana in Michl. Yophi, in loco. It was a frequent mode to count years by weeks. Thus Laban said to Jacob, "fulfill her week," or fill up a week for this, i. e. serve me seven years for this (Gen 29:27). The jubilees also were reckoned by weeks of years (Lev 25:8; Eze 4:4,5). These 70 weeks, or 490 years, are divided into 7, 62, and 1 week, on account of some remarkable events which should take place at the close of these distinct periods.
2. With respect to the second part of the question, viz. when did these 70 weeks begin? we shall receive a satisfactory answer by considering the second question, viz. the events which were to take place. To this consideration we will now proceed. 1. Within the first period mentioned, viz. 7 weeks, or 49 years, from the going forth of the decree, the city of Jerusalem, and the walls thereof, should be rebuilt. The giving forth of the decree or commandment, therefore is the beginning of the seven weeks. But as there are four decrees mentioned by Ezra and Nehemiah, there seems, at first sight, a difficulty, which is the decree alluded to in this passage; but this difficulty will vanish, if we consider the different decrees. The first was made by Cyrus, in the first year of his reign (Ezra 1:2,3). The second by Darius Hystaspes (Ezra chap 6
); and two by Artaxerxes Longimanus, the first in the seventh year of his reign (Ezra 7:7,13,21); and the second in the twentieth year of his reign (Neh 2:1, 6-8). Now, in the first three decrees that were made, the building of the Lord's house only is mentioned; the building of the city and the walls is mentioned only in the last decree, and that, therefore, must be the epoch where the seventy weeks commence.
Ezra chap 6
Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house: And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God. Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons. Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.
Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses. And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat, And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
3. Thus we see the first event to take place, was the building of the city and the walls of Jerusalem. We will now consider, 2. the events to take place during the second period mentioned, viz. 62 weeks after the expiration of the preceding 7 weeks; i. e. 69 weeks, or 483 years from the decree to build the city and the walls of Jerusalem. The first event, which was to take place at the close of this period, is the most remarkable and the most important that ever took place, viz. the death of the Messiah, or the work of redemption which he was to accomplish. As this passage contains a prophetical description of the work of the Messiah, I hope my dear Benjamin will give me leave to dwell for a few moments on the subject. I will show, first, that the Messiah is meant here: and secondly, the manner in which he was to accomplish the work.
4. That the person said to be cut off, is the promised Messiah, will appear, a. From the titles given to him. He is called Messiah. This name was well known among the Jews, and that in the time of Jesus Christ, as belonging to that great person spoken of by all the prophets; it is used from 60 to 70 times in the Targums. Now, if this prediction does not belong to him, it will be hard to find another place where it is absolutely, and by way of eminency, given unto him; and as we find the Jews were acquainted with that name (John 1:41, 4:25), they must have learned it from some of the prophecies, and it can hardly be conceived from whence, unless from that now before us. The next title is Nagid, a prince; by the same name Messiah is called, Isaiah 55:4, "Behold, I have given him for a prince and a commander to the people"; this passage is applied to the Messiah in Targum Jonathan. Again, he is called "the Most Holy," "to anoint the Most Holy." This cannot mean the temple, for it is the unanimous belief of our Rabbins that the holy oil was one of the five things wanting in the second temple. It is therefore applied by most of our Jewish writers to the Messiah.(9) 9. Ab. Ezra in loco. Moses Gerundensis in loco. Abarbanel in Wagenseil. Mantissa de LXX. Hedemad. Dan. p. 64.
b. It appears also from the testimony of our ancient Rabbins, that the Messiah is the person spoken of in this prediction. Abarbanel says,"to anoint the Most Holy is to be explained of the Messiah our Righteousness; for as the children of Israel, in general, are called holy, as it is said, 'ye shall be holy,' again, 'Israel is holy unto the Lord'; therefore the Messiah, who is to be more holy than all Israel, is called 'the Most Holy.'"(10) 10. Myanai Hyshua, fol. 64, c. 1, 2.R. Nachmun, in loco, saith,"the Most Holy is the Messiah, for he is more holy than the children of David."R. Azaria(11) 11. In meor enayin P. 3, ch. 43. saith,"To seal vision and prophecy, and to bring in Messiah our Righteousness."Maimonides also acknowledges that the period of time revealed to Daniel by Gabriel, relates to the Messiah; but that the Rabbins of blessed memory have said,"let the bones of him rot who attempts to compute the end";and the reason they assigned, is, that because the common people, finding the end is come, i. e. the time specified is elapsed, might be led into an error to think that the Messiah has come already.(12) 12. Iggereth Hatteman fol. 125. c. 4.
