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Title: Introduction to the Old Testament
Author: McFadyen, John Edgar
Language: English
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JOHN EDGAR McFADYEN, M.A. (Glas.) B.A. (Oxon.)

_Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis, Knox College,

To My Pupils Past and Present


This _Introduction_ does not pretend to offer anything to
specialists. It is written for theological students, ministers, and
laymen, who desire to understand the modern attitude to the Old
Testament as a whole, but who either do not have the time or the
inclination to follow the details on which all thorough study of it
must ultimately rest. These details are intricate, often perplexing,
and all but innumerable, and the student is in danger of failing to
see the wood for the trees. This _Introduction_, therefore,
concentrates attention only on the more salient features of the
discussion. No attempt has been made, for example, to relegate every
verse in the Pentateuch[1] to its documentary source; but the method
of attacking the Pentateuchal problem has been presented, and the
larger documentary divisions indicated.
[Footnote 1: Pentateuch and Hexateuch are used in this volume to
indicate the first five and the first six books of the Old Testament
respectively, without reference to any critical theory. As the first
five books form a natural division by themselves, and as their
literary sources are continued not only into Joshua, but probably
beyond it, it is as legitimate to speak of the Pentateuch as of the

It is obvious, therefore, that the discussions can in no case be
exhaustive; such treatment can only be expected in commentaries to
the individual books. While carefully considering all the more
important alternatives, I have usually contented myself with
presenting the conclusion which seemed to me most probable; and I
have thought it better to discuss each case on its merits, without
referring expressly and continually to the opinions of English and
foreign scholars.

In order to bring the discussion within the range of those who have
no special linguistic equipment, I have hardly ever cited Greek or
Hebrew words, and never in the original alphabets. For a similar
reason, the verses are numbered, not as in the Hebrew, but as in the
English Bible. I have sought to make the discussion read continuously,
without distracting the attention--excepting very occasionally-by
foot-notes or other devices.

Above all things, I have tried to be interesting. Critical
discussions are too apt to divert those who pursue them from the
absorbing human interest of the Old Testament. Its writers were men
of like hopes and fears and passions with ourselves, and not the
least important task of a sympathetic scholarship is to recover that
humanity which speaks to us in so many portions and so many ways
from the pages of the Old Testament. While we must never allow
ourselves to forget that the Old Testament is a voice from the
ancient and the Semitic world, not a few parts of it--books, for
example, like Job and Ecclesiastes--are as modern as the book that
was written yesterday.

But, first and last, the Old Testament is a religious book; and an
_Introduction_ to it should, in my opinion, introduce us not
only to its literary problems, but to its religious content. I have
therefore usually attempted--briefly, and not in any homiletic
spirit--to indicate the religious value and significance of its
several books.

There may be readers who would here and there have desiderated a
more confident tone, but I have deliberately refrained from going
further than the facts seemed to warrant. The cause of truth is not
served by unwarranted assertions; and the facts are often so difficult
to concatenate that dogmatism becomes an impertinence. Those who know
the ground best walk the most warily. But if the old confidence has
been lost, a new confidence has been won. Traditional opinions on
questions of date and authorship may have been shaken or overturned,
but other and greater things abide; and not the least precious is
that confidence, which can now justify itself at the bar of the most
rigorous scientific investigation, that, in a sense altogether unique,
the religion of Israel is touched by the finger of God.










































In the English Bible the books of the Old Testament are arranged,
not in the order in which they appear in the Hebrew Bible, but in
that assigned to them by the Greek translation. In this translation
the various books are grouped according to their contents--first the
historical books, then the poetic, and lastly the prophetic. This
order has its advantages, but it obscures many important facts of
which the Hebrew order preserves a reminiscence. The Hebrew Bible
has also three divisions, known respectively as the Law, the
Prophets, and the Writings. _The Law_ stands for the Pentateuch.
_The Prophets_ are subdivided into (i) the former prophets, that
is, the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings,
regarded as four in number; and (ii) the latter prophets, that is,
the prophets proper--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve
(i.e. the Minor Prophets). _The Writings_ designate all the rest
of the books, usually in the following order--Psalms, Proverbs, Job,
Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel,
Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles.

It would somewhat simplify the scientific study even of the English
Bible, if the Hebrew order could be restored, for it is in many ways
instructive and important. It reveals the unique and separate
importance of the Pentateuch; it suggests that the historical books
from Joshua to Kings are to be regarded not only as histories, but
rather as the illustration of prophetic principles; it raises a high
probability that Ruth ought not to be taken with Judges, nor
Lamentations with Jeremiah, nor Daniel with the prophets. It can be
proved that the order of the divisions represents the order in which
they respectively attained canonical importance--the law before 400
B.C., the prophets about 200 B.C., the writings about 100 B.C.--and,
generally speaking, the latest books are in the last division. Thus
we are led to suspect a relatively late origin for the Song and
Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles, being late, will not be so important a
historical authority as Kings. The facts suggested by the Hebrew
order and confirmed by a study of the literature are sufficient to
justify the adoption of that order in preference to that of the
English Bible.


The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified
language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement
upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation,
i.-ii. 4_a_, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the
far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and
religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it
becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and
moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of man's place and task in the
world, and of his need of woman's companionship, ii. 4_b_-25,
it plunges at once into an account, wonderful alike in its poetic
power and its psychological insight, of the tragic and costly[1]
disobedience by which the divine purpose for man was at least
temporarily frustrated (iii.). His progress in history is, morally
considered, downward. Disobedience in the first generation becomes
murder in the next, and it is to the offspring of the violent Cain
that the arts and amenities of civilization are traced, iv. 1-22.
Thus the first song in the Old Testament is a song of revenge,
iv. 23, 24, though this dark background of cruelty is not unlit by a
gleam of religion, iv. 26. After the lapse of ten generations (v.)
the world had grown so corrupt that God determined to destroy it by a
flood; but because Noah was a good man, He saved him and his household
and resolved never again to interrupt the course of nature in judgment
(vi.-viii.). In establishing the covenant with Noah, emphasis is laid
on the sacredness of blood, especially of the blood of man, ix. 1-17.
Though grace abounds, however, sin also abounds. Noah fell, and his
fall revealed the character of his children: the ancestor of the
Semites, from whom the Hebrews sprang, is blessed, as is also Japheth,
while the ancestor of the licentious Canaanites is cursed, ix. 18-27.
From these three are descended the great families of mankind (x.)
whose unity was confounded and whose ambitions were destroyed by the
creation of diverse languages, xi. 1-9.
[Footnote 1: Death is the penalty (iii. 22-24). Another explanation of
how death came into the world is given in the ancient and interesting
fragment vi. 1-4.]

It is against this universal background that the story of the
Hebrews is thrown; and in the new beginning which history takes with
the call of Abraham, something like the later contrast between the
church and the world is intended to be suggested. Upon the sombreness
of human history as reflected in Gen. i.-xi., a new possibility breaks
in Gen. xii., and the rest of the book is devoted to the fathers of
the Hebrew people (xii.-l.). The most impressive figure from a
religious point of view is Abraham, the oldest of them all, and the
story of his discipline is told with great power, xi. 10-xxv. 10.
He was a Semite, xi. 10-32, and under a divine impulse he migrated
westward to Canaan, xii. 1-9.

There various fortunes befell him--famine which drove him to Egypt,
peril through the beauty of his wife,[1] abounding and conspicuous
prosperity--but through it all Abraham displayed a true magnanimity
and enjoyed the divine favour, xii. 10-xiii., which was manifested
even in a striking military success (xiv.). Despite this favour,
however, he grew despondent, as he had no child. But there came to
him the promise of a son, confirmed by a covenant (xv.), the symbol
of which was to be circumcision (xvii.); and Abraham trusted God,
unlike his wife, whose faith was not equal to the strain, and who
sought the fulfilment of the promise in foolish ways of her own,[2]
xvi., xviii. 1-15. Then follows the story of Abraham's earnest but
ineffectual intercession for the wicked cities of the plain--a story
which further reminds us how powerfully the narrative is controlled
by moral and religious interests, xviii. 16-xix. Faith is rewarded
at last by the birth of a son, xxi. 1-7, and Abraham's prosperity
becomes so conspicuous that a native prince is eager to make a
treaty with him, xxi. 22-34. The supreme test of his faith came to
him in the impulse to offer his son to God in sacrifice; but at the
critical moment a substitute was providentially provided, and
Abraham's faith, which had stood so terrible a test, was rewarded by
another renewal of the divine assurance (xxii.). His wife died, and
for a burial-place he purchased from the natives a field and cave in
Hebron, thus winning in the promised land ground he could legally
call his own (xxiii). Among his eastern kinsfolk a wife is
providentially found for Isaac (xxiv.), who becomes his father's
heir, xxv. 1-6. Then Abraham dies, xxv. 7-11, and the uneventful
career of Isaac is briefly described in tales that partly duplicate[3]
those told of his greater father, xxv. 7-xxvi.
[Footnote 1: This story (xii. 10-20) is duplicated in xx.; also in
xxvi. 1-11 (of Isaac).]
[Footnote 2: The story of the expulsion of Hagar in xvi. is
duplicated in xxi. 8-21.]
[Footnote 3: xxvi. 1-11=xii. 10-20 (xx.); xxvi. 26-33=xxi. 22-34.]

The story of Isaac's son Jacob is as varied and romantic as his own
was uneventful. He begins by fraudulently winning a blessing from
his father, and has in consequence to flee the promised land,
xxvii.-xxviii. 9. On the threshold of his new experiences he was
taught in a dream the nearness of heaven to earth, and received
the assurance that the God who had visited him at Bethel would
be with him in the strange land and bring him back to his own,
xxviii. 10-22. In the land of his exile, his fortunes ran a very
checkered course (xxix.-xxxi.). In Laban, his Aramean kinsman, he
met his match, and almost his master, in craft; and the initial
fraud of his life was more than once punished in kind. In due time,
however, he left the land of his sojourn, a rich and prosperous man.
But his discipline is not over when he reaches the homeland. The past
rises up before him in the person of the brother whom he had wronged;
and besides reckoning with Esau, he has also to wrestle with God. He
is embroiled in strife with the natives of the land, and he loses his
beloved Rachel (xxxii.-xxxv.).

Into the later years of Jacob is woven the most romantic story of
all--that of his son Joseph (xxxvii.-l.)[1] the dreamer, who rose
through persecution and prison, slander and sorrow (xxxvii.-xl.) to
a seat beside the throne of Pharaoh (xli.). Nowhere is the providence
that governs life and the Nemesis that waits upon sin more dramatically
illustrated than in the story of Joseph. Again and again his guilty
brothers are compelled to confront the past which they imagined they
had buried out of sight for ever (xlii.-xliv.). But at last comes the
gracious reconciliation between Joseph and them (xlv.), the tender
meeting between Jacob and Joseph (xlvi.), the ultimate settlement of
the family of Jacob in Egypt,[2] and the consequent transference of
interest to that country for several generations. The book closes
with scenes illustrating the wisdom and authority of Joseph in the
time of famine (xlvii.), the dying Jacob blessing Joseph's sons
(xlviii.), his parting words (in verse) to all his sons (xlix.), his
death and funeral honours, l. 1-14, Joseph's magnanimous forgiveness
of his brothers, and his death, in the sure hope that God would one
day bring the Israelites back again to the land of Canaan, l. 15-26.
[Footnote 1: xxxvi. deals with the Edomite clans, and xxxviii. with
the clans of Judah.]
[Footnote 2: In one version they are not exactly in Egypt, but near
it, in Goshen (xlvii. 6).]

The unity of the book of Genesis is unmistakable; yet a close
inspection reveals it to be rather a unity of idea than of execution.
While in general it exhibits the gradual progress of the divine
purpose on its way through primeval and patriarchal history, in
detail it presents a number of phenomena incompatible with unity of
authorship. The theological presuppositions of different parts of
the book vary widely; centuries of religious thought, for example,
must lie between the God who partakes of the hospitality of Abraham
under a tree (xviii.) and the majestic, transcendent, invisible
Being at whose word the worlds are born (i.). The style, too,
differs as the theological conceptions do: it is impossible not to
feel the difference between the diffuse, precise, and formal style
of ix. 1-17, and the terse, pictorial and poetic manner of the
immediately succeeding section, ix. 18-27. Further, different
accounts are given of the origin of particular names or facts:
Beersheba is connected, e.g. with a treaty made, in one case,
between Abraham and Abimelech, xxi. 31, in another, between Isaac
and Abimelech, xxvi. 33. But perhaps the most convincing proof that
the book is not an original literary unit is the lack of inherent
continuity in the narrative of special incidents, and the occasional
inconsistencies, sometimes between different parts of the book,
sometimes even within the same section.

This can be most simply illustrated from the story of the Flood
(vi. 5ff.), through which the beginner should work for himself-at
first without suggestions from critical commentaries or introductions--as
here the analysis is easy and singularly free from complications;
the results reached upon this area can be applied and extended to
the rest of the book. The problem might be attacked in some such way
as follows. Ch. vi. 5-8 announces the wickedness of man and the
purpose of God to destroy him; throughout these verses the divine
Being is called Jehovah.[1] In the next section, _vv_. 9-13, He
is called by a different name--God (Hebrew, _Elohim_)--and we
cannot but notice that this section adds nothing to the last;
_vv_. 9, 10 are an interruption, and _vv_. 11-13 but a
repetition of _vv_. 5-8. Corresponding to the change in the
divine name is a further change in the vocabulary, the word for
_destroy_ being different in _vv_. 7 and 13. Verses 14-22
continue the previous section with precise and minute instructions
for the building of the ark, and in the later verses (cf. 18, 20)
the precision tends to become diffuseness. The last verse speaks of
the divine Being as God (Elohim), so that both the language and
contents of _vv_. 9-22 show it to be a homogeneous section.
Note that here, _vv_. 19, 20, two animals of every kind are to
be taken into the ark, no distinction being drawn between the clean
and the unclean. Noah must now be in the ark; for we are told that
he had done all that God commanded him, _vv_. 22, 18.
[Footnote 1: Wrongly represented by _the Lord_ in the English
version; the American Revised Version always correctly renders by
_Jehovah_. _God_ in v. 5 is an unfortunate mistake of A.V.
This ought also to be _the Lord_, or rather _Jehovah_.]

But, to our surprise, ch. vii. starts the whole story afresh with a
divine command to Noah to enter the ark; and this time, significantly
enough, a distinction is made between the clean and the unclean-seven
pairs of the former to enter and one pair of the latter (vii. 2). It
is surely no accident that in this section the name of the divine
Being is Jehovah, _vv_. 1, 5; and its contents follow naturally
on vi. 5-8. In other words we have here, not a continuous account,
but two parallel accounts, one of which uses the name God, the other
Jehovah, for the divine Being. This important conclusion is put
practically beyond all doubt by the similarity between vi. 22 and vii. 5,
which differ only in the use of the divine name. A close study of the
characteristics of these sections whose origin is thus certain will
enable us approximately to relegate to their respective sources other
sections, verses, or fragments of verses in which the important clue,
furnished by the name of the divine Being, is not present. Any verse,
or group of verses, e.g. involving the distinction between the clean
and the unclean, will belong to the _Jehovistic_ source, as it is
called (J). This is the real explanation of the confusion which
every one feels who attempts to understand the story as a unity. It
was always particularly hard to reconcile the apparently conflicting
estimates of the duration of the Flood; but as soon as the sources
are separated, it becomes clear that, according to the Jehovist, it
lasted sixty-eight days, according to the other source over a year
(vii. 11, viii. 14).

Brief as the Flood story is, it furnishes us with material enough to
study the characteristic differences between the sources out of
which it is composed. The Jehovist is terse, graphic, and poetic; it
is this source in which occurs the fine description of the sending
forth of the raven and the dove, viii. 6-12. It knows how to make a
singularly effective use of concrete details: witness Noah putting
out his hand and pulling the dove into the ark, and her final return
with an olive leaf in her mouth. A similarly graphic touch,
interesting also for the sidelight it throws on the Jehovist's
theological conceptions is that, when Noah entered the ark, "Jehovah
closed the door behind him," vii. 16. Altogether different is the
other source. It is all but lacking in poetic touches and concrete
detail of this kind, and such an anthropomorphism as vii. 16 would
be to it impossible. It is pedantically precise, giving the exact
year, month, and even day when the Flood came, vii. 11, and when it
ceased, viii. 13, 14. There is a certain legal precision about it
which issues in diffuseness and repetition; over and over again
occur such phrases as "fowl, cattle, creeping things, each after its
kind," vi. 20, vii. 14, and the dimensions of the ark are accurately
given. Where J had simply said, "Thou and all thy house," vii. 1,
this source says, "Thou and thy sons and thy wife and thy sons'
wives with thee," vi. 18. From the identity of interest and style
between this source and the middle part of the Pentateuch, notably
Leviticus, it is characterized as the priestly document and known to
criticism as P.

Thus, though the mainstay of the analysis, or at least the original
point of departure, is the difference in the names of the divine
Being, many other phenomena, of vocabulary, style, and theology, are
so distinctive that on the basis of them alone we could relegate
many sections of Genesis with considerable confidence to their
respective sources. In particular, P is especially easy to detect.
For example, the use of the term Elohim, the repetitions, the
precise and formal manner, the collocation of such phrases as "fowl,
cattle, creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth," i. 26 (cf.
vii. 21), mark out the first story of creation, i.-ii. 4_a_, as
indubitably belonging to P. Besides the stories of the creation and
the flood, the longest and most important, though not quite the only
passages[1] belonging to P are ix. 1-17 (the covenant with Noah),
xvii. (the covenant with Abraham), and xxiii. (the purchase of a
burial place for Sarah). This is a fact of the greatest significance.
For P, the story of creation culminates in the institution of the
Sabbath, the story of the flood in the covenant with Noah, with the law
concerning the sacredness of blood, the covenant with Abraham is sealed
by circumcision, and the purchase of Machpelah gives Abraham legal
right to a footing in the promised land. In other words the interests
of this source are legal and ritual. This becomes abundantly plain in
the next three books of the Pentateuch, but even in Genesis it may be
justly inferred from the unusual fulness of the narrative at these
four points.
[Footnote 1: The curious ch. xiv. is written under the influence of
P. Here also ritual interests play a part in the tithes paid to the
priest of Salem, v. 20 (i.e. Jerusalem). In spite of its array of
ancient names, xiv. 1, 2, which have been partially corroborated by
recent discoveries, this chapter is, for several reasons, believed
to be one of the latest in the Pentateuch.]

When we examine what is left in Genesis, after deducting the
sections that belong to P, we find that the word God (Elohim),
characteristic of P, is still very frequently and in some sections
exclusively used. The explanation will appear when we come to deal
with Exodus: meantime the fact must be carefully noted. Ch. xx.,
e.g., uses the word Elohim, but it has no other mark characteristic
of P. It is neither formal nor diffuse in style nor legal in spirit;
it is as concrete and almost as graphic as anything in J. Indeed the
story related--Abraham's denial of his wife--is actually told in
that document, xii. 10-20 (also of Isaac, xxvi. 1-11); and in
general the history is covered by this document, which is called the
Elohist[1] and known to criticism as E, in much the same spirit, and
with an emphasis upon much the same details, as by J. In opposition
to P, these are known as the prophetic documents, because they were
written or at least put together under the influence of prophetic
ideas. The close affinity of these two documents renders it much
more difficult to distinguish them from each other than to
distinguish either of them from P, but within certain limits the
attempt may be successfully made. The basis of it must, of course,
be a study of the duplicate versions of the same incidents; that is,
such a narrative as ch. xx., which uses the word God (Elohim) is
compared with its parallel in xii. 10-20, which uses the word
Jehovah, and in this way the distinctive features and interests of
each document will most readily be found. The parallel suggested is
easy and instructive, and it reveals the relative ethical and
theological superiority of E to J. J tells the story of Abraham's
falsehood with a quaint naïveté (xii.); E is offended by it and
excuses it (xx.). The theological refinement of E is suggested not
only here, xx. 3, 6, but elsewhere, by the frequency with which God
appears in dreams and not in bodily presence as in J (cf. iii. 8).
Similarly the expulsion of Hagar, which in J is due to Sarah's
jealousy (xvi.), in E is attributed to a command of God, xxi. 8-21;
and the success of Jacob with the sheep, which in J is due to his
skill and cunning, xxx. 29-43, is referred in E to the intervention
of God, xxxi. 5-12. In general it may be said that J, while
religious, is also natural, whereas E tends to emphasize the
supernatural, and thus takes the first step towards the austere
theology of P.[2]
[Footnote 1: In this way it is distinguished from P, which, as we
have seen, is also Elohistic, but is not now so called.]
[Footnote 2: A detailed justification of the grounds of the critical
analysis will be found in Professor Driver's elaborate and admirable
_Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament_, where
every section throughout the Hexateuch is referred to its special
documentary source. To readers who desire to master the detail, that
work or one of the following will be indispensable: _The Hexateuch_,
edited by Carpenter and Battersby, Addis's _Documents of the Hexateuch_,
Bacon's _Genesis of Genesis_ and _Triple Tradition of the Exodus_,
or Kent's _Student's Old Testament_ (vol. i.)]

J is the most picturesque and fascinating of all the sources-attractive
alike for its fine poetic power and its profound religious insight.
This is the source which describes the wooing of Isaac's bride (xxiv.),
and the meeting of Jacob and Rachel at the well, xxix. 2-14; in this
source, too, which appears to be the most primitive of all, there are
speaking animals--the serpent, e.g., in Genesis iii. (and the ass in
Num. xxii. 28). The story of the origin of sin, in every respect a
masterpiece, is told by J; we do not know whether to admire more the
ease with which Jehovah, like a skilful judge, by a few penetrating
questions drives the guilty pair to an involuntary confession, or
the fidelity with which the whole immortal scene reflects the eternal
facts of human nature. The religious teaching of J is extraordinarily
powerful and impressive, all the more that it is never directly
didactic; it shines through the simple and unstudied recital of
concrete incident.

It is one of the most delicate and not the least important tasks of
criticism to discover by analysis even the sources which lie so
close to each other as J and E, for the literary efforts represented
by these documents are but the reflection of religious movements.
They testify to the affection which the people cherished for the
story of their past; and when we have arranged them in chronological
order, they enable us further, as we have seen, to trace the
progress of moral and religious ideas. But, for several reasons, it
is not unfair, and, from the beginner's point of view, it is perhaps
even advisable, to treat these documents together as a unity:
_firstly_, because they were actually combined, probably in the
seventh century, into a unity (JE), and sometimes, as in the Joseph
story, so skilfully that it is very difficult to distinguish the
component parts and assign them to their proper documentary source;
_secondly_, because, for a reason to be afterwards stated,
beyond Ex. iii. the analysis is usually supremely difficult; and,
_lastly_, because in language and spirit, the prophetic
documents are very like each other and altogether unlike the
priestly document. For practical purposes, then, the broad
distinction into prophetic and priestly will generally be
sufficient. Wherever the narrative is graphic, powerful, and
interesting, we may be sure that it is prophetic,[1] whereas the
priestly document is easily recognizable by its ritual interests,
and by its formal, diffuse, and legal style.
[Footnote 1: If inconsistencies, contradictions or duplicates appear
in the section which is clearly prophetic, the student may be
practically certain that these are to be referred to the two
prophetic sources. Cf. the two derivations of the name of Joseph in
consecutive verses whose source is at once obvious: "_God_
(Elohim) has taken away my reproach" (E); and "_Jehovah_ adds
to me another son" (J), Gen. xxx. 23, 24. Cf. also the illustrations
adduced on pp. 13, 14.]

The documents already discussed constitute the chief sources of the
book of Genesis; but there are occasional fragments which do not
seem originally to have belonged to any of them. There were also
collections of poetry, such as the Book of Jashar (cf. Josh. x. 13;
2 Sam. i. 18), at the disposal of those who wrote or compiled the
documents, and to such a collection the parting words of Jacob may
have belonged (xlix.). The poem is in reality a characterization of
the various _tribes; v_. 15, and still more plainly _vv_.
23, 24, look back upon historical events. The reference to Levi,
_vv_. 5-7, which takes no account of the priestly prerogatives
of that tribe, shows that the poem is early (cf. xxxiv. 25); but the
description of the prosperity of Joseph (i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh),
_vv_. 22-26, and the pre-eminence of Judah, _vv_. 8-12,
bring it far below patriarchal times--at least into the period of
the Judges. If _vv_. 8-12 is an allusion to the triumphs of
David and _vv_. 22-26 to northern Israel, the poem as a whole,
which can hardly be later than Solomon's time--for it celebrates
Israel and Judah equally--could not be earlier than David's; but
probably the various utterances concerning the different tribes
arose at different times.

The religious interest of Genesis is very high, the more so as
almost every stage of religious reflection is represented in it,
from the most primitive to the most mature. Through the ancient
stories there gleam now and then flashes from a mythological
background, as in the intermarriage of angels with mortal women, vi.
1-4, or in the struggle of the mighty Jacob, who could roll away the
great stone from the mouth of the well, xxix. 2, 10, with his
supernatural visitant, xxxii. 24. It is a long step from the second
creation story in which God, like a potter, fashions men out of
moist earth, ii. 7, and walks in the garden of Paradise in the cool
of the day, iii. 8, to the first, with its sublime silence on the
mysterious processes of creation (i.). But the whole book, and
especially the prophetic section, is dominated by a splendid sense
of the reality of God, His interest in men, His horror of sin, His
purpose to redeem. Broadly speaking, the religion of the book stands
upon a marvellously high moral level. It is touched with humility-its
heroes know that they are "not worth of all the love and the faithfulness"
which God shows them, xxxii. 10; and it is marked by a true inwardness-for
it is not works but implicit trust in God that counts for righteousness,
xv. 16. Yet in practical ways, too, this religion finds expression in
national and individual life; it protests vehemently against human
sacrifice (xxii.), and it strengthens a lonely youth in an hour of
terrible temptation, xxxix.


The book of Exodus--so named in the Greek version from the march of
Israel out of Egypt--opens upon a scene of oppression very different
from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel
is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in
Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption.
Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates
largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a
deliverer, Moses, whose parentage, early training, and fearless love
of justice mark him out as the coming man (ii.). In the solitude and
depression of the desert, he is encouraged by the sight of a bush,
burning yet unconsumed, and sent forth with a new vision of God[1]
upon his great and perilous task (iii.). Though thus divinely
equipped, he hesitated, and God gave him a helper in Aaron his
brother (iv.). Then begins the Titanic struggle between Moses and
Pharaoh--Moses the champion of justice, Pharaoh the incarnation of
might (v.). Blow after blow falls from Israel's God upon the
obstinate king of Egypt and his unhappy land: the water of the Nile
is turned into blood (vii.), there are plagues of frogs, gnats,
gadflies (viii.), murrain, boils, hail (ix.), locusts, darkness
(x.), and--last and most terrible of all--the smiting of the first-born,
an event in connexion with which the passover was instituted. Then
Pharaoh yielded. Israel went forth; and the festival of unleavened
bread was ordained for a perpetual memorial (xi., xii.); also the
first-born of man and beast was consecrated, xiii. 1-16.
[Footnote 1: The story of the revelation of Israel's God under His
new name, Jehovah, is told twice (in ch. iii. and ch. vi.).]

Israel's troubles, however, were not yet over. Their departing
host was pursued by the impenitent Pharaoh, but miraculously delivered
at the Red Sea, in which the Egyptian horses and horsemen were
overwhelmed, xiii. l7-xiv. The deliverance was celebrated in a
splendid song of triumph, xv. 1-21. Then they began their journey
to Sinai--a journey which revealed alike the faithlessness and
discontent of their hearts, and the omnipotent and patient bounty
of their God, manifested in delivering them from the perils of
hunger, thirst and war, xv. 22-xvii. 16. On the advice of Jethro,
Moses' father-in-law, God-fearing men were appointed to decide for
the people on all matters of lesser moment, while the graver cases
were still reserved for Moses (xviii.)[1]The arrival at Sinai
marked a crisis; for it was there that the epoch-making covenant
was made--Jehovah promising to continue His grace to the people,
and they, on their part, pledging themselves to obedience. Thunder
and lightning and dark storm-clouds accompanied the proclamation
of the ten commandments,[2] which represented the claims made by
Jehovah upon the people whom He had redeemed, xix.-xx. 22. Connected
with these claims are certain statutes, partly of a religious but
much more of a civil nature, which Moses is enjoined to lay upon the
people, and obedience to which is to be rewarded by prosperity and
a safe arrival at the promised land, xx. 23-xxiii. 33. This section
is known as the Book of the Covenant, xxiv. 7. The people unitedly
promised implicit obedience to the terms of this covenant, which was
then sealed with the blood of sacrifice. After six days of
preparation, Moses ascended the mountain in obedience to the voice
of Jehovah (xxiv.).
[Footnote 1: This chapter is apparently misplaced. In Deut. i. 9-18
the incident is set just before the _departure from_ Sinai (cf.
i. 19). It may therefore originally have stood after Ex. xxxiv. 9 or
before Num. x. 29.]
[Footnote 2: Or rather, the ten words. In another source, the
commands are given differently, and are ritual rather than moral,
xxxiv. 10-28 (J).]

At this point the story takes on a distinctly priestly complexion,
and interest is transferred from the fortunes of the people to the
construction of the sanctuary, for which the most minute directions
are given (xxv.-xxxi.), concerning the tabernacle with all its
furniture, the ark, the table for the shewbread, the golden
candlestick (xxv.), the four-fold covering for the tabernacle, the
wood-work, the veil between the holy and the most holy place, the
curtain for the door (xxvi.), the altar, the court round about the
tabernacle, the oil for the light (xxvii.), the sacred vestments for
the high priest and the other priests (xxviii.), the manner of
consecration of the priests, the priestly dues, the atonement for
the altar, the morning and evening offering (xxix.), the altar of
incense, the poll-tax, the laver, the holy oil, the incense (xxx.),
the names and divine equipment of the overseers of the work of
constructing the tabernacle, the sanctity of the Sabbath as a sign
of the covenant (xxxi.).

After this priestly digression, the thread of the story is resumed.
During the absence of Moses upon the mount, the people imperilled
their covenant relationship with their God by worshipping Him in the
form of a calf; but, on the very earnest intercession of Moses they
were forgiven, and there was given to him the special revelation
of Jehovah as a God of forgiving pity and abounding grace. In the
tent to which the people regularly resorted to learn the divine will,
God was wont to speak to Moses face to face, xxxii. 1-xxxiv. 9.
Then follows the other version of the decalogue already referred
to--ritual rather than moral, xxxiv. l0-28--and an account of the
transfiguration of Moses, as he laid Jehovah's commands upon the
people, xxxiv. 29-35. From this point to the end of the book the
atmosphere is again unmistakably priestly. Chs. xxxv.-xxxix,
beginning with the Sabbath law, assert with a profusion of detail
that the instructions given in xxv.-xxxi. were carried out to the
letter. Then the tabernacle was set up on New Year's day, the divine
glory filled it, and the subsequent movements of the people were
guided by cloud and fire (xl.).

The unity of Exodus is not quite so impressive as that of Genesis.
This is due to the different proportion in which the sources are
blended, P playing a much more conspicuous part here than there.
Without hesitation, more than one-fourth of the book may be at once
relegated to this source: viz. xxv.-xxxi., which describe the
tabernacle to be erected with all that pertained to it, and xxxv.-xl.,
which relate that the instructions there given were fully carried out.
The minuteness, the formality and monotony of style which we noticed
in Genesis reappear here; but the real spirit of P, its devotion to
everything connected with the sanctuary and worship, is much more
obvious here than there. This document is also fairly prominent in
the first half of the book, and its presence is usually easy to detect.
The section, e.g., on the institution of the passover and the festival
of unleavened bread, xi. 9-xii. 20, is easily recognized as belonging
to this source. Of very great importance is the passage, vi. 2-13,
which describes the revelation given to Moses, asserting that the
fathers knew the God of Israel only by the name El Shaddai, while the
name of Jehovah, which was then revealed to Moses for the first time,
was unknown to them. The succeeding genealogy which traces the descent
of Moses and Aaron to Levi, vi. 14-30, and Aaron's commission to be
the spokesman of Moses, vii. 1-7, also come from P. This source also
gives a brief account of the oppression and the plagues, and the
prominence of Aaron the priest in the story of the latter is very
significant. In E the plagues come when _Moses_ stretches out
his hand or his rod at the command of Jehovah, ix. 22, x. 12, 21; in
P, Jehovah says to Moses, "Say unto _Aaron_, 'Stretch forth thy
hand' or 'thy rod,'" viii. 5, 16.

The story to which we have just alluded, of the revelation of the
name Jehovah, is also told in ch. iii., where it is connected with
the incident of the burning bush. Apart from the improbability of
the same document telling the same story twice, the very picturesque
setting of ch. iii, is convincing proof that we have here a section
from one of the prophetic documents, and we cannot long doubt which
it is. For while one of those documents (J), as we have seen, uses
the word Jehovah without scruple throughout the whole of Genesis,
and regards that name as known not only to Abraham, xv. 7, but even
to the antediluvians, iv. 26, the other regularly uses Elohim. This
prophetic story, then, of the revelation of the name Jehovah to
Moses, must belong to E, who deliberately avoids the name Jehovah
throughout Genesis, because he considers it unknown before the time
of Moses. This very fact, however, greatly complicates the
subsequent analysis of the prophetic documents in the Pentateuch;
because, from this point on, both are now free to use the name
Jehovah of the divine Being, and thus one of the principal clues to
the analysis practically disappears.[1] Considering the affinity of
these documents, it is therefore competent, as we have seen, to
treat them as a unity.
[Footnote 1: Naturally there are other very important and valuable
clues. e.g, the holy mount is called Sinai in J and Horeb in E.]

The proof, however, that both prophetic documents are really present
in Exodus, if not at first sight obvious or extensive, is at any
rate convincing. In one source, e.g. (J), the Israelites dwell by
themselves in a district called Goshen, viii. 22 (cf. Gen. xiv. 10);
in the other, they dwell among the Egyptians as neighbours, so that
the women can borrow jewels from them, iii. 22, and their doors have
to be marked with blood on the night of the passover to distinguish
them from the Egyptians, xii. 22. Again in J, the people number over
600,000, xii. 37; in E they are so few that they only require two
midwives, i. 15. Similar slight but significant differences may be
found elsewhere, particularly in the account of the plagues. In J,
e.g., Moses predicts the punishment that will fall if Pharaoh
refuses his request, and next day Jehovah sends it: in E, Moses
works the wonders by raising his rod. In Exodus, as in Genesis, J
reveals the divine through the natural, E rather through the
supernatural. It is an east wind, e.g., in J, as in the poem, xv.
10, that drives back the Red Sea, xiv. 21a (as it had brought the
locusts, x. 13); in E this happens on the raising of Moses' rod,
xiv. 16. Here again, as in Genesis, we find that E has taken the
first step on the way to P. For this miracle (in E) at the Red Sea,
which in J is essentially natural, and miraculous only in happening
at the critical moment, is considerably heightened in P, who relates
that the waters were a wall unto the people on the right hand and on
the left, xiv. 22.

These three great documents constitute the principal sources of the
book of Exodus; but here, as in Genesis, there are fragments that
belong to a more primitive order of ideas than that represented by
the compilers of the documents (cf. iv. 24-26); there is, besides
the two decalogues, a body of legislation, xx. 23-xxiii. 33; and
there is a poem, xv. 1-18. _The Book of the Covenant_, as it is
called, is a body of mainly civil but partly religious law,
practically independent of the narrative. The style and contents of
the code show that it is not all of a piece, but must have been of
gradual growth. The 2nd pers. sing., e.g., sometimes alternates with
the pl. in consecutive verses, xxii. 21, 22. Again, while some of
the laws state, in the briefest possible words, the official penalty
attached to a certain crime, xxi. 12, others are longer and
introduce a religious sanction, xxii. 23, 24, and a few deal
definitely with religious feasts, xxiii. 14-19, obligations, xxii.
29-31, or sanctuaries, xx. 23-26. In general, the code implies the
settled life of an agricultural and pastoral people, and the
community for which it is designed must have already attained a
certain measure of organization, as we must assume that there were
means for enacting the penalties threatened. A remarkably
humanitarian spirit pervades the code. It mitigates the lot of the
slave, it encourages a spirit of justice in social relations, and it
exhibits a fine regard for the poor and defenceless, xxii. 21-27. It
probably represents the juristic usages, or at least ideals, of the
early monarchy.

_The Song of Moses_, xv. 1-18, also appears to belong to the
monarchy. The explicit mention of Philistia, Edom and Moab in
_vv_. 14, 15 imply that the people are already settled in
Canaan, and the sanctuary in _v. 17b_ is most naturally, if not
necessarily, interpreted of the temple. The poem appears to be an
elaboration of the no doubt ancient lines:

  Sing to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously;
  The horse and his rider He hath thrown into the sea (xv. 21).

The religious, as opposed to the theological, interest of the book
lies entirely within the prophetic sources. Here the drama of
redemption begins in earnest, and it is worked out on a colossal
scale. From his first blow struck in the cause of justice to the day
on which, in indignation and astonishment, he destroyed the golden
calf, Moses is a figure of overwhelming moral earnestness. Few books
in the Old Testament have a higher conception of God than Exodus.
The words of the decalogue are His words, xx. 1, and the protest
against the calf-worship (xxxii.-xxxiv.) is an indirect plea for His
spirituality. But the highest heights are touched in the revelation
of Him as merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in
goodness and truth, xxxiv. 6--a revelation which lived to the latest
days and was cherished in these very words by the pious hearts of
Israel (cf. Pss. lxxxvi. 15; ciii. 8; cxi. 4; cxlv. 8).


The emphasis which modern criticism has very properly laid on the
prophetic books and the prophetic element generally in the Old
Testament, has had the effect of somewhat diverting popular
attention from the priestly contributions to the literature and
religion of Israel. From this neglect Leviticus has suffered most.
Yet for many reasons it is worthy of close attention; it is the
deliberate expression of the priestly mind of Israel at its best, and
it thus forms a welcome foil to the unattractive pictures of the
priests which confront us on the pages of the prophets during the
three centuries between Hosea and Malachi. And if we should be
inclined to deplore the excessively minute attention to ritual, and
the comparatively subordinate part played by ethical considerations
in this priestly manual, it is only fair to remember that the hymn-book
used by these scrupulous ministers of worship was the Psalter-enough
surely to show that the ethical and spiritual aspects of religion,
though not prominent, were very far from being forgotten. In xvii.-xxvi.
the ethical element receives a fine and almost surprising prominence:
the injunction to abstain from idolatry, e.g., is immediately preceded
by the injunction to reverence father and mother, xix. 3,4. Indeed,
ch. xix. is a good compendium of the ethics of ancient Israel; and,
while hardly to be compared with Job xxxi., still, in its care for the
resident alien, and in its insistence upon motives of benevolence and
humanity, it is an eloquent reminder of the moral elevation of Israel's
religion, and is peculiarly welcome in a book so largely devoted to the
externals of the cult.

The book of Leviticus illustrates the origin and growth of law.
Occasionally legislation is clothed in the form of narrative--the
law of blasphemy, e.g., xxiv. 10-23 (cf. x. 16-20)--thus suggesting
its origin in a particular historical incident (cf. I Sam. xxx. 25);
and traces of growth are numerous, notably in the differences
between the group xvii.-xxvi. and the rest of the book, and very
ancient heathen elements are still visible through the
transformations effected by the priests of Israel, as in the case of
Azazel xvi. 8,22, a demon of the wilderness, akin to the Arabic
jinns. Strictly speaking, though Leviticus is pervaded by a single
spirit, it is not quite homogeneous: the first group of laws, e.g.
(i.-vii.), expressly acknowledges different sources--certain laws
being given in the tent of meeting, i. 1, others on Mount Sinai,
vii. 38. The sections are well defined--note the subscriptions at
the end of vii. and xxvi.--and marked everywhere by the scrupulous
precision of the legal mind.

There is no trace in Leviticus of the prophetic document JE. That
the book is essentially a law book rather than a continuation of the
narrative of the Exodus is made plain by the fact that that
narrative (Ex. xl.) is not even formally resumed till ch. viii.


_(a) For worshippers_, i.-vi. 7. Laws for the burnt offering of
the herd, of the flock, and of fowls (i.). Laws for the different
kinds of cereal offerings--the use of salt compulsory, honey and
leaven prohibited (ii.). Laws for the peace-offering--the offerer
kills it, the priest sprinkles the blood on the sides of the altar
and burns the fat (iii.) For an unconscious transgression of the
law, the high priest shall offer a bullock, the community shall
offer the same, a ruler shall offer a he-goat, one of the common
people shall offer a female animal (iv.). A female animal shall be
offered for certain legal and ceremonial transgressions; the poor
may offer two turtle doves, or pigeons, or even flour, v. 1-13.
Sacred dues unintentionally withheld or the property of another man
dishonestly retained must be restored together with twenty per cent.
extra, v. 14-vi. 7.

_(b) For priests_, vi. 8-vii. 38. Laws regulating the daily
burnt offering, the cereal offering, the daily cereal offering of
the high priest, and the ordinary sin offering, vi. 8-30. Laws
regulating the guilt offering, the priests' share of the sacrifices,
the period during which the flesh of sacrifice may be eaten, the
prohibition of the eating of fat and blood (vii.).


This section is the direct continuation of Exodus xl., which
prescribes the inauguration of Aaron and his sons into the priestly
office. Laws regulating the consecration of the high priest and the
other priests--washing, investiture, anointing, sin offering, burnt
offering, with accompanying rites (viii., cf. Exod. xxix.). The
first sacrificial service at which Aaron and his sons officiate--the
benediction being followed by the appearance of Jehovah's glory
(ix.). The first violation of the law of worship and its signal
punishment, x. 1-7. Officiating priests forbidden to use wine,
x. 8-11. Priests' share of the meal and peace offerings, x. 12-15.
An error forgiven after an adroit explanation by Aaron (law in
narrative form), x. 16-20.


This section appropriately follows x. 10, where the priests are
enjoined to distinguish between the clean and the unclean. Laws
concerning the animals which may or may not be eaten--quadrupeds, fish,
birds, flying insects, creeping insects, reptiles--and pollution
through contact with carcasses (xi.). Laws concerning the purification
of women after childbirth (xii.). Laws for the detection of leprosy
in the human body, xiii. 1-46, and in garments, xiii. 47-59. Laws for
the purification of the leper and his re-adoption into the theocracy,
xiv. 1-32. Laws concerning houses afflicted with leprosy, xiv. 33-57.
Laws concerning purification after sexual secretions (xv.). The laws
of purification are appropriately concluded by the law for the great day
of atonement, with regulations for the ceremonial cleansing of the high
priest and his house, the sanctuary, altar, and people (xvi.). Two
originally independent sections appear to be blended in this chapter-one
(cf. _vv._ 1-4) prescribing regulations to be observed by the high
priest on every occasion on which he should enter the inner sanctuary,
the other with specific reference to the great day of atonement.

IV. LAW OF HOLINESS (xvii.-xxvi.)

This section, though still moving largely among ritual interests,
differs markedly from the rest of the book, partly by reason of its
hortatory setting (cf. xxvi.), but especially by its emphasis on the
ethical elements in religion. It has been designated the Law of
Holiness because of the frequently recurring phrase, "Ye shall be
holy, for I, Jehovah, am holy," xix. 2, xx. 26--a phrase which,
though not peculiar to this section (cf. xi. 44), is highly
characteristic of it. Animals are to be slaughtered for food or
sacrifice only at the sanctuary xvii. 1-9; the blood and flesh of
animals dying naturally or torn by beasts is not to be eaten, xvii.
10-16. Laws regulating marriage and chastity with threats of dire
punishment for violation of the same (xviii.). Penalties for Moloch
worship, soothsaying, cursing of parents and unchastity (xx.), with
a hortatory conclusion, xx. 22-24, similar to xviii. 24-30.

Ch. xix. is the most prophetic chapter in Leviticus, and bears a
close analogy to the decalogue, _vv_. 3-8 corresponding to the
first table, and _vv_. 11-18 to the second. The holiness which
Jehovah demands has to express itself not only in reverence for
Himself and His Sabbaths, but in reverence towards parents and the
aged; in avoiding not only idolatry and heathen superstition, but
dishonesty and unkindness to the weak. The ideal is a throroughly
moral one. A modern reader is surprised to find in so ethical a
chapter a prohibition of garments made of two kinds of stuff mingled
together _v_. 19; no doubt such a prohibition is aimed at some
heathen superstition--perhaps the practice of magic.

Laws concerning priests and sacrifices (xxi., xxii.). The holiness
of the priests is to be maintained by avoiding, as a rule (without
exception in the case of the high priest), pollution through corpses
and participation in certain mourning rites, and by conforming to
certain conditions in their choice of a wife. The physically
deformed are to be ineligible for the priesthood (xxi.). Regulations
to safeguard the ceremonial purity of the sacred food: imperfect or
deformed animals ineligible for sacrifice (xxii.). In ch. xxiii.,
which is a calendar of sacred festivals, the festivals are
enumerated in the order in which they occur in the year, beginning
with spring--the passover, regarded as preliminary to the feast of
unleavened bread; the feast of weeks (Pentecost) seven weeks
afterwards; the new year's festival, on the first day of the seventh
month; the day of atonement; and the festival of booths. There are
signs that the section dealing with new year's day and the day of
atonement, _vv_. 23-32, is later than the original form of the
rest of the chapter dealing with the three great ancient festivals
that rested on agriculture and the vintage. Of kindred theme to this
chapter is ch. xxv.--the sacred years--(_a_) the sabbatical
year: the land, like the man, must enjoy a Sabbath rest, _vv_.
1-7; _(b_) the jubilee year, an intensification of the Sabbatical
idea: every fiftieth year is to be a period of rest for the land,
liberation of Hebrew slaves, and restoration of property to its
original owners or legal heirs, _vv_. 8-55. In xxiv. 1-9, are
regulations concerning the lampstand and the shewbread; the law, in
the form of a narrative, prohibiting blasphemy, _vv_. 10-23, is
interrupted by a few laws concerning injury to the person,
_vv_. 17-22.

The _laws of holiness_ conclude (xxvi.) with a powerful
exposition of the blessing which will follow obedience and the curse
which is the penalty of disobedience. The curse reaches a dramatic
climax in the threat of exile, from which, however, deliverance is
promised on condition of repentance.

Ch. xxvii. constitutes no part of the Law of Holiness--note the
subscription in xxvi. 46. It contains regulations for the commutation
of vows (whether persons, cattle or things) and tithes-commutation
being inadmissible in the case of firstlings of animals fit for
sacrifice and of things and persons that had come under the ban.

Special importance attaches to the Law of Holiness, known to
criticism as H (xvii.-xxvi.). In its interest in worship, it marks a
very long advance on the Book of the Covenant (Exod. xxi.-xxiii.),
and it would seem to stand somewhere between Deuteronomy and the
priestly codex. It is profoundly interested, like the former, in the
ethical side of religion, and yet it is almost as deeply concerned
about ritual as the latter. But though it may be regarded as a
preliminary step to the priestly code, it is clearly distinguished
from it, both by its tone and its vocabulary: the word for idols,
e.g. (things of nought), xix. 4, xxvi. 1, does not occur elsewhere
in the Pentateuch. It specially emphasizes the holiness of Jehovah;
as has been said, in H He is the person _to whom_ the cult is
performed, while the question of _how_ is more elaborately
dealt with in P. There are stray allusions which almost seem to
point to pre-exilic days; e.g. to idols, xxvi. 30, Moloch being
explicitly mentioned, xviii. 21, xx. 2; and the various sanctuaries
presupposed by xxvi. 31 would almost seem to carry us back to a
point before the promulgation of Deuteronomy in 621 B.C.; but on the
other hand the exile appears to be presupposed in xviii. 24-30,
xxvi. 34. This code, like all the others in the Old Testament, was
no doubt the result of gradual growth--note the alternation of 2nd
pers. sing. and pl. in ch. xix.--but the main body of it may be
placed somewhere between 600 and 550 B.C. The section bears so
strong a resemblance to Ezekiel that he has been supposed by some to
be the author, but this is improbable.

It is easy to see how the minuteness of the ritual religion of
Leviticus could degenerate into casuistry. Its emphasis on externals
is everywhere visible, and its lack of kindly human feeling is only
too conspicuous in its treatment of the leper, xiii. 45, 46. But
over against this, to say nothing of the profound symbolism of the
ritual, must be set the moral virility of the law of holiness--its
earnest inculcation of commercial honour, reverence for the aged,
xix. 32, and even unselfish love. For it is to this source that we
owe the great word adopted by our Saviour, "Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself," xix. 18, though the first part of the verse
shows that this noble utterance still moves within the limitations
of the Old Testament.


Like the last part of Exodus, and the whole of Leviticus, the first
part of Numbers, i.-x. 28--so called,[1] rather inappropriately,
from the census in i., iii., (iv.), xxvi.--is unmistakably priestly
in its interests and language. Beginning with a census of the men of
war (i.) and the order of the camp (ii.), it devotes specific
attention to the Levites, their numbers and duties (iii., iv.). Then
follow laws for the exclusion of the unclean, v. 1-4, for
determining the manner and amount of restitution in case of fraud,
v. 5-10, the guilt or innocence of a married woman suspected of
unfaithfulness, v. 11-31, and the obligations of the Nazirite vow,
vi. 1-21. This legal section ends with the priestly benediction, vi.
22-27. Then, closely connected with the narrative in Exodus xl., is
an unusually elaborate account of the dedication gifts that were
offered on the occasion of the erection of the tabernacle (vii.).
This quasi-historical interlude is again followed by a few sections
of a more legal nature--instructions for fixing the lamps upon the
lampstand, viii. 1-4, for the consecration of the Levites and their
period of service, viii. 5-26, for the celebration of the passover,
and, in certain cases, of a supplementary passover, ix. 1-14. Then,
with the divine guidance assured, and the order of march determined,
the start from Sinai was made, ix. 15-x. 28.
[Footnote 1: In the Greek version, followed by the Latin. This is
the only book of the Pentateuch in which the English version has
retained the Latin title, the other titles being all Greek. The
Hebrew titles are usually borrowed from the opening words of the
book. The Hebrew title of Numbers is either "And he said" or "in the
wilderness"; the latter is fairly appropriate--certainly much more
so than the Greek.]

At this point, the old prophetic narrative (Exod. xxxii.-xxxiv.),
interrupted by Exodus xxxv. 1-Numbers x. 28, is resumed with an
account of the precautions taken to secure reliable guidance through
the wilderness, x. 29-32, and a very interesting snatch of ancient
poetry, through which we may easily read the unique importance of
the ark for early Israel, x. 33-36. The succeeding chapters make no
pretence to be a connected history of the wilderness period; the
incidents with which they deal are very few, and these are related
rather for their religious than their historical significance, e.g.
the murmuring of the people, the terrible answer to their prayer for
flesh, the divine equipment of the seventy elders, the magnanimity
of Moses (xi.), and the vindication of his prophetic dignity (xii.).
Before the actual assault on Canaan, spies were sent out to
investigate the land. But the people allowed themselves to be
discouraged by their report, and for their unbelief the whole
generation except Caleb (and Joshua)[1] was doomed to die in the
wilderness, without a sight of the promised land (xiii., xiv.). The
thread of the narrative, broken at this point by laws relating to
offerings and sacrifices, xv. 1-31, the hallowing of the Sabbath,
xv. 32-36, and the wearing of fringes, xv. 37-41, is at once resumed
by a complicated account of a rebellion against Moses, which ended
in the destruction of the rebels, and in the signal vindication of
the authority of Moses, the privileges of the tribe of Levi, and the
exclusive right of the sons of Aaron to the priesthood (xvi.,
xvii.). Again the narrative element gives place to legislation
regulating the duties, relative position and revenues of the priests
and Levites (xviii.) and the manner of purification after defilement
[Footnote 1: Caleb alone in JE, Joshua also in P.]

These laws are followed by a section of continuous narrative. Moses
and Aaron, for certain rebellious words, are divinely warned that
they will not be permitted to bring the people into the promised
land--a warning which was followed soon afterwards by the death of
Aaron on Mount Hor. Edom haughtily refused Israel permission to pass
through her land (xx.). Sore at heart, they fretted against God and
Moses, and deadly serpents were sent among them in chastisement, but
the penitent and believing were restored by the power of God and the
intercession of Moses. Then Israel turned north, and began her career
of conquest by defeating Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of
Bashan (xxi.). Her success struck terror into the heart of Balak, the
king of Moab; he accordingly sent for Balaam, a famous soothsayer,
with the request that he would curse Israel (xxii.). Instead, however,
he foretold for her a splendid destiny (xxiii., xxiv.). But the reality
fell pitifully short of this fair ideal, for Israel at once succumbed
to the seductions of idolatry and impurity,[1] and the fearful punishment
which fell upon her for her sin was only stayed by the zeal of Phinehas,
the high priest's son, who was rewarded with the honour of perpetual
priesthood, xxv. 1-15. Implacable enmity was enjoined against Midian,
xxv. 16-18.
[Footnote 1: Moabite idolatry, and intermarriage with the Midianites--
ultimately, it would seem, the same story. JE gives the beginning of
it, _vv_. 1-5, and P the conclusion, _vv_. 6-18.]

From this point to the end of the book the narrative is, with few
exceptions, distinctly priestly in complexion; the vivid scenes of
the older narrative are absent, and their place is taken, for the
most part, either by statistics and legislative enactments or by
narrative which is only legislation in disguise. A census (xxvi.)
was taken at the end, as at the beginning of the wanderings (i.),
which showed that, except Caleb and Joshua, the whole generation had
perished (cf. xiv. 29, 34). Then follow sections on the law of
inheritance of daughters, xxvii. 1-11, the announcement of Moses'
imminent death and the appointment of Joshua his successor, xxvii.
12-23, a priestly calendar defining the sacrifices appropriate to
each season (xxviii., xxix.), and the law of vows (xxx.). In
accordance with the injunction of xxv. 16-18 a war of extermination
was successfully undertaken against Midian (xxxi.). The land east of
the Jordan was allotted to Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of
Manasseh, on condition that they would help the other tribes to
conquer the west (xxxii.). Following an itinerary of the wanderings
from the exodus to the plains of Moab (xxxiii.) is a description of
the boundaries of the land allotted to the various tribes (xxxiv.),
directions for the Levitical cities and the cities of refuge
(xxxv.), and, last of all, a law in narrative form, determining that
heiresses who possessed landed property should marry into their own
tribe (xxxvi.).

Even this brief sketch of the book of Numbers is enough to reveal
the essential incoherence of its plan, and the great divergence of
the elements out of which it is composed. No book in the Pentateuch
makes so little the impression of a unity. The phenomena of Exodus
are here repeated and intensified; a narrative of the intensest
moral and historical interest is broken at frequent intervals by
statistical and legal material, some of which, at least, makes hardly
any pretence to be connected with the main body of the story. By far
the largest part of the book comes from P, and most of it is very
easy to detect. No possible doubt, e.g., can attach to i.-x., 28, with
its interest in priests, Levites, tabernacle and laws. As significant
as the contents is the style which is not seldom diffuse to tediousness,
e.g., in the account of the census (i.), the dedication gifts (vii.),
or the regulation of the movements of the camp by the cloud, ix. 15-23.
Ch. xv., with its laws for offerings, sacrifices and the Sabbath,
ch. xvii., with its vindication of the special prerogatives of the
tribe of Levi, and chs. xviii., xix., which regulate the duties and
privileges of priests and Levites, and the manner of purification, are
also unmistakable. Chs. xxvi.-xxxi., as even the preliminary sketch of
the book would suggest, must, for similar reasons, also have the same
origin. To P also clearly belong xxxiii. and xxxiv. with their statistical
bent, and xxxv. and xxxvi. with their interest in the Levites and
legislation. Besides these sections, however, the presence of P is
certain--though not always so easily detected, as it is in combination
with JE--in some of the more distinctively narrative sections, e.g. in
the account of the spies (xiii., xiv.), of the rebellion against the
authority of Moses and Aaron (xvi.), of the sin of Moses and Aaron,
xx. 1-13, and of the settlement east of the Jordan (xxxii.). About
such narratives as the death of Aaron, xx. 22-29, or the zeal and
reward of Phinehas, xxv. 6-18, there can be no doubt.

With the exception of a few odd verses, all that remains, after
deducting the passages referred to, belongs to the prophetic
narrative (JE). The radical difference in point of style and
interests between JE and P occasionally extends even to their
account of the facts. The story of the spies furnishes several
striking illustrations of this difference. In JE they go from the
wilderness to Hebron in the south of Judah, xiii. 22, in P they go
to the extreme north of Palestine, xiii. 21. In JE Caleb is the only
faithful spy, xiii. 30, xiv. 24, P unites him with Joshua, xiv.
6,38. In JE the land is fertile, but its inhabitants are invincible,
in P it is a barren land. The story of the rebellion of Korah,
Dathan and Abiram is peculiarly instructive (xvi.). It will be
noticed that Dathan and Abiram are occasionally mentioned by
themselves, _vv_. 12, 25, and Korah by himself, _vv_. 5,
19. If this clue be followed up, it will be found that the rebellion
of Dathan and Abiram is essentially against the authority of Moses,
whom they charge with disappointing their hopes, _vv_. 13, 14.
On the other hand, the rebellion headed by Korah is traced to two
sources:[1] it is regarded in one of these as a layman's protest
against the exclusive sanctity of the tribe of Levi, _v_. 3,
and, in the other, as a Levitical protest against the exclusive
right of the sons of Aaron to the priesthood, _vv_. 8-11.
Perhaps the most striking difference between JE and P is in the
account of the ark. In JE it goes before the camp, x. 33 (cf. Exod.
xxxiii. 7), in P the tabernacle, to which it belongs, is in the
centre of the camp, ii. 17, which is foursquare.
[Footnote 1: Two strata of P are plainly visible here.]

Much more than in Genesis, and even more than in Exodus have J and E
been welded together in Numbers--so closely, indeed, that it is
usually all but impossible to distinguish them with certainty; but,
here, as in Exodus, there are occasional proofs of compositeness.
The apparent confusion of the story of Balaam, e.g. (xxii.), in
which God is angry with him after giving him permission to go, is to
be explained by the simple fact that the story is told in both
sources. This duplication extends even to the poetry in chs. xxiii.
and xxiv. (cf. xxiv. 8, 9, xxiii. 22, 24).

There is not a trace of P in the Balaam story. All the romantic and
religious, as opposed to the legal and theological interest of the
book, is confined to the prophetic section (JE); and it greatly to
be regretted that more of it has not been preserved. The structure
of the book plainly shows that it has been displaced in the
interests of P, and from the express reference to the "ten times"
that Israel tempted Jehovah, xiv. 22, we may safely infer that much
has been lost. But what has been preserved is of great religious,
and some historical value. Of course, it is not history in the
ordinary sense: a period of thirty-eight years is covered in less
than ten chapters (x. II-xix.). But much of the material, at least
in the prophetic history JE, rests on a tradition which may well
have preserved some of the historical facts, especially as they were
often embalmed in poetry.

The book of Numbers throws some light on the importance of ancient
poetry as a historical source. It cites a difficult fragment and
refers it to the book of the wars of Jehovah, xxi. 14, it confirms
the victory over Sihon by a quotation from a war-ballad which is
referred to a guild of singers, xxi. 27, it quotes the ancient words
with which the warriors broke up their camp and returned to it
again, x. 35, 36, and it relieves its wild war-scenes by the lovely
Song of the Well, xxi. 17, 18. Probably other episodes in the books
of Numbers, Joshua and Judges (e.g. ch. v.) ultimately rest upon
this lost book of the wars of Jehovah. The fine poetry ascribed to
Balaam, which breathes the full consciousness of a high national
destiny, may belong to the time of the early monarchy, xxiv. 7,
perhaps to that of David, to whom xxiv. 17-19 seems to be a clear
allusion. The five verses that follow Balaam's words, xxiv. 20-24,
are apparently a late appendix; the mention of Chittim in _v_.
24 would almost carry the passage down to the Greek period (4th
cent. B.C.), and of Asshur in _v_. 22 at least to the Assyrian
period (8th cent.), unless the name stands for a Bedawin tribe (cf.
Gen. xxv. 3).

