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In the next chapter (the 39th) we have another instance of the disordered state of this book: for notwithstanding the siege of the city, by Nebuchadnezzar, has been the subject of several of the preceding chapters, particularly the 37th and 38th, the 39th chapter begins as if not a word had been said upon the subject; and as if the reader was to be informed of every particular respecting it; for it begins with saying, ver. 1, "In the ninth year of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and all his army, against Jerusalem, and besieged it, &c. &c.
But the instance of the last chapter (the 52d) is still more glaring; for though the story has been told over and over again, this chapter still supposes the reader not to know any thing of it, for it begins by saying, ver. 1, "Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah, of Libnah, (ver. 4.) and it came to pass, in the ninth year of his reign in the tenth month, that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it, &c. &c.”
It is not possible that any one man, and more particularly Jeremiah, could have been the writer of this book. The errors are such as could not have been committed by any person sitting down to compose a work. Were I, or any other man, to write in such a disordered manner, nobody would read what was written; and every body
Bethlemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him; wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, "Send me David thy son,' And (verse 21) David came to Saul, and stood before him, and he loved him greatly, and he became his armour-bearer; and when the evil spirit of God was upon Saul, verse 23] David took his harp, and played with his hand, and Saul was refreshed, and was well.
But the next chapter  gives an account, all different to this, of the manner that Saul and David became acquainted. Here it is ascribed to David's encounter with Goliah, when David was sent by his father to carry provision to his brethren in the camp. In the 55th verse of this chapter it is said, “And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine [Goliah] he said to Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth! And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king I cannot tell. And the king said, Inquire thoa whose son the stripling is. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand; and Saul said unto him, Whose son art thou young man! And David answered, "I am the son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlemite." These two accounts belie each other, because each of them supposes Saul and David not to have known each other before. This book, the Bible, is too ridiculous even for criticism.
would suppose that the writer was in a state of insanity. The only way, therefore, to account for this disorder is, that the book is a medley of detached unauthenticated anecdotes, put together by some stupid book-maker, under the name of Jeremiah; because many of them refer to him, and to the circumstances of the times he lived in.
Of the duplicity, and of the false predictions of Jeremiah, I shall mention two instances, and then proceed to
review the remainder of the Bible.
It appears from the 38th chapter, that when Jeremiah was in prison, Zedekiah sent for him, and at this interview, which was private, Jeremiah pressed it strongly on Zedekiah to surrender himself to the enemy. "If, says he, (ver. 17,) thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, &c." Zedekial was apprehensive that what passed at this conference should be known; and he said to Jeremiah (ver. 25,)"If the princes (meaning those of Judah) hear that I have talked. with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king; hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; and also what the king said unto thee; then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king; that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house to die there. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him, and he told them according to all the words the king had commanded." Thus, this man of God, as he is called, could tell a lie, or very strongly prevaricate, when he supposed it would answer his purpose: for certainly he did not go to Zedekiah to make his supplication, neither did he make it; he went because he was sent for, and he employed that opportunity to advise Zedekiah to surrender himself to Nebuchadnezzar.
In the 34th chapter, is a prophecy of Jeremiah to Zedekiah, in these words (ver. 2)" Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire; and thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but that thou shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to inouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon. Yet hear the word of the Lord; O Zedekiah, king of Judah, thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not die by the sword, but thou shalt die in peace; and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings that were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee, and they will lament thee saying, Ah, Lord; for I have nounced the word, saith the Lord."
Now, instead of Zedekiah beholding the eyes of the king of Babylon, and speaking with him mouth to mouth, and dying in peace, and with the burning of odours, as at the 7. P. II.
funeral of his fathers (as Jeremiah had declared the Lord himself had pronounced) the reverse, according to the 52d chapter, was the case; it is there said (ver. 10) "That the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death." What then can we say of these prophets, but that they are impostors and liars?