5. c. It is still more evident that the person spoken of, in the prediction before us, is the Messiah, from the work ascribed to him. The different parts of the Messiah's work are thus described: I. "To finish the transgression," or rather to restrain, restrict, or shut up. "The seed of the woman was to bruise the head of the serpent," "the Son of God was to be manifested to destroy the works of the devil." To take away the usurped dominion of that tyrant, and to set up a kingdom of holiness and love in the hearts of men, so that where sin and death had reigned, righteousness and life might reign through grace. This was to be effected by the doctrine, the spirit, and the grace of the Messiah.
II. "To make an end of sin," or to seal up sins. The common use and design of sealing a letter or parcel is, to conceal and hide its contents. Thus the metaphor used to seal up sins, i. e. to hide and conceal them, is to express the pardon of sin. Hence, Jehovah is said to "cast our sins behind his back, to cover them, and to cast them into the bottom of the sea." Hence, when sin is pardoned, it is sought for and not found, as that which is sealed up. The former expression refers to the power, this to the guilt of sin. Both belong to the work of the Messiah.
III. "To make reconciliation for iniquity," i. e. to propitiate, to appease, to make an atonement, to satisfy divine justice by the sacrifice of himself, and so to make peace. It is observable that there are three different words used, "Transgression, sin, and iniquity," perhaps to show that all manner of sins were to be expiated, pardoned, and restrained by the Messiah. Hence, the apostle, speaking of the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, saith, "it cleanses us from all sins."
IV. "To bring in an everlasting righteousness." By our sins we lost the favor of God, became children of wrath, and heirs of hell; and God might justly have suffered us to perish with the devil and his angels. We have nothing of our own to plead; for, as the prophet saith, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa 64:6). Hence, with the pious Psalmist, we may well say, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Psa 143:2); and we are assured by another inspired writer, that "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Rom 3:20); and if left to men or angels, Job's question could never have received a satisfactory answer: "How should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2), or "how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4). But blessed be the Lord God of our salvation! who hath laid our help upon one mighty to save. "In me," saith Jehovah Messiah, "shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and glory" (Isa 45:25). Hence, the Messiah is called "Jehovah our righteousness" (Jer 23:6, 33:16). By his life and death, doing and suffering the whole will of God, Messiah has wrought out a perfect righteousness, which is "unto all and upon all them that believe" (Rom 3:22). This is an "everlasting righteousness." It was provided in the everlasting counsel of Jehovah, and its blessed effects will be enjoyed in everlasting ages to come.
V. Another part of the Messiah's work was "to seal vision and prophecy;" i. e. to consummate and establish; to finish and conclude. All the visions and prophecies had a reference to the Messiah. For the law and the prophets were until John, and then they were to be fulfilled. The spirit of prophecy also was to cease. After the Messiah shall have fulfilled all that was predicted concerning him, he would seal up and put an end to visions and prophecy. Such is the work which the Messiah was to accomplish, and to qualify him for it he was to be anointed. To be anointed, not with material oil, which ceased with the destruction of Solomon's temple, but with the Holy Ghost, the oil of gladness, which he was to receive without measure, above his fellows. I hope, my dear Benjamin, you will particularly take notice how clearly it does appear from this prediction, as well as from many other passages of Scripture, (which will be considered hereafter,) and from the covenant engagement of the Messiah, which has already been stated, that the great end and design of his first advent was entirely of a spiritual nature, and not a mere delivery of our nation only from the Roman yoke, and to raise them to power and wealth.
6. Having shown that the Messiah is meant in this prediction, we will now consider the peculiar way in which he was to accomplish his work. This was to be by enduring a violent death. "Messiah, the Prince, shall be cut off, but not for himself." The word carath, to be cut off, has a reference to a judicial sentence pronounced on the criminal (Gen 17:14; Exo 12:15); so that it is here predicted that the Messiah was not only to die, but that his death should be penal. But whilst the penal death of Messiah is predicted, his innocency is at the same time asserted. "Not for himself," i. e. there was no cause of death in him; as the prophet Isaiah declared at large in the 53d chap, "that he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth; but he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed: he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken." That the whole of this chapter relates to the Messiah, and was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, will be made evident hereafter.
