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THE PROPHECIES OF EZEKIEL, CONCERNING SCYTHIA
AND PALESTINE.1 For many centuries the dark prophecies of Ezekiel have furnished matter for the speculation of theologians, as well as for the theories of those modern prophets who would establish exact dates for the end of the world, so it is not surprising that current events should have produced some commentaries on this subject. Last Advent, Canon Hoare delivered a series of lectures which were subsequently published under the title of “ Palestine and Russia,” in which he maintains that the prophecies of Ezekiel concerning the restoration of the Jews, have yet to be fulfilled in a material sense; that while still unconverted, they will be transported to Palestine, and that chapters 38 and 39 probably signify a future threatened invasion of their country by the Russians, under the names of Gog, Meshech, and Tubal, who will be overthrown by a direct Divine judgment, the sight of which will produce the final conversion to Christianity of the Hebrew race. The pamphlet called the Invasion of Gog, Meshech, and Tubal, by an “Historian” in reply to Canon Hoare, agrees with Bishop Wordsworth in considering that a part at least of these chapters refers to a spiritual invasion by unbelievers of the Church of CHRIST, and that under the names of Gog, and Magog, the ancestors it is supposed of the ancient Scythians, the Prophet, like S. John in the Revelation, typifies a numerous host, the Scythians being in both cases a particularly familiar illustration from their recent invasions of Asia Minor, and the border provinces of the Roman Empire. The “ Historian” goes over the ancient inroads of the Scythians upon Southern Asia as recorded by the Greek and Roman writers, and the conquests of the Tartars in the middle ages, when Christendom was preserved by an almost miraculous interposition,
· Palestine and Russia, by Canon Hoare, ls., (Hatchards.) The Invasion of Gog, Meshech, and Tubal, by an Historian, price 3d., (William Poole.)
and shows that on either of these occasions the prophecies of Ezekiel might well have been fulfilled.
“Ezekiel was carried captive into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, about 599 B.C., and it was after this that the rebellion of Zedekiah, King of Judah, took place; that Jerusalem was besieged and sacked when its inhabitants had been reduced to the last stage of famine, and that the unhappy country was impoverished and desolated with the inhumanity characteristic of oriental conquerors. The Prophet foretells these calamities to his companions in exile ; how Zedekiah who had broken his oath, and combined with Pharaoh, King of Egypt, against Nebuchadnezzar, should die a captive in Babylon; but that the Jews should eventually be restored to their own land, when they had undergone the penalty of their transgressions, among which usury and extortion are particularly enumerated. Tyre had mocked at the fall of Jerusalem and hoped to profit by her misfortunes. She was vain of her own riches and wisdom, but would be cast down by Nebuchadnezzar ; and when Israel was restored to Palestine, should no longer be 'a pricking briar unto her ;' while Egypt, who had acted like a broken reed to Judah when she trusted in her aid, should be also laid waste by the King of Babylon, and should become the basest of kingdoms,' never ruling the nations any more. • The King of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus; every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled,' (by the use of the bow) “yet had he no wages nor his army for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it. Therefore, thus saith the LORD God, Behold I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon; and he sball take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey, and it shall be the wages for his army,' (chap. xxix.) All this happened a few years afterwards.
“It is almost needless to observe that Israel at that period stood in the position of the one Christian nation, the only true believers in the midst of heathendom, and her fall was therefore likely to provoke impious comments and rejoicings. But the power of Israel's God was manifested by the discomfiture or ruin of those mocking heathen nations, while two of the tribes of Israel and a remnant of the other ten were brought back to Judea after seventy years' captivity, and settled down in peace in their old homes, as well as on some of the lands once owned by their heathen neighbours; just as the Christian nations in Western Asia and Eastern Europe were once crushed between heathen and Mahometan oppressors; but while the kingdoms founded by those Mahometan and heathen oppressors have now disappeared or become the basest of kingdoms' Russia, Kazan, Astraknan, the Crimea, Siberia, Georgia, Central Asia, India, Greece, Algeria, Servia, and Roumania are transferred from Mahometan to Christian rulers. Ezekiel continues to console his afflicted fellow. countrymen, by assuring them of their restoration to the land for which they were mourning, and of the judgments which would fall on their enemies, a consolation very acceptable, as we may gather from Psalm cxxxvii.; and that on their return to Judea the tribes would be mixed together, and under one king, and not as formerly under separate kings, for Judah and for Israel. They should erect no more idols, but the LORD's sanctuary'shall be in the midst of them for evermore,' and so it is, for the churches of the Holy Sepulchre are reverenced by all Christians, and Jerusalem, the Holy City, is as sacred to the Christian as to the Jew.
“ Then comes chap. xxxviii., with no indication that the Prophet is not continuing the subject of the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, and the destruction of their heathen oppressors and invaders, and as the event he describes was exactly what occurred a very few years later, in all probability he was."
