Introduction to the Old Testament
John Edgar McFadyen

Part 2 out of 5


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:--


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