7. The next events to take place at the close of the sixty-two weeks, are the beseiging of the city of Jerusalem, and its utter destruction, together with the temple. After the cutting off of Messiah, the Prince, the destruction of the city and temple, and the dispersion of our nation was quickly to ensue (v 26). A people under the direction of a prince, leader or commander, should enter into the land of Judea, make war there, destroy the city of Jerusalem and the famous temple; and the destruction should be as universal as a mighty flood or violent inundation, it should overspread the whole country, and carry all before it; for from the beginning of the war to the end thereof, utter ruin and destruction is determined by God upon the people and nation.
During the last week or seven years, a covenant was to be confirmed, the sacrifices and oblations were to cease, and our nation scattered, until the desolator be utterly destroyed.
8. In a future letter I shall show you the exact fulfillment of all these events, and then give you a more particular explanation of some expressions used in this prediction. In the meantime, I trust, my dear Benjamin, that you will be convinced that the Messiah was to appear, and to die before the second temple was destroyed, and before the sacrifices ceased, and before our nation be scattered abroad. But the temple has been destroyed, the sacrifices have ceased, and our nation has been scattered; therefore we justly conclude that the Messiah must have appeared long ago. This conclusion is the result of the united and harmonious testimony of the Patriarch Jacob, of the inspired prophets Haggai and Malachi, and of the humble and pious Daniel, who received his knowledge from the angel Gabriel, sent for the express purpose to make known the time and the events of the coming of the Messiah.
9. As an additional argument, I might here mention a number of our wise men's sayings, which show that the Messiah must have come long ago. For example, R. Nehemiah, who lived about fifty years before the coming of Christ, declared that the time of the Messiah, as signified by Daniel, could not be protracted longer than fifty years. It is also a well known tradition in the Talmud,(13) 13. Sanhed. Cheleck, f. 97. 1. that the famous Rabbi Elijah had taught that the world should continue six thousand years, two thousand void, (i. e. without the law, from the creation until the call of Abraham)(14) 14. See the Gloss, of Yarchi, in loco. two thousand under the Law, and two thousand under the Messiah. Now, as the third period of two thousand years under the reign of the Messiah is nearly expired, the Messiah must have come long ago.(15) 15. See also Yarchi's commentary on the preceding passage. And in his comment on Avoda Sara,(16) 16. Fol. 9. 1. he saith,"Six thousand years are determined for the duration of the world, according to the days of the week, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath, so in the seventh thousand year shall be rest to the world."These considerations have greatly perplexed our modern Rabbins, and I am aware, my brother, of their evasions to weaken the arguments; I have well examined them, and found that they are "refuges of lies," weaker than a spider's web, scarcely worthy to be noticed; yet as they are generally believed by our people, their fallacy shall be shown in my next letter.
10. I shall now conclude with the following pointed observations, addressed to our nation by the Rev. Stanley Faber, who sheds lustre upon the prophecies, and whatever else he takes in hand:"You would do well, therefore, to turn your serious attention to this remarkable prophecy contained in your own Scriptures. Prejudice may shut the eyes against the clearest circumstantial evidence, and a Jew may be unable to discover in the predictions of Isaiah, any thing that resembles the events detailed in the history of him whom Christians acknowledge as the Messiah; but the case is different with numerical evidence. Circumstantial evidence resembles moral truth, of which there may be an infinite variety of shades. Numerical evidence resembles mathematical truth, which admits of no shades; its boast is unity and perfection; if it be not absolute unmixed truth, it is palpable falsehood. A Jew may conceive, hard as it may be to a Christian to comprehend the possibility of such a thing, yet a Jew may conceive that the predictions of a suffering Messiah were not accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth, but that they will at length receive their accomplishment in your imaginary Messiah, ben Joseph. But the stubbornness of numbers bids defiance to the mischievous ingenuity of the most determined prejudice. Either the Messiah must be come, or Daniel was a false prophet; no other alternative is possible; no evasion is practicable. To every subterfuge, to every reply that can be painfully framed by the Hebrew, writhing under the lash of incontrovertible evidence, the unbending rigidity of mathematical demonstration still proclaims aloud, either the Messiah must be come, or Daniel was a false prophet. Compute the seventy weeks as you will, divide them and subdivide them as you please, admit or reject intercalations, take solar years or take lunar years, reckon from what edict you most affect, perplex chronology as much as you think proper, curtail, with your brethren in the days of Adrian, the Persian monarchy by two hundred years, to put off the evil day of the expiration of these seventy weeks, still will the refractory number refuse either to bend or to break. Long since, must the fated seventy weeks have expired, according to any hypothesis that can be contrived. How then can the Jews deny that the Messiah is come, consistently with their belief in the divine inspiration of Daniel?"
