The Makers and Teachers of Judaism
Charles Foster Kent
Part 4 out of 7
In those days I will pour out my spirit.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 7:1)]
When Eliashib the high priest was dead, his son Judas succeeded him in the
high priesthood. Then, when he was dead, his son Johanan assumed that
dignity. It was on his account that Bagoses, the general of Artaxerxes
[Mnemon], desecrated the temple and imposed tribute on the Jews, that at
public expense they should pay for every lamb fifty shekels. The reason
for this was as follows: Jeshua was the brother of Johanan. Bagoses, who
was Jeshua's friend, promised to secure for him the high priesthood.
Trusting, therefore, in this support, Jeshua quarrelled with Johanan in
The temple and so provoked his brother that, in his anger, Johanan slew
him. On this account the people were enslaved and the temple desecrated by
the Persians. For when Bagoses, the general of Artaxerxes, knew that
Johanan, the high priest of the Jews had slain his own brother Jeshua in
the temple, he immediately came against the Jews and began in anger to say
to them, Have you dared commit a murder in your temple! And when he
attempted to go into the temple they tried to prevent him doing so; but he
said to them, Am I not purer than he who was slain in the temple? And when
he had said these words, he went into the temple. Thus Bagoses made use of
this pretext and punished the Jews seven years for the murder of Jeshua.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 7:2)]
Now when Johanan had departed this life, his son Jaddua succeeded to the
high priesthood. He had a brother whose name was Manasseh. And there was a
certain Sanballat who was sent to Samaria by Darius, the last king of
Persia. This man, knowing that Jerusalem was a famous city and that its
kings had given great trouble to the Assyrians and the people of
Coele-Syria, willingly gave his daughter, whose name was Nicaso, in
marriage to Manasseh, thinking that this marriage alliance would be a
pledge that the nation of the Jews would continue their good will toward
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 8:2a-c)]
The elders of Jerusalem, complaining loudly that the brother of Jaddua,
the high priest, though married to a foreigner, was sharing with him the
high priesthood, took sides against Jaddua; for they regarded this man's
marriage as an encouragement to those who were eager to transgress by
marrying foreign wives and that this would be the beginning of a closer
association with foreigners. Therefore they commanded Manasseh to divorce
his wife or else not to approach the altar. The high priest himself joined
with the people in their indignation and drove his brother from the altar.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 8:2d-g)]
Then Manasseh went to his father-in-law, Sanballat, and told him that,
although he loved his daughter, Nicaso, he was not willing to be deprived
on her account of his priestly dignity, since it was the greatest dignity
in their nation and had always continued in the same family. Thereupon
Sanballat promised him not only to preserve for him the honor of his
priesthood but also to procure for him the power and dignity of a high
priest and to make him governor of all the places which he himself ruled,
if he would retain his daughter as his wife. He also told him that he
would build him a temple like that at Jerusalem upon Mount Gerizim, which
is the highest of all the mountains in Samaria. Moreover he promised that
he would do this with the approval of Darius, the king. Manasseh, being
elated with these promises, remained with Sanballat, thinking that he
would gain a high priesthood as the gift from Darius, for Sanballat was
then well advanced in years. Now there was a great disturbance among the
people of Jerusalem because many of the priests and Levites were entangled
in such marriages, for they all revolted to Manasseh, and Sanballat
offered them money and distributed among them land for cultivation and
dwelling places also. He did all this in order in every way to gratify
I. Prosperity of the Judean Community. Behind their restored walls the
Jews of Jerusalem enjoyed a sense of security and peace that had not been
theirs since the days of Josiah. At last they were free to develop the
limited resources of little Judah and gradually to extend their territory
northwestward over the fertile plain of Sharon. At the most their numbers
and territory were small. The memories of their glorious past and their
hopes for the future were their chief inspiration. The belief that in
supporting faithfully the service of the temple and in conforming to the
definite demands of the ritual they were winning Jehovah's favor was to
them an unfailing source of comfort and thankfulness. In the rich services
of the temple and in the contemplation of Jehovah's character and deeds
they found true joy. These feelings are expressed in certain of the
psalms, as, for example, Psalm 36, which probably comes from this period.
In their weakness they looked up in confidence and gratitude to Jehovah
who ruled supreme in the heavens, and who was able and eager to preserve
those who "put their trust in the shadow of his wings." Their one prayer
was that his loving-kindness would continue to protect them.
II. The Growth of the Psalter. Nehemiah's work apparently gave an
impulse not only to the development of the law and the temple ritual, but
also inspired poets to voice their own feelings and those of the community
in certain of the psalms now found in the Psalter. It also encouraged them
to collect the earlier religious songs of their race. The result of their
work is the first edition of the Hebrew Psalter. In its present form the
Psalter, like the Pentateuch, is divided into five books with a general
introduction consisting of Psalms 1 and 2 and a concluding doxology (Ps.
150). At the end of each of these divisions are shorter doxologies or
brief epilogues (e.g., 41:13 72:19 89:52 106:48). The Psalter itself is a
library containing a great variety of poems written at different periods,
from many different points of view and by many different poets. Like the
Priestly Code and the book of Proverbs, it consists of a collection of
smaller collections. Thus many psalms in the first half of the Psalter
are repeated wholly or in part in later psalms. Psalm 14, for example, is
identical with Psalm 73, except that in 14 Jehovah is used as the
designation of the Deity and in 73 Elohim (or God).