Historically P is of little account. This is most obvious in his
narrative of the war with Midian (xxxi.), in which, without losing a
single man, Israel slew every male in Midian and took enormous
booty. It is suspicious that the older sources (JE) have not a
single word to say of so remarkable a victory; but the impossibility
of the story is shown by the fact that, though all the males are
slain, the tribe reappears, as the assailant of Israel, in the days
of Gideon (Jud. vi.-viii.). The real object of the story is to
illustrate the law governing the distribution of booty, xxxi. 27--a
law which is elsewhere traced, with much more probability, to an
ordinance of David (I Sam. xxx. 24). From this unhistorical, but
highly instructive chapter, we learn the tendency to refer all
Israel's legislation, whatever its origin, to Moses, and the further
tendency to find a historical precedent, which no doubt once
existed, for the details of the legislation. It is from this point
of view that the narratives of P have to be considered. The story of
the fate of the Sabbath-breaker is simply told to emphasize the
stringency of the Sabbath law, xv. 32-36, the particular dilemma in
ix. 6-14 is created, as a precedent for the institution of the
supplementary passover, the case of the daughters of Zelophehad
serves as a historical basis for the law governing the property of
heiresses (xxxvi.). In other words, P is not a historian; his
narrative, even where it is explicit, is usually but the thin
disguise of legislation.

As in Genesis and Exodus, almost every stage in the development of
the religion of Israel is represented by the book of Numbers.
Through the story in xxi. 4-11 we can detect the practice of
serpent-worship, which we know persisted to the time of Hezekiah (2
Kings xviii. 4); and the trial by ordeal, v. 11-31, though in its
present form late, represents no doubt a very ancient custom. P
throws much light on the usages and ideas of post-exilic religion.
But it is to the prophetic document we must go for passages of
abiding religious power and value. Here, as in Exodus, the character
of Moses offers a brilliant study--in his solitary grandeur, patient
strength, and heroic faith; steadfast amid jealousy, suspicion and
rebellion, and vindicated by God Himself as a prophet of
transcendent privilege and power (xii. 8). Over against the narrow
assertions of Levitical and priestly prerogative (xvi., xvii), which
reflect but too faithfully the strife of a later day, is the noble
prayer of Moses that God would make all the people prophets, and put
His spirit upon them every one, xi. 29.


Owing to the comparatively loose nature of the connection between
consecutive passages in the legislative section, it is difficult to
present an adequate summary of the book of Deuteronomy. In the first
section, i.-iv. 40, Moses, after reviewing the recent history of the
people, and showing how it reveals Jehovah's love for Israel,
earnestly urges upon them the duty of keeping His laws, reminding
them of His spirituality and absoluteness. Then follows the
appointment, iv. 41-43--here irrelevant (cf. xix. 1-l3)--of three
cities of refuge east of the Jordan.

The second section, v.-xi., with its superscription, iv. 44-49, is a
hortatory introduction to the more specific injunctions of xii.-xxviii.,
and deals with the general principles by which Israel is to be governed.
The special relation between Israel and Jehovah was established on the
basis of the decalogue (Ex. xx.), and with this Moses begins, reminding
the people of their promise to obey any further commands Jehovah might
give (v.). But as the source of all true obedience is a right attitude,
Israel's deepest duty is to love Jehovah, serving Him with reverence,
and keeping His claims steadily before the children (vi.). To do this
effectively, Israel must uncompromisingly repudiate all social and
religious intercourse with the idolatrous peoples of the land, and
Jehovah their God will stand by them in the struggle (vii). In the
past the discipline had often indeed been stern and sore, but it had
come from the hand of a father, and had been intended to teach the
spiritual nature of true religion; worldliness and idolatry would
assuredly be punished by defeat and destruction (viii.). And just as
deadly as worldliness is the spirit of self-righteousness, a spirit
as absurd as it is deadly; for Israel's past has been marked by an
obstinacy so disgraceful that, but for the intercession of Moses, the
people would already have been devoted to destruction,[1] ix. 1-x. 11.
True religion is the loving service of the great God and of needy men,
and it ought to be inspired by reverent fear. Obedience to the
divine commands will bring life and blessing, disobedience will be
punished by the curse and death, x. 12-xi.
[Footnote 1: Ch, x. 6-9 is an interpolation; _vv_. 6, 7 a
fragment of an itinerary relating the death of Aaron, and _vv_.
8, 9 the separation of the tribe of Levi to priestly functions.]

This hortatory introduction is succeeded by the specific laws which
form the main body of the book (xii.-xxvi., xxviii.). Roughly they
may be classified as affecting (_a_) religious (xii.-xvi.),
(_b_) civil (xvii.-xx.), and (_c_) social (xxi.-xxv.)
life, the religious being made the basis of the other two.

(_a_) As the true worship is jeopardized by a multiplicity of
sanctuaries, these sanctuaries are declared illegal, and their
paraphernalia are to be destroyed; worship is to be confined
henceforth to one sanctuary (xii.), and every idolatrous person and
influence are to be exterminated (xiii.). The holiness of the people
is to be maintained by their abstaining from the flesh of certain
prohibited animals[1] xiv. 1-21, and the sacred dues such as the
tithes, xiv. 22-29, and firstlings, xv. 19-23, are regulated.
Religion is to express itself in generous consideration for the poor
and the slave, xv. 1-18, as well as in the three annual pilgrimages
to celebrate the passover, the feast of weeks, and the feast of
booths, xvi. 1-17.
[Footnote 1: This section is not altogether in the spirit of Deut.
and is found with variations in Lev. xi. If it is not a late
insertion in Deut. from Lev., probably both have borrowed it from an
older code.]

(_b_) Besides the local courts there is to be a supreme central
tribunal, xvi. 18-20, xvii. 8-13. No idolatrous symbols are to be
used in the Jehovah worship; idolatry is to be punished with death,
xvi. 21-xvii. 7. The character and duties of the king are defined,
and his obligation to rule in accordance with the spirit of Israel's
religion, xvii. 14-20; the revenues and privileges of the Levitical
priests are regulated and the high position and function of the
prophets are defined in opposition to the representatives of
superstition in heathen religion (xviii.). Following the laws
affecting the officers of the theocracy are laws--which finely
temper justice with mercy--concerning homicide, murder and false
witness[1] (xix.). A similar combination of humanity and sternness
is illustrated by the laws--whether practicable or not--regulating
the usages of war, xx., with which may be taken xxi. 10-14.
[Footnote 1: Kindred in theme is xxi. 1-9, dealing with the
expiation of an uncertain murder.]

(_c_) The laws in xxi-xxv. are of a more miscellaneous nature
and deal with various phases of domestic and social life--such as
the punishment of the unfilial son, the duty of neighbourliness, the
protection of mother-birds, the duty of taking precautions in
building, the rights of a husband, the punishment of adultery and
seduction, the exclusion of certain classes from the privilege of
worship, the cleanliness of the camp, the duty of humanity to a
runaway slave, the prohibition of religious prostitution, the
regulation of divorce, the duty of humanity to the stranger, the
fatherless and the widow, and of kindness to animals, the duty of a
surviving brother to marry his brother's childless widow, the
prohibition of immodesty, etc.

By two simple ceremonies, one of thanksgiving, the other a
confession of faith, Israel acknowledges her obligations to
Jehovah[1] (xxvi.), and the great speech ends with a very impressive
peroration in which blessings of many kinds are promised to
obedience, while, with a much greater elaboration of detail,
disaster is announced as the penalty of disobedience (xxviii.). In
chs. xxix,, xxx., which are of a supplementary nature, Moses briefly
reminds the people of the goodness of their God, and warns them of
the disaster into which infidelity will plunge them, though--so
gracious is Jehovah--penitence will be followed by restoration. In a
powerful conclusion he sets before them life and death as the
recompense of obedience and disobedience, and pleads with them to
choose life.
[Footnote 1: Ch. xxvii., which, besides being in the 3rd person,
interrupts the connection between xxvi. and xxviii., can hardly have
formed part of the original book. It prescribes the inscription of
the law on stones, its ratification by the people, and the curses to
be uttered by the Levites.]

The speeches are over, and the narrative of the Pentateuch is
resumed. In a few parting words, Moses encourages the people and his
successor Joshua, who, in xxxi. 14, 15, 23, receives his divine
commission, and finally gives instructions for the reading of the
law every seven years, xxxi. 1-13. Verses 16-30 (except 23)
constitute the preface to the fine poem known as the _Song of
Moses_, xxxii. 1-43, which celebrates, in bold and striking
words, the loving faithfulness of Jehovah to His apostate and
ungrateful people.[1] This poem, after a few verses in which Moses
finally commends the law to Israel and himself receives the divine
command to ascend Nebo and die, is followed by another known as the
_Blessing of Moses_ (xxxiii.). In this poem, which ought to be
compared with Gen. xlix., the various tribes are separately
characterized in language which is often simply a description[2]
rather than a benediction, and the poem concludes with an
enthusiastic expression of joy over Israel's incomparable God. The
book ends with an account of the death of Moses (xxxiv.).
[Footnote 1: The song must be much later than Moses, as it describes
the effect, _v_. 15ff., on Israel of the transition from the
nomadic life of the desert, _v_. 10, to the settled
agricultural life of Canaan, and expressly regards the days of the
exodus as long past, _v_.7. It is difficult to say whether the
enemy from whom in _vv_. 34-43, the singer hopes to be divinely
delivered are the Assyrians or the Babylonians: on the whole,
probably the latter. In that case, the poem would be exilic;
_v_. 36 too seems to presuppose the exile.]
[Footnote 2: These descriptions--to say nothing of _v_.4 (Moses
commended _us_ a law)--are conclusive proof that the poem was
composed long after Moses' time. Reuben is dwindling in numbers,
Simeon has already disappeared (as not yet in Gen. xlix). Judah is
in at least temporary distress, and the banner tribe is Ephraim,
whose glory and power are eloquently described, _vv_.13-17.
Levi appears to be thoroughly organized and held in great respect,
_vv_. 8-ll. The poem must have been written at a time when
northern Israel was enjoying high prosperity, probably during the
reign of Jeroboam II and before the advent of Amos (770 B.C.?).]

Deuteronomy is one of the epoch-making books of the world. It not
only profoundly affected much of the subsequent literature of the
Hebrews, but it left a deep and abiding mark upon Hebrew religion,
and through it upon Christianity.

The problem of its origin is as interesting as the romance which
attached to its discovery in the reign of Josiah (621 B.C.).
Generally speaking, the book claims to be the valedictory address of
Moses to Israel. But even a superficial examination is enough to
show that its present form, at any rate, was not due to Moses. The
very first words of the book represent the speeches as being
delivered "on the other side of the Jordan"--an important point
obscured by the erroneous translation of A.V. Now Moses was on the
east side, and obviously the writer to whom the east side was the
other side, must himself have been on the west side. The law
providing for the battlement on the roof of a new house, xxii. 8,
shows that the book contemplates the later settled life of cities or
villages, not the nomadic life of tents; and the very significant
law concerning the boundary marks which had been set up by "those of
the olden time," xix. 14, is proof conclusive that the people had
been settled for generations in the land.

The negative conclusion is that the book is not, in its present
form, from the hand of Moses, but is a product, at least several
generations later, of the settled life of the people. But it is at
once asked, Do the opening words of the book not commit us expressly
to a belief in the Mosaic authorship, in spite of the resultant
difficulties? Is it not explicitly said that these words are his
words? The answer to this question lies in the literary freedom
claimed by all ancient historians. Thucydides, one of the most
scrupulous historians who ever wrote, states, in an interesting
passage, the principles on which he composed his speeches (i. 22):
"As to the various speeches made on the eve of the war or in its
course, I have found it difficult to retain a memory of the precise
words which I heard spoken; and so it was with those who brought me
reports. But I have made the persons say what it seemed to me most
opportune for them to say in view of each situation; at the same
time I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of
what was actually said." This statement represents the general
practice of the ancient world; the conditions of historical veracity
were satisfied if the speech represented the spirit of the speaker.
And this, as we shall see, is eminently true of the book of
Deuteronomy, which is an eloquent exposition and application of
principles fundamental to the Mosaic religion. If, on the other
hand, it be urged that the book contains deliberate assertions that
it was written by Moses--e.g., "when Moses had made an end of
writing the words of this law in a book," xxxi. 24, cf. 9--the
simple reply is that this very phrase, "all the words of this law,"
is elsewhere used of a body of law so small that it can be inscribed
upon the memorial stones of the altar to be set up on Mount Ebal,
xxvii. 3.

We are free, then, to consider the date of Deuteronomy by an
examination of the internal evidence. The latest possible date for
the book, as a whole, is determined by the story of its discovery in
621 B.C. (2 Kings xxii., xxiii.). There can be no doubt that the
book then discovered by the priest Hilkiah, and read by the
chancellor before the king, was Deuteronomy. It is called the book
of the covenant (2 Kings xxiii. 2), but it clearly cannot have been
the Pentateuch. For one thing, that was much too long; the book
discovered was short enough to have been read twice in one day (2
Kings xxii. 8, 10). And again, the swift and terrible impression
made by it could not have been made by a book so heterogeneous in
its contents and containing romantic narratives such as the
patriarchal stories. Nor again can the discovered book have been
Exodus xxi.-xxiii., though that is also called the book of the
covenant (Exod. xxiv. 7); for some of the most important points in
the succeeding reformation are not touched in that book at all. It
is clear from the narrative in 2 Kings xxii. ff. that the book must
have been a law book; no other meets the facts of the case but
Deuteronomy, and this meets them completely. Point for point, the
details of the reformation are paralleled by injunctions in
Deuteronomy--notably the abolition of idolatry, the concentration of
the worship at a single sanctuary (xii.), the abolition of
witchcraft and star-worship, and the celebration of the passover.
Some of these enactments are found in other parts of the Pentateuch,
but Deuteronomy is the only code in which they are all combined. 621
B.C. then is the latest possible date for the composition of

It is possible, however, to fix the date more precisely. The most
remarkable element in the legislation is its repeated and emphatic
demand for the centralization of worship in "the place which Jehovah
your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there,"
xii. 5. Only by such a centralization could the Jehovah worship be
controlled which, at the numerous shrines scattered over the
country, was being stained and confused by the idolatrous practices
which Israel had learned from the Canaanites. This demand is
recognized as something new, xii. 8. In the ninth and eighth
centuries, when the prophetic narratives of Genesis were written,[1]
these shrines, which were the scenes of an enthusiastic worship, are
lovingly traced back to an origin in patriarchal times. As late as
750-735 B.C., Amos and Hosea, though they deplore the excesses which
characterized those sanctuaries, and regard their worship as largely
immoral, do not regard the sanctuaries themselves as actually
illegal; consequently Deuteronomy must be later than 735. But the
situation was even then so serious that it must soon have occurred
to men of practical piety to devise plans of reform, and that the
only real remedy lay in striking the evil at its roots, i.e. in
abolishing the local shrines. The first important blow appears to
have been struck by Hezekiah, who, possibly under the influence of
Isaiah, is said to have removed the high places (2 Kings xviii. 4),
and the movement must have been greatly helped by the immunity which
the temple of Jerusalem enjoyed during the invasion of Judah by
Sennacherib in 701 B.C. But the singular thing is that no appeal was
made in this reformation to a book, as was made in 621, and as it is
natural to suppose would have been made, had such a book been in
existence. Somewhere then between Hezekiah and Josiah we may suppose
the book to have been composed.
[Footnote 1: See below]

The most probable supposition is that the reformation of Hezekiah
gave the first impulse to the legislation which afterwards appeared
as Deuteronomy. But in the terrible reign of his son Manasseh, the
efforts of the reformers met with violent and bloody opposition.
Judah was under the iron heel of Assyria, and, to the average mind,
this would prove the superiority of the Assyrian gods. Judah and her
king, Manasseh, would seek in their desperation to win the favour of
the Oriental pantheon, and this no doubt explains the idolatry and
worship of the host of heaven which flourished during his reign even
within the temple itself. It was just such a crisis as this that
would call out the fierce condemnation of the idolatrous high places
which characterizes Deuteronomy (cf. xii.) and create the imperative
demand for such a control of the worship as was only possible by
centralizing it at Jerusalem. During this period, too, such a book
may very well have been hidden away in the temple by some sorrowing
heart that hoped for better days. It is improbable in itself (cf.
xviii. 6-8), and unjust to the narrative in 2 Kings xxii., xxiii.,
to suppose that the book was written by those who pretended to find
it. It was really lost; had it been written during the earlier part
of Josiah's reign, there was nothing to hinder its being published
at once. In all probability, then, the book was in the main written
and lost during the reign of Manasseh (_circa_ 660 B.C.). It
has been observed that in some sections the 2nd pers. sing, is used.
in others the pl., and that the tone of the plural passages is more
aggressive than that of the singular; the contrast, e.g., between
xii. 29-31 (thou) and xii. 1-12 (you) is unmistakable. We might,
then, limit the conclusion reached above by saying that the passages
in which a milder tone prevails probably came from Hezekiah's reign,
and the more aggressive sections from Manasseh's.

This date agrees with conclusions reached on other grounds
concerning other parts of the Pentateuch. The prophetic narratives J
and E were written in or before the eighth century B.C., the
priestly code (P) is, broadly speaking, post-exilic.[1] Now if it
can be proved that Deuteronomy knows JE and does not know P, the
natural inference would be that it falls between the eighth and the
sixth or fifth century. But this can easily be proved, for both in
its narrative and legislative parts, Deuteronomy rests on JE. As an
illustration of the former, cf. Deuteronomy xi. 6, where only Dathan
and Abiram are the rebels, not Korah as in P (cf. Num. xvi, 12, 25);
as an illustration of the latter, cf. the law of slavery in Exodus
xxi. 2ff. with that in Deuteronomy xv. 12-18, which clearly rests
upon the older law, but deliberately gives a humaner turn to it,
extending its privileges, e.g., to the female slave.
[Footnote 1: See below.]

Again in many important respects the legislation of Deuteronomy
either ignores or conflicts with that of P. It knows nothing, e.g.,
of the forty-eight Levitical cities (Num. xxxv.); it regards the
Levite, in common with the fatherless and the widow, as to be found
everywhere throughout the land, xviii. 6. It knows nothing of the
provision made by P for the maintenance of the Levite (Num. xviii.);
it commends him to the charity of the worshippers, xiv. 29. Above
all it knows nothing of P's very sharp and important distinction
between priests and Levites (Num. iii., iv.); any Levite is
qualified to officiate as priest (cf. the remarkable phrase in
xviii. 1, "the priests the Levites"). Deuteronomy must, therefore,
fall before P, as after JE.

A not unimportant question here arises: What precisely was the
extent of the book found in 621 B.C.? Certainly the legislative
section, xii.-xxvi., xxviii., possibly the preceding hortatory
section, v.-xi., but in all probability not the introductory
section, i. i-iv. 40. These three sections are all approximately
written in the same style, but i. i-iv. 40 has more the appearance
of an attempt to provide the legislation with a historical
introduction summarizing the narrative of the journey from Horeb to
the borders of the promised land. Certain passages, e.g. iv. 27-31,
seem to presuppose the exile, and thus suggest that the section is
later than the book as a whole. The discrepancy between ii. 14,
which represents the generation of the exodus as having died in the
wilderness, and v. 3ff. hardly makes for identity of authorship; and
the similarity of the superscriptions, i. 1-5, and iv. 44-49, looks
as if the sections i.-iv. and v.-xi. were originally parallel.
Whether v.-xi. was part of the book discovered is not so certain.
Much of the finest religious teaching of Deuteronomy is to be found
in this section; but, besides being disproportionately long for an
introduction, it repeatedly demands obedience to the "statutes and
judgments," which, however, are not actually announced till ch.
xii.; it seems more like an addition prefixed by one who had the
commandments in xii.-xxvi. before him. Ch. xxvii., which is
narrative and interrupts the speech of Moses, xxvi, xxviii., besides
in part anticipating xxviii. 15ff., cannot have formed part of the
original Deuteronomy. On the other hand, xxviii. was certainly
included in it, as it must have been precisely the threats contained
in this chapter that produced such consternation in Josiah when he
heard the book read (2 Kings xxii.). The hortatory section that
follows the legislation (xxix., xxx.), is also probably late, as the
exile appears to be presupposed, xxix. 28, xxx. 1-3. On this
supposition, too, the references to the legislation as "this book,"
xxix. 20, 21, xxx. 10, are most naturally explained.

The publication of the book of Deuteronomy was nothing less than a
providence in the development of Hebrew religion. It was
accompanied, of course, by incidental and perhaps inevitable evils.
By its centralization of worship at the Jerusalem temple, it tended
to rob life in other parts of the country of those religious
interests and sanctions which had received their satisfaction from
the local sanctuaries; and by its attempt to regulate by written
statute the religious life of the people, it probably contributed
indirectly to the decline of prophecy, and started Israel upon that
fatal path by which she ultimately became "the people of the book."
But on the other hand, the service rendered to religion by
Deuteronomy was incalculable. The worship of Jehovah had been
powerfully corrupted from two sources; on the one hand, from the
early influence of the Canaanitish Baal worship, practically a
nature-worship, which set morality at defiance, xxiii. 18; and on
the other, from her powerful Assyrian conquerors. Idolatry not only
covered the whole land, it had penetrated the temple itself (2 Kings
xxiii. 6). The cause of true religion was at stake. There had been
sporadic attempts at reform, but Deuteronomy, for the first time,
struck at the root by rendering illegal the worship--nominally a
Jehovah, but practically a Baal worship--which was practised at the
local sanctuaries.

Again Deuteronomy rendered a great service to religion, by
translating its large spirit into demands which could be apprehended
of the common people. The book is splendidly practical, and formed a
perhaps not unnecessary supplement to the teaching of the prophets.
Society needs to have its ideals embodied in suggestions and
commands, and this is done in Deuteronomy. The writers of the book
legislate with the fervour of the prophet, so that it is not so much
a collection of laws as "a catechism of religion and morals."
Doubtless the prophets had done the deepest thing of all by
insisting on the new heart and the return to Jehovah, but they had
offered no programme of practical reform. Just such a programme is
supplied by Deuteronomy, and yet it is saved from the externalism of
being merely a religious programme by its tender and uniform
insistence upon the duty of loving Jehovah with the whole heart.

The love of Jehovah to Israel--love altogether undeserved, ix. 5,
and manifested throughout history in ways without number--demands a
human response. Israel must love Him with an uncompromising
affection, for He is one and there is none else, and she must
express that love for the God who is a spirit invisible, iv. 12, by
deeds of affection towards the creatures whom God has made, even to
the beasts and the birds, xxv. 4, but most of all to the needy--the
stranger, the Levite, the fatherless and the widow. Again and again
these are commended by definite and practical suggestions to the
generosity of the people, and this generosity is expected to express
itself particularly on occasions of public worship. Religion is felt
to be the basis of morality and of all social order, and therefore,
even in the legislation proper (xii.-xxviii.), to say nothing of the
fine hortatory introduction (v.-xi.), its claims and nature are
presented first. The book abounds in profound and memorable
statements touching the essence of religion. It answers the
question, What doth thy God require of thee? x. 12. It reminds the
people that man lives not by bread alone, viii. 3. It knows that
wealth and success tend to beget indifference to religion, viii.
13ff., and that chastisement, when it comes, is sent in fatherly
love, viii. 5; and it presses home upon the sluggish conscience the
duty of kindness to the down-trodden and destitute, with a sweet and
irresistible reasonableness--"Love the sojourner, for ye were
sojourners in the land of Egypt," x. 19.


The book of Joshua is the natural complement of the Pentateuch.
Moses is dead, but the people are on the verge of the promised land,
and the story of early Israel would be incomplete, did it not record
the conquest of that land and her establishment upon it. The divine
purpose moves restlessly on, until it is accomplished; so "after the
death of Moses, Jehovah spake to Joshua," i. 1.

The book falls naturally into three divisions: (_a_) the
conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (_b_) the settlement of the land
(xiii.-xxii.), (_c_) the last words and death of Joshua
(xxiii., xxiv.). This period seems to be better known than that of
the wilderness wanderings, and, especially throughout the first
twelve chapters, the story moves forward with a firm tread. On the
death of Moses, Joshua assumes the leadership, and makes
preparations for the advance (i.). After sending men to Jericho to
spy and report upon the land (ii.), the people solemnly cross the
Jordan, preceded by the ark (iii.); and, to commemorate the miracle
by which their passage had been facilitated, memorial stones are set
up (iv.). After circumcision had been imposed, v. 1-9, the passover
celebrated, v. 10-12, and Joshua strengthened by a vision, v. 13-15,
the people assault and capture Jericho (vi.). This initial success
was followed by a sharp and unexpected disaster at Ai, for which
Achan, by his violation of the law of the ban, was held guilty and
punished with death (vii.). A renewed assault upon Ai was this time
successful.[1] (viii.). Fear of Israel induced the powerful
Gibeonite clan to make a league with the conquerors (ix.). Success
continued to remain with Israel, so that south (x.) and north, xi.
1-15, the arms of Israel were victorious, xi. 16-xii.
[Footnote 1: The book of Joshua describes only the southern and
northern campaigns; it gives no details concerning the conquest of
Central Palestine. This omission is apparently due to the
Deuterouomic redactor, who, in place of the account itself, gives a
brief idealization of its results in viii. 30-35.]

Much of the land remained still unconquered, but arrangements were
made for its ideal distribution. The two and a half tribes had
already received their inheritance east of the Jordan, and the rest
of the land was allotted on the west to the remaining tribes.
Judah's boundaries and cities are first and most exhaustively given;
then come Manasseh and Ephraim, with meagre records, followed by
Benjamin, which again is exhaustive, then by Simeon, Zebulon,
Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan (xiii.-xix.). Three cities on
either side of Jordan were then set apart as cities of refuge for
innocent homicides, and for the Levites forty-eight cities with
their pasture land, xx. 1-xxi. 42. As Israel was now in possession
of the land in accordance with the divine promise, xxi. 43-45,
Joshua dismissed the two and a half tribes to their eastern home
with commendation and exhortation, xxii. 1-8. Incurring the severe
displeasure of the other tribes by building what was supposed to be
a schismatic altar, they explained that it was intended only as a
memorial and as a witness of their kinship with Israel, xxii. 9-34.

The book concludes with two farewell speeches, the first (xxiii.)
couched in general, the second xxiv. 1-23, in somewhat more
particular terms, in which Joshua reminds the people of the goodness
of their God, warns them against idolatry and intermarriage with the
natives of the land, and urges upon them the peril of compromise and
the duty of rendering Jehovah a whole-hearted service. The people
solemnly pledge themselves to obedience, xxiv. 23-28. Then Joshua's
death and burial are recorded, and past was linked to present in the
burial of Joseph's bones (Gen. 1. 25) at last in the promised land,
xxiv. 29-33.

The documentary sources which lie at the basis of the Pentateuch are
present, though in different proportions, in the book of Joshua, and
in their main features are easily recognizable. The story of the
conquest (i.-xii.) is told by the prophetic document JE, while the
geographical section on the distribution of the land (xiii.-xxii.)
belongs in the main to the priestly document P. Joshua, in common
with Judges, Samuel (in part) and Kings, has also been very plainly
subjected to a redaction known to criticism as the Deuteronomic,
because its phraseology and point of view are those of Deuteronomy.
This redactional element, which, to any one fresh from the study of
Deuteronomy, is very easy to detect, is more or less conspicuous in
all of the first twelve chapters, but it is especially so in chs. i.
and xxiii., and it would be well worth the student's while to read
these two chapters very carefully, in order to familiarize himself
with the nature of the influence of the Deuteronomic redaction upon
the older prophetico-historical material. Very significant, e.g.,
are such phrases as "the land which Jehovah your God giveth you to
possess," i. 11, Deuteronomy xii. 1: equally so is the emphasis upon
the law, i. 7, xxiii. 6, and the injunction to "love Jehovah your
God," xxiii. 11.

The most serious effect of the Deuteronomic influence has been to
present the history rather from an ideal than from a strictly
historical point of view. According to the redaction, e.g., the
conquest of Canaan was entirely effected within one generation and
under Joshua, whereas it was not completely effected till long after
Joshua's death: indeed the oldest source frankly admits that in many
districts it was never thoroughly effected at all (Jud. i. 27-36). A
typical illustration of the Deuteronomic attitude to the history is
to be found in the statement that Joshua obliterated the people of
Gezer, x. 33, which directly contradicts the older statement that
Israel failed to drive them out, xvi. 10. The Deuteronomist is, in
reality, not a historian but a moralist, interpreting the history
and the forces, divine as well as human, that were moulding it. To
him the conquest was really complete in the generation of Joshua, as
by that time the factors were all at work which would ultimately
compel success. The persistency of the Deuteronomic influence, even
long after the priestly code was written, is proved by xx. 4-6,
which, though embodied in a priestly passage, is in the spirit of
Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. xix.). As this passage is not found in the
Septuagint, it is probably as late as the third century B.C.

P is very largely represented. Its presence is recognized, as usual,
by its language, its point of view, and its dependence upon other
parts of the Pentateuch, demonstrably priestly. While in the older
sources, e.g., it is Joshua who divides the land, xviii. 10, in P
not only is Eleazar the priest associated with him as Aaron with
Moses (Exod. viii. 5, 16), but he is even named before him (xiv. 1,
cf. Num. xxxiv. 17). It is naturally also this document which
records the first passover in the promised land, v. 10-12. The
cities of refuge and the Levitical cities are set apart (xx., xxi.)
in accordance with the terms prescribed in a priestly chapter of
Numbers (xxxv.). The prominence of Judah and Benjamin in the
allocation of the land is also significant. The section on the
memorial altar, xxii. 9-34, apparently belonging to a later stratum
of P, is clearly stamped as priestly by its whole temper--its
formality, _v_, 14, its representation of the "congregation" as
acting unanimously, _v_. 16, its repetitions and stereotyped
phraseology, and by the prominence it gives to "Phinehas the son of
Eleazar the priest," _vv_. 30-32. That this document in Joshua
was partly narrative so well as statistical is also suggested by its
very brief account of Achan's sin in ch. vii., and of the treachery
and punishment of the Gibeonites, ix. l7-2l--an account which may
well have been fuller in the original form of the document.

The most valuable part of Joshua for historical purposes is
naturally that which comes from the prophetic document, which is the
oldest. It is here that the interesting and concrete detail lies,
notably in chs. i.-xii., but also scattered throughout the rest of
the book in some extremely important fragments, which indicate how
severe and occasionally unsuccessful was the struggle of Israel to
gain a secure footing upon certain parts of the country.[1] Many of
the difficulties revealed by a minute study of i.-xii. make it
absolutely certain that the prophetic document is really composite
(JE), but owing to the thorough blending of the sources the analysis
is peculiarly difficult and uncertain. That there are various
sources, however, admits of no doubt. The story of the crossing of
the Jordan in chs. iii., iv., if we follow it carefully step by
step, is seen to be unintelligible on the assumption that it is a
unity. In iii. 17 all the people are already over the Jordan, but in
iv. 4, 5, the implication is that they are only about to cross. Ch.
iv. 2 repeats iii. 12 almost word for word. In iv. 9 the memorial
stones are to be placed in the Jordan, in iv. 20 at Gilgal. In vii.
25_b_, 26_a_, Achan alone appears to be stoned, in
_v_. 25_c_ the family is stoned too. A similar confusion
prevails in the story of the fall of Jericho (vi.). In one version,
Israel marches six days silently round the city, and on the seventh
they shout at the word of Joshua; on the other, they march round
seven times in one day, and the seventh time they shout at the blast
of the trumpet.
[Footnote 1: Cf. xv. 14-19, 63; xvi. 10; xvii. 11-18; xix. 47.]

Enough has been said to show that the prophetic document, as we have
it, is composite, though there can seldom be any manner of certainty
about the ultimate analysis into its J and E constituents. There is
reason to believe that most of the isolated notices of the struggle
with the Canaanites scattered throughout xiii.-xxii. and repeated in
Judges i. are from J, while ch. xxiv., with its interest in Shechem
and Joseph, and its simple but significant statement, "They
presented themselves before _God_ (Elohim)," xxiv. 1, is almost
entirely from E.

It used to be maintained, on the strength of a phrase in v. 1--"until
_we_ were passed over"--that the book of Joshua must have been
written by a contemporary. But the true reading there is undoubtedly
that given by the Septuagint--until _they_ passed over-which
involves only a very slight change in the Hebrew. On what, then, do
the narratives of the book really rest? The answer is suggested by
x. 12, 13, where the historian appeals to the book of Jashar in
confirmation of an incident in Joshua's southern campaign. Doubtless
the whole battle was described in one of the war-ballads in this
famous collection (cf. Jud. v.), and it is not unreasonable to suppose
that other narratives in the book of Joshua similarly rest upon other
ballads now for ever lost. The capture of Jericho, e.g., may well have
been commemorated in a stirring song which was an inspiration alike
to faith and patriotism.

If, however, it be true that the book of Joshua has thus a poetic
basis, it is only fair to remember that its prose narratives must
not be treated as bald historical annals; they must be interpreted
in a poetic spirit. There is the more reason to insist upon this, as
a later editor, by a too inflexible literalism, has misinterpreted
the very passage from the book of Jashar to which we have alluded.
What the precise meaning of Joshua's fine apostrophe to sun and moon
may be, is doubtful--whether a prayer for the prolongation of the
day or rather perhaps a prayer for the sudden oncoming of darkness.
The words mean, "Sun, be thou still," and if this be the prayer, it
would perhaps be answered by the furious storm which followed. But,
in either case, the appeal to the sun and moon to lend their help to
Israel in her battles is obviously poetic--a fine conception, but
grotesque if literally pressed. This, however, is just what has been
done by the editor who added x. 14, and thus created a miracle out
of the bold but appropriate imagery of the poet. Similarly it is not
necessary to suppose that the walls of Jericho fell down without the
striking of a blow on the part of Israel, for this too may be
poetry. It may be just the imaginative way of saying that no walls
can stand before Jehovah when He fights for His people. That this is
the real meaning of the story, and that there was more of a struggle
than the poetical narrative of ch. vi. would lead us to believe, is
made highly probable by, the altogether incidental but very explicit
statement in xxiv. 11, "The men of Jericho _fought_ against

With its large geographical element the book of Joshua is not
particularly rich in scenes of direct religious value; yet the whole
narrative is inspired by a sublime faith in the divine purpose and
its sure triumph over every obstacle. In particular, the story of
the Gibeonites suggests the permanent obligation of reckoning with
God in affairs of national policy, ix. 14, while Gilgal is a
reminder of the duty of formally commemorating the beneficent
providences of life (iii., iv.). The story of Achan reveals the
national bearings of individual conduct and the large and disastrous
consequences of individual sin. The valedictory addresses of Joshua
are touched by a fine sense of the importance of a grateful and
uncompromising fidelity to God. But perhaps the greatest thing in
the book is the vision of the heavenly leader encouraging Joshua on
the eve of his perilous campaign, v. 13-15, a noble imagination,
fitted to remind those who are fighting the battles of the Lord that
they are sustained and aided by forces unseen.


Of the three principal documents, J, E and P, to whose fusion is due
the account of Israel's origin and early history contained in the
Hexateuch, nothing can be known except by inference; but within
certain limits their date and origin may be fixed. In Genesis, J and
E alike love to trace the sacred places of the Hebrews to some
revelation or incident in the life of the patriarchs. Now from the
prominence assigned to Hebron in J, together with the rôle assigned
to Judah in the story of Joseph, xxxvii. 26, and the special
interest in Judah displayed by Genesis xxxviii., it may be inferred
that J originated in Judah; while the special attention paid in E to
the sanctuaries of the northern kingdom, such as Shechem and Bethel,
is not unreasonably held to imply that E originated in Israel.

It is impossible to assign more than an approximate date to the
origin of these documents, but they can hardly be earlier than the
monarchy, which is clearly alluded to in Genesis xxxvi. 31. Such
incidental statements as that the Canaanite was _then_ in the
land, xii. 6, xiii, 7, imply that by the author's time the situation
had changed; and, as their subjection was not attained till the time
of Solomon (1 Kings ix. 21) the documents can hardly be earlier than
that. The sanctuaries glorified in the Pentateuch are the very
sanctuaries at which a sumptuous but misguided worship was practised
as late as the eighth century, in the days of Amos and Hosea (cf.
Amos iv. 4; Hosea xii. II); but, generally speaking, the conception
of God found in the prophetic history, though as robust and intense
as that of the early prophets, is more primitive. It is not afraid
of anthropomorphisms (Gen. iii. 8; Exod. iv. 24), and theophanies,
and it has not very clearly grasped the idea that God is spirit. On
these grounds alone it would not be unfair to place the prophetic
documents somewhere between Solomon and Amos. J probably belongs to
the ninth century, and E, which, as we saw reason to believe, was
later, to the eighth.

P takes us into a totally different world. The witchery of the
prophetic documents has disappeared; poetry has given place to
legislation, theophany to ritual, religion to theology. From the
late historical books, such as Ezra-Nehemiah, we learn that legalism
dominated post-exilic religion to an extent out of all proportion to
what can be proved, or what is probable, for pre-exilic times; and
it would be natural to suppose that another writing, such as P,
dominated by precisely the same spirit, is a product of the same
time. This supposition becomes a practical certainty in the light of
two or three facts. Firstly, in not a few respects P is at variance
with the legislative programme drawn up by the exilic prophet
Ezekiel (xl.-xlviii.). Now if P had been in existence, such a
programme would have been unnecessary, and, in any case, Ezekiel
would hardly have ventured to contradict a code which enjoyed so
venerable a sanction and bore the honoured name of Moses. It is
easier to suppose that Ezekiel's programme is a tentative sketch,
which was modified and improved upon by the authors of P. Again
there was every inducement during and immediately after the exile to
formulate definitely the ritual practice of pre-exilic times, and to
modify it in the direction of existing or future needs. So long as
the temple stood, custom could be trusted to take care of the ritual
tradition, but the violent breach with their country and their past
would impose upon the exiles the necessity of securing those
traditions in permanent and accessible form. P is therefore referred
almost unanimously by scholars to the exilic and early post-exilic
age, and may be roughly put about 500 B.C.

The documents J, E and P, which, for convenience, we have treated as
if each were the product of a single pen, represent in reality
movements which extended over decades and even centuries. The
Jehovist, e.g., who traces the descent of shepherds, musicians, and
workers in metal to antediluvian times (Gen. iv. 19-22), cannot be
the Jehovist who told the story of the Flood, which interrupted the
continuity of human life. These distinctions are known to criticism
as Jl, J2, etc.; but, though they stand for undoubted literary
facts, it is altogether futile to attempt, on this basis, an
analysis of the entire document into its component parts. The
presence of several hands may also be detected, though not so
readily, in E. Most scholars suppose J to precede E, but one or two
reverse the order. The truth is that there are passages in J
inspired by splendid prophetic conceptions, which must be later than
the earliest edition of E; and the moment it is recognized that a
long period elapsed before either document reached its present form,
the question of priority becomes relatively unimportant.

P is even more obviously the result of a long process marked by
repeated additions and refinements. Numbers xviii. 7, e.g., implies
that ordinary priests might pass within the vail, whereas in
Leviticus xvi. this is possible only to the high priest, and even to
him only once a year. Exodus xxix. 7 represents only the high priest
as anointed, Exodus xxviii. 41 the other priests as well. The
section in Exodus xxx. 1-10 on the altar of incense must be later
than the list in xxvi. 31-37, where it is not mentioned. The age,
too, at which the Levites might enter upon their service appears to
have been repeatedly changed; in Numbers iv. 3 it is put at thirty
years, in viii. 24 at twenty-five (and i Chron. xxiii. 24 at
twenty). All this only shows the unceasing attention that was paid
by the priests to the problem of worship; and the length of the
period over which this attention was spread may be inferred from the
fact that, even in the third century B.C., as we know from the
Septuagint, the Hebrew text of Exodus xxxv.-xl. was not absolutely

We may conceive the composition of the Pentateuch to have passed
through approximately the following stages. Earliest of all and
fundamental to all come the ancient traditions and the ancient
poetry, such as the book of the wars of Jehovah, and the book of
Jashar. Upon this basis, during the monarchy men of prophetic spirit
in both kingdoms--not improbably at the sanctuaries--wrote the
history of the Hebrew people. These documents, J and E, were
subsequently combined into a single history (JE), possibly in the
seventh century, though how long, if at all, J and E continued to
enjoy an independent existence we have no means of knowing. During
the exile, the book of Deuteronomy was added (JED). Its influence,
as we have seen, is very prominent in Joshua, and occasionally
traceable even in the earlier books (cf. Gen. xviii. 19, xxvi. 5).
After the exile P was incorporated, and the Hexateuch had assumed
practically its present form about the middle of the fifth century


For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel,
the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua
to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of
inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements
contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the
ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most
elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or
preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes the real kernel of the
book of Judges--chs. xvii.-xxi., as we shall see, being a supplement
and i. 1-ii. 5 an introduction. Briefly stated, the moral is this:
in the ancient history, unfaithfulness to Jehovah was regularly
followed by chastisement in the shape of foreign invasion, but when
the people repented and cried to Jehovah He raised up a leader to
deliver them. Unfaithfulness, chastisement; penitence, forgiveness.
This philosophy of history, if such it can be called, had of course
the practical object of inspiring the people with a sense of the
importance of fidelity to Jehovah. Both the ideas and the
phraseology of this passage, ii. 6-iii. 6, are unmistakably those of
Deuteronomy: therefore here, as in Joshua, we speak of the
Deuteronomic redaction.

The moral expressed in the preface and repeated in a less elaborate
form elsewhere, vi. 7-10, x. 6-16, is amply illustrated by the
stories that follow--the stories of Othniel, Ehud, Deborah and
Barak, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson. This does not exhaust the list
of judges, but it exhausts the list of those whose stories are used
to illustrate the Deuteronomic scheme. The story of Abimelech, e.g.
(ix.), has no such preface or conclusion as these six have; neither
has the notice of Shamgar in iii. 31; the preface is also lacking in
the very bald notices of the five minor judges, x. 1-5, xii. 8-15.
It is clear, therefore, that they fell without the original
Deuteronomic scheme; but it is equally clear that the later editors
of the book intended to represent the period by twelve judges,
Abimelech being apparently reckoned a judge, though he is not called
one. Another computation, which ignored Abimelech, reached the
number twelve by adding Shamgar, iii. 31, whom a comparison of iii.
31 with iv. 1 shows not to have belonged to the original book; the
name was probably suggested by v. 6_a_.

Chs. xvii.-xxi., which consist of two appendices (xvii., xviii, the
origin of the sanctuary at Dan, and xix.-xxi., the vengeance of
Israel on Benjamin for the outrage at Gibeah), also clearly fell
without the Deuteronomic redaction: the section is untouched either
by the language or ideas of Deuteronomy. Further, these chapters are
clearly out of place where they stand; for, generally speaking, the
order of the book is chronological, beginning with the death of
Joshua and ending with the Philistine invasion which lasted on into
the days of Samuel, whereas both stories in the appendix refer to
quite an early period, two of the characters named being the
grandsons of Moses and Aaron respectively (xviii. 30, xx. 28).[1]
[Footnote 1: In ch. xviii. 30 the word now read as Manasseh was
originally Moses.]

The introduction, i. I-ii. 5, also plainly falls without the scheme,
for the book proper, ii. 6ff., is a direct continuation[1] of Joshua
xxiv. 27, and i. i-ii. 5 really duplicates, in the main, accounts
and isolated notices scattered through Joshua xv., xvi., xvii., xix.
The incidents related in these chapters are assigned to Joshua's
lifetime; the phrase with which the book of Judges begins--"It came
to pass _after the death of Joshua_"--is clearly a later
attempt to connect the two books, and inconsistent with ii. 6ff.,
which carries the story back to a period before Joshua's death.
[Footnote 1: 2 Ch. ii. 6, 7=Josh. xxiv. 28, 31; Jud. ii. 8, 9=Josh.
xxiv. 29, 30.]

The original book of Judges, then, as edited by the Deuteronomist,
is represented[1] by ii. 6-xv., minus the notices of Shamgar,
Abimelech and the minor judges. The moral pointed by the redaction,
valuable as it may be, is not always suggested by the history. The
redaction assigns the national misfortunes to idolatry, though only
once is idolatry mentioned with reprobation in the ancient stories
themselves, vi. 25-32. The redaction shows a further indifference to
history in giving a national[2] turn to the tale of apostasy and
deliverance, whereas the original stories show that the interests
are really not as yet national, but only tribal. The chronology of
the book--which is also part of the redaction--with its round
numbers, 20, 40, 80, etc., appears to contain an artificial element,
and to form part of the scheme indicated in i Kings vi. 1, which
assigns 480 years, i.e. twelve generations, to the period between
the exodus and the building of the temple. Many considerations make
it practically certain that the periods of the judges, which are
represented as successive, were often really synchronous, and that
therefore the period covered by the entire book is only about two
[Footnote 1: Note that ch. xv. 20 was apparently designed to
conclude the story of Samson, raising the suspicion that ch. xvi.
(with a similar conclusion) was added later.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. iii. 12. The children of Israel did evil again in
the sight of Jehovah, and Jehovah strengthened Eglon the King of
Moab against _Israel_; so _vv_. 14, 15, etc.]

There is reason to believe that the original Deuteronomic book of
Judges included the stories of Eli and Samuel, and ended with I
Samuel xii. It is expressly said in Judges xiii. 5 that Samson is to
_begin_ to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines,
and it is reasonable to suppose that the completion of the
deliverance was also related; besides, Samuel's farewell address
contains many reminiscences of the familiar formulae of the book of
Judges (I Sam. xii. 9ff.) and an appropriate summary of the teaching
and some of the facts of that book (cf. _v_. 11). It is easy to
imagine, however, why the stories of Eli and Samuel were ultimately
separated from the book of Judges: partly because they were felt to
be hardly judges in the old sense of defenders, deliverers--Eli was
a priest, and Samuel a prophet--and still more because the story of
Samuel, at any rate, was bound up with the history of the monarchy.

The book received its present form from post-exilic redactors. This
is rendered certain by the unmistakable marks of the influence of
the priestly code in chs. xx., xxi. The unanimity with which Israel
acts, the extraordinarily high numbers,[1] the prominence of such
words as "congregation," constitute indubitable evidence of a
priestly hand. Some post-Deuteronomic hand, if not this same one,[2]
added the other appendix, xvii., xviii., the introduction, i.-ii. 5,
and the sections in the body of the book already shown to be
late.[3]. The motives which prompted these additions were varied.
With regard to the minor judges, e.g., some suppose that the object
was simply to make up the number twelve; but generally speaking, the
motive for the additions would be the natural desire to conserve
extant relics of the past. The introduction, and appendix, though
added late, contain very ancient material. Many of the historical
notices in ch. i. are reproductions of early and important notices
in the book of Joshua, though with significant editorial additions,
usually in honour of Judah; [Footnote: Cf. ch. i. 8, which
contradicts i. 21; and i, 18, which contradicts i. 19.] and the
story of the origin of the sanctuary at Dan, with its very candid
account of the furniture of the sanctuary and the capture of the
priest, is obviously very old. Doubtless also there is a historical
element in xix.-xxi., though it has been seriously overlaid by the
priestly redaction--possibly also in the notices of the minor
[Footnote 1: Ch. xx. 2 (of. Num. xxxi.). Contrast Jud. v. 8.]
[Footnote 2: Note the phrase in both stories. "In those days there
was no king in Israel," xviii. i, xix. I.]
[Footnote 3: Shamgar iii. 31; Abimelech (ix); minor judges, x. 1-5,
xii. 8-15; Samson (xvi.)]

This raises the question of the sources and historical value of the
stories in the body of the book, which, as we have seen, are very
easily separated from the redactional elements. Indeed, as those
elements are confined to the beginning and the end of the stories,
we may assume that the stories themselves were not composed by the
redactors, but already reached them in a fixed and finished form.
Further, it is important to note that, just as in the prophetic
portions of the Hexateuch, duplicates are often present--very
probably in the stories of Ehud, iii. 12ff., Deborah and Barak
(iv.), Abimelech (ix.), and Micah (xvii., xviii.), but certainly in
the story of Gideon[1] (vi.-viii.). According to the later version,
Gideon is the deliverer of Israel from the incursions of the
Midianites, and the princes slain are Oreb and Zeeb, vii. 24-viii.
3; according to the earlier version, viii. 4-21, which is on a
smaller scale, Gideon, accompanied by part of his clan, takes the
lives of Zebah and Zalmunna to avenge his brothers, whom they had
slain. In the case of duplicated stories, the Deuteronomic redactors
apparently found the stories already in combination, so that the
original constituent documents must be further back still. As the
narratives, with their primitive religious ideas and practices and
their obvious delight in war, are clearly the echo of an early time,
we shall be safe in relegating the original documents, at the
latest, to the eighth or ninth century B.C. It is a point on which
unanimity has not yet been reached, whether these documents are the
Jehovist and Elohist of the Hexateuch; but considering the fact that
the older notices in i.-ii. 5, on account of the prominence of Judah
and for other reasons, are usually assigned to J, and that some of
the characteristics of these two documents recur in the course of
the book, the hypothesis that J and E are continued at least into
Judges must be regarded as not improbable.
[Footnote 1: In the story of Jephthah, ch. xi. 12-28, which
interrupt the connexion and deals with Moab, not with Ammon, is a
later interpolation.]

Fortunately we are able in one case to trace the source of a story.
The story of Deborah and Barak is told in chs. iv. and v. Ch. 5, which
is so graphic that it must have come from a contemporary-one had almost
said an eye-witness--is undoubtedly the older form of the story, as it
is in verse. Partly on the basis of this poem ch. iv. has been built
up, and the account of Sisera's death in this chapter, iv. 21, which
differs from that in v. 26, 27, rests on a misunderstanding of the
situation in v. 26. Here we see the risks which the ballads ran when
turned into prose, but more important is it to note the poetical origin
of the story. Probably ch. v. originally belonged to such a collection
as the book of the wars of Jehovah or the book of Jashar, and it is
natural to suppose that other stories in the book of Judges--e.g. the
exploits of Gideon--may have similarly originated in war-ballads.

The religion of the book of Judges is powerful but primitive. The
ideal man is the ideal warrior. Grim tales of war are told with
unaffected delight, and the spirit of God manifests itself chiefly
in the inspiration of the warrior. Gideon and Micah have their
idols. Chemosh and Dagon are as real, though not so powerful, as
Jehovah. Unlike the redaction, the earlier tales are not given to
moralizing, and yet once at least the moral is explicitly pointed,
ix. 56ff. But elsewhere the power of religion in life is suggested,
not by explicit comment, but rather by the naturalness with which
every interest and activity of life are viewed in a religious light.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the priceless song of
Deborah[1] (v.). Israel's battles are the battles of Jehovah; her
triumph is His triumph. The song is inspired by an intense belief in
the national God, but there was little that was ethical in the
religion of the period. Jephthah offers his child in sacrifice. Jael
is praised for a murder which was a breach of the common Semitic law
of hospitality. By revealing, however, so candidly the meagre
beginnings of Israel's religion, the book of Judges only increases
our sense of the miracle which brought that religion to its
incomparable consummation in the fulness of the times.
[Footnote 1: The song is not necessarily and not probably composed
by Deborah. In v. 12 she is addressed in the 2nd person, and
_v_. 7 may be similarly read, "Till _thou_, Deborah, didst


Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the
book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the
book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of
Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.;
while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two
chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very
happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part
to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate, as Samuel had much
to do with the founding of the monarchy. The Jewish tradition that
Samuel was the author of the book is, of course, a palpable fiction,
as the story is carried beyond his death.
[Footnote 1: Two books in the Greek translation, as in modern
Bibles; originally one in the Hebrew, but two from the year 1517

The book deals with the establishment of the monarchy. Its ultimate
analysis is very difficult; but, if we regard the summary notices in
1 Samuel xiv. 47-51 and 2 Samuel viii. as the conclusion of
sections--and this seems to have been their original intention--the
broad outlines are clear enough, and the book may be divided into
three parts: the first (1 Sam. i.-xiv.) dealing with Samuel and
Saul, the second (i Sam. xv.-2 Sam. viii.) with Saul and David, and
the third (2 Sam. ix.-xx., concluding with I Kings i., ii.) with
David, xxi.-xxiv. being, like Judges xvii.-xxi., in the nature of an

The book opens in the period of the Philistine wars. Samuel's birth,
call and influence are described (I Sam. i.-iii.), and the
disastrous defeat which Israel suffered at the hand of the
Philistines. Jehovah, however, asserted His dignity, and the ark,
which had been captured, was restored to Israel (iv.-vii.). But the
peril had taught Israel her need of a king, and, by a providential
course of events, Saul becomes the chosen man. He gains initial
successes (viii.-xiv.).

But, for a certain disobedience and impetuosity, his rejection by
God is pronounced by Samuel, and David steps upon the arena of
history as the coming king. His successes in war stung the
melancholy Saul, who at first had loved him, into jealousy; and the
tragedy of Saul's life deepens. Recognizing in the versatile David
his almost certain successor, he seeks in various ways to compass
his destruction, but more than once David repays his malice with
generosity. Saul's persecution, however, is so persistent that David
is compelled to flee, and he takes refuge with his country's enemy,
the Philistine king of Gath. At the decisive battle between Israel
and the Philistines on Gilboa, Saul perishes. Soon afterwards, David
is made king of Judah; and emerging successfully from the subsequent
struggle with Saul's surviving son, he becomes king over all Israel,
seizes Jerusalem, and makes it his civil and religious capital (1
Sam. xv.-2 Sam. viii.).

 The story of his reign is told with great power and candour, and is
full of the most diverse interest--his guilty passion for Bathsheba,
which left its trail of sorrow over all his subsequent career, the
dissensions in the royal family, the unsuccessful rebellion of his
son Absalom, the strife between Israel and Judah (2 Sam. ix.-xx.).
The story is concluded in 1 Kings i., ii., by an account of the
intrigue which secured the succession of Solomon, and finally by the
death and testament of David. The appendix, which interrupts the story
and closes the book of Samuel (xxi.-xxiv.) consists of (_a_) two
narratives, with a dominant religious interest, which chronologically
appear to belong to the beginning of David's reign--the atonement by
which Jehovah's anger, expressed in famine, was turned away from the
land, xxi. 1-14, and the plague which, as a divine penalty, followed
David's census of the people (xxiv.); (_b_) two psalms--a song
of gratitude for God's gracious deliverances (xxii.=Ps. xviii.), and
a brief psalm expressing confidence in the triumph of justice,
xxiii. 1-7; (_c_) two lists of David's heroes and their deeds,
xxi. 15-22, xxiii. 8-39.

In the book of Samuel, even more distinctly than in the Hexateuch,
composite authorship is apparent. Little or no attempt has been made
by the redactor[1] to reduce, by omissions, adaptations, or
corrections, the divergent sources to a unity, so that we are in the
singularly fortunate position of possessing information which is
exceedingly early, and in some cases all but contemporary, of
persons, events and movements, which exercised the profoundest
influence on the subsequent history of Israel. The book has been
touched in a very few places by the Deuteronomic redactor--not to
anything like the same extent as Judges or Kings. The few points at
which he intervenes, however, are very significant; his hand is
apparent in the threat of doom pronounced upon Eli's house (1 Sam.
ii. 27-36),[2] in the account of the decisive battle against the
Philistines represented as won for Israel by Samuel's intercession
(1 Sam. vii. 3-16), in Samuel's farewell address to the people (1
Sam. xii.) and--most important of all--in Nathan's announcement to
David of the perpetuity of his dynasty (2 Sam. vii.). A study of
these passages reveals the didactic interest so characteristic of
the redactors.
[Footnote 1: "Come and let us _renew_ the kingdom," 1 Sam. xi.
14, is a redactional attempt to reconcile the two stories of the
origin of the monarchy.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. 2 Kings xxiii. 9; Deut, xviii. 6-8.]

Such a book as Samuel offered little opportunity for a priestly
redaction, but it has been touched here and there by a priestly
hand, as we see from 1 Samuel vi. 15, with its belated introduction
of the Levites to do what had been done already, v. 14, and from the
very significant substitution of "all the Levites" for "Abiathar" in
2 Samuel xv. 24, cf. 29.

The composite quality of the book of Samuel could hardly fail to
strike even a careless observer. Many of the events, both important
and unimportant, are related twice under circumstances which render
it practically impossible that two different incidents are recorded.
Two explanations are given, e.g., of the origin of the saying, "Is
Saul also among the prophets?" I Sam. x. 11, xix. 24. Similarly, the
story of David's magnanimity in sparing Saul's life is twice told (1
Sam. xxiv., xxvi.), and there is no allusion in the second narrative
to the first, such as would be natural, if not necessary, on the
assumption that the occasions were really different. There are also
two accounts of David's sojourn among the Philistines and of his
speedy departure from a situation fraught with so much peril (1 Sam.
xxi. 10-15, xxvii., xxix.). Of course there are not unimportant
differences between these two narratives: the voluntary departure of
the one story becomes a courteous, though firm, dismissal in the
other; but in the light of so many other unmistakable duplicates, it
is hard to believe that these are not simply different versions of
the same story. There are two accounts of the death of Saul:
according to the one, he committed suicide (1 Sam. xxxi. 4),
according to the other he was slain by an Amalekite (2 Sam. i. 10).
The Amalekite's story may, of course, be fiction, but it is not
necessary to suppose this.

The differences between the duplicate accounts are sometimes so
serious as to amount to incompatibility. In one document, e.g.,
teraphim are found in the house of a devout worshipper of Jehovah, 1
Sam. xix. 13, in another they are the symbol of an idolatry which is
comparable to the worst of sins, 1 Sam. xv. 23. Again, there is no
reason to doubt the statement in the apparently ancient record of
the deeds of David's heroes, that Elhanan slew Goliath of Gath, 2
Sam. xxi. 19. But if this be so, what becomes of the elaborate and
romantic story of i Samuel xvii., which claims this honour for
David? The difficulty created by this discrepancy was felt as early
as the times of the chronicler, who surmounts it by asserting that
it was the brother of Goliath whom Elhanan slew (1 Chron. xx. 5).
Connected with this story are other difficulties affecting the
relation of David to Saul. In this chapter, Saul is unacquainted
with David, 1 Samuel xvii. 56, whereas in the preceding chapter
David is not only present at his court, but has already won the
monarch's love, xvi. 21. The David of the one chapter is quite
unlike the David of the other; in xvi. 18 he is a mature man, a
skilled and versatile minstrel-warrior, and the armour-bearer of the
king; in xvii. 38, 39, he is a young shepherd boy who cannot wield a
sword, and who cuts a sorry figure in a coat of mail. Many of these
undoubted difficulties are removed by the Septuagint[1] which omits
xvii. 12-31 ,41, 50, 55-xviii. 5, and the question is raised whether
the Septuagint omitted these verses to secure a more consistent
narrative, or whether they were wanting, as seems more probable, in
the Hebrew text from which the Greek was translated. In that case
these verses, which give an idyllic turn (cf. ch. xvi.) to the story
of David, may have been added after the Greek version was written,
i.e, hardly earlier than 250 B.C., and a curious light would thus be
shed upon the history of the text and on the freedom with which it
was treated by later Jewish scholars. Equally striking and important
are the conflicting conceptions of the monarchy entertained in the
earlier part of the book. One source regards it as a blessing and a
gift of Jehovah; the first king is anointed by divine commission "to
be prince over my people Israel, and he shall save my people out of
the hand of the Philistines," 1 Sam. ix. 16; the other regards the
request for an earthly king as a rejection of the divine king, and
the monarchy as destined to prove a vexation, if not a curse
(viii.). Centuries seem to separate these conceptions--the one
expressing the exuberant enthusiasm with which the monarchy was
initiated, the other--perhaps about Hosea's time (cf. Hosea viii.
4)--reflecting the melancholy experience of its essential
[Footnote 1: The Greek text of Samuel is often of great value. In 1
Sam. xiv. 18 it preserves the undoubtedly original reading, "bring
hither _the ephod_, for he carried the ephod that day before
Israel," instead of "Being hither the ark of God." and in _ v_.
41 the Greek version makes it clear that the Urim and Thummim were
the means employed to determine the lot.]
[Footnote 2: If other proof were wanted that the book is not an
original literary unit, it might be found in the occasional
interruption of the natural order. 2 Sam. xxi.-xxiv. is the most
extensive and obvious interruption. But 2 Sam. iii. 2-5 is also out
of place, it goes with v. 6-16. So I Sam. xviii. 10, 11, which is
really a duplication of xix, 9, 10 is psychologically inappropriate
at so early a stage.]

