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View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 4a

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View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 4a

Ethan Smith

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Chapter 4
An Address Of The Prophet Isaiah, Relative To The Restoration Of His People.

The writer might fill a chapter in illustrating the wrongs which the Indians have suffered from people in our land; in noting their reduced and deplorable situation; in pleading the cause of humanity in their behalf; and in appealing to the magnanimous feelings of the people of our nation. He might adduce many evangelical motives the most commanding, to enforce the duty of saving the remnant of the natives of our continent from extinction, and from wretchedness. The duty of sending them the gospel, and of being at any expense to teach them Christianity and the blessings of civilized life, is great and urgent on every principle of humanity and general benevolence. And this duty peculiarly attaches itself to the people, who are now in possession of the former inheritance of those natives; and from to many of whom that people have received insufferable injuries. This subject must occur with force to the mind of every well informed American. And it is devoutly to be hoped that far greater attention will henceforth be paid to it by all among us who make any pretence to humanity, not to say piety.

But the object of this chapter is to examine and illustrate an interesting portion of ancient prophetic writing, which is thought to embrace this very concern.

An address is found in the eighteenth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, which is apprehended to be of deep interest to America. It is

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a passage which has been esteemed singularly enigmatical. This circumstance has usually attended the prophecies, in proportion to the distance of their events. And they have often been left in silence, or their true intent misapplied, till near the time of their fulfilment. Then some incidents would throw light upon them, and render their import plain and satisfactory.

The writer was affected with this passage some years ago, when writing his Dissertation on the Prophecies. He found it to be an address to some Christian people of the last days, just at the time of the final restoration of God’s ancient people; an address to such a people beheld in vision away over the mouths of the Nile, or in some region of the west; a call and solemn divine charge to them to awake and aid that final restoration. He then apprehended it might apply to Britain, though he felt the difficulty arising from the fact that Britain lies so far to the north of the direction specified in the address. It now appears to him far more probable that the Christian people of the United States of America are the subjects of the address; or at least are especially included in it. To prepare the way for the consideration of the address, let several things be premised.

1. Some of the greatest and best of divines have thought it would be strange, if nothing should be found in the prophetic scriptures having a special allusion to our western world, which by propitious Heaven was destined to act so distinguishing a part, both in the religious and political world, in the last days. They have felt as though it might be presumed that some special allusions would be had in some of the prophetic writings to so distinguishing a community of Zion, and of men. Under this impression, Mr. Edwards apprehended this passage of Isaiah might allude to America; “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west.” Almost all other parts of the world are noted in prophecy. It certainly then is not incredible that our land should be manifestly noted.

2. The address in the eighteenth of Isaiah to be contemplated, is clearly an address to some people of these last days; and concerning events intimately connected with the battle of that great day of God, which is now future and not far distant, and is to introduce the Millennium. This is evident in verses 5 and 6; which will be noted.

3. The address then cannot have been to any ancient people or nation. This appears with certainty, from their being cotemporary with the events of that great battle, and the restoration of the Jews. The call then must be to a people of the last days; a nation now on

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earth; and a nation to be peculiarly instrumental in the restoration of the Hebrews in the last days. For this is the very object of the address; to go and collect the ancient people of God; because “in that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, (the very people of the ancient covenant in manifest descriptions repeatedly given) to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion.” This duty of the restoration assigned is in the address connected with the tremendous scenes of judgment, which shall subvert anti-christian Europe, and her adjutors hostile to the church; as may be seen.

4. The address then seems manifestly to a nation that may seem to have leisure for the important business assigned; while the old and eastern parts of the world (engaged in anti-christian hostilities) shall be found in the effervescence of revolutions, and in those struggles which precede dissolution. This consideration seems clearly to fix the address to a people distinct, and distant from the immediate turmoils of the old anti-christian lands; and hence probably to our own nation; perhaps including Britain.

5. Should it be proved a fact, that the aborigines of our continent are the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel; it would heighten the probability to a moral certainty, that we are the people especially addressed, and called upon to restore them; or bring them to the knowledge of the gospel, and to do with them whatever the God of Abraham designs shall be done

The great and generous Christian people, who occupy much of the land of those natives, and who are on the ground of their continent, and hence are the best prepared to meliorate their condition, and bring them to the knowledge and order of the God of Israel, must of course be the people to whom this work is assigned. This one consideration would do much toward the decision of our question, Who is the nation addressed?

