And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares…
Notwithstanding any accompanying references, we cannot hesitate to take this for a prediction of times yet to come. Evidently, it has never yet been fulfilled.
1. It is as conjoined with very nearly the beginning of our race, that we have to look upon this direful phenomenon. But how strange, for a creature, come fresh, living, and pure, from the beneficent Creator's hands! The least that we can think of that original state of man is, that there must have been in his soul the principle of all kind affections, — a state of feeling that would have been struck with horror at the thought of inflicting suffering. And, from the creature thus originally constituted, all the race was to descend. Can such a nature ever rage with malignity and revenge, and riot in suffering and destruction? Yet, in this original family, in the very first degree of the descent, war and slaughter began. While we think of the deadly conflicts of those early ages, the idea may occur to us of the peculiar atrocity of destroying a life which might, in the course of nature, have lasted so long. Living beings cloven down or mortally pierced or poisoned or burnt that might have lived seven or eight centuries, for improvement, for serving God, for usefulness, for whatever happiness there might have been in this world or preparation for another!
2. The world began anew in the person and family of a selected patriarch, whom alone "the Lord had seen righteous in that Generation." Now, then, for a better race, — if the human nature were intrinsically good, or corrigible by the most awful dispensations. But all in vain! The flood could not cleanse the nature of man; nor the awful memory and memorials of it repress the coming forth of selfishness, pride, ambition, anger, and revenge.
3. The sacred history, after Just recounting some successions of names in the different branches of the new race, limits its narrative to the origin and progress of what became the Jewish people — Abraham and his posterity. Their history, however, in proceeding downward, involves much of that of the surrounding nations. And some of the profane histories go far back into the period subsequent to the deluge. And what is so conspicuous over all the view, as wars and devastations? There is one portion of this tragical exhibition which we are to take out of the account of ordinary war, namely, the war of extirpation against the Canaanites. But, setting this portion of the history aside, think of the long course of sanguinary conflicts within the boundary of the selected nation itself, between Israel and Judah. Besides the slaughters, of battle and massacre, within each separately, of these two divisions of that people, add, all their wars with Syria and Egypt, with the Babylonian, Grecian, and Roman powers, closed finally, in that most awful catastrophe, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
4. Then glance a moment over the wider view of the whole ancient world; as far abroad and as high up in time as history has made it visible. The human race is exhibited, in some regions, in the form of numerous small states. But their smallness of size and strength was not the measure of their passions. What we are certain to read of them is, that they attacked and fought one another with the ferocity of wild beasts. By some ambitious "conquering hero" a great number of these were subdued and moulded together into a great kingdom, on one large space of the earth, and the same on another. And then with a tremendous clash, these empires came into conflict.
5. But now if we could take one grand compass of view over the earth, and down through time from that period to this! What a vision of destruction! And to complete the account — as if the whole solid earth were not wide enough — the sea has been coloured with blood, and received into its dark gulf myriads of slain, as if it could not destroy enough by its tempests and wrecks! Reflections —
(1) What a state of the spirit of mankind, of their heart and intellect is here disclosed before us!
(2) What a state of their social constitution, and of their national situation, that the mass and strength of nations should, over the greatest part of the world, be at the absolute disposal of a few individuals, for this very business of war!
(3) What a state of the moral sense, that there should be whole hosts of men, leaders and followers, capable of holding themselves totally divested of all personal responsibility for right and wrong, in the zealous prosecution of such achievements!
(4) What a state of Christianity, as to any real, vital prevalence of it among the nations denominated Christian!
Parallel VersesKJV: And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
WEB: He will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.