Letter 4. Evasions Confuted
1. According to promise, I shall in this letter show the fallacy and weakness of those opinions which our Rabbins have advanced to evade the convictions which must arise from the preceding arguments, that the Messiah must have come. I have selected those which they mention most frequently, and consider the most forcible. They will persuade us that the sceptre has not departed from Judah, that there are still kings in Israel. This assertion rests solely on the story of Rabbi Gerson, in his book Geliloth Eretz, where he affirms, with an oath, that he will not lie in a single letter, but relate what he himself has seen. He then informs us that in his travels he found a river sixteen miles in breadth, each mile eight thousand feet long; the water flowing with such rapidity that the sound thereof is heard at a distance of two day's journey. This river, he saith, is called Sabbatyon or Sambatyon, because, though it throws up large stones as high as a house all the week through, yet it rests and becomes perfectly dry two hours before the commencement of the Sabbath, and begins again to run, with all its fury, as soon as the Sabbath is ended. Beyond this river, he affirms, there are as many Jews as the sand of the sea, living in great affluence and plenty. They have twenty-four kings, and a powerful king is over the whole. With respect to their descent, he saith, some think they are of the family of Moses, others say they are a part of the ten tribes. Thus much I thought it necessary to quote of this wretched story.
2. Such is the sandy foundation upon which rests the superstructure that the sceptre is not yet departed from Judah. How ridiculous the fiction! Who would suppose that any man in his right senses would for a moment give credit to it? Yet, my dear brother, you well know that our people believe it, for they have incorporated it in the prayer or song for the Sabbath day. So awfully true is it, that when a people wilfully reject the truth, a just and righteous God will give them up to believe a lie. Is it credible that there should exist such a wonderful river in any part of the world, and yet never seen by any traveler, nor described by any historian except Rabbi Gerson? He tells us that the Turks carry on an extensive commerce with these people beyond the river, sending them iron, and getting an equal weight of gold by way of barter. Strange that no other merchants, either in the old or new world, have attempted to have a share in so lucrative and unparalleled a traffic. Besides, if there be such a river, how could Rabbi Gerson see the things which exist in that country, seeing that during the week he could not cross if, else the river would have stoned him; on the Sabbath he dare not cross it, else he would have been stoned to death according to the law; nor could he cross it during the two hours before the Sabbath, for the breadth, he saith, was not less than 24 miles, English measure. Other circumstances, too, are related by this historian which appear absolutely impossible. As for example, he declares that their great king goes often to war with the neighboring nations if they fail of paying their tribute or taxes. On such occasions he is accompanied by no less than 180,000 horse in full armor, and by a force of infantry without number. And all this immense multitude crossed the river during the two hours of rest before the Sabbath commences! Can this be true? But who dare to deny it? For our famous Rabbi Gerson has bound himself by oath to declare nothing but what he himself has seen.