The problem of determining the date of the individual psalms and of the
different collections is exceedingly difficult, both because the
superscriptions were clearly added by later editors who thought thereby to
connect the psalm with an earlier writer or historic incident, and because
the psalms themselves contain few historical allusions. A great majority
of them reflect the teachings of the pre-exilic prophets or, like the book
of Proverbs, come from the lips of the sages and deal with universal human
problems. Some were written by priests or Levites for use in connection
with the song service of the temple. Because of this timeless quality,
however, an appreciation of them does not depend upon an exact knowledge
of their authorship or historical background. It is possible that a few of
the psalms in the first part of the Psalter come from the pre-exilic
period, but the great majority reflect the problems, the hopes, the fears,
and the trials of the faithful who lived under the shadow of the second
temple. While the superscriptions clearly do not come from the original
psalmists themselves, they do record the conclusions of the editors who
made the earliest collections. The oft-recurring title "Psalm to David"
either means that by the editor it was attributed to David as the author,
or is a general designation of psalms that were recognized to be
comparatively early. The two great Davidic collections, 3-41 and 51-72,
were apparently collected not long after the rebuilding of the walls of
Jerusalem. They are deeply influenced by the inspiring teachings of the
II Isaiah. They are remarkably free from that ceremonialism which became a
powerful force in Judaism during the last century of the Persian rule.
Psalm 51:16, 17, for example, echoes the noble ethical teachings of the
Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it,
Thou delightest not in burnt offering,
The sacrifice of God is a broken heart,
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
They represent, therefore, the oldest edition of the Psalter and the songs
which were probably sung by the temple singers and the people as they
went up to the temple on the great feast days during the closing years of
the Persian period.
III. The Prophecy of Joel. For a brief moment the clear light of
contemporary prophecy is turned upon the Judean community by the little
book of Joel. The immediate occasion was the invasion of a great swarm of
locusts which swept into Judea either from the desert or from the
mountains in the north. It contains in 3:6 the first Old Testament
reference to the Greeks. From 3:2 it is evident that the Jewish race has
already been widely scattered. In 3:2 the hope is expressed that the
time will soon come when strangers shall no longer pass through Jerusalem.
The temple, however, and the city walls (2:9) have already been
rebuilt, indicating that the prophecy followed the work of Nehemiah. The
priests are exceedingly prominent in the life of the community, and Joel,
though a prophet, places great emphasis upon the importance of the ritual.
When the community is threatened by the swarms of locusts, whose advance
he describes with dramatic imagery, he calls upon the people to sanctify
a fast and to summon an assembly, and commands the priests to cry aloud to
Jehovah for deliverance.
IV. Hopes of the Jews. In his prophecy Joel has given a very complete
description of the hopes which the people entertained regarding the coming
day of Jehovah. It is the same day of Jehovah that Zephaniah described
(Section LXXXI:v) and yet the portrait is very different. A divine
judgment is to be pronounced, not upon Jehovah's people, but upon their
foes. Here Joel reveals the influence of Ezekiel's graphic descriptions
found in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of his prophecy.
Vividly he describes the advance of Israel's hereditary foes. With
Full panoply of war they are pictured as advancing to the Valley of
Jehoshaphat, the valley of judgment (popularly identified with the
Kidron), where Jehovah is to pass sentence upon them. Then suddenly, as
the harvester puts the sickle in the grain, they shall be cut down and
utterly destroyed. Also in the prophet's imagination above this carnage
rises Jerusalem, an impregnable fortress for the people of Israel, holy
and no longer polluted by the presence of heathen invaders. Peace and
prosperity shall then be the lot of Jehovah's people. Above all he will
pour out his purifying, enlightening spirit upon all classes, so that
young and old, slave and free, shall be inspired by the consciousness of
his message and presence in their hearts.
V. Rule of the High Priests. The few facts that have been preserved
regarding the external history of the Judean community during the last
century of the Persian rule are in striking contrast to the inner life and
hopes of the people. At their head were the high priests, whose names we
know, Eliashib, Johanan, and Jaddua. They constituted a hereditary
aristocracy intrenched in the temple, which controlled not only the
religious but also the civil life of the Jews. Like all hierarchies it
lacked the corrective influence of a superior civil authority. The one
safeguard of popular liberties, however, was the written law, which was
fast becoming the absolute authority in the life of the community. To it
the people could appeal even against the decisions of the priests. It
therefore kept alive that inherited democratic spirit which had been the
priceless possession of Israel through all its history.
There is every reason for accepting the detailed account which Josephus
has given of the quarrel between the high priest Johanan and his brother
Joshua which resulted in the murder of the latter within the sacred temple
precincts. Such an opportunity would naturally be improved by the greedy
Persian official to impose an onerous tax upon the Jews. The Elephantine
letter establishes the fact that Johanan was high priest in 411 B.C. and
that Baghohi (of which Bagoses is the Jewish equivalent) was the Persian
satrap. It thus directly confirms the testimony of Josephus. References in
late Greek writings (Solinus XXXV, 6; Syncellus I, 486) suggest that the
Jews about 350 B.C. were involved with the Phoenicians in the rebellion
against Persia. These historians state that at this time Jericho was
captured and destroyed and that a part of the Jewish people were
transported to the province of Hyrcania at the south of the Caspian Sea.
