A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
Jehoshaphat
king of Judah, and Joram king of Israel, had for a while ceased their
party animosity, and entered into an alliance; and these two, together
with the king of Edom, engaged in a war against the king of Moab. After
uniting and marching their armies, the story says, they were in great
distress for water, upon which Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here a
prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? and one of
the servants of the king of Israel said here is Elisha. [Elisha was of
the party of Judah.] And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah said, The word of
the Lord is with him." The story then says, that these three kings went
down to Elisha; and when Elisha [who, as I have said, was a Judahmite
prophet] saw the King of Israel, he said unto him, "What have I to do
with thee, get thee to the prophets of thy father and the prophets of
thy mother. Nay but, said the king of Israel, the Lord hath called these
three kings together, to deliver them into the hands of the king of
Moab," (meaning because of the distress they were in for water;) upon
which Elisha said, "As the Lord of hosts liveth before whom I stand,
surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, king
of Judah, I would not look towards thee nor see thee." Here is all
the venom and vulgarity of a party prophet. We are now to see the
performance, or manner of prophesying.

Ver. 15. "'Bring me,' (said Elisha), 'a minstrel'; and it came to pass,
when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him." Here
is the farce of the conjurer. Now for the prophecy: "And Elisha said,
[singing most probably to the tune he was playing], Thus saith the Lord,
Make this valley full of ditches;" which was just telling them what
every countryman could have told them without either fiddle or farce,
that the way to get water was to dig for it.

But as every conjuror is not famous alike for the same thing, so neither
were those prophets; for though all of them, at least those I have
spoken of, were famous for lying, some of them excelled in cursing.
Elisha, whom I have just mentioned, was a chief in this branch of
prophesying; it was he that cursed the forty-two children in the name
of the Lord, whom the two she-bears came and devoured. We are to suppose
that those children were of the party of Israel; but as those who will
curse will lie, there is just as much credit to be given to this story
of Elisha's two she-bears as there is to that of the Dragon of Wantley,
of whom it is said:

Poor children three devoured be,
That could not with him grapple;
And at one sup he eat them up,
As a man would eat an apple.

There was another description of men called prophets, that amused
themselves with dreams and visions; but whether by night or by day
we know not. These, if they were not quite harmless, were but little
mischievous. Of this class are,

EZEKIEL and DANIEL; and the first question upon these books, as upon all
the others, is, Are they genuine? that is, were they written by Ezekiel
and Daniel?

Of this there is no proof; but so far as my own opinion goes, I am more
inclined to believe they were, than that they were not. My reasons for
this opinion are as follows: First, Because those books do not contain
internal evidence to prove they were not written by Ezekiel and Daniel,
as the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, Samuel, etc., prove they were
not written by Moses, Joshua, Samuel, etc.

Secondly, Because they were not written till after the Babylonish
captivity began; and there is good reason to believe that not any book
in the bible was written before that period; at least it is proveable,
from the books themselves, as I have already shown, that they were not
written till after the commencement of the Jewish monarchy.

Thirdly, Because the manner in which the books ascribed to Ezekiel and
Daniel are written, agrees with the condition these men were in at the
time of writing them.

Had the numerous commentators and priests, who have foolishly employed
or wasted their time in pretending to expound and unriddle those books,
been carred into captivity, as Ezekiel and Daniel were, it would greatly
have improved their intellects in comprehending the reason for this mode
of writing, and have saved them the trouble of racking their invention,
as they have done to no purpose; for they would have found that
themselves would be obliged to write whatever they had to write,
respecting their own affairs, or those of their friends, or of their
country, in a concealed manner, as those men have done.

These two books differ from all the rest; for it is only these that are
filled with accounts of dreams and visions: and this difference arose
from the situation the writers were in as prisoners of war, or prisoners
of state, in a foreign country, which obliged them to convey even
the most trifling information to each other, and all their political
projects or opinions, in obscure and metaphorical terms. They pretend to
have dreamed dreams, and seen visions, because it was unsafe for them to
speak facts or plain language. We ought, however, to suppose, that the
persons to whom they wrote understood what they meant, and that it
was not intended anybody else should. But these busy commentators
and priests have been puzzling their wits to find out what it was not
intended they should know, and with which they have nothing to do.