These considerations suggest that at any rate as far as 2 Samuel
viii.--for it is universally admitted that 2 Samuel ix.-xx. is
homogeneous--there are at least two sources, which some would
identify, though upon grounds that are not altogether convincing,
with the Jehovist and Elohist documents in the Hexateuch. One of
these sources is distinctly early and the other distinctly late, and
the early source contains much ancient and valuable material. Its
recognition of Samuel as a local seer willing to tell for a small
piece of money where stray asses have gone, its enthusiastic
attitude to the monarchy, its obvious delight in the splendid
presence and powers of Saul, its intimate knowledge of the ecstatic
prophets, its conception of the ark as a sort of fetish whose
presence insures victory--all these things bespeak for the document
that relates them a high antiquity. The other document represents
Samuel as a great judge and virtual regent over all Israel, it has a
wide experience of the evils of monarchy, it idealizes David, and it
regards Saul as a "rejected" man. It is possible that these
documents, in their original form, were biographical--Saul being the
chief hero in the one and David in the other. A biography of Samuel,
which may or may not have included the story of the war with the
Philistines (I Sam. iv.-vii. 2), possibly existed separately, though
in its present form it is interwoven with the story of Saul.

It would be difficult to overpraise the literary and historical
genius of the writer who in 2 Samuel ix.-xx. traces the checkered
course of David's reign. He has an unusually intimate knowledge of
the period, a clear sense of the forces that mould history, a
delicate insight into the springs of character, and an estimable
candour in portraying the weakness as well as the strength of his
hero. The writer's knowledge is so intimate that one is tempted to
suppose that he must have been a contemporary; and yet such a phrase
as "to this day," 2 Sam. xviii. 18, unless it be redactional, almost
compels us to come lower down. Probably, however, it is not later
than the time of Solomon, whose reign appears to have been marked by
literary as well as commercial activity.[1]
[Footnote l: The Book of Jashar, whose latest known reference comes
from the reign of Solomon (cf. p.102), is supposed by some to have
been edited in that reign.]

The last four chapters, which interrupt the main narrative, contain
some ancient and some late material. The two tales, xxi. 1-14,
xxiv., which have much in common, were preserved because of their
religious interest; and although part of ch. xxiv. (cf. _vv_.
10-14) is in the later style, both stories throw much welcome light
on the early religious ideas of Israel. Of the poems 2 Samuel xxii.
in its present form can hardly be David's,[1] and the same doubt may
be fairly entertained with regard to xxiii. 1-7. Even if _v_. 1
be not an imitation of Numbers xxiv. 3, 15, it is hardly likely that
David would have described himself in terms of the last clause of
this verse. The eschatological complexion of _vv_. 6, 7 also
suggests, though perhaps it does not compel, a later date; further,
it is not exactly in favour of the Davidic authorship of either of
these psalms that they are found in a section which was obviously
interpolated later.[2] On the other hand, there can be no reasonable
doubt that the incomparable elegy over Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel
i. 19-27 is David's. Poetically it is a gem of purest ray; but,
though its position in the book of Jashar[3] shows that it was
regarded as a religious poem, it strikes no distinctively religious
note. The little fragment on the death of Abner, 2 Sam. iii. 33ff.,
is also no doubt his.
[Footnote 1: See pp. 247, 248.]
[Footnote 2: The song of Hannah, 1 Sam. ii. 1-10, is proof that later
editors inserted poems at points which they deemed appropriate. If
the "anointed king," for whom prayer is offered in _v_. 10, be
one of the historical kings, then the Ps. is pre-exilic; if the
Messianic king of the latter days, post-exilic. But in neither case
could the prayer be Hannah's, as there was no king yet. The clause in
_v_. 5--"the barren hath borne seven"--suggested the interpolation
of the poem at this point.]
[Footnote 3: This may either mean the book of the upright or brave,
i.e. the heroes of Israel, or it may mean the book of Israel herself.]

The book of Samuel offers a large contribution to our knowledge of
the early religion of Israel. It presents us with a practical
illustration of the rigorous obligations of the ban (1 Sam. xv.), of
the effects of technical holiness (1 Sam. xxi. 4, 5), of the
appearance of the images known as teraphim (1 Sam. xix. 13), of the
usages of necromancy (1 Sam. xxviii.), of the peril of unavenged
bloodshed (2 Sam. xxi.), of the almost idolatrous regard for the ark
(1 Sam. iv.), of the nature of the lot (1 Sam. xiv. 41, lxx.), of
the place of fasting and the inviolability of oaths (1 Sam. xiv.).
To the student of human nature, the book is peculiarly rich in
material. The career of David and still more that of Saul--David
with his weakness and his magnanimity, and Saul, a noble character,
ruined by jealousy and failure combined working upon a
predisposition to melancholy--present a most fascinating
psychological study. The ethical interest, too, though seldom
obtruded, is always present. In the parable of Nathan, it receives
direct and dramatic expression; but the whole story of David's reign
is haunted by a sense of the Nemesis of sin.


The book[1] of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical
narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with
some brilliant exceptions--its relative monotony, are obvious to the
most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large
measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than
four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession
of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable
fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.), then carries on the history of the
monarchy in both countries from the disruption to the fall of the
northern kingdom (1 Kings xii.-2 Kings xvii.), and traces the story
of Judah from that point to the exile (2 Kings xviii.-xxv.).
[Footnote 1: Originally and till 1517 A.D. Kings was reckoned in the
Hebrew Bible as one book. The Greek translation reckons it as two
books, which it entitles the third and fourth books of the kingdoms,
the first two being represented by the two books of Samuel.]

During this period events of epoch-making importance in politics and
religion were taking place. In it literary prophecy was born, trade
and commerce arose with their inevitable cleavage of society into
the rich and the poor, the northern kingdom disappeared as a
political force, and many of her people were carried into exile.
Judah was dominated in turn by Assyria and Babylonia, with the
result that her religious usages were profoundly affected by theirs.
But of all this we learn very little from the book of Kings. Most of
what we do know of the inner history of the period comes from the
prophets. To understand the state of society, e.g. in the time of
Jeroboam II, we go not to the book of Kings but to Amos and Hosea.

Again the perspective is strange. It is not only that brief reigns
like those of Shallum and Pekahiah (2 Kings xv.) are dismissed in a
verse or two, but even long and very important reigns, such as that
of Jeroboam II. (2 Kings xiv. 23-29). Omri, the father of Ahab, was,
we know, a much more important person than the few verses devoted to
him in I Kings xvi. 21-28 would lead us to suppose. The reign of
Ahab himself, on the other hand, is dealt with at considerable
length (I Kings xvi. 29-xxii. 40), and Solomon receives no less than
nine chapters (I Kings iii.-xi.). The stories of Jeroboam I (I Kings
xii.), Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii.-xx.), Josiah (2 Kings xxii. ff.) are
told with comparative fulness. Whenever the narrative begins to
expand it is plain that the interest of the author is predominantly
and almost exclusively religious; in other words, his aim is to
write not a political, but an ecclesiastical history. This at once
explains his insertions and omissions. Omri's reign was not marked
by anything of conspicuous importance to religion, while it was
under Ahab that the great struggle of Jehovah worship against
Baalism took place. Solomon is of unique importance, as he was the
founder of the temple. Hezekiah's career touches that of the prophet
Isaiah, while his reign and Josiah's are marked by attempts at
religious reform. The author is writing for men who have access to
records of the political history, and to these "chronicles of the
kings of Israel and Judah," as they are called, he repeatedly refers
readers who are interested in the political facts.

Finally, though some of the narratives--notably the Elijah group-are
dramatic and powerful to the last degree, the book has not, generally
speaking, that flexibility and movement which we are accustomed to look
for in a modern historian. It has been artificially conformed to a
scheme. The various kings are introduced and dismissed and their reigns
are criticized, in set formulae, and these formulae are Deuteronomic.
With the exception of Hezekiah, all the kings before Josiah are implicitly
condemned for worshipping upon the high places; and the centralization of
the worship at Jerusalem was, as we have already seen, the chief feature
of the Deuteronomic legislation. The book of Kings, like Joshua, Judges
and Samuel (in part), has been subjected to a Deuteronomic redaction, of
which the most obvious feature is the summary notice and criticism
of the various kings. This redaction cannot have taken place earlier
than 621 B.C. (the date of the publication of Deuteronomy) nor later
than 597 B.C., as the reference to the chronicles of the kings of
Judah ceases with the reign of Jehoiakim, 2 Kings xxiv. 5. Parts of
the book presuppose that the temple is still standing, I Kings viii.
29, and the exile not yet an accomplished fact. There was, however,
a later redaction some years after the pardon of Jehoiachin in 561
B.C. (2 Kings xxv. 27), and sporadic traces of this are seen
throughout the book, parts of which clearly imply the exile, 1 Kings
viii. 46, 47, and the destruction of the temple, 1 Kings ix. 7, 8.
These redactions are known to criticism as D and D2 respectively.

On none of the historical books has the influence of Deuteronomy
been so pervasive as on Kings. The importance of the Deuteronomic
law receives emphatic reiteration, 1 Kings ii. 3, 4, ix. 1-9, and
once that law is cited practically word for word, 2 Kings xiv. 6;
cf. Deut. xxiv. 16. Naturally the affairs of the temple as the
exclusive seat of the true worship receive considerable attention.
This explains the elaborate treatment accorded to the reign of
Solomon, who founded the temple, and to the description of the
temple itself (1 Kings vi.); and on his prayer of dedication the
Deuteronomic influence is very conspicuous (1 Kings viii.). It is
also unmistakable in the chapter which concludes the story of the
northern kingdom and attempts to account for the disaster (2 Kings
xvii.). The chapter presents what may be called a Deuteronomic
philosophy of history, corresponding to the scheme which is thrown
into the forefront of the book of Judges (ii. 6-iii. 6). Traces of a
hand that is still later than the second Deuteronomic redaction are
to be found here and there in the book; e.g., in 1 Kings viii. 4,
the Levites are a later insertion to satisfy the requirements of the
post-exilic priestly law--the words are not supported by the
Septuagint. Here we see the influence of the priestly point of view,
but the traces are far too few to justify us in speaking of a
priestly redaction; the course which such a redaction would have
taken we see from the book of Chronicles. But that the book was
touched by post-exilic hands is certain; 1 Kings xiii. 32 actually
speaks of "the cities of Samaria," a phrase which implies that
Samaria was a province, as it was not till after the exile.

It is fortunate that one of the longest, most important, and
impressive sections of the book--the Elijah and Elisha narratives (1
Kings xvii.-2 Kings viii., xiii. l4-2l)--has not been touched by the
Deuteronomic redaction. The Elijah narratives not only recognize the
existence of altars all over the land, 1 Kings xix. 10, but the
great contest between Jehovah and Baal is actually decided at the
sanctuary on Carmel, xviii. 20, a sanctuary which, by the
Deuteronomic law, was illegal. Again, the advice given by Elisha to
cut down the fruit trees in time of war, 2 Kings iii. 19, is in
direct contravention of the Deuteronomic law (Deut. xx. 19). These
narratives must precede the redaction of the book by a century and a
half or more, and we have them pretty much as they left the hand of
the original writers. A post-exilic hand, however, is evident in 1
Kings xviii. 31, 32_a_. To a later age, which believed in the
exclusive rights of Jerusalem, the altar on Carmel, which was said
to be repaired by Elijah, _v._ 30, was naturally an offence; so
the repairing of this old altar is represented as the erection of a
new and special one, typical of the unity of Israel. The lateness of
the insertion is further proved by its containing a quotation from P
(Gen. xxxv. 10).

As the book was redacted by Judean writers, it is not unnatural that
the summary notices of the kings of Judah are more elaborate than
those of Israel. In the former case, but not in the latter, the age
of the king at his accession and the name of his mother are
mentioned. One curious feature of these notices is that the
statement of a king's accession, whether in Israel or Judah, is
always accompanied by a statement of the corresponding year in the
contemporary reign of the sister kingdom. The notices conform to
this type: "In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam, king of
Israel, began Azariah, son of Amaziah, king of Judah, to reign," 2
Kings xv. 1. It is practically certain that these synchronisms, as
they are called, are not contemporary but the work of the redactors.
There is no reason to suppose that the kings of either country would
have dated their own reigns with reference to the other; besides,
the synchronisms do not strictly agree with the other chronological
notices of the reigns. The period between the division of the
kingdoms and the fall of Samaria is estimated as 260 years in the
story of the kings of Judah, but only as 242 in the case of Israel.
Probably the original documents contained the number of years in the
reign, and the dates of the more important events; but the
synchronisms represent an artificial scheme created by the redactor.
Traces of such a system are present in 1 Kings vi. 1, according to
which 480 years, i.e. twelve generations of forty years each,
elapsed between the exodus and the building of the temple.

So much for the redaction; what, then, were the sources of the
redaction? Three are expressly mentioned--the book of the acts of
Solomon, 1 Kings xi. 41, the book of the chronicles of the kings of
Israel, and the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah. The
nature of these books may be inferred, partly from the facts
recorded in our book of Kings, and especially from the facts in
support of which they are cited. They seem to have contained, e.g.,
accounts of wars, conquests, conspiracies, buildings, 1 Kings xiv.
19, xv. 23, xvi. 20, but it is not probable that they were official
annals. There was indeed a court official whose name is sometimes
translated "the recorder," 2 Sam. viii. 16, 1 Kings iv. 3. But
besides the probable inaccuracy of this translation,[1] it is very
unlikely that, in the northern kingdom at any rate, with its
frequent revolutions, court annals were continuously kept; the
annalist could hardly have recorded the questionable steps by which
his monarch often succeeded to the throne, though doubtless official
documents were extant, capable of forming material for the
subsequent historian. But in any case, the chronicles to which the
book of Kings refers cannot have been official annals; it is assumed
that they are accessible to everybody, as they would not have been
had they been official chronicles. They were in all probability
finished political histories, something like the elaborate section
devoted to Solomon in our present book of Kings. The chronicles of
the kings of Israel and Judah probably formed, not one book, as has
been supposed, but two; the same event, e.g., the campaign of
Hazael, is sometimes mentioned in two distinct and independent
connections, 2 Kings x. 32, xiii. 3, cf. xii. 18f.--a fact which
further suggests that the redactor treated his sources with at least
comparative fidelity.
[Footnote 1: The word strictly means "one who calls to mind," and
would appropriately designate an official who brought the affairs of
the kingdom before the king.]

The book of Kings, as we have seen, concentrates attention almost
exclusively on the religious elements in the history, and these were
determined largely by the prophets. It is not surprising, therefore,
that many of the longer sections deal with the utterances or
activities of prophets at critical junctures of the history. The
part played by Ahijah at the time of the disruption of the kingdom,
by Elijah in the great struggle between Baal and Jehovah worship, by
Elisha during the Aramean assaults upon Israel, by Isaiah at the
invasion of Sennacherib--these and similar episodes are dealt with
so fully as to suggest that biographies of the prophets, written
possibly by literary members of the prophetic order, were at the
disposal of the redactors of the book of Kings. Temple affairs are
also discussed, from the days of Solomon to Josiah (I Kings vi.
vii., 2 Kings xi., xii., xvi., xxii., xxiii.), with a sympathy and a
minuteness which almost suggest the inference that a regular temple
history was kept; but occasional statements which are anything but
flattering to the priests (2 Kings xii. 7, 15) render the inference
somewhat precarious.

Besides the chronicles and biographies, there are hints that the
redactors had access to other sources. The words in which Solomon
dedicated the temple, only partially preserved in the Hebrew, are,
by a very probable emendation of the Greek text, taken from the book
of Jashar:--

  The sun hath Jehovah set in the heavens,
  He himself hath determined to dwell in the darkness.
  And so I have built Thee an house to dwell in,
  Even a place to abide in for ever and ever.
  (1 Kings viii. 12, 13; Septuagint, _v._ 53).

Again, 1 Kings xx., xxii. appears to come from a different source
from the Elijah narratives in 1 Kings xvii.-xix., xxi. The former
section takes a distinctly more favourable view of Ahab than the
Elijah stories do, and, unlike them, it alludes to Ahab seldom by
name, but usually as "the king of Israel"; further, in it the great
prophet of the period is Micah rather than Elijah. Both these groups
of narrative belong no doubt to the northern kingdom.[1]
[Footnote 1: Chs. xx., xxii. obviously so; but no less xvii.-xix.,
xxi., for in 1 Kings xix. 3 Beersheba is described as belonging to
Judah. A Judean writer would not have appended such a note.]

It is important to consider the value of the sources of the book of
Kings. We have already seen that the redactor occasionally deals
with them in a spirit of praiseworthy scrupulousness, repeating the
same fact from different sources, and making no attempt to dovetail
the one narrative into the other. Sometimes the sources have been
demonstrably followed word for word, phrases like _to this day_
being used of situations which had passed away by the time the book
was redacted.[1] The facts, though lamentably meagre, have usually
the appearance of being thoroughly trustworthy; the quotation from
the book of Jashar is no doubt as genuine as it is interesting, and
the brief account of the submission of Hezekiah to the tribute
imposed by Sennacherib, 2 Kings xviii. 14-16, is supported by the
Assyrian records. But it is evident that the history does not always
rest upon contemporary sources, and that early events and
personalities are touched with the colours of legend or romance.
Much of the story of Solomon, e.g., is unmistakably historical--his
luxury, his effeminacy, his commerce, his unscrupulousness. But
there are stories of another sort which, on the face of them, must
be decades, if not centuries, later than Solomon's reign. "There
came no more," we are informed, "such abundance of spices as those
which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon" (1 Kings x. 10). The
age of Solomon is clearly long past, and his glory has been enhanced
by the lapse of time; for "silver was nothing accounted of in the
days of Solomon," x. 21. Tales are told of his almost fabulous
revenue, x. 14, which can hardly be reconciled with the story of his
loan from Hiram, ix. 14. The story of Solomon is really a
compilation, and its various elements are by no means all of the
same historical value.
[Footnote 1: E.g., 1 Kings xii. 19 implies the existence of Israel,
and 2 Kings viii. 22 (Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah
unto this day) ignores the later conquest of Edom by Amaziah, xiv.

The career of Elisha is also seen through the colours of a rich and
reverent imagination. It is, in the main, intended to be a replica
of Elijah's, and many of his miracles are obviously suggested by
his. The story of Elisha's resuscitation of the dead child is an
expansion of the similar story told of Elijah (2 Kings iv., 1 Kings
xvii.), and his miracle wrought in behalf of the widow, 2 Kings iv.
1-7, is modelled on a similar miracle wrought by Elijah, 1 Kings
xvii. 8-16. There is further an element of magic in his miracles
which differentiates them from Elijah's, and throws them more upon
the level of mediaeval hagiography; such, e.g., as the floating of
the iron upon the water, or the raising of a dead man by contact
with the prophet's bones. The Elijah narratives, on the other hand,
represent a higher type of religious thought. The figure of that
great prophet may also have been glorified by tradition, but in any
case his was a personality of the most commanding power. He was
indeed fortunate in his biographer; his story is told with great
dramatic and literary art. In its account of the struggle with the
greed of Ahab and the licentiousness of Baalism, it sheds a
brilliant light upon one of the most crucial epochs of Hebrew
history. Even this story, however, is not all of a piece. There is
linguistic and other evidence that the chapter (2 Kings i.), in
which two companies of fifty men are consumed by fire from heaven at
the word of Elijah, is very late. In the story, which is rather
mechanical and lacks the splendid dramatic power of the other Elijah
stories, the prophet is only a wonder-worker, and his action is not
determined by any moral consideration. It was not so much the spirit
of Elijah himself, but rather that of the late redactor, that Jesus
rebuked, when He said to His disciples, who quoted the prophet's
conduct for a precedent, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of."

Perhaps the chapter of least historical value in the book of Kings
is that in which Jeroboam I is condemned and denounced for his
idolatry at Bethel (1 Kings xiii.). It contains an unparelleled
instance of predictive prophecy: Josiah is foretold by name three
centuries before he appears, _v._ 2. The difficulty of this
prediction is so keenly felt that one orthodox commentator feels
constrained to dispose of it by assuming that the name is to be
taken, not as a proper name, but in its etymological sense as one
whom "Jehovah supports," The sudden withering of the hand and its
equally sudden restoration to health are hardly more surprising than
the definite prediction of the fate of the idolatrous priests,
_v._ 2,--a prediction which appears to be fulfilled to the
letter, 2 Kings xxiii. 16-18. But when we examine the account of the
fulfilment, we find that the passage is later than its context[1]
and inconsistent with it. The conduct of the "old prophet," whose
lying counsel is attributed to an angel, is, morally considered,
disreputable, and it is surely no accident that the man of God,
whose message and fate are thus strangely told, is anonymous,
though, as the opponent of the famous Jeroboam I, the leader of the
disruption, he ought to have been well known. The vagueness and
improbabilities of the story can only be accounted for by its very
late date. Fortunately we are able to show that the story is, at the
earliest, post-exilic. As we have already seen, there is an allusion
in _v_. 32 to the cities of Samaria, which implies that Samaria
was a province, and stamps the passage at once as post-exilic. Even
within the post-exilic period, it probably falls quite late--a
precursor of the book of Chronicles. The historical spirit is in
abeyance, and edification is the only consideration. The story is a
late attempt to illustrate the great truth that God's word is
immutable and must be uncompromisingly obeyed.
[Footnote 1: Verse 16, in which the bones are burned on the altar,
contradicts _v._ 15, in which the altar is already destroyed.]

The religious value of the book of Kings is general rather than
particular. There are individual sections of great religious power
and value--most of all the great group of Elijah narratives; but the
book has been shorn, by the thoroughness of the redaction, of much
that would have been of the deepest interest to the modern student
of Israel's religious no less than political development. Taken as a
whole, it has a certain melancholy grandeur. Beginning in the
splendid glitter of Solomon's reign, the monarchy passed with
unsteady gait across the centuries, menaced by foes without and
within, and ended at last in the irretrievable disaster of exile.
But through the sombre march of history, a divine purpose was being
accomplished. The disaster which swallowed up the nation renewed and
spiritualized the religion, and thus the seeming loss proved great



Isaiah is the most regal of the prophets. His words and thoughts are
those of a man whose eyes had seen the King, vi. 5. The times in
which he lived were big with political problems, which he met as a
statesman who saw the large meaning of events, and as a prophet who
read a divine purpose in history. Unlike his younger contemporary
Micah, he was, in all probability, an aristocrat; and during his
long ministry (740-701 B.C., possibly, but not probably later) he
bore testimony, as unremitting as it was brilliant, to the
indefeasible supremacy of the unseen forces that shape history, and
to the quiet strength that comes from confidence in God.

During this period three events stand out as of unique importance:
the coalition--due to fear of Assyria--formed by Aram and Israel
against Judah in 735 B.C. (vii. 1-ix. 6), the capture of Samaria by
the Assyrians in 721 B.C., and the deliverance of Jerusalem in 701
B.C. from the menace of Sennacherib. In these and in all crises,
Isaiah's message was a religious one, but instinct, as the sequel
showed, with political wisdom. It rested ultimately upon the vision
with which his ministry had been inaugurated--the vision of the
King, the Lord of hosts, upon a throne high and lifted up, whose
glory filled the whole earth.

The King was "holy," partly, no doubt, in the ethical sense--for the
man of unclean lips is afraid in His presence--but also partly in
the older sense of being separated, elevated, lifted above the
chances and changes of humanity. Holiness here is almost equivalent
to majesty, it is the other side of the divine glory; and it is this
thought that inspires the message of Isaiah with such serene
confidence. His God is on the throne of the universe: He is the Lord
of hosts. His purposes concern not only Judah, but the whole world,
xiv. 26, and His kingdom must eventually come. Therefore it is that
when, at the news of the confederacy of Aram and Israel against
Judah, "the heart of Ahaz and his people shook as shake the forest
trees before the wind," vii. 2, Isaiah remains firm as a rock; for,
to paraphrase his own great alliterative words, "Faith brings
fixity," vii. 9b. This word of his early ministry is also one of his
latest (701): "he who believeth shall not give way," xxviii. 16.
That is the precious foundation stone that abides unshaken amid the
shock of circumstance, and can bear any weight that may be thrown
upon it. This, then, is Isaiah's great contribution to religion: he
is before all things, the prophet of faith. "In quietness and
confidence your strength shall be," xxx. 15.

It is easy from this point of view to understand the scorn which
Isaiah heaps upon the common objects of men's trust, whether ships,
walls or towers (ii.), lip-worship, xxix. 13f., or the gorgeous
services of the sanctuary, cunning diplomacy or the projected
alliance with Egypt or Assyria (xxx.). Isaiah is the sworn foe of
materialism: the contrast between human and divine resource is to
him nothing less than infinite. "The Egyptians are men, and not God;
and their horses flesh, and not spirit," (xxxi. 3). It is in harmony
with this insistence upon the supremacy of the spiritual that Isaiah
regarded religion as separable not only from political form, but
even from ecclesiastical organization; for (if the text of viii.
16_b_ can be trusted) he committed his message not to the
contemporary church, but to a few disciples, transforming thereby
the existing conception of the church, and taking a step of
immeasurable significance for the development of true religion.

The majesty and originality of Isaiah's thought have their
counterpart in his language. Very powerful, e.g., is his description
of the Assyrian army--

  See! hastily, swiftly he comes,
    None weary, none stumbling among them,
  The band of his loins never loosed,
    The thong of his shoes never torn.
  His arrows are sharpened,
    His bows are all bent.
  The hoofs of his horses are counted as flint,
    And his wheels as the whirlwind.
  His roar is like that of the lioness.
    And like the young lions he roars,
  Thundering, seizing the prey,
  And bearing it off to a place of security.
  v. 26-29.

The book is full of poetry as fine as this. Whether describing the
mighty roar of the sea, xvii. 12-14, or Jehovah's power to defend
Israel, xxxi. 4, or singing a tender vineyard song (v.); Isaiah is
equally at home. He effects his transitions with consummate skill:
note, e.g., the swift application he makes of the parable of the
vineyard, v. 5-7, or the scathing retort he makes to those who
complain of the monotony and repetition of his message (xxviii.
[Footnote 1: The real irony of this passage, xxviii. 10-13, can only
be appreciated in the Hebrew.]

The prophecies that fall within the first thirty-nine chapters are
practically all on a very high religious and literary level; yet it
is all but universally conceded that they are not entirely from the
hand of Isaiah. Some prophecies, e.g. xiii., xiv., may be nearly two
centuries later than his time, others, e.g. xxiv.-xxvii, four or six;
indeed large sections or fragments of the book are relegated by the
more radical critics to the second century B.C. and connected with the
Maccabean times. But even the more conservative scholars admit that
several oracles of Isaiah have been worked over by later hands,
possibly by pupils, and that isolated sections, e.g. xxiv.-xxvii.,
have to be relegated to the post-exilic age, and even to a comparatively
late period within that age. These questions can only be settled, if at
all, by exegetical, theological and historical considerations, for which
this is not the place; but in sketching the contents of the various
prophecies, the more probable alternatives will be indicated, where a
solution is important.

It is plain that the present order of the book is not strictly
chronological; otherwise it would have begun with the inaugural
vision which now appears in ch. vi. Generally speaking, there are six
more or less sharply articulated divisions in the first thirty-nine
chapters, i.-xii., xiii.-xxiii., xxiv.-xxvii., xxviii.-xxxiii.,
xxxiv.-xxxv., xxxvi.-xxxix.

Chs, i.-xii. _Prophecies concerning Judah, Jerusalem (and

The first division, like the fourth, deals in the main with Judah
and Jerusalem. As the next division, xiii.-xxiii., deals with
foreign peoples, i.1 can serve as a preface only to the first
division and not to the whole book. The prophecy opens with an
arraignment of Judah, intensely ethical in spirit. It was placed
here, not because it was first in point of time, but as a sort of
frontispiece; for, though the different sections of the ch., e.g.
_vv_. 2-9, 10-20, may come from different times, the first at
any rate implies the ravaging of Judah, i. 7, and appears to point
to the invasion of Sennacherib in 701 B.C.: it would thus be one of
the latest in the book. The land is wasted, the body politic
diseased, i. 1-9; the people seek the favour of their God by
assiduous and costly ceremony, which the prophet answers by an
appeal for a moral instead of a ritual service, _vv_. 10-20.
But, as injustice and idolatry are rampant, they will be surely
punished, _vv_. 21-31.

As a foil to this picture of the depravity of Zion, a foil also to
the immediately succeeding description of her pride and idolatry, is
the beautiful vision of Zion in the issue of the days, ii. 2-5, as
the city to which all nations shall resort for religious
instruction, and their obedience to the expressed will of the God of
Zion will usher in a reign of universal peace. The passage appears,
with an additional verse, in Micah iv. 1-5, where it seems to be
preserved in a more original form; yet Isaiah can hardly have
borrowed it from Micah, who was younger than he. It used to be
supposed that both adopted it from an older poet. But the contents
of the oracle, assigning as it does a world-wide significance to
Zion, its temple, and its _torah_, while not absolutely
incompatible with Isaianic authorship, rather point to a post-exilic
date. We are the more at liberty to assume that the passage was
later inserted as a foil to the preceding description of Zion as
Sodom, as neither in Isaiah nor in Micah does it fit the context.

The general theme of ii.-iv. is the divine judgment which will fall
on all the foolish pride of Judah. How it will come, Isaiah does not
say--the prophecy is one of the earliest (735?)--but the storm that
will sweep across the land will reveal the impotence of superstition
and idolatry and material resources of every kind, ii. 6-22. All the
supports of Judah's political life will be taken away: indeed, the
leaders are either so weak or rapacious that the country is already
as good as ruined, iii. 1-15; and the women, who are as guilty as
the men, will also be involved in their doom, iii. 16-iv. 1.
Strangely enough, this eloquent threat of judgment ends in a vision
of comfort and peace, iv. 2-6. The land is one day to be wondrously
fruitful, her people to be cleansed and holy, and the glory of
Jehovah will be over Zion as a shelter and shade. The theological
implications of this last passage seem late, and it was probably
appended by another hand than Isaiah's as a contrast and

Then follows a lament, in the form of a vineyard song, which
skilfully ends in a denunciation of Judah, the vineyard of Jehovah,
v. 1-7, merging thereafter into a sixfold woe, pronounced upon her
rapacious land-holders, drunkards, sceptics, enemies of the moral
order, worldly wise men, besotted and unjust judges, v. 8-24. This
is fittingly followed by the announcement that Jehovah will summon
against Judah the swift, unwearied and invincible hosts of Assyria,
v. 25-30.

In the noble vision (740 B.C.) which inaugurated his prophetic
ministry (vi.), Isaiah saw the glorious Jehovah attended by seraphim
and received from Him the call to go forth and deliver his message
to an unbelieving people. This vision appropriately introduces the
prophecies proper in vii.-xii.; but it is practically certain that
though the vision itself was early, the account of it is later. The
hopelessness of his prospective ministry looks rather like the
retrospect of a disappointing experience. Though Isaiah elsewhere
expresses his faith in the salvation of a remnant, this chapter
asserts the utter annihilation of the people, _vv_. 11-13_ab_.
An attempt has been made to relieve the gloom in the last clause of
the chapter, _v_. 13 _c_, by a comparison of the stump of
the tree that remained, after felling, to the holy seed; but this
clause, which is wanting in the Septuagint, and utterly blunts the
keen edge of the prophecy, is no part of the original chapter.

The next section, vii. i-ix. 6, plunges us into the war which the
allied arms of Aram and Israel waged against Judah in 735, doubtless
in the desire to force her to join a coalition against Assyria.
Isaiah, vii. 1-17, seeks to reassure the faith of the trembling king
Ahaz; and when Ahaz refuses to put the prophetic word to the test,
Isaiah boldly declares that the land will be delivered from the
menace before two or three years are over; and many a child--or it
may be some particular child--soon to be born, will be given the
name Immanuel, and will thereby bear witness to the faith that,
despite the stress of invasion, God will not forget His people, but
that He "is with us."[1] To the same period, but probably not the
same occasion, belongs the prophecy of the devastation of Judah by
Assyria, vii. 18-25. But the blow is to fall first, and within two
or three years, on Aram and Israel, with their respective capitals.
It did not fall so quickly as Isaiah had expected: Damascus was
indeed taken in 732, but Samaria not till 721: in spirit, however,
if not in the letter, the prophecy was fulfilled, viii. 1-4. The
unbelief of Judah will also be punished by the hosts of Assyria, but
the ultimate purpose of Jehovah will not be frustrated, viii. 5-10.
He alone is to be feared, and no combination of confederate kings
need alarm, viii. 11-15. The prophet commits his message to his
disciples, and with patience and confidence looks for vindication to
the future, viii. 16-18. Desperate days would come, viii. 19-91, but
they would be followed by a brilliant day of redemption when Jehovah
would remove the yoke from the shoulder of His burdened people by
sending them a glorious prince with the fourfold name.
[Footnote 1: vii. 8_b_]

This latter prophecy, ix. 2-7, has been denied to Isaiah, but
apparently with insufficient reason. The passage falls very
naturally into its context. The northern districts of Israel (ix. 1)
had been ravaged by Assyria in 734 B.C. (2 Kings xv. 29), and upon
this darkness it is fitting that the great light should shine; and
the yoke to be broken might well be the heavy tribute Judah was now
obliged to pay. There are undoubted difficulties, e.g. the mention
of a Davidic king, ix. 7, after a specific reference to the fortunes
of Israel over which the Davidic king had no jurisdiction; and it is
probable that we do not possess the oracle in its original form or
completeness. But, in any case, the vision of the righteous and
prosperous king ruling over a delivered people fittingly closes this
series of somewhat loosely connected oracles.

The next section, ix. 8-x. 4, forms a very artistic whole,
consisting of four strophes, each of four verses,[1] concluding with
the refrain--

  For all this His wrath is not turned,
  And His hand is stretched out still.

The poem, which falls about 734, lashes the pride and ambition of
_Israel_ (not Judah) and threatens her people with loss of
territory and population, anarchy and civil war. The passage was
probably originally followed by v. 26-29, which has a similar
refrain, and which, with its vivid description of the terrible
Assyrian army, would form an admirable climax to this poem.
[Footnote 1: Ch. ix. 8 is an introduction and _v_. 13 an

Chs. x. 5-xii. 6. Assyria, then, is the instrument with which
Jehovah chastises Israel. But because she executes her task in a
spirit of presumption and pride, she in her turn is doomed to
destruction; but the remnant of Jehovah's people will be saved, x.
5-27. The gradual approach of the Assyrians to Jerusalem is then
described in language full of word-play, _vv_, 28-32, which
forcibly reminds us of a very similar passage in Isaiah's
contemporary Micah, i. 10-15. This chapter is probably about twenty
years later than those that immediately precede it. There is an
obvious advance in the prophet's attitude to Assyria, and the boast
in _vv_. 9-11 carries the chapter later than the fall of
Samaria (721) and Carchemish (717). It is even possible that the
description of the Assyrian advance in vv. 28-32 implies
Sennacherib's campaign in Judah in 701.

After the destruction of the enemy before Jerusalem in x. 33, 34
follows an enthusiastic description of the Messianic king--of his
wisdom and justice, and of the universal peace which will extend
even to the animal world, xi. 1-9. It is the counterpart of ix. 2-7,
though here again, and perhaps with more reason, the Isaianic
authorship has been doubted. The peculiar emphasis upon the equipment
with the spirit is hardly, in these ethical relationships, demonstrably
pre-exilic, and the "stem" out of which the shoot is to grow suggests
that the monarchy had fallen, but the word may possibly be used to
indicate its decadent condition. In any case, there seems very little
doubt that the rest of the section, xi. 10-xii. 6, strikingly appropriate
as it is in this place, is post-exilic. It describes how in the Messianic
days just pictured, theexiles of Israel and Judah will be gathered from
the ends of the earth to their own land, where their near neighbours will
all be vanquished, xi. 10-16. Then follows a simple song of gratitude for
the redemption Jehovah has wrought, xii. The presuppositions of the
dispersion here described are not such as fit into Isaiah's time; they
would not even apply to the conditions after the fall of Jerusalem and
the exile of Judah in 586, still less to the fall of Samaria and the
exile of Israel in 72l--the passage must be post-exilic. But though much
later than Isaiah's time it forms a very skilful conclusion to the first
division of his book, and is an admirable counterpart to the gloomy
scenes of ch. i.

Chs. xiii.-xxiii. _Prophecies concerning foreign nations_

Chs. xiii. 1-xiv. 23. The Downfall of Babylon. The oracle concerning
Babylon, the first of the series of oracles concerning foreign nations,
is one of the most magnificent odes in literature. A day of destruction
to be executed by the Medes is coming upon Babylon the proud (xiii.)
and the exiles will return to their own land, xiv. 1-3. The triumph
song that follows discloses a weird scene in the underworld, where the
fallen king of Babylon receives an ironical welcome from the shadow-kings
of the other nations. There can be no doubt that this prophecy is not by
Isaiah. It glows with a passionate hatred of Babylon; but the Babylon
which figured in the days of Isaiah (xxxix.) was only a province of
Assyria, not an independent and oppressive world-power; nor would its
destruction have meant the return of the exiles of northern Israel. The
situation is plainly that of the period during the later exile of
Judah _before_ the capture of Babylon by Cyrus in 538, as the
horrors which the poet anticipated (xiii. 15f.) did not take place.

In the spirit of ch. x., xiv. 24-27 proclaims the invincible triumph
of Jehovah's purpose and the destruction of the Assyrians in the
land of Judah. The assassination of Sargon in 705 B.C. was the cause
of wild rejoicing throughout the western vassal states: the joy of
Philistia is rebuked by the prophet in _vv_. 28-32 with the
warning that worse is yet in store--an allusion, no doubt, to an
expected Assyrian invasion. If this be the theme of the passage,
_v_. 28 can hardly be correct, as Ahaz had died ten or twenty
years before.

Chs. xv., xvi. Oracle concerning Moab. The subscription to this
prophecy, xvi. 13, indicates that we have here an older prophetic
oracle, given "heretofore." Strictly speaking, it is not so much a
prophecy as an elegy over the fate of Moab whose land had been
devastated by an invader from the north. The fugitives, arriving in
Edom, send in vain for help to the people of Judah. Who the invader
was it is hard to say--possibly Jeroboam II of Israel, whose
conquests were extensive (2 Kings xiv. 25; Amos vi. 14). The oracle,
besides being diffuse, is altogether destitute of higher prophetic
thought, and is certainly not Isaiah's, though he adapted it to the
existing situation and foretold a similar and speedy devastation of
Moab, no doubt at the hands of the Assyrians, xvi. 14.

Ch. xvii. I-II. This prophecy concerning Aram and Israel falls, no
doubt, within the period when these two countries were leagued
against Judah, about 735. The doom of Aram is to be utter
destruction; that of Israel, all but utter destruction.

In the next two passages, xvii. 12-14, xviii., Isaiah appears to
return to his favourite theme of the sure destruction of the
Assyrians, though they are not mentioned by name. In xvii. 12-14
their hosts are compared to the noise of many waters, while in
xviii. their doom is announced by the prophet in answer to an
embassy sent by the Ethiopians, who were alarmed at the prospect of
an invasion by the Assyrians, doubtless under Sennacherib.

Ch. xix. Oracle concerning Egypt. For Egypt the prophet announces a
doom of civil war, oppression at the hands of a hard master, and
public and private distress which will issue in despair, _vv_.
1-17. In their terror, however, the Egyptians will cry to Jehovah,
who will reveal Himself to them and be in consequence honoured and
worshipped on Egyptian soil. Then a triple alliance will be formed
between Egypt, Assyria and Israel, and they shall all be Jehovah's
people, _vv_. 18-25.

The dream of such an alliance is very attractive and not too bold for so
original a thinker as Isaiah. But the passage is beset by difficulties.
The attitude to Egypt appears to be much friendlier in _vv_. 18-25
than in _vv_. 1-17; and it seems quite impossible to find within
Isaiah's age a place for five (=several?) Hebrew-speaking cities in
Egypt, _v_. 18, whereas such a reference would excellently fit the
later post-exilic time when there were extensive Jewish colonies in
Egypt. If the city specially mentioned at the end of the verse be, as
it seems to be, either Sun-city (Heliopolis) or Lion-city (Leontopolis)
then it would not be unnatural to find, in the next verse, with its
worship of Jehovah upon Egyptian soil, a reference to the founding of a
temple at Leontopolis by Onias in 160 B.C. In that case, Assyria in
_v_. 23 stands, as occasionally elsewhere, for Syria, from which
Israel had suffered more severely during the second century B.C. than
the earlier Israel from Assyria; and the dream of Palestine, Syria,
and Egypt, united in the worship of the true God, would be just as
striking and generous in the second century as in the eighth. At
first, _v_. 19 seems to tell powerfully in favour of the
Isaianic authorship, as the massebah (pillar) here regarded as
innocent was proscribed a century after Isaiah by the Deuteronomic
law (Deut. xii. 3). But the Egyptian Jews may not have been so
stringent as the Palestinian, or we may even suppose that the
"pillar" has here nothing to do with worship, but stands, for some
other purpose, on the boundary line. There is no adequate reason,
however, why _vv_. 1-17, or at least _vv_. 1-15, should
not be assigned to Isaiah.

In ch. xx. (711 B.C., cf. _v_. 1, capture of Ashdod) Isaiah indicates
in symbolic prophecy--which, however, was not fulfilled--that the people
of Egypt and Ethiopia would be deported by the Assyrians. The prophet's
object was to dissuade the people of Judah from the Egyptian alliance
which they were contemplating.

The theme of xxi. 1-10 is the same as that of xiii., xiv.--the
impending fate of Babylon--and the passages may be almost
contemporary. Warriors of Elam and Media are sent against Babylon,
and the issue is awaited with tremulous excitement, till at last the
watchman proclaims the welcome news, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen."
The importance here aligned to Babylon and her fall, the express
mention of Elam and Media, _v_. 2, as her assailants, and the
description of Jehovah's people as "threshed" point unmistakably to
the last years of the exile, after the rise of Cyrus in 549, and
before the fall of Babylon in 538, so that the passage cannot be
from Isaiah. With this seems to go the next little enigmatic oracle
concerning Edom, xxi. 11, 12, whose fate, as affected by the fall of
Babylon, is as yet uncertain. The desert tribes, xxi. 13-17, will
also be affected by the general upheaval and be driven from the
regular caravan routes.

Ch. xxii. is the only chapter in this division (xiii.-xxiii.) which is
not concerned with foreign nations. It probably owes its place here to
its peculiar superscription which conforms to the other superscription
in xiii.-xxiii. In this chapter the prophet laments and very sternly
rebukes the frivolity of the people of Jerusalem--whether shortly before
the invasion of Sennacherib or after his retreat, it is hard to say.
Trusting in their armour and fortifications they give the rein to their
appetites, but he solemnly declares that their sin will be punished with

Unique among the oracles of Isaiah are the two pieces, xxii. 15-18
and 19-25, which deal with persons. Shebna, one of the court
officials and probably a foreigner, is threatened with exile and the
consequent loss of his office: probably he championed the policy of
an Egyptian alliance. His place will be taken, according to Isaiah,
by Eliakim, who, curiously enough, is threatened in his turn.
Probably _vv_. 19-23 are an adaptation of 2 Kings xviii. 18,
where Eliakim is holding an office here held by Shebna, while Shebna
is only a scribe.

A prophetic lament over Tyre (xxiii.) concludes the oracles dealing
with the foreign peoples. The glad ancient merchant city will be
brought to silence, _vv_. 1-14, though after seventy years she
is to be revived, and the proceeds of her traffic are to be enjoyed
by the people of Jerusalem, _vv_. 15-18. There was a siege of
Tyre during Isaiah's time, but it is probably not that which is
celebrated here, as the poem lacks the nobility and grandeur of the
prophet's style. If the oracle is held to imply the conquest of
Tyre, it would require to be brought down to the time of Alexander
the Great; but it may well be only an anticipatory lament and
therefore earlier, contemporary perhaps with a similar oracle of
Ezekiel concerning the siege of Tyre (Ez. xxvi.-xxviii.) Verses 15-18
are clearly dependent on Jeremiah's view of the duration of the
Chaldean oppression (Jer. xxv. 11, xxix. 10); and the whole chapter
may be exilic.

Chs. xxiv.-xxvii. _Late prophecy concerning the glorious issue of
some world-catastrophe_.

This section is very peculiar, obscure, and in the Old Testament
altogether unique. Contemporary historical facts are seen now in the
lurid light of fear, more often in the more brilliant light of
eschatological hopes. In ch. xxiv. a great catastrophe is impending.
The world is weary, and joy has vanished. The city (Jerusalem?) is
desolate. Something has happened to revive Jewish hopes and kindle
high expectations as to the issue of the coming calamity, but in the
immediate future new woes are impending--the earth will reel; on that
day, however, Jehovah will suddenly punish the powers supernatural and
terrestrial, and come down to reign in glory on Mount Zion. Then (xxv.)
follows an enthusiastic song of praise, because a certain strong city
(unnamed) has been laid low. A great banquet is prepared on Zion for
all the sorrow-ridden nations of the world--emblem of their reception
into the Kingdom of God--tears are wiped from every eye, and, with their
reproach removed, the Jews praise their God for the victory. Another
song of praise follows in xxvi. 1-xxvii. 1 for the power with which
Jehovah has defended His own city, and laid her proud rival low. The
wicked will not learn from the divine judgments; but, while they are
destroyed, not only do Jehovah's own people increase, but their dead are
restored to life, to participate in His glorious kingdom; and the dragon
is smitten. Then follows xxvii. 2-6, a song of the vineyard-counterpart
to v. l-7--which praises Jehovah's care for Judah, with whom He is angry
no more. Her rival shall become a desolation, but she herself shall be
forgiven and re-established, if only she remove all signs of heathen
worship, and from the ends of the earth her exiled sons shall gather
to worship at Jerusalem.

The origin of this piece is wrapped in obscurity; and it would seem
that the author, for some reason, deliberately concealed the
historical situation. It is not even certain that the piece is a
unity: the song, e.g., in xxv. 1-5 interrupts the description of
judgment, and the connection is occasionally loose. There is no clue
to what is meant by the strong city which is to be overthrown. It is
plain, however, that the writer lived in Palestine, doubtless in or
near Jerusalem, xxv. 6, 7, at a time when the Jews were scattered
throughout many lands, xxiv. 14-16, xxvii. 12, 13, and when there
were at least three great world powers, xxvii. 1. This could hardly
have been earlier than the end of the Persian period, and probably
the tidings that rang from the isles of the sea, xxiv. 14, 15, were
those of the victorious advance of Alexander the Great. No earlier
date would suit the theological implications of the passage: e.g.
the judgment upon the hosts of heaven, xxiv. 21, 22 (cf. Dan. xi.),
the resurrection from the dead, xxvi. 19, the banquet of the nations
on Zion, xxv. 6. The style of the passage is nearly as peculiar as
its thought, it abounds in assonance and alliteration. It is
assigned by some to the close of the second century B.C.; but, in
any case, it can hardly be earlier than the later half of the fourth
century B.C., and may well express the wild expectations to which
disappointed Jewish hearts were lifted by the conquests of

Chs. xxviii.-xxxiii. _Prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem

We now return to the undoubted prophecies of Isaiah. This group
begins with a woe, xxviii. 1-4, pronounced not long before the fall
of Samaria in 721 B.C., ending in two verses, 5, 6, presenting
another outlook, apparently by a later hand. In _vv_. 7-22,
probably about the time of the Egyptian alliance, Judah is also
threatened for the drunkenness of her leaders, and for the false
confidence which leads the people scornfully to close their ears to
prophetic instruction. The interesting little section which follows,
_vv_. 23-29, shows how the farmer adapts his methods to the
particular work he has to do. The connection, however, is anything
but obvious: it may be intended as a reminder to the sceptics of
Judah that the divine penalties, though slow, v. 19, are sure; or it
may be meant to suggest that God's judgments are tempered with
mercy. To the same period belongs the prophecy of the distress that
is to be inflicted on Ariel, i.e. Jerusalem, by "a great multitude
of all the nations," clearly Sennacherib's army, xxix. 1-15; but in
a prophecy, probably much later, which is dramatically appended to
it, a promise of redemption and restoration is held out, xxix. 16-24.

In xxx., xxxi., also before the invasion of Sennacherib, the prophet
denounces the folly of trusting the impotent aid of Egypt, when
their real strength lay in quietly trusting their God: for Jehovah
will smite the Assyrian with a mysterious blow and defend his dear
Jerusalem. Though such promises undoubtedly fall within the range of
Isaiah's message, the ideas and the general tone of xxx. 18-26 are
sufficient to place that passage almost certainly in the post-exilic
period. Against the background of calamity in the two preceding
chapters, xxxii. 1-8 throws up a picture--whether from Isaiah's or a
later hand--of the Messianic age, when rulers would be just and
character transformed. The imminent desolation of Jerusalem, with
which the women are threatened, is again immediately contrasted with
the fruitfulness and security of the land, when the spirit will be
poured out from on high, xxxii. 9-20.

This group is closed by a song of triumph (xxxiii.) over the
prospective annihilation of the foreign foes who have crushed
Israel, by the glorious God who defends Jerusalem. There is much in
the passage, especially towards the end, _vv_. 19-21, which
looks as if the Assyrians were the enemy, and the prophecy, like
most of those in this group, fell shortly before Sennacherib's
invasion. But, besides lacking the vigour of Isaiah's acknowledged
prophecies, the passage contains ideas which are hardly his: e.g.
the sinners in Zion, _v._ 14, are not to be destroyed but
forgiven, _v_. 24. The allusion to the king in _v_. 17, if
the text is correct, helps us little, as the king may be Jehovah.
There is a growing conviction that the passage is post-exilic, some
scholars even bringing it down to the Maccabean times, about 163

Chs. xxxiv., xxxv. _Prophecy concerning the redemption and return
of Israel._

A fitting conclusion to the whole book--ignoring xxxvi.-xxxix.,
which is an historical appendix--is afforded by the picture of the
world-judgment, the redemption of Israel, and the destruction of her
enemies in xxxiv., xxxv. Edom is singled out as the special object
of Jehovah's vengeance, xxxiv. 5-17; and, in contrast to her
desolation, is the blessedness of Israel, returning to her own land
across the blossoming wilderness with exceeding joy. Ch. xxxv., at
any rate, seems to point to the return of the exiles from Babylon,
and ch. xxxiv. may also without violence be fitted into this time.
The Jews never forgot or forgave the Edomites for their cruelty on
the occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem (Lam. iv. 21ff., Ps.
cxxxvii. 7) and the joy of their own redemption would be heightened
by the ruin of Edom (Mal. i. 2-5). If, however, xxxiv. 16 implies,
as we are not bound to believe, a fixed prophetic canon, the
chapters would be very late, falling somewhere within the second
century B.C. More probably they were written, like xiii., xiv.,
towards the end of the exile.

xxxvi.-xxxix. _Historical Appendix_

Separating the earlier from the later of the two great divisions of
the book of Isaiah (i.-xxxv., xl.-lxvi.) stands a purely historical
section, practically identical with and probably borrowed from 2
Kings xviii. l3-xx. 19, which finds its place here, no doubt simply
because of its connection with the prophet Isaiah. It tells the
story of Sennacherib's invasion of Judah, his insulting demands,
whether transmitted through the Rabshakeh (xxxvi.) or by letter
(xxxvii.), of Hezekiah's terror and Isaiah's divine word of
reassurance, and of the ultimate departure of the Assyrian army. Ch.
xxxviii. contains Isaiah's prophecy to Hezekiah of his recovery from
sickness, with the king's song of gratitude. This is followed by
another prophecy of the Babylonian exile, occasioned by an embassy
sent to Hezekiah by Merodach Baladan, king of Babylon (xxxix.).

This account omits the very important statement in 2 Kings xviii.
14-16 of the heavy tribute paid by Hezekiah to the King of Assyria,
and inserts the psalm of Hezekiah, xxxviii. 9-20, which is no doubt
later than the redaction of the book of Kings as it is not found
there, and is, in all probability, a post-exilic psalm. It is not
certain whether the accounts in xxxvi. 1-xxxvii. 9_a_ and
xxxvii. 9_b_-37 are simply parallel versions of the same
incident, or refer to two different campaigns. In the distinctly
prophetical portion, xxxvii. 22ff, though there is much that recalls
Isaiah, the passage in its present form can hardly be his. Ch.
xxxvii. 26, e.g. would be a pertinent appeal to Israel, but hardly
to Sennacherib; it rests, no doubt, on the later Isaiah (xl. 28,
xlvi. 11). The prophecy of exile to _Babylon_, xxxix. 6, 7, is
not natural at a time when Assyria, not Babylon, was the enemy.
Again, xxxvii. 33, which denies that even an arrow would be shot, is
hardly reconcilable with Isaiah's prophecy of an arduous siege for
the city, xxix. 1-4. Further, the minute prediction that Hezekiah's
life would be prolonged for fifteen years is not in the manner of
Isaiah, nor indeed of any of the great prophets, whose precise
numbers, where they occur, are to be interpreted as round numbers
(e.g. seventy years in Jer. xxv. 11, xxix. 10); and the story of the
reversal of the shadow on the sun-dial reflects the later conception
of the prophet as a miracle-worker (cf. I Kings xiii. 3-6). The
section, in its present form, must be post-exilic.


With ch. xl. we pass into a different historical and theological
atmosphere from that of the authentic prophecies of Isaiah. The very
first word, "Comfort ye," strikes a new note: in the main, the
message of Isaiah had been one of judgment. Jerusalem and the cities
of Judah are in ruins, xlv. 13. The people are in exile in the land
of the Chaldeans, xlvii. 5, 6, from which they are on the point of
being delivered, xlviii. 20. The time of her sorrow is all but over,
xl. 2; and her redemption is to come through a great warrior who is
twice expressly named as Cyrus, xliv. 28, xlv. 1, and occasionally
alluded to as a figure almost too familiar to need naming, xli. 25,
xlv. 13. He it is who is to overthrow Babylon, xlviii. 14. Such,
then, is the situation: the exile is not predicted, it is
presupposed, and the oppressor is not Assyria, as in Isaiah's time,
but Babylon. Now it is a cardinal, indeed an obvious principle, of
prophecy that the prophet addresses himself, at least primarily, to
the situation of his own time. Prophecy is a moral, not a magical
thing; and nothing would be gained by the delivery of a message over
a century and a half before it was needed, to a people to whom it
was irrelevant and unintelligible.

The literary style of these chapters also differs widely from that
of Isaiah. No doubt there are points of contact, notably in the
fondness for the phrase, "the holy One of Israel"--a favourite
phrase of Isaiah's and rare elsewhere. The influence of Isaiah is
unmistakable, but the differences are no less striking. Isaiah
mounts up on wings as an eagle: the later prophet neither mounts nor
runs, he walks, xl. 31. He has not the older prophet's majesty; he
has a quiet dignity, and his tone is more tender. Nor has he
Isaiah's exuberance and fertility of resource: the same thoughts are
repeated, though with pleasing and ingenious variations, over and
over again. All his characteristic thoughts already appear in the
first two chapters: the certainty and joy of Israel's redemption,
the omnipotence of Jehovah and the absurdity of idolatry, the call
of Cyrus to execute Jehovah's purpose, the ultimate design of that
purpose as the bringing of the whole world, through redeemed Israel,
to a knowledge of the true God.

The theological ideas of the prophecy are different from those of
Isaiah. Unique emphasis is laid on the creative power of Jehovah,
and this thought is applied to the case of forlorn Israel with
overwhelming effect; for it is none other than the eternal and
omnipotent God that is about to reveal Himself as Israel's redeemer,
in fulfilment of ancient words of prophecy, xliv. 7, 8. This very
attitude to prophecy marks the book as late; it would not be
possible in a pre-exilic prophet. But the most original conception
of the book is one which finds no parallel whatever in Isaiah, viz.
the suffering servant of Jehovah. This servant is the exclusive
theme of the four songs, xlii. 1-4, xlix. 1-6, l. 4-9, lii. l3-liii.
12; but more or less he is involved in the whole prophecy. The
function of the servant is to give light to the Gentiles--in other
words, to bring the world to a knowledge of Jehovah (cf. xlii. 1,
xlv. 14).

Who is the servant? The difficulty in answering this question is
twofold: (i.) while the servant is often undoubtedly a collective
term for the people of Israel, xli. 8, xliv. 1, 2, the descriptions
of him, especially in the songs alluded to, are occasionally so
intimately personal as to seem to compel an individual
interpretation (cf. liii.). But in this connection we have to
remember the ease with which the Oriental could personify, and apply
even the most personal detail to a collective body. "Grey hairs are
upon him," says Hosea, vii. 9, not of a man but of the nation; and
Isaiah himself, i. 6, described the body politic as sick from the
crown of the head to the sole of the foot (cf. Ezek. xvi., xxiii).
Clearly, therefore, individual allusions do not necessarily compel
an individual interpretation; and there is no reason in the nature
of the case, and still less in the context, to assume a reference to
any specific individual. The songs are an integral part of the
prophecy: the function of the servant is the same, and the servant
must also be the same in both. Indeed one passage in the second
song, xlix. 3, expressly identifies the servant with Israel; and in
liii., an intensely personal chapter, where the servant, after
death, is to rise again and take his place victoriously in the
world, the collective interpretation of the servant as Israel,
emerging triumphantly from the doom of exile, is natural, if not

But (ii.) admitting that the servant is everywhere Israel, a new
difficulty emerges. The terms in which he is described are often
apparently contradictory. At one time he is blind and deaf, xlii. 18, 19;
at another he is Jehovah's witness and minister to the blind and deaf,
i.e. to the heathen world, xliii. 8-10, xlii. 7. This contrast, which
runs through the prophecy, is simply to be explained as a blending of
the real and the ideal. The people contemplated are in both cases the
same; but, at one time, the prophet contemplates them as they are,
unreceptive and irresponsive to their high destiny; at another, he
regards them in the light of that destiny--called, through their
experience of suffering and redemption, to bring the world to a saving
knowledge of the true and only God.

