Introduction to the Old Testament
John Edgar McFadyen

Part 4 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

or contrasted with it, as--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

In spite of the opening verse, it is very plain that Solomon could


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