Well, dear Benjamin, let it be true, say there are 24 kings beyond the river Sambatyon; what then? Why, then, the sceptre has not departed. Let it remain, and what has that to do with the prediction of Jacob? These kings and their subjects, our historian tells us, are either the descendants of the family of Moses, who was of the tribe of Levi, or of the ten tribes. But the Patriarch spake of the tribe of Judah. Some of our wise men, of blessed memory, have been wise enough to perceive that this evasion will not bear examination, and therefore have invented another, saying:
3. b. That the sceptre was not to depart for ever, when the Messiah shall come. This opinion rests upon the separation of the two particles, Ad and Ki, translated until. Now, my brother, you know too much of Hebrew to be informed that this separation of the particles is contrary to the use of the accent yethiv, which joins the words generally, and perhaps always (Gen 50:15; 1 Kings 14:23), and is absolutely separated from sceptre and lawgiver by the accent Athnach. Besides, it contradicts the opinions of our Rabbins, who say that Messiah shall not reign for ever, but only 40 years, according to some; 70, according to others, and 400 years, according to others. This translation, therefore, has been abandoned by many, and instead of it,
4. c. They translate the word Shevet, a Rod; i. e. the rod of affliction shall not depart from Judah, until the Messiah come. It is true, the word may signify a rod of affliction, but it is not applicable to Judah; for until the destruction of the second temple, Judah prospered more than all the other tribes. The royal sceptre continued about 500 years; when the ten tribes were carried away, Judah still dwelled in peace; and when they afterward were carried to Babylon, their captivity was only 70 years. Besides, the prediction commences thus, "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise"; which includes a blessing on Judah, expressive of dignity and honor, and not of affliction and sorrow. This translation also has been given up, and it has been supposed by some,
5. d. That Shiloh means a city, i. e. the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until he or it, i. e. the Ark, which shall be taken in Shiloh.(17)
The absurdity of this notion is too evident to need any confutation. Nothing is said in the text of the Ark. Nor was there a sceptre in Judah until after they had come to Shiloh. Besides, we have already shown that all the ancient Rabbins and wise men understood by Shiloh, the king Messiah, and not a city. To him was to be the expectation, gathering, and obedience of the people.
17. "There have been certain German critics, who call themselves Rationalists; but who would not have much reason to complain, if we were to denominate them infidels, since they deny any immediate revelation of truth and religion from God, and conceive themselves to be better judges of Biblical subjects than Jesus and his apostles were. Some of these (assuming very modestly that this poem, which is expressly declared, ver. 1, to be the dying farewell and prophetic monition of Jacob, is a composition of the age of David or Solomon) interpret Shiloh as the name of the town so called, near the mountains of Ephraim, and render the clause'till he come to Shiloh,' 'the tribe of Judah, which had occupied the chief place in the marches and encampments in the wilderness, shall not lay aside that honor, till the tribes shall disperse from the common standard, each to its own allotment; which dispersion shall take place in Shiloh.' See Joshua 18 and 22. 'To this interpretation the following objections occur: The terms of the passage do not accord with any facts in the march through the desert, or the occupation of Canaan. Judah possessed no more authority than any other tribe. The sceptre and legislation were in the hands of Moses, a Levite, and the subsequent command was conferred on Joshua, an Ephraimite.' 'This interpretation would not have merited notice, but as a specimen of that noxious pseudo criticism, whose characters are self-admiring arrogance and manifest irreligion, employing a prodigious machinery of perverted learning, to compress all in Scriptures that is most solemn and important, into insignificancy and nullity.'"Dr. P. Smith, Scripture Testimony Of the Messiah.
6. David Levi, in his notes on the Pentateuch says:"A number of commentators have attempted to explain this passage (Gen 49:10) in different senses. Some explain it thus, the rod of affliction and captivity, and with which, as it were, their feet are bound, shall not depart, till the coming of Shiloh, i. e. the Messiah. For they understand the word Shevet, not to denote an ensign of royalty, but a rod; the same as in Exodus 21:20. And others explain it, that yasoor does not denote to depart, but to bloom, as in Jeremiah 2:21. The regal power of Judah, i. e. the kingdom of the house of David, shall not bloom till Shiloh goes down; till the city of Shiloh loses its dignity. Agreeable to what the Psalmist says (Psa 78:70), And he chose David his servant, &c. In this manner do numbers proceed, every one after his own fancy. But what I take to be the true meaning of the passage, is, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah for ever, but will return in the days of the Messiah; and which seems to coincide with what he said in verse first, 'Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days,' and which are certainly meant of the coming of the Messiah; when the kingdom will return to Judah; or, according to the first explanation that I mentioned, which will also be in the latter days."None of these evasions bearing the light of examination and argument, continuing in force and strengthened by the other predictions which we have considered, it has at last been granted that the period of time fixed and made known at which the Messiah should appear, expired at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and that on account of the sins and wickedness of the people.