The rebellion was instigated by Tachos, the ruler of Egypt, who about 362
not only shook off the rule of Persia, but invaded Syria and stirred up
the Phoenicians to defy the Persian king. Artaxerxes III, popularly known
as Ochus, proved, however, the last ruler who was able to revive the
waning power of the Persian Empire. At his accession he slew all the
members of the royal family, and throughout his reign (358-337 B.C.) he
trusted chiefly to the unsheathed sword to maintain his authority. In 346
B.C. he finally succeeded in collecting a huge army with which he invaded
Syria and besieged Sidon. Its king betrayed his city into the hands of the
Persians, only to be murdered by the treacherous Ochus. The citizens of
Sidon, recognizing that they would receive no mercy from the hands of
Their conqueror, shut themselves up in their homes and then burned them
Over their heads. According to the Greek historians forty thousand
Phoenicians perished in this revolt.
VI. The Date of the Samaritan Schism. Josephus has given an unusually
full and detailed account of the final schism between the Jews and
Samaritans. He dates it under the high priesthood of Jaddua, who died
shortly after the close of the Persian period. He implies, therefore, that
the schism took place not long before 332 B.C., when Alexander the Great
conquered Palestine. This is also in keeping with the fact that the
Elephantine letter written in 411 B.C. knows nothing of a division
between Jew and Gentile. The fact that at the time of the division the
defecting priests took from Jerusalem the Pentateuch in its final form
strongly confirms the conclusion (as Professor Torrey has pointed out
in his _Ezra Studies_, pp. 324-330) that the Sanballat who ruled over the
Samaritan community was not the contemporary of Nehemiah, but his
grandson, who as an old man was ruling in Samaria at the time when
Alexander conquered the East.
VII. The Nature and Consequences of the Schism. The schism between Jew
and Samaritan was but a revival of the ancient rivalry which dated from
the days when the Israelites had first settled in Canaan. The destruction
of Samaria in 722 and the strong policy of Josiah had apparently led the
Samaritans to look to the temple at Jerusalem as the chief sanctuary of
the land. Shechem, however, and Mount Gerizim, which rises abruptly on the
south, enjoyed traditions which dated from the earliest days of Israel's
history. The sacred oak and altar at Shechem figured even in the
patriarchal period. At the temple of Baal-berith in Shechem apparently
both Canaanites and Israelites worshipped during the days of the
settlement. According to the Samaritan version of Deuteronomy 24:4, Mount
Gerizim, not Ebal or Jerusalem, was the place where the Israelites, after
entering Canaan, were first commanded to rear an altar to Jehovah, and to
inscribe upon it the laws given to Moses. Even in the Jewish version of
Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12 Mount Gerizim is the mountain of blessing. In
the light of these passages such commands as, for example, that in
Deuteronomy 12:4, 5 would naturally be interpreted by the Samaritans as a
reference to Gerizim rather than to Jerusalem. The destruction of the
Judean capital and temple gave a great incentive to the revival of these
Ancient traditions and a new prestige to the northern sanctuary. Until the
close of the Persian period, however, the Samaritans evidently regarded
Jerusalem as an important shrine and worshipped there side by side with
the Jews. The ultimate schism appears to have come as a result of the
growing jealousy with which certain of the Jews regarded foreign
marriages. The marriage of Manasseh, the brother of Jaddua the high
priest, to Nicaso, the daughter of Sanballat II, and his ultimate
expulsion by the Jews blew into a flame the smouldering jealousy and
opposition that had long existed between the two communities. As Josephus
recounts, Sanballat, in order to satisfy his son-in-law, ceded lands and
special rights to him and to the other Jerusalem priests, who were
attracted by these offers, and ultimately built the famous temple on Mount
Gerizim over which Manasseh and his descendants presided. In many ways the
temple and service on Mount Gerizim appear to have been duplicates of
those at Jerusalem. The same law was recognized by both communities; they
shared together the same traditions and the same ideals; and yet their
subsequent history illustrates the psychological truth that of all forms
of hatred that between brothers is the most venomous and lasting. The
bitter rivalry and growing hatred that resulted from this act are
reflected even in the wisdom teachings of Ben Sira (B. Sir. 47:21, 24,
25). They also fundamentally color the writings of the Chronicler. The
strenuous efforts that he made to discountenance the claims of the
Samaritans reveals the intensity of the feud even in the Greek period (cf.
II Chron. 11:13-16). His zeal in trying to prove that the rebuilders of
the Jerusalem temple were of Jewish extraction was doubtless inspired by
the Samaritan charge that during the Babylonian and Persian periods they
had freely intermarried with the heathen population of the land. He was
compelled to admit that even the high priestly families had been guilty of
this sin, but asserted that the foreign wives were later divorced or else
the offenders were expelled from Jerusalem. In the light of the oldest
records it appears that the Samaritans were able to establish almost as
pure a lineage as the Jews. Naturally during the succeeding years the
ancient breach continued to widen until it was beyond all healing.