_Chapters xl.-xlix._ fall somewhere about 540 B.C.-between
the decisive victories of Cyrus over the Lydians in 546 (cf. xli. 1-5)
and the capture of Babylon in 538. The prophecy opens with a word
of consolation. The exile of Judah is all but over, her redemption
is very nigh; for the eternal purpose of Jehovah must be fulfilled,
xl. 1-11, He is a God whose power and wisdom are beyond all imagining,
and He will be the strength of those who put their trust in Him
(xl. 12-3l).[1] For He has raised up a great warrior from the north-east
(cf. xli. 2, 25), i.e. Cyrus, through whom Israel's happy return to
her own land is assured (xli. 1-20). Israel's God is the true God; for
He alone foretold this day, as no heathen god could ever have done,
xli. 21-29. The mission of His servant Israel is to spread the knowledge
of His name throughout the world, and that mission must be fulfilled,
xlii. 1-9. Let the world rejoice, then, at the glorious redemption
Jehovah has wrought for His people, xlii. 10-17; for their sorrow,
xlii. 18-25, and their redemption alike, xliii. 1-7, spring from a
deep purpose of love. Israel is now fitted to be Jehovah's witness
before the world, for her impending deliverance from Babylon is more
marvellous than her ancient deliverance from Egypt, xliii. 8-21. Her
grievous sins are freely forgiven, xliii. 22-28, and soon she shall
enter upon a new and happy life, xliv. 1-5, for her God, the eternal
and the only God,[2] forgives and redeems, xliv. 6-23.
[Footnote 1: Between xl. 19 and 20 probably xli. 6, 7 should be
[Footnote: Ch. xliv. 9-20, though graphic, is diffuse, and
interrupts the context: it is probably a later addition.]

The deliverance of Israel is to be effected through Cyrus, who is
honoured with the high titles, "Shepherd and Messiah of Jehovah,"
xlv. 1, and assured by him of a triumphant career, for Israel and
the true religion's sake, xliv. 24-xlv. 8. Those who are surprised
at Jehovah's call of the foreign Cyrus are sternly reminded that
Jehovah is sovereign and can call whom He will, xlv. 9-13, and the
ultimate object of His call is that through the redemption of Israel,
which he is commissioned to effect, all men shall be saved, and the
worship of Jehovah established throughout the whole world, xlv. 14-25.
In xlvi. the impotence of the Babylonian gods to save themselves when
the city is taken by Cyrus is contrasted with the incomparable power
of Jehovah as shown in history, and in His foreknowledge of the future,
and made the basis of a warning to Israel to cast away despondency.
Then follows a song of triumph over Babylon, the proud and luxurious,
whose doom all her magic and astrology cannot avert (xlvii.). Ch. xlviii.
strikes in places a different note from that of the previous chapters.
They are a message of comfort; and, where the people are censured, it
is for lack of faith and responsiveness. In this chapter, on the other
hand, the tone is in places stern, almost harsh, and the people are
even charged with idolatry. Probably an original prophecy of
Deutero-Isaiah has been worked over by a post-exilic hand. This chapter
is in the nature of a summary. It emphasizes Jehovah's fore-knowledge
as witnessed by the ancient prophecies and their fulfilment in the
coming deeds of Cyrus; and the section fittingly closes with a ringing
appeal to Israel to go forth out of Babylon.[1]
[Footnote 1: Ch. xlviii. 22 is probably borrowed from lvii. 21,
where it is in place, to divide xl.-lxvi. into three equal parts.]

_Chapters xlix.-lv._ presuppose the same general situation as
xl.-xlviii.; but whereas the earlier chapters deal incidentally with
the victories of Cyrus and the folly of idolatry, xlix.-lv. concentrate
attention severely upon Israel herself, which is often addressed as
Zion. The group begins with the second of the "servant" songs, xlix. 1-6,
its theme being Israel's divine call, through suffering and redemption,
to bring the whole world to the true religion. In earnest and beautiful
language Israel is assured of restoration and a happy return to her own
land, of the rebuilding of her ruins, and the increase of her population;
and no power can undo this marvellous deliverance, for Jehovah, despite
His people's slender faith, is omnipotent, xlix. 7-l. 3. In l. 4-9 the
servant tells of the sufferings which his fidelity brought him, and his
confidence in Jehovah's power to save and vindicate him.[1] The glorious
salvation is near and sure; let Israel but trust in her omnipotent God
and cast away all fear of man, li. 1-16. Bitter has been Jerusalem's
sorrow, but now she may break forth into joy, for messengers are
speeding with good tidings of her redemption, li. l7-lii. 12. The fourth
and last song of the servant, lii. l3-liii. 12, celebrates the strange
and unparalleled sufferings which he bore for the world's sake-his
death, resurrection, and the consequent triumph and vindication of his
cause. In fine contrast to the sufferings of the servant acquainted
with grief is the joy that follows in ch. liv.--joy in the vision of
the restored, populous and glorious city, or rather in the everlasting
love of God by which that redemption is inspired.[2] Nothing remains
but for the people to lay hold, in faith, of the salvation which is
so nigh, and which is so high above all human expectation (lv.).
[Footnote 1: Ch. 1. 10, 11 are apparently late.]
[Footnote 2: From liv. 17 and on we hear of the "_servants_ of
Jehovah," not as in xl.-liii., of the _servant_.]


The problem of the origin and date of this section is one of the
most obscure and intricate in the Old Testament. The general
similarity of the tone to that of xl.-lv. is unmistakable. There is
the same assurance of redemption, the same brilliant pictures of
restoration. But, apart from the fact that, on the whole, the style
of lvi.-lxvi. seems less original and powerful, the situation
presupposed is distinctly different. In xl.-lv., Israel, though
occasionally regarded as unworthy, is treated as an ideal whole,
whereas in lvi.-lxvi. there are two opposed classes within Israel
itself (cf. lvii. 3ff., 15ff.). One of these classes is guilty of
superstitious and idolatrous rites, lvii. 3ff., lxv. 3, 4, lxvi. 17,
whereas in xl.-lv. the Babylonians were the idolaters, xlvi. 1.
Again, the kind of idolatry of which Israel is guilty is not
Babylonian, but that indigenous to Palestine, and it is described in
terms which sometimes sound like an echo of pre-exilic prophecy,
lvii. 5, 7 (Hos. iv. 13)--so much so indeed that some have regarded
these passages as pre-exilic.

The spiritual leaders of the people are false to their high trust,
lvi. 10-12. This last passage implies a religious community more or
less definitely organized--a situation which would suit post-exilic
times, but hardly the exile; and this presumption is borne out by
many other hints. The temple exists, lvi. 7, lx. 7, 13, but religion
is at a low ebb. Fast days are kept in a mechanical spirit, and are
marred by disgraceful conduct (lviii.). Judah suffers from raids,
lxii. 8, Jerusalem is unhappy, lxv. 19, her walls are not yet built,
lx, 10. The gloomy situation explains the passionate appeal of
lxiii. 7-lxiv. to God to interpose--an appeal utterly unlike the
serene assurance of xl.-lv.: it explains, too, why threat and
promise here alternate regularly, while there the predominant note
was one of consolation.

In its general temper and background, though not in its style, the
chapters forcibly recall Malachi. There is the same condemnation of
the spiritual leaders (lvi. 10-12; Mal. i. ii.), the same emphasis
on the fatherhood of God (lxiii. 16, lxiv. 8; Mal. i. 6, ii. 10,
iii. 17), the same interest in the institutions of Judaism (lvi.),
the same depressed and hopeless mood to combat. From lx. 10 (lxii.
6?) it may be inferred that the book falls before the building of
the walls by Nehemiah--probably somewhere between 460 and 450 B.C.
This conclusion, of course, is very far from certain; it is not even
certain that the chapters constitute a unity. Various scholars
isolate certain sections, assigning, e.g., lxiii.-lxvi. to a period
much later than lvi.-lxii., others regarding xlix.-lxii. as written
by the same author as xl.-xlviii., but later and other different
conditions, others referring lvi.-lxii. to a pupil of Deutero-Isaiah,
who wrote not long after 520 (cf. Hag., Zech.).

To complicate matters, the text of certain passages of crucial
importance seems to be in need of emendation (cf. lxiii. 18); and it
is practically certain that there are later interpolations. One can
see how intricate the problem becomes, if Marti is right in denying
so important a passage as lxiv. 10-12 to the author of the rest of
the chapter, and assigning it to Maccabean times. But, though there
are undoubted difficulties in the way, it seems not impossible to
regard lvi.-lxvi. as, in the main, a unity, and its author as a
contemporary of Malachi. In that case, the superstitious and
idolatrous people, whose presence is at first sight so surprising in
the post-exilic community, would be the descendants of the Jews who
had not been carried into exile, and who, being but superficially
touched, if at all, by the reformation of Josiah, would perpetuate
ancient idolatrous practices into the post-exilic period.

 This prophecy begins with a word of assurance to the proselytes and
eunuchs that, if they faithfully observe the Sabbath, they will not
be excluded from participation in the temple worship, lvi. 1-8. But
the general situation (in Judah) is deplorable. The spiritual
leaders of the community are indolent and fond of pleasure, men of
no conscience or ideal (cf. Mal. ii.), with the result that the
truly godly are crushed out, lvi. 9-lvii. 2, and the old immoral
idolatry is rampant, lvii. 3-13. The sinners will therefore be
punished, but the godly whom they have persecuted will be comforted
and saved, lvii. 14-21. The people, who have been zealously keeping
fast-days, are surprised and vexed that Jehovah has not yet honoured
their fidelity by sending happier times: the prophet replies that
the real demands of Jehovah are not exhausted by ceremonial, but lie
rather in the fulfilment of moral duty, and especially in the duty
of practical love to the needy (lviii.). It is not the impotence of
Jehovah, but the manifold sins of the people, that have kept back
the day of salvation, lix. 1-15; but He will one day appear to
punish His adversaries and redeem the penitent and faithful, lix.
16-21. Then the city of Jerusalem shall be glorious: her scattered
children shall stream back to her, her walls shall be rebuilt by the
gifts of the heathen nations, and she shall be mistress of the
world, enjoying peace and light and prosperity (lx.). Again the good
news is proclaimed: the Jews shall be, as it were, the priests of
Jehovah for the whole world, Jerusalem shall be secure and fair and
populous (lxi., lxii.). But if Judah is thus to prosper, her enemies
must be destroyed, and their[1] destruction is described in lxiii.
1-6, a unique and powerful song of vengeance.
[Footnote 1: The enemy is not Edom alone. Instead of "from Edom and
Bozrah" in lxiii. 1_a_ should be read, "Who is this that comes
_stained with red_, with garments redder than a _vine-dresser's_?"]

A very striking contrast to all this dream of victory and
blessedness is presented by lxiii. 7-lxiv. 12, in which the people
sorrowfully remind themselves of the brilliant far-off days of the
Exodus when the Spirit was with them--the Spirit whom sin has now
driven away--and passionately pray that Jehovah, in His fatherly
pity, would mightily interpose to save them.[1] The devotees of
superstitious cults are threatened with destruction, lxv. 1-7, while
brilliant promises are held out to the faithful--long and happy life
in a world transformed, lxv. 8-25. Again destruction is predicted
for those who, while practising superstitious rites, are yet eager
to build a temple to Jehovah to rival the existing one in Jerusalem;
while the faithful are comforted with the prospect of victory,
increase of population and resources, and the perpetuity of their
race (lxvi.).
[Footnote 1: Professor G. A. Smith refers this prayer to the period
of disillusion after the return and before the new religious impulse
given by Haggai and Zechariah--about 525 B.C. ]


The interest of the book of Jeremiah is unique. On the one hand, it
is our most reliable and elaborate source for the long period of
history which it covers; on the other, it presents us with prophecy
in its most intensely human phase, manifesting itself through a
strangely attractive personality that was subject to like doubts and
passions with ourselves. At his call, in 626 B.C., he was young and
inexperienced, i. 6, so that he cannot have been born earlier than
650. The political and religious atmosphere of his ministry was
alike depressing. When it began, the Scythians were overrunning
Western Asia, and Judah was the vassal of Assyria, as she continued
to be till the fall of Nineveh in 606 B.C. Josiah, in whose reign
Jeremiah began his ministry, was a good king; but the idolatries of
his grandfather Manasseh had only too surely left their mark, and
the reformation which was inaugurated on the basis of Deuteronomy
(621) had produced little permanent result. Idolatry and immorality
of all kinds continued to be the order of the day, vii. 9 (about
608). The inner corruption found its counterpart in political
disaster. The death of Josiah in 609 at Megiddo, when he took the
field, probably as the vassal of Assyria, against the king of Egypt,
was a staggering blow to the hopes of the reformers, and formed a
powerful argument in the hands of the sceptics. The vassalage of
Assyria was exchanged for the vassalage of Egypt, and that, in four
years, for the vassalage of Babylonia, whose supremacy over Western
Asia was assured by her victory on the epoch-making field of
Carchemish (605).

There was no strong ruler upon the throne of Judah during the years
preceding the exile. Jehoahaz, the successor of Josiah, deposed by
the Egyptians and exiled after a three months' reign, xxii. 10-12,
was succeeded by the rapacious Jehoiakim (608-597), who cared
nothing for the warning words of Jeremiah (xxxvi.), and his
successor Jehoiachin, who was exiled to Babylon after a three
months' reign, was followed by the weak and vacillating Zedekiah,
who reigned from 597 to 586, when Jerusalem was taken and the
monarchy perished. The priests and prophets were no more faithful to
their high office than the kings. The prophets were superficial men
who did not realize how deep and grievous was the hurt of the
people, xxiii. 9-40, and who imagined that the catastrophe, if it
came, would speedily be reversed, xxviii.; and the priests reposed a
stubborn confidence in the inviolability of the temple (xxvi.) and
the punctiliousness of their offerings, vii. 21, 22.

Jeremiah, though he came of a priestly family, knew very well that
there was no salvation in ritual. He saw that the root of the evil
was in the heart, which was "deceitful above all things and
desperately sick," xvii. 9, and that no reformation was possible
till the heart itself was changed. It was for this reason that he
called upon the people to circumcise their heart, iv. 4, and to
search for Jehovah with all their heart, xxix. 13.

It would be interesting to know what was Jeremiah's attitude to the
law-book discovered and published in 621, but unfortunately the
problems that gather round the authenticity of the text of Jeremiah
are so vexatious that we cannot say with certainty. On the one hand,
we know that, though at that time a prophet of five years' standing,
he was not consulted on the discovery of the book (2 Kings xxii.
14); on the other hand, xi. 1-14 explicitly connects him with an
itinerant mission throughout the province of Judah for the purpose
of inculcating the teaching of "the words of this covenant," which
can only be the book of Deuteronomy. But there is fairly good reason
for supposing that this passage, which is diffuse, and very unlike
the poems that follow it, _vv_. 15, 16, 18-20, is one of the
many later scribal additions to the book. Even if Jeremiah did
support the Deuteronomic movement, he must have felt, in the words
of Darmesteter, that "it is easier to reform the cult than the
soul," and that the real solution would never be found in the
statutes of a law-book, but only in the law written upon the heart,
xxxi. 31-33. Here again, this great prophecy of the law written upon
the heart, has been denied to Jeremiah--by Duhm, for example: but at
any rate, it is conceived in the spirit of the prophet.

It is unfortunate that some of the noblest utterances on religion in
the book of Jeremiah have been, for reasons more or less convincing,
denied to him: e.g. the great passage which looks out upon a time
when the dearest material symbols of the ancient religion would no
longer be necessary; days would come when men would never think of
the ark of the covenant, and never miss it, iii. 16. But even if it
could be proved that these words were not Jeremiah's, it was a sound
instinct that placed them in his book. He certainly did not regard
sacrifice as essential to the true religion, or as possessing any
specially divine sanction, vii. 22, and the thinker who could utter
such a word as vii. 22 is surely on the verge of a purely spiritual
conception of religion, if indeed he does not stand already within
it. If the temple is not indispensable, vii. 4, neither could the
ark be.

This severely spiritual conception of religion is but the outcome of
the intensely personal religious experience of the prophet. There is
no other prophet whose intercourse with the divine spirit is so
dramatically portrayed, or into the depths of whose heart we can so
clearly see. He speaks to God with a directness and familiarity that
are startling, "Why hast Thou become to me as a treacherous brook,
as waters that are not sure?" xv. 18. He has little of the serene
majesty of Isaiah whose eyes had seen the king. His tender heart,
ix. 1, is vexed and torn till he curses not only his enemies, xi.
20ff., but the day on which he was born, xx. 14-18. He did not
choose his profession, he recoiled from it; but he was thrust into
the arena of public life by an impulse which he could not resist.
The word, which he would fain have hidden in his heart, was like a
burning fire shut up in his bones, and it leaped into speech of
flame, xx. 9.

As a poet, Jeremiah is one of the greatest. He knows the human heart
to its depths, and he possesses a power of remarkably terse and
vivid expression. Nothing could be more weird than this picture of
the utter desolation of war;--

  I beheld the earth,
    And lo! it was waste and void.
  I looked to the sky,
    And lo! its light was gone.
  I beheld the mountains,
    And lo! they trembled.
  And all the hills
    Swayed to and fro.
  I beheld (the earth)
    And lo! there was no man,
  And all the birds of the heaven
    Had fled.
  iv. 23-25.

A world without the birds would be no world to Jeremiah. Of singular
power and beauty is the lament which Jeremiah puts into the mouths
of the women:--

  Death is come up at our windows,
    He has entered our palaces,
  Cutting off the children from the streets
    And the youths from the squares.

Then the figure changes to Death as a reaper:--

  There fall the corpses of men
    Upon the face of the field,
  Like sheaves behind the reaper
    Which none gathers up.
  ix. 21, 22.

The book appropriately opens with the call of Jeremiah, and
represents him as divinely preordained to his great and cheerless
task before his birth. In two visions he sees prefigured the coming
doom (i.) and the prophecies that immediately follow, though but
loosely connected, appear to come from an early stage of his
ministry, and to be elicited, in part, by the inroads of the
Scythians--the enemy from the north.

False to the love she bore Jehovah in the olden time, Israel has
turned for help to Egypt, to Assyria, and to the impotent Baals with
their licentious worship, ii, 1-iii. 5; but[1]if in her despair and
misery she yet turns with a penitent heart to Jehovah, the prophet
assures her of His readiness to receive her, iii. 19-iv. 4. The rest
of ch. iv. contains several poems of remarkable power. The Scythians
are coming swiftly from the north, and Jeremiah's patriotic soul is
deeply moved. He sees the desolation they will work, and counsels
the people to gather in the fortified cities. The scene changes in
v. and vi. to the capital, where Jeremiah's tender and unsuspecting
heart has been harrowed by the lack of public and private
conscience; and again the land is threatened with invasion from the
swift wild Scythian hordes.
[Footnote 1: Ch. iii. 6-18 contains much that is altogether worthy
of Jeremiah, especially the great conception in v. 16 of a religion
which can dispense with its most cherished material symbols. It
interrupts the connection, however, between vv. 5 and 19, and
curiously regards Israel as the northern kingdom, distinct from
Judah, whereas in the surrounding context, ii. 3, iii. 23, Israel
stands for Judah. The difference is suspicious. Again, v. 18 would
appear to presuppose that Judah is in exile or on the verge of it,
which would make the passage among the latest in the book. If it is
Jeremiah's, it must be much later than its context.]

The following chapter (vii.) introduces us to the reign of
Jehoiakim.[1] The prophet strenuously combats the confidence falsely
reposed in the temple and the ritual: the former is but a den of
robbers, the latter had never been commanded by Jehovah, and neither
will save them. With sorrowful eyes Jeremiah sees the coming
disaster, and he sings of it in elegies unspeakably touching (viii.-x.:
cf. viii. 18-22, ix. 21, 22).[2]
[Footnote 1: The scene in ch. vii. is very similar to, if not
identical with that in ch. xxvi., which is expressly assigned to the
beginning of Jehoiakim's reign (608).]
[Footnote 2: Ch. ix. 22 is directly continued by x. 17. Of the three
passages intervening, ix. 23, 24 (the true and false objects of
confidence) and ix. 25, 26 (punishment of those uncircumcised in
heart or flesh) are both in the spirit of Jeremiah, but they cannot
belong to this context. Ch. x. 1-16, on the other hand, can hardly
be Jeremiah's. Its theme is the impotence of idols and the
omnipotence of Jehovah--a favourite theme of Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Is.
xl.), and it is elaborated in the spirit of Is. xliv. 9-20. The
warning not to fear the idols is much more natural if addressed to
an exilic audience than to Jeremiah's contemporaries. It may be
taken for granted that the passage is later than Jeremiah.]

In ch. xi. Jeremiah is divinely impelled to undertake an itinerant
mission throughout Judah in support of the Deuteronomic legislation,
but he is warned that, for their disobedience, the people will be
overtaken by disaster, which he must not intercede to avert, xi. 1-17.
A cruel conspiracy formed against him by his own townsmen raises
perplexities in his mind touching the moral order, but he is
reminded that still harder things are in store, xi. l8-xii. 6. Then
follows a poem, xii. 7-13, lamenting the desolation of the land,
though who the aggressors are it is hard to say; but, in vv. 14-17,
a passage possibly much later, there is an ultimate possibility of
restoration both for Judah and her ravaged neighbours, if they adopt
the religion of Judah. In ch. xiii. which possibly belongs to
Jehoiachin's short reign, 597 B.C. (cf. v. 18 with 2 Kings xxiv. 8),
the utter and incurable corruption of the people is symbolically
indicated to Jeremiah, who announces the speedy fall of the throne
and the sorrows of exile.

The elements that make up chs. xiv.-xvii. are very loosely
connected. Generally speaking, the situation of the people is
desperate. The doom--already inaugurated in the form of a drought-is
hastening on; no excuse will be accepted and no intercession can avail.
In a bold and striking poem, xv. 10-21, Jeremiah complains of his
bitter and lonely fate, and is reassured of the divine support. In view
of the impending misery he is forbidden to marry, and more and more he
is thrown back upon Jehovah as his absolute and only hope.[1]
[Footnote 1: Ch. xvii. 19-27 is almost certainly post-exilic, and
probably belongs to Nehemiah's time (about 450). Jeremiah nowhere else
emphasizes the Sabbath, and it would be very unlike him to represent
the future prosperity of Judah as conditional upon the people's
observance of a single law, especially one not distinctively ethical.
Such emphasis on the Sabbath suggests the post-exilic church
(cf. Neh. xiii.; Is. lviii.).]

Chs. xviii.-xx. A chance sight of a potter refashioning a spoiled
vessel suggests to Jeremiah the conditional nature of prophecy. But
as Judah remains obstinate, the threat must be irretrievably
fulfilled. The proclamation of this truth in the temple court led to
his imprisonment. On his release he distinctly and deliberately
announces the exile to Babylon, and then breaks out into a
passionate cry, which rings with an almost unparalleled sincerity,
over the misery of his life, especially of that prophetic life to
which he had been mysteriously but irresistibly impelled.

Ch. xxi. 1-10, one of the latest pieces in the book, contains
Jeremiah's answer to the question of Zedekiah relative to the issue
of the siege of Jerusalem, which had already begun (588). Then
follow two sections, one dealing with kings, xxi. 11-xxiii. 8, the
other with prophets, xxiii. 9-40. The former, after an introduction
which emphasizes the specific functions of the king, deals
successively with Jehoahaz (=Shallum), Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin,
Jehoiakim's oppressive methods being pointedly contrasted with the
beneficent regime of his father Josiah; and against the present
incompetence of the rulers and misery of the monarchy is thrown up a
picture of the true king and the Messianic days, xxiii. 5-8. The
latter section, xxiii. 9-40, denounces the prophets for their
immorality, their easy optimism and their lack of independence.

In ch. xxiv., which falls in Zedekiah's reign, after the first
deportation (about 596 B.C.), it is symbolically suggested to
Jeremiah that the exiles are much better than those who were allowed
to remain in the land, and their ultimate fate would be infinitely
happier. The battle of Carchemish in 605 showed that Babylonian
supremacy was ultimately inevitable; to this year belongs ch. xxv.,
in which Jeremiah definitely announces the duration of the exile as
seventy years. Many lands beside Judah would be included in the
doom, and finally Babylon itself would be punished.

Chs. i.-xxv. represent in the main the words of Jeremiah; we now
come to a group of narratives by Baruch, xxvi.-xxix. Ch. xxvi.
relates how a courageous sermon of Jeremiah's (608 B.C.) provoked
the hostility of the professional clergy, and nearly cost him his
life. Chs. xxvii.-xxix. show how the calm wisdom of Jeremiah met the
ambitions and hopes cherished by his countrymen at home and in exile
during the reign of Zedekiah.[1] In view of a coalition that was
forming against Babylon in Western Asia, he announces that the
supremacy of Nebuchadrezzar is divinely ordained, and any such
coalition is doomed to failure (xxvii.). That supremacy will last
for many a day; and a strange fate overtakes the shallow prophet who
supposes that it will be over in two years (xxviii.). The exiles are
therefore advised by Jeremiah in a letter to settle down contentedly
in their adopted land, though the letter naturally rouses the
resentment and opposition of the superficial prophets among the
exiles (xxix.).
[Footnote 1: In ch. xxvii. 1, for "Jehoiakim" read "Zedekiah," cf.
_vv_. 3, 12. ]

The next four chapters, xxx.-xxxiii., are full of promise: they look
out upon the restoration, in which, despite the seeming hopelessness
of the prospect, Jeremiah never ceased to believe. It is a voice
from the dark days of the siege of Jerusalem, 587 (xxxii. 1ff.); but
the present sorrow is to be followed by a period of joy, when the
city will be rebuilt, and the mighty love of Jehovah will express
itself in the restoration not only of Judah but of Israel, a love to
which there will be a glad spontaneous response from men who have
the divine law written in their hearts. This prophecy of the new
covenant is one of the noblest and most daring conceptions in the
Old Testament, very naturally appropriated by our Lord and the
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (xxx., xxxi.). So confident was
Jeremiah in the divine assurance that Palestine would one day be
freed from the Babylonian yoke that, even during the siege of the
city, he purchased fields belonging to a kinsman, and took measures
to preserve the title deeds (xxxii.). Ch. xxxiii. still further
confirms the assurance of restoration.

There can be no doubt that Jeremiah both believed in and announced
the restoration: the very straightforward story in ch. xxxii., which,
by the way, throws considerable light on the psychology of prophecy,
is proof enough of that. But there can be equally little doubt that
the section xxx.-xxxiii. did not come, as it stands, from the hand
of Jeremiah. Many verses have no doubt been needlessly suspected:
the attitude to northern Israel in ch. xxxi., especially vv. 4, 5,
practically forbids a reference of these verses to post-exilic
times. But xxxi. 7-l4--the glad return--is exactly in the spirit of
Deutero-Isaiah, and appears to be dependent upon him. Whatever doubt,
however, may be attached to these sections, it is practically certain
that the concluding section, xxxiii. 14-26, which has a special word
of promise, not only for the house of David, but for the Levitical
priests, is not Jeremiah's. The verses are wanting in the Septuagint,
and so were not in the Hebrew copy from which that translation was
made; but more fatal still to their authenticity is their attitude to
the priests and offerings. The religion advocated by Jeremiah was a
purely spiritual one, which could dispense with temple and sacrifice
(ch. vii.). "To the false prophets," as Robertson Smith has said, "and
the people who followed them, the ark, the temple, the holy vessels,
were all in all. To Jeremiah they were less than nothing, and their
restoration was no part of his hope of salvation." It is very significant
in this connection that the Septuagint omits the restoration of the holy
vessels in xxvii. 22.

From the ideal pictures of the last group, ch. xxxiv. flings us back
into the stern reality. The city and the king alike are doomed, and
their fate is thoroughly justified by the treachery displayed
towards the Hebrew slaves, who were compelled by their masters to
return to the bondage from which, in the stress of siege, they had
emancipated them.

The next chapter, xxxv., carries us back to the reign of Jehoiakim,
and, in an interesting and important passage, contrasts the
faithfulness of the Rechabites to the commands of their ancestor
Jonathan with the popular disregard of Jehovah.

The long section which follows (xxxvi.-xlv.) is almost purely
historical. It comes in the main from Baruch, but it has been
expanded here and there by subsequent writers; e.g. xxxix. 4-13 is
not found in the Septuagint; the importance of Jeremiah is
heightened in this passage by his being the object of the special
care of Nebuchadrezzar, vv. 11ff., whereas in all probability his
fate was decided, not by the king, but by his officers (ci. 3, 13,
14). But after making every deduction, these chapters remain as a
historical source of the first rank. The section begins by revealing
the reckless impiety of Jehoiakim in burning the prophecies of
Jeremiah in 605 B.C., but the other chapters gather round the siege
of Jerusalem, eighteen years later, and the events that followed it.
They describe the cruel and successive imprisonments of the prophet
for his fearless and seemingly unpatriotic proclamation of the
Babylonian triumph, the pitiful vacillation of the king, the final
capture of the city, the appointment of Gedaliah as governor of
Judah, his assassination and the attempt to avenge it, the
consequent departure of many Jews to Egypt against the advice of
Jeremiah, who was forced to accompany them, the prophet's
denunciation of the idolatry practised in Egypt and announcement of
the conquest of that land by Nebuchadrezzar. The section closes
(xlv.) with a word of meagre consolation to Baruch, whose courage
was giving way beneath the strain of the times.

The interest attaching to the oracles against the foreign nations
(xlvi.-li.) is not very great, as, for good reasons, the
authenticity of much--some say all--of the section may be disputed,
and with the exception of the oracle against Egypt, they are
lacking, as a whole, not only in distinctness of situation, but also
in that emotion and originality so characteristic of Jeremiah.

The whole group (except the oracle against Elam, xlix. 34-39, which
is expressly assigned to Zedekiah's reign) is suggested by
reflection on the decisive influence which the battle of Carchemish
was bound to have on the fortunes of Western Asia, xlvi. 2.
Nebuchadrezzar is alluded to, either expressly, xlix. 30, or
figuratively, xlviii. 40, as the instrument of the divine vengeance.
In the Septuagint, this group of oracles appears between xxv. 13 and
xxv. 15, a chapter likewise assigned to the year of the battle of
Carchemish, xxv. 1. Ch. xlvi. contains two oracles against Egypt,
the first of which, at least vv. 1-12, is graphic and powerful, and
the second, _vv._ 13-26, announces the conquest of Egypt by
Nebuchadrezzar, which took place in 568 B.C. The vengeance upon
Egypt, _v._ 10, in which the writer evidently exults, may be
vengeance for the defeat of Josiah at Megiddo.[1] A certain vigour
also characterizes the oracle against the Philistines (xlvii.), and
the conception of the enemy "out of the north," _v._ 2, is a
familiar one in Jeremiah.
[Footnote 1: Ch. xlvi. 27, 28, hardly in place here, were borrowed
from xxx. 10f. and doubtless added later.]

Even if, however, these oracles could be rescued for Jeremiah, those
that follow are, in all probability, nothing but later literary
compilations resting upon a close study of the earlier prophetical
literature. The oracle against Moab (xlviii.) besides being
unpardonably diffuse, is essentially an imitation of the old oracle
preserved in Isaiah xv., xvi. The oracle against Ammon, xlix. 1-6,
is followed by another against Edom, _vv._ 7-22, which again
borrows very largely from Obadiah. Doom is further pronounced on
Damascus, _vv._ 23-27, Kedar and Hazor, _vv._ 28-33, and,
about seven years later, on Elam, _vv._ 34-39. It is not,
indeed, impossible that Jeremiah should have uttered a prophetic
word concerning at least some of these nations--witness his reply to
the ambassadors of the neighbouring kings in ch. xxvii.--though the
relevance of Elam in such a connection is hard to see; but it is
very improbable that a writer and thinker so independent as Jeremiah
should have borrowed in the wholesale fashion which characterizes
the bulk of this group of oracles. The oracle against Egypt might be
his, not impossibly the oracle against the Philistines also; but the
group as a whole, consisting of seven oracles--omitting the oracle
against Elam, which, by its date, falls outside--appears to be a
later artificial composition, utilizing the more familiar names in
xxv. 19-26, and expanding the hint in vv. 15-17 that the nations
would be compelled to drink of the cup of the fury of Jehovah.

The climax of the foreign oracles is that against Babylon (l.-li.
58). This prophecy is written with great vigour and intensity and
characterized by a tone of triumphant scorn. A nation from the
north, l. 3, explicitly designated as the Medes, li. 11, is to
assail Babylon and reduce her to a desolation. Jehovah's people are
urged to leave the doomed city; with sins forgiven they will be led
back by Jehovah to their own land, and the poet contemplates with
glowing satisfaction the day when Babylon the destroyer will be
herself destroyed.

This oracle purports to be a message which Jeremiah sent with an
officer Seraiah, who accompanied King Zedekiah to Babylon (li. 59).
There is no probability, however, that the oracle was written by
Jeremiah. Doubtless the prophet foretold the destruction of Babylon,
xxv. 10, but his attitude to that great power in this oracle is
altogether different from what we know it to have been, judging by
other authentic oracles of this period (xxvii.-xxix.). There he
counsels patience--it is the false prophets who hope for a speedy
deliverance--here there is an eager expectancy which amounts to
impatience. But the contents of the oracle show that it cannot
belong to the year to which it is assigned. The temple is already
destroyed, l. 28, li. 11, so that the exile is presupposed, and
indeed the Medes are definitely named as the executors of vengeance
upon Babylon. All this carries us down to the conquests of Cyrus and
the close of the exile, indeed to the time of Isaiah xl.-lv. The
oracle bears a striking resemblance both in spirit and expression to
Isaiah xiii., and might well come from the same time (about 540). It
may, however, be later. Not only is it diffuse in expression and
slipshod in arrangement, but it borrows extensively from other
exilic or post-exilic parts of the book of Jeremiah (cf. li. 15-19
with x. 12-16, l. 44-46 with xlix. 19-21), late exilic parts of
Isaiah (cf. Jer. l. 39ff, with Isa. xiii. 19-22), and from Ezekiel
(cf. Jer. li. 25 with Ezek. xxxv. 3). Besides, the author appears to
have no clear conception of the actual situation, as he seems to
regard Israel and Judah as living side by side in Babylon, l. 4, 33.
In all probability the oracle against Babylon is a post-exilic
production inspired by the yearning to see the ancient oppressors
not only humbled, but destroyed.

The oracle just discussed is supposed to be an expansion of the
message given by Jeremiah, in writing, to Seraiah, li. 60a, when he
went with the king to Babylon. But though this narrative, li. 59-64,
possibly rests on a basis of fact, it cannot have come, in its
present form, from Jeremiah, for it presupposes the preceding oracle
against Babylon, which has just been shown not to be authentic.

With the composition of ch. lii., which narrates the capture of
Jerusalem and the exile of the people, Jeremiah had nothing whatever
to do. The chapter, except _vv._ 28-30, which is additional, is
simply taken bodily from 2 Kings xxiv. 18-xxv. 30, with the omission
of the account of the appointment and assassination of Gedaliah (2
Kings xxv. 22-26) as that story had already been fully told in
Jeremiah xl.-xliii.

The Greek version of Jeremiah is of more than usual interest and
importance. It is about 2,700 words, or one-eighth of the whole,
shorter than the Hebrew text, though it has about 100 words or so
not found in the Hebrew. The order, too, is occasionally different,
notably in the oracles against the foreign nations (xlvi.-li.),
which in the Septuagint are placed between xxv. 13 and xxv. 15
(verse 14 being omitted). After making every deduction for the usual
number of mistakes due to incompetence and badly written
manuscripts, it has to be admitted that, in certain respects, the
Greek text is superior to the Hebrew. This is especially plain if we
examine its omissions. Considering the later tendency to expand, its
relative brevity is a point in its favour; but, when we examine
particular cases, the superiority of the Septuagint, with its
omissions, is evident at once.

Ch. xxvii., e.g., is considerably longer in the Hebrew than in the
Greek text; but the additions in the Hebrew text represent Jeremiah
as interested in the temple vessels and prophesying their
restoration to the temple when the exile was over, in a way that is
utterly unlike what we know of Jeremiah's general attitude to the
material symbols of religion. Similarly, xxxiii. 14-26, which
promises, among other things, that there would never be lacking a
Levitical priest to offer burnt offerings, is wanting in the
Septuagint; here again the Greek must be regarded as more truly
representing Jeremiah's attitude to sacrifice (vii. 22). It would,
of course, be unfair to infer from this that the briefer readings of
the Septuagint were invariably superior to the longer readings of
the Massoretic text, for it can be shown that the Greek translators
often omitted or passed lightly over what they did not understand;
nevertheless, their omissions often indicate a better and more
original text.

With regard to the oracles against the foreign nations, there can be
little doubt that their position in the Hebrew text is to be
preferred to that of the Greek. A certain plausibility attaches to
the Greek text which places them after xxv. 13, the last clause of
which--"that which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations"--is
taken as a title; but, besides completely breaking up the
surrounding context, whose theme is altogether Judah, the Greek
position of the oracles is exceedingly clumsy, preceding as it does
the enumeration in xxv. 15-29, which it might indeed follow, but
could not reasonably precede. Further the Hebrew arrangement of the
oracles within this group is much more probable than the Greek. The
former appropriately reserves the oracle against Babylon to the end,
the latter places it third, i.e. among the nations which are to be
punished by Babylon herself, xxv. 9.

We possess some direct information about the composition of the book
of Jeremiah, but the present arrangement is marked by considerable
confusion, and can in no case be original. A glance at the contents
of consecutive chapters is enough to show that the order is not
rigorously chronological. Ch. xxv., e.g., falls in 605 B.C., whereas
the preceding chapter is at least eight years later (cf. xxiv. 1,
8). Ch. xxi. 1-10, which reflects the period of the siege of
Jerusalem, is one of the latest passages in the book (587 B.C.).
There are occasional traces of a topical order: e.g. chs.
xviii., xix., give lessons from the potter, xxi. 9-xxiii. 8 is a
series of prophecies concerning kings, xxiii. 9-40 another
concerning prophets. Chs. xxx.-xxxiii. gather up the prophecies
concerning the restoration. Chs. xxxvii.-xliv. constitute a
narrative dealing with the siege of the city and events immediately
subsequent to it. Here we touch one of the striking peculiarities of
the book of Jeremiah that much of it is purely narrative. Again, in
the narrative portion, sometimes the prophet speaks himself in the
first person, as in the account of his call (i.), sometimes he is
spoken of in the third, xxviii. 5.

This suggests that some passages are more directly traceable to
Jeremiah than others, and the clue to this fact is to be found in
the interesting story told in ch. xxxvi. There we are informed that
Jeremiah dictated to his disciple Baruch the scribe the messages of
his ministry since his call twenty-one years before. After being
read before the public gathering at the temple, and then before the
court, they were destroyed by the king, Jehoiakim; but the messages
were rewritten by Baruch, and many similar words, we are told, were
added, xxxvi. 32. It is clear that the book written by Baruch to
Jeremiah's dictation cannot have been very long, as it could be read
three times in one day, but it is impossible to say what precisely
were its constituent elements. Roughly speaking, they must be
confined to chs. i.-xxv., as the following chapters (except xlvi.-li.)
are either narrative, like xxvi.-xxix., xxxvii.-xliv., or, if
prophetic words of Jeremiah, come from a later date (cf. xxx.-xxxiii.,
xxxii. 1). But the book cannot have included all of i.-xxv.,  for,
as we have seen, parts of this section are later than 605, when the
book was first dictated (cf. xxiv., xxi. 1-10), and some are very
late (cf. x. 1-16, exilic at the earliest, and xvii. 19-27, post-exilic).
The difficulty of determining the constituents is increased by the
fact that several of the chapters are undated (e.g. xiv. 1-xvii. 18).
No doubt most of chs. i.-xii. and much of xiii.-xxv. were included
 within the original book dictated.

It is further important to note that the book was dictated; that is
to say, it was not written by Jeremiah's own hand, and it was
dictated from memory, though very possibly on the basis of notes.
Obviously we cannot in any case have in these few chapters more than
a summary of the words spoken during a ministry which at that time
had already covered twenty-one years. The strong personal feeling
which animates so much of Jeremiah's early prophecies, especially
the poetry, we owe directly to his own dictation. The narrative
sections, in which he is spoken of in the third person, but most of
which obviously came from some one who was thoroughly conversant
with the prophet's life, we owe, no doubt, to the faithful Baruch,
who clearly held the prophet's words not only in respect, but in
reverence, xxxvi. 24. The biography, which, in its earlier chapters,
assumes a somewhat annalistic form, xxvi. i, xxviii. i, xxix. i,
develops an easy and flowing style when it comes to deal with the
siege of Jerusalem (xxxvii.-xliv.). Speaking very generally, the
biography covers chs. xxvi.-xlv. (except xxx., xxxi., xxxiii.).

But long after Baruch was in his grave, the book of Jeremiah
continued to receive additions. Some of these, from exilic and
post-exilic times, we have already seen (of, 1., li.). A relatively
large literature grew up around the book of Jeremiah: 2 Chron. xxxvi. 21
even quotes as Jeremiah's a prophecy which does not occur in our
canonical book at all. (cf. Lev. xxvi. 34f). Often those who added
to the book had no clear imagination of the historical situation
whatever; one of them represents Jeremiah as addressing the
_kings_ of Judah--as if they had all lived at the same time--on
the question of the Sabbath day (xvii. 20, cf. xix. 3). The extent
of these additions has already been illustrated by comparison with
the Septuagint, and very often the passages which are not supported
by the Greek text are historically the least trustworthy, cf. xxxix.
11, 12. These different recensions of the original text attest the
wide popularity of the book; an Aramaic gloss in x. 11 shows the
liberties which transcribers took with the text, the integrity of
which suffered much from its very popularity. The interest of the
later scribes was rather in homiletics than in history, and very
probably most of the writing that seems tedious and diffuse in the
book of Jeremiah is to be set down to the count of these teaching
scribes. Jeremiah was a very gifted poet, with unusual powers of
emotional expression, and it is greatly to be regretted that his own
message has been so inextricably involved in the inferior work of a
later age.


To a modern taste, Ezekiel does not appeal anything like so
powerfully as Isaiah or Jeremiah. He has neither the majesty of the
one nor the tenderness and passion of the other. There is much in
him that is fantastic, and much that is ritualistic. His
imaginations border sometimes on the grotesque and sometimes on the
mechanical. Yet he is a historical figure of the first importance;
it was very largely from him that Judaism received the
ecclesiastical impulse by which for centuries it was powerfully

Corrupt as the text is in many places, we have in Ezekiel the rare
satisfaction of studying a carefully elaborated prophecy whose
authenticity is practically undisputed and indisputable. It is not
impossible that there are, as Kraetzschmar maintains, occasional
doublets, e.g. ii. 3-7 and in. 4-9; but these in any case are very
few and hardly affect the question of authenticity. The order and
precision of the priestly mind are reflected in the unusually
systematic arrangement of the book. Its general theme might be
broadly described as the destruction and the reconstitution of the
state, the destruction occupying exactly the first half of the book
(i.-xxiv.) and the reconstitution the second half (xxv.-xlviii.).

The following is a sketch of the book. After five years of residence
in the land of exile, Ezekiel, through an ecstatic vision in which
he beholds a mysterious chariot with God enthroned above it,
receives his prophetic call to the "rebellious" exiles (i., ii.),
and is equipped for his task with the divine inspiration; that task
is partly to reprove, partly to warn (iii.). At once the prophet
addresses himself thereto, announcing the siege of Jerusalem and the
captivity of Judah--Israel has already been languishing in exile for
a century and a half (iv.).[1] The threefold fate of the inhabitants
is described (v.), and a stern and speedy fate is foretold for the
mountain land of Israel (vi.) and for the people (vii.). How
deserved that fate is becomes too pathetically plain in the
descriptions of the idolatrous worship with which the temple is
desecrated (viii.) and in chastisement for which the inhabitants are
slain (ix.) and their city burned (x.). Jehovah solemnly departs
from His desecrated temple (xi.).
[Footnote 1: For 390 in iv. 5 the Septuagint correctly reads 190,
and this includes the forty years of Judah's captivity.]

This general theme of the sin and fate of the city is continued with
variations throughout the rest of the first half of the book. The
horrors of the siege and exile are symbolically indicated, xii. 1-20,
and the false prophets and prophetesses, xiii. 17, are reproved and
denounced for encouraging, by their shallow optimism, the unbelief
of the people, xii. 21-xiv. 11. For the judgment will assuredly come
and no intercession will avail, xiv. 12-23. Israel, in her misery,
is like the wood of the vine, unprofitable to begin with, and now,
besides, scarred and burnt (xv.); her whole career has been one of
consistent infidelity--Israel and Judah alike (xvi.). And her kings
are as perfidious as her people-witness Zedekiah's treachery to the
king of Babylon (xvii.). But contrary to prevalent opinion, the present
generation is not atoning for the sins of the past; every man is free
and responsible and is dealt with precisely as he deserves--the soul
that sinneth, _it_ shall die (xviii.). Then follows a beautiful
elegy over the princes of Judah--Jehoahaz taken captive to Egypt, and
Jehoiachin to Babylon (xix.).

The third cycle (xx.-xxiv.) is, in the main, a repetition of the
second. From the very day of her election, Israel has been
unfaithful, giving herself over to idolatry, immorality, and the
profanation of the Sabbath (xx.). But the devouring fire will
consume, and the sharp sword of Nebuchadrezzar will be drawn, first
against Jerusalem, and then against Ammon (xxi.). The corruption of
Jerusalem is utter and absolute--princes, priests, prophets, and
people (xxii.); and this corruption has characterized her from the
very beginning--Samaria and Jerusalem, the northern and southern
kingdoms alike (xxiii.). So the end has come: the filth and rust of
the empty caldron--symbolic of Jerusalem after the first deportation
in 597 B.C.--will be purged away by a yet fiercer fire. The besieged
city is at length captured, and, like the prophet's wife, it
perishes unmourned (xxiv.).

The ministry of judgment, so far as it concerns Jerusalem, is now
over, and Ezekiel is free to turn to the more congenial task of
consolation and promise. But a negative condition of the restoration
of Israel is the removal of impediments to her welfare, and next to
her own sins her enemies are the greatest obstacle to her
restoration; it is with them, therefore, that the following
prophecies are concerned.

The seven oracles in chs. xxv.-xxxii. (587-586 B.C., cf. xxvi. 1,
except xxix. 17-21 in 570 B.C.) are directed against Ammon, Moab,
Edom, Philistia (xxv.), Tyre, xxvi. 1-xxviii. 19, Sidon, xxviii. 20-26,
and Egypt (xxix.-xxxii.). Tyre and Egypt receive elaborate attention;
the other peoples are dismissed with comparatively brief notice. The
general reason assigned for the destruction of the smaller peoples in
xxv. is their vengeful attitude to Israel. Ammon in particular is
singled out for her malicious joy over the destruction of the temple
and her mockery of the captive Jews. The destruction of these people
is no doubt to be brought about indirectly, if not directly, as in the
case of Tyre, xxvi. 7, and Egypt, xxix. 19, by Nebuchadrezzar. The
oracle against Tyre is one of Ezekiel's most brilliant compositions. The
glorious city is to be stormed and destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar (xxvi.),
and her  fall is celebrated in a splendid dirge, in which she is
compared to a noble merchant ship wrecked by a furious storm upon the
high seas (xxvii.); her proud prince will be humbled to the ground
(xxviii.). Egypt is similarly threatened with a desolating invasion
at the hands of Nebuchadrezzar; the conquest of that country is to be
his recompense for his failure, contrary to Ezekiel's expectations, to
capture Tyre (xxix.). The day of Jehovah draws nigh upon Egypt (xxx.);
like a proud cedar she will be felled by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar
(xxxi.), and her fall is celebrated in two dirges--one in which Pharaoh
is compared to a crocodile; the other, weird and striking, describes
the arrival of the slain Egyptians in the world below (xxxii.).

With the disappearance of Israel's enemies, one of the great
obstacles to her restoration has been removed; but the greatest
obstacle is in Israel herself. She has been stiff-necked and
rebellious: now that the prophet's words have proved true,[1] each
individual for himself must give heed to his warning voice, not
merely consulting him, but obeying him (xxxiii.). Then Jehovah will
manifest His grace in many ways. He will send them an ideal king,
unlike the mercenary rulers of the past, who had plundered the flock
(xxxiv.). He will destroy the unbrotherly Edomites (xxxv.) and bless
His people Israel with the peaceful possession of a fruitful land,
and with the better blessing of the new heart (xxxvi.). Finally, He
will wake the people, who are now as good as dead, to a new life,
and unite the long sundered Israel and Judah under one sceptre for
ever (xxxvii.). In the final assault which will be made against His
people by the mysterious hordes of Gog from the north, He will
preserve them from danger, and multitudes of the assailants will
fall and be buried in the land of Israel (xxxviii., xxxix.).
[Footnote: In xxxiii. 21 the _twelfth_ year should be the
eleventh (cf. xxvi. 1). The news of the fall of Jerusalem would not
take over a year to travel to Babylon.]

Probably the book originally ended here: but from Ezekiel's point of
view, the remaining chapters (xl.-xlviii.) are thoroughly integral
to it, if indeed they be not its climax. The people are now redeemed
and restored to their own land: the problem is, how shall they
maintain the proper relations between themselves and their God? The
unorganized community must become a church, and an elaborate
organization is provided for it. The temple, with its buildings, is
therefore first minutely described, as that is to be the earthly
residence of the people's God; then the rights and duties of the
priests are strictly regulated: and lastly the holy land is so
redistributed among the tribes that the temple is practically in the

Chs. xl.-xliii. embrace the description and measurement of the
temple, with its courts, gateways, chambers, decorations, priests'
rooms and altar. When all is ready, Jehovah solemnly enters, xliii.
1-12, by the gate from which Ezekiel had in vision seen Him leave
almost nineteen years before, x. 19. The sanctity of the temple
where Jehovah is henceforth to dwell must be scrupulously
maintained, and this is secured by the regulations in xliv.-xlvi.
The menial services of the sanctuary, which were formerly performed
by foreigners, are to be henceforth performed by Levites. Then
follow regulations determining the duties and revenues of the
priests, the territory to be occupied by them, also by the Levites,
the city and the prince; the religious duties of the prince, and the
rite of atonement for the temple. The whole description is a
striking counterpart to the earlier vision of the desecration of the
temple (viii.). The last section (xlvii., xlviii.) deals with the
land which in these latter days is to share the redemption of the
people. The barren ground near the Dead Sea is to be made fertile,
and the waters of that sea sweet, by a stream issuing from
underneath the temple. The land will be redistributed, seven tribes
north and five south of the temple, and the city will bear the name
"Jehovah is there"--symbolic of the abiding presence of the people's

Whatever be the precise meaning of the much disputed "thirtieth
year" in i. 1, Ezekiel was born probably about or not long before
the time Jeremiah began his ministry in 626 B.C. As a young man, he
must have heard Jeremiah preach, and this, coupled with the fact
that some of Jeremiah's prophecies were in circulation about eight
years before Ezekiel went into exile (605-597) explains the profound
influence which the older prophet plainly exercised upon the
younger. With Jehoiachin and the aristocracy, Ezekiel was taken in
597 to Babylon, where he lived with his wife, xxiv. 16, among the
Jewish colony on the banks of the Chebar, one of the canals
tributary to the Euphrates, i. 3.

Never had a prophet been more necessary. The people left behind in
the land were thoroughly depraved, xxxiii. 25ff., the exiles were
not much better, xiv. 3ff.--they are a rebellious house, ii. 6; and
even worse than they are the exiles who came with the second
deportation in 586, xiv. 22. Idolatry of many kinds had been
practised (viii.); and now that the penalty was being paid in exile,
the people were helpless, xxxvii. 11. For six years and a half--till
the city fell--Ezekiel's ministry was one of reproof; after that, of
consolation. The prophet becomes a pastor. His ministry lasted at
least twenty-two years, the last dated prophecy being in 570 (xxix.
17); for thirteen years before the writing of chs. xl.-xlviii. in
572 B.C. there is no dated prophecy, xxxii. 1, 17, so that this
sketch of ecclesiastical organization, pathetic as embodying an old
man's hope for the future, stands among his most mature and
deliberate work. His absolute candour is strikingly shown by his
refusal to cancel his original prophecy of the capture of Tyre by
Nebuchadrezzar, xxvi. 7, 8, which had not been fulfilled; he simply
appends another oracle and allows the two to stand side by side,
xxix. 17-20.

It is obvious that in Ezekiel prophecy has travelled far from the
methods, expressions and hopes that had characterized it in the days
of Amos and Isaiah, or even of Ezekiel's immediate predecessor and
contemporary, Jeremiah. In these books there are visions, such as
those of Amos, vii. 1, viii. 1, ix. 1, and symbolic acts like that
of Isaiah, xx. 2, walking barefoot; but there such things are only
occasional, here they abound. Their interpretation, too, is beset by
much uncertainty. Some maintain that the symbolic actions, unless
when they are obviously impossible, were really performed; others
regard them simply as part of the imaginative mechanism of the book.
The dumbness, e.g., with which Ezekiel was afflicted for a period,
iii. 26, xxiv. 27, xxxiii. 22, and which has been interpreted as "a
sense of restraint and defeat," may very well have been real, and
connected, as has been recently supposed, with certain pathological
conditions; but it is hardly to be believed that he lay on one side
for 190 days[1] (iv. 5). Again, though the curious action
representing the threefold fate of the inhabitants of the city in
ch. v. is somewhat grotesque, it is not absolutely impossible; but
it is difficult to see how the command to eat bread and drink water
"with trembling" can be taken literally, xii. 18. As the first
symbolic action in the book--the eating of the roll, iii. 1-3--must
be interpreted figuratively, it would seem not unfair to apply this
principle to all such actions. It is even applied by Reuss to the
very circumstantial story of the death of the prophet's wife, xxiv.
15ff., which he characterizes as an "easily deciphered hieroglyph."
[Footnote 1: So the Septuagint.]

Again, in spite of their highly elaborated detail, the visions
appeal, and are intended to appeal, rather to the mind than to the
eye. Such a vision as that of the divine chariot in ch. i. could not
be transferred to canvas; and if it could, the effect would be
anything but impressive. Regarded, however, as a creation of the
intellectual imagination, suggesting as it does certain attributes
of God, and clothing them with a mysterious and indefinable majesty,
it is not without an impressiveness of its own.

A similar sense of unreality has been held to pervade the speeches.
It has been asserted that they are simply artificial compositions,
never addressed and not capable of being addressed to any audience
of living men. Certainly one can hardly conceive of the last
chapters, with their minute description of the temple buildings,
officers and ceremonies, as forming part of a public address; and
some even of the earlier chapters, e.g. xvi., xxiii., do not suggest
that living contact with an audience which invests the earlier
prophets with their perennial dramatic interest. At the same time,
to regard him simply as an author and in no sense as a public man
would undoubtedly be to do him less than justice, cf. xi. 25. He was
in any case a pastor--a new office in Israel, to which he was led by
his overwhelming sense of the indefeasible importance of the
individual (iii. 18ff., xviii., xxxiii.). But--especially in his
earlier ministry, till the fall of the city--he was prophet as well
as pastor, with a public message of condemnation very much like that
of his predecessors. His reputation as a prophet naturally rose with
the corroboration which his words had received from the fall of the
city, xxxiii. 30, but even before this it must have been high, as we
find him frequently consulted, viii. 1, xiv. 1, xx. 1; and though
behind the real audience he addresses, we often cannot help feeling
that his words have in view that larger Israel of which the exiles
form a part (cf. vi.), the chapters, as they now stand, are no doubt
in most cases expansions of actual addresses. This view is
strengthened by the precision of the numerous chronological notices,
cf. viii. 1.

There is another important aspect in which the contrast between
Ezekiel and the pre-exilic prophets is very great: viz. in his
attitude to ritual. Every one of them had expressed in emphatic
language the relative, if not the absolute, indifference of ritual
to true religion (Amos v. 25, Hos. vi. 6, Isa. i. 11ff., Mic. vi. 6-8).
No one had expressed himself in language more strong and unmistakable
than Ezekiel's contemporary, Jeremiah. Yet Ezekiel himself devotes no
less than nine chapters to a detailed programme for the ecclesiastical
organization of the state after the return from exile (xl.-xlviii.).
With some justice Lucien Gautier has called him the "clerical" prophet,
and Duhm goes so far as to say that he annihilated spontaneous and
ethical religion. This, as we shall see, is a grave exaggeration; but
there can be no doubt that in Ezekiel the centre of gravity of prophecy
has shifted. He threw ritual into a prominence which, in prophecy, it
had never had before, and which, from his day on, it successfully
maintained (cf. Hag., Zech., Mal.).

It is difficult to estimate justly the importance to Hebrew religion
of the new turn given to it by Ezekiel: it seems to be, and in
reality it is, a descent from the more purely spiritual and ethical
conception of the earlier prophets. But two things have to be
remembered (1) that, for the situation contemplated by Ezekiel, such
a programme as that which he drew up was a practical religious
necessity. The spiritual atmosphere in which Jeremiah drew his
breath so freely was too rare for the average Israelite. Religious
conceptions had to be expressed in material symbols. The land and
the temple had been profaned by sin (viii.); after the return, their
holiness must be secured and guaranteed, and Ezekiel's legislation
makes the necessary provision by translating that idea into specific
and concrete applications.

But (2) though ritual interests are very prominent towards the close
of the book, they do not by any means exhaust the religious
interests of Ezekiel. If not very frequently, at any rate very
deliberately and emphatically, he asserts the ethical elements that
are inseparable from true religion and the moral responsibility of
the individual (iii., xviii., xxxiii.). Indeed, the background of
xl.-xlviii. is a people redeemed from their sin. The worshippers are
the redeemed; and even in this almost exclusively ritual section
ethical interests are not forgotten, xlv. 9ff. In interpreting the
mind of the man who sketched this priestly legislation, it is surely
unfair to ignore those profound and noble utterances touching the
necessity of the new heart, xviii. 31, xxxvi. 26, and the new
spirit, xi. 19, utterances which have the ring of some of the
greatest words of Jeremiah.

It must be admitted, however, that Ezekiel did not fully realize the
implications of these profound words: he at once proceeds to apply
them in a somewhat mechanical way, which suggests that his religion
is a thing of "statutes and judgments," if it is also a thing of the
spirit, xxxvi. 27 (cf. xx. 11, 13), and this tendency to a
mechanical view of things is characteristic of the prophet. Even in
the great chapter asserting the responsibility of the individual
(xviii.) something of this tendency appears in the isolation of the
various periods of the individual life from each other. It shows
itself again in his description of the river that issues from under
the threshold of the temple, xlvii. 3-6. His imagination, which was
considerably influenced by Babylonian art, is undisciplined. Images
are worked out with a detail artistically unnecessary, and
aesthetically sometimes offensive (xvi., xxiii.). On the other hand
the book is not destitute of noble and chastened imaginations. The
weird fate of Egypt in the underworld, xxxii. 17-32, the glory of
Tyre and the horror which her fate elicits (xxvii.) are described
with great power. Nothing could be more impressive than the vision
of the valley of dry bones--the fearful solitude and the mysterious
resurrection (xxxvii.). Ezekiel's imaginative power perhaps reaches
its climax in his vision of the destruction of Jerusalem and her
idolatrous people. On the judgment day we see the corpses of the
sinners, slain by supernatural executioners, lying silently in the
temple court, the prophet prostrate and sorrowful, and the angel
departing with glowing coals to set fire to the guilty city, ix. i-x. 7.

The two chief elements in later Judaism practically owe their origin
to Ezekiel, viz. apocalypse and legalism. The former finds
expression in chs. xxxviii, xxxix., where, preliminary to Israel's
restoration, Gog of the land of Magog--an ideal, rather than, like
the Assyrians or Babylonians, an historical enemy of Israel--is to
be destroyed. We have already seen how prominent the legalistic
interest is in xl.-xlviii., but it is also apparent elsewhere.
Ezekiel, e.g., lays unusual stress upon the institution of the
Sabbath, and counts its profanation one of the gravest of the
national sins, xx. 12, xxii. 8, xxiii. 38. The priestly interests of
Ezekiel are easily explained by his early environment. He belonged
by birth to the Jerusalem priesthood, i. 3, xliv. 15, and he
received his early training under the prophetico-priestly impulse of
the Deuteronomic reformation.

