Introduction to the Old Testament
John Edgar McFadyen

Part 3 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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


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