« Prev Book IV. The Restoration. Next »

375

BOOK IV.

THE RESTORATION.

376


377

BOOK IV.

We have now reached the summit of our prophecy. It has been a long, steep ascent, and we have had very much to seek out on the way, and to extricate and solve and load ourselves with. But although a long extent of the prophecy, if we measure it by chapters, still lies before us, the end is in sight; every difficulty has been surmounted which kept us from seeing how we were to get to it, and the rest of the way may be said to be down-hill.

To drop the figure—the Servant, his vicarious suffering and atonement for the sins of the people, form for our prophet the solution of the spiritual problem of the nation's restoration, and what he has now to do is but to fill in the details of this.

We saw that the problem of Israel's deliverance from Exile, their Return, and their Restoration to their position in their own land as the Chief Servant of God to humanity, was really a double problem—political and spiritual. The solution of the political side of it was Cyrus. As soon as the prophet had been able to make it certain that Cyrus was moving down upon Babylon, with a commission from God to take the city, and irresistible in the power with which Jehovah had invested him, the political difficulties in the way of Israel's Return were as good as removed; and so the prophet gave, in the end of ch. xlviii., his great call to his countrymen to378 depart. But all through chs. xl.-xlviii., while addressing himself to the solution of the political problems of Israel's deliverance, the prophet had given hints that there were moral and spiritual difficulties as well. In spite of their punishment for more than half a century, the mass of the people were not worthy of a return. Many were idolaters; many were worldly; the orthodox had their own wrong views of how salvation should come (xlv. 9 ff.); the pious were without either light or faith (l. 10). The nation, in short, had not that inward righteousness, which could alone justify God in vindicating them before the world, in establishing their outward righteousness, their salvation and reinstatement in their lofty place and calling as His people. These moral difficulties come upon the prophet with greater force after he has, with the close of ch. xlviii., finished his solution of the political ones. To these moral difficulties he addresses himself in xlix.-liii., and the Servant and his Service are his solution of them:—the Servant as a Prophet and a Covenant of the People in ch. xlix. and in ch. l. 4 ff.; the Servant as an example to the people, ch. l. ff.; and finally the Servant as a full expiation for the people's sins in ch. lii. 13-liii. It is the Servant who is to raise up the land, and to bring back the heirs to the desolate heritages, and rouse the Israel who are not willing to leave Babylon, saying to the bound, Go forth; and to them that sit in darkness, Show yourselves (xlix. 8, 9). It is he who is to sustain the weary and to comfort the pious in Israel, who, though pious, have no light as they walk on their way back (l. 4, 10). It is the Servant finally who is to achieve the main problem of all and make many righteous (liii. 11). The hope of restoration, the certainty of the people's redemption, the certainty of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the certainty of the growth379 of the people to a great multitude, are, therefore, all woven by the prophet through and through with his studies of the Servant's work in xlix., l., and lii. 13-liii.,—woven so closely and so naturally that, as we have already seen (pp. 313 f., 336 ff.), we cannot take any part of chs. xlix.-liii. and say that it is of different authorship from the rest. Thus in ch. xlix. we have the road to Jerusalem pictured in vv. 9b-13, immediately upon the back of the Servant's call to go forth in ver. 9a. We have then the assurance of Zion being rebuilt and thronged by her children in vv. 14-23, and another affirmation of the certainty of redemption in vv. 24-26; In l. 1-3 this is repeated. In li.-lii. 12 the petty people is assured that it shall grow innumerable again; new affirmations are made of its ransom and return, ending with the beautiful prospect of the feet of the heralds of deliverance on the mountains of Judah (lii. 7b) and a renewed call to leave Babylon (vv. 11, 12). We shall treat all these passages in our Twenty-First Chapter.

And as they started naturally from the Servant's work in xlix. 1-9a and his example in l. 4-11, so upon his final and crowning work in ch. liii. there follow as naturally ch. liv. (the prospect of the seed that liii. 10 promised he should see), and ch. lv. (a new call to come forth). These two, with the little pre-exilic prophecy, ch. lvi. 1-8, we shall treat in our Twenty-Second Chapter.

Then come the series of difficult small prophecies with pre-exilic traces in them, from lvi. 9-lix. They will occupy our Twenty-Third Chapter. In ch. lx. Zion is at last not only in sight, but radiant in the rising of her new day of glory. In chs. lxi. and lxii. the prophet, having reached Zion, "looks back," as Dillmann well remarks, "upon what has become his task, and in connection380 with that makes clear once more the high goal of all his working and striving." In lxiii. 1-6 the Divine Deliverer is hailed. We shall take lx.-lxiii. 6 together in our Twenty-Fourth Chapter.

Ch. lxiii. 7-lxiv. is an Intercessory Prayer for the restoration of all Israel. It is answered in ch. lxv., and the lesson of this answer, that Israel must be judged, and that all cannot be saved, is enforced in ch. lxvi. Chs. lxiii. 7-lxvi. will therefore form our Twenty-Fifth and closing Chapter.

Thus our course is clear, and we can overtake it rapidly. It is, to a large extent, a series of spectacles, interrupted by exhortations upon duty; things, in fact, to see and to hear, not to argue about. There are few great doctrinal questions, except what we have already sufficiently discussed; our study, for instance, of the term righteousness, we shall find has covered for us a large part of the ground in advance. And the only difficult literary question is that of the pre-exilic and post-exilic pieces, which are alleged to form so large a part of chs. lvi.-lix. and lxiii.-lxvi.

« Prev Book IV. The Restoration. Next »

VIEWNAME is workSection