Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


The Resurrection.

 (Continued from p. 154.)

By Julius Eckman

It is with a sacred awe that we now approach those pages in which the High and Lofty One has revealed His will to his servants, the prophets. It is with a timid and diffident step that we advance to those אבני קדשsacred stones,” which were set up לתורה ולתעודה for instruction and a testimony” for Israel during the long and hard trials that he had to undergo through ages of troubles and persecution. But as they have been poured forth into the streets (Lament. iv. 1), they, like everything that is sacred and holy, have become only misunderstood and misapplied, but even אבני נגף stones of offence hurled against both the houses of Judah and Israel. Yet we will approach, and try to read “the writing of the Lord, which is engraven upon those tablets.” (Exod. xxxii. 16.) We approach now mighty cedars planted in the Eden of the Lord, from whose every leaf a soft and silent voice sweetly whispers into our ears ה׳ שמה, The Lord is there.

That the doctrine of the Resurrection is plainly expressed in the Prophets, is admitted on all sides. It is conceded even by most of the so-called liberal critics, that Isaiah xxvi. 18, 19, to which some add Ezekiel xxxvii. 1-14, and to which I should be disposed to add Psalm xvi. 11; xvii. 15, recognised the doctrine in question. Daniel stands not alone in this respect. The allegation that this was only a later doctrine of the Hebrews, borrowed from the system of Zoroaster, even Lengerke, who goes all lengths in the destructive criticism, confesses, has been re­futed by Havernick in his commentary. (See 509-519, Prof. Stuart’s Commentary on Daniel, xii.) The very fact of its being received as an article of faith, the thirteenth, shows that there must be some ground for its admission. What else could induce a mind like that of Maimonides to introduce it? He was a disinterested labourer in the field of religion; he never held any paid office in the Synagogue; nay he was bitterly persecuted by some men of influence in the Synagogue for his liberal opinions. He was a private man, a lay-Rabbi. He was physician to Sultan Saladdin and his successor; and besides his medical knowledge, he must have been well versed in biblical lore, as his work on the Bible, “The Moreh,” which, orginally written by him in Arabic, was afterwards translated into Hebrew, and thence into Latin [and other languages], and is yet studied and quoted by Jewish and Christian divines as a standard work of authority, fully proves. Besides this Moreh, we have of this author three other works on philosophy, six on the Talmud, nineteen on medicine, and nine of miscellaneous contents. He is called in Pierre’s Universal Encyclopaedia (I will let a Christian speak), Doctor fidelis, Aquila magna, gloria and lux occidentalis.* Some respect is surely due to such a gigantic mind, and his opinion is entitled to some deference.

* The faithful teacher; the great eagle; the glory of the East and the light of the West.

But we will let the Bible speak for itself, and allow our readers to exercise their own judgment.

“It is usually a very strong presumptive proof,” says a modern able commentator,† “of the correctness of an interpretation <<258>> of Scripture, when the impression which it makes on the mass of readers, and particularly those of plain sober sense, who have no theory to defend, when this impression can be alleged in its favour.”

† The Rev. Albert Barnes, on Job xix.

Another learned author* says, “there is a maxim relative to the right interpretation of any passage of Scripture; viz.: to consider in what sense the words were understood by the generality of the persons to whom they were addressed.”

* Dr. Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin.

Now, as the prophets addressed themselves to Jews, I beg leave to do the same; and we all know in what sense the words of the prophets in relation to the resurrection were and are received by the generality of Jews.

We will now quote some of the more striking passages.

Isaiah xxvi. 8. “He” (the Lord) “will swallow up death in victory,† and the Lord will wipe away the tear from all faces; and the rebuke‡ of his people shall be taken away from all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it.”

לנצח Entirely, completely, from נצח, permanence, completeness, victory, eternity.

‡ Scorn and persecution.

Isaiah xxvi. 19, 20. “Thy dead shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew§ is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast up the dead.”

§ Dew is the emblem of that which refreshes and vivifies; dew is also the emblem of grace.

