The Prophecies Respecting the Messiah

CHAPTER VIII.


Concerning the Prophetic office of the Messiah; wherein is proved, that he is the prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 8:15 also enquiry is made, who was to be his fore-runner; what was his prophetic work; and where he was to perform his office.


Having traced the prophecies of the Messiah to the very place of his habitation, and they being entirely silent as to anything relating to him, or that should befall him, until the time of his manifestation, as the great prophet in Israel,and the evangelic history being as silent with respect to Jesus, during the same space of time, unless it be in the single instance of his going up to Jerusalem,at the feast of the passover, with his parents, and his disputing with the doctors in the temple, when at twelve years of age, I shall therefore, in this chapter, consider him in the capacity of a prophet, and as exercising that office; and the method I shall take will be as follows:

First,I shall endeavour to prove from Deuteronomy18:15. that the Messiah was to be a prophet.

Secondly,Shall inquire who was to be his fore-runner, according to the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi.

Thirdly,Shall consider his work as a prophet, in the several parts and branches thereof.

Fourthly,,Point out the very place, as directed to in prophecy, where he was to perform this office. And,

Fifthly,Shew the success which was to attend his ministry.

First,I shall endeavour to prove, that the Messiah was to be a prophet, from Deuteronomy 18:15. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken.These words are applied to the Messiah, Jesus, by the apostle Peter in Acts 3:22. Christ seems to have regard to them when he says (John 5:46), Moses wrote of me.Nay, God the Father manifestly directs to them, at the transfiguration of Christ upon the mount, when, Moses and Elias being present, he enjoined the disciples, by a voice from Heaven, only to hearken to him; saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom 1 am well pleased; hear ye him which is the very injunction in the text under consideration. How just the application of these words in the New Testament, to Jesus, as the Messiah, is, I shall now consider. These words can be understood of no other but the Messiah; not of any single prophet., as Joshua,as some; Jeremiah,as others think;not, Joshua,for though he was the immediate successor of Moses, and was appointed a leader and commander of the people of Israel,to whom they hearkened; yet was he no prophet, nor was he ever accounted as such by the Jews; nor Jeremiah,for though he was a prophet, yet not like to Moses,at least he had no peculiar likeness to him, which might not be observed in other prophets; nor is a succession of prophets here intended, which is the opinion of others, for it is a single prophet that is here spoken of; so the Targums,both of Onkelos and Jonathan,and the Septuagint version, understand it; neither had the Jews ever a constant succession of prophets, being frequently without any; besides, take all the prophets, from Moses to the times of Jesus, and consider them either collectively or singly, there will appear a very great dissimilitude between them; whether we regard the very great familiarity and intimate converse he had with God, or the signs and wonders which were done by him, or the great deliverance which he was an instrument of, as it is said in Deuteronomy 34:10, 11, And there arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do,&c. Accordingly the Jews have always magnified and extolled Moses above all the prophets, and that in the case of prophecy, calling him, the prince of the prophets;and say, that "all the prophets prophesied from the fountain of his prophecy." Maimonides assigns several differences between the nature of their prophesying and his, though he allows the Messiah to be equal with him as a prophet: and as to miracles, put all those of the prophets together, they do not come up to Moses';his miracles in number exceed them all. Manasseh Ben-Israel has took the pains to collect and compare them together, and, according to him, the miracles done by, or on the account of the prophets, were seventy-four; but those done by Moses,or on his account, were seventy-six; but how just this account is, I do not pretend to say. Moreover, it ought to he observed, that it was a single prophet, some famous and noted one, whom the Jews expected in the times of Jesus, the foundation of which expectation must be those words of Moses,and from what they saw and heard of Jesus, they were ready to conclude he must be the person (John6:14), then those men when they had seen the miracles that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet which should come into the world.From the whole it appears, that a succession of prophets is not intended, nor any other single prophet, but the Messiah, as may he more fully evinced,

1. From the connection of the words with the preceding verse, which should be read thus, for these nations which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, not so are they, whom the Lord thy God giveth unto thee,that is, the prophets whom the Lord will raise up among you, will not be like the jugglers and diviners among the heathens, who deceive and impose upon mankind, for these will be men sent and inspired by God, and will be true and faithful in the discharge of their office: Now that they might be encouraged to hearken to these prophets, and lest they should be discouraged because they would come far short of Moses,he informs them in this verse, that a prophet,an eminent one, one preferable to all others, and every way like to him, would God raise up unto them; so that if a succession of prophets is intended anywhere, it is in the former verse, and not in this, where speaking of the preferableness of them to the diviners and wizards of the Gentiles, he takes the opportunity to raise their expectation of, and direct their faith unto, the famous and super-excellent prophet that was to come.