After describing the many invasions of Syria by the northern nations, the “Historian" proceeds: “There is a theory that the special promises to the House of Israel were granted to the descendants of Abrabam according to the flesh, and not according to the spirit, that the unconverted Jewish usurer, or the dishonest farmer of taxes in the East, oppressing the Christian who has manfully clung to his faith in CHRIST through ages of bitter persecution, is more precious in the sight of GOD, than that Christian, or than the most shining example, if he comes of Gentile blood. Is faith then, the quality of all others required in the Old Testament, no longer of account with the Most High ? The Jews were favoured under the old dispensation, because they were the repository of the faith, the only true believers, and destined to be the countrymen of our Lord in His earthly form; with them the Church wandered in the Wilderness, the mother of Christianity. But how different now! and what says S. Paul to the Galatians ? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham .... Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is CHRIST. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free . . . for ye are all one in CHRIST JESUS.' So the early Jewish Christians and their descendants became amalgamated with Gentile Christians, yet, according to the theory of special privileges being still reserved for the descendants of Jacob in the flesh, their faith in Christ would bave actually placed their descendants in a worse position than if they had remained hardened blasphemers !" ... “S. Paul also speaks of the Christian Church as “Jerusalem that is above;' the holy Jerusalem,' says S. John, descending out of Heaven from God. And even in the earthly Jerusalem, what interest can the unconverted Jew feel there, compared to the interest of the Christian? for to the first, it is after all, but an archæological and historical curiosity; the cradle of his race; while to the Christian, it is at once the cradle and the shrine of Christianity. The great Jewish prophet and lawgiver never even entered Jerusalem, while to the Christian
every street is hallowed, as associated with some event in the earthly history of our LORD. So it is with all Judea.
Moses never entered it, and Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph spent a great part of their lives in other lands, while it was the home of nearly all the early Christian saints. What is Bethlehem to the Jew as the home of David, and the burying place of Rachel, compared to what it is to us as the birthplace of Christ? Why then should the European Jews, except as converts, have any special claim or desire to be conveyed back to Judea ; and as converts, they would but share the memories, hopes and promises of Christianity. Their faith was kept alive through the terrible oppression under which they suffered in the days of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, by the prophecies which foretold their restoration to Judea after seventy years, that they should be gathered from all the distant provinces of the Assyrian Empire, and live again under a king of Jewish birth. Only one inspired, could have foreseen that the whole house of the cruel conqueror Nebuchadnezzar should be swept away in that time.”
“Surely the consolatory prophecies of Ezekiel for their restoration to Judea to be accomplished within the lifetime of those who were children among the captives, were more needed then than now, when the Jews are the wealthiest portion of the community in every Christian land; and in faith have frequently lapsed into latitudinarianism, when they take their seat among the lawgivers of Christian nations, and in some countries have become the oppressors instead of the oppressed.”
In “Palestine and Russia,” Canon Hoare supposes that “the heathen,” (Ezek. chap. 38) as well as the Jews will be converted by the sight of the ALMIGHTY's heavy judgment upon a Christian people in defence of those who reject His Son. For “whatever,” says the Historian, "may be the faults of the Russians, they are far removed from a heathen people, and suffered more in the cause of Christianity during the years from 1200 to 1600 than any other Europeans. Their charities, long fasts, tithe-giving and strict observance of the outward ordinances of the Church remind us of the days of the primitive Christians, and might often put Western Europe to shame. Their priests, though frequently ignorant and unrefined, are apostolically descended, and are capable of improvement because they have set up no claim to infallibility. They have adopted no new dogmas since the last general council which laid down the doctrines of the whole Christian Church, and the constitution of the Eastern Church, as in the days of the Apostles, is a union of Churches-Russia, Constantinople, Armenia, Jerusalem, &c., each under its own Patriarch or Holy Synod, and virtually independent, acknowledging Christ, and no other, as their common Head, sharing in each other's Sacraments, and in the services of each other's Priests. When Napoleon I. invaded Russia and received an envoy from the Emperor Alexander I. at Vilna, he asked some questions about Moscow, and observed, 'What is the use of so many Churches, in these days, when there are no Christians ?' • Pardon me, sire,' said the Russian, the Russians and Spaniards are Christians still.' But if we are to take Ezekiel's description of Gog's overthrow as of a material event in the future, the bows are certainly no longer characteristic of a Russian army, so would suggest that the power of the Russian Empire having been effectually destroyed through foreign invasion, or internal disputes, the civilized world had lost the barrier which Providence has mercifully placed for the last 400 years, between the ferocious Mahometan Tartars of Central Asia, and those happy Christian nations who have never felt the yoke of Islam, or suffered unspeakable tortures to make them renounce their faith ; and that, as of old, these Tartars, armed with bows and pikes, had once more subdued Russia, and forced her sons to fight in the vanguard of their armies, which were again in a position to threaten the safety of the world.”!