Isaiah lviii. 11, 12. “If thou wilt have dealt out thy bread to the hungry, and provided a home for the homeless poor, clothed the naked, and not proudly turned away from thy (needy) fellow-man: then will thy righteousness precede thee,|| and the glory of the Lord shall¶ gather thee, and the Lord shall guide** thee continually and satisfy thy soul during drought,†† and <<259>> strengthen* thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring, whose waters fail not.”

|| Into the regions of beatitude.

¶ To be gathered unto their parents, is used to denote the death of persons. (Gen. xxv. 8; xxxv. 29; xlix. 33.)

** His providence shall protect the person spoken of during his sleep.

†† Ezekiel xxxvii. 1, 2, &c.

Ezekiel xxxvii. 1-14. “Shall these bones live? And I said, O Lord God, thou (only) knowest.† And he said unto me, Prophesy concerning these bones, and say unto them, O ye bones; hear the word of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones, Behold, I bring spirit into you, and you shall live. And ye shall know that I am the LORD.”

* חלץ strengthen, draw forth, deliver (Ps. vi. 5, cxvi. 8), therefore, “and shall liberate thy bones.” Jerome.

ידע to know, and to love. A similar expression is met with in Job xiv 15, where he, overwhelmed with grief, and rebuke, desponds in v. 1-3; doubts in v. 4; hopes in v. 6-9; again sinks into despondence v. 10-12; a shadow of hope flits over his mind v. 14; until, in v. 15, he exclaims תקרא, “Thou wilt call (me forth from the grave) and I will answer; for thou wilt a desire for the work of thy hands.” This difficult verse can be explained on physiological grounds; since man in a state of despondency will think thus and answer himself to his own objection, and combat his own wavering. David also expresses himself in a similar way in Ps. 1. 4: יקרא אל השמים מעל ואל הארץ לדין עמו “He will call to the heavens from above and to the earth to judge her people;” heaven and earth, the superior and inferior parts, soul and body. See Sanhedrin fol. 91 b. יקרא אל השמים מעל זו הנשמה ואל הארץ לדין עמו זו הגוף See also Ikkarim iv. 33.

Hosea iv. 1, 2. “Come and let us return unto the Lord; though he hath torn, he yet will heal us; though he smiteth, yet he will bind us up. He will revive us after two days, and on the third day he will raise us up, so that we shall live in his presence.” (Compare with Ps. xvii. 15.)

Hosea xiii. 14. “From the power of Hades will I ransom them; from death deliver them.‡ Where, O death, are now thy plagues? where, O Hades, thy§ blows?”

‡ O death, I will be thy death. O Sheol, I will be thy destruction.

§ קטב τυπτω; קטף=חטף to snatch away.

Daniel xii. 1-3. “Then shall Michael, the great prince, who protecteth the children of thy people|| stand up,¶ and there will be a time of distress that never was since the existence of any nation until that period, and at that time thy people shall be <<260>> delivered, every one that is found written IN THE BOOK.* And multitudes† of those who sleep‡ in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to great§ shame and everlasting contempt. And the wise||| will be resplendent as the splendour of the firmament and those who bring back many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.”

|| Daniel’s.

עמד על defend, protect.

* The book spoken of in Exod. xxxii. 32 ; Ezekiel xiii. 9; Psalm lxix. 29.

† Numbers, masses. Instead of the word רבים used here, we find in Ezekiel xxxvii. 1, חיל גדול מאד מאד “a very great and mighty host.”

‡ Death represented as sleep.

§ לחרפות. The plural form coupled with the implied definite article, ex presses the intensity and magnitude of the shame.

||| משכילים being of the hiphil form, conveys those who cause others to be wise and skilled (from שכל, sechel, skill) in divine knowledge.

We will now proceed to comment more fully on these passages, and the importance of the subject will justify a somewhat more extended examination.

But before we proceed to comment on these passages, it will be necessary to make a few remarks on the manner in which the prophets communicated those sublime truths, which received their fulfilments many ages after they were written down by the sacred authors, and are fulfilling continually.