2. From the occasion of the words, which, according to verses 16-18, was the request of the people of Israel,who, being terrified at what they saw and heard at mount Sinai,desired that God would not speak with them immediately, but that some person might be appointed to deliver his mind and will, and accordingly Moses was; which, for the present, was a satisfaction to them. Moreover, the Lord also assured them, that for the future, when it was his pleasure to make a new revelation, or a further discovery of his mind and will, he would not do it in this terrible manner, but would raise up a person of their own flesh and blood, like unto Moses,by whom it should be delivered, which was sufficient to prevent their fears for the future; and thus it was, for as the law was given by Moses,so grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.From hence it appears, that there is no room for the exception of a late author, namely, that the exigencies of the people required an immediate prophet, or a succession of them, to be raised up, which exigencies could not be answered by a prophet two thousand years to come, for the people were in no such exigency; they had just now received a revelation of God's mind and will to them by Moses, and this was to suffice until the Messiah came; for the business of the prophets, who were afterwards raised up, was not to bring a new revelation, but to urge, inculcate, and explain the old one; and it was enough for the satisfaction of the people, and to answer their exigencies, that whenever it pleased God to make a new revelation of his will, whether it was one, two, three, or four thousand years afterward, that he would raise up such a person as is here described, by whom he would do it; which he has accordingly made good in the Messiah, Jesus.

3. This may be further argued, from what is threatened to those who should refuse to hearken to him (v. 19), And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken to my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him,that is, I will punish him for it; which the apostle expresses by (Acts 3:23), a being destroyed from among the people; and Maimonides says, that such a person is "guilty of death by the hands of heaven." Now this never was so remarkably fulfilled, as in the destruction of the Jewish nation, for their rejection of Jesus, as the true Messiah and prophet of God; though the author of The Scheme of Literal Prophecy says, that this was "so far from being true in respect of Jesus, that himself was cut off, and not his opposers and enemies." To which may be replied, that it is true that Jesus was cut off for the sins of his people, as was before predicted of him;but then, that those who rejected him died in their sins, that wrath came upon them to the uttermost, that their city and temple were destroyed, and they involved in utter ruin and destruction, this author surely cannot be ignorant of.

4. That the Messiah is here intended, and that Jesus is he, will appear from the description of this prophet, which exactly agrees with him;for besides that, general character of his being an Israelite,one raised up in the midst of them, of their own flesh and blood, which is common to all Jewish prophets, he is every way like unto Moses,and that even in those things in which there is a dissimilitude between Moses and other prophets;was Moses a mediator, and faithful in the discharge of his work? so was Jesus; was he a deliverer of Israel out of Egyptian bondage? Christ has delivered his people out of a far worse bondage, even that of sin;had Moses such familiar converse with God as none of the other prophets ever had? Jesus lay in the bosom of God, and has revealed him unto us;was Moses preferable to all others, for the signs and wonders which he wrought? Christ did those works which none other man did;If then Jesus is not only like to Moses in those things in which other prophets were, but also in those in which there was a dissimilitude between them, certainly he bids fairest to be the prophet in the text. The above mentioned author says, "This prophecy cannot relate to Jesus, inasmuch as the prophet here spoken of might be tried and condemned as really a false prophet." To which I answer, that the trial and condemnation of the false prophet, in verses 20-22, can never be understood of the prophet promised in verse 15 for it can never be thought, that he who was to be raised up by God, and was to have his words put into his month, and to whom the people were to hearken, should speak in the name of other gods, or that which God commanded him not; it only supposes, that some persons might make pretensions to be this prophet who were not so, and, in order to the discovery of them, they were to be tried after the manner directed to, and upon conviction to be cut off, which no ways prejudices the application of this famous prophecy to Jesus, who appears, from all considerations, to be the person intended. I proceed,

Secondly,To inquire who was to be the forerunner of this great prophet, according to the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi;and shall attempt to prove that John the Baptist is the person designed.