7. e. The Messiah was either then born at Bethlehem, and hid himself, and is kept in chains; or, that his coming was delayed until Israel shall repent and perform good works.(18) 18. See R. Bechai in Lege f. 68, c. 2. Aben Ezra on Isa. 52:13; also on Cant. 7:5. See also Echa Rab. fol. 300, c. 1, and in Nezach Israel, ch. 25, fol. 38, 1, and ch. 50, fol. 57, c. 3. Some say he is in paradise.(19) 19. Avodath Hackodesh, ch. 43, fol. 55, c. 2. Others say he is at
Rome.(20) 20. Sanhed. f. 97, 1; 98, 1. Ab. Ezra on Cant. 7:5. Targum on Micah, 4:8. Buxtorf. Syn. Jud. c. 50. This opinion rests upon their assertion that the promise of a Messiah was conditional; viz. that if all Israel be righteous, then Messiah will come at the time appointed; if not, his appearance will be delayed. Now as this is the present prevailing sentiment of our people, it deserves more particular attention.
8. The notion of a conditional promise concerning the Messiah is contrary to the distinction made by our Rabbins between a promise and a threatening. For you well know that they have laid it down as a principle, that God's threatenings are conditional, i. e. if men repent, they will not be executed; but the promises are unconditional. Hence they say if a prophet announces threatenings, and they do not come, it is no proof that he is a false prophet; but if he promises good, and it does not come to pass, it is a sure sign that he is a false prophet.(21) 21. R. Sepharono apud R. Judah Muscato in Sepher Cosri, f. 43, c. I. Talmud Tanith, f. 25, c. 1. Erachin, f. 15, 1. This principle seems to be reasonable and scriptural. Threatenings are in consequence of sin; if sin be repented of and forsaken, God may consistently withhold the evil threatened; but promises of blessings flow from free love, which is no respecter of persons, and unchangeable. Hence, Numbers 23:19, it is said, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Again, Romans 11:29, "The gifts and callings of God are without repentance"; i. e. God never repents of what he gives, whether by promise or actual bestowment. To return to our argument: the Messiah was either an evil threatened, or a blessing promised. The former cannot be the case, else why has he ever been the desire and prayer of our people? Surely no man is anxious for the approach of evil. He must therefore have been promised as a blessing, and as such it could not be delayed. Yet it is asserted by our people, who reject Jesus Christ, that the Messiah did not come at the appointed time, consequently the patriarchs and the prophets have delivered falsehoods. Hence some of our more judicious writers have acknowledged that the promise of a Messiah is absolute, as R. Bechai(22) 22. In Lege, f. 149, c. 4. Shemoth Rab. f. 116, c. 3. and Abarbanel(23) 23. In Sepher Emuneth, c. 14. saith,"if Israel be worthy, the Messiah will come sooner; if they are unworthy, yet he shall come at the time predicted, as it is written, Isaiah 60:22."As the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian bondage and from the Babylonish captivity were fixed and unconditional, so was the promise of the Messiah to deliver us from spiritual bondage and captivity unconditional.
9. Again, b. There is no condition mentioned in any of the promises respecting the Messiah. And so far is it from being true that the people were to be all righteous at the coming of the Messiah, that the prophets declare the very reverse (Isa 53:3; Dan 9:24; Zech 13:1; Mal 3:4). It is also expressly said by the Rabbins, that the generation in which the Messiah shall come will be worse than the Sodomites.(24) 24. Sanhed. f. 97, c. 1. Masech. Derech. Eretz. Sota, f. 21; 1. Tract. Sota f. 49, 2. Pesikta Rab. f. 28, 3, 4. Shirhashirim Rab. f. 260, 2.