It is an ancient rule laid down by our sages אין המקרא יוצא מידי “every passage has to be taken in a plain literal sense,” without deviating from the simple words of the author, by applying his words to any other object than that which is expressed by the author himself. This rule is an excellent guide to a proper understanding of the sense of any author, and is thus unquestionably applicable to those of the Bible. But this principle, as will easily be admitted, cannot be of equal force in its application to all authors. We will admit it to be undeviatingly applicable to all laws; for if we should allow ourselves to be carried off by our self-will, or caprice, from the letter of the Law, and give it a meaning contrary to the letter, the law, by such a perversion, can never reach its end. Laws are made not for our speculation, but for our observation and observance. We therefore have no example in Israel of any honest teacher, or any <<261>> sincerely meaning community in Israel, that ever thought themselves justified to disregard the letter of the Law.

The law, to the letter, they all consider themselves bound to observe, with this difference, that the plain simple observer observes but the law to the letter, while the learned observe the letter of the law in its spirit: i. e., they know, that the outward mechanical observance of any law or ceremony cannot be the ultimate end for which it was given; that it is the spirit in which we observe it, which gives it (the Law) its full effect,—and that it is the efficacy of such laws on the regulations of our mind, that the law is intended for.*

* עקרים iii. 27-29. Luzzatto in the Preface to his מסילת ישרים.

Thus we are enjoined to devote every morning our hearts, and our minds, our affections, and our intellect, to the service of God, and to be thus early initiated, for the duration of the whole day. This is done by applying the plain and simple phylacteries to our hand (near the heart), and our forehead (near the seat of intellect). Thus we use fringes, a simple badge, showing to the world, and reminding ourselves of the Lord, in whose service we are engaged.

Such laws are observed by some only to the letter without any reflec­tion, by others again in the true spirit, as is commanded, (Numb. xv. 39,) “And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it and remember ALL the commandments of the Lord, that ye may DO them, and not indulge in the inclinations of your hearts and your eyes, and be led astray.” Thus the law of מזוזה Mezuzah, (Deut. vi. 10,) is intended to give even to our dwelling-house the character of a house devoted to God, and we are there to show by our transactions, by a pious and sober demeanour, that we and our houses are devoted to a higher life than the mere physical. Thus the laws of tabernacles (Levit. xxiii. 42), מצות לולב (ib. 40),  (ib. 24), have besides their literal signification, a higher tendency, which is known to the spiritual observer only.†

† Vide the excellent Treatise of Maimonides, called הקדמה לסדר זרעים on Sanhedrin Perak Helek, fol. 127 a, and his profound remarks on the Eighth article of the Creed, ib. fol. 128 b.

It is beyond all doubt, that the literal law has a tendency con‑<<262>>siderably more noble and higher than we can imagine. Thus we all have to adhere to the letter, at least, though even there, we see how far we have to look beyond the expressed letter to the inherent spirit. But with regard to prophecy, we often have to apply other rules of exegesis. The language of the prophets is highly poetic, the sublimity of their sentiments is given in a variety of imagery, and clothed in symbols, that cannot always be taken to the letter.

The imagery, figures, or symbols, require a proper study, which is not always accessible even to the most learned. Hence the great circumspection necessary in the study and application of prophecy and the prophets.

a. They often present events, which the latest future will bring to light by figures taken from the remotest antiquity. They antitypically present nations that scarcely had taken their rise at the time when the prophecy was penned, by names bor­rowed from nations that were already verging to their fall. This they do on the ground of some similarity of character, or of the relation to Israel which existed in some nations of the past, and which they foresaw will be repeated, and will recur in some future time by some future nation. It is thus that Edom, Moab, Amalek, Babylon, &c., which nations have done so much evil to the chosen race, from the exit of Egypt to the capture of Jeru­salem by Titus,—it is thus that those nations and their names are used as prototypes of all other nations that oppressed us in every age and every country; and prophecies and denunciations, under the name of such prototypes, will, to the profound reader, show themselves more fully applicable to the antitype in which they found the apotelesmatic accomplishment. Thus, though the pro­phecy is literally and primarily to be applied to the name and nation expressed by the prophet, and has actually been fulfilled in them in the immediate event before us: yet every impartial reader must see (with all the allowance made for the lofty poetic style), that the accomplishment is not adequate to anything like the force and import expressed by the prophet, and that it was more gloriously or awfully fulfilled in a considerable later period in the future antitype. The relation between the two is some<<263>>thing similar to what we have before noticed about the observance of the law,—the primary sense and its accomplishment are to be compared to the observance of the letter; but the secondary, the spiritual, receives its fulfilment in a larger, nobler scope, both in the letter and the spirit. This will be shown hereafter.