1st,This person is represented as the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,whose work was to prepare the way of the Lord,and to make straight in the desert a high way for our God (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1), which prophecies are in the New Testament applied to John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:2, 3; Luke 3:4), and how justly will easily appear, if it be considered that the very place where he began his ministry is, pointed at, who came preaching in the wilderness of Judea;and as for the work he was to do, which was to prepare the way of the Lord,it exactly suits with him; for John's ministry had a very great tendency to dispose the people to a reception of the Messiah, he preached the doctrine of repentance to them, which the Jews acknowledge to be necessary to the coming of the Messiah; he declared that the kingdom of Heaven, or the Messiah,was at hand;he baptized with the baptism of repentance,which made the Jews inquire whether he was not the Christ, or Elias,or that prophet;and at the same time he advised the people to believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus,as the apostle Paul informs us (Acts 19:4); he endeavored to take off the Jews from their vain confidence in fleshly privileges, as being the descendants of Abraham,and so fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy of him, every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.Whereby persons wereprepared to receive the Messiah;nay, he did, as it were, with his finger point him out unto them, saying, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.That the Lord,whose way was to be thus prepared by this person, is the Messiah, and that this prophecy belongs to the time of his appearing, may easily be concluded from the context. The consolations to be administered to God's people by his ministers, mentioned in verse 1 and 2, were to have their full completion in the days of the Messiah,as Kimchi on the place observes, who is prophesied of more expressly in verses 9-11 as one that was to appear to the joy of his people, and would come with a strong hand,vigorously prosecute his designs, faithfully perform his work, and then receive his full reward. He is moreover represented under the character of a shepherd,and as one that would very tenderly discharge the several parts and branches of that office;which character, as it is frequently given to the Messiah in the Old Testament, is what Jesus bears in the New.

2dly,The person who was to be the forerunner of the Messiah, is spoken of under the name of Elijah the prophet,(Mal. 4:5, 6); Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. All which well agrees with John the Baptist; and that he is the person intended, may very easily be argued from the time of his coming, which. was before the coming of the great and dreadful or illustrious epif anh, as the Septuagint renders it, day of the Lord:from the work he was to do, which was to turn the heart of the fathers to,or rather with, thee children,צל for צם as Kimchi on the place observes;and the meaning is that he should convert, or turn, abundance of people, both fathers and children, from their iniquities, which, John the Baptist was an instrument of doing (Matthew 3:5, 6), for Jerusalem and all Judea, all the region round about Jordan, went out to him, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.Besides it deserves consideration, that the awful argument, which this person was to enforce his ministry with, lest I come and smite the earth,or land with a curse,which is expressive of the destruction of the Jewish nation, in case of non-repentance, exactly suits with the ministry of John the Baptist,who declared to the Jews, that, unless they brought forth fruits meet for repentance, wrath,would come upon them, that the axe was then laid to the root of the tree,and that every fruitless one would be hewn down and cast into the fire;and accordingly, for their non-repentance, their contempt of John's ministry, and rejection of the Messiah, this wrath did come upon them;their land was smitten with a curse,their city and temple were destroyed, and they wholly ceased to be a nation or commonwealth. Two things principally are objected against this sense of the words of by a late author.

1. That the real Elias is here intended, and therefore the Septuagint translators render it expressly, Elias the Tishbite,and that the Jews accordingly expect Elias to come in person. To which I answer, that as to the Septuagint version, it can be of no weight in this case;because the word Tishbite is not in the original text, but put in by those translators, without any warrant or authority for it;and though it was indeed the opinion of many of the Jews, that Elias should come in person, before the coming of the Messiah;yet not of all of them, for some of them have thought, that some great prophet, equal to Elias,and endued with the same spirit, is intended;and particularly this is the opinion of Maimonides. Besides, it no unusual thing for one person to he called by the name of another, very much like him, for integrity, wisdom, courage, zeal, &c. this is no ways disagreeable to the language of other authors; thus Turnus is by Virgil called another Achilles:much less to the language of the scriptures, where the Messiah is frequently called by the name of David,because of their very great likeness and agreement; besides, it is usual with the Jews to call Phinehas by the name of Elias,because, of his great zeal for the Lord of hosts; and for the very same reason may John the Baptist be called by the name of Elias,there appearing to be a very great resemblance between Elias and John,in their temper and disposition, in their manner of clothing, and austere way of living, in their eximious piety and holiness, in their courage and integrity in reproving vice, arid their zeal and usefulness in the cause of God and true Religion;so that John the Baptist may well be said to come in the Spirit and power of Elias,as the angel expresses it (Luke1:17), and on the account thereof be called by his name.

