Introduction to the Old Testament
John Edgar McFadyen

Part 5 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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