Ezekiel and Daniel were carried prisoners to Babylon, under the first
captivity, in the time of Jehoiakim, nine years before the second
captivity in the time of Zedekiah. The Jews were then still numerous,
and had considerable force at Jerusalem; and as it is natural to suppose
that men in the situation of Ezekiel and Daniel would be meditating the
recovery of their country, and their own deliverance, it is reasonable
to suppose that the accounts of dreams and visions with which these
books are filled, are no other than a disguised mode of correspondence
to facilitate those objects: it served them as a cypher, or secret
alphabet. If they are not this, they are tales, reveries, and nonsense;
or at least a fanciful way of wearing off the wearisomeness of
captivity; but the presumption is, they are the former.

Ezekiel begins his book by speaking of a vision of cherubims, and of a
wheel within a wheel, which he says he saw by the river Chebar, in
the land of his captivity. Is it not reasonable to suppose that by the
cherubims he meant the temple at Jerusalem, where they had figures of
cherubims? and by a wheel within a wheel (which as a figure has always
been understood to signify political contrivance) the project or means
of recovering Jerusalem? In the latter part of his book he supposes
himself transported to Jerusalem, and into the temple; and he refers
back to the vision on the river Chebar, and says, (xliii- 3,) that this
last vision was like the vision on the river Chebar; which indicates
that those pretended dreams and visions had for their object the
recovery of Jerusalem, and nothing further.

As to the romantic interpretations and applications, wild as the dreams
and visions they undertake to explain, which commentators and priests
have made of those books, that of converting them into things which they
call prophecies, and making them bend to times and circumstances as far
remote even as the present day, it shows the fraud or the extreme folly
to which credulity or priestcraft can go.

Scarcely anything can be more absurd than to suppose that men situated
as Ezekiel and Daniel were, whose country was over-run, and in the
possession of the enemy, all their friends and relations in captivity
abroad, or in slavery at home, or massacred, or in continual danger of
it; scarcely any thing, I say, can be more absurd than to suppose that
such men should find nothing to do but that of employing their time and
their thoughts about what was to happen to other nations a thousand or
two thousand years after they were dead; at the same time nothing more
natural than that they should meditate the recovery of Jerusalem, and
their own deliverance; and that this was the sole object of all the
obscure and apparently frantic writing contained in those books.

In this sense the mode of writing used in those two books being forced
by necessity, and not adopted by choice, is not irrational; but, if we
are to use the books as prophecies, they are false. In Ezekiel xxix.
11., speaking of Egypt, it is said, "No foot of man shall pass through
it, nor foot of beast pass through it; neither shall it be inhabited for
forty years." This is what never came to pass, and consequently it is
false, as all the books I have already reviewed are.--I here close this
part of the subject.

In the former part of 'The Age of Reason' I have spoken of Jonah, and
of the story of him and the whale.--A fit story for ridicule, if it was
written to be believed; or of laughter, if it was intended to try what
credulity could swallow; for, if it could swallow Jonah and the whale it
could swallow anything.

But, as is already shown in the observations on the book of Job and of
Proverbs, it is not always certain which of the books in the Bible are
originally Hebrew, or only translations from the books of the Gentiles
into Hebrew; and, as the book of Jonah, so far from treating of
the affairs of the Jews, says nothing upon that subject, but treats
altogether of the Gentiles, it is more probable that it is a book of
the Gentiles than of the Jews, [I have read in an ancient Persian poem
(Saadi, I believe, but have mislaid the reference) this phrase: "And now
the whale swallowed Jonah: the sun set."--Editor.] and that it has been
written as a fable to expose the nonsense, and satyrize the vicious and
malignant character, of a Bible-prophet, or a predicting priest.

Jonah is represented, first as a disobedient prophet, running away from
his mission, and taking shelter aboard a vessel of the Gentiles, bound
from Joppa to Tarshish; as if he ignorantly supposed, by such a paltry
contrivance, he could hide himself where God could not find him.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.