2. Another objection produced by the same author, and which appears the most formidable is, that "John,who must be supposed to know who he was himself, when the question was asked him, whether he was Elias,denied himself to be Elias."In answer to which, let it be observed, that the Jews, in putting this question to John whether he was the Elias or no, meant whether he was Elias in person, the real Elias, Elias the Tishbite,or no, and so John understood them, and therefore very honestly and sincerely replies, that he was not, that is, that he was not Elias the Tishbite,though he does not deny that he was the person intended by the Elias that was prophesied should come, and therefore, that they might not be at a loss to know who he was, he tells them, he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the according to Isaiah's prophecy, who is the same person that Malachi in chapter 3:1 calls the Messenger of the Lord, who was to prepare the way before him, which messenger is no other than Elias the prophet in chapter 4:5,as will appear by comparing the places together;so that though John denies himself to be Elias the Tishbite,yet he owns himself to be the person intended by the Elias that was to come. And from hence it appears, that when Christ says of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14), This is Elias which was for to come,he says nothing contrary to, or irreconcilable with the words of John,as the Jews object; for Christ does not say, that he was Elias in person, or Elias the Tishbite,but only that he was the Elias which was for to come,that is, he who was intended by him. I proceed,

Thirdly,To consider the work which the Messiah, as a prophet, was to do, and which our Jesus did,

1st, One part of the Messiah's work, as a prophet, was to preach the gospel, according to Isaiah 61:1, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me, to preach the good tidings to the meek;which prophecy is acknowledged, by some Jewish writers, to belong to the Messiah;and indeed the unction of the Spirit here spoken of best agrees with him, who was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows,as well as the work he was to do which is such as no mere creature is capable of, especially that of binding up the broken hearted.With this prophecy Jesus began his ministry, applying it to himself, and, in all respects, answered the several things contained therein, which is no small proof of his Messiahship. Hence, among the several evidences thereof, which he gave the disciples of John,who were sent by their master to inquire of him, whether he was he that should come,or whether they were to look for another,this was one, the poor have the gospel preached to them;for as the Messiah was to preach glad tidings to the meek,or poor,ptwcoiV , as the Septuagint render it; so it is manifest enough, that Jesus' audience was chiefly of that sort; those flocked unto him, attended on his ministry, and embraced his doctrine, when he was rejected by the wise and wealthy. Besides, the Gospel was preached by him, not after the ordinary manner, but in such a way as it never had been before, nor has been since; for his enemies themselves being witnesses, never man spake like him, Iris words were clothed with majesty and power, he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes,to the surprise and astonishment of all that heard him.

2dly,Another part of his work was, to perform miracles for the confirmation of the truth of his mission. That the Messiah was to work miracles, is manifest from the predictions of the prophets, especially Isaiah (24:5, 6),who says, that when God comes with vengeance, even God with a recompence to save his people, which is to be understood of the great salvation by the Messiah, then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing;all which was verified in Jesus, who gave these very instances to John's disciples, as evidences of his being the true Messiah. That the Jews in the times of Jesus expected the Messiah to do miracles, is plain from what they say in John 7:31, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?And though later Jews would willingly establish such a notion, as that there is no need to look for miracles to be wrought by the Messiah when he comes, yet it is certain that their more ancient writers were of a different mind, and expected as many, and as great miracles to be wrought, as were at the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt;nay, Maimonides himself who seems fond of the above said notion, yet is obliged to acknowledge, that miracles will be wrought by the Messiah, and that upon the account of them, he will meet with a great deal of respect from the actions of the world. That Jesus did do such miracles as were predicted of the Messiah, is not only affirmed by the evangelists, who were men of probity, honesty, and integrity, but is also acknowledged by those who were no friends to the religion of Jesus; nay, by those who were his bitter and implacable enemies; which miracles of his are very good proofs of his being the true Messiah, and that prophet whom Moses spoke of, and the Jews expected; hence some of them, that saw the miracles which Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world (John 6:14).

3dly,Another part of a prophet's work is to foretell future events; and it is a rule which Maimonides lays down, that if all a prophet says comes to pass, then he is to be accounted a true and faithful one; now Jesus foretold many things before hand, which exactly and punctually came to pass; he foretold the evil treatment he should meet with from the Jews, his being betrayed by one of his own disciples, his being denied by another, and forsaken by them all also his death and the manner of it;his resurrection from the dead; the destruction of the Jewish nation; the preaching of the gospel, and the success thereof in the Gentile world; all which were exactly accomplished; and therefore he justly deserves the character of a prophet, and to be esteemed as one sent by God. But,