* * * * *
THE GREEK AND MACCABEAN AGE
Section CIV. THE JEWS UNDER THEIR GREEK RULERS
[Sidenote: 1 Mac. 1:1-4]
Now after Alexander the Macedonian, the son of Philip, who came from the
land of the Greeks, had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, he
reigned in his place as the first ruler of the Syrian kingdom.
He fought many battles,
And won many strongholds,
And slew the kings of the earth;
He went on to the ends of the earth;
And took spoils from a multitude of nations.
And when the earth was at peace before him,
He was exalted and his heart was lifted up;
He gathered an exceedingly great army,
And ruled over countries and peoples and principalities;
And they became tributary to him.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XI, 8:7a, c]
Now when Alexander was dead, the government was divided among his
successors. It was about this time that Jaddua the high priest died and
Onias, his son, took the high priesthood.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 1:1b-d]
Alexander's empire was divided among many: Antigonus gained possession of
the province of Asia; Seleucus of Babylon and the surrounding nations;
Lysimachus governed the Hellespont, and Cassander held Macedonia; Ptolemy,
The son of Lagus, got Egypt. While these princes ambitiously contended
with one another, each for his own kingdom, there were continual
and protracted wars. And the cities suffered and lost many of their
inhabitants in these days of distress, so that all Syria experienced at
the hands of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, the opposite of what is implied by
his title of saviour. He also captured Jerusalem by means of deceit and
treachery; for, coming into the city on a sabbath day, as if to offer
sacrifices, he without difficulty gained possession of the city, since the
Jews did not oppose him, for they did not suspect him to be their enemy,
and that day they always spent in rest and quietness. And when he had
gained possession of it, he ruled over it in a cruel manner.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 1:1g-j]
And when Ptolemy had taken many captives both from the mountainous parts
of Judea and the places about Jerusalem and Samaria and Mount Gerizim, he
led them all into Egypt and settled them there. And since he knew that the
people of Jerusalem were most faithful in keeping their oaths and
covenants, he distributed many of them among garrisons. At Alexandria he
gave them equal privileges as citizens with the Macedonians themselves. He
also required them to take oath that they would be faithful to his
descendants. And not a few other Jews went into Egypt of their own accord,
attracted both by the goodness of the soil and Ptolemy's generosity.
However, there were disorders between their descendants and the Samaritans
because of their resolve to preserve that manner of life which was
transmitted to them by their forefathers. They accordingly contended with
each other; those from Jerusalem said that their temple was holy and they
resolved to send their sacrifices there, but the Samaritans were
determined that they should be sent to Mount Gerizim.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 2:1a]
When Alexander had reigned twelve years and after him Ptolemy Soter forty
years, Ptolemy Philadelphus next had the kingdom of Egypt and held it
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 2:5d, e, 4:1d-f]
Now when Onias I. the high priest died, his son Simon succeeded him. When
he died and left only a young son called Onias, Simon's brother Eleazer
took the high priesthood. After Eleazar's death, his uncle Manasseh
assumed the priesthood, and after he died, Onias II. received that honor.
This Onia was lacking in sense and was a great lover of money; for that
reason he did not pay the tax of twenty talents of silver for the people,
which his forefathers had paid out of their own estates to the kings of
Egypt. Thus he aroused the anger of King Ptolemy Euergetes, the father of
Philopator. Euergetes sent an ambassador to Jerusalem and complained that
Onias did not pay the taxes and threatened that if he did not receive
them, he would parcel out their land and send soldiers to live upon it.
When the Jews heard this message of the king they were filled with dismay,
but Onias was so avaricious that nothing of this kind made him ashamed.
[Sidenote Jos. Ant. XII, 4:2a-f]
There was a certain Joseph, young in years, but of great reputation among
the people of Jerusalem for dignity and exact foresight. His father's name
was Tobias and his mother was the sister of Onias the high priest. She
informed him of the coming of Ptolemy's ambassador. Thereupon Joseph came
to Jerusalem and reproved Onias for not taking thought for the security of
his countrymen and for bringing the nation into dangers by not paying this
money. Onias's answer was that he did not care for his authority, that he
was ready, if it were possible, to lay down his high priesthood, and that
he would not go to the king, for he cared nothing at all about these
matters. Joseph then asked him if he would give him leave to go as
ambassador on behalf of the nation. He replied that he would. So
Joseph went down from the temple and treated Ptolemy's ambassador in a
Hospitable manner. He also presented him with rich gifts and feasted him
magnificently for many days and then sent him to the king before him and
told him that he would soon follow him.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 4:3b, 4a-c]
Now it happened that at this time all the principal men and rulers of the
cities of Syria and Phoenicia went up to bid for the taxes; for every year
the king sold them to the most powerful men of each city. And when the day
came on which the king was to let the farming of the taxes of the cities,
the taxes of Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, Judea and Samaria amounted altogether
to eight thousand talents. Thereupon Joseph accused the bidders of having
agreed together to estimate the value of the taxes at too low a rate and