6. Various things are found in the predictions of the restoration of God’s ancient people, which strikingly accord with the idea of a great branch of them being recovered from this land, and by the agency of the people of our states. A few of these shall be noted.

In the thirtieth and thirty-first chapters of Jeremiah, the prophet treats of the united restoration of Judah and Israel. These chapters were written about one hundred and twenty years after the expulsion of the ten tribes. And in relation to the ten tribes, they have never yet had even a primary accomplishment or any degree of fulfilment. The

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restoration there predicted is to be in “the latter days;” chap. xxx. 24; and at the time near the battle of the great day; see verses 6-8, 23, 24. Much of the substance of these chapters is appropriated to the ten tribes of Israel; though Judah is expressly to be restored with them. Of the former, (having then been outcast for an hundred and twenty years,) God says; chap. xxxi. 20; “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, (or expelled him from Canaan,) I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” The next verse invites and predicts his final restoration. These yearnings of the divine compassion for Ephraim (one noted name of the ten tribes) are the immediate precursor of his restoration. “I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. Set them up way-marks, make thee high heaps, set thine heart toward the high-way--turn again, O virgin of Israel; turn again to these thy cities.” “I will again be the God of all the families of Israel; and they shall be my people.” “For lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” “Fear thou not, O my servant, Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel; for lo, I will save thee from afar.” “Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth.” In this country “afar” off, these “coasts of the earth,” they had been in an outcast state. “Because they called thee an outcast, saying; “This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.” (For more than 2000 years none sought after the ten tribes.) These ideas strikingly accord with their having been outcasts from the known world, in America. This might with singular propriety be called the land afar off, and the coasts of the earth.

In the same connexion, when God promises to gather them “from the coasts of the earth,” and says, “they shall come with weeping and with supplication; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first born;” he adds; “Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as the shepherd doth his flock.” “Isles afar off!” “Isles in the Hebrew language, signify any lands, ever so extensive, away over great waters. Where can these “isles afar off,” (these “coasts of the earth,” here addressed by God

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in relation to the restoration of his outcast yet beloved Ephraim,) where can they be so naturally found as in America?

In Jer. xvi. 14, 15, 16. God is predicting the restoration of Israel in the last days. “Therefore behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, but the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them; and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.” Here is the greatness of their restoration. In the next verse follows the manner of it. “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” Here is a most striking description of Israel’s being recovered from a great wilderness like the sea; and from the hills, mountains, and rocks of the vast wilds of America. The description seems well to accord with their being sought in a savage state among such wilds, mountains and rocks, as the wilds of our continent present; especially the Rocky mountains, in the western regions of North America. The first missionaries fish them from the plains of the continent. Afterward missionary hunters are sent to rocky mountains and hills, more remote and savage. This prediction accords probably with no other country and its inhabitants so well, as with the wilds and natives of America. The coincidence with these seems perfect.

In other prophets the same things are found. In Isai. xliii. God promises this same restoration of Israel. “But now, thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel; Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee. I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not, for I am with thee. I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west: I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” “Thus saith the Lord, who maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” In Isai. xi. is this wonderful restoration. Ephraim and Judah are both restored, the one from his “dispersed,” the other from his “outcast” state; and their mutual

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envies are forever healed. And the places from which they are recovered are noted; among which are “the isles of the sea;” or lands away over the sea, and “the four corners of the earth.” Certainly then, from America! This surely is one of the four corners of the earth. Of such a land away over sea, it is predicted, Isai. lx. 9; “Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, (or a power expert in navigation,) to bring my sons from far.”