Fourthly,I shall now inquire into the place where the Messiah was chiefly to fulfil his ministry, as the great prophet in Israel,which appears to be Galilee of the nations,according to a prophecy in Isaiah 9:1, 2. Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at time first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Napthali; and afterwards did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great lights they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.The former of which verses should be read thus; Nevertheless the dimness shall not be to her as her oppression, for as at the first time he debased the land of Zebulun and the land of Napthali, so in the latter time,or hereafter, he will make it glorious by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations;the learned Mr. Mede reads the words much the same way; and the plain meaning of them is this, that whereas those parts of the land of Israel,here mentioned, had suffered much by Tiglath Pilezer,who had carried them captive (2 Kings 15:29), which is the vexation referred to; so they should be very much honored and glorified, by the presence and conversation of the Messiah, who is the great light,in verse 9, that was to shine in those dark and obscure parts, and give light unto them, and there become famous himself, and make them so by his doctrines, miracles, and holy life and conversation; who is no other than the child born, and son given, of whom such great things are spoken, and to whom such magnificent titles are given in verses 6 and 7. Now this prediction was exactly verified in Jesus; for though he was born at Bethlehem,in the land of Judah,according to the prophecy in Micah 5:2, yet he was educated and brought up in Galilee,from whence he came to be baptized by John,when the time drew nigh of his entering upon his public ministry: but after he had been tempted in the wilderness, and had heard of John's being cast into prison, he departed into Galilee, and, leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coasts in the borders of Zabulon and Napthali: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon,&c. (Matthew 4:12-16), it was here be began to preach (v. 17), here he called his first disciples (vv. 18, 21), here he staid and continued some time, for he went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues,&c. (v. 23), here he wrought his first miracle (John 2:11), here he chiefly conversed, here he promised to meet with his disciples (Matthew 26:32),and here he accordingly did (Matthew 28:7, 10, 16), he was so much in those parts that the Jews concluded that Galilee was the place of his birth;hence say they, in John7:41, Shall Christ come out Galilee?but though he was not to he born there, yet he was to converse there much. The ancient Jews expected the Messiah to he revealed, and make his first appearance in Galilee;for so they affirm in their book of Zohar; now what could be the foundation of such an expectation, but this prophecy of Isaiah,which has had its literal accomplishment in Jesus? But,

Fifthly,I proceed to consider what success was to attend the Messiah's ministry, which was to be but very small and inconsiderable;for he and his ministry were to be slighted and rejected by men, according to the prophecies that went before of him, which declare, that, the hearts of men, instead of being converted under his ministry, would grow more obdurate, their ears be heavy, and their eyes shut which is not to be imputed to any weakness and insufficiency, either in his doctrine, or method of teaching, but to the wretched depravity and corruption of human nature. Now so it was with respect to the ministry of Jesus;for though he spake as never man did, taught with authority,as the scribes did not, and confirmed his doctrines by many surprising and unquestionable miracles, yet there were but few that believed on him;for their minds were blinded and their hearts were hardened;and that this might be no occasion of stumbling to his disciples, he acquaints them, that this was no other than what was prophesied of beforehand (Matthew 13:13-16; John 12:37-40). The prophecy which he more especially refers to, is in Isaiah 6:9, 10, which prophecy a late author asserts, "according to its literal sense, relates to the obstinate Jews, who lived in the time of Isaiah,though Jesus says that it was fulfilled in his time, in those to whom he spoke in parables;" but why according to its literal sense, it may not as well relate to the Jews in Jesus' time, as to those in Isaiah's,there seems no reason to conclude; for the Jews in Jesus' time were much of the same complexion with those in Isaiah's;nay the character suits better with the Jews in the time of Jesus, than with those in the time of Isaiah;for though this judicial blindness began in the time of Isaiah,yet in succeeding ages it increased, being grown to a prodigious pitch in the time of Jesus, and was still increasing until the utter destruction of the nation, for so long it was to continue, according to Isaiah's prophecy, who asks this question (v. 11) Then said I, Lord, how long?that is, will this obstinacy and blindness continue? and me answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land,which cannot be understood of the devastation by Senacherib,or of the Babylonish captivity, in neither of which was there such an utter desolation of the land of Judea,as is here spoken of, but seems very plainly to point out the destruction of the Jews temple, city, and nation, by the Romans,which was the just demerit of their blindness, obstinacy, and infidelity. Besides, it looks as if Isaiah had the Jews in the times of the Messiah, principally in view, for these things said he of them when he saw the glory of the Messiah, of which some account is given in verses 1-5 and spake of him.