he promised that he would give twice as much for them, and for those who
did not pay he would send the king their entire possessions, for this
privilege was sold together with the taxes. The king was pleased to hear
this offer, and because it increased his revenues he said he would confirm
the sale of the taxes to him.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 4:5a-c, 3, 6a]
And Joseph took with him two thousand soldiers from the king, for he
desired to have assistance in order to compel those who refused in the
city to pay. And when the people of Askelon refused to pay anything, he
seized about twenty of their principal men and slew them, and gathered
what they had and sent it all to the king and informed him what he had
done. Ptolemy admired the spirit of the man, commended him for what he
had done and gave him permission to do as he pleased. By these means he
amassed great wealth and made vast profits by this farming of taxes. And
he made use of the wealth he had thus secured in order to support his
authority. This good fortune he enjoyed for twenty-two years; and he
became the father of seven sons by one wife. He had also another son whose
name was Hyrcanus.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 3:3a, b]
Now in the reign of Antiochus the Great, who ruled over all Asia, the
Jews, as well as the inhabitants of Coele-Syria, suffered greatly, and
their land was sorely harassed, for while Antiochus was at war with
Ptolemy Philopator and his son Ptolemy, who was called Epiphanes, these
nations suffered equally both when he was defeated and when he was
victorious. So they were like a ship in the storm which is tossed by the
waves on both sides.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 3:3c-e]
But at length when Antiochus had beaten Ptolemy he seized Judea. And when
Philopator was dead, his son sent out against the inhabitants of
Coele-Syria a great army under Scopas, general of his forces, and took
many of their cities and especially our people, who, when he attacked
them, went over to him. But soon afterwards Antiochus overcame Scopas in a
battle fought at the fountains of the Jordan and destroyed a great part of
his army. And afterwards, when Antiochus subdued those cities of
Coele-Syria which Scopas had captured, and Samaria among them, the Jews of
their own accord went over to him and received him into Jerusalem and gave
plentiful provisions to all his army and readily assisted him when he
besieged the garrison which was in the citadel at Jerusalem.
I. Josephus's Histories. The Greek period began with Alexander's
conquest of Palestine in 332 and extended to the Maccabean uprising in 168
B.C. For the external history of this period the writings of the historian
Josephus are the chief sources. This famous Jewish writer was born in 37
A.D., and apparently lived till about the close of the reign of Domitian
in 96. According to his own testimony he was the son of a priest named
Mattathiah. Until he was sixteen he studied under the Jewish rabbis. He
then spent three years with the Jewish sect known as the Essenes. At the
age of nineteen he joined the party of the Pharisees. His point of view in
general is that of this dominant popular party. He was able to read Latin,
but wrote his histories in Greek. At the age of twenty-six he went to Rome
where he spent three years. Returning to Palestine at the beginning of the
great rebellion against Rome, he was appointed revolutionary governor of
the important province of Galilee. The appointment was unfortunate, for he
proved both incompetent and unreliable. In 67 A.D. he and his followers
were shut up by Vespasian in the Galilean city, Jotapata. During the siege
he vainly tried to desert to the enemy. At the fall of the city he was
captured, but his life was spared by Vespasian. In time he ingratiated
himself with Titus and also incurred the hostility of his countrymen by
trying to persuade them to lay down their arms. He spent the latter part
of his life in Rome, devoting himself to study and writing. As a result of
his long residence at Rome under the patronage of the Roman emperors, he
was powerfully influenced by the Greek and Roman philosophical schools.
Josephus was the great apologist of his race. His chief aims in writing
his histories were: (1) to excuse his own acts in connection with the
great rebellion; (2) to show why the overwhelming calamity had overtaken
his race; and (3) to answer the attack of their Gentile foes by tracing
the remarkable history of his people, and by presenting in attractive
form their beliefs, institutions, and laws. Of his two great historical
works the one entitled _The Jewish War_ was issued probably between 75 and
79 A.D. It opens with the beginnings of the Maccabean struggle, and traces
the history, with increasing detail, to the destruction of Jerusalem and
the suppression of the Jewish revolt at Gyrene, two or three years before
the book was written. His second great work was issued in 93 A.D. under
the title of _The Antiquities of the Jews_. In twenty books it traces
Israel's history from the earliest beginnings to the opening years of the
Jewish war (68 A.D.). The first half of this extensive history is based
on the author's free paraphrase of the Greek version of the Old Testament.
For the latter half he draws largely from the apocryphal book of I
Maccabees and from the writings of contemporary Greek and Jewish
historians. Chief among these are Polybius, Nicolaus of Damascus, and
Strabo. At certain points, where earlier sources fail him, he employs
popular romances and late traditions. The result is that the different
parts of his history are of widely varying values. All must be carefully
tested by the canons of historical criticism. After due allowance has been
made for his apologetic purpose and his well-known tendencies, a large and
valuable body of historical facts remain with which it is possible at many
otherwise obscure points to reconstruct the course of Israel's history.