As for Jeremiah, he experienced none of those evils. He was taken into favour by Nebuchadnezzar, who gave him in charge to the captain of the guard, (chap. xxxix. ver. 12) "Take him (said he) and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee." Jeremiah joined himself afterwards to Nebuchadnezzar, and went about prophesying for him against the Egyptians, who had marched to the relief of Jerusalem while it was besieged. Thus much for another of the lying prophets, and the book that bears his name.
I have been the more particular in treating of the books ascribed to Isaiah and Jeremiah, because those two are spoken of in the books of Kings and of Chronicles, which the others are not. The remainder of the books ascribed to the men called prophets, I shall not trouble myself much about; but take them collectively into the observations I shall offer on the character of the men styled prophets.
In the former part of the Age of Reason, I have said that the word prophet was the Bible-word for poet, and that the flights and metaphors of the Jewish poets have been foolishly erected into what are now called prophesies. I am sufficiently justified in this opinion, not only because the books called the prophesies are written in poetical language, but because there is no word in the Bible, except it be the word prophet, that describes what we mean by a poet. I have also said, that the word signifies a performer upon musical instruments, of which I have given some instances; such as that of a company of prophets prophesying with psalteries, with tabrets, with pipes, with harps, &c. and that Saul prophesied with them, 1 Sam. chap. x. ver. 5. It appears from this passage, and from other parts in the book of Samuel, that the word prophet was confined to signify poetry and music; for the person who was supposed to have a visionary insight into concealed things, was not a prophet but a seer (9) (Sam. chap. ix. ver. 9); and it was not till after the word seer went out of use (which most probably was when Saul banished those he called wizards) that the profession of the seer, or the art of seeing, became incorporated into the word prophet.
(9) I know not what is the Hebrew word that corresponds to the word seer in English; but 1 observe it is translated into French by La Voyant, from the verb voir to see; and which means the person who sees, or the seer.
According to the modern meaning of the word prophet and prophesying, it signifies foretelling events to a great distance of time; and it became necessary to the inventors of the gospel to give it this lassitude of meaning, in order to apply or to stretch what they call the prophecies of the Old Testament, to the times of the New; but according to the Old Testament, the prophesying of the seer, and afterwards of the prophet, so far as the meaning of the word seer was incorporated into that of prophet, had reference only to things of the time then passing, or very closely connected with it; such as the event of a battle they were going to engage in, or of a journey, or of any enterprise they were going to undertake, or of any circumstance then pending, or of any difficulty they were then in; all of which had immediate reference to themselves (as in the case already mentioned of Ahaz and Isaiah with respect to the expression, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son), and not to any distant future time. It was that kind of prophesying that corresponds to what we call fortunetelling; such as casting nativities, predicting riches, fortunate or unfortunate marriages, conjuring for lost goods, &c.; and it is the fraud, of the Christian church, not that of the Jews; and the ignorance and the superstition of modern, not that of ancient times, that elevated those poetical-musical-conjuring-dreaming-strolling gen
try, into the rank they have since had.
But, besides this general character of all the prophets, they had also a particular character. They were in parties, and they prophesied for or against, according to the party they were with; as the poetical and political writers of the present day write in defence of the party they associate with against the other.
After the Jews were divided into two nations, that of Judah and that of Israel, each party had its prophets, who abused and accused each other of being false prophets, lying prophets, and impostors, &c.
The prophets of the party of Judah prophesied against the prophets of the party of Israel; and those of the party of Israel against those of Judah. This party prophesying shewed itself immediately on the separation under the first two rival kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The prophet that cursed, or prophesied, against the altar that Jeroboam had built in Bethel, was of the party of Judah, where Rehoboam was king; and he was way-laid, on his return home, by a prophet of the party of Israel, who said unto him, (1 Kings, chap. x.) "Art thou the man of God that came from Judah? and he said I am." Then the prophet of the party of Israel said to him, "I am a prophet also, as Ithou art (signifying of Judah), and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with
those 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 any body 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 books by speaking of a vision of cherubims, and of a vision 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 this book, he supposes himself transported to Jerusalem, and into the temple; and he refers back to the vision on the river Chebar, and says (chap. xliii. ver. 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 prophesies, and making them bend to times and circumstances, as far remote even as the present day, it shews