From the critical standpoint, the book of Ezekiel is of the highest
importance. Chs. xl.-xlviii. fall midway between the simpler
legislation of Deuteronomy, and the very elaborate legislation of
the priestly parts of the Pentateuch. This is especially plain in
the laws affecting the priests and the Levites.

In Deuteronomy no distinction is made between them; there the phrase
is, "the priests the Levites" (Deut. xviii. 1); in the priestly code
(cf. Num. iii., iv., v.) they are very sharply distinguished, the
Levites being reserved for the more menial work of the sanctuary.
Now the origin of this distinction can be traced to Ezekiel,
according to whom the Levites were the priests who had been degraded
from their priestly office, because they had ministered in
idolatrous worship at the high places, xliv. 6ff., whereas the
priests were the Zadokites who had ministered only at Jerusalem. The
natural inference is that, at least in this respect, the priestly
legislation of the Pentateuch is later than Ezekiel. A close study
of chs. xl.-xlviii. enables us to extend this inference. Between
Ezekiel and that legislation there are serious differences (cf.
xlvi. 13, Exod. xxix. 38, Num. xxviii. 4), which, as early as the
beginning of the Christian era, gave much perplexity to Jewish
scholars. "According to the traditional view," as Reuss has said,
"Ezekiel would be reforming, not Israel, but Moses, the man of God,
and the mouth of Jehovah Himself." We have no alternative, then, but
to suppose that Ezekiel is earlier than the priestly legislation of
the Pentateuch, and that this sketch in xl.-xlviii. prepared the way
for it.

In Ezekiel the older prophetic conception of God has undergone a
change. It has become more transcendental, with the result that the
love of God is overshadowed by His holiness. It is of His grace, no
doubt, that the people are ultimately saved; but, according to
Ezekiel, He is prompted to His redemptive work not so much out of
pity for the fallen people, xxxvi. 22, but rather "for His name's
sake," xx. 44--that name which has been profaned by Israel in the
sight of the heathen, xx. 14. The goal of history is, in Ezekiel's
ever-recurring phrase, that men may "know that I am Jehovah."
Corresponding to this transcendental view of God is his view of man
as frail and weak--over and over again Ezekiel is addressed as
"child of man"--and history has only too faithfully exhibited that
inherent and all but ineradicable weakness. While other prophets,
like Hosea and Jeremiah, had seen in the earlier years of Israel's
history, a dawn which bore the promise of a beautiful day, to
Ezekiel that history has from the very beginning been one unbroken
record of apostasy (xvi., xxiii.). On the other hand, Ezekiel laid a
wholesome, if perhaps exaggerated, emphasis on the possibility of
human freedom. A man's destiny, he maintained, was not irretrievably
determined either by hereditary influences, xviii. 2ff., or by his
own past, xxxiii. 10f. Further, Jeremiah had felt, if he had not
said, that the individual, not the nation, is the real unit in
religion: to Ezekiel belongs the merit of supplementing this
conception by that other, that religion implies fellowship, and that
individuals find their truest religious life only when united in the
kingdom of God (xl.-xlviii.).


The book of Hosea divides naturally into two parts: i.-iii. and iv.-xiv.,
the former relatively clear and connected, the latter unusually
disjointed and obscure. The difference is so unmistakable that i.-iii.
have usually been assigned to the period before the death of Jeroboam II,
and iv.-xiv. to the anarchic period which succeeded. Certainly Hosea's
prophetic career began before the end of Jeroboam's reign, as he predicts
the fall of the reigning dynasty, i. 4, which practically ended with
Jeroboam's death.[1] But i.-iii. seem to be the result of long and
agonized meditation on the meaning of his wedded life: it was not at
once that he discovered
Gomer to be an unfaithful wife, i. 2, and it must have been later
still that he learned to interpret the impulse which led him to her
and threw such sorrow about his life, as a word of the Lord, i. 2.
These chapters were probably therefore written late, though the
experiences they record were early.
[Footnote 1: Zechariah his son reigned for only six months.]

Of the date, generally speaking, of iv.-xiv. there can be no doubt:
they reflect but too faithfully the confusion of the times that
followed Jeroboam's death. It is a period of hopeless anarchy. Moral
law is set at defiance, and society, from one end to the other, is
in confusion, iv. 1, 2, vii. 1. The court is corrupt, conspiracies
are rife, kings are assassinated, vii. 3-7, x. 15. We are
irresistibly reminded of the rapid succession of kings that followed
Jeroboam--Zechariah his son, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah.
Gilead, however, is still part of the northern kingdom, vi. 8, xii.
11, so that the deportation effected by Tiglath Pileser in 734 B.C.
has not yet taken place (2 Kings xv. 29). Further, there is no
mention of the combination of Israel and Aram against Judah; and, as
Hosea was a very close observer of the political situation, his
silence on this point may be assumed to imply that his prophecies
fall earlier than 735. The date of his prophetic career may safely
be set about 743-736 B.C. In chs. i. and iii. Hosea reads the
experiences of his wedded life as a symbol of Jehovah's experience
with Israel. Gomer bore him three children, to whom he gave names
symbolic of the impending fate[1] of Israel, i. 1-9. The faithless
Gomer abandons Hosea for a paramour, but he is moved by his love for
her to buy her out of the degradation into which she has fallen, and
takes earnest measures to wean her to a better mind. All this Hosea
learns to interpret as symbolic of the divine love for Israel, which
refuses to be defeated, but will seek to recover the people, though
it be through the stern discipline of exile (iii.). Ch. ii. elaborates
the idea, suggested by these chapters, of Israel's adultery, i.e. of
her unfaithfulness to Jehovah, of the fate to which it will bring her,
and of her redemption from that fate by the love of her God.[2]
[Footnote 1: Chs. i. 10-ii. 1 interrupts the stern context with an
outlook on the Messianic days, considers Judah as well as Israel,
presupposes the exile of Judah, and anticipates ii. 21-23. It can
hardly therefore be Hosea's; nor can i. 7, which is quite irrelevant
and appears to be an allusion to the deliverance of Jerusalem from
Sennacherib in 701 B.C.]
[Footnote 2: It is much more satisfactory to interpret i., iii. as a
real experience of Hosea, and not simply as an allegory. If it be
objected, on the one hand, that the names of the last two children
are not probable names, it may be urged, on the other, that Gomer
seems to be an actual name, for which no plausible allegorical
meaning has been suggested.]

It is quite impossible even to attempt a summary of iv.-xiv., partly
because of the hopeless corruption of the text in very many
passages, partly from the brevity and apparently disjointed nature
of the individual sections. Possibly this is due, in large measure,
to later redactors of the book, or to the fragmentary reports of the
prophet's addresses; perhaps, however, it also expresses something
of the abrupt passion of his speeches, which, as Kautzsch says, were
"more sob than speech." The general theme of this division appears
in its opening words, "There is no fidelity or love or knowledge of
God in the land," iv. 1.

That knowledge of God is in part innate and universal: it is
knowledge of _God_, and not specifically of Jehovah--not
knowledge of a code, but fidelity to the demands of conscience. It
was, however, the peculiar business of the priests to proclaim and
develop that knowledge; and for the deplorable perversity of Israel,
they are largely held responsible, iv. 6. The worship of Jehovah,
which ought to be a moral service, vi. 6, is indistinguishable from
Baal worship (ii.) and idolatry. Upon the calf, the symbol under
which Jehovah was worshipped, and upon those who worship Him thus,
Hosea pours indignant and sarcastic scorn, viii. 5, 6, x. 5, xiii.
2. Ignorance of the true nature of God is at the root of the moral
and political confusion. It is this that leads the one party to
coquet with Egypt and the other with Assyria, vii. II, viii, 9, xi.
5, xii. 1, and the price paid for Assyrian intervention was a heavy
one (2 Kings xv. 19, 20, cf. Hosea v. 13). The native kings, too,
are as impotent to heal Israel's wounds as the foreigners, vii. 7,
x. 7; and though it might be too much to say that Hosea condemns the
monarchy as an institution, viii. 4, the impotence of the kings to
stem the tide of disaster is too painfully clear to him, x, 7, 15.

Whether Hosea ever alludes to Judah in his genuine prophecies is
very doubtful. Some of the references are obvious interpolations
(cf. i. 7), and for one reason or another, nearly all of them are
suspicious: in vi. 4, e.g., the parallelism (cf. _v_. 10)
suggests that _Israel_ should be read instead of _Judah_.
But there can be no doubt that the message of Hosea is addressed in
the main, if not exclusively, to northern Israel. It is her land
that is _the_ land, i. 2, cf. 4, her king that is "our king,"
vii. 5, the worship of her sanctuaries that he exposes, and her
politics that he deplores.

If Amos is the St. James of the Old Testament, Hosea is the St.
John. It is indeed possible to draw the contrast too sharply between
Amos and Hosea, as is done when it is asserted that Amos is the
champion of morality and Hosea of religion. Amos is not, however, a
mere moralist; he no less than Hosea demands a return to Jehovah,
iv. 6, 8, v. 6, but he undoubtedly lays the emphasis on the moral
expression of the religious impulse, while Hosea is more concerned
with religion at its roots and in its essence. Thus Hosea's work,
besides being supplementary to that of Amos, emphasizing the love of
God where Amos had emphasised His righteousness, is also more
fundamental than his. There is something of the mystic, too, in
Hosea: in all experience he finds something typical. The character
of the patriarch Jacob is an adumbration of that of his descendants
(xii.), and his own love for his unfaithful wife is a shadow of
Jehovah's love for Israel (i.-iii.).

His message to Israel was a stern one, probably even sterner than it
now reads in the received text of many passages, e.g., xi. 8, 9. He
represents Jehovah as saying to Israel: "Shall I set thee free from
the hand of Sheol? Shall I redeem thee from death? Hither with thy
plagues, O death! Hither with thy pestilence, O Sheol! Repentance is
hidden from mine eyes," xiii. 14. But it is too much to say with
some scholars that the sternness is unqualified and to deny to the
prophet the hope so beautifully expressed in the last chapter. There
were elements in Hosea's experience of his own heart which suggested
that the love of Jehovah was a love which would not let His people
go, and ch. xiv. (except _v_. 9) may well be retained, almost
in its entirety, for Hosea. His passion, though not robust, like
that of Amos, is tender and intense, xi. 3, 4: as Amos pleads for
righteousness, he pleads for love (Hos. vi. 6), _hesed_, a word
strangely enough never used by Amos; and it is no accident that the
great utterance of Hosea--"I will have love and not sacrifice," vi.
6--had a special attraction for Jesus (Matt. ix. 13, xii. 7).


The book of Joel admirably illustrates the intimate connection which
subsisted for the prophetic mind between the sorrows and disasters
of the present and the coming day of Jehovah: the one is the
immediate harbinger of the other. In an unusually devastating plague
of locusts, which, like an army of the Lord,[1] has stripped the
land bare and brought misery alike upon city and country, man and
beast--"for the beasts of the field look up sighing unto Thee," i.
20--the prophet sees the forerunner of such an impending day of
Jehovah, bids the priests summon a solemn assembly, and calls upon
the people to fast and mourn and turn in penitence to God. Their
penitence is met by the divine pity and rewarded by the promise not
only of material restoration but of an outpouring of the spirit upon
all Judah,[2] which is to be accompanied by marvellous signs in the
natural world. The restoration of Judah has as its correlative the
destruction of Judah's enemies, who are represented as gathered
together in the valley of Jehoshaphat--i.e. the valley where
"Jehovah judges"--and there the divine judgment is to be executed
upon them.
[Footnote 1: Some regard the locusts as an allegorical designation
for an invading army. But without reason: in ii. 7 they are
_compared_ to warriors, and the effect of their devastations is
described in terms inapplicable to an army.]
[Footnote 2: The sequel, in which the nations are the objects of
divine wrath, shows that the "all flesh," ii. 28, must be confined
to Judah.]

The theological value of the book of Joel lies chiefly in its clear
contribution to the conception of the day of Jehovah. As Marti says,
"The book does not present one side of the picture only, but
combines all the chief traits of the eschatological hope in an
instructive compendium"--the effusion of the spirit, the salvation
of Jerusalem, the judgment of the heathen, the fruitfulness of the
land, the permanent abode of Jehovah upon Zion. These features of
the Messianic hope are, in the main, characteristic of post-exilic
prophecy; and now, with very great unanimity, the book is assigned,
in spite of its position near the beginning of the minor prophets,
to post-exilic times.

A variety of considerations appears to support this date. Judah is
the exclusive object of interest. Israel has no independent
existence, and, where the name is mentioned, it is synonymous with
Judah, ii. 27, iii. 2, 16. Further, the people are scattered among
the nations, iii. 2, and strangers are not to pass through the
"holy" Jerusalem any more, iii. 17. The exile and the destruction of
Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 586 B.C. appear therefore to be
presupposed. But the temple has been rebuilt; there are numerous
allusions to priests and to meal and drink offerings, i. 9, 13, ii.
14,17, and an assembly is summoned to "the house of Jehovah your
God," i. 14: the reference to the city wall, ii. 9, would bring the
date as late as Nehemiah in the fifth century. Other arguments,
though more precarious, are not without weight, e.g., the ease and
smoothness of the language, the allusion to the Greeks, in. 6, the
absence of any reference to the sin of Judah,[1] the apparent
citations from or allusions to other prophetic books.[2]
[Footnote 1: Though it may be implied in ii. 12f ]
[Footnote 2: Obad. _v_. 17, Jo. ii. 32; Amos i. 2, Jo. iii. 16;
Amos ix. 13, Jo. iii. 18; Ezek. xlvii. 1ff., Jo. iii. 18.]

The effect of this cumulative argument has been supposed to be
overwhelming in favour of a post-exilic date. Recently, however,
Baudissin, in a very careful discussion, has ably argued for at
least the possibility of a pre-exilic date. Precisely in the manner
of Joel, Amos iv. 6-9 links together locusts and drought as already
experienced calamities. Both alike complain of the Philistine and
Phoenician slave-trade. The enemies--Edom, Phoenicia, Philistia,
iii. 4, l9--fit the earlier period better than the Persian or Greek.
In the ninth century, Judah was invaded by the Philistines and
Arabians according to the Chronicler (2 Chron. xxi. 16ff.), whose
statements in such a matter there is no reason for doubting, and
Jerusalem may then have suffered: in any case, we know that the
treasures of temple and palace were plundered as early as Rehoboam's
time (1 Kings xiv. 25ff.), and this might be enough to satisfy the
allusion in Joel iii. 17. Again, if Joel is smooth, Amos is not much
less so; and linguistic peculiarities that seem to be late might be
due to dialect or personal idiosyncrasy. With regard to the argument
from citations, it would be possible to maintain that Joel's simple
and natural picture of the stream from the temple watering the
acacia valley, iii. 18, was not borrowed from, but rather suggested
the more elaborate imagery of Ezekiel, xlvii. For these and other
reasons Baudissin suggests with hesitation that a date slightly
before Amos is by no means impossible.[1]
[Footnote 1: It is interesting to note that Vernes, Rothstein and
Strack have independently reached the conclusion that chs. i., ii.
have a different origin from iii., iv. In the former, the state
still exists, and the calamity is a plague of locusts; in the
latter, no account is taken of the locusts--it is a time of national
disaster. The reasons, however, are hardly adequate for denying the
unity of the book.]

The question is much more than an academic one, for on the answer to it
will depend our whole conception of the development of Hebrew prophecy.
Sacerdotal interests, e.g., here receive a prominence in prophecy which
we are accustomed to associate only with the period after the exile.
Here again, the promises are for Judah, the threats for her enemies--an
attitude also characteristic of post-exilic prophecy: it is customary
to deny to the pre-exilic prophets any word of promise or consolation
to their own people. Obviously if the priest and the element of promise
have already so assured a place in the earliest of the prophets, the
ordinary view of the course of prophecy will have to be seriously
modified. The lack of emphasis displayed by Joel on the ethical aspect
of religion, which has been made to tell in favour of a late date,
might tell equally well in favour of a very early one. Indeed, the
book is either very early or very late; and, if early, it represents
what we might call the pre-prophetic type of Israel's religion, and
especially the non-moral aspirations of those who, in Amos's time,
longed for the day of Jehovah, and did not know that for them it meant
thick darkness, without a streak of light across it (Amos v. 18). On
the whole, however, the balance leans to a post-exilic date. The Jewish
dispersion seems to be implied, iii. 2. The strange visitation of
locusts suggests to the prophet the mysterious army from the north,
ii. 20, which had haunted the pages of Ezekiel (xxxviii., xxxix.);
and in this book, prophecy (i., ii.) merges into apocalyptic (iii.,


Amos, the first of the literary prophets, is also one of the
greatest. Hosea may be more tender, Isaiah more serenely majestic,
Jeremiah more passionately human; but Amos has a certain Titanic
strength and rugged grandeur all his own. He was a shepherd, i. 1,
vii. 15, and the simplicity and sternness of nature are written deep
upon his soul. He is familiar with lions and bears, iii. 8, v. 19,
and the terrors of the wilderness hover over all his message. He had
observed with acuteness and sympathy the great natural laws which
the experiences of his shepherd life so amply illustrated, iii. 15.,
and his simple moral sense is provoked by the cities, with the
immoral civilization for which they stand. With a lofty scorn this
desert man looks upon the palaces, i. 4, etc., the winter and the
summer houses, iii. 15, in which the luxurious and rapacious
grandees of the time indulged, and contemplates their ruin with
stern satisfaction.

Those were the days of Jeroboam II, i. 1, and, as the period is
marked by an easy self-assurance, and the ancient boundaries of
Israel are restored, vi. 14 (cf. 2 Kings xiv. 25, 28), Amos belongs,
no doubt, to the latter half of his reign, probably as late as 750
B.C., for he knows, though he does not name, the Assyrians, vi. 14,
and he finds in their irresistible progress westwards an answer to
the moral demands of his heart, Israel's exhausting wars with the
Arameans were now over. Aram herself had been weakened by the
repeated assaults of Assyria, and Israel was enjoying the dangerous
fruits of peace. Extravagance was common, and drunkenness, no less
among the women than the men, iv. 1. The grossest immorality is
associated even with public worship, ii. 7, and religion is being
eaten away by the canker of commercialism, viii. 5. The poor are
driven to the wall, and justice is set at defiance by those
appointed to administer it, ii. 6, v. 7. Such was the society,
brilliant without and corrupt within, into which Amos hurled his
startling message that the God who had chosen them, iii. 2, guided
their history, ii. 9, and sent them prophets to interpret His will,
ii. 11, would punish them for their iniquities, iii. 2.

It is not certain whether the unusually skilful disposition of the
book of Amos is due to himself or to a much later hand.[1] It has
three great divisions: (_a_) the judgment (i., ii.), (_b_)
the grounds of the judgment (iii.-vi.), (_c_) visions of judgment,
with an outlook on the Messianic days (vii.-ix.). In chs. i., ii., with
his sense of an impartial and universal moral law, Amos sees the
judgment sweep across seven countries in the west--Aram, Philistia,
Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab and Israel.[2] The sins denounced are,
e.g., the barbarities of warfare and the cruelties of the slave trade;
but Amos dwells with special emphasis and detail on the sins of Israel,
as that is the country to which, though a Judean, he has been specially
sent, vii. 10, 15.
[Footnote 1: Note the refrains in i., ii., cf. i. 3, 6; iii.-vi. are
held together by three "hears," iii. 1, iv. 1, v. 1, and apparently
by three "woes," v. 7 (emended text), v. 18, vi. 1; so the visions
in vii.-ix. are introduced by "Thus hath (the Lord Jehovah) shown
[Footnote 2: It is difficult to believe that the colourless oracle
against Judah, ii. 4, 5, couched in perfectly general terms, is
original. Doubts that are not unreasonable have also been raised
regarding the oracle against Edom, i. 11, 12.]

In the next section (_b_) he begins by asserting that Israel's
religious prerogative will only the more certainly ensure her
destruction, and justifies his threat of doom by his irrepressible
assurance of having heard the divine voice, iii. 1-8. The doom is
deserved because of the rapacity, luxury, iii. 9-15, and
drunkenness, iv. 1-3, nor will their sumptuous worship save them,
iv. 4, 5. Warnings enough they have had already, but as they have
all been disregarded, God will come in some more terrible way, iv.
6-13. Then follows a lament, v. 1-3, and an appeal to hate the evil
and seek God and the good, v. 4-15; otherwise He will come in
judgment and the "day of Jehovah," for which the people long, will
be a day of storm and utter darkness, v. 16-20. To-day, as in the
time of the Exodus, Jehovah's demands are not ritual but moral, and
the neglect of them will end in captivity, v. 21-27. The luxury and
self-assurance of the people are again scornfully denounced, and the
doom of exile foretold (vi.).

(_c_) Then follow visions of destruction from locusts and
drought, vii. 1-6, the vision of the plumbline, symbolical of the
straightness to which Israel has failed to conform, vii. 7-9, the
vision of the summer fruit, which, by a play upon words, portended
the end, viii. 1-3, and the vision of the ruined temple, ix. 1-7.
These visions are interrupted by the exceedingly interesting and
instructive story of the encounter of the prophet with the
supercilious courtier-priest of Bethel, and Amos's fearless
reiteration of his message, vii. 10-17; and also by the section
viii. 4-14, with its exposition of the evils and its threats of
judgment--a section more akin to iii.-vi. than to vii.-ix. The book
concludes with an outlook on the redemption and prosperity which
will follow in the Messianic age, ix. 8-15. It is hardly possible
that this outlook can be Amos's own. In one whose interest in
morality was so overwhelming, it would be strange, though perhaps
not impossible, that the golden age should be described in terms so
exclusively material; but the historical implications of the passage
are not those of Amos's time. It is further an express contradiction
of the immediately preceding words, ix. 2-5, in which, with dreadful
earnestness, the prophet has expressed the thought of an inexorable
and inevitable judgment from which there is no escape. Besides,
while Amos addresses Israel, this passage deals with Judah,
presupposes the fall[1] of the dynasty (cf. _v_. 11) and the
advent of the exile (ix. 14, 15).[2]
[Footnote 1: Even if only the decay were pre-supposed, the words
would be quite inapplicable to the long and prosperous reign of
Uzziah, i. 1.]
[Footnote: The authenticity of a few other passages, cf. viii. 11,
12, has been doubted for reasons that are not always convincing.
Most doubt attaches to the great doxologies, iv. 13, v. 8, 9, ix. 5,
6. The utmost that can be said with safety is that these passages
are in no case necessary to the context, while v. 8, 9 is a distinct
interruption, but that the conception of God suggested by them, as
omnipotent and omnipresent, is not at all beyond the theological
reach of Amos.]

Amos must have had predecessors, ii. 11; but even so the range and
boldness of his thought are astonishing. History, reflection and
revelation have convinced him that Israel has had unique religious
privileges, iii. 2; nevertheless she stands under the moral laws by
which all the world is bound, and which even the heathen
acknowledge, iii. 9--Amos has nothing to say of any written law
specially given to Israel--and by these laws she will be condemned
to destruction, if she is unfaithful, just as surely as the
Philistines and Phoenicians (i.). Indeed, so sternly impartial is
Amos that he at times even seems to challenge the prerogative of
Israel. The Philistines and Arameans had their God-guided exodus no
less than Israel, and she is no more to Jehovah than the swarthy
peoples of Africa, ix. 7. The universal and inexorable claims of the
moral law have never had a more relentless exponent than Amos; and,
though there is in him a soul of pity, vii. 2, 5, it was his
peculiar task, not to proclaim the divine love, but to plead for
social justice. God is just and man must be so too. Perhaps Amos's
message is all the more daring and refreshing that he was not a
professional prophet, vii. 14. His culture, though not formal, is of
the profoundest. He is familiar with distant peoples, ix. 7, he has
thought long and deeply about the past, he knows the influences that
are moulding the present. The religion for which he pleaded was not
a thing of rites and ceremonies, but an ideal of social justice--a
justice which would not be checked at every step by avarice and
cruelty, but would flow on and on like the waves of the sea, v. 24.


The book of Obadiah--shortest of all the prophetic books--is
occupied, in the main, as the superscription suggests, with the fate
of Edom. Her people have been humbled, the high and rocky fastnesses
in which they trusted have not been able to save them. Neighbouring
Arab tribes have successfully attacked them and driven them from
their home (_vv_, 1-7).[1] This is the divine penalty for their
cruel and unbrotherly treatment of the Jews after the siege of
Jerusalem, _vv_. 10-14, 15_b_. Nay, a day of divine
vengeance is coming upon all the heathen, when Judah will utterly
destroy Edom, and once again possess all the land, north, south,
east and west, that was formerly theirs, and the kingdom shall be
Jehovah's, _vv_. 15_a_, 16-21.
[Footnote 1: Verses 8, 9, which imply that the catastrophe is yet to
come, and speak of Edom in the third person, appear to be later than
the context. For "thy mighty men, O Teman," in _v_. 9_a_,
probably we should read, "the mighty men of Teman."]

The date of the prophecy seems to be fixed by the unmistakable
allusion in _vv_. 11-14 to the capture of Jerusalem by
Nebuchadrezzar in 586 B.C.--an occasion on which the Edomites
abetted the Babylonians (Ezek. xxxv.; Lam. iv. 21 ff.; Ps. cxxxvii.
7). But the case is gravely complicated by the similarity, which is
much too close to be accidental, between Obadiah 1-9 and the oracle
against Edom in Jeremiah, xlix. 7-22 (especially _vv_. 14-16,
9, 10, 7, 22); and, though in one or two places the text of Obadiah
is superior (cf. Ob. 2, 3; Jer. xlix. 15, 16), the resemblance is
such that the passage in Jeremiah must be dependent on Obadiah. Now
the date assigned to Jeremiah's oracle is 605 B.C. (xlvi. 2); but
obviously Jeremiah could not adopt in 605 a prophecy which was not
written till 586. A way out of this difficulty has usually been
sought in the assumption that both prophets have made use, in
different ways, of an older oracle against Edom, _vv_. 1-9 or
10. But there is no adequate reason for separating _vv_. 11-14,
which must refer to the capture of Jerusalem in 586, from _vv_.
1-7. The assumption just mentioned becomes quite unnecessary when we
remember that Jeremiah xlix. 7-22, as we have already seen, is
probably, at least in its present form, from a period very much
later than Jeremiah. The priority therefore rests with Obadiah,
whose prophecy has been utilized in Jeremiah xlix.

In _vv_. 1-7 the catastrophe is not predicted for Edom, it has
already fallen: it was probably an earlier stage of the Bedawin
assaults, whose desolating effect upon Edom is described in Malachi
i. 1-5, and must therefore be relegated to a period about the middle
of the fifth century. We are probably not far from the truth in
dating Obadiah 1-14 about 500 B.C. The memory of Edom's cruelty
would still rankle a generation after the return.

But in _vv_. 15_a_, 16-21 the literary and religious
colouring is different; _vv_. 1-14 is marked by a certain
graphic vigour, _vv_. 15-21 is diffuse. The judgment of Edom in
_vv_. 1-14 is in _vv_. 15-21 made only an episode in a
great world-judgment. Above all, in _v_. 1 the nations are to
execute this judgment, in _v_. 15 they are to be the victims of
it. Further, _vv_. 19, 20 seem to imply an extensive dispersion
of the Jews. Probably, therefore, this passage expresses the bold
eschatological hopes of a later time, when Judah was to be finally
redeemed and the heathen annihilated. The section may be later than
the oracle in Jeremiah xlix, as no use is made of it there.


The book of Jonah is, in some ways, the greatest in the Old
Testament: there is no other which so bravely claims the whole world
for the love of God, or presents its noble lessons with so winning
or subtle an art. Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, is divinely commanded to
preach to Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian empire of his
day. To escape the unwelcome task of preaching to a heathen people,
he takes ship for the distant west, only to be overtaken by a storm,
and thrown into the sea, when, by the lot, it is discovered that he
is the cause of the storm. He is immediately swallowed by a fish, in
the belly of which he remains three days and nights (i.). Then
follows a prayer: after which the prophet is thrown up by the fish
upon the land (ii.). This time he obeys the divine command, and his
preaching is followed by a general repentance, which causes God to
spare the wicked city (iii.), whereat Jonah is greatly displeased;
but, by a new and miraculous experience, he is taught the shame and
folly of his anger, and the infinite greatness of the divine love

On the face of it, the narrative is not meant to be strictly
historical. Its place among the prophetic books shows that its
importance lies, not in its facts, but in the truths for which it
pleads. Much detail is wanting which we should expect to find were
the narrative pure history, e.g. the name of the Assyrian king, the
results of Jonah's mission, etc. Other circumstances stamp it as
unhistorical: considering the poor success the Hebrew prophets had
in their own land, such a wholesale conversion of a foreign city,
even if such a visit as Jonah's were likely, must be regarded as
extremely improbable, to say nothing of the impossibility of the
animals fasting and wearing sackcloth, iii. 7, 8. The miraculous
fish and the miraculous tree which grew up in a single night forbid
us to look for history in the book. Nineveh's fame is a thing of the
past, iii. 3; the book is written after, probably long after, its
fall in 606 B.C. The lateness of the book and its remoteness from
the events it records, are proved in other ways. Its language has
the Aramaic flavour of the later books, and such a phrase as "the
God of heaven," i. 9, only occurs in post-exilic literature. It
contains several reminiscences of late books[1] (e.g. Joel?), and
its ideas are most intelligible as the product of post-exilic times,
especially if it be regarded as a protest against a loveless and
narrow-hearted type of Judaism. All the conditions point to a date
not much, if at all, earlier than 300 B.C.
[Footnote 1: There are many points of contact between the prayer in
Jonah ii. and the Psalter; but the prayer must be later than the
original book of Jonah. It is in reality not a prayer but a psalm of
gratitude, and is quite inappropriate to Jonah's horrible situation
in the belly of the fish. Even if the metaphors from the sea were
interpreted literally, they would not be applicable to Jonah's case;
e.g., "the weeds were wrapped about my head," _v_. 5. The
Psalm, which is partly, but not altogether, a compilation, must have
been inserted here by a later hand, hardly by the author of the
book, who would have noticed the impropriety of it.]

Jonah is himself a historical character; there is no reason to doubt
that the prophet, in whose time Nineveh is standing, i. 2, is
contemporary with the Jonah mentioned in 2 Kings xiv. 25 as living
in the reign of Jeroboam II, and prophesying the restoration of
Israel to its ancient boundaries. It may have been as the
representative of an intense and exclusive nationalism that he was
chosen as the hero of this book. Here and there the story trenches
on Babylonian and Greek legend, but the spirit, if not also the
form, is altogether the author's own.

The book abounds in religious suggestion; even its incidental
touches are illuminating. It suggests that man cannot escape his
divinely appointed destiny, and that God's will must be done. It
suggests that prophecy is conditional; a threatened destruction can
be averted by repentance. It is peculiarly interesting to find so
generous an attitude towards the religious susceptibilities and
capacities of foreigners: in this we are reminded of Jesus' parable
of the good Samaritan. The foreign sailors cry, in their perplexity,
to their gods, and end by acknowledging the God of Israel; the
people of Nineveh repent at the prophet's preaching. All this forms
a splendid foil to the smallness and obstinacy of Jonah. With his
mean views of God, he would not only exclude the heathen from the
divine mercy, but rejoice in their destruction. In this the prophet
is typical of later Judaism, with its longing for the annihilation
of the nations as the obverse of the redemption of Zion. This
attitude was greatly encouraged by the rigorous legislation of Ezra;
and Jonah, like Ruth, may be a protest against it, or at least
against the bigotry which it engendered. If Israel is, in any sense,
an elect people, she is but elected to carry the message of
repentance to the heathen; and the book of Jonah is indirectly,
though not perhaps in the intention of the author, a plea for
foreign missions.

The greatest lesson of the book is skilfully reserved to the end,
iv, 2, 10, 11. It is that God is patient and merciful, that He loves
all the world which He created, that His love stretches not only
beyond the Jews and away to distant Nineveh, but even down to the
animal creation. He hears the prayer of the foreign sailors, He
delights in the repentance of Nineveh, He cares for the cattle, iv.
11. This book is the Old Testament counterpart to "God so loved the


Micah must have been a very striking personality. Like Amos, he was
a native of the country--somewhere in the neighbourhood of Gath; and
he denounces with fiery earnestness the sins of the capital cities,
Samaria in the northern kingdom, and Jerusalem in the southern. To
him these cities seem to incarnate the sins of their respective
kingdoms, i. 5; and for both ruin and desolation are predicted, i.
6, iii. 12. Micah expresses with peculiar distinctness the sense of
his inspiration and the object for which it is given; he is
conscious of being filled with the spirit of Jehovah to declare unto
Jacob his transgression and unto Israel his sin, iii. 8. In his
ringing sincerity, he must have formed a strange contrast to the
prophets who regulated their message by their income, iii. 5, and
preached to a people whose conscience was slumbering, a welcome
gospel of materialism, ii. 11.

The words of Micah must have burned themselves into the memories, if
not the consciences, of his generation; for more than a hundred
years after--though doubtless by this time the prophecy was written--we
find his unfulfilled prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem
alluded to by the elders who pled for the life of Jeremiah, xxvi.
17ff. It is certain from this reference that he prophesied during
the reign of Hezekiah; whether also under Jotham and Ahaz (Mic. i.
1) is not so certain, and depends upon whether his prophecy of the
destruction of Samaria, i. 6, was made before, or as seems equally
possible, after the capture of that city in 721 B.C. At any rate his
message was addressed to Judah, and must have fallen (at least i.-iii.)
before 701 B.C.--the year in which the city was saved beyond all
 expectation from an attack by Sennacherib, iii. 12.

Micah begins by describing the coming of Jehovah. He is coming in
judgment upon Samaria and Jerusalem, the wicked capitals of wicked
kingdoms, i. 1-9; and in the difficult verses, i. 10-16, the
devastating march of the enemy through Judah is allusively described.
The judgment is thoroughly justified--it is due to the violent and
grasping spirit of the wealthy, who do not scruple to crush the poor
and defenceless, ii. 1-11. The prophet then[1] brings his charge in
detail against the leaders of the people--officials, judges, priests,
prophets--accuses them of being mercenary and time-serving, and ends
with the terrible threat that the holy hill will one day be made a
 desolation (iii.).
[Footnote 1: Ch. ii. 12, 13, which interrupt the stern address of
the prophet, ii. 11, iii. 1 with a promise which implies that Israel
is scattered, are probably exilic; they can hardly be Micah's.]

These chapters are assigned almost unanimously to Micah. But serious
critical difficulties are raised in connection with the rest of the
book. Chs. iv. and v. constitute a section by themselves, and may be
considered separately. Their general theme is the certainty of
salvation, but it is quite clear that they do not form an original
unity; iv. 1-4, e.g., with its generous attitude to the foreign
nations, is inconsistent with iv. 11-13, which predicts their
destruction. Again, iv. 10 describes a siege of Jerusalem, which is
to issue in exile, iv. 11-13, a siege which is to end in the
annihilation of the besiegers. Similar difficulties characterize ch.
v; in _vv_. 7-9, 15 the enemies are to be destroyed.

No consecutive outline of the chapters is possible in their present
disconnected form. Ch. iv. 1-5 describes the Messianic age, in which
the nations will come to Jerusalem to have their cases peacefully
arbitrated, iv. 6-8 promise that those scattered (in exile) will be
gathered again, and the kingdom of Judah restored. Siege of
Jerusalem, exile, and redemption, iv. 9, 10. Unsuccessful siege of
Jerusalem and annihilation of the enemy, iv. 11-13. Another siege:
Israel's suffering, v. 1. Promise of a victorious king, v. 2-4.
Judah's victory over Assyria, v. 5, 6 and all her enemies, v. 7-9.
All the apparatus of war and idolatry will be removed from the land,
v. 10-14, and vengeance taken on the enemy, v. 15.

The summary shows how disjointed the chapters are. They may not
impossibly contain reminiscences or even utterances of Micah; e.g.
the prediction of the fatal siege, v. 1, or of the overthrow of
idolatry, v. 10-14. But many elements could not possibly be Micah's:
e.g. iv. 8 implies that the kingdom of Judah is already a thing of
the past. iv. 6 postulates the exile,[1] and the prophecy of exile
to Babylon, iv. 10, would be unnatural in Micah's time, when Assyria
was the dominant power.[2]  Again it is exceedingly improbable that
Micah would have blunted the edge of his terrible threat in iii. 12
by following it up with so brilliant a promise as iv. 1-4,
especially as not a word is said about the need of repentance. The
story in Jeremiah xxvi. 17ff. raises the legitimate doubt whether
Micah's prophecy, which was certainly one of threatening, iii. 12,
also contained elements of promise. On the whole it seems best to
assume that the fine picture of the glory and importance of Zion in
the latter days, iv. 1-4, was set by some later writer as a foil to
the stern threat with which the original prophecy closed, cf. Isaiah
ii. 1-4. Chs. iv. and v. may be regarded as a collection of
prophecies emphasizing the certainty of salvation and intended to
supplement i.-iii.
[Footnote 1: This might conceivably, though not very naturally,
refer to the deportation of _Israel_ in 721.]
[Footnote 2: Some retain iv. 9, 10 for Micah, and assume either that
the Babylon clause is a later interpolation, or that Babylon has
displaced another proper name.]

Chs. vi. and vii. take us again into another atmosphere, more like
Micah's own. The people, who attempt to defend themselves against
Jehovah's charge of ingratitude on the plea that they are ignorant
of His demands, are reminded that those demands are ancient and
simple: justice, love as between man and man, and a humble walk with
God, vi. 1-8. But instead, dishonesty and injustice are rampant
everywhere, and the judgment of God is inevitable, vi. 9-16. The
prophet laments the utter and universal degradation of the people,
which has corrupted even the intimacies of family life, vii. 1-6. In
the rest of the chapter the blow predicted has already fallen; in
their sorrow the people await the fulfilment of Jehovah's purpose in
patience and faith, pray to Him to restore the land which once was
theirs on the east of the Jordan, and thus to compel from the
heathen an acknowledgment of His power. He is the incomparable God
who can forgive and restore, vii. 7-20.

The accusations and laments of these two chapters come very strangely
after the repeated promises of chs. iv. and v.; and if the whole book
had been by Micah, it is hardly possible that this order should have
been original. Probably these chapters were appended to Micah's book
because of several features which they have in common with i.-iii.:
notice, e.g., the prominence of the word "hear," i. 2, iii. 1, 9,
vi. 1, 9, Most scholars agree with Ewald in supposing that these
chapters--at any rate vi. i-vii. 6--come from the reign of Manasseh.
The situation is that of i.-iii., only aggravated: the reference to
Ahab, vi. 16, with whom Manasseh is compared in 2 Kings xxi. 3, points
in the same direction. Even if written in this reign, Micah may still
have been the author; but the general manner of the chapters and the
individuality they reveal appear to be different from his. But,
considering their noble insistence upon the moral elements in religion
(esp. vi. 6-8) they are, if not his, yet not inappropriately appended
to his book. The concluding section, however, vii. 7-20, is almost
certainly post-exilic. The punishment has come, therefore the exile is
the earliest possible date. But there are exiles not only in Babylon,
but scattered far and wide throughout the world, vii. 12, and there is
the expectation that the walls of Jerusalem will be rebuilt, vii. 11.
As this took place under Nehemiah, the section will fall before his
time (500-450 B.C.). This passage of promise and consolation is a foil
to vi. 1-vii. 6, intended to sustain the same relation to that section
as iv., v. to i.-iii.

Thus many hands appear to have contributed to the little book of
Micah, and the voices of two or three centuries may be heard in it:
earlier words of threatening and judgment are answered by later
words of hope and consolation. But wherever else the true Micah is
to be found--and his spirit at any rate is certainly in vi. 6-8--he
is undoubtedly present in i.-iii. It is a peculiar piece of good
fortune that we should possess the words of two contemporary
prophets who differed so strikingly as Micah the peasant and Isaiah
the statesman. Unlike Isaiah, Micah has nothing to say about foreign
politics and their bearing upon religion; he confines himself
severely to its moral aspects, and like Amos, that other prophet of
the country, hurls his accusations and makes his high ethical
demands, with an almost fierce power, iii. 2, 3. His prophecy
justifies his claim to speak in the power and inspiration of his
God, iii. 8.


Poetically the little book of Nahum is one of the finest in the Old
Testament. Its descriptions are vivid and impetuous: they set us before
the walls of the beleaguered Nineveh, and show us the war-chariots of
her enemies darting to and fro like lightning, ii. 4, the prancing
steeds, the flashing swords, the glittering spears, iii. 2,3. The
poetry glows with passionate joy as it contemplates the ruin of cruel
and victorious Assyria.

In the opening chapter, i., ii. 2, Jehovah is represented as coming
in might and anger to take vengeance upon the enemies of Judah, whom
He is to destroy so completely that not a trace of them will be
left; and Judah, now delivered, will be free to worship her God in
peace. In ch. ii. the enemy, through whom Assyria's destruction is
to be wrought, is at the gates of Nineveh, _v_. 8, in all the
fierce pomp of war. The city is doomed, the defenders flee,
everywhere is desolation and ruin, the ravenous Assyrian lion is
slain by the sword. It is because of her sins that this utter ruin
is coming upon her, iii. 1-7, nor need she think to escape; for the
populous and all but impregnable Thebes (No-Amon) was taken, and
Nineveh's fate will be the same. Already the people are quaking for
fear, some of the strongholds of Assyria are taken; it is time to
prepare to defend the capital. But there is no hope, her doom is
already sealed, iii. 8-19.

From the historical implications of the prophecy, which belongs, as
we shall see, to the seventh century, and also from definite
allusions (cf. i. 15), Nahum must have been a Judean; and, of the
three traditions concerning Elkosh his birthplace, which place it
respectively in Mesopotamia, in Galilee, and near Eleutheropolis in
southern Judah, the last must be held to be very much the most
probable. Within certain limits, the date is easy to fix. Ch. iii.
8-10, which are historically the most concrete verses in the
prophecy, imply the capture of Thebes, which we now know to have
been taken by the Assyrians in 663 B.C. On the other hand, Nineveh
has not yet fallen: the theme of the prophecy is just the certainty
of its fall. It was taken by the Medians under Kyaxares, leagued
with Nabopolassar of Babylon in 606 B.C. The prophecy therefore
falls between 663 and 606.

The fixing of the precise date depends on two considerations: (1)
whether the allusion to Thebes in iii. 8-10 implies that its capture
was very recent, and (2) whether we must suppose that the prophecy
was inspired by a definite historical situation. It is usually felt
that the reference to Thebes implies that the memory of its capture
is fresh, and that the prophecy must stand very near it--not later
perhaps than 650; and just about this time there was a Babylonian
rebellion against Assyria. This date must be regarded as by no means
impossible. On the whole, however, a later date appears to be
distinctly more probable The last few verses, iii. 12f., 18f., imply
the thorough weakness, disorganization and impending dissolution of
the Assyrian empire, and so early a date as 650 hardly meets the
case. We must apparently come down to the time when the fate of
Nineveh was obviously inevitable and her conqueror was on the way,
ii. 1. Probably Marti is not far from the truth in suggesting 610
B.C. The reference to Thebes is intelligible even at this later
date, when we remember that the capture of so strong a city, already
famous in Homer's time, must have left an indelible impression on
the mind of Western Asia. It is no doubt abstractly possible that
the prophecy is not intimately connected with any historical
situation, and therefore might be much earlier; but to say nothing
of the concreteness of the detail, such a supposition would be
altogether contrary to the analogy of Hebrew prophecy. When Jehovah
reveals His secret to the prophets, it is because He is about to do
something (Amos iii. 7).

The concreteness of detail just alluded to is characteristic only of
the second and third chapters. Ch. i., however, is confessedly
vague, and moves for the most part along the familiar lines of
theophanic descriptions. It is not plain in i. (cf. ii. 8) who are
the enemies to be destroyed, as i. 1 is probably a later addition.
Further, as far as _v_. 10 the prophecy is alphabetic: this
circumstance has given rise to the view that i., ii. 2 originally
formed a complete alphabetic psalm whose second half has either been
worked over, or displaced by i. 11-15, ii. 2, the object of the
psalm being to present a general picture of the judgment into which
the particular doom of Nineveh is fitted, and to give the prophecy a
theological complexion which it appeared to need. The acknowledged
vagueness of the chapter and the demonstrably alphabetic nature of
at least part of it, certainly render its authenticity very

The theological interest of Nahum is great. It is the first prophecy
dealing exclusively with the enemies of Judah. There is a hint of
the sin of Nineveh, but little more than a hint, iii. 1, 4; she is
the enemy and oppressor of Judah, and that is enough to justify her
doom. Whether we accept the earlier or the later date for the
prophecy, the reign of Manasseh or that of Josiah, the moral
condition of Judah herself was deplorable enough, and so clear-eyed
a prophet as Jeremiah saw that her doom was inevitable. Nahum
probably represents the sentiment of narrowly patriotic party, which
regarded Jerusalem as inviolable, and Jehovah as a jealous God ready
to take vengeance upon the enemies of Judah.


The precise interpretation of the book of Habakkuk presents unusual
difficulties; but, brief and difficult as it is, it is clear that
Habakkuk was a great prophet, of earnest, candid soul, and he has
left us one of the noblest and most penetrating words in the history
of religion, ii. 4_b_. The prophecy may be placed about the
year 600 B.C. The Assyrian empire had fallen, and by the battle of
Carchemish in 605 B.C., Babylonian supremacy was practically
established over Western Asia. Josiah's reformation, whose effects
had been transient and superficial, lay more than twenty years
behind. The reckless Jehoiakim was upon the throne of Judah, a king
who regarded neither the claims of justice (Jer. xxii. 13-19) nor
the words of the prophet (Jer. xxxvi. 23), and his rebellion drew
upon him and his land the terrible vengeance of Babylon, first in
601 B.C., then in 597.

The prophet begins by asking his God how long the lamentable
disorder and wrong are to continue, i. 1-4. For answer, he is
assured that the Chaldeans are to be raised up in chastisement, who,
with their terrible army, will mockingly defy every attempt to check
their advance, i. 5-11, But in i. 12-17 the prophet appears to be
confounded by their impiety; they have been guilty of barbarous
cruelty--how can Jehovah reconcile this with His own holiness and
purity? The prophet finds the answer to his question when he climbs
his tower of faith; there he learns that the proud shall perish and
the righteous live. The solution may be long delayed, but faith sees
and grasps it already: "The just shall live by his faithfulness,"
ii. 1-4. Then follows a series of woes, ii. 5-20, which expand the
thought of ii. 4_a_--the sure destruction of the proud. Woes
are denounced upon the cruel rapacity of the conquerors, their
unjust accumulation of treasure, their futile ambitions, their
unfeeling treatment of the land, beasts and people, and finally
their idolatry. In contrast to the stupid and impotent gods
worshipped by the oppressor is the great God of Israel, whose temple
is in the heavens, and before whom the earth is summoned to silence,
ii. 20. For He is on His way to take vengeance upon the enemies of
His people, as He did in the ancient days of the exodus, when He
came in the terrors of the storm and overthrew the Egyptians. His
coming is described in terms of older theophanies (Jud. v., Deut.
xxxiii.); and this "prayer," as it is called in the superscription,
concludes with an expression of unbounded confidence and joy in
Jehovah, even when all customary and visible signs of His love fail

Simple and coherent as this sequence seems to be, it is, in reality,
on closer inspection, very perplexing. Ch. i. 1-4 reveals a picture
of confusion within Judah, but it is impossible to say whether it is
foreigners who are oppressing Judah as a whole, or powerful classes
within Judah itself that are oppressing the poor. Perhaps the latter
is the more natural interpretation. In that case, the Chaldeans are
raised up to chastise the native oppressor, i. 5-11. This section,
however, has fresh difficulties of its own; _vv_. 5, 6 suggest
that the Chaldeans are not yet known to be a formidable power, they
are only about to be raised up, _v_. 6, and what they will do
is as yet incredible, _v_. 5. The minute description which
follows, however, looks as if their military appearance and methods
were thoroughly familiar. Assuming that i. 12-17 is the continuation
of i. 5-ll--and the descriptions are very similar--the Chaldeans,
whose coming was the answer to the prophet's prayer, now constitute
a fresh problem; they swallow up those who are more righteous than
themselves, _v_. 13, i.e. Judah. It cannot be denied that such
a characterization of Judah sounds strange after the charge levelled
at her in i. 1-4, unless we assume an interval of time between the
sections, or at least that in i. 12-17, Judah is regarded as
relatively righteous, i.e. in comparison with the Chaldeans.

The situation is further complicated by the very close resemblance
that prevails between i. 1-4 and i. 12-17. The very same words for
_righteous_ and _wicked_ occur in i. 13 as in i. 4; do they
or do they not designate the same persons? If they do, then, as in
i. 12-17, the wicked oppressor is almost certainly the Chaldean and
the righteous is Judah, and we shall have to interpret the confusion
pictured in i. 2-4 as due to the Chaldean suzerainty, and perhaps to
assign the section to a period after the first capture of Jerusalem
in 597 B.C. In that case, as it is obvious that the Chaldeans could
not be raised up to execute divine judgment upon themselves, the
section, i. 5-11, would have to be regarded as an independent piece,
whether Habakkuk's or not, announcing the rise of the Chaldeans, and
not inappropriately placed here, considering that the sections on both
sides of it have the Chaldeans for their theme. On the other hand,
however, it may be urged that the identification of the righteous and
wicked in i. 13 with i. 4, though natural,[1] is not necessary; and by
denying it the prophecy becomes distinctly more coherent. The wrong done
by Judah, i. 1-4, is avenged by the coming of the Chaldeans, i. 5-11;
they, however, having overstepped the limits of their divine commission,
only aggravate the prophet's problem, i. 12-17, and he finally finds the
solution on his watch-tower, in the assurance that somehow, despite all
 seeming delay, the purpose of God is hastening on to its fulfilment, and
that the moral constitution of the world is such as to spell the ultimate
ruin of cruelty and pride and the ultimate triumph of righteousness,
ii. 1-4. His faith was historically justified by the fall of the
Babylonian empire in 538 B.C.
[Footnote 1: Some scholars feel so strongly that the historical
background of i. 1-4 and i. 12-17 is the same, that they regard the
latter section as the direct continuation of the former. Budde,
followed by Cornill, ingeniously supposes that the oppressor in
these two sections is the Assyrian (about 615 B.C.), and it is this
power that the Chaldeans, i. 5-11, are raised up to chastise. These
scholars put i. 5-11 after ii. 4 as a historical amplification of
its moral and more indefinite statement. But the strength of
Habakkuk rather seems to lie in this, that he abandons the immediate
historical solution, i. 5, and is content with the moral one, ii. 4,
though no doubt he believes that the moral solution will realize
itself in history.]

The authenticity[1] of some of the woes in ch. ii. may be contested,
e.g. _vv._ 12-14, which appears to be a partial reproduction of
Jer. li. 58, Isa. xi. 9. It is very improbable that ch. iii. is
Habakkuk's: it is not even certain that the poem is a unity. The
situation in _vv._ 17-19 (especially _v._ 17) seems
different from that in the rest of the chapter: there an enemy was
feared, here rather infertility. Again the general temper of the ode
is hardly that of ii. 3, 4. There the vision was to be delayed, here
the interposition seems to be impatiently awaited and expected soon.
If "thine anointed" in iii. 13 refers to the people--and the
parallelism makes this almost certain--then the days of the monarchy
are over and the poem cannot be earlier than the exile. Probably, as
the superscription, subscription, and threefold _Selah_
suggest, we have here a post-exilic psalm. The psalm, however, is
fittingly enough associated with the prophecy of Habakkuk. Its
belief in the accomplishment of the divine purpose and its emphasis
on a faith independent of the things of sight, are akin in spirit,
though not in form to ii. 4.
[Footnote 1: Marti explains the book thus: (_a_) i. 2-4,
12_a_, 13, ii. 1-4, a psalm, belonging to the fifth or perhaps
the second century, giving the divine answer to the plaint that
judgment is delayed; (_b_) i. 5-11, 12_b_, 14-17, a
prophecy about 605 B.C. dealing with the effect of the battle of
Carchemish; (_c_) ii. 5-19, the woes: about 540, when the
Chaldean empire is nearing its end; (_d_) iii., a post-exilic

Patience and faith are the watch-words of Habakkuk, ii. 3, 4. There
was a time when he had expected an adequate historical solution to
his doubts in his own day, i. 5; but, as he contemplates the immoral
progress of the Chaldeans, he recognizes his difficulty to be only
aggravated by this solution, and he is content to commit the future
to God. He is comforted and strengthened by a larger vision of the
divine purpose and its inevitable triumph--if not now, then
hereafter. "Though it tarry, wait for it, for it is sure to come, it
will not lag behind." That purpose wills the triumph of justice, and
though the righteous may seem to perish, in reality he lives, and
shall continue to live, by his faithfulness.


If the Hezekiah who was Zephaniah's great-great-grandfather, i. 1,
was, as is probable, the king of that name, then Zephaniah was a
prince as well as a prophet, and this may lend some point to his
denunciation of the princes who imitated foreign customs, i. 8. He
prophesied in the reign of Josiah, i. 1, and the fact that he censures
not the king but the king's children, i. 8, points to the period when
Josiah was still a minor (about or before 626 B.C.). With this
coincides his description of the moral and religious condition of
Judah, which necessitates a date prior to the reformation in 621.
Idolatry, star-worship and impure Jehovah-worship are rampant,
i. 4, 5, 9. The rich are easy-going and indifferent to religion,
supposing that God will leave the world to itself, i. 12. The people
of Jerusalem are incorrigible, iii. 2, reckless of the lessons that
God has written in nature and history, iii. 5ff.; their leaders--princes,
prophets, priests--are immoral or incompetent. The prophecy may be
placed between 630 and 626, and the prophet must have been a young man.

To this idolatrous and indifferent people he announces the speedy
coming of the day of Jehovah, whose terrors he describes with a
certain solemn grandeur (i.). The judgment is practically
inevitable, i. 18, but it may perhaps yet be averted by an earnest
quest of Jehovah, ii, 1-3. That judgment will sweep along the coast
through the Philistine country, ii. 4-7, and on to Egypt, and
afterwards turn northwards and utterly destroy Assyria with her
great capital Nineveh, ii. 12-15. Again the prophet turns to
Jerusalem, and for the sins of her people and their leaders
proclaims a general day of judgment, from which, however, the humble
will be saved, iii. 1-13 (except _vv_. 9, 10.). The book ends
with a fine vision of the latter days, when the dispersed of Judah
will be restored to their own land, and rejoice in the omnipotent
love of their God, iii. 14-20.

The prophecy presents a very impressive picture of the day of Jehovah,
but it cannot all be from the pen of Zephaniah. Besides adopting a
very different attitude towards Jerusalem from the rest of the prophecy,
iii. 14-20 clearly presupposes the exile, _v_. 19, towards the end
of which it was probably written. Ch. ii. 11, iii. 9, 10, containing
ideas which are hardly earlier than Deutero-Isaiah, are also probably
exilic or post-exilic. The oracle against Moab and Ammon, ii. 8-10,
countries which lay off the line of the Scythian march southwards from
Philistia, _v_. 7, to Egypt, _v_. 12, are for linguistic,
contextual, and other reasons, also probably late.

Prophecy has practically always an historical occasion, and the
thought of the black and terrible day of Jehovah was no doubt
suggested to Zephaniah by the formidable bands of roving Scythians
which scoured Western Asia about this time, sweeping all before them
(Hdt. i. 105). They do not seem to have touched Judah; but it is not
surprising that men like Jeremiah and Zephaniah should have regarded
them as divinely ordained ministers of vengeance upon Jehovah's
degenerate people.


The post-exilic age sharply distinguished itself from the pre-exilic
(Zech. i. 4), and nowhere is the difference more obvious than in
prophecy. Post-exilic prophecy has little of the literary or moral
power of earlier prophecy, but it would be very easy to do less than
justice to Haggai. His prophecy is very short; into two chapters is
condensed a summary, probably not even in his own words, of no less
than four addresses. Meagre as they may seem to us, they produced a
great effect on those who heard them.

The addresses were delivered between September and December in the
year 520 B.C. The people were suffering from a drought, and in the
first address, i. 1-11, Haggai interprets this as a penalty for
their indifference to religion--in particular, for their neglect to
build the temple. The effect of the appeal was that three weeks
afterwards a beginning was made upon the building, i. 12-15. The
people, however, seem to be discouraged by the scantiness of their
resources, and a month afterwards Haggai has to appeal to them
again, reminding them that with the silver and the gold, which are
His, Jehovah will soon make the new temple more glorious than the
old, ii. 1-9. Two months later the prophet again reminds them that,
as their former unholy indifference had infected all their life with
failure, so loyal devotion to the work now would ensure success and
blessing, ii. 10-19; and on the same day Haggai assures Zerubbabel a
unique place in the Messianic kingdom which is soon to be ushered
in, ii. 20-23.

The appeals of Haggai and Zechariah were successful (Ezra v. 1, vi.
14), and within four years the temple was rebuilt (Ezra vi. 15). It
was now the centre of national life, and therefore also of prophetic
interest. Haggai was probably not himself a priest, but in so short
a prophecy his elaborate allusion to ritual is very significant, ii.
11ff. This prophecy, like pre-exilic prophecy, was no doubt
conditioned by the historical situation. The allusion to the shaking
of the world in ii. 7, 22, appears to be a reflection of the
insurrections which broke out all over the Persian empire on the
accession of Darius to the throne in 521 B.C.; and probably the Jews
were encouraged by the general commotion to make a bold bid for the
re-establishment of an independent national life. That they
cherished the ambition of being once more a political as well as a
religious force, seems to be suggested by the frequency with which
Haggai links the name of Zerubbabel, of the royal line of Judah,
with that of Joshua the high priest; and, in particular, by the
extraordinary language applied to him--in ii. 23 he is the elect of
Jehovah, His servant and signet. Clearly he is to be king in the
Messianic kingdom which is to issue out of the convulsion of the

It cannot be safely inferred from ii. 3 that Haggai was among those
who had seen the temple of Solomon and was therefore a very old man.
Simple as are his words, his faith is strong and his hope very bold.
Considering the meagre resources of the post-exilic community, it is
touching to note the confidence with which he assures the people
that Jehovah will bring together the treasures of the world to make
His temple glorious.



Two months after Haggai had delivered his first address to the
people in 520 B.C., and a little over a month after the building of
the temple had begun (Hag. i. 15), Zechariah appeared with another
message of encouragement. How much it was needed we see from the
popular despondency reflected in Hag. ii. 3, Jerusalem is still
disconsolate (Zech. i. 17), there has been fasting and mourning,
vii. 5, the city is without walls, ii. 5, the population scanty, ii.
4, and most of the people are middle-aged, few old or young, viii.
4, 5. The message they need is one of consolation and encouragement,
and that is precisely the message that Zechariah brings: "I have
determined in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of
Judah; fear not," viii. 15.

The message of Zechariah comes in the peculiar form of visions, some
of them resting apparently on Babylonian art, and not always easy to
interpret. After an earnest call to repentance, i. 1-6, the visions
begin, i. 7-vi. 8. In the first vision, i. 7-17, the earth, which
has been troubled, is at rest; the advent of the Messianic age may
therefore be expected soon. The divine promise is given that
Jerusalem shall be graciously dealt with and the temple rebuilt. The
second is a vision, i. 18-21, of the annihilation of the heathen
world represented by four horns. The third vision (ii.)--that of a
young man with a measuring-rod--announces that Jerusalem will be
wide and populous, the exiles will return to it, and Jehovah will
make His abode there.