II. Alexander's Conquests. In many ways Alexander's conquest was the
most significant and far-reaching event in the history of Asia. The causes
of this great movement were, first, the fact that the limited territory of
Greece and Macedonia gave to the powerful Hellenic civilization little
opportunity for local expansion. Compelled, therefore, to break these
narrow bonds, it naturally spread in the direction of least resistance. In
the second place the decadent Persian Empire, with its fabulous riches and
almost limitless plains, was a loadstone that lured on Greek adventurers
to attempt feats that seemed incredible. The third reason was Alexander's
inherited lust for conquest. His father, Philip of Macedon, had long been
accumulating the resources which made it possible for his son to realize
his ambitious dreams. The fourth reason was Alexander's desire to make the
world more glorious by the diffusion of Hellenic culture, ideas, and
institutions and by binding all races together into one great, harmonious
family. His brilliant conquests are a familiar chapter in the world's
history. At Issus, at the northeastern end of the Mediterranean, he won,
in 333 B.C., the decisive battle which left him in possession of the
western part of the huge Persian Empire. By 332 he was master of
Palestine. Tyre, the commercial mistress of the eastern Mediterranean, and
Gaza, the key to Egypt, alone offered resistance. The Persian kings by
their onerous taxation and cruel policy had completely destroyed the
loyalty of their western subjects. In the symbolic pictures of the book of
Daniel Alexander is regarded as the "fourth beast, terrible and fearful
and exceedingly strong. And it had great iron teeth. It devoured and broke
in pieces, and stamped the rest with its feet" (7:17,23, 8:5-8). Josephus
has preserved a popular tradition regarding the meeting between Alexander
and the white-robed Jerusalem priests and the homage paid by the conqueror
to the God of the Jews. It bears on its face evidence of its unhistorical
character. As a matter of fact, the first goal of Alexander's conquest was
the rich land of Egypt. Not being possessed of a navy, he entered it
through its one vulnerable point, the Wady Tumilat, that ran from the
Isthmus of Suez to the Nile Delta. By 331 B.C. he was master of the Nile
Valley, and thence turned eastward, conquering in succession the different
provinces of the great empire, until before his death in 323 B.C. his
empire extended from the Mediterranean to the Indus, and in the northeast
far up toward central Asia.
Alexander's conquests were significant because they represented the
victory of Greek ideas and culture as well as of arms. In each country
conquered he usually succeeded in Hellenizing the native peoples. Greek
cities, settled by his veterans and the horde of migratory Greeks that
followed in his wake, were founded at strategic points throughout the vast
empire. As recent excavations have shown, Greek art and ideas continued
even after the death of Alexander to sweep eastward across Asia, until
they profoundly influenced the culture and ideas in such distant nations
as China and Japan.
III. The Jews in Egypt and Alexandria. The crown of Alexander's
constructive work was the building of Alexandria in Egypt. Selecting a
narrow strip of coast, protected on the south by the low-lying lake
Mareotis and on the north by the Mediterranean, he built there a
magnificent Greek city. On the south it was connected by canal with the
Canopic arm of the Nile. Alexander thus diverted to this new metropolis
the rich trade of the Red Sea and the Nile. A mile distant was the
island of Pharos, which was connected with the mainland by a great moll.
On either side, protected from the storms, were the eastern and western
harbors, large enough to accommodate the merchant-men and navies of the
ancient world. On the west was the native Egyptian quarter. In the
centre, opposite the island of Pharos, was the Greek and official quarter.
In the northeastern part of the city was the Jewish quarter. Here the Jews
lived together under the rule of their law; they were also represented in
the civic council by their own leaders. When Ptolemy, the son of Lagus,
became governor of Egypt and, after the death of Alexander, subjected
Palestine, he carried back to Alexandria many Jewish captives, and
attracted others by the special privileges which he granted them. In them
he recognized valuable allies in developing the commercial resources of
Alexandria and in maintaining his rule over the native Egyptians. Here in
time the Jews became wealthy and powerful and developed a unique
civilization. From the beginning of the Greek period the number of the
Jews in Egypt equalled, if it did not surpass, that of the Jews in
Palestine. While they maintained close connection with the Jews in
Palestine and remained true to their Scriptures, they were profoundly
influenced by their close contact with the civilization and ideas of the
IV. The Rule of the Ptolemies. The long-continued rule of the Ptolemies
in Egypt is one of the most astonishing phenomena in this remarkable
period in human history. Far outnumbered by the native population,
involved in almost constant war with their fellow-Greeks, they succeeded
by sheer audacity and vigilance in maintaining their authority during the
many crises through which they passed. Egypt's natural defences also made
its conquest by outside powers exceedingly difficult. Alexandria with its
fleet commanded Egypt's one entrance by the sea. In order to protect its
eastern gateway, the Isthmus of Suez, it was essential that the Ptolemies
should control Palestine. Southern Palestine also commanded the great
commercial highway that led southward and eastward to Arabia and
Babylonia. Alexandria's ancient rivals, Tyre and Sidon, also lay on the
borders of Palestine, and it was essential that they be under the control
of Egypt, if Alexandria was to remain the mistress of the eastern
Mediterranean. Furthermore, Palestine and the Lebanons (known to Josephus
as Coele-Syria, that is, Hollow Syria), alone of the countries adjacent to
Egypt, possessed the timber required for the building of Alexandria's
navies and merchant-men. Hence Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, and his
successors spared no effort to maintain their control over the lands lying
along the eastern Mediterranean.