10. c. Repentance and good works cannot be the condition; for it must either be in their own power to perform the condition, or they must be enabled by God to do it. If the former be the case, why do our people defer it? Seeing that they expect from the Messiah riches, and honors, and pleasures? why does our nation spend its time and strength in the pursuit of trifles, and neglect the great things promised, especially as our Rabbins say that if all Israel were to keep only one Sabbath holy, the Messiah would immediately come?(25) 25. Shemoth Rabba, f. 116, 3. Shirhashshirim Rab. f 269, 1. Kimchi on Isa. 56:2. R. Bechai in Lege, f. 64, 2. Sanhed. 97, 2. Pirke Elieser, ch. 43, and Avkoth Rochel. And if it be the work of the Spirit to cause them to repent, how is it he did not do it at the time appointed for the coming of the Messiah? Besides, when God revealed the time of the coming of the Messiah, he either foresaw what would be the condition of our nation as to their repentance and good works, or he did not. To say he did not, would be blasphemy; if he did know it, why give these specific predictions of time and circumstances which he knew would not come to pass?
11. d. If the coming of the Messiah be conditional, then there is a possibility that he may not come at all. If God hath delayed it for these 1800 years, why may he not delay it altogether! What stronger motives can be held out than those held out to our fathers, when God sent his own Son, who was an inexhaustible fountain of benevolence and kindness, to the poor, the blind, the lame and the sick; who fed the hungry, comforted the mourners, and raised the dead; and for all this they did not repent, but added the greatest iniquity to their former crimes, by crucifying the Lord of glory, and rejecting the offered mercy after his resurrection?
12. e. We observe, further, that the Messiah was promised to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. Has God, out of infinite love, grace, and mercy, made so many promises to, and excited the expectations of all nations, of the Messiah, and can we suppose that he will disappoint them, and make his truth and grace of none effect, because of the disobedience of the Jews?
13. f. This opinion, also, is contrary to the sentiments advanced by our Rabbins on other occasions. You well know, that when the sufferings of the Messiah are urged from the 53d chapter of Isaiah, they will have us to believe that it is not the Messiah, but the whole house of Israel the prophet was speaking of, and that they were so holy as to be without guile, &c. but suffered, to atone for the sins of the heathen. We are also taught, that on the day of atonement all the sins of Israel are forgiven. What need then is there for repentance, if they are so righteous, and have all their sins forgiven? Besides, if we can believe what our Rabbins tell us, then it is evident that the want of repentance cannot be the cause of the non-appearance of the Messiah; for they assure us(26) 26. In Shalsheleth Hackabala. that in the year 5,260 A. M. or A. D. 1500, a person, by the name of Asher Lemle, gave himself out for a prophet, and declared that the Messiah would immediately appear if the people did repent. The people gave credit to his story throughout Italy, and they repented every one of his evil way and forsook their sins; their repentance was like that of the Ninevites; but the prophet soon after died, and the Messiah did not appear. We observe but once more,
14. g. That the notion of the Messiah's coming having been delayed by the wickedness of our people, is in direct opposition to the design and work of the Messiah. It has already been shown, that the work and design of the Messiah is to deliver men from the guilt and power of sin. Now, if the Messiah was not to come till all Israel be righteous, then they would not need him. The whole needeth not a Physician, nor the righteous a Savior. But there is none righteous, no not one; they have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. The Messiah was to procure our repentance, and not to be procured by it. Hence Peter and the other apostles addressing the high priest, declared that "the God of our fathers had raised up Jesus the Messiah, and exalted him with his right hand, to be a Prince and Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30,31). I hope, my dear Benjamin, you perceive the futility of the inventions of our Rabbins to subvert the arguments which show that the Messiah must have come already. In my next letter I will endeavor to prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. May the Spirit of God lead you into all truth. AmenFather of faithful Abra'm, hear
Our earnest suit for Abra'm's seed
Justly they claim the softest pray'r
From us, adopted in their stead,
Who mercy through their fall obtain,
And Christ, by their rejection gain.
Outcast from thee, and scatter'd wide
Through ev'ry nation under heav'n,
Blaspheming whom they crucify'd,
Unsav'd, unpity'd, unforgiv'n;
Branded, like Cain, they bear their load,
Abhorr'd of men, and curst of God.
But hast thou finally forsook,
For ever cast thy own away?
Wilt thou not bid the murd'rers look
On him they pierc'd, and weep and pray?
Yes, gracious Lord, thy word is past;
"All Israel shall be sav'd at last."
Come then, thou great Deliv'rer, come;
The veil from Jacob's heart remove;
Receive thy ancient people home,
That, quicken'd by thy dying love,
The world may their reception view,
And shout, to God, the glory due.
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