These first three visions have to do, in the main, with the city and
the people; the next two deal more specifically with the leaders of
the restored community on its civil and religious side, Zerubbabel
the prince and Joshua the priest. In the fourth vision (iii.) Joshua
is accused by the Adversary and the accuser is rebuked--symbolic
picture of the misery of the community and its imminent redemption.
Joshua is to have full charge of the temple, and he and his priests
are the guarantee that the Branch, i.e. the Messianic king (Jer.
xxiii. 5, xxxiii, 15), no doubt Zerubbabel (Zech, iii. 8, vi. 12;
Hag. ii. 23), is coming. In the fifth vision (iv.)[1] the prophet
sees a lampstand with seven lamps and an olive tree on either side,
the trees representing the two anointed leaders, Zerubbabel and
Joshua, enjoying the divine protection.
[Footnote 1: Except vv. 6b-10a, which appears to be a special
assurance, hardly here in place, that Zerubbabel would finish the
temple which he had begun.]

The next two visions elaborate the promise of iii. 9: "I will remove
the iniquity of that land,"--and indicate the removal of all that
taints the land of Judah, alike sin and sinners. The flying roll of
the sixth vision, v. 1-4, carries the curse that will fall upon
thieves and perjurers; and in the somewhat grotesque figure of the
seventh vision, v. 5-11, Sin is personified as a woman and borne
away in a closed cask by two women with wings like storks, to the
land of Shinar, i.e. Babylon, there to work upon the enemy of Judah
the ruin she has worked for Judah herself. In the last vision, vi.
1-8, which is correlate with the first--four chariots issuing from
between two mountains of brass--the divine judgment is represented
as being executed upon the north country, i.e. the country opposed
to God, and particularly Babylonia.

The cumulative effect of the visions is very great. All that hinders
the coming of the Messianic days is to be removed, whether it be the
great alien world powers or the sinners within Jerusalem itself. The
purified city will be blessed with prosperity of every kind, and
over her civil and religious affairs will be two leaders, who enjoy
a unique measure of the divine favour. In an appendix to the visions
vi. 9-15, Zechariah is divinely commissioned to make a crown for
Zerubbabel (or for him and Joshua)[1] out of the gold and silver
brought by emissaries of the Babylonian Jews, and the hope is
expressed that peace will prevail between the leaders--a hope
through which we may perhaps read a growing rivalry.
[Footnote 1: It seems practically certain that the original prophecy
in _v_. 11 has been subsequently modified, doubtless because it
was not fulfilled. The last clause of _v_. 13--"the counsel of
peace shall be between them _both"_--shows that two persons
have just been mentioned. The preceding clause must therefore be
translated, not as in A. V. and R. V., "and _he_ shall be a
priest upon his throne," as if the office of king and priest were to
be combined in a single person, but "and _there_ shall be" (or,
as Wellhausen suggests, "and _Joshua_ shall be") "a priest upon
his throne," (or no doubt more correctly, with the Septuagint, "a
priest _at his right hand_"). As two persons are involved, and
the word "crowns" in v. 11 is in the plural, it has been supposed
that the verse originally read, "set the crowns _upon the head of
Zerubbabel and_ upon the head of Joshua." On the other hand, in
_v_. 14 the word "crown" must be read in the singular, and
should probably also be so read in _v_. 11 (though even the
plural could refer to one crown). In that case, if there be but one
crown, who wears it? Undoubtedly Zerubbabel: he is the Branch, iii.
8, and the Branch is the Davidic king (Jer. xxiii. 5, xxxiii. 15).
The building of the temple here assigned to the Branch, vi. 12, is
elsewhere expressly assigned to Zerubbabel, iv. 9. It is, therefore,
he who is crowned: in other words, v. 11, may have originally read,
"set it _upon the head of Zerubbabel._" Whether we accept this
solution or the other, it seems certain that the original prophecy
contemplated the crowning of Zerubbabel. As the hopes that centred
upon Zerubbabel were never fulfilled, the passage was subsequently
modified to its present form.]

The concluding chapters of the prophecy (vii., viii.), delivered two
years later than the rest of the book, vii. 1, are occupied with the
ethical conditions of the impending Messianic kingdom. To the
question whether the fast-days which commemorated the destruction of
Jerusalem are still to be observed, Zechariah answers that the
ancient demands of Jehovah had nothing to do with fasting, but with
justice and mercy. As former disobedience had been followed by a
divine judgment, so would obedience now be rewarded with blessing,
fast-days would be turned into days of joy and gladness, and the
blessing would be so great that representatives of every nation
would be attracted to Jerusalem, to worship the God of the Jews.

In Zechariah even more than in Haggai it is clear that prophecy has
entered upon a new stage.[1] There is the same concentration of
interest upon the temple, the same faith in the unique importance of
Zerubbabel. But the apocalyptic element, though not quite a new
thing, is present on a scale altogether new to prophecy. Again, the
transcendence of God is acutely felt--the visions have to be
interpreted by an angel. We see, too, in the book the rise of the
idea of Satan (iii.) and of the conception of sin as an independent
force, v. 5-11. The yearning for the annihilation of the kingdoms
opposed to Judah, i. 18-21, has a fine counterpart in the closing
vision, viii. 22, 23, of the nations flocking to Jerusalem because
they have heard that God is there. The book is of great historical
value, affording as it does contemporary evidence of the drooping
hopes of the early post-exilic community, and of the new manner in
which this disappointment was met by prophecy. But, though Zechariah's
message was largely concerned with the building of the temple, and
was delivered for the most part in terms of vision and apocalyptic,
the ethical elements on which the "former prophets" had laid the
supreme emphasis, were by no means forgotten, viii. 16, 17.
[Footnote 1: Zechariah himself is conscious of the distinction, which
is more than a temporal one, between himself and the pre-exilic
prophets: notice the manner of his allusion to the "former prophets,"
i. 4, vii. 7, 12.]


Practically all the distinctive features of the first eight chapters
disappear in ix.-xiv. The style and the historical presuppositions
are altogether different. There are two new superscriptions, ix. 1,
xii. 1, but there is no reference to Zerubbabel, Joshua, or the
situation of their time. There the immediate problem was the
building of the temple; here, more than once, Jerusalem is
represented as in a state of siege. A sketch of the contents will
show how unlike the one situation is to the other.

The general theme of ix. 1-xi. 3 is the destruction of the world-powers
and the establishment of the kingdom of God. Judgment is declared at
the outset upon Damascus, Phoenicia and Philistia, while Jerusalem is
to enjoy the divine protection and to be the seat of the Messianic King,
ix. 1-9. Greece, the great enemy, will be overcome by Judah and Ephraim,
who are but weapons in Jehovah's hand, ix. 10-17. Then follows[1] a
passage in which "the shepherds" are threatened with a dire fate. Judah
receives a promise of victory, and Ephraim is assured that her exiles
will be gathered and brought home from Egypt and Assyria to Gilead and
Lebanon; the cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan--types perhaps of
foreign rulers--will be laid low, x. 3-xi. 3.
[Footnote 1: Ch. x. 1, 2 appears to stand by itself. It is an
injunction to bring the request for rain to Jehovah and to put no
faith in teraphim and diviners.]

The next section is of a different kind. In it the prophet is
divinely commissioned to tend the flock which has been neglected and
impoverished by other shepherds. To this end he takes two staves,
named Favour and Unity, to indicate respectively the favour enjoyed
by Judah in her relations with her neighbours, and the unity
subsisting between her and Israel (or Jerusalem, according to two
codices); and thus invested with the instruments of the pastoral
office he destroyed three shepherds in a short time. But the flock
grew tired of him, and, in consequence he broke the staves, i.e. the
relations of favour and unity were ruptured. A foolish and careless
shepherd is then raised up, who abuses the flock, and over him a woe
is pronounced, xi. 4-17, more minutely defined in xiii. 7-9, which
appears to have been misplaced. Jehovah will slay the shepherd and
scatter the sheep; a third of the flock after being purified by fire
will constitute the people of Jehovah.

The next section, xii. 1-xiii. 6, introduces us to a siege of
Jerusalem by the heathen, abetted by Judah. Suddenly, however, Judah
changes sides; by the help of Jehovah they destroy the heathen, and
Jerusalem is saved, xii. 1-8. Then the people and their leaders are
moved by the outpouring of the spirit to confess and entreat
forgiveness for some judicial murder which they have committed and
which they publicly and bitterly lament, xii. 9-14. The prayer is
answered; people and leaders are cleansed in a fountain opened, with
the result that idolatry and prophecy of the ancient public type are
abjured, xiii. 1-6.

The theme of the last section also (xiv.) is a heathen attack upon
Jerusalem, but this time the city is destroyed and half the
inhabitants exiled. Then Jehovah intervenes, and by a miracle upon
the Mount of Olives the rest of the people effect their escape, and
Jehovah Fights with all His angels against the heathen. Those
glorious Messianic days, when Jehovah will be King over all the
earth, will know no heat or cold, or change from light to darkness.
Jerusalem will be secure and the land about her level and fruitful,
watered east and west by a living stream. Those who have made war
against her will waste away, while the rest of the world will make
pilgrimages to the holy city to worship Jehovah and celebrate the
feast of booths. Then the mighty war-horses, once the object of His
hatred, will be consecrated to His service, and the number of
pilgrims will be so great that every pot in the city and in the
province of Judah will be needed for ceremonial purposes.

Few problems in the Old Testament are more perplexing than that of the
origin and relation of the sections composing, ix.-xiv. to one another.
The utmost that can be said with comparative certainty is that the
prophecy, in its present form, is post-exilic, while certain elements
in it, especially in ix.-xi., are, if not pre-exilic, at any rate
imitations or reminiscences of pre-exilic prophecy. Many scholars even
deny that ix.-xiv. is a unity and assign it to at least two authors.
Though the superscription in xii. 1, which seems to justify this
distinction, was probably added, like Malachi i. i, by a later hand,
the presence of certain broad distinctions between ix.-xi. and
xii.-xiv. can hardly be denied. In the former section, Ephraim is
occasionally mentioned in combination with Judah, cf. ix. 13; in the
latter, Judah alone is mentioned, and partly, on the strength of this,
the former section is assigned to a period between Tiglath Pileser's
invasion of the north of Palestine in 734 (xi. 1-3) and the fall of the
northern kingdom in 721, while the latter is assigned to a period between
the death of Josiah in 609, to which the mourning in Megiddo is supposed
to allude, xii. 11, and the fall of the southern kingdom in 586.

Even within these sections there are differences which are held to
be incompatible with the unity of each section. The most notable
difference is perhaps that affecting the siege of Jerusalem. In ch.
xii. the heathen are destroyed before Jerusalem, while the city
itself remains secure; in ch. xiv. the houses are rifled, the women
ravished, and half of the people go into captivity before Jehovah
intervenes to protect the remainder. These and other differences are
unmistakable, yet it may be questioned whether they are so serious
as to be fatal to the unity of the whole section, ix.-xiv. It is not
impossible that they may be due to the eclectic spirit of an author
who gathered from many quarters material for his eschatological
pictures. Besides, the sections which have been by some scholars
relegated to different authors, occasionally seem to imply each
other. The general assault on Jerusalem in ch. xii., e.g., is the
natural result of the breaking of the staves, Favour and Unity, in
ch. xi. But, even if ix.-xiv. be a unity, it is well to remember, as
Cornill reminds us, that there is "much in these chapters which will
ever remain obscure and unintelligible, because our knowledge of the
whole post-exilic and especially of the early Hellenic period is
extremely deficient."

This leads to the question of date. The last section (xii.-xiv.) at
any rate is obviously post-exilic. The idea of the general assault
on Jerusalem is undoubtedly suggested by Ezekiel xxxviii.; the
curiously condemnatory attitude to prophecy in xiii. 2-6 would have
been impossible in pre-exilic times; the phrase, "Uzziah _king of
Judah_," xiv. 5, rather implies that the dynasty is past, and the
reference to the earthquake in his reign has the flavour of a
learned reminiscence.[1] These and other circumstances practically
necessitate a post-exilic date, and the objection based upon xii. 11
falls to the ground, as that verse alludes, in all probability, not
to lamentations for the death of Josiah, which would no doubt have
taken place in Jerusalem, but to laments which accompanied the
worship of the Semitic Adonis. Nor can any objection be grounded
upon the allusion to idolatry in xiii. 2, as idolatry persisted into
post-exilic times.[2]
[Footnote 1: Even if the earliest possible date (about 600) for this
section be accepted, the earthquake had taken place a century and a
half before.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. Job xxxi. 2eff. and perhaps also Ps. xvi.]

If ix.-xiv. be a unity, a definite _terminus a quo_ is provided
in ix. 13 by the mention of the Greeks, whose sons are opposed to
the sons of Zion. Such a relation of Jews to Greeks is not
conceivable before the time of Alexander the Great, and this fact
alone would throw the prophecy, at the earliest, into the fourth
century B.C. But there are other facts which seem to some to make
for a pre-exilic date: e.g. the mention of Judah and Ephraim
together, ix. 13 (cf. ix. 10), seems to presuppose the existence of
both kingdoms, and Egypt and Assyria are placed side by side, x. 10,
11, precisely in the manner of Hosea (ix. 3, xi. 5). But these
facts, significant as they may seem, are by no means decisive in
favour of a pre-exilic date. Assyria was the first great world power
with which Israel came into hostile contact, and the name was not
unnaturally transferred by later ages to the hostile powers of their
own day--to Babylon in Lam. v. 6, to Persia in Ezra vi. 22, and
possibly to Syria in Isaiah xxvii. 13. Consequently, in a context
which assigns the passage, at the earliest, to the Greek period,
Assyria and Egypt would very naturally designate the Seleucid and
Ptolemaic kingdoms respectively, and the prophecy might be safely
relegated to the third century, B.C.[1] The allusion to Ephraim is
not incompatible with this date, for the prophecy presupposes a
general dispersion, x. 9, which must be later than the fall of Judah
in 586, considering that residence in Egypt, x. 10, is implied (cf.
Jer. xlii.-xliv.). Nothing more need be implied by the allusion to
Ephraim than that there will be a general restoration of all the
tribes that were once driven into exile and are now scattered
throughout the world.
[Footnote 1: Marti puts it as late as 160. One of the most important
clues would be furnished by xi. 8--"I cut off the three shepherds in
one month"--if the reference were not so cryptic. Advocates of a
pre-exilic date find in the words an allusion to three successors of
Jeroboam II. of Israel--Zechariah, Shallum and some unknown
pretender (about 740); others, to the rapid succession of high
priests before the Maccabean wars (about 170). One month probably
signifies generally a brief time.]

If chs. ix.-xiv. belong to the third century B.C., they give us an
interesting glimpse into the aspirations and defects of later Judaism.
They reveal an unbounded faith in the importance of Jerusalem, and in
the certainty of its triumph over the assaults of heathenism; on the
other hand, they are inspired by a fine universalism, xiv. 16ff. But
this universalism has a distinctly Levitical and legalistic colouring,
xiv. 21. Membership in the kingdom of God involves abstinence from
food proscribed by the Levitical law, ix. 7; and even for the heathen
the worship of Jehovah takes the form of the celebration of the feast
of booths, xiv. 16. There is in the prophecy a noble appreciation of the
world-wide destiny of the true religion, but hardly of its essentially
spiritual nature.


It is not inappropriate that Malachi,[1] though not the latest of
the prophets, should close the prophetic collection. The concluding
words of this book, which predict the coming of the great prophet
Elijah, iv. 5f, and the apocalyptic tone of Malachi, show that
prophecy feels itself unable to cope adequately with the moral
situation and is conscious of its own decline. Here, as in Haggai,
interest gathers round ritual rather than moral obligation, though
the latter is not neglected, iii. 5, and the religion for which
Malachi pleads is far from being exhausted by ritual. He takes a
lofty view, approaching to Jesus' own, of the obligations of the
marriage relation, ii. 16; and perfunctory ritual he abhors, chiefly
because it expresses a deep-seated indifference to God and His
claims, iii. 8. The clergy or the laity who offer God their lame or
blemished beasts are guilty of an offence that goes deeper than
ritual. Their whole ideal of religion and service is insulting; they
have forgotten that Jehovah is "a great King," i. 14.
[Footnote 1: Ch. i. 1 is late, modelled, like Zech. xii. 1 on Zech.
ix. 1. The word Malachi has no doubt been suggested by
_Malachi_ in iii. i (= my messenger). The prophecy is really

The prophecy of Malachi is closely knit together. Addressing a people
who doubt the love of their God, he begins by pointing-strangely
enough from the Christian standpoint, but intelligibly enough from
that of early post-exilic Judaism--to the desolation of Edom, Judah's
enemy (cf. Obadiah) in poof of that love, i. 2-5; and asks how Judah
has responded to it. The priests present inferior offerings, thus
forming, in their insulting indifference, a strange contrast to the
untutored heathen hearts all the world over, which offer God pure
service; they have put to shame the ancient ideals, i. 6-ii. 9. The
people, too, are as guilty as the priests; for they had divorced
their faithful Jewish wives who had borne them children, and married
foreign women who were a menace to the purity of the national religion,
ii. 10-16. Those who are beginning to doubt the moral order because
Jehovah does not manifestly interpose as the God of justice, are
assured by the prophet that the Lord, preceded by a messenger, is on
His way; and He will punish, first the unfaithful priests, and then
the unfaithful people, ii. 17-iii. 5. His apparent indifference to the
people is due to their real indifference to Him; if they bring in the
tithes, the blessing will come, iii. 6-12. As before, ii. 17ff., the
despondent are assured that Jehovah has not forgotten them; He is
writing their names in a book, and when He comes in judgment, the
faithful will be spared, and then the difference between the destinies
of the good and the bad will be plain for all to see. The wicked shall
be trampled under foot, and upon the dark world in which the upright
mourn shall arise the sun, from whose gentle rays will stream healing
for bruised minds and hearts, iii. 13-iv. 4. Before that day Elijah
will come to heal the dissensions of the home, iv. 5, 6. (cf. ii. 14).

The atmosphere of the book of Malachi is very much like that of
Ezra-Nehemiah. The same problems emerge in both--foreign marriages,
neglect of payment of tithes, etc. But the allusion to the presents
given the governor, i. 8, shows that the book was not written during
the governorship of Nehemiah, who claims to have accepted no
presents (Neh. v. 14-18). On the other hand, the state of affairs
presented by the book is inconceivable after the measures adopted by
Ezra and Nehemiah; therefore, Malachi must precede them. Probably
however, not by much; it was Malachi and others like-minded who
prepared the way for the reformation, and his date may be roughly
fixed at 460-450 B.C. Consistently with this, the priests are
designated Levites, ii. 4, iii. 3, as in Deuteronomy; the book must
therefore precede the priestly code which sharply distinguishes
priests and Levites.

There is an unusual proportion of dialogue in Malachi. Good men are
perplexed by the anomalies of the moral order, and they are not
afraid to debate them. Malachi's solution is largely, though not
exclusively, iii. 8-12, apocalyptic; and though in this, as in his
emphasis on the cult, iii. 4, and his attitude to Edom, i. 2ff., he
stands upon the level of ordinary Judaism, in other respects he
rises far above it. Coming from one to whom correct ritual meant so
much, his utterance touching heathen worship is not only
refreshingly, but astonishingly bold. In all the Old Testament,
there is no more generous outlook upon the foreign world than that
of i. 11. Though the priests of the temple at Jerusalem insult the
name of Jehovah and are wearied with His service, yet "from sunrise
to sunset My name is great among the (heathen) nations, and in every
place pure offerings are offered to My name; for great is My name
among the heathen, saith Jehovah of hosts."


The piety of the Old Testament Church is reflected with more
clearness and variety in the Psalter than in any other book of the
Old Testament. It constitutes the response of the Church to the
divine demands of prophecy, and, in a less degree, of law; or,
rather, it expresses those emotions and aspirations of the universal
heart which lie deeper than any formal demand. It is the speech of
the soul face to face with God. Its words are as simple and
unaffected as human words can be, for it is the genius of Hebrew
poetry to lay little stress upon artifices of rhyme and rhythm. By
its simple device of parallelism, it suggests a rhythm profounder
than the sound of any words--the response of thought to thought, the
calling of deep to deep, the solemn harmonies that run throughout
the universe. Whether the second thought of a verse is co-ordinate
with the first, as--

  Let us break their bands asunder,
  And cast away their cords from us, ii 3.

or contrasted with it, as--

  Jehovah knows the way of the righteous,
  But the way of the ungodly shall perish, i. 6,

the resulting parallelism is essentially simple, and the Hebrew poet
can express his profoundest thoughts and feelings with lucidity and
freedom. It is the depth and sincerity of its emotion, coupled with
this unrivalled simplicity of expression that has given the Psalter
its abiding-place in the religious history of humanity.

With the partial exception of Psalm xlv., which is a marriage song,
the songs of the Psalter are exclusively religious. Indeed most of
the poetry of the Old Testament is religious; the Song of Deborah,
e.g. (Jud. v.), or the Psalm of Hezekiah (Isa. xxxviii.). But, from
scattered hints it is abundantly plain that, especially before the
exile, Hebrew poetry must have ranged over a wide variety of themes.
So far as we know, the Hebrews never had an epic; and though a
certain epic power is occasionally suggested by the extant
literature, it may be doubted whether the Hebrew genius, which was
essentially lyrical, would have been capable of the long sustained
effort demanded by a great epic. But the lyrical genius of the
Hebrew found abundant opportunity in life's common joys, sorrows and
activities. Victories in battle were celebrated in ballads, which
made the blood leap, love songs were sung at weddings, and dirges
were chanted over the dead. The labour of drawing water, of reaping
the fields or gathering the vintage, was relieved by snatches of
song. There was all this and more, but it has nearly all perished,
leaving little more than an echo, because the men who compiled and
edited the Old Testament were dominated by an exclusively religious

But if the interest of the Psalter be exclusively religious, we have
no reason to complain of its variety. From the deepest despair to
the highest exaltation, every mood of the soul is uttered there.
Many a classification of the Psalter has been attempted, e.g. into
(_a_) psalms of gladness, such as thanksgiving (xlvi.),
adoration (viii.); (_b_) psalms of sadness, such as lamentation
(lxxiv.), confession (li.), supplication (cii.); (_c_) psalms
of reflection, such as the occasional didactic poetry (cxix.), or
discussions of the moral order (lxxiii.). But in the nature of the
case, no classification can ever hope to be completely satisfactory,
if for no other reason than that the psalms, being for the most part
lyrics, are often marked by subtle and rapid changes of feeling,
passing sometimes, as in Psalm xxii., from the most touching laments
to the most daring expressions of hope and gladness. The following
classification, though exposed, as all such classifications must be,
to the charge of cross-division, will afford a working basis for the
study of the Psalter:--

(1) Psalms of Adoration, including (_a_) adoration of God for
His revelation in nature, viii., xix. 1-6, xxix., civ.; (_b_)
adoration of Him for His love to His people, xxxiii., ciii., cxi.,
cxiii., cxv., cxvii., cxlvii.; (_c_) praise of His glorious
kingdom, cxlv., cxlvi., ending with the call to universal praise,
cxlviii., cl.

(2) Psalms of Reflection (_a_) upon the moral order of the
world, ix., x., xi., xiv., xxxvi., xxxvii., xxxix., xlix., lii.,
lxii., lxxiii., lxxv., lxxxii., xc., xcii., xciv.; (_b_) upon
Divine Providence, xvi., xxiii., xxxiv., xci., cxii., cxxi., cxxv.,
cxxvii., cxxviii., cxxxiii., cxxxix., cxliv. 12-15; (_c_) on
the value of Scripture, i., xix. 7-14, cxix.; (_d_) on the
nature of the ideal man, xv., xxiv. 1-6, l.

(3) Psalms of Thanksgiving, most of them for historical
deliverances, e.g. from the exile, or from the Syrians in the second
century B.C., xxx., xl., xlvi., xlviii., lxv., lxvi., lxvii.,
lxviii., lxxvi., cxvi., cxviii., cxxiv., cxxvi., cxxix., cxxxviii.,
cxliv. 1-11, cxlix.

(4) Psalms in Celebration of Worship, v., xxiv., 7-10, xxvi.,
xxvii., xlii.-xliii., lxxxiv., cxxii., cxxxiv.

(5) Historical Psalms (_a_) emphasizing the unfaithfulness of
the people, lxxviii., lxxxi., cvi.; (_b_) emphasizing the love
or power of God, cv., cxiv., cxxxv., cxxxvi.

(6) Imprecatory Psalms, lviii, lix., lxix., lxxxiii., cix., cxxxvii.

(7) Penitential Psalms, vi., xxxii., xxxviii., li., cii., cxxx.,

(8) Psalms of Petition (_a_) prayers for deliverance,
preservation or restoration, iii., iv., vii., xii., xiii., xvii.,
xxv., xxxi., xxxv., xli., xliv., liv., lv., lx., lxiv., lxxi.,
lxxiv., lxxvii., lxxix., lxxx., lxxxv., lxxxvi., lxxxviii., cxx.,
cxxiii., cxxxi., cxl., cxli., cxlii; (_b_) answered prayers,
xxii., xxviii., lvi., lvii.

(9) Royal Psalms (_a_) king's coronation, xxi.; (_b_)
marriage, xlv.; (_c_) prayers for his welfare and success, xx.,
lxi, lxiii.; (_d_) his character, lxxii., ci.; (_e_)
dominion, ii., xviii., cx.; (_f_) yearning for the Messianic
King, lxxxix., cxxxii.

(10) Psalms concerning the universal reign of Jehovah, i.e.
Messianic psalms in the largest sense of the word, xlvii., lxxxvii.,
xciii., xcv., xcvi., xcvii., xcviii., xcix., c.

The Psalter has plainly had a long history. In its present form it
obviously rests upon groups, which in turn rest upon individual
psalms, that are no doubt often far older than the groups in which
they stand. Like the Pentateuch, and perhaps in imitation of it, the
Psalter is divided into five books, whose close is indicated, in
each case, by a doxology (xli., lxxii., lxxxix., cvi.), except in
the case of the last psalm, which is itself a doxology (cl.). This
division appears to have been artificially effected. Psalm cvii.,
which starts the last book, goes naturally with cv. and cvi., which
close the fourth book; and the circumstance that the number of
psalms in the fourth book corresponds exactly with that of the
third, raises a strong suspicion that the break was deliberately
made at Psalm cvi. It is very probable, too, that the doxology at
the close of Psalm cvi. (cf. 1 Chron. xvi. 36), which differs
somewhat from the other doxologies, was originally intended as a
doxology to that psalm only, and not to indicate the close of the
book. In any case, the contents of books 4 and 5, which are very
largely liturgical, are so similar that they may be practically
considered as one book.

Books 2 and 3 may also be similarly regarded; for whereas in books
1, 4 and 5 the name of the divine Being is predominantly Jehovah, in
books 2 and 3 it is predominantly Elohim (God), and there can be no
doubt that these two books, at least as far as Ps. lxxxiii., have
been submitted to an Elohistic redaction. Psalm xiv., _e.g._,
reappears in the 2nd book as Psalm liii. in a form practically
identical, except for the name of God, which is Jehovah in the one
(xiv.) and Elohim in the other (liii.); the change is, therefore,
undoubtedly deliberate. This is also made plain by the presence of
such impossible phrases as "God, thy God," xlv. 7, 1. 7, instead of
the natural and familiar "Jehovah, thy God." Whatever the motive for
the choice of this divine name (Elohim) may be, it is so thoroughly
characteristic of books 2 and 3 that they may not unfairly be held
to constitute a group by themselves. In this way the Psalter falls
into three great groups--book I (i.-xli.), which is Jehovistic,
books 2 and 3 (xlii.-lxxxix.), which are Elohistic, and books 4 and
5 (xc.-cl.), which are Jehovistic..

These greater groups rest, however, upon other smaller ones, some formally
acknowledged, e.g. the so-called Psalms of Ascent or Pilgrim psalms
(cxx.-cxxxiv.), the Psalms of David, Psalms of the Korahites (xlii.-xlix.,
etc.), Psalms of Asaph (lxxiii.-lxxxiii., etc.), and others not so obvious
in a translation, e.g. the Hallelujah Psalms, cxi.-cxiii., cxlvi.-cl.
These groups must often have enjoyed an independent reputation as
groups, and even been invested with a certain canonical authority, for
occasionally the same psalm appears in two different groups (xiv.=liii.,
xl. 13-17=lxx., cviii.=lvii. 7-11 +lx. 6-12). Such repetition proves that
the final editors did not consider themselves at liberty to make any
change within the groups. The principle of the arrangement of individual
psalms within the group was probably not a scientific one: e.g. xxxiv.
and xxxv. seem to be placed together for no other reason than that both
refer to "the angel of Jehovah," xxxiv. 7, xxxv. 5. Sometimes a psalm
has been wrongly divided into two (cf. xlii., xliii., originally one
psalm) and occasionally two psalms have been united, usually for
reasons that are transparent (so perhaps xix., the revelation in the
heavens and the revelation in the Scriptures, and xxiv., the entrance
of Jehovah into His temple, and the essential conditions for the
entrance of man).

The original order of the groups themselves appears to have been
dislocated. Whoever added the subscription to Psalm lxxii. can hardly
have been aware of the eighteen psalms which, in the subsequent books
of the Psalter, are ascribed to David; nor is it natural to suppose
that the Asaphic (l.) and Korahitic psalms (xlii.-xlix.) stood in the
second book when that subscription was written. It is not improbable
that Psalms xlii.-l. originally belonged to the third book, along
with the Asaphic group, lxxiii.-lxxxiii., and that lxxii. 20, "The
prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended," was intended as the
subscription of all the Davidic psalms that had then been collected
(Book I, except Pss. i., ii., x., xxxiii., and book 2, Pss. li.-lxx.).[1]
The first two books originally represented a Davidic hymn-book; they
probably represent, as a whole, the oldest part of the Psalter.
[Footnote 1: Psalms i. and ii. were placed at the beginning as
prefatory to the whole Psalter. They deal with the two cardinal
points of Judaism--the law and the Messianic hope. Psalms ix. and x.
originally constituted _one_ alphabetic psalm, and xxxiii. is
ascribed to David in the Septuagint.]

The problem of the authorship of the Psalms is one of the thorniest
in the Old Testament. One hundred psalms are ascribed to definite
authors: one is ascribed to Moses (xc.), seventy-three to David, two
to Solomon (lxxvii., cxxvii.); and yet there are not a few scholars
who maintain that, so far from any psalm being Mosaic, or even
Davidic, there is not a single pre-exilic psalm in the Psalter, and
the less radical critics do not allow more than thirty or forty. The
question must be settled entirely upon internal evidence, as the
superscriptions, definite as they often are, are never demonstrably
reliable, while some of them are plainly impossible. To begin with,
doubt attaches to the meaning of the Hebrew preposition in the
phrase, "Psalm _of_ David." It is the same preposition as that
rendered by _for_ in the phrase, "For the chief musician," and
as in this phrase authorship is out of the question, it may be
seriously doubted whether it is implied in the phrase rendered
"Psalm of David." This doubt is corroborated by the phrase, "Psalms
of the sons of Korah." Plainly all the Korahites did not cooperate
in the composition of the psalms so superscribed; and the most
natural inference is that the phrase does not here designate
authorship, but that the psalm is one of a collection in some sense
belonging to or destined for the Korahitic guild of temple-singers.
[1] In that case the phrase would have a liturgical sense, and the
parallel phrase "of (or for) David," might have to be similarly
explained. It must be confessed, however, that whatever the actual
origin of the superscription, "of (or for) David," it certainly came
to be regarded as implying authorship--the many historical notices
in the superscriptions of Psalms li.-lx. are proof enough of that;
and no other explanation is possible of the superscription "of
Moses" in Psalm, xc (cf. Is. xxxviii. 9, the writing of Hezekiah).
[Footnote 1: It is not absolutely impossible that the phrase might
point to a collection composed by this guild, cf. "Moravian
brethren." But the other supposition is more likely.]

In later times, then, authorship was plainly intended by the
superscriptions. But it is quite certain that the superscriptions
themselves are no original and integral parts of the psalms. In the
Septuagint they occasionally differ from the Hebrew, assigning
psalms that are anonymous in the Hebrew (xcv., cxxxvii.) to David,
or to other authors (e.g., cxlvi.-cxlviii. to Haggai and Zechariah.)
The ease with which psalms were, without warrant, ascribed to David
may be seen from the Greek superscription to Psalm xcvi. "When the
house [i.e. the temple] was being built after the captivity; a song
of David": in other words, an admittedly post-exilic psalm is
ascribed to David. The superscriptions were added probably long
after the psalms, and there is no reason to suppose that the Hebrews
were exempt from the uncritical methods and ideas which
characterized the Greek translators. That they shared them is
abundantly proved by the historical superscriptions. One at least
(Ps. xxxiv.) in substituting the name of Abimelech (Gen. xx.) for
Achish (1 Sam. xxi.) shows either ignorance or carelessness, and
casts a very lurid light on the reliability of the superscriptions.
The contents of other psalms are manifestly irreconcilable with the
assumed authorship: Asaph, e.g., whom the Chronicles regards as a
contemporary of David (1 Chron. xvi 7), laments in Psalms lxxiv.,
lxxix. the devastation of the temple, which was not at that time in
existence. The principles on which the superscriptions were added
were altogether superficial and uncritical. Psalm cxxvii. is
ascribed to Solomon, chiefly because its opening verse speaks of the
building of the house, which was understood to be the temple. So
Psalm lxiii. is described as "a psalm of David when he was in the
wilderness of Judah," simply on the strength of the words, "My soul
thirsteth for thee in a dry and weary land where no water is"--words
which are taken literally, though they were undoubtedly intended
metaphorically. A parallel case is that of the psalm inserted in
Jonah ii., obviously a church psalm whose figurative language has
been too literally pressed.

Enough has been said to show that the superscriptions are later than
the psalms themselves, and often, if not always, unreliable; we are
therefore wholly dependent upon internal evidence, and the criteria
for Davidic authorship must be sought outside the Psalter. The only
absolutely undisputed poems of David's are the elegy over Saul and
Jonathan in 2 Samuel i. and the lament over Abner (2 Sam. iii. 33,
34). There is no means of proving that 2 Samuel xxii. (=Ps. xviii.)
and 2 Samuel xxiii. 1-7 are David's, as they are interpolated in a
section of Samuel which is itself an interpolation (xxi.-xxiv.),
interrupting as it does the continuity of 2 Samuel xx. and I Kings
i. The data offered by the elegy are much too slender to enable us
to decide whether any particular psalm is David's or not. Some have
ventured to ascribe a dozen psalms or so to him on the strength of
their peculiar vigour and originality, but obviously all such
decisions must be altogether subjective. What is certain is that
David was an accomplished musician (1 Sam. xvi. 18) and a great poet
(2 Sam. i.), a man of the most varied experience, rich emotional
nature and profound religious feeling, a devoted worshipper of
Jehovah, and eager to build Him a temple; and it is not impossible
that such a man may have written religious songs, but in the nature
of the case it can never be proved that he wrote any of the songs in
the Psalter. Psalm xviii. has been by many assigned to him with
considerable confidence because of the support it is thought to
receive from its appearance in a historical book; but besides the
fact that this support, as we have seen, is slender, the psalm can
hardly, at least in its present form, have come from David. The
superscription assigns it to a later period in his life when he had
been delivered from all his enemies; but at that time he could not
have looked back over the past, stained by his great sin, with the
complacency which marks the confession in vv. 20-24. Others have
supposed that xxiv. 7-10, with its picture of the entrance of
Jehovah through the "ancient gates," may well be his. It may be, if
the gates are those of the city; but if, as is more probable, they
are the temple gates, then the psalm must be long after the time of
Solomon. In the quest for Davidic psalms we can never possibly rise
above conjecture. Later ages regarded David as the father of sacred
song, just as they regarded Moses as the author of Hebrew law.

There can be little doubt, however, that there are pre-exilic psalms
or fragments in the Psalter. From Psalm cxxxvii. 3, 4 we may safely
infer that already, by the time of the exile, there were songs of
Jehovah or songs of Zion. We cannot tell what these songs were like;
but when we remember that for nearly two centuries before the exile
great prophets had been working--and we cannot suppose altogether
ineffectually, for they had disciples--it is difficult to see why,
granting the poetic power which the Hebrew had from the earliest
times, pious spirits should not have expressed themselves in sacred
song, or why some of these songs may not be in the Psalter.

We appear to be on tolerably sure ground in at least some of the
"royal" psalms. Doubtless it is often very hard to say, as in Psalms
ii., lxxii., whether the king is a historical figure or the
Messianic King of popular yearning; and possibly (cf. lxxii.) a
psalm which originally contemplated a historical king may have been
in later times altered or amplified to fit the features of the ideal
king. Other psalms, again (e.g., lxxxix., cxxxii.), clearly are the
products of a time when the monarchy is no more. But there remain
others, expressing, e.g. a wish for the king's welfare (xx., xxi.),
which can only be naturally referred to a time when the king was on
the throne. It is not absolutely impossible to refer these to the
period of the Hasmoneans, who bore the title from the end of the
second century B.C.; but the history of the canon renders this
supposition extremely improbable. The contents of these psalms are
not above pre-exilic possibility, and their position in the first
book would, generally speaking, be in favour of the earlier date.
Psalm xlv. also, which celebrates the marriage of a king to a
foreign princess, seems almost to compel a pre-exilic date.

Some scholars, struck by the resemblance between many of the
sorrowful psalms and the poetry of Jeremiah, have not hesitated to
ascribe some of them to him (cf. xl. 2). Such a judgment is
necessarily subjective, but there can be little doubt that Jeremiah
powerfully influenced Hebrew religious poetry. The Greek
superscriptions, again, which assign certain psalms to Haggai and
Zechariah, though doubtless unreliable, are of interest in
suggesting the liturgical importance of the period following the
return from the exile. This period seems to have produced several
psalms. Psalm cxxvi,, with its curiously complex feeling, apparently
reflects the situation of that period, and the group of psalms which
proclaim Jehovah as King, and ring with the notes of a "new song,"
were probably composed to celebrate the joy of the return and the
resumption of public worship in the temple (xciii., xcv.-c., cf.
xcvi. 1). The history of the next three centuries is very obscure,
and many a psalm which we cannot locate may belong to that period;
but the psalms which celebrate the law (i., xix. 7ff., cxix.) no
doubt follow the reformation of Ezra in the fifth century.

It is not probable that there are many, if any, psalms later than
170-165 B.C. in the Maccabean period; some deny even this
possibility, basing their denial on the history of the canon. But if
the book of Daniel, which belongs to this same period, was admitted
to the canon, there is no reason why the same honour should not have
been conferred upon some of the psalms. The Maccabean period was
fitted, almost more than any other in Israel's history, to rouse the
religious passion of the people to song; and, as the possibility
must be conceded, the question becomes one of exegesis. Exegetically
considered, the claims of at least Psalms xliv., lxxiv., lxxix.,
lxxxiii. are indubitable. They speak of a desolation of the temple
in spite of a punctilious fulfilment of the law, a religious
persecution, a slaughter of the saints, a blasphemy of the holy
name. No situation fits these circumstances so completely as the
persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C., and
these psalms betray many remarkable affinities with passages in the
first book of the Maccabees. As long ago as the fifth century A.D.
the sharp-sighted Theodore of Mopsuestia believed that there were
seventeen Maccabean psalms; Calvin admitted at least three. It may
be safely concluded, then, that the Psalter brings us within about a
century and a half of the Christian era.

The criteria for determining the date of a psalm are few and meagre.
The Psalter expresses the piety of more than half a millennium, and
even the century cannot always be fixed. The language is often
general, and the thoughts uttered would be as possible and
appropriate to one century as another. Nearly forty years ago
Nöldeke maintained that there were psalms of which we could not say
with any definiteness to what period they belonged between 900 and
160 B.C. He himself referred Psalm ii. to Solomon, which had been
referred by Hitzig to Alexander Jannaeus (105-78 B.C.). Even where
the historical implications may seem fairly certain, there may be
more than one legitimate interpretation. Psalm xlvi., e.g., which is
usually regarded as a song of triumph sung after the departure of
Sennacherib, is by some interpreted eschatologically; Zion is the
ideal Zion of the latter days, and the stream that makes her glad is
the stream of Paradise. Some psalms, of course, have their origin
stamped very legibly upon them. Psalm cxxxvii. e.g., clearly implies
that the exile is not long over. The presence of Aramaisms in a
psalm is a fairly sure indication of a relatively late date. Within
certain limits, also, its theological ideas may be a guide, though
we know too little of the history of these ideas to use this
criterion with much confidence. Still, so elaborate an emphasis on
the omnipresence of God as we find in Psalm cxxxix. is only possible
to a later age, and this inference is more than confirmed by its
highly Aramaic flavour. Both these considerations render its
ascription to David utterly untenable.

The question was raised long ago and has been much discussed in
recent times, whether the subject of the Psalter is the individual
or the church; and till very recently the opinion has been gaining
ground that the experience and aspiration of the Psalter are not
personal and individual, but that in it is heard the collective
voice of the church. Many difficulties undoubtedly disappear or are
lessened on this interpretation, e.g., the bitterness of the
imprecatory psalms, or the far-reaching consequences attached in
other psalms (cf. xxii., xl.) to the deliverance of the singer. Till
the exile, the religious unit was the nation, and the collective use
of the singular pronoun is one of the commonest phenomena in Hebrew
literature. The Decalogue is addressed to Israel in the 2nd pers.
sing., in Deuteronomy the 2nd pers. sing, alternates with the pl.,
in the priestly blessing (Num. vi. 24ff.) Israel is blessed in the
singular. In Deutero-Isaiah, the servant of Jehovah is undoubtedly
to be interpreted collectively, and in many of the psalms the
collective interpretation is put beyond all doubt by the very
explicit language of the context:

  Much have they afflicted me from my youth up,
  Let _Israel_ now say, cxxix. 11

All this is true, and there are probably more collective psalms in
the Psalter than we have been accustomed to believe. But it would be
ridiculous to suppose that every psalm has to be so interpreted. Some
of the psalms were originally written without any view to the temple
service, and they must have expressed the individual emotion of the
singer.[1] Besides, Jeremiah had shown or at least suggested that
the real unit was the individual; the teaching of Ezekiel and the
book of Job are proof that the lesson had been well learned; and,
although the post-exilic church may have felt its solidarity and
realized its corporate consciousness as acutely as the pre-exilic
nation, the individual, as a religious unit, could never again be
forgotten. He had come to stay; and if, in many psalms, the general
voice of the church is heard, it is equally certain that many  others
utter the emotions and experiences of individual singers.
[Footnote 1: That Psalms, now collective, were originally
individual, and subsequently altered and adapted to the use of the
community is seen, e.g., in the occasional disturbance of the order
in alphabetical psalms (ix., x.). ]

The Psalter, or part of it, was used in the temple service[1]-witness
the numerous musical and liturgical superscriptions (cf. superscr. of
Ps. xcii.)--though the people probably did no more than sing or utter
the responses (cvi. 48). It would be difficult to estimate the
importance of the Psalter to the Old Testament Church. It was the
support of piety as well as the expression of it; and, to a worship
which laid so much stress upon punctilious ritual and animal sacrifice,
the Psalter, with its austere spiritual tone, its simple passion for
God, and its bracing sense of fellowship with the Eternal, would come
as a wholesome corrective. Almost in the spirit of the older prophets
(Hos. vi. 6) animal sacrifice is relegated to an altogether subordinate
place (xl., l., li.), if it is not indeed rebuked: the sacrifice dear
to God is a broken spirit. Thus the Psalter was a mighty contribution
in one direction, as the synagogue in another, to the development of
spiritual religion. It kept alive the prophetic element in Israel's
religion, and did much to counteract the more blighting influences of
Judaism. The place of the law is occasionally recognized (i., xix. 7ff.),
once very emphatically (cxix.), but it is honoured chiefly for its moral
stimulus. It is not, as in later times, an incubus; it is still an
[Footnote 1: The addition of the last verse to the alphabetic
psalms, xxv. and xxxiv., adapts these psalms, whether originally
individual or collective, to the temple service.]

There are tempers in the Psalter which are anything but lovely-hatred
of enemies, protestation of self-righteousness, and other utterances
which prevent it from being, in its entirety, the hymn-book of the
Christian Church. Historically these things are explicable and perhaps
inevitable, but the glory of the Psalter is its overwhelming sense of
the reality of God. The men who wrote it counted God their Friend; and
although they never forgot that He was the infinite One, whose home is
the universe and who fills the vast spaces of history with His
faithfulness and His justice, He was also to them the patient and
loving One, who preserves both man and beast, under the shadow of whose
wings the children of men may rest with quietness and confidence, and
before whom they could pour out the deepest thoughts and petitions of
their hearts, in the assurance that He was the hearer of prayer, and
that His tender mercies were over all His works. He was to them the
source of all strength and consolation and vision. In His light they
saw light; and in their noblest moments--whatever they might lose or
suffer--with Him they were content. In Luther's fine paraphrase of
Psalm lxxiii. 25, "If I have but Thee, I ask for nothing in heaven or


Many specimens of the so-called _Wisdom Literature_ are
preserved for us in the book of Proverbs, for its contents are by no
means confined to what we call proverbs. The first nine chapters
constitute a continuous discourse, almost in the manner of a sermon;
and of the last two chapters, ch. xxx. is largely made up of
enigmas, and xxxi. is in part a description of the good housewife.

All, however, are rightly subsumed under the idea of wisdom, which
to the Hebrew had always moral relations. The Hebrew wise man seldom
or never gave himself to abstract speculation; he dealt with issues
raised by practical life. Wise men are spoken of almost as an
organized guild, and coordinated with priests and prophets as early
as the time of Jeremiah (xviii. 18), but the general impression made
by the pre-exilic references to the wise men is that they exercised
certain quasi-political functions and hardly correspond to the wise
men of later times who discussed issues of the moral life and
devoted themselves to the instruction of young men (Prov. i. 4, 8).

Most of the important types of thought of the wise men are represented
in the book of Proverbs. There are proverbs proper, a few of the
popular kind, but most of them bearing the stamp of deliberate art,
and dealing with the prudent conduct of life (x.-xxix.); there are
speculations of a more general kind on the nature that wisdom which
is the guide of life (i.-ix.); and there is scepticism (cf. Eccles.)
represented by the words of Agur (xxx. 1-4). The book, as a whole, might
be described as a guide to the happy life, or, we might almost say, to
the successful life--for a certain not ignoble utilitarianism clings
to many of its precepts. The world is recognized as a moral and orderly
world, and wisdom is profitable unto all things. The wisdom which the
wise man manifests in contact with life and its exigencies is but a
counterpart of the divine wisdom which, in one noble passage, is the
fellow of God and more ancient than creation (viii.).

There is not a little literary power in the book. Very beautiful is
Wisdom's appeal to the sons of men, and her invitation to the
banquet (viii., ix.). The isolated proverbs in x.-xxix. are usually
more terse and powerful than they appear in the English translation.
There are flashes of humour too:

  As a ring of gold in a swine's snout,
  So is a fair woman without discretion, xi. 22.
  Withhold not correction from thy son,
  Though thou smite him with the rod, he will not die, xxiii. 13.

They deal with life upon its average levels: there is nothing of the
prophetic enthusiasm, but they are robust and kindly withal.

Not without reason has the book been called "a forest of proverbs,"
for at any rate in the body of it it is practically impossible to
detect any principle of order. Usually the sayings in x.-xxix. are
disconnected, but occasionally kindred sayings are gathered into
groups of two or more verses; and sometimes it would seem as if the
principle of arrangement was alphabetic, several consecutive verses
occasionally beginning with the same letter, e.g., xx. 7-9, xxii. 2-4.
 There are eight divisions--

(_a_) i.-ix. (of which i. 1-6 is no doubt designed as an
introduction to the whole book, and vi. 1-19 is probably an
interpolation): an impressive appeal to secure wisdom and avoid
folly, especially when she appears in the guise of the strange
woman. Wisdom's own appeal and invitation.

(_b_) x.-xxii. 16. A series of very loosely connected proverbs
in couplets, x.-xv. being chiefly antithetic (cf. x. 1, xv. 1) and
xvi. 1-xxii. 16 chiefly synthetic (cf. xvi. 16).

(_c_) xxii. 17-xxiv. 22, designated as "the words of the wise,"
containing a few continuous pieces (cf. xxiii. 29-35 on drunkenness)
and addressed, like i.-ix., to "my son," cf. xxiii. 15, 26.

(_d_) xxiv. 23-34, probably little more than an appendix to
(_c_), and also containing a continuous piece (cf. _vv._
30-34 on sloth).

(_e_) xxv.-xxix. A series, in many respects resembling
(_6_), of loosely connected sayings. This section, especially
xxv.-xxvii., contains more proverbs in the strict sense, i.e.
sayings without any specific moral bearing, e.g. xxv. 25.

(_f_) xxx. The words of Agur, of a sceptical and enigmatical
kind, worked over by an orthodox reader (cf. _vv_. 5, 6, which
reprove _vv_. 2-4).

(_g_) xxxi. 1-9. Words addressed to king Lemuel (whom we cannot
identify) by his mother.

(_h_) xxxi. 10-31. An alphabetic poem in praise of the good

Clearly the book makes no pretence to be, as a whole, from Solomon.
If we except i. 1-6, which is introductory to the whole book, only
(_b_) and (_e_) are assigned to Solomon: the other
sections--except the last, are deliberately assigned to others,
(_c_) and (_d_) expressly to "the wise." The ascription of
the whole book to Solomon, which seems to be implied by its opening
verse, and which, if genuine, would render the fresh ascription in
x. 1 unnecessary, is no doubt to be explained as the similar
ascription of the Psalms to David or the legislation to Moses. He
was the "wise man" of Hebrew antiquity, and he is expressly said in
1 Kings iv. 32 to have spoken 3,000 proverbs. The implication of
that passage (cf. _v_. 33) is that those proverbs consisted of
comparisons between men and trees or animals: that supposition is
met by some (cf. vi. 6) but not by many in the book. There are not
likely then to be many of his proverbs in our book; but not
impossibly there may be some. Ch. xxv. 1 is indeed very explicit,
but that notice is, on the face of it, late. The fact that Hezekiah
is called not simply king, but king of Judah, seems to point to a
time--at the earliest the exile--when the kingdom of Judah was no
more; so that this notice would be about a century and a half after
Hezekiah's time, and Hezekiah is more than two centuries after
Solomon. Obviously many of the proverbs in x.-xxix. could not have
been Solomon's. The advice as to the proper demeanour in the
presence of a king (xxv. 6, 7) would not come very naturally from
one who was himself a king (cf. xxiii.1ff.); nor, to say nothing of
the praises of monogamy, would he be likely so to satirize his own
government as he would do in xxix. 4: "He whose exactions are
excessive ruins the land."

The question may, however, be fairly raised whether the proverbs,
though as a whole not Solomonic, may yet be pre-exilic; and here two
questions must be kept apart--the date of the individual proverbs
and the date of the collections or of the book as a whole. Now it is
very probable that some of the proverbs are pre-exilic. The
references to the king, e.g.--kindly in x-xxii., and more severe in
xxv-xxix.--might indeed apply to the Greek period (fourth and third
centuries B.C.), but are equally applicable to the pre-exilic
period; and many of the shrewd observations on life might come
equally well from any period. But there can be little doubt that the
groups in their present form are post-exilic. The sages do their
work on the basis of the achievements of law and prophecy.[1] The
great prophetic ideas about God are not discussed, they are
presupposed; while the "law" of xxviii. 4, 7, 9, as in Psalm cxix.,
appears to be practically equivalent to Scripture, and would point
to the fifth century at the earliest. True, there are sayings quite
in the old prophetic spirit, to the effect that character is more
acceptable to God than ritual and sacrifice, xxi. 3, 27, xv. 8, xvi.
6; but this would be an equally appropriate and almost more
necessary warning in post-exilic times, especially upon the lips of
men whose profession was in part that of moral education.
[Footnote 1: The text of xxix. 18_a_ is too insecure (cf.
Septuagint) to justify us in saying that prophecy still exists. ]

There is no challenge of idolatry, such as we should expect if the
book were pre-exilic, and monogamy is everywhere presupposed. Indeed
it is very remarkable that no mention is made of Israel, or of any
institutions distinctly Israelitic. Its subject is not the nation,
but the individual, and its wisdom is cosmopolitan. Now though this
appeal to man rather than Israel, this emphasis on the universal
conscience, can be traced as far back as the eighth century[1] (Amos
iii. 9), the thoroughgoing application of it in Proverbs suggests a
larger experience of international relationships, which could hardly
be placed before the exile, and was not truly developed till long
after it, say, in the Persian or Greek period. This is peculiarly
true of chs. i-ix., which was probably an independent piece,
prefixed to x.-xxix., to gather up their sporadic elements of wisdom
in a comprehensive whole, and to secure an adequate religious basis
for their maxims which were, in the main, ethical. It is not
necessary to suppose that the personification of wisdom in ch. viii.
is directly influenced by Greek philosophy, but the whole
speculative manner of the passage points to a late, even if
independent, development of Jewish thought. The last two chapters
are probably the latest in the book, which, while it must be earlier
than Ben Sirach (180 B.C.), who distinctly adapts it, is probably
not earlier than 300 B.C.
[Footnote 1: Micah vi. 8, "He that showed thee, _O man_, what
is good," is also a saying of far-reaching significance in this

The value of this much-neglected book is very great. It is easy of
course to point to its limitations--to show that it hardly, if ever
(ix. 18?) looks out upon another world, but confines its
compensations and its penalties to this, xi. 31, or to discover
utilitarian elements in its morality, in. 10, or mechanical features
in its conception of life, xvi. 31. But it would be easy to
exaggerate. The sages know very well that a good name is better than
wealth, xxii. 1, and that the deepest success of life is its
conformity to the divine wisdom (i.-ix.). While most of the maxims
are purely ethical, it has to be remembered that to the Hebrew
morality rests upon religion: the introductory section (i.-ix.)
throws its influence across the whole book, the motto of which is
that the fear of Jehovah is the basis of knowledge and its chief
constituent, i. 7. Besides, many of the maxims themselves are
specifically religious, e.g., "He that oppresseth the poor
reproacheth his Maker," xiv. 31, "He that hath pity on the poor
lendeth to Jehovah," xix. 17. On the more purely moral side, besides
giving a welcome glimpse into ancient Hebrew society, it is rich in
applications to modern life. Slander and revenge are severely
denounced; and earnest and repeated warnings are lifted up in
different parts of the book against wine and women (v., xxiii.,
xxxi.). Care for animals is inculcated, xii. 10, and love to
enemies, xxv. 21., in words borrowed by the New Testament--a notable
advance on Leviticus xix. 18.

In one or two respects the book is of peculiar interest and value to
the modern world. It is more interested, e.g., in practice than in
creed. Its creed is very simple, little more than a general fear of
Jehovah; but this receives endless application to practical life.
Again, the appeal of the book is, on the whole, not to revelation,
but to experience, and it meets the average man and woman upon their
ordinary level. Its appeal is therefore one which cannot be evaded,
as it commends itself, without the support of revelation, to the
universal moral instincts of mankind. Again, its emphasis upon the
moral, as opposed to the speculative, is striking. Immediately after
a passage which approaches as near to metaphysical speculation as
any Old Testament writer ever approaches, viii. 22-31, comes a
direct, tender and personal appeal. Lastly, there is an almost
modern sense of the inexorableness of law in the solemn reminder
that those who refuse and despise the call of wisdom will be left
alone and helpless when their day of trouble comes, i. 22ff. But the
sternness is mitigated by a gentler thought. Like a gracious lady,
wisdom, which is only one aspect of the divine Providence, pleads
with men, yearning to win them from their folly to the peace and
happiness which are alone with her; and even suffering is but one of
the ways of God, a confirmation of sonship, and even a manifestation
of His love.

  Whom Jehovah loveth, He reproveth,
  Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth, iii. 12.

This is perhaps the profoundest note in the book of Proverbs. A book
so rich in moral precept and religious thought may well claim to
have fulfilled its programme: "to give prudence to the simple, to
the young man knowledge and discretion," i. 4.


The book of Job is one of the great masterpieces of the world's
literature, if not indeed the greatest. The author was a man of
superb literary genius, and of rich, daring, and original mind. The
problem with which he deals is one of inexhaustible interest, and
his treatment of it is everywhere characterized by a psychological
insight, an intellectual courage, and a fertility and brilliance of
resource which are nothing less than astonishing. Opinion has been
divided as to how the book should be classified, whether as epic,
dramatic or didactic poetry. It is didactic at any rate in the sense
that the poet, who wrote it with his heart's blood, intended to read
his generation a much-needed lesson on the mysterious discipline of
life; and it is dramatic, though not in the ordinary sense--for in
the poetry proper there is no development of action--yet in the
sense that it vividly pourtrays the conflict of minds, and the clash
of conventional with independent opinion.

The story of the book is easily told. The prologue (i., ii.)
introduces Job as a pattern of scrupulous piety, and therefore, in
accordance with the ancient view, a prosperous man. In the heavenly
council, the Satan insinuates that, if the prosperity be withdrawn,
the piety will also disappear. Jehovah, sure of His servant Job,
grants the Satan permission to deprive Job of all that he
_has_, in order that he may discover what he _is_. Job
sustains the four fierce blows, which stripped him of all, with
beautiful resignation. The Satan is foiled. He now insinuates that
the trial has not been severe enough: only his property has been
touched--not his person. With Jehovah's permission a second assault
is made, and Job is smitten with the incurable and loathsome disease
of leprosy, so that he is without hope in the world. He has nothing
but God--will God be enough? Again Job sustains his trial in noble
and ever-memorable words; and the Satan is foiled again. Then three
of Job's friends--great sheikhs--come to express their sorrow.

Then follow three cycles of speeches between Job and his friends
(iii.-xiv.; xv.-xxi.; xxii.-xxxi).

_First cycle_. Job begins by lamenting his birthday and longing
for death (iii.). Eliphaz, a man of age and wisdom, with much
courtesy and by an appeal to a revelation which had been given him
in the night, seeks to reconcile Job to his lot, reminding him that
no mortal man can be pure in the sight of God, and assuring him of
restoration, if he accepts his suffering as discipline (iv., v.).
Job rejects this easy optimism and expresses his longing for a
speedy death, as life on the earth is nothing but a miserable
warfare (vi., vii.). Bildad, annoyed at Job's challenge of God's
justice, asserts the sure destruction of evildoers, but implicitly
concedes, at the end, that Job is not an evil-doer, by promising him
a bright future (viii.). Job then grows ironical. Of course, he
says, God is always in the right. Might is right, and He is
almighty, destroying innocent and guilty alike. He longs to meet
God, and to know why He so marvellously treats the creature He so
marvellously made (ix., x.). Zophar bluntly condemns Job's bold
words and urges repentance, but, like his friends, foretells the
dawn of a better day for Job, though his very last words are ominous
and suggestive of another possibility (xi.). Job, with a sarcastic
compliment to the wisdom of his friends, claims the right to an
independent judgment and challenges the whole moral order of the
world. Better be honest--God needs no man to distort the facts for
Him. Job longs for a meeting, in which God will either speak to him
or listen to him. But, as no answer comes, he laments again the
pathos of life, which ends so utterly in death (xii.-xiv.).

_Second cycle_. Eliphaz, concluding that Job despises religion,
describes in vigorous terms the fate of the godless (xv.). Job
complains of his fierce persecution by God, and appeals, in almost
the same breath, against this unintelligible God to the righteous
God in heaven, who is his witness and sponsor; but again he falls
back into gloom and despondency (xvi., xvii.). Bildad answers by
describing the doom of the wicked, with more than one unmistakable
allusion to Job's case (xviii.). Job is vexed. He breaks out into a
lament of his utter desolation, the darkness of which, however, is
shot through with a sudden and momentary gleam of assurance that God
will one day vindicate him (xix.). Not so, answers Zophar: the
triumph of the wicked is short (xx.). Job, in a bold and terrible
speech, assails the doctrine of the friends, challenges the moral
order, and asserts that the world is turned upside down (xxi.).