In the division of the empire which followed the death of Alexander three
rivals struggled in turn for this coveted territory: Ptolemy, in the
south; Antigonus, who soon became master of Asia Minor and northern Syria;
and Seleucus, to whom fell the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and the more
distant eastern provinces. In the decisive battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C.
the overshadowing power of Antigonus was broken and the control of
southwestern Asia was divided between Seleucus and Ptolemy. By the
treaty that was made after the battle, Coele-Syria was given to Ptolemy;
but Seleucus and his descendants, who were known as the Seleucids or the
Seleucidae, soon attempted to wrest it from Egypt, and during the
following century frequently, with varying success, renewed the attempt.
In 295 and again in 219 they were for a brief period masters of Palestine,
but during most of this period it was held by the Ptolemies.
V. Fortunes of the Jews of Palestine. Josephus's figure of a ship in a
storm, smitten by the waves on either side, well describes the lot of the
Jews of Palestine during the Greek period. They were in turn victimized
and courted by the rival kings of Egypt and Syria. The Jews, on the
whole, favored the rule of the Ptolemies, who had made many concessions to
their kinsmen in Egypt. The presence of many Jews in Egypt also made this
relation more natural. As a rule the Ptolemies during the intervals of
peace left the Jews of Palestine largely to themselves, as long as they
paid the heavy tribute that was exacted. It was, however, one of the
most corrupt periods in human history. The Ptolemaic court was rich,
profligate, and constantly degenerating. The popular story of Joseph the
tax-collector (which Josephus recounts at length), while largely fanciful,
vividly reflects the conditions and spirit of the age. Joseph, who
evidently belonged to one of the leading families of Jerusalem, by his
energy and effrontery secured the valuable right of farming the taxes of
Palestine. By the iniquitous methods then in vogue, he succeeded in
amassing a great fortune. The splendid ruins of Arak el-Emir on the
heights of southern Gilead, east of the Jordan, represent the huge castle
and town built by his son Hyrcanus and testify to the wealth of this
Jewish adventurer. The stories that Josephus relates regarding Joseph
indicate that the materialism and sensuality which were regnant in
Alexandria had penetrated even into the province of Judea.
The one bright spot in the political history of this period is the reign
of the high priest Simon, known as the Just. He appears to have devoted
himself to developing, so far as was in his power, the interests and
resources of the Palestinian Jews and to have lifted the temple service
to a state of magnificence that received the unqualified commendation
of Jesus, the son of Sirach.
VI. Conquest of Palestine by the Seleucids in 311 B.C. Seleucus Nikanor
transferred the western capital of his empire, known as Syria (a shortened
form of the ancient name Assyria), to Antioch, near the northeastern end
of the Mediterranean. This city was situated at the point where the
Orontes breaks through the Lebanons and where the great roads from the
Euphrates and Coele-Syria converge and run westward to its seaport,
Seleucia. It was built in the midst of a fertile valley, partly on an
island in the river and partly on its northern bank. Not having natural
defences, the city depended for protection upon its broad, encompassing
walls. To this new capital was attracted a diverse native, Greek, and
Jewish population. By virtue of its strategic position and its commercial
and political importance, it soon became one of the great cities of the
eastern Mediterranean. It occupied the natural site on the eastern
Mediterranean seaboard for the capital of a great empire. Shut in by the
sea on the west and the desert on the east, Syria's natural line of
expansion was north and south. Not until 198 B.C., however, under the
rule of Antiochus the Great, did it secure permanent control of Palestine.
The degenerate house of the Ptolemies made several ineffectual attempts to
win back their lost province, but henceforth Palestine remained under the
rule of Syria. The personal attractions of Antiochus the Great, the
specious promises which he made, and disgust because of the corrupt rule
of Egypt inclined the Jews of Palestine to welcome this change of rulers.
The court at Antioch, however, soon became almost as corrupt as that of
Egypt, and the Jews were the victims of the greed and caprice of the
Syrian despots. Meantime the insidious Greek culture and vices were
influencing and largely undermining the character of the Jewish rulers.
Judaism was unconsciously facing a supreme crisis in its history.
Section CV. THE WISE AND THEIR TEACHINGS
[Sidenote: Pr. 1:2-6]
That men may learn wisdom and instruction,
May understand intelligent discourses,
May receive instruction in wise conduct,
In justice, judgment and equity;
That discretion may be given to the inexperienced,
To the youth knowledge and a purpose;
That the wise man may hear and increase in learning,
And the intelligent man may receive counsel,
That he may understand proverb and parable,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:1-6]
Does not Wisdom call?
And Understanding raise her voice?
On the top of high places by the way,
In the midst of the street she stands,
Beside the gateways in front of the city,
At the entrance of the gates she cries aloud:
To you, O men, I call,
And my appeal is to the sons of men.
O inexperienced, acquire discretion,
And ye stupid, gain understanding.
Hear, for I speak true things,
And the utterance of my lips is right.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:13]
Pride and arrogance and evil conduct
And false speech do I hate.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:14-16]
With me is counsel and practical knowledge;
With me understanding and might.
By me kings do reign,
And rulers decree justice.