In Zechariah’s prophecy is the same thing. This prophet was sent to encourage in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple soon after the return from Babylon. As this return was to exhibit a primary fulfilment of the many prophecies of the restoration of the Hebrews, which are clearly to have their ultimate accomplishment in their restoration just anterior to the Millennium; so Zechariah clearly predicted the latter event, and said various things peculiar to it. Chap. ii. 6; “Ho, ho, come forth and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord; for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven, saith the Lord.” This must allude to the great dispersion of Judah, and outcast state of Israel, which strewed them over the face of the earth; and could not have been fulfilled in the Babylonish captivity, which did not disperse them to all points of the compass. Verse 8; “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations, which spoiled you.” This must be the same with the various predictions which speak of the battle of the great day as a display of God’s glory; and which speak of a subsequent going forth of missionaries (probably Jewish) to convert the nations where the Hebrews had resided. See Isai. lxvi. 18-21, &c. Verses 10, 11; “Sing and rejoice, O daughters of Zion; for lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of thee.”--Many nations were not joined to the Jews upon their return from Babylon. Nothing of this prediction then took place. It predicted an event still future, to be accomplished upon the restoration of the Hebrews to Palestine. The prophet then says, verse 13; “Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” This verse perfectly accords with the numerous predictions of the battle of the great day, nearly associated with the final restoration of the Jews. But it received not its fulfilment in the days of Zechariah.

In chapter viii. are predictions of the same final restoration of that people. After predicting God’s great jealousy and fury in behalf

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of his people, he says; “I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.” It then follows, verse 7; “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country.” By the west country here, we must suppose it meant America. None were saved from any west country, at the time of the restoration from Babylon. This shows then, that the thing predicted was distinct from, and future of that event. In the original, and in the margin of the great bible, the phrase is; “from the country of the going down of the sun.” The going down of the sun from Palestine is over America. And as God had said in a passage just quoted from this prophet, “For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven;” so America must probably be included in this description of their being spread abroad. To decide more clearly that the ultimate events here predicted are still future, the Most High says in this 8th chapter, verse 13; “And it shall come to pass that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing.” Here is the express restoration of the house of Israel, with that of Judah. But the “house of Israel” were not restored with the “house of Judah” when the latter returned from Babylon; nor have they at any time since been restored. The event then is clearly future, and was distinct and distant from any ancient restoration. It was to take place after a long and noted scattering of that people to the four winds! and their being viewed as a “curse” there by the nations. If they were to be “spread abroad as the four winds,” and thence recovered, and recovered from the “coasts of the earth,” and “isles afar off,” and “from the west;” this surely is not unfavorable to the idea of Israel’s being found in the wilds of America.

In Zech. x. 6-9, is the same event; and Ephraim is by name saved from “far countries.” “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them; and they shall be as though I had not cast them off; for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine; yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord. I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will save them among the people; and they shall

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remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.” “I will hiss for them.” God is represented as hissing for a people, only in two texts beside this; Isai. v. 26, and vii. 18; in both of which passages, the hiss was to call distant heathen. God’s hissing, in this passage then, to gather the children of Ephraim in the last days, seems to indicate his providentially calling them from a distant heathen state! And it is a mode of calling which perfectly symbolizes with the calls of American natives, a shrill significant whistling.

Such promises of the restoration of Israel from far countries, from the west or the going down of the sun, from the coasts of the earth, from the ends of the earth, from isles afar, their being brought in ships from far, making their way in the sea, their path in the mighty waters; these expressions certainly well accord with the ten tribes being brought from America. And such passages imply an agency by which such a restoration shall be effected. Where shall such an agency be so naturally found, as among a great Christian people, providentially planted on the very ground occupied by the outcast tribes of Israel in their long exilement; and who are so happily remote from the bloody scenes of Europe in the last days, as to have leisure for the important business assigned?

Surely then this business would be assigned, either tacitly or expressly, to our nation. At this conclusion we safely arrive, reasoning a priori. The circumstances of the case enforce it. And we might expect so interesting a duty, relative to an event on which the prophecies so abundantly rest, would not be left to uncertain deductions, but would be expressly enjoined.

We may then open the prophetic scriptures with some good degree of confidence, that the assignment of such a task is somewhere to be found. And where so natural to be found as in the prophecy of Isaiah? He is the most evangelical prophet; and treats largely upon the restoration of his brethren.