_Third cycle_. To the friends Job now seems to be condemned out
of his own mouth, and Eliphaz coolly proceeds to accuse him of
specific sins (xxii.). This drives Job to despair, and he longs to
appear before the God whom he cannot find, to plead his cause before
Him. Why does He not interpose? and again follows a fierce challenge
of the moral order (xxiii., xxiv.). The arguments of the friends are
being gradually exhausted, and Bildad can only reply by asserting
the uncleanness of man in presence of the infinite majesty of God
(xxv., xxvi.). In spite of this Job asserts his integrity, xxvii. 1-6.
Zophar repeats the old doctrine of the doom of the wicked, xxvii. 7-23.
Then Job rises up, like a giant, to make his last great defence. He
pictures his former prosperity and his present misery, and ends, in a
chapter which touches the noblest heights of Old Testament morality,
with a detailed assertion of the principles that governed his conduct
and character. With one great cry that the Almighty would listen to
him, he concludes (xxix.-xxxi.).

The Almighty does listen; and He answers--not by referring to Job's
particular case, still less to his sin, but by questions that
suggest to Job His own power, wisdom, and love, and the ignorance
and impotence of man, xxxviii., xxxix., xl. 2, 8-14. Job humbly
recognizes the inadequacy of his criticism in the light of this
vision of God, xl. 3-5, xlii. 2-6, and with this the poem comes to
an end.

The epilogue, xlii. 7-17, in prose, describes how Jehovah severely
condemned the friends for the words they had spoken, commended His
servant Job for speaking rightly of Him, and restored him to double
his former prosperity.

It is obvious that we have here a religious and not a philosophical
discussion. Indeed it is hardly a discussion at all; for, though the
psychological interest of the situation is heightened by every
speech, there is practically no development in the argument. The
friends grow more excited and unfair, Job grows more calm and
dignified; but so far as argument is concerned, neither he nor they
affect each other--the author meaning to suggest by this perhaps the
futility of human discussion.

The problem of the book of Job has been variously defined. In one
form it is raised by the question of Satan, i. 9, "Doth Job fear God
for naught?" which is the Hebrew way of saying, "Is there such a
thing as disinterested religion?" But the body of the book discusses
the problem under a wider aspect: how can the facts of human life,
and especially the sufferings of the righteous, be reconciled with
the justice of God? With delicate skill the author has suggested
that this problem is a universal one; not Israel alone is perplexed
by it, but humanity. To indicate this, he puts his hero and his
stage outside the land of Israel. Job is a foreign saint, and Uz is
on the borders of the Arabian desert.

The ancient theory of retribution was very simple: every man
received what he deserved--the good prosperity, the bad misfortune.
In its national application, this principle was obviously more or
less true, but every age must have seen numerous exceptions in the
life of the individual. The exceptions, however, were not felt to be
particularly perplexing, because, till the exile, the individual was
hardly seriously felt to be a religious unit: his personality was
merged in the wider life of the tribe or nation. But the exile,
which saw many of the best men suffer, forced the question to the
front; and the explanation then commonly offered was that they were
suffering for the sins of the fathers. Ezekiel denied this and
maintained that the individual received exactly what he deserved
(xviii.): it is well with the righteous and ill with the wicked. The
friends of Job in the main represent this doctrine, Eliphaz
appealing to revelation, Bildad to tradition, and Zophar to common
sense. The author of the book of Job desires, among other things, to
expose the inadequacy of this doctrine. Job, a good man--not only on
his own confession (xxxi.), but on the express and repeated
admission of God Himself, i. 8, ii. 3--is overwhelmed with
calamities which cannot be explained by the imperfections which are
inherent in all men, and which Job himself readily admits vii. 21.
How are such sufferings to be reconciled with the justice of God?

The problem had to be solved without reference to the future world.
To a steady faith in immortality, which can find its compensations
otherwhere, there is no real problem; but it is certain that, though
there are scattered hints, xiv. 13, xix. 25ff.--which, however, many
interpret differently--of a life after death, this belief is not
held by Job (or by the author) tenaciously, nor offered as a
solution, for the lamentations continue to the end. The solution, if
there is any, the author must find in this world. It would seem that
no definite solution is offered, though there are not a few profound
and valuable suggestions.

(1) The prologue, e.g., suggests that the sufferings of earth find
their ultimate explanation in the councils of heaven. What is done
or suffered here is determined there. (2) Again the prologue
suggests that suffering is a test of fidelity. Job has proved his
essential and disinterested goodness, besides glorifying the name of
the God, who trusted him, by standing fast. (3) The friends make
their shallow and conventional contribution to the solution: from
the doctrine--whose strict and universal truth Job denied--that sin
was always followed by suffering, they inferred the still more
questionable doctrine that suffering was punishment for sin. In
estimating the views of the friends, it should never be forgotten
that Jehovah, in the epilogue, condemns them as not having spoken
the thing that is right, xlii. 7, 8. Of course, though inadequate,
they are not always absolutely wrong; and Eliphaz expresses a truth
not wholly inapplicable to Job's case--at least to the Job of the
speeches--when he insists on the disciplinary value of suffering, v.
17 ff.

(4) If a real solution is offered anywhere, one would most naturally
look for it in the speeches of Jehovah (xxxviii. ff.); and at first
sight they are not very promising. Their effect would most naturally
be rather to silence and overwhelm Job than to convince him; and to
some they have suggested no more than that the contemplation of
nature may be a remedy for scepticism. But their object is
profounder than that. By heightening the sense of the mystery of the
universe, they show Job the folly, and almost the impertinence, of
expecting an adequate answer to all his whys and wherefores. A man
who cannot account for the most familiar facts of the physical world
is not likely to explore the subtler mysteries of the moral world.
But there is more. The divine speeches suggest that God is not only
strong--Job knew that very well (ix.)--but wise, xxxviii. 2, and
kind, feeding even the ravenous beasts, xxxviii. 39, and tenderly
caring for the waste and desolate place where no man is, xxxviii.
26. The universe compels trust in the wisdom and love of God. (5)
The epilogue, too, shows how the suffering hero was rewarded and
vindicated. The reward we shall discuss afterwards; but it is with
fine instinct that the epilogue represents Job as a man so powerful
with God that his prayer is effectual to save his erring friends,
and four times within two verses, xlii. 7 f, Jehovah calls him "My
servant Job." Therein lies his real vindication, rather than in the
reward of the sheep and the oxen.

The book clearly intends to suggest that in this world it is vain to
look for exact retribution. From calamity it is unjust to infer
special or secret sin: the worst may happen to the best. Again,
there is such a thing as disinterested goodness, a goodness which
believes in and clings to God, when it has nothing to hope for but
Himself. But the book may also be fairly regarded as a protest
against contemporary theology; and, in its present form, at any
rate, it suggests that God loves the independent thinker. The
friends are orthodox, but shallow; "Who ever perished, being
innocent?" iv. 7. They are so wedded to their theories that even the
oldest and wisest among them cruelly invents falsehoods to support
them (xxii.). Job replies to theories by facts. He is a man of
independent observation and judgment, his mouth must "taste for
itself," xii. 11. He is bold sometimes almost to blasphemy, he
accuses God of destroying innocent and guilty alike, ix. 22, and
does not scruple to parody a psalm, vii. 17 f. Yet he does this
because he must be true to facts, whatever comes of theories: he
must cling to the God of conscience against the God of convention.

In discussing the scheme of the book and the solution it offers of
the problem of suffering, we have not yet taken into account the
_speeches of Elihu_ (xxxii.-xxxvii.). The value and importance
of these have been variously estimated, the extremes being represented
by Duhm, who characterizes them as the childish effusions of some
bombastic rabbi, and Cornill, who calls them "the crown of the book
of Job." It is not without good reason that the authenticity of this
section has been doubted. After the dramatic appeal at the close of
Job's splendid defence, it is natural to suppose that Jehovah appears;
and when He does appear (xxxviii.), His speech is expressly said to be
an answer to Job. Elihu is completely ignored, as he is not only in
the prologue but also in the epilogue, xlii. 7. The latter omission
would be especially strange, if he is integral to the book. As his
speech is not condemned, it is natural to infer from the silence
that it is implicitly commended. In that case, however, we have two
solutions--the Elihu speeches and the Jehovah speeches. But there is
practically nothing new in the Elihu speeches: in emphasizing the
greatness of God, they but anticipate the Jehovah speeches, and in
emphasizing the disciplinary value of chastisement, they but amplify
the point already made by Eliphaz in v. 17ff., and most summarily
expressed in xxxvi. 15. Almost the only other assertion made is
that, as against Job's contention, God does speak to men--through
dreams, sickness, angels, etc. The lengthy description in which
Elihu is introduced, and the mention of his genealogy, are very
unlike the other introductions. The literary art of the section is,
speaking generally, inferior to that of the rest of the book. It is
imitative rather than creative. Elihu takes about twenty verses to
announce the simple fact that he is going to speak, though there
might be a dramatic propriety in this, as he is represented as a
young man. Further, the language is more Aramaic than the rest of
the book. Cornill, however, defends the section as offering the real
solution of the problem. "If a man recognizes the educative
character of suffering and takes it to heart, the suffering becomes
for him a source of infinite blessing, the highest manifestation of
divine love." But it seems rather improbable that the true solution
should be put into the lips of a young man, who said he was ready to
burst if he did not deliver himself of his speech, xxxii. 19. Apart
from the fact that it is more natural to look for the solution in
the speeches of Jehovah, and that the Elihu speeches, in condemning
Job, disagree with the epilogue, which commends him, the arguments
against their authenticity seem much more than to counterbalance the
little that can be said in their favour; and in all probability they
are an orthodox addition to the book from the pen of some later
scholar who was offended by Job's accusations of God and
protestations of his own innocence.

The authenticity of the _prologue and epilogue_ has also been
questioned, some scholars asserting that they really form the
beginning and end of an older (pre-exilic) book of Job, the body of
which was replaced by the speeches in our present book. The question
is far from unimportant, as on it depends, in part, our conception
of the purpose of the author of the speeches. Against the idea that
the prologue and epilogue are from his hand are these
considerations. They are in prose, while the body of the book is in
verse. Again, the name of God in the prologue and epilogue is
Jehovah; elsewhere, with one exception, which is probably an
interpolation, xii. 9, it is El, Eloah, Shaddai, as if Jehovah were
purposely avoided.[1] In xix. 17_b_, where the true translation
is "Mine evil savour is strange to the sons of my body," the
children are regarded as living:[2] while in the prologue they are
dead. But more serious is the fact that the Job of the prologue
seems to differ fundamentally from the Job of the speeches. The
former is patient, submissive, resigned; the latter is impatient,
bitter, and even defiant. Further, the epilogue represents Jehovah
as commending Job and condemning the friends without qualification,
whereas it may be urged that, in the course of the speeches, the
friends were not always wrong, nor was Job always right, and that it
is impossible that his merciless criticisms of the moral order could
have passed without divine rebuke: much that Job said would have
delighted the Satan of the prologue. These considerations have led
to the supposition that, in the original book, Job maintained
throughout the spirit of devout resignation which he showed in the
prologue, while it was the friends who accused God of cruelty and
injustice. A bolder and profounder thinker of a later age attacked
the problem independently on the basis of the old story, and
inserted his contribution, iii.-xlii. 6, between the prologue and
the epilogue, thus giving a totally different turn to the story.
[Footnote 1: Ch. xxxviii. i, being introductory to the speeches of
Jehovah, should hardly be counted.]
[Footnote 2: See, however, viii. 4, xxix. 5, so that xix. 17_b_
may be due to forgetfulness.]

This view is ingenious, but does not seem necessary.
Psychologically, there is no necessary incompatibility between the
Job of the prologue and the Job of the speeches. It must not be
forgotten that months have elapsed between the original blow and the
lamentations, vii. 3--months in which the brooding mind of the
sufferer has had time to pass from resignation to perplexity, and
almost to despair. Again, the words of Job are not to be taken too
seriously; they are, as he says himself, the words of a desperate
man, vi. 26, and the commendation in the epilogue may be taken to
apply rather to his general attitude than to his particular
utterances. Some kind of introduction there must undoubtedly have
been; otherwise the speeches, and especially Job's repeated
asseverations of his innocence, are unintelligible. The literary
power and skill of the prologue is as great as that of the speeches:
dramatically, the swift contrast between the happy family upon the
earth and the council of gods in heaven, or the rapid succession of
blows that rained upon Job the moment that Satan "went forth from
the presence of Jehovah," is as effective as the psychological
surprises in which the book abounds. The language is slightly in
favour of a post-exilic date, and the conception of Satan appears to
be somewhat in advance of Zechariah iii. 1 (520 B.C.). On the whole
it seems fair to conclude that the great poet who composed the
speeches also wrote the prologue, though of course his material lay
to hand in a popular, and not improbably written story.

With the prologue must go at least part of the epilogue, xlii. 7-9;
for the author's purpose is to characterize the two types of thought
represented by the discussion and to vindicate Job. More doubt may
attach to the concluding section, _vv_. 10-17, which represents
that vindication as taking the form of a material reward. A Western
reader is surprised and disappointed: to him it seems that the
author has "fallen from his high estate," and has failed to be
convinced by his own magnificent argument. But, as we have already
said, the real vindication of Job is the efficacy of his prayer, and
the material reward is, in any case, not much more than a sort of
poetic justice. It is indeed an outward and visible sign of the
relation subsisting between Job and his God; but it is hard to
believe that the genius who fought his way to such a solution as
appears in xxxviii., xxxix., would himself have laid much stress
upon it. Yet it is not inappropriate or irrelevant. Job's sufferings
had their origin in Satan's denial of his integrity; and now that
Satan has been convinced--for Job clings in the deepest darkness to
the God of his conscience--it is only just that he should be
restored to his former state.

It is not certain that ch. xxviii. with its fine description of
wisdom, which is neither to be found in mine nor mart, is original
to the book. It does not connect well either with the preceding or
the following chapter. The serenity that breathes through ch.
xxviii. would not naturally be followed by the renewed lamentations
of xxix., and it would further be dramatically inappropriate for a
man in agony to speak thus didactically. It is a sort of companion
piece to Proverbs viii.; it is too abstract for its context, and
lacks its almost fierce emotion.

Doubt also attaches to the sections descriptive of _the
hippopotamus and the crocodile_, xl. l5-xli. The defence is that,
as the earlier speeches of God, xxxviii. xxxix., were to convince
Job of his ignorance, so these are to convince him of his impotence.
But the descriptions, though fine in their way (cf. xli. 22), do not
stand on the same literary level as those of xxxviii., xxxix. These
are brief and drawn to the life--how vivid are the pictures of the
war-horse and the wild ass!--those of xl., xli. are diffuse and
somewhat exaggerated. Of course Oriental standards of taste are not
ours; still the difference can hardly be ignored. It is worthy of
note, too, that the word leviathan in xli. 1 is used in a totally
different sense from iii 8, where it is the mythological (sea?)
dragon. The author appears to have travelled widely and the book
betrays a knowledge of Egypt (cf. pyramids, iii. 14; papyrus, viii.
11; reed ships, ix. 26; phoenix, xxix. 18), but it is not without
significance that all his other animal pictures are drawn from the
desert--the lion (iv.), the wild ass, the war-horse. On the whole,
it is hardly probable that these long descriptions, rather
unnecessarily retarding, as they do, the crisis between Jehovah and
Job for which the sympathetic reader is impatiently waiting, are
original to the book.

Certain redistributions of the speeches seem to be necessary. Ch.
xxvi. is conceived in a temper thoroughly unlike that of Job at this
stage, while it closely resembles that of xxv. As ch. xxv. would be
an unusually short speech, it is probable that xxv. and xxvi. should
both be given to Bildad. That there is something wrong is plain from
the fresh introduction to xxvii. 1 (cf. xxix. 1), a phenomenon which
does not elsewhere occur and which, if xxvi. is Job's, should be
unnecessary. Again in xxvii. 7-23 Job turns completely round upon
his own position and adopts that of the friends. It has been said
that he "forgets himself sufficiently in ch. xxvii. to deliver a
discourse which would have been suitable in the mouth of one of the
friends." Surely such an explanation is as impossible as it is
psychologically unnatural: in all probability _vv_. 7-23 ought
to be given to Zophar--the more probably as xxvii. 13 is very like
xx. 19, which is Zophar's. This would have the further advantage of
accounting for the fresh introduction to xxix. (especially if we
allow xxviii. to be a later addition).

Probably xxxi. 38-40, which constitute, at least to an Occidental
taste, an anticlimax in their present position, should be placed
after _v_. 32, and xl. 3-5 (followed by xlii. 2-6) after xl. 6-14.

The date of the book of Job is not easy to determine. Ch. xii. 17
shows a knowledge of the dethronement of kings and the exile of
priests and nobles which compels a date at any rate later than the
fall of the northern kingdom (721 B.C.) more probably also of the
southern. The reference in Ezekiel, xiv. 14, 20, to Job should not
be pressed, as it involves only a knowledge of the man, not
necessarily of any book, still less of our book. Nor can much be
made of the parody of Psalm viii. 4 in Job vii. 17, as we have no
means of fixing precisely the date of the psalm. Job's lament and
curse in ch. iii. are strikingly similar to Jeremiah xx. 14-18, and
there can be little doubt that the priority lies on the side of the
prophet. Jeremiah was in no mood for quotation, his words are brief
and abrupt. The book of Job is a highly artistic poem, and it is
much more probable that Job iii. is an elaboration of the passionate
words of Jeremiah than that Jeremiah adapted in his sorrow the
longer lament of Job. This circumstance would bring us down to a
time, at the earliest, very near the exile.

At this point it has to be noted that the discussion of the moral
problem in the book of Job is in advance of Jeremiah or Ezekiel.
Against the explanation that the children's teeth are set on edge
because their fathers have eaten sour grapes, Ezekiel has nothing to
offer but a rather mechanical doctrine of strict retribution (ch.
xviii.). The book of Job represents a further stage, when that
doctrine was seen to be untenable; and the whole question is again
boldly raised and still more boldly discussed. This would carry the
date below Ezekiel. As the problem in Job is individual, and only
indirectly, if at all, a national one--"there was _a man_ in
the land of Uz"--the book cannot be earlier than the exile.

But further, there is an unmistakable similarity between the temper
of this book and that of the pious in the time of Malachi. "Every
one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Jehovah, and He
delighteth in them. Where is the God of justice?" Malachi ii. 17. We
might fancy we heard the voice of Job; and almost more plainly in
Malachi iii. 14, "It is vain to serve God, and what profit is it
that we have kept His ordinance?" Equally striking is the similarity
between the dialectic temper in Job and Malachi. Everywhere in
Malachi occur the phrases, "Ye have said, yet ye say," etc. Good men
have not only raised the problem of the moral order, as Habakkuk and
Jeremiah had done: they are formally discussing it--exactly the
phenomenon which we have in Job and do not have in pre-exilic times.
If it be asked why, in that case, there is no trace of influence of
Deutero-Isaiah's solution, the answer is that, in any case, that
solution stands without serious influence on the subsequent
development of religious thought in the Old Testament.

Again, the peculiar boldness of the discussion suggests a post-exilic
date. Jeremiah is also very bold, xii. 1, but it is a different type of
audacity that expresses itself in the book of Job. Unlike Ecclesiastes
in practically everything else, Job is like it in being a sustained and
fearless challenge of the phenomena of the moral world. A post-exilic
date, and perhaps not a very early one, would seem to be suggested by
these phenomena. It is the product not only of an unhappy man, but of
an unhappy time, when life is a warfare, vii. 1, and good men are
bitter in heart. This date is borne out by the angelology of the book,
v. 1, and by its easy use of mythology, iii. 8, xxvi. 5--a mythology
which is felt to be completely innocuous, because monotheism is secure
beyond the possibility of challenge. It is practically certain that the
book falls before Chronicles (_circa_ 300 B.C.) as in 1 Chronicles
xxi. 1, Satan is a proper name, whereas in Job the word is still an
appellative--he is "the Satan.". Where the evidence is so slender
certainty is impossible; but there is a probability that the book may
be safely placed somewhere between 450 and 350 B.C. One could conceive
it to be, in one sense, a protest against the legalistic conception of
religion encouraged by the work of Ezra, and this would admirably fit
the date assigned.


The contents of this book justify the description of it in the
title, i. 1, as the "loveliest song"--for that is the meaning of the
Hebrew idiom "song of songs." It abounds in poetical gems of the
purest ray. It breathes the bracing air of the hill country, and the
passionate love of man for woman and woman for man. It is a
revelation of the keen Hebrew delight in nature, in her vineyards
and pastures, flowers and fruit trees, in her doves and deer and
sheep and goats. It is a song tremulous from beginning to end with
the passion of love; and this love it depicts in terms never coarse,
but often frankly sensuous--so frankly sensuous that in the first
century its place in the canon was earnestly contested by Jewish
scholars. That place was practically settled in 90 A.D. by the Synod
of Jamnia, which settled other similar questions; and about 120 A.D.
we find a distinguished rabbi maintaining that "the whole world does
not outweigh the day when the Song of Songs was given to Israel;
while all the _Writings_ are holy, the song is holiest of all."
This extravagant language suggests that the canonicity of the song
had been strenuously contested; and it may have been a latent sense
of the secular origin of the song that led to the prescription that
a Jew must not read it till he was thirty years of age. Its place in
the canon was no doubt secured for it by two considerations, (i) its
reputed Solomonic authorship, (ii) its allegorical interpretation.

The reception of the book in the Canon led, as Siegfried has said,
to the most monstrous creations in the history of interpretation. If
it be by Solomon, and therefore a holy book, it must be a
celebration of divine love, not of human. So it was argued; and the
theme of the book was regarded as the love of Jehovah for Israel.
Christian interpreters, following this hint of their Jewish
predecessors, applied it to the love of Christ for His church or for
the individual soul. The allegorical view of the poem has many
parallels in the mystic poetry of the East, and it even finds a
slender support in Hosea's comparison of the relation of Jehovah to
Israel as a marriage relationship; but taking into account the
general nature of the poem, and the tendencies of the Hebrew mind,
it may be fairly said that the allegorical interpretation is
altogether impossible. Any love poem would be equally capable of
such an interpretation.

Another view, first hinted at in a phrase of Origen, is that the
book is a drama, a view which has held the field--not without
challenge--for over a century. There is much in the language of the
song to suggest this: it is obvious, e.g., that there is occasional
dialogue, i. 15, 16, ii. 2, 3, but the actual story of the drama was
very far from clear. The older view was that it was a story of
Solomon's love for a peasant girl, and of his redemption from his
impure loves by his affection for her. But as in viii. 11 f. and
elsewhere, Solomon is spoken of by way of contrast, room must be
made for a third person, the shepherd lover of the peasant maid;
and, with much variety of detail, the supporters of the dramatic
theory now adhere in general to the view that the poem celebrates
the fidelity of a peasant maid who had been captured and brought to
Solomon's harem, but who steadily resisted his blandishments and was
finally restored to her shepherd lover. The book becomes thus not a
triumph of love over lust, but of love over temptation. The story is
very pretty; but the objections to it and to the dramatic view of
the book are all but insuperable. It must be confessed that, to
arrive at such a story at all, a good deal has to be read between
the lines, and interpreters usually find what they bring; but the
most fatal objection to it is that the text in vi. 12, on which the
whole story turns--the maiden's surprise in the orchard by the
retinue of the king--is so disjointed and obscure that the attempt
to translate it has been abandoned by many competent scholars.

Apart from that, the story can hardly be said to be probable. "She,
my dove, is but one," vi. 9, would sound almost comical upon the
lips of one who possessed the harem of vi. 8. But in any case, it is
almost inconceivable that Solomon would have taken a refusal from a
peasant girl: Oriental kings were not so scrupulous. Again, it is
very hard to detect any progress on the dramatic view of the book.
Ch. viii. with its innocent expression of an early love, follows ch.
vii., which is sensuous to the last degree. Further, in the absence
of stage directions, every commentator divides the verses among the
characters in a way of his own: the opening words of the song, i.
2_a_, may be interpreted in three or four different ways, and
equal possibilities of interpretation abound throughout the song. Of
course the difficulties are not quite so great in the Hebrew as in
the English (e.g. i. 15 must be spoken by the bridegroom and i. 16
by the bride), but they are great enough. Again, how are we to
conceive of so short a play--ll6 lines--being divided into acts and
scenes? for the scenes are continually changing, and the longest
would not last more than two minutes. It would not be fair to lay
too much stress upon the fact that there is no other illustration of
a purely Semitic drama; that would be to argue that, if a thing did
not happen twice, it did not happen once. Nevertheless, coupled with
the untold difficulties and confusions that arise from regarding the
song as a drama, the absence of a Semitic parallel is significant.

The true view of this perplexing book appears to be that it is, as
Herder called it, "a string of pearls"--an anthology of love or
wedding songs sung during the festivities of the "king's week," as
the first week after the wedding is called in Syria. Very great
probability has been added to this view by the observations of
Syrian customs made by Wetzstein in his famous essay on "The Syrian
Threshing-board," and first thoroughly applied by Budde to the
interpretation of the Song. Syrian weddings, we are told, usually
took place in March, ii. 11ff. The threshing-floor is set on a sort
of platform on the threshing-board covered with carpets and pillows;
and upon this throne, the "king and queen," i.e. the bride and
bridegroom, are seated, while the guests honour them with song, game
and dance. This lasts for seven days (cf. Gen. xxix. 27; Jud. xiv.
12); and the theory is that in the Song of Songs we have specimens
of the songs sung on such an occasion. In particular, it is
practically certain that vi. 13-vii. 9 is the song which
accompanied the "sword-dance" (as the last words of vi. 13 should
probably be translated) performed by the bride on the eve of her
wedding day. This would explain the looseness of the arrangement, no
special attempt being made to unify the songs, though it may be
conceded that the noble eulogy of love in viii. 6, 7, as it is the
finest utterance in the book, was probably intended as a sort of

The king, then, is not Solomon, but the peasant bridegroom, who
enjoys the regal dignity, and even the name of Israel's most
splendid monarch, iii. 7, 9, for the space of a week. Ch. iii. 11,
with its reference to the bridegroom's crown (cf. Isa. lxi. 10), is
all but conclusive proof that the hero is not king Solomon, but
another sort of bridegroom. His bride, perhaps a plain country girl,
counts for the week as the maid of Shulem, vi. 13, i.e. Abishag,
once the fairest maid in Israel (vi. 1, I Kings i. 3). So throughout
the "king's week" everything is transfigured and takes on the
colours of royal magnificence: the threshing-board becomes a
palanquin, and the rustic bodyguard appear as a band of valiant
warriors, iii. 7, 8. There is a charming naivete, and indeed
something much profounder, in this temporary transformation of those
humble rustic lives. We are involuntarily reminded of scenes in _A
Midsummer Night's Dream_. This view of the book has commended
itself to scholars like Nõldeke, who formerly championed the
dramatic theory, though two of the latest writers[1] have argued
skilfully against it.
[Footnote 1: Harper, in the Cambridge Bible "Song of Songs," and
Rothstein, in Hastings' _Dictionary of the Bible_.]

The following may be taken as an approximate division of the songs,
though some of the longer sections might easily be regarded as a
combination of two or three songs. The bride praises the bridegroom,
modestly depreciates her own beauty, and asks where her bridegroom is
to be found, i. 2-8. Each sings the other's praises: the happiness of
the bride, i. 9-ii. 7. A spring wooing, ii. 8-17. The bride's dream,
iii. 1-5. The bridegroom's procession, iii. 6-11. The charms of the
bride, iv. 1-v. 1. The beauty of the bridegroom, v. 2-vi. 3. Praise of
the bride, vi. 4-12. Praise of the bride as she dances the sword-dance,
vii. 1-10. The bride's longing, vii. 11-viii. 4. The incomparable power
of love, viii. 5-7. The bride's proud reply to her brothers, viii. 8-10.
The two vineyards, viii. 11, 12. Conclusion, viii. 13, 14.

The immortal verses in praise of love, viii. 6, 7, show that, in
spite of its often sensuous expression, the love here celebrated is
not only pure but exclusive; and the book, which once was regarded
as a satire on the court of Solomon, would in any case make in
favour of monogamic sentiment, and tend to ennoble ideals in a
country where marriage was simply regarded as a contract.

The mention of Israel's ancient capital Tirzah in vi. 4 (if the text
be correct) as a parallel to Jerusalem, would alone be enough to
bring the date below Solomon's time (cf. 1 Kings xiv. 17, xvi. 23).
But it is no doubt much later. The Persian word _pardes_ in iv.
13 appears to imply the Persian period, and is used elsewhere only
in post-exilic books (Neh. ii. 8; Eccles. ii. 5). Indeed the word
_appirion_ in iii. 9 appears to be the Hebraized form of a
Greek word _phoreion_, and if so would almost necessarily imply
the Greek period, though the Hebrews may have been acquainted with
Greek words, through the Greek settlements in Egypt, as early as the
sixth century B.C. Many of the words and constructions, however, are
demonstrably late and Aramaic; and the linguistic evidence alone
(unless we assume an earlier book to have been worked over in later
times) would put the Song hardly earlier than the fourth century
B.C. Yet the fact that though a secular writing, it is in Hebrew and
not Aramaic, which was rapidly gaining ground, shows that it can
hardly be brought down much later. On the whole, probably it is to
be placed somewhere between 400 and 300; and its sunny vivacity thus
becomes a welcome foil to the austerity of the post-exilic age. If
this argument is sound, it follows that the book cannot have been by
Solomon. The superscription, i. 1, was no doubt added by a later
hand on the basis of the many references to Solomon in the book,
iii. 7-11, viii. 11 f, and of the statement in 1 Kings iv. 32 that
he was the author of 1,005 songs.

Where the songs were composed we cannot tell. The scenes they
reflect so vividly are rather those of Israel than of Judah, but the
repeated allusions to the daughters of Jerusalem would be most
naturally explained if the songs came from Jerusalem or its
neighbourhood. With this agree the references to Engedi, Heshbon,
Kedar, while the northern places mentioned, Lebanon, Hermon, Gilead,
Damascus, are such as would be familiar, at any rate, by reputation,
to a Judean.


Goethe has characterized the book of Ruth as the loveliest little
idyll that tradition has transmitted to us. Whatever be its didactic
purpose--and some would prefer to think that it had little or none-it
is, at any rate, a wonderful prose poem, sweet, artless, and persuasive,
touched with the quaintness of an older world and fresh with the scent
of the harvest fields. The love--stronger than country--of Ruth for
Naomi, the gracious figure of Boaz as he moves about the fields with a
word of blessing for the reapers, the innocent scheming of Naomi to
secure him as a husband for Ruth--these and a score of similar touches
establish the book for ever in the heart of all who love nobility and

The inimitable grace and tenderness of the story are dissipated in a
summary, but the main facts are these. A man of Bethlehem, with his
wife Naomi and two sons, is driven by stress of famine to Moab,
where the sons marry women of the land. In course of time, father
and sons die, and Naomi resolves to return home. Ruth, one of her
daughters-in-law, accompanies her, in spite of Naomi's earnest
entreaty that she should remain in her own land. In Bethlehem, Ruth
receives peculiar kindness from Boaz, a wealthy landowner, who
happens to be a kinsman of Naomi; and Naomi, with a woman's happy
instinct, devises a plan for bringing Boaz to declare himself a
champion and lover of Ruth. The plan is successful. A kinsman nearer
than Boaz refuses to claim his rights by marrying her, and the way
is left open for Boaz. He accordingly marries Ruth, who thus becomes
the ancestress of the great King David.

Why was this story told? The question of its object is to some
extent bound up with the question of date; and for several reasons,
this appears to be late. (1) In the Greek, Latin and modern Bibles,
Ruth is placed after Judges; in the Hebrew Bible it is placed
towards the end, among the _Writings_, i.e. the last division,
in which, speaking generally, only late books appear. Had the book
been pre-exilic, it is natural to suppose that it would have been
placed after Judges in the second division. Some indeed maintain
that this is its original position; but it is easier to account for
its transference from the third division to the second, as a foil to
the war-like episodes of the judges, than for its transference from
the second to the third. (2) The argument from language is perhaps
not absolutely decisive, but, on the whole, it is scarcely
compatible with an early date. Some words are pure Aramaic, and some
of the Hebrew usages do not appear in early literature, e.g.,
"fall," in the sense of "fall out, issue, happen," iii. 18. (3) The
opening words--"In the days when the judges judged," i. 1--suggest
not only that those days are past, but that they are regarded as a
definite period falling within an historical scheme. The book must
be, at any rate, as late as David--for it describes Ruth as his
ancestress, iv. l7--and probably much later, as the implication is
that it is a great thing to be the ancestress of David. The
reverence of a later age for the great king shines through the
simple genealogical notice with which the story concludes.[1] (4)
Further, the old custom of throwing away the shoe as a symbol of the
abandonment of one's claim to property, a custom familiar in the
seventh century B.C. (Deut. xxv. 9f.) is in iv. 7 regarded as
obsolete, belonging to the "former time." The cumulative effect of
these indications is strongly to suggest a post-exilic date. Not
perhaps, however, a very late one: a book as late as the Maccabean
period would hardly have reflected so kindly a feeling towards the
foreigner (cf. Esther).
[Footnote 1: Probably iv. 18-22 is a later addition, but that does
not affect the general argument (cf. _v_.17).]

The story probably rests upon a basis of fact. David's conduct in
putting his parents under the protection of the king of Moab (I Sam.
xxii. 3, 4) would find its simplest explanation, if he had been
connected in some way with Moab, as the book of Ruth represents him
to have been; whereas a later age would hardly have dared to invent
a Moabite ancestress for him, had there been no tradition to that

The object of the book has been supposed by some to be to commend
the so-called levirate marriage. This is improbable: not so much
because the marriage was not strictly levirate, since neither Boaz
nor the kinsman was the brother-in-law of Ruth--it would be fair
enough to regard this as a legitimate extension of the principle of
levirate marriage, whose object was to perpetuate the dead man's
name--but rather because this is a comparatively subordinate element
in the story.

The true explanation is no doubt to be sought in the fact that Ruth
the Moabitess is counted worthy to be an ancestress of David; and,
if the book be post-exilic, its religious significance is at once
apparent. It was in all probability the dignified answer of a man of
prophetic instincts to the rigorous measures of Ezra, which demanded
the divorce of all foreign women (Ezra ix. x, cf. Neh. xiii. 23ff.);
for it can hardly be doubted that there is a delicate polemic in the
repeated designation of Ruth as _the Moabitess_, i. 22, ii. 2,
6, 21, iv. 5, 10--she even calls herself the "stranger," ii. 10. It
would be pleasant to think that the writer had himself married one
of these foreign women. In any case, he champions their cause not
only with generosity but with insight; for he knows that some of
them have faith enough to adopt Israel's God as their God, i. 16,
and that even a Moabitess may be an Israelite indeed. Ezra's severe
legislation was inspired by the worthy desire to preserve Israel's
religion from the peril of contagion: the author of Ruth gently
teaches that the foreign woman is not an inevitable peril, she may
be loyal to Israel and faithful to Israel's God. The writer dares to
represent the Moabitess as eating with the Jews, ii. l4--winning by
her ability, resource and affection, the regard of all, and counted
by God worthy to be the mother of Israel's greatest king. The
generous type of religion represented by the book of Ruth is a much
needed and very attractive complement to the stern legalism of Ezra.


The book familiarly known as the Lamentations consists of four
elegies[1] (i., ii., iii., iv.) and a prayer (v.). The general theme
of the elegies is the sorrow and desolation created by the
destruction of Jerusalem[2] in 586 B.C.: the last poem (v.) is a
prayer for deliverance from the long continued distress. The elegies
are all alphabetic, and like most alphabetic poems (cf. Ps. cxix.)
are marked by little continuity of thought. The first poem is a
lament over Jerusalem, bereft, by the siege, of her glory and her
sanctuary, i. 1-11, though the bitter and comfortless doom which she
bewails in i. 12-22, is regarded as the divine penalty for her sin,
i. 5, 8. Similarly in ii. 1-10 her sorrow and suffering are admitted
to be a divine judgment. Her shame and distress are inconsolable,
ii. 11-17, and she appeals to her God to look upon her in her agony,
ii. 18-22. The third poem, probably the latest in the book,
represents the city, after a bitter lament, iii. 1-21, as being
inspired, by the thought of the love of God, to submission and hope,
iii. 22-36. A prayer of penitence and confession, iii. 37-54, is
followed by a petition for vengeance upon the adversaries, iii. 55-66.
The fourth poem, like the second, offers a very vivid picture of the
sorrows and horrors of the siege: it laments, in detail, the fate of
the people, iv. 1-6, the princes, iv. 7-11, the priests and the prophets,
iv. 12-16, and the king, iv. 17-20, and ends with a prophecy of doom
upon the Edomites, iv. 21, 22, who behaved so cruelly after the siege
(Ps, cxxxvii. 7). In the last poem the city, after piteously lamenting
her manifold sorrows, v. 1-18, beseeches the everlasting God for
deliverance therefrom, v. 19-22.
[Footnote 1: In the Hebrew elegiac metre, as in the Greek and Latin,
the second line is shorter than the first--usually three beats
followed by two.]
[Footnote 2: An unconvincing attempt has been made to refer the last
two chapters to the Maccabean age--about 170 B.C.]

A very old and by no means unreasonable tradition assigns the
authorship of the book to Jeremiah. In the Greek version it is
introduced by the words--which appear to go back to a Hebrew
original--"And it came to pass, after Israel had been led captive
and Jerusalem made desolate, that Jeremiah sat down weeping, and
lifted up this lament over Jerusalem and said." This view of the
authorship is as old as the Chronicler, who in 2 Chronicles xxxv. 25
seems to refer the book to Jeremiah, probably regarding iv. 20,
which refers to Zedekiah, as an allusion to Josiah. Chs. ii. and iv.
especially are so graphic that they must have been written by an
eye-witness who had seen the temple desecrated and who had himself
tasted the horrors of a siege, in which the mothers had eaten their
own children for very hunger. The passionate love, too, for the
people, which breathes through the elegies might well be Jeremiah's;
and the ascription of the calamity to the sin of the people, i. 5,
8, is in the spirit of the prophet.

Nevertheless, it is not certain, or even very probable, that
Jeremiah is the author. Unlike the Greek and the English Bible, the
Hebrew Bible does not place the Lamentations immediately after
Jeremiah but in the third division, among the _Writings_, so
that there is really no initial presumption in favour of the
Jeremianic authorship. Again, Jeremiah could hardly have said that
"the prophets find no vision from Jehovah," ii. 8, nor described the
vacillating Zedekiah as "the breath of our nostrils," iv. 20, nor
attributed the national calamities to the sins of _the
fathers_, v. 7 Other features in the situation presupposed by ch.
v. appear to imply a time later than Jeremiah's, v. 18,20, and it is
very unlikely that one who was so sorely smitten as Jeremiah by the
inconsolable sorrow of Jerusalem would have expressed his grief in
alphabetic elegies: men do not write acrostics when their hearts are
breaking. When we add to this that chs. ii. and iv. which stand
nearest to the calamity appear to betray dependence on Ezekiel (ii.
14, iv. 20, Ezek. xxii. 28, xix, 24, etc.) there is little
probability that the poems are by Jeremiah.

It is not even certain that they are all from the same hand, as,
unless we transpose two verses, the alphabetic order of the first
poem differs from that of the other three, and the number of
elegiacs--three--in each verse of the first two poems, differs from
the number--one--in the third, and two in the fourth. In the third
poem each letter has three verses to itself; in the other three
poems, only one.

Ch. iii. with its highly artificial structure and its tendency to
sink into the gnomic style, iii. 26ff., is probably remotest of all
from the calamity.[1] Considering the general hopelessness of the
outlook, chs. ii. and iv. at any rate, which are apparently the
earliest, were probably composed before the pardon of Jehoiachin in
561 B.C. (2 Kings xxv. 27) when new possibilities began to dawn for
the exiles. 580-570 may be accepted as a probable date. The calamity
is near enough to be powerfully felt, yet remote enough to be an
object of poetic contemplation. The other poems are no doubt later:
ch. v. may as well express the sorrow of the returned exiles as the
sorrow of the exile itself. More than this we cannot say.
[Footnote 1: The intensely personal words at the beginning of ch.
iii. are, no doubt, to be interpreted collectively. The "man who has
seen affliction" is not Jeremiah, but the community, Cf. _v_.
14, "I am become the laughing stock of all nations" (emended text).
Cf. also _v_. 45.]

The older parts of the book, whether written in Egypt, Babylon, or
more probably in Judah, are of great historic value, as offering
minute and practically contemporary evidence for the siege of
Jerusalem (cf. ii. 9-12) and as reflecting the hopelessness which
followed it. Yet the hopelessness is by no means unrelieved. Besides
the prayer to God who abideth for ever, v. 19, is the general
teaching that good may be won from calamity, in. 24-27, and, above
all, the beautiful utterance that "the love of Jehovah never
ceases[1] and His pity never fails," iii. 22.
[Footnote 1: Grammar and parallelism alike suggest the emendation on
which the above translation rests.]


It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to
maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its
reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book
that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90
A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by
the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the
dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a
dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more distressed by the spirit
of scepticism and "heresy" which pervaded the book (cf. xi. 9 with
Num. xv. 39).

In spite of the opening verse, it is very plain that Solomon could
not have been the author of the book. Not only in i. 12 is his reign
represented as over--I _was_ king--though Solomon was on the
throne till his death, but in i. 16, ii. 7, 9, he is contrasted with
all--apparently all the kings--that were before him in Jerusalem,
though his own father was the founder of the dynasty. There is no
probability that Solomon would have so scathingly assailed the
administration of justice for which he himself was responsible, as
is done in iii. 16, iv. i, v. 8. The sigh in xii. 12 over the
multiplicity of books is thoroughly inappropriate to the age of

Indeed the whole manner in which the problem is attacked is
inappropriate to so early a stage of literary and religious
development. But it was by a singularly happy stroke that Solomon
was chosen by a later thinker as the mouthpiece of his reflections
on life; for Solomon, with his wealth, buildings, harem,
magnificence, had had opportunity to test life at every point, and
his exceptional wisdom would give unique value to his judgment.

Ecclesiastes is undoubtedly one of the latest books in the Old
Testament. The criteria for determining the date are chiefly three.
(1) _Linguistic_. Alike in its single words (e.g., preference
for abstract nouns ending in _ûth_) its syntax (e.g., the
almost entire absence of waw conversive) and its general linguistic
character, the book illustrates the latest development of the Hebrew
language. There are not a few words which occur elsewhere only in
Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther: there are some pure Aramaic
words, some words even which belong to the Hebrew of the Mishna.
Even if we allow an early international use of Aramaic, the corrupt
Hebrew of the book would alone compel us to place it very late. Some
have sought to strengthen the argument for a late date from the
presence of Greek influence on the _language_ of the book,
e.g., in such phrases as "under the sun," "to behold the sun," "the
good which is also beautiful," v. 18; but, probable as it may be, it
is not certain that there are Graecisms in the language of
[Footnote 1: Cf. A. H. McNeile, _Introduction to Ecclesiastes_,
p. 43.]

(2) _Historical_. There is much interesting detail which is
clearly a transcript of the author's experience: the slaves he had
seen on horseback, x. 7, the poor youth who became king, iv. 13-16
(cf. ix. 14ff.). These incidents, however, are too lightly touched,
and we know too little of the history of the period, to be able to
locate them definitely. The woe upon the land whose king is a child,
x. 16, has been repeatedly connected with the time of Ptolemy V.
Epiphanes (205-181 B.C.), the last of his house who ruled over
Palestine and who at his father's death was little over four years
old. However that may be, the general historical background is
unmistakably that of the late post-exilic age. The book bears the
stamp of an evil time, when injustice and oppression were the order
of the day, iii. 16, iv. 1, v. 8, government was corrupt and
disorderly and speech dangerous, x. 20. The allusions would suit the
last years of the Persian empire (333); but if, as the linguistic
evidence suggests, the book is later, it can hardly be placed before
250 B.C., as during the earlier years of the Greek period, Palestine
was not unhappy.

(3) _Philosophical_. The speculative mood of the book marks it
as late. Though not an abstract discussion--the Old Testament is
never abstract--it is more abstract than the kindred discussion in
the book of Job. It is hard to believe that Ecclesiastes was not
affected by the Greek philosophical influences of the time. If it be
not necessary to trace its contempt of the world to Stoicism, or its
inculcation of the wise enjoyment of the passing moment directly to
Epicureanism, at least an indirect influence can hardly be denied.
Greek thought was spreading as the Greek language was; and the
scepticism of Ecclesiastes, though not without parallels in earlier
stages of Hebrew literature, yet here assumes a deliberate,
sustained and all but philosophic form, which finds its most natural
explanation in the profound and pervasive influence of Greek
philosophy--an influence which could hardly be escaped by an age in
which books had multiplied and study been prosecuted till it was a
burden, xii. 12.

This "charming book," as Renan calls it, has in many ways more affinity
with the modern mind than any other in the Old Testament. It  is weary
with the weight of an insoluble problem. With a cold-blooded frankness,
which is not cynical, only because it is so earnest, it faces the stern
facts of human life, without being able to bring to their interpretation
the sublime inspirations of religion. More than once is the counsel
given to fear God, but it is not offered as a _solution_ of the
riddle. The world is crooked, i. 15, vii. 13, and no change is possible,
iii. 1-8. It is a weary round of contradictions, birth and death, peace
and war, the former state annihilated by the latter; and by reason of the
fixity of these contradictions and the certainty of that annihilation,
all human effort is vain, iii. 9. It is all alike vanity--not only the
meaner struggles for food and drink and pleasure (ii.) but even the
nobler ambitions of the soul, such as its yearning for wisdom and
knowledge. Whether we turn to the physical or the moral world it is
all the same. There is no goal in nature (i.): history runs on and
runs nowhere. All effort is swallowed up by death. Man is no better
than a beast, iii. 19; beyond the grave there is nothing. Everywhere
is disillusionment, and woman is the bitterest of all, vii. 26. The
moral order is turned upside down. Wrong is for ever on the throne.
Providence, if there be such a thing, seems to be on the side of
cruelty. Tears stand on many a face, but the mourners must remain
uncomforted, iv. 1. The just perish and the wicked live long, vii.
15. The good fare as the bad ought to fare, and the bad as the good,
viii. 14. Better be dead than live in such a world, iv. 2; nay,
better never have been born at all, vi. 3. For all is vanity: that
is the beginning of the matter, i. 2, it is no less the end, xii. 8.
Over every effort and aspiration is wrung this fearful knell.

Sad conclusion anywhere, but especially sad for a Jew to reach!
Indeed he contradicts some of the dearest and most fundamental
tenets of the Jewish faith. Many a devout contemporary must have
been horrified at the dictum that man had no pre-eminence above a
beast, or that the world, which he had been taught to believe was
very good (Gen. i, 31) was one great vanity. The preacher could not
share the high hopes of a Messianic kingdom to come, of resurrection
and immortality, which consoled and inspired many men of his day. To
him life was nothing but dissatisfaction ending in annihilation. If
this is not pessimism, what is?

But is this all? Not exactly. For "the light is sweet, and a pleasant
thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun," xi. 7. Over and over
again the counsel is given to eat and drink and enjoy good, ii. 24;
and despite the bitter criticism of woman already alluded to, a wife
can make life more than tolerable, ix. 9. Nor does the book display
the thorough-going rejection of religion which the previous sketch of
it would have led us to expect. It is pessimistic, but not atheistic;
nay, it believes not only in God but in a judgment, iii. 17, xi. 9_b_,
though not necessarily in the hereafter. There is considerable
extravagance in Cornill's remark that "never did Old Testament piety
celebrate a greater triumph than in the book of Ecclesiastes"; but
there is enough to show that the book is, after its own peculiar
melancholy fashion, a religious book. It is significant, however,
that the context of the word God, which only occurs some twenty times,
is often very sombre. He it is who has "given travail to the sons of
men to be exercised therewith," i. 13, iii. 10, cf. esp. iii. 18.
Again, if the writer has any real belief in a day of judgment, why
should he so persistently emphasize the resultlessness of life and
deny the divine government of the world? "The fate of all is the
same-just and unjust, pure and impure. As fares the good, so fares the
sinner," ix. 2. This is a direct and deliberate challenge of the law
of retribution in which the writer had been brought up. It may be
urged, of course, that his belief in a divine judgment is a postulate
of his faith which he retains, though he does not find it verified by
experience. But such words--and there are many such--seem to carry us
much farther. Here, then, is the essential problem of the book. Can
it be regarded as a unity?

Almost every commentator laments the impossibility of presenting a
continuous and systematic exposition of the argument in
Ecclesiastes, or Qoheleth, as the book is called in the Hebrew

The truth is that, though the first three chapters are in the main
coherent and continuous, little order or arrangement can be detected
in the rest of the book. Various explanations have been offered.
Bickell, e.g., supposed that the leaves had by some accident become
disarranged--a supposition not wholly impossible, but highly
improbable, especially when we consider that the Greek translation
reads the book in the same order as the Hebrew text. Others suppose
with equal improbability that the book is a sort of dialogue, in
which each speaker maintains his own thesis, while the epilogue,
xii. 13f, pronounces the final word on the discussion. One thing is
certain, that various moods are represented in the book: the
question is whether they are the moods of one man or of several.
Baudissin thinks it not impossible that, "apart from smaller
interpolations, the book as a whole is the reflection of the
struggle of one and the same author towards a view of the world
which he has not yet found."

Note the phrase "apart from interpolations." Even the most cautious
and conservative scholars usually admit that the facts constrain
them to believe in the presence of interpolations: e.g., xi. 9b and
xii. la are almost universally regarded in this light. The
difficulties occasioned by the book are chiefly three. (1) Its
fragmentary character. Ch. x.; e.g., looks more like a collection of
proverbs than anything else. (2) Its abrupt transitions: e.g., vii.
19, 20. "Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten men that are in
a city: for there is not a righteous man on the earth." This may be
another aspect of (1). But (3) more serious and important are the
undoubted contradictions of the book, some of which had been noted
by early Jewish scholars. E.g., there is nothing better than to eat
and drink, ii. 24; it is better to go to the house of mourning than
to the house of feasting, vii. 2. In iii. 1-8 times are so fixed and
determined that human labour is profitless, iii. 9, while in iii. 11
this inflexible order is not an oppressive but a beautiful thing. In
viii. 14, ix. 2 (cf. vii. 15) the fate of the righteous and the
wicked is the same, in viii. 12, 13, it is different: it is well
with the one and ill with the other. In iii. 16, which is radically
pessimistic (cf. _vv_. 18-21), there is no justice: in iii. 17
a judgment is coming. Better death than life, iv. 2, better life
than death, ix. 4 (cf. xi. 7). In i. 17 the search for wisdom is a
pursuit of the wind: in ii. 13 wisdom excels folly as light
darkness. Ch. ii. 22 emphasizes the utter fruitlessness of labour,
iii. 22 its joy. These contradictions are too explicit to be
ignored. Indeed sometimes their juxtaposition forces them upon the
most inattentive reader; as when viii. 12, 13 assert that it is well
with the righteous and ill with the wicked, whereas viii. 14 asserts
that the wicked often fare as the just should fare and vice versa;
and that this is the author's real opinion is made certain by the
occurrence of the melancholy refrain at the end of the verse.

Different minds will interpret these contradictions differently.
Some will say they are nothing but the reflex of the contradictions
the preacher found to run through life, others will say that they
represent him in different moods. But they are too numerous,
radical, and vital to be disposed of so easily. There can be no
doubt that the book is essentially pessimistic: it ends as well as
begins with Vanity of Vanities, xii. 8; and this must therefore have
been the ground-texture of the author's mind. Now it is not likely
to be an accident that the references to the moral order and the
certainty of divine judgment are not merely assertions: they can
usually, in their context, only be regarded as protests--as
protests, that is, against the context. That is very plain in ch.
iii., where the order of the world, _vv_. 1-8, which the
preacher lamented as profitless, _vv_. 9, 10, is maintained to
be beautiful, _v_. 11. It is equally plain in iii. 17, which
asserts the divine judgment, whereas the context, iii. 16, denies
the justice of earthly tribunals, and effectually shuts out the hope
of a brighter future by maintaining that man dies[1] like the beast,
_vv_. 18-21.
[Footnote 1: Ch. iii. 21 should read: "Who knoweth the spirit of
man, _whether_ it goeth upward?" This translation involves no
change in the consonantal text and is supported by the Septuagint.]

Of a similar kind, but on a somewhat lower religious level are the
frequent protests against the preacher's pessimistic assertions of
the emptiness of life and the vanity of effort. For the injunction
to eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of one's labour may, in their
contexts, also be fairly considered not simply as statements, but as
protests (cf. v. 18-20 with v. 13-17); for this glad love of life
was thoroughly representative of the ancient tradition of Hebrew
life (cf. Jeremiah's criticism of Josiah, xxii. 15.) Doubtless these
protests could come from the preacher's own soul; but, considering
all the phenomena, it is more natural to suppose that they were the
protests of others who were offended by the scepticism and the
pessimism of the book, which may well have had a wide circulation.

It now only remains to ask whether books regarded as Scripture ever
received such treatment as is here assumed. Every one acquainted
with the textual phenomena of the Old Testament knows that this was
a common occurrence. The Greek-speaking Jews, translating about or
before the time at which Ecclesiastes was written, altered the simple
phrase in Exodus xxiv. 10, "They saw the God of Israel," to "They saw
the place where the God of Israel stood." In Psalm lxxxiv. 11 they
altered "God is a sun (or pinnacle?) and shield" to "God loves mercy
and truth." They altered "God" to "an angel" in Job xx. 15, "God will
cast them (i.e., the riches) out of his belly"; or even to "an angel
will cast them out of his house." These alterations have no other
authority than the caprice of the translators, acting in the interests
of a purer, austerer, but more timid theology. At the end of the Greek
version of the book of Job, which adds, "It is written that Job will
rise again with those whom the Lord doth raise," we see how deliberately
an insertion could be made in theological interests. The liberties which
the Greek-speaking Jews thus demonstrably took with the text of
Scripture, we further know that the Hebrew-speaking Jews did not
hesitate to take. A careful comparison of the text of such books as
Samuel and Kings with Chronicles[1] shows that similar changes were
deliberately made, and made by pious men in theological interests. We are
thus perfectly free to suppose that the original text of Ecclesiastes,
which must have given great offence to the stricter Jews of the
second century B.C., was worked over in the same way.
[Footnote 1: Cf., e.g., the substitution of Satan in 1 Chron. xxi. 1
for Jehovah in 2 Sam. xxiv. 1.]

It would be impossible to apportion the various sections or verses
of the book with absolute definiteness among various writers; in the
nature of the case, such analyses will always be more or less
tentative. But on the whole there can be little doubt that the
original book, which can be best estimated by the more or less
continuous section, i.-iii., was pervaded by a spirit of almost, if
not altogether, unqualified pessimism. This received correction or
rather protest from two quarters: from one writer of happier soul,
who believed that the earth was Jehovah's (Ps. xxiv. 1) and, as
such, was not a vanity, but was full of His goodness; and from a
pious spirit, who was offended and alarmed by the preacher's
dangerous challenge of the moral order, and took occasion to assure
his readers of the certainty of a judgment and of the consequent
wisdom of fearing God. On any view of the book it is difficult to
see the relevance of the collection of proverbs in ch. x.

If this view be correct, the epilogue, xii. 9-14, can hardly have
formed part of the original pessimistic book. The last two verses,
in particular, are conceived in the spirit of the pious protest
which finds frequent expression in the book; and it is easy to
believe that the words saved the canonicity of Ecclesiastes, if
indeed they were not added for that very purpose. The reference to
the commandments in _v_. 13 is abrupt, and almost without
parallel, viii. 5. Again, the preacher, who speaks throughout the
book in the first person, is spoken of here in the third, _v_.
9; and, as in no other part of the book, the reader is addressed as
"my son" _v_. 12 (cf. Prov. i. 8., ii. 1, iii. 1).

The value of Ecclesiastes is negative rather than positive. It is
the nearest approach to despair possible upon the soil of Old
Testament piety. It is the voice of a faith, if faith it can be
called, which is not only perplexed with the search, but weary of
it; but it shows how deep and sore was the need of a Redeemer.


The spirit of the book of Esther is anything but attractive. It is
never quoted or referred to by Jesus or His apostles, and it is a
satisfaction to think that in very early times, and even among Jewish
scholars, its right to a place in the canon was hotly contested. Its
aggressive fanaticism and fierce hatred of all that lay outside of
Judaism were felt by the finer spirits to be false to the more
generous instincts that lay at the heart of the Hebrew religion; but
by virtue of its very intensity and exclusiveness it as all the more
welcome to average representatives of later Judaism, among whom it
enjoyed an altogether unique popularity, attested by its three Targums
and two distinct Greek recensions[1]--indeed, one rabbi places it on
an equality with the law, and therefore above the prophets and the
[Footnote 1: It is probable also that the two decrees, one commanding
the celebration for two days, ix. 20-28, the other enjoining fasting
and lamentations, ix. 29-32, are later additions, designed to incorporate
the practice of a later time.]

The story is well told. The queen of Xerxes, king of Persia, is
deposed for contumacy, and her crown is set upon the head of Esther,
a lovely Jewish maiden. Presently the whole Jewish race is
imperilled by an act of Mordecai, the foster-father of Esther, who
refuses to do obeisance to Haman, a powerful and favourite courtier.
Haman's plans for the destruction of the Jews are frustrated by
Esther, acting on a suggestion of Mordecai. The courtier himself
falls from power, and is finally hanged on the gallows he had
prepared for Mordecai, while Mordecai "the Jew" is exalted to the
place next the king, and the Jews, whom the initial decree had
doomed to extermination, turn the tables by slaying over 75,000 of
their enemies throughout the empire, including the ten sons of
Haman. In memory of the deliverance, the Purim festival is
celebrated on the 14th and 15th of the month Adar.

The popularity of the book was due, no doubt, most of all to the
power with which it expresses some of the most characteristic, if
almost most odious, traits of Judaism; but also in a measure to its
attractive literary qualities. The setting is brilliant, and the
development of the incident is often skilful and dramatic, The
elevation of Mordecai, due to the simple accident of the king's
having passed a sleepless night, the unexpected accusation of Haman
by Esther, the swift and complete reversal of the situation by which
Haman is hanged upon his own gallows and Mordecai receives the royal
ring--the general sequence of incidents is conceived and elaborated
with considerable dramatic power.

The large number of proper names, the occasional reference to
 chronicles, ii. 23, vi. 1, and the precise mention of dates, combine
to raise the presumption that the book is real history; but a glance
at the facts is sufficient to dispel this presumption. The story falls
within the reign of Xerxes--about 483 B.C., but the hero Mordecai is
represented as being one of the exiles deported with Jehoiachin in
597 B.C. This is a manifest impossibility. Equally impossible is it
that a Jewish maiden can have become the queen of Persia, in the face
of the express statement of Herodotus (iii. 84) that the king was
bound to choose his consort from one of seven noble Persian families.
These impossibilities are matched by numerous improbabilities. It is
improbable, e.g., that Mordecai could have had such free intercourse
with the harem, ii. 11, unless he had been a eunuch, or in the palace,
ii. 19, unless he had been a royal official. It is improbable that
Xerxes would have announced the date of the massacre months beforehand,
improbable that he would later have sanctioned so indiscriminate a
slaughter of his non-Jewish subjects, and most improbable of all that
the Jews, who were in the minority, should have slain 75,000 of their
enemies, who cannot be supposed to have been defenceless. It is much
more likely that this wholesale butchery took place chiefly in the
author's imagination, though doubtless the wish was father to the
thought. Clearly he wrote long after the events he claims to be
describing, and the sense of historical perspective is obscured where
it is not lost. The Persian empire is a thing of the relatively distant
past, i. 1, 13, and though the author is acquainted with Persian
customs and official titles, it is significant that the customs have
sometimes to be explained. The book is, in fact, not a history, but
a historical novel in miniature.