By me princes rule,
And nobles judge the land.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:17]
I love those who love me,
Those who seek me diligently shall find me.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:18-21]
Riches and honor are with me,
Lordly wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold,
And my increase than choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
In the midst of the paths of justice,
That I may endow those who love me with wealth,
And that I may fill their treasuries.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:22-26]
Jehovah formed me as the beginning of his creation,
The first of his works of old,
In the primeval past was I formed,
In the beginning, before the earth was,
When there were no depths, I was brought forth,
When there were no fountains full of water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills were brought forth,
When he had not as yet made the earth,
Nor the first of the dust of the world.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:27, 29, 30]
When he established the heavens, I was there,
When he marked off the vault on the face of the deep,
Made fast the fountains of the deep,
When he set to the sea its bound,
When he marked out the foundations of the earth,
Then I was at his side as a foster-child;
And I was daily full of delight,
Sporting in his presence continually,
Sporting in his habitable earth.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:31-35]
And my delight is with the sons of men;
Now therefore, my sons, hearken to me,
Hear instruction that you may be wise,
And reject it not.
Happy is the man who hearkens to me,
Happy are they who walk in my ways,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at the posts of my doors.
For he who finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from Jehovah.
[Sidenote: Pr. 13:14-20, 24:5]
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life
That man may avoid the ways of death.
Walk with the wise and you will become wise,
But he who associates with fools shall smart for it.
A wise man is better than a strong man,
And a man who has knowledge than he who has strength.
[Sidenote: Pr. 12:10]
A wise man has regard for the well-being of his beast,
But the heart of the wicked is cruel.
[Sidenote: Pr. 20:13]
Love not sleep lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes and you shall have plenty.
[Sidenote: Pr. 25:16]
If you find honey, eat what is sufficient for you,
Lest you be surfeited with it and vomit it up.
[Sidenote: Pr. 23:9-35]
Who cries, Woe? who, Alas?
Who has contentions? Who, complaining?
Who has dullness of eyes?
They who linger long over wine,
They who go about tasting mixed wine.
Look not upon the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup.
At last it bites like a serpent,
And stings like an adder.
Your eyes shall see strange things,
And your mind shall suggest queer things.
You shall be like one sleeping at sea,
Like one asleep in a great storm.
"They have struck me, but I feel no pain;
They have beaten me, but I feel it not;
I will seek it yet again. When shall I awake from my wine?"
[Sidenote: Pr. 29:20, 15:23]
Do you see a man hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
A man has joy from the utterance of his mouth,
And a word in due season, how good it is!
[Sidenote: Pr. 19:11, 16:32]
A man's wisdom makes him slow to anger,
And it is his glory to pass over transgression.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
[Sidenote: Pr. 23:26-28]
My son, give me your attention,
And let your eyes give careful heed to my ways.
For a harlot is a deep well,
And an adultress is a narrow pit.
Yea, she lies in wait as a robber,
And increases the faithless among men.
[Sidenote: Pr. 4:25-27]
Let your eyes look right straight forward,
And let your gaze be straight before you.
Let the path of your feet be level,
And let all your ways be stable.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left,
Keep your foot away from evil.
[Sidenote: Pr. 14:15]
The simpleton believes everything,
But the prudent man looks well to where he walks.
[Sidenote: Pr. 26:12, 27:2]
Do you see a man wise in his own conceit?
There is more hope of a fool than him.
Let another man praise you and not your own mouth;
Some other, and not your own lips.
[Sidenote: Pr. 4:23, 11:6]
Keep your heart above all that you guard,
For out of it are the issues of life.
The righteousness of the upright shall save them,
But the treacherous are caught by their own desire.
[Sidenote: Pr. 21:3]
To do what is just and right
Is more acceptable to Jehovah than sacrifice.
[Sidenote: Pr. 15:1]
A soft answer turns away wrath;
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
[Sidenote: Pr. 3:27]
Withhold not good from your neighbor,
When it is in your power to do it.
Say not to your neighbor, "Go, and come again,
And to-morrow I will give," when you have it by you.
[Sidenote: Pr. 14:21, 19:17]
He who despises his neighbor, sins,
But he who has pity on the poor, happy is he.
He who has pity on the poor, lends to Jehovah,
And his good deed will yet pay him.
[Sidenote: Pr. 25:21-22]
If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat,
And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink;
For you will heap coals of fire upon his head,
And Jehovah will reward you.
[Sidenote: Pr. 3:11-12]
My son, reject not the instruction of Jehovah,
And do not grow weary of his reproof,
For whom Jehovah loveth he reproveth,
Even as a father the son in whom he delights.
[Sidenote: Pr. 3:5-6]
Trust in Jehovah with all your heart,
And depend not upon your own understanding.
In all your ways know him well,
And he will make plain your path.
I. Structure and Authorship of the Book of Proverbs. The book of
Proverbs is in reality a collection of originally independent groups of
proverbs. In its present form it consists of nine general divisions:
(1) The preface defining the aims of the book, 1:1-6. (2) A general
introduction describing the characteristics and value of the wisdom
teaching, 1:7-9:18. (3) A large collection designated as the Proverbs
of Solomon, 10:1-22:16. The fact that ten proverbs are repeated in
practically the same words indicates that it, like the book of Proverbs
as a whole, is made up of smaller collections. In chapters 10-15 the
prevailing type of the poetic parallelism is antithetic or contrasting,
while in the remainder of the book the synonymous or repeating parallelism