b. It is highly remarkable, and indeed wonderful, how in the dealings of the Almighty with his people, certain features in history and in persons recur again and again. Our sages express it by כל מה שאירע לאבות אירע לבנים, Every occurrence to the fathers (former generation) had its recurrence to their children, תנחומא פ׳ לך לך, and again in פ׳ וישב &c., this is applicable both subjectively and objectively. Abraham was obliged to leave his native home and wander, so is Israel; Abraham had to go down to Egypt during a famine, so had his posterity in Jacob, and his family, and in Israel during the middle ages. The servitude and the deliverance from Egypt had their analogy in the Babylonian captivity and their deliverance by Cyrus. Moses was brought up in the court of Egypt. Daniel, &c., in Babylon. Egypt’s disaster came upon it in a short time, in one night; so was Babylon, the second Egypt, taken by Cyrus in one night, &c. This analogy can be traced to our very times, but space will not admit it here, but we shall recur to it.

Thus, as similar events were brought about, and are brought about by similar means applied by Providence, and will be brought about till all will be accomplished, we see an earnest of what will happen to Israel in future, in the long bygone past. And the prophets use and borrow names for the future from the past. For instance; Edom exulted and was very efficient at the destruction of the first temple.* Edom again was so during that of the second.† This harassing of the holy people marks Edom as an enemy to Israel, and all the enemies of Israel are thus comprehended and prefigured under the name of Edom. Again, what Babylon has done to Israel, was repeated by pagan Rome, what pagan Rome has done, was continually repeated by the papal Rome (though not always immediately, yet she connived <<264>>at the evil, she encouraged it, and like every crafty power, acted prudently, or better prudently and craftily at times acted not at all, but sent forth her creatures, her familiars, as all the children of the evil one do, to act for her, in harassing and tormenting the true believers.) Rome, as is acknowledged by both Jewish and Christian authors, is in the Bible prefigured by Babel, or to be more correct, every inimical power that persecuted may read its future history in prophecies against Amalek, Edom and Babel. This mode of communication was adopted for wise purposes, and is of great effect דברה תורה בלשון בני אדם, “The Bible speaks in the language of mankind.” We convey ideas of things unknown, by objects fully known; this gives rise to “figures of speech;” the effect is fully known, comprehended, and appreciated.

* Obad. v. 10-16; Ez. xxv. 12-14; xxxv. 3-10; xxxvi. 5; Lament iv. 21.

† Joseph. de Bell., Jud. iv. 4, 5; 6, 1; vii. 8, 1.           

It is thus that the prophets foretold the fate of future enemies, and showed the glorious deliverance of Israel in future ages, by what the Lord manifested in sight of their contemporaries and immediate successors.

And though their predictions were partly fulfilled then, yet their high and lofty style, their splendid figures, must convince us that this fulfilment is nothing to what is foreshadowed to be the final fulfilment. The first is but a nucleus of what will come forth in full growth at the end. This way of interpretation is admitted by all believers, without exception, and the history of ages proves its tenableness and solidity.

And as material objects receive a higher value by the multi­fariousness of their applicability; as the value of a specific is enhanced by its efficacy in a variety of cases: so appear the word of God, and the sacred outpouring of the prophets in more splendour, in higher lustre, by the extraordinary truths which they contain in their literal and spiritual applicability, both , equally true, both equally divine, but the latter considerably more astonishing and more edifying.*

* Abarb. in his משמיע ישועה on Isaiah xxiv.

Having premised this, we will proceed to the passages quoted above in reference to the Resurrection.

(To be continued.)