Its date is hard to fix, but it must be very late, probably the
latest in the Old Testament. In spite of its obvious attempt to
reproduce the classic Hebrew style, the book contains Aramaisms,
late Hebrew words and constructions, and the language alone stamps
it as late. Still more decisive, however, is its sentiment. Its
intensely national pride, its cruel and fanatical exclusiveness, can
be best explained as the result of a fierce persecution followed by
a brilliant triumph; and this condition is exactly met by the period
which succeeded the Maccabean wars (135 B.C. or later). The book,
with its Persian setting, may indeed have been written earlier in
Persia; but it more probably represents a phase of the fierce
Palestinian Judaism of the last half of the second century B.C. It
has been suggested with much probability that Haman is modelled on
Antiochus Epiphanes; between their murderous designs against the
Jews there is certainly a strong resemblance, iii. 9, 1 Macc. i. 41,
iii. 34-36.

The object of the book appears to have been twofold: to explain the
origin of the Purim festival, and to glorify the Jewish people. The
real explanation of the festival is shrouded in mystery. The book
traces it to the triumph of the Jews over their enemies and connects
it with _Pur_, ix. 26, supposed to mean "lot"; but no such
Persian word has yet been discovered. Doubtless, however, the book
is correct in assigning the origin of the festival to Persia. A
festival with a somewhat dissimilar name--Farwardigân--was held in
Persia in spring to commemorate the dead, and there may be just a
hint of this in the fasting with which the festival was preceded,
ix. 31, cf. 1 Sam. xxxi. 13, 2 Sam. i. 12. The Babylonians had also
held a new year festival in spring, at which the gods, under the
presidency of Marduk, were supposed to draw the lots for the coming
year: this may have been the ultimate origin of the "lot," which is
repeatedly emphasized in the book of Esther, iii. 7, ix. 24, 26. In
other words, the Jews adopted a Persian festival, which had already
incorporated older Babylonian elements; for there can be little
doubt that the ultimate ground-work of the book is Babylonian
mythology. Esther is so similar to Istar, and Mordecai to Marduk,
that their identity is hardly questionable; and in the overthrow of
Haman by Mordecai it is hard not to see the reproduction of the
overthrow of Hamman, the ancient god of the Elamites, the enemies of
the Babylonians, by Marduk, god of the Babylonians. This supposition
leaves certain elements unexplained--Vashti, e.g., is without
Babylonian analogy, but it is too probable an explanation to be
ignored; and it goes to illustrate the profound and lasting
influence of Babylonia upon Israel. The similarity of the name
Esther to Am_estr_is, who was Xerxes' queen (Hdt. vii. 114, ix.
112) may account for the story being set in the reign of Xerxes.

A collateral purpose of the book is the glorification of the Jews.
In the dramatic contest between Haman the Agagite and Mordecai the
Jew, the latter is victor. He refuses to bow before Haman, and
Providence justifies his refusal; for the Jews are born to dominion,
and all who oppose or oppress them must fall. Everywhere their
superiority is apparent: Esther the Jewess is fairer than Vashti,
and Mordecai, like Joseph in the old days, takes his place beside
the king.

What we regretfully miss in the book is a truly religious note. It
is national to the core; but, for once in the Old Testament,
nationality is not wedded to a worthy conception of God. Too much
stress need not be laid on the absence of His name--this may have
been due to the somewhat secular character of the festival with its
giving and receiving of presents--and the presence of God, as the
guardian of the fortunes of Israel, is presupposed throughout the
whole story, notably in Mordecai's confident hope that enlargement
and deliverance would arise to the Jews from one place, if not from
another, iv. 14. But the religion of the book--for religion it is
entitled to be called--is absolutely destitute of ethical elements.
It is with a shudder that we read of Esther's request for a second
butchery, ix. 13; and all the romantic glamour of the story cannot
blind us to its religious emptiness and moral depravity. In a
generation which had smarted under the persecution of Antiochus and
shed its blood in defence of its liberty and ancestral traditions,
such bitter fanaticism is not unintelligible. But the popularity of
the book shows how little the prophetic elements in Israel's
religion had touched the people's heart, and how stubborn a
resistance was sure to be offered to the generous and emancipating
word of Jesus.


Daniel is called a prophet in the New Testament (Matt. xxiv. 15). In
the Hebrew Bible, however, the book called by his name appears not
among the prophets, but among "the writings," between Esther and
Ezra. The Greek version placed it between the major and the minor
prophets, and this has determined its position in modern versions.
The book is both like and unlike the prophetic books. It is like
them in its passionate belief in the overruling Providence of God
and in the sure consummation of His kingdom; but in its peculiar
symbolism, imagery, and pervading sense of mystery it stands without
a parallel in the Old Testament. The impulse to the type of prophecy
represented by Daniel was given by Ezekiel and Zechariah. The book
is indeed rather apocalyptic than prophetic. The difference has been
well characterized by Behrmann. "The essential distinction," he
remarks, "between prophecy and apocalyptic lies in this: the
prophets teach that the present is to be interpreted by the past and
future, while the apocalyptic writers derive the future from the
past and present, and make it an object of consolatory hope. With
the prophets the future is the servant and even the continuation of
the present; with the apocalyptic writers the future is the
brilliant counterpart of the sorrowful present, over which it is to
lift them." This will be made most plain by a summary of the book

Chs. i.-vi. are narrative in form; chs. vii.-xii. are prophetic or
apocalyptic--they deal with visions. Curiously enough ii. 4-vii. 28,
for no apparent reason, are written in Aramaic. In ch. i. Daniel and
his three friends, Jewish captives at the court of Babylon, prove
their fidelity to their religion by refusing to defile themselves
with the king's food. At the end of three years they show themselves
superior to the "wise" men of the empire. Then (ii.) follows a dream
of Nebuchadrezzar, in which a great image was shivered to pieces by
a little stone, which grew till it filled the whole world. Daniel
alone could retell and interpret the dream: it denoted a succession
of kingdoms, which would all be ultimately overthrown and succeeded
by the everlasting kingdom of God. Ch. iii. deals not with Daniel
but with his friends. It tells the story of their refusal to bow
before Nebuchadrezzar's colossal image of gold, and how their
fidelity was rewarded by a miraculous deliverance, when they were
thrown into the furnace of fire. The supernatural wisdom of Daniel
is again illustrated in ch. iv., where he interprets a curious dream
of Nebuchadrezzar as a token that he would be humbled for a time and
bereft of his reason. Ch. v. affords another illustration of the
wisdom of Daniel, and of the humiliation of impiety and pride, this
time in the person of Belshazzar, who is regarded as
Nebuchadrezzar's son. Daniel interprets the enigmatic words written
by the mysterious hand on the wall as a prediction of the overthrow
of Belshazzar's kingdom, which dramatically happens that very night.
Ch. vi. is intended to teach how precious to God are those who trust
Him and scrupulously conform to the practices of true religion
without regard to consequences. Daniel is preserved in the den of
lions into which he had been thrown by the cruel jealousy of the
officials of Darius' empire.

With ch. vii. Daniel's visions begin. Four great beasts are seen
coming up out of the sea, which, according to Babylonian mythology,
is the element opposed to the divine. The last of the beasts,
especially cruel and terrible, had ten horns, and among them a
little horn with human eyes and presumptuous lips. Then is seen the
divine Judge upon His throne, and the presumptuous beast is judged
and slain. Before this same Judge is brought one like a son of man,
who comes with the clouds of heaven--this human and heavenly figure
being in striking contrast to the beasts that rise out of the sea.
Daniel is informed that the beasts represent four kingdoms, whose
dominion is to be superseded by the dominion of the saints of the
most High, i.e. by the kingdom of God, which will be everlasting. In
a second vision (viii.) a powerful ram is furiously attacked and
overthrown by a goat. The angel Gabriel explains that the ram is the
Medo-Persian empire, and the goat is the king of Greece, clearly
Alexander the Great. From one of the four divisions of Alexander's
empire, a cunning, impudent and impious king would arise who would
abolish the daily sacrifice and lay the temple in ruins, but by a
miraculous visitation he would be destroyed. In ch. ix. Daniel,
after a fervent penitential prayer offered in behalf of his sinful
people, is enlightened by Gabriel as to the true meaning of
Jeremiah's prophecy (xxv. 11f., xxix. 10f.) touching the desolation
of Jerusalem. The seventy years are not literal years, but weeks of
years, i.e. 490 years. During the last week (i.e. seven years) there
would be much sorrow and persecution, especially during the last
half of that period, but it would end in the utter destruction of
the oppressor.

In another vision (x.-xii.) Daniel is informed by a shining one of a
struggle he had had, supported by Michael, with the tutelary angel
of Persia; and he makes a revelation of the future. The Persian
empire will be followed by a Greek empire, which will be divided
into four. In particular, alliances will be formed and wars made
between the kings of the north (no doubt Syria) and the south
(Egypt). With great elaboration and detail the fortunes of the king
of the north, who is called contemptible, xi. 21, are described: how
he desecrates the sanctuary, abolishes the sacrifice, cruelly
persecutes the holy people, and prescribes idolatrous worship. At
last, however, he too perishes, and his death is the signal that the
Messianic days are very soon to dawn. Israel's dead--especially
perhaps her martyred dead--are to rise to everlasting life, and her
enemies are also to be raised to everlasting shame. Well is it for
him who can possess his soul in patience, for the end is sure.

Two facts are obvious even to a cursory inspection of the contents
of Daniel (1), that certain statements about the exilic period,
during which, according to the book, Daniel lived, are inaccurate;
and (2) towards the close of the book and especially in ch. xi.,
which represents a period long subsequent to Daniel, the visions are
crowded with minute detail which corresponds, point for point, with
the history of the third and second centuries B.C., and in
particular with the career of Antiochus Epiphanes (xi. 21-45).

(1) Among the unhistorical statements the following may be noted.
There was no siege and capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 605
B.C., as is implied by i. 1 (cf. Jer. xxv. 1, 9-11), nor indeed
could there have been any till after the decisive battle of
Carchemish, which brought Western Asia under the power of Babylon.
Again, Belshazzar is regarded as the son of Nebuchadrezzar (v.),
though he was in reality the son of Nabunaid, between whom and
Nebuchadrezzar three monarchs lay. Nor is there any room in this
period of the history (538 B.C.) for "Darius the Mede," v. 31; the
conquest of Babylon threw the Babylonian empire immediately into the
hands of Cyrus, and the impossible figure of Darius the Mede appears
to arise through a confusion with the Darius who recaptured Babylon
after a revolt in 521, and perhaps to have been suggested by
prophecies (cf. Isa. xiii. 17) that the Medes would conquer Babylon.
Again, though in certain passages the Chaldeans represent the people
of that name, v. 30, ix. 1, in others (cf. ii. 2, v. 7) the word is
used to denote the wise men of Babylon--a use demonstrably much
later than the Babylonian empire and impossible to any contemporary
of Daniel. Such a seven years' insanity of Nebuchadrezzar as is
described in Daniel iv. is extremely improbable; equally improbable
is the attitude that Nebuchadrezzar in his decree (iii.) and
confession (iv.) and Darius in his decree (vi.) are represented as
having adopted towards the God of the Jews.

(2) Concerning the immediately succeeding period--from Cyrus to
Alexander--the author is apparently not well informed. He knows of
only four Persian kings, xi. 2 (cf. vii. 6). Ch. xi. 5-20 gives a
brief _résumé_ of the relations between the kings of the north
and the kings of the south--which, in this context, after a plain
allusion in _vv_. 3, 4 to Alexander the Great and the divisions
of his empire, can only be interpreted of Syria and Egypt. From
_v_. 21, however, to the end of ch. xi. interest is
concentrated upon one particular person, who must, in the context,
be a king of the north, i.e. Syria. The direct reference in
_v_. 31 to the pollution of the sanctuary, the temporary
abolition of sacrifice, and the erection of a heathen altar, put it
beyond all doubt that the impious and "contemptible" monarch is none
other than Antiochus Epiphanes. This conclusion is confirmed by the
details of the section, with their unmistakable references to his
Egyptian campaigns, _vv_. 25-28, and to the check imposed upon
him by the Romans, _v_. 30, in 168 B.C.

The phenomenon then with which we have to deal is this. A book
supposed to come from the exile, and to announce beforehand the
persecutions and ultimate triumph of the Jewish people in the second
century B.C. is occasionally inaccurate in dealing with the exilic
and early post-exilic period, but minute and reliable as soon as it
touches the later period. Only one conclusion is possible--that the
book was written in the later period, not in the earlier. _It is a
product of the period which it so minutely reflects_, 168-165
B.C. The precise date of the book depends upon whether we regard
viii. 14 as implying that the dedication of the temple by Judas
Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. is a thing of the past or still an object of
contemplation. In any case it must have been written before the
death of Antiochus in 164 (xi. 45). Like all the prophets, the
author of Daniel addresses his own age. The brilliant Messianic days
are always the issue of the existing or impending catastrophe; and
so it is in Daniel. The redemption which is to involve the
resurrection is to follow on the death of Antiochus and the
cessation of the horrors of persecution--horrors of which the author
knew only too well.[1]
[Footnote 1: Daniel is fittingly chosen as the hero of the book and
the recipient of the visions, as he appears to have enjoyed a
reputation for piety and wisdom (Ezek. xiv. 14, 20, xxviii. 3).
Ezekiel's references to him, however, would lead us to suppose that
he is a figure belonging to the gray patriarchial times, rather than
a younger contemporary of his own.]

Thus the belief in the late date of the book is reached by a study
of the book itself, and is not due to any prejudice against the
possibility of miracle or predictive prophecy. But the late date is
confirmed by evidence of other kinds, especially (1) linguistic, and
(2) theological. (1) There are over a dozen Persian words in the
book, some even in the Babylonian part of the story. These words
would place the book, at the earliest, within the period of the
Persian empire (538-331 B.C.). Further, within two verses, iii. 4,
5, occur no less than five Greek words (herald, harp, trigon,
psaltery and bagpipe), one of which, _psanterîn_, by its change
of l (psa_l_terion) into n, betrays the influence of the
Macedonian dialect and must therefore be later than the conquests of
Alexander, and another, _symphonia_, is first found in Plato.
Though it is not impossible that the names of the other musical
instruments may have been taken over by the Semites from the Greeks
at an early time, these words at any rate practically compel us to
put the book, at the earliest, within the Greek period (i.e. after
331 B.C.). Further, the Hebrew of the book has a strongly Aramaic
flavour. It is not classical Hebrew at all, but has marked
affinities, both in vocabulary and syntax, with some of the latest
books in the Old Testament, such as Chronicles and Esther.

(2) The theology of Daniel undoubtedly represents one of the latest
developments within the Old Testament. The transcendence of God is
emphasized. He is frequently called "the God of Heaven," ii. 18, 19,
and once "heaven" is used, as in the later manner (cf. Luke xv. 18)
almost as a synonym for "God," iv. 26. As God becomes more
transcendent, angels become more prominent: they constitute a very
striking feature in the book of Daniel--two of them are even named,
Gabriel and Michael. Very singular, too, and undoubtedly late is the
conception that the fortunes of each nation are represented and
guarded in heaven by a tutelary angel, x. 13ff. 20.

The view of the future life in xii. 2, 3 is the most advanced in the
Old Testament: not only the nation but the individuals shall be
raised, and of the individuals not only the good (cf. Isa. xxvi. 14,
19) but the bad, to receive the destiny which is their due. These
facts so conclusively suggest a late date for the book that it is
unnecessary to emphasize Daniel's prayer three times a day with his
face towards Jerusalem, vi. 10, though this is not without its
[Footnote 1: It is worthy of notice that the reference to "the
books" from which the prophecy of Jeremiah is quoted in ix. 2 seems
to imply that the prophetic canon of Scripture was already closed;
and this was hardly the case before 200 B.C.]

The interpretation of this difficult book loses much of its
difficulty as soon as we recognize it to be a product of the time of
Antiochus Epiphanes. It is best to begin with ch. xi, for there the
allusions are, in the main, unmistakable and undeniable. Antiochus
is the last of the kings of the north, i.e. Syria, regarded as one
of the divisions of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great. Without
enigma or symbolism of any kind, the Persian empire is mentioned in
xi. 2 as preceding the Greek, and in _v_. 1 as being preceded
by the Median, which in its turn had been preceded by the
Babylonian. Here, then, in the plainest possible terms, is a
succession of four empires--Babylonian, Median, Persian, Greek--the
last to be succeeded by the kingdom of God (ch. xii.); and with this
key in our hand we can unlock the secret of chs. vii. and ii.

In ch. vii. the four kingdoms, represented by the four beasts and
contrasted with the humane kingdom which is to follow them, are no
doubt these very same kingdoms, as are also the four kingdoms of ch.
ii., symbolized by the different parts of the colossal image of
Nebuchadrezzar's dream: the little stone which destroys the image is
again the kingdom of God. In ch. viii. the ram with the two unequal
horns is the Medo-Persian empire, and the goat which overthrows the
ram is symbolic of the Greek empire, founded by Alexander.

These great features of the book are practically certain. It is
further extremely probable that, in spite of a noticeable difference
in the context, the "little horn" of viii. 9 is the same as the
little horn of vii. 8, 20: the detail of both descriptions--the war
with the saints, the destruction of the temple, the abolition of the
sacrifice--is an undisguised allusion to Antiochus Epiphanes in his
persecution of the faithful Jews and his efforts to extirpate their
religion. The one like a son of man in vii. 13 is almost certainly
not the Messiah: coming as he does with the clouds of heaven, he is
the symbol of the kingdom of God, in contrast to the beasts, which
emerge from the ungodly sea and symbolize the empires of this world.
Again, his being "like a man"--for this is probably all that the
phrase means--is meant to suggest that the kingdom of God is
essentially human and humane, in contrast to the four preceding
kingdoms, which are essentially brutal and cruel. This
interpretation, which the contrasts practically necessitate, is made
as certain as may be by _vv_. 18, 22, 27, where the kingdom and
dominion, which in _v_. 13 are assigned to one like a son of
man, are assigned in similar terms to "the people of the saints of
the most High," i.e. the faithful Jews.

The passages whose interpretation is least certain occur in ch. ix.
In each of two consecutive verses, _vv_ 25f., is a reference to
an "anointed one"--a different person being intended in each case.
The question of their identity involves the further question of the
precise interpretation of the prophecy of the seventy weeks. In ix.
2 Daniel is reminded by a study of Jeremiah (xxv. 11f., xxix. 10) of
the prophecy that the desolation of Jerusalem would last for seventy
years. But it is not over yet.[1] Gabriel then explains, _v_.
24, that the years are in reality weeks of years, i.e. by the
seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah are really meant 490 years. The
period of seventy weeks, thus interpreted, is further subdivided in
_vv_. 25, 26 (a passage almost unintelligible in the Authorized
Version) into three periods, viz. seven weeks (=forty-nine years),
sixty-two weeks, and one week (=seven years).
[Footnote 1: Another incidental proof that the book is late. In the
time presupposed by it for the activity of Daniel, the seventy years
had not yet expired, and so there could have been no problem.]

With the first and last periods there is no difficulty. Starting
from 586 B.C., the date of the exile, forty-nine years would bring
us to 537, just about the time assigned to the edict of Cyrus, which
permitted the Jews to return and rebuild their city. Cyrus would
thus be "the anointed, the prince," and it is an interesting
corroboration of this view that Cyrus is actually called the
anointed in Isaiah xlv. 1. Now, as the book ends with the
anticipated death of Antiochus in 164 B.C., the last week would
represent the years 171 to 164; and in 171 the high priest, who, as
such, would naturally be an anointed one, was assassinated.
Attention is specially called to the sorrows of the last half of the
last week, when the sacrifice would be taken away. This corresponds
almost exactly with the suspension of the temple services from 168
to 165; and this period, again, is that which is elsewhere
characterized as "a time, and times, and half a time," i.e. three
and a half years (vii. 25, xii. 7), or "2,300 evenings-mornings,"
i.e. 1,150 days (viii. 14) or 1,290 or 1,335 days (xii. 11, 12).
These varying estimates of the period, not differing widely,
probably suggest that the book was written at intervals, and not all
at once. The beginning and the close of the seventy weeks or 490
years are thus satisfactorily explained; but the period between 537
and 171 represents 366 instead of 434 years, as the sixty-two weeks
demand. Probably the simplest explanation of the difficulty is that
during much of this long period the Jews had no fixed method of
computing time. Also it ought not to be forgotten that the numbers
are, in any case, partly symbolical, and ought not to be too
strictly pressed. For the purposes of the author, the first and last
periods are more important than the middle.

The precise interpretation of the enigmatic writing on the wall
(_mene_, _tekel_, _peres_, v. 28) is uncertain. It
has been cleverly explained as equivalent to "a mina (=60 shekels),
a shekel and a part" (i.e. about sixty-two) and regarded as a
cryptogram for Darius, who, according to _v_. 31, was on the
eve of destroying Belshazzar's kingdom. More probably it simply
means "number, weigh, divide"--the ambiguity being caused by the
different possibilities of pointing and therefore of precisely
interpreting these words, which were of course unpointed in the
original. Further, in the word _peres_ (divide), there is a
veiled allusion to the Persians.

It is difficult to account for the fact that part of the book, ii.
4-vii., is written in Aramaic. It has been supposed that the author
began to use that language in ii. 4, either because he regarded that
as the language spoken by the wise men, or because they, being
aliens, must not be represented as speaking in the sacred tongue;
and that, having once begun to use it, and being equally familiar
with both languages, he kept it up till he came to the more purely
prophetic part of the book, in which he would naturally recur to the
more appropriate Hebrew. Ch. vii., on this view, is difficult to
account for, as it, no less than viii.-xii., is prophetic; and we
should then have to assume, rather unnaturally, that the vision in
ch. vii. was written in Aramaic because it so strongly resembled the
dream of ch. ii. Besides it is not certain that the word "in
Aramaic" in ii. 4 is meant to suggest that the wise men spoke in
that language: it may have originally been only a marginal note to
indicate that the Aramaic section begins here, just as vii.
28_a_ may indicate the end of the section. Some have supposed
that part of a book originally Hebrew was translated into the more
popular Aramaic, or that part of a book originally Aramaic was
translated into the sacred Hebrew tongue. The difficulty in either
case is to account reasonably for the presence of Aramaic in that
particular section which does not coincide with either of the main
divisions of the book (narrative or apocalyptic), but appears in
both (i.-vi., vii.-xii.). Probably, as Peters has suggested, the
Aramaic portion represents old and popular folk-stories about Daniel
and his friends, that language being retained because in it the
stories were familiarly told, while for the more prophetic or
apocalyptic message the sacred language was naturally used. Ch.
vii., however, presents a stumbling-block on any view of the Aramaic
section. The Aramaic of the book is that spoken when the book was
written: it was certainly not the language spoken by the Babylonian
wise men. It is most improbable that they would have used Aramaic at
all; and if they had, it would not have been the dialect of the book
of Daniel, which is a branch of western Aramaic, spoken in and
around Palestine.

In spite of its somewhat legendary and apocalyptic form, the
religious value of Daniel is very high. It is written at white heat
amid the fires of persecution, and it is inspired by a passionate
faith in God and in the triumph of His kingdom over the cruel and
powerful kingdoms of the world. Its object was to sustain the tried
and tempted faith of the loyal Jews under the fierce assaults made
upon it by Antiochus Epiphanes. Never before had there been so awful
a crisis in Jewish history. In 586 the temple had been destroyed,
but that was practically only an incident in or the consequence of
the destruction of the city; but Antiochus had made a deliberate
attempt to exterminate the Jewish religion. It was to console and
strengthen the faithful in this crisis that the book was written.
The author reminds his readers that there is a God in heaven, and
that He reigns, iv. 26. He bids them lift their eyes to the past and
shows them how the fidelity of men like Daniel and his friends was
rewarded by deliverance from the lions and the flames. He bids them
lift their eyes to the future, the very near future: let them only
be patient a little longer, xii. 12, and their enemies will be
crushed, and the kingdom of God will come--that kingdom which shall
know no end.

It is of especial interest that Antiochus died at the time when our
author predicted he would, in 164 B.C., though not, as he had
anticipated, in Palestine, xi. 45. In the kingdom that was so
swiftly coming, the lives that had been lost on its behalf would be
found again: the martyrs would rise to everlasting life. The
narrative parts have an application to the times not much less
immediate than the apocalyptic. The proud and mighty, like
Nebuchadrezzar, are humbled: the impious, like Belshazzar, who drank
wine out of the temple vessels, are slain. Any contemporary, reading
these tales, would be bound to think of Antiochus, who had
demolished the temple and suspended the sacrifices. So Daniel's
refusal to partake of the king's food was well calculated to
encourage men who had been put to the torture for declining to eat
swine's flesh.

Man's extremity is God's opportunity. However cruel the sufferings
or desperate the outlook, yet the Lord is mindful of His own, and He
will Himself deliver them. For one of the most impressive features
of the book is its utter confidence in God and its refusal to appeal
to the sword (Ps. cxlix. 6). It counsels to patience, xii. 12.
Without human hands, God's kingdom comes, ii. 34, and His enemies
are destroyed, viii. 25. In the most skilful way, the book reaches
its splendid climax. It moves steadily on, from a distant past in
which God's servants had been rewarded and His enemies crushed, down
through the centuries in which successive empires were all
unconsciously working out His predetermined plan, and on to the
darkest days in history--so dark, because the glorious and
everlasting kingdom of God was so soon to dawn.


Some of the most complicated problems in Hebrew history as well as
in the literary criticism of the Old Testament gather about the
books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Apart from these books, all that we know
of the origin and early history of Judaism is inferential. They are
our only historical sources for that period; and if in them we have,
as we seem to have, authentic memoirs, fragmentary though they be,
written by the two men who, more than any other, gave permanent
shape and direction to Judaism, then the importance and interest of
these books is without parallel in the Old Testament, for nowhere
else have we history written by a contemporary who shaped it.

It is just and practically necessary to treat the books of Ezra and
Nehemiah together. Their contents overlap, much that was done by
Ezra being recorded in the book of Nehemiah (viii.-x.). The books
are regarded as one in the Jewish canon; the customary notes
appended to each book, stating the number of verses, etc., are
appended only to Nehemiah and cover both books; the Septuagint also
regards them as one. There are serious gaps in the narrative, but
the period they cover is at least a century (538-432 B.C.). A brief
sketch of the books as they stand will suggest their great
historical interest and also the historical problems they involve.

In accordance with a decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. the exiled Jews
return to Jerusalem to build the temple (Ezra i.). Then follows a
list of those who returned, numbering 42,360 (ii.). An altar was
erected, the feast of booths was celebrated, and the regular
sacrificial system was resumed. Next year, amid joy and tears, the
foundation of the temple was laid (iii.). The request of the
Samaritans for permission to assist in the building of the temple
was refused, with the result that they hampered the activity of the
Jews continuously till 520 B.C. (iv, 1-5, 24). Similar opposition
was also offered during the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes, when
the governor of Samaria formally accused the Jews before the Persian
government of aiming at independence in their efforts to rebuild the
city walls, and in consequence the king ordered the suspension of
the building until further notice, iv. 6-23. Under the stimulus of
the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, the real work of building the
temple was begun in 520 B.C. The enterprise roused the suspicion of
the Persian governor, who promptly communicated with Darius. The
Jews had appealed to the decree of Cyrus granting them permission to
build, and this decree was found, after a search, at Ecbatana.
Whereupon Darius gave the Jews substantial support, the buildings
were finished and dedicated in 516 B.C., and a great passover feast
was held (v., vi.).

The scene now shifts to a period at any rate fifty-eight years later
(458 B.C.) Armed with a commission from Artaxerxes, Ezra the scribe,
of priestly lineage, arrived, with a company of laity and clergy, at
Jerusalem from Babylon, with the object of investigating the
religious condition of Judah and of teaching the law (vii.). Before
leaving Babylon he had proclaimed a fast with public humiliation and
prayer, and taken scrupulous precautions to have the offerings for
the temple safely delivered at Jerusalem. When they reached the
city, they offered a sumptuous burnt-offering and sin-offering
(viii.). Soon complaints are lodged with Ezra that leading men have
been guilty of intermarriage with heathen women, and he pours out
his soul in a passionate prayer of confession (ix.). A penitent mood
seizes the people; Ezra summons a general assembly, and establishes
a commission of investigation, which, in about three months,
convicted 113 men of intermarriage with foreign women (x.).

The history now moves forward about fourteen years (444 B.C.).
Nehemiah, a royal cup-bearer in the Persian palace, hears with
sorrow of the distress of his countrymen in Judea, and of the
destruction of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. i.). With the king's
permission, and armed with his support, he visited Jerusalem, and
kindled in the whole community there the desire to rebuild the walls
(ii.). The work was prosecuted with vigour, and, with one exception,
participated in by all (iii.). The foreign neighbours of Jerusalem,
provoked by their success, meditated an attack--a plan which was,
however, frustrated by the preparations of Nehemiah (iv.). Nehemiah,
being interested in the social as well as the political condition of
the community, unflinchingly rebuked the unbrotherly treatment of
the poor by the rich, appealing to his own very different conduct,
and finally induced the nobles to restore to the poor their
mortgaged property (v.). By cunning plots, the enemy repeatedly but
unsuccessfully sought to secure the person of Nehemiah; and in
fifty-two days the walls were finished (vi.). He then placed the
city in charge of two officials, taking precautions to have it
strongly guarded and more thickly peopled (vii.).

At a national assembly, Ezra read to the people from the book of the
law, and they were moved to tears. They celebrated the feast of
booths, and throughout the festival week the law was read daily
(viii.). The people, led by the Levites (under Ezra, ix. 6, lxx.),
made a humble confession of sin (ix.), and the prayer issued in a
covenant to abstain from intermarriage with the heathen and trade on
the Sabbath day, and to support the temple service (x.).

The population of the city was increased by a special draft,
selected by lot from those resident outside, and also by a body of
volunteers (xi.). After a series of lists of priestly and Levitical
houses, one of which[1] is carried down to the time of Alexander the
Great, xii. 1-26, the walls were formally dedicated, and steps were
taken to secure the maintenance of the temple service and officers,
xii. 27-47. On his return to Jerusalem in 432 B.C. Nehemiah enforced
the sanctity of the temple, and instituted various reforms,
affecting especially the Levitical dues, the sanctity of the
Sabbath, and intermarriage with foreigners, xiii.
[Footnote 1: According to Josephus, Jaddua (Neh. xii. 22) was high
priest in the time of Alexander (about 330 B.C.?).]

The difficulties involved in this presentation of the history are of
two kinds--inconsistencies with assured historical facts, and
improbabilities. Perhaps the most important illustration of the
former is to be found in Ezra iii. There not only is an altar
immediately built by the returned exiles--a statement not in itself
improbable--but the foundation of the temple is laid soon after,
iii. 10, and the ceremony is elaborately described (536 B.C.). The
foundation is also presupposed for this period elsewhere in the book
(cf. v. 16, in an Aramaic document). Now this statement is at least
formally contradicted by v. 2, where it is expressly said that,
under the stimulus of the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, who did
not prophesy till 520 B.C., Zerubbabel and Joshua _began_ to
build the house of God. This is confirmed by the very explicit
statements of these two prophets themselves, whose evidence, being
contemporary, is unchallengeable. Haggai gives the very day of the
foundation, ii. 18, and Zechariah iv. 9 says, "The hands of
Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house." It is not
impossible to surmount the difficulty by assuming that the laying of
the foundation in 536 B.C. was a purely formal ceremony while the
real work was not begun till 520; still, it is awkward for this view
that the language of two contemporary prophets is so explicit. And
in any case, the statement in Ezra v. 16 that "since that time (i.e.
536) even until now (520) hath the temple been in building" is not
easy to reconcile with what we know from contemporary sources; the
whole brunt of Haggai's indictment is that the people have been
attending to their own houses and neglecting Jehovah's house, which
is in consequence desolate (Hag. i. 4, 9).

The most signal illustration of the improbabilities that arise from
the traditional order of the book lies in the priority of Ezra to
Nehemiah. On the common view, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem in 458 B.C.
(Ezra vii. 7, 8), Nehemiah in 444 (Neh. ii. 1). But the situation
which Ezra finds on his arrival appears to presuppose a settled and
orderly life, which was hardly possible until the city was fortified
and the walls built by Nehemiah; indeed, Ezra, in his prayer,
mentions the erection of the walls as a special exhibition of the
divine love (Ezra ix. 9). Further, Nehemiah's memoirs make no
allusion to the alleged measures of Ezra; and, if Ezra really
preceded Nehemiah, it is difficult to see why none of the reformers
who came with him from Babylon should be mentioned as supporting
Nehemiah. Again, the measures of Nehemiah are mild in comparison
with the radical measures of Ezra. Ezra, e.g. demands the divorce of
the wives (Ezra x. 11ff.), whereas Nehemiah only forbids
intermarriage between the children (Neh. xiii. 25). In short, the
work of Nehemiah has all the appearance of being tentative and
preliminary to the drastic reforms of Ezra. The history certainly
gains in intelligibility if we assume the priority of Nehemiah, and
the text does not absolutely bind us. Ezra's departure took place
"in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king" (Ezra vii. 7). Even if
we allow that the number is correct, it is just possible that the
king referred to is not Artaxerxes I (465-424), but Artaxerxes II
(404-359). In that case, the date of Ezra's arrival would be 397
B.C.; in any case, the number of the year may be incorrect.

Any doubt which might arise as to the possibility of so serious a
transformation is at once met by an indubitable case of misplacement
in Ezra iv. 6-23. The writer is dealing with the alleged attempts of
the Samaritans to frustrate the building of the temple between 536
and 520 B.C. (Ezra iv. 1-5), and he diverges without warning into an
account of a similar opposition during the reigns of Xerxes (485-465)
and Artaxerxes (465-424) (Ezra iv. 6-23), resuming his interrupted
story of the building of the temple in ch. v. The account in iv. 6-23
is altogether irrelevant, as it has to do, not with the temple, but
with the building of the _city_ walls, iv. 12.

Such peculiarities and dislocations are strange in a historical
writing, and they are to be explained by the fact that the book of
Ezra-Nehemiah is not so much a connected history as a compilation.
The sources and spirit of this compilation we shall now consider.
First and of surpassing importance are (_a_, _b_) what are
known as the I-sections--verbal extracts in the first person, from
the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah:--

(_a_) Ezra vii. 27-ix., except viii. 35, 36.

(_b_) Neh. i.-vii. 5, xii. 27-43, xiii. 4-31.

(_c_) Other sections, though they are not actually extracts from
the memoirs, appear to rest directly on them: cf. Ezra vii. 1-10, x.,
Neh. viii.-x. In these sections Ezra is spoken of in the third person.

(_d_) Of great interest and importance are the Aramaic
sections, Ezra iv. _7b_-vi. 18 and vii. 12-26, involving
correspondence with the Persian court or royal rescripts.

(_e_) Finally, there are occasional lists, such as Neh. xii. 1-26_a_,
or Neh. vii. 6-69, a list of the returning exiles, incorporated in the
memoirs of Nehemiah from some earlier list and borrowed in Ezra ii.

These are the chief sources, but there can be no doubt that they
were compiled--that is put together and in certain cases worked
over--by the Chronicler. That suspicion is at once raised by the
fact that Ezra-Nehemiah is a strict continuation of the book of
Chronicles,[1] though in the Hebrew Bible Chronicles appears last,
because, having to compete with Samuel and Kings, it won its
canonical position later than Ezra-Nehemiah. But apart from this,
the phraseology, style and point of view of the Chronicler are very
conspicuous. There is the same love of the law, the same interest in
Leviticalism, the same joy in worship, the same fondness for lists
and numbers. He must have lived a century or more after Ezra and
Nehemiah; he looks back in Neh. xii. 47 to "the days of Nehemiah,"
and he must himself have belonged to the Greek period. One of his
lists mentions a Jaddua, a high priest in the time of Alexander the
Great. He speaks of the king of _Persia_ (Ezra i. 1), and of
Darius _the Persian_[2] (Neh. xii. 22), as one to whom the
Persian empire was a thing of the past; contemporaries simply spoke
of "the king," Ezra iv. 8.
[Footnote 1: Note that the opening verses of Ezra are repeated at
the end of Chronicles to secure a favourable ending to the book--the
more so as that was the last book of the Hebrew Bible.]
[Footnote 2: In Ezra vi. 22 Darius is even called the king of

Many of the peculiarities of the book are explained the moment it is
seen to be a late compilation. The compiler selected from his
available material whatever suited his purpose; he makes no attempt
to give a continuous account of the period. He leaves without
scruple a gap of sixty years or more[1] between Ezra vi. and vii. He
interpolates a comment of his own in the middle of the original
memoirs of Nehemiah.[2] He transcribes the same list twice (Ezra
ii., Neh. vii.), which looks as if he had found it in two different
documents. He gives passages irrelevant settings (cf. Ezra iv. 6-23).
He passes without warning from the first person in Ezra ix. to the
third person in Ezra x., showing that he does not regard himself
as the slave, but as the master, of his material. Whatever may be
thought of the view that he has reversed the chronological order of
Ezra and Nehemiah, the book undoubtedly contains misplaced passages.
Ezra x. is a very unsatisfactory conclusion to the account of Ezra,
whereas Neh. viii.-x., which deal with the work of Ezra and its
issue in a covenant, form an admirable sequel to Ezra x., and have
almost certainly been misplaced.
[Footnote 1: Unless we take into account the brief misplaced section
in iv. 6-23.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. especially xii. 47 with its reference to "the days
of Nehemiah," whereas in xii. 40, xiii. 6, etc., Nehemiah speaks in
the first person. Ch. xii. 44-47 at least belongs to the

We cannot be too grateful to him for giving intact the vivid and
extremely important account of the activity of Nehemiah the layman
in Nehemiah's own words (i.-vii. 5); at the same time, his own
interests are almost entirely ecclesiastical. Unlike Ezra (viii.
15ff.), he says little of the homeward journey of the exiles in 537,
but much of the temple vessels (Ezra i.) and of the arrangements for
the sacrificial system, iii. 4-6. He dwells at length on the laying
of the foundation stone of the temple, iii. 8-13, on the Samaritan
opposition to the building, iv. 1-5, on the passover festival at the
dedication of the temple when it was finished, vi. 19-22. He
amplifies the Nehemiah narratives at the point where the services
and officers of the temple are concerned.

The influence of the Chronicler is unmistakable even in the Aramaic
documents, whose authenticity one would on first thoughts expect to
be guaranteed by their language. Aramaic would be the natural
language of correspondence between the Persian court and the western
provinces of the empire, and these official documents in Aramaic one
might assume to be originals; but an examination reveals some of the
editorial terms that characterize the Hebrew. A decree of Darius is
represented as ending with the prayer that "the God that hath caused
His name to dwell there (i.e. at Jerusalem) may overthrow all kings
and peoples that shall put forth their hand to destroy this house of
God which is at Jerusalem" (Ezra vi. 13). To say nothing of the
first clause, which has a suspicious resemblance to the language of
Deuteronomy, such a wish addressed to the God of the Jews is
anything but natural on the lips of a Persian. Again, there are
several distinctively Jewish terms of expression in the rescript
given by Artaxerxes to Ezra, e.g. the detailed allusion to
sacrifices in Ezra vii. 17. This, however, might easily be explained
by assuming that Ezra himself had had a hand in drafting the
rescript, which is not impossible.

The question, however, is for the historian a very serious one: how
great were the liberties which the Chronicler allowed himself in the
manipulation of his material? It is interesting in this connexion to
compare his account of the decree of Cyrus on behalf of the Jewish
exiles in Ezra i. 2-4 with the Aramaic version in vi. 3-5, which has
all the appearance of being original. The difference is striking.
Cyrus speaks in ch. i. as an ardent Jehovah worshipper; but the
substance of the edict is approximately correct, though its form is
altogether unhistorical and indeed impossible. The Chronicler's
idealizing tendency is here very apparent; and it is not impossible
that this has elsewhere affected his presentation of the facts as
well as the form of his narrative. In the light of the very plain
statements of the contemporary prophets Haggai and Zechariah, we are
justified in doubting whether, in Ezra iii., the Chronicler has not
antedated the foundation of the temple. To him it may well have
seemed inconceivable that the returned exiles should--whatever their
excuse--have waited for sixteen years before beginning the work
which to him was of transcendent importance.

It is possible, too, that prophecy may have influenced his
presentation of the history. He throws into the very forefront a
prophecy of Jeremiah (xxv. 12), and regards the decree of Cyrus as
its fulfilment (Ezra i. 1). He may also have had in mind the words
of the great exilic prophet who had represented Cyrus as issuing the
command to lay the foundation of the temple (Isa. xliv. 28); and he
may in this way have thrown into the period immediately after the
return activities which properly belong to the period sixteen years
later. But it is perfectly gratuitous, on the strength of this, to
doubt, as has recently been done, the whole story of the return in
537 B.C. Those who do so point out that the audience addressed by
Haggai, i. 12, 14, ii. 2, and Zechariah viii. 6, is described as the
remnant of the people of the land--that is, it is alleged, of those
who had been left behind at the time of the captivity. No doubt the
better-minded among these would lend their support to the efforts of
Haggai and Zechariah to re-establish the worship, but this community
as a whole must have been too dispirited and indifferent to have
taken such a step without the impulse supplied by the returned
exiles. The devotion of the native population to Jehovah, not great
to begin with--for it was the worst of the people who were left
behind--must have deteriorated through intermarriage with heathen
neighbours (Neh. xiii., Ezra ix. x.); and without a return in 537 on
the strength of the edict of Cyrus, the whole situation and sequel
are unintelligible. The Chronicler's version of the decree of Cyrus
throws a flood of light upon his method. It cannot be fairly said
that he invents facts; he may modify, amplify and transpose, but
always on the basis of fact. His fidelity in transcribing the
memoirs of Nehemiah is proof that he was not unscrupulous in the
treatment of his sources.

It remains to consider briefly the value of these sources. The
authenticity of the memoirs of Nehemiah is universally admitted.
Similar phrases are continually recurring, e.g. "the good hand of my
God upon me," ii. 8, 18, and the whole narrative is stamped with the
impress of a brave, devout, patriotic and resourceful personality.
The authenticity of the memoirs of Ezra has been disputed with
perhaps a shadow of plausibility. The language of the memoirs
distinctly approximates to the language of the Chronicler himself,
though this can be fairly accounted for, either by supposing that
the spirit and interests of Ezra the priest were largely identical
with those of the Chronicler, or that the Chronicler, recognizing
his general affinity with Ezra, hesitated less than in the case of
Nehemiah to conform the language of the memoirs to his own. But more
serious charges have been made. It has been alleged that the account
of the career of Ezra has been largely modelled on that of Nehemiah,
as that of Elisha on Elijah, and that legendary elements are
traceable, e.g. in the immense wealth brought by Ezra's company from
Babylon (Ezra viii. 24-27). These reasons do not seem altogether
convincing. The Chronicler stood relatively near to Ezra. Records
and lists were kept in that period, and he was no doubt in
possession of more first-hand documentary information than appears
in his book. There is no obvious motive for the writer who so
faithfully transcribed the memoirs of Nehemiah, inventing so vivid,
coherent and circumstantial a narrative for Ezra in the first person
singular (Ezra vii. 27-ix.).

The question of the Ezra memoirs raises the further question of the
Aramaic documents. The memoirs are immediately preceded by the
Aramaic rescript of Artaxerxes permitting Ezra to visit Jerusalem
for the purpose of reorganizing the Jewish community (Ezra vii. 12-26).
Doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this document on the
strength of its undeniably Jewish colouring; but this, as we have seen,
is probably to be explained by the not unnatural assumption that Ezra
himself had a hand in its preparation. Its substantial authenticity
seems fully guaranteed by the spontaneous and warm-hearted outburst of
gratitude to God with which Ezra immediately follows it (Ezra vii. 27ff):
"Blessed be Jehovah, the God of our fathers, who hath put such a thing
as this in the king's heart," etc. A similar criticism may be made in
general on the Aramaic document, Ezra iv. _7b_-vi. 18. It is certain,
as we have seen, that the document has been retouched by the Chronicler;
but the whole passage and especially the royal decrees are substantially
authentic. Attention has been called to the Persian words which they
contain, though this alone is not decisive, as they might conceivably
be due to a later author; but the authenticity of the decree of Cyrus
is practically guaranteed by the story that it was discovered at
Ecbatana (Ezra vi. 2). Had it been a fiction, the scene of the discovery
would no doubt have been Babylon or Susa.

After making allowance, then, for the Chronicler's occasionally
cavalier treatment of his sources, we have to admit that the sources
themselves are of the highest historical value, though in order to
secure a coherent view of the period, they have, in all probability,
to be rearranged. No rearrangement can be considered as absolutely
certain, but the following, which is adopted by several scholars,
has internal probability:--

Ezra i.-iv. 5, iv. 24-vi., followed by about seventy years of
silence (516-444 B.C.). Neh. i.-vi., Ezra iv. 6-23, Neh. vii. 1-69
(= Ezra ii.), Neh. xi., xii., xiii. 4-31, Ezra vii., viii., Neh.
vii. 70-viii., Ezra ix.-x. 9, Neh. xiii. 1-3, Ezra x. 10-44, Neh.
ix., x.

Despite their enormous difficulties, Ezra-Nehemiah are a source of
the highest importance for the political and religious history of
early Judaism. The human interest of the story is also great--the
problems for religion created by intermarriage (Neh. xiii. 23ff.,
Ezra ix., x.), and the growth of the commercial spirit (Neh. xiii.
15-22). The figure of Ezra, though not without a certain devout
energy, is somewhat stiff and formal; but the personality revealed
by the memoirs of Nehemiah is gracious almost to the point of
romance. Seldom did the Hebrew people produce so attractive and
versatile a figure--at once a man of prayer and of action, of clear
swift purpose, daring initiative, and resistless energy, and endowed
with a singular power of inspiring others with his own enthusiasm.
He forms an admirable foil to Ezra the ecclesiastic; and it is a
matter of supreme satisfaction that we have the epoch-making events
in his career told in his own direct and vigorous words.


The comparative indifference with which Chronicles is regarded in
modern times by all but professional scholars seems to have been
shared by the ancient Jewish church. Though written by the same hand
as wrote Ezra-Nehemiah, and forming, together with these books, a
continuous history of Judah, it is placed after them in the Hebrew
Bible, of which it forms the concluding book; and this no doubt
points to the fact that it attained canonical distinction later than
they. Nor is this unnatural. The book of Kings had brought the history
down to the exile of Judah; and the natural desire to see the history
carried from its new starting point in the return and restoration
through post-exilic times is met by the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, to
which there was no rival, whereas Chronicles had a rival in the
existing and popular books of Samuel and Kings.

The book, whose name _Chronicles_ is borrowed by Luther from
Jerome, is very late. Ezra-Nehemiah with which Chronicles goes must
be, as we have seen,[1] as late as Alexander the Great; but the
lateness of Chronicles can be proved without going beyond the book
itself. The Hebrew text of 1 Chron. iii. 19ff. carries the date six
generations beyond Zerubbabel (520 B.C.), that is, at the earliest,
to 350 B.C., while the Greek text postulates eleven generations,
which would compel us to come as late as 250 B.C. We shall not go
far astray if we consider the date as roughly 300 B.C. It is thus
seven centuries later than the reign of David, with whose
ecclesiastical enterprises it deals so elaborately, and about two
and a-half centuries from the exile, with which it closes. The
distance of the record from the events has to be borne in mind when
estimating its religious spirit and historical value.
[Footnote: See p. 355.]

The book of Chronicles is an ecclesiastical history in a sense very
much more severe than the book of Kings; on every page it reflects
the ritual interests which were predominant when the book was
written. To it the only history worth recording is the history of
Judah. The first ten chapters are occupied with the preparation for
that history, and the rest of the book (i Chron. xi.-2 Chron.
xxxvi.) with the history itself from the coronation of David to the
exile. Israel is the apostate kingdom; she had revolted alike from
Judah and Jehovah, and had been swept for her sins into exile, from
which she never emerged again. The Chronicler makes a man of God say
to Amaziah, "Jehovah is not with Israel," 2 Chron. xxv. 7, and this
exactly represents his own attitude. He therefore all but absolutely
ignores the history of the northern kingdom, touching upon it only
where it is in some special way implicated in the history of Judah.

This practically exclusive attention of the Chronicles to Judah is
based upon her unique religious or rather ecclesiastical importance.
In Judah God made Himself known as nowhere else (cf. Ps. lxxvi. 1,
2); she was the religious metropolis of the world (Ps. lxxxvii.);
Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, and the temple was the centre of
Jerusalem. Therefore the temple and its affairs completely dwarf all
other interests. Not only is the story in Kings of its building and
dedication by Solomon repeated and expanded (2 Chron. i.-ix.), but
the story of David's reign (1 Chron. xi.-xxix.) is almost entirely
monopolized by an account of the arrangements which he made for the
temple ordinances and the material which he collected for the
building. He is said to have given Solomon a plan of the temple with
all its furniture and sundry other details, the pattern of which he
is said to have himself received from the hand of God (xxviii).
Every opportunity is taken in the course of the history to dwell
with an affectionate elaboration of detail on the temple services or
festivals; and the resultant contrast between the corresponding
accounts of the same reign in Kings and Chronicles is often very
singular--nowhere more so than in the story of Hezekiah, most of
which is devoted to an account of the great passover held in
connexion with the reformation (2 Chron. xxix., xxx.).

The Chronicler betrays, if possible, even more interest in the
Levites than in the priests. It is a Levite who is moved by the
Spirit to encourage Jehoshaphat before the battle (2 Chron. xx. 14),
and special attention is called to their enthusiasm at the
reformation of Hezekiah (2 Chron. xxix. 34). The Chronicler also
displays exceptional interest in the musical service--in his
account, e.g., of the inauguration of the temple and of the
passovers of Hezekiah and Josiah; so that it has been not
unreasonably conjectured that the author was himself a Levite and
member of one of the guilds of temple singers or musicians.

Since, then, the interests of the Chronicler are so undeniably
ecclesiastical, the question may be fairly raised how far his
narrative is strictly historical. It must be confessed, e.g., that
the impression made by his account of David is distinctly unnatural
and improbable, in the light of the graphic biography in 1 and 2
Samuel. It is not a supplementary picture, but an altogether
different one. The versatile minstrel-warrior of the earlier books
is transformed into a saint, whose supreme aim in life is the
service of religion; and this transformation is thoroughly
characteristic of the Chronicler. He deals with his literary sources
in the most sovereign fashion, and adapts them to his theories of
Providence. His omissions, e.g., are very significant. He has
nothing to say of David's adultery, nor of Solomon's idolatry, nor
of the intrigues by which he succeeded to the throne, nor of the
tribute of silver and gold which Hezekiah paid Sennaccherib (2 Kings
xviii. 14-16). It may be urged in extenuation of his silence that
his public were already familiar with these stories in the books of
Samuel and Kings; but he repeats so many sections from these books
word for word that his failure to repeat the sections which militate
against his heroes can only be regarded as part of a deliberate
policy. Especially must this be maintained in the light of his
numerous modifications or contradictions of his sources. David's
sons, he tells us, were chief about the king (1 Chron, xviii. 17);
he cannot allow that they were priests, as 2 Sam. viii. 18 says they
were. Nor can he allow that Solomon offered his dedicatory prayer
before the altar (1 Kings viii. 22)--that was the place for the
priest--so he erects for him a special platform in the midst of the
court, from which he addresses the people (2 Chron. vi. 13).

The motive of these changes is obviously respect for the priestly
law. Sometimes the motive is to glorify his heroes or to magnify
their enthusiasm or devotion. Where, e.g. in 2 Sam. xxiv. 24 David
pays Araunah fifty shekels of silver for the ground on which the
temple was afterwards built, in 1 Chron. xxi. 25 he pays 600 shekels
of gold. Similarly, in 1 Kings ix. 11 Solomon gives Hiram certain
cities in return for a loan; in 2 Chron. viii. 2 it is Hiram who
gives Solomon the cities. David accumulates 100,000 talents of gold
and 1,000,000 of silver for the building of the temple (1 Chron.
xxii.)--a fabulous and impossible sum when we remember that Solomon
himself had only 666 talents of gold yearly (1 Kings x. 14). In 2
Sam. xxi. 19 Elhanan is the hero who slays Goliath; the Chronicler
sees that this conflicts with the romantic story of David (1 Sam.
xvii.) and therefore makes Elhanan slay the brother of Goliath (1
Chron. xx. 5). In 2 Kings xxii., xxiii., the reformation of Josiah
follows very naturally upon the finding of the law in the eighteenth
year of the king, but the Chronicler represents the reformation as
taking place in his twelfth year, i.e. as soon as he came of age (2
Chrori. xxxiv. 3). He still, however, dates the finding of the law
in his eighteenth year (cf. 8), i.e. _six years after the
reformation_, and thus throws the history into an impossible
sequence, apparently for no other object than to illustrate the
youthful devotion of his hero-king. He is not even always consistent
with himself; following Kings (1 Kings xv. 14, xxii. 43) he says
that Asa and Jehoshaphat did not remove the high places (2 Chron.
xv. 17, xx. 33), and yet he had just before told us that they did (2
Chron, xiv. 5, xvii. 6) as, on his theory,--being good kings, they
should. The motive for the change is usually obvious. In 2 Sam.
xxiv. 1 Jehovah had tempted David to number the people. This is
intolerable to the more advanced theology of the Chronicler, so he
ascribes the impulse to Satan (1 Chron. xxi. 1). A similar
transformation may be seen in his notice of the doom of Saul. In 1
Sam. xxviii. 6 it is implicitly said that Saul earnestly sought to
discover the divine will; in 1 Chron. x. 14 this is roundly denied-he
did not inquire of Jehovah.

These and similar transformations, amounting sometimes to
contradictions of the original sources, are due to a religious
motive, and they appear to be made in perfectly good faith. The
Chronicler is a religious man who, unlike Job, finds no perplexities
in the moral world, but everywhere a precise and mechanical
correspondence between character and destiny. Not only is piety
rewarded by prosperity, but prosperity presupposes piety. The most
pious kings have the most soldiers. David has over a million and a
half, Jehoshaphat over a million, while Rehoboam has only 180,000.
Manasseh's long reign of fifty-five years--a stumbling-block, on the
Chronicler's theory--has to be explained by his repentance (2 Chron.
xxxiii. 11ff.). Religious explanations are everywhere assigned for
facts. Josiah's defeat and death are the penalty of his disobedience
to the word of God which came to him through the Egyptian king (2
Chron. xxxv. 21ff). So Uzziah's leprosy is the divine punishment of
his pride in presuming to offer incense despite the protests of the
priests (2 Chron. xxvi. 16ff.), The Chronicler sees the hand of God
in everything; He is the immediate arbiter of all human destiny.
That is why rewards and punishments are so swift and just and sure.
The divine control of human affairs is most conspicuously seen in
the Chronicler's account of battles, where the human warriors count
for nothing. God fights or causes a panic among the enemy; the
warriors do little more than shout and pursue (2 Chron. xiii. 15,
xx.). The battle-scenes show how little imagination the Chronicler
possessed; clearly he had never seen a battle, and he has no
conception of one (cf. Num. xxxi.). He thinks nothing of describing
a conflict between 400,000 Judeans and 800,000 Israelites, in which
half a million of the latter were slain (2 Chron. xiii.). It is all
so different from the stirring and life-like tales of the Judges or
the Maccabees.

In the face of these historical improbabilities, what are we to make
of the Chronicler's continual appeal to his sources? These are
ostensibly of two kinds: (_a_) historical, (_b)_
prophetical. (_a_) He frequently refers to the book of the
kings of Israel and Judah, the book of the kings of Judah and
Israel, the book of the kings of Israel, and the history of the
kings of Israel. No doubt one book is cited under these different
titles. The history of Manasseh, e.g., is said to be recorded in the
history of the kings of Israel (2 Chron. xxxiii. 18); clearly this
cannot be northern Israel, as Manasseh was a king of Judah. What,
then, was this book of the kings of Israel and Judah? At first we
are strongly tempted to regard it as our canonical book of Kings.
That book was already over two centuries in existence and must have
been familiar; not only are whole sections copied from it by the
Chronicler verbatim, but occasionally passages which he adopts
presuppose other passages which he has omitted; e.g. he follows 2
Sam. v. 13 in asserting that David took _more_ wives (1 Chron.
xiv. 3), though the word "more" has no meaning in his context; in
his source it points naturally enough back to 2 Sam. iii. 2-5. There
can be no doubt, then, that the canonical books of Samuel and Kings
constituted one of his sources.

Yet it is almost equally certain that that is not the book to which
he continually refers his readers. The "book of Jehu," which
recorded the history of Jehoshaphat, is said to be incorporated in
the book of the Kings of Israel (2 Chron. xx. 34); it is not,
however, in our canonical Kings. Neither is the prayer of Manasseh
(2 Chron. xxxiii. 18), nor are the genealogies referred to in 1
Chron. ix. 1. Again, for further information about Jotham the reader
is referred to the book of the kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chron.
xxvii. 7), when, as a matter of fact, the Chronicler has more to
tell about him than our book of Kings (2 Kings xv. 32-38). Clearly,
then, the book so frequently cited is not the canonical book of
Kings. What sort of production it was may be inferred from the
reference in 2 Chron. xxiv. 27 to the "_midrash_ of the book of
the Kings." Doubtless the book in question was a midrash, i.e. an
edifying commentary on the history, of the sort preserved in the
very late story of 1 Kings xiii. The tendency towards midrash, which
so powerfully affected the later Jewish mind, appears as early as
the stories of Elisha. (_b_) Prophetic sources are also
frequently cited or alluded to, e.g. the books of Samuel, Nathan,
Gad (1 Chron. xxix. 29), the prophecy of Ahijah, the book of
Shemaiah, the book of Iddo (2 Chron, xii. 15), the vision of Isaiah
(2 Chron. xxxii. 32), etc. Probably, however, these were not
independent prophetic works. The reference to the "_midrash_ of
the prophet Iddo" (2 Chron. xiii. 22) suggests that these works,
like the history of the kings, were midrashic; in all probability
they were simply extracts from the midrashic book of Kings already
alluded to. Practically all the prophets to whom books are ascribed
in Chronicles are mentioned in the canonical books, and probably
they were regarded as the authors of the sections in which their
names occur, so that the books of Samuel, Nathan and Gad would be
none other than the relevant portions of Samuel and Kings, or of the
midrash of these books. Thus the Chronicler's imposing array of
citations may be without injustice reduced to two books--the
canonical book of Kings (or Genesis to Kings) and the midrash to
those books.

These facts have led many to deny all value whatever to the
Chronicler's unsupported statements. But such a condemnation is too
sweeping. The genealogies in 1 Chron. i.-ix., though they no doubt
received many later additions, probably rest on good sources, and
there are other notices bearing, e.g., on the fortifications of
Rehoboam (2 Chron. xi.), Jotham (2 Chron. xxvii.), etc., on Uzziah's
enterprise in peace and war (2 Chron. xxvi. 5-15), on Judah's border
warfare (2 Chron. xvii. 11, xxi. 16, xxvi. 7, xxviii. 17f), etc.,
which do not display the Chronicler's characteristic tendencies and
appear to be authentic. On the whole, however, the historical value
of Chronicles must be rated low. Nor is its religious value high.
Its attitude to the problems raised by the moral order is
exceedingly mechanical, and with one noble exception (2 Chron. xxx.
18, 19), its general conception of religion is ritualistic. But it
is a valuable monument of the Judaism of the third century B.C., and
we learn from it to appreciate the daring independence of such books
as Job and Ecclesiastes.

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