The expulsion of Israel is supposed to have taken place 725 years before Christ. Isaiah is supposed to have begun his ministry about the year 760 before Christ; and 35 years before the expulsion. He lived then, it appears, to see the expulsion of the ten tribes. And his pious heart must have been deeply affected with the event. His prophecy was “in the days Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” But in 2 Kings, xvii. 1; we learn that “in the twelfth year of Ahaz, Hoshea began to reign over Samaria.” And in

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verse 9 we are assured; “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and in Habor by the river of Gozen, and in the cities (or territories) of the Medes.” This event then, must have been in the days of Isaiah. In Isai. xxxvi. 19, where Rabshakah is insulting the officers of Hezekiah, he says, “Where are the gods of Hamah, and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?” Here it seems Samaria, or Israel, had already fallen. Accordingly Isaiah laments, chap. v. 13; “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.”

There is one passage which seems to place the captivity of Israel just subsequent to the prophecy of this prophet, Isai. vii. 8, where Jerusalem was invaded by a coalition of the king of Syria and the king of Israel;--Isaiah, to show that this joint effort against the Jews should not prevail, predicted “within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken that it be not a people.” But it seems from the passages just quoted, that the main body of Israel were gone before this period, or the end of sixty-five years. This prediction then, must allude to a finishing scene, which should sweep away even the gleanings of the nation of Israel. Hence Scott says upon the passage; “It is computed to have been sixty-five years from this prediction to the time that Esarhaddon carried away the remains of the Israelites.” The main body then, it seems, had been gone before, and were swept away in the days of Isaiah. This must have most deeply affected his pious heart. And it is natural to view him revolving in his anxious mind the place of their long exilement; and delighted with a view of their final restoration.

Behold this man of God, then, wrapt in the visions of the Almighty, casting an eye of faith down the lapse of time to the days of the final restoration of his long rejected brethren. He finds presented in vision, away over the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, far in the west, or going down of the sun, the continent of their long banishment. He also beholds in vision a great nation arising there in the last days; a land of freedom and religion. He hears the whisper of the Spirit of inspiration, directing him to address that far sequestered and happy land, and call their attention to the final restoration of his people.

Isaiah xviii. verse 1; “Ho, land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” Our translators render this address,

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“Wo to the land.”--But this is manifestly incorrect, as the best expositors agree. The Hebrew particle here translated Wo to, is a particle of friendly calling, as well as of denouncing. And the connexion in any given place must decide which rendering shall be given. In this place, the whole connexion and sense decide, that the word is here a friendly call, or address; as in this passage; “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.”

The land addressed, lies “beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” It is agreed that these rivers mean the mouths of the Nile, which enter from Egypt into the south side of the Mediterranean. This probably was the farthest boundary in that direction then known to the Jews. And no doubt it was the most noted of any in that point of compass. When a landscape of a western continent then, was presented in vision to the prophet precisely in that course, he would naturally fix upon the place most notable and farthest distant, by which to describe the direction of this region of the world. It is then as though the prophet had said; Thou land beheld in vision away over the mouths of the Nile. Where would such a line strike? It would glance over the northern edge of the States of Barbary. But could the friendly address to a people of the last days, light on those barbarous Mohammedan shores? Surely not. No land “shadowing with wings,” or that would aid the restoration of the Hebrews, is found in those horrid regions. No; the point of compass and the address must have been designed for a new world, seen in that direction. This address of Heaven must be to our western continent; or to a hospitable people found here. The prophetic eye glanced beyond all lands then known; and hence no land is named. It must have been a land over the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Thou land “shadowing with wings.” The above direction lands the prophetic vision at the point of the western continent, where the two great wings of North and South America meet, as at the body of a great eagle. This at first might furnish the prophetic imagery of a land “shadowing with wings.” As though the inspiring Spirit had whispered; The continent of those two great wings shall be found at last most interesting in relation to your Hebrew brethren.

And those two great wings shall prove but an emblem of a great nation then on that continent; far sequestered from the seat of anti-christ, and of tyranny and blood; and whose asylum for equal rights, liberty, and religion, shall be well represented by such a national coat of arms,--the protecting wings of a great eagle; which nation in yonder setting of the sun, (when in the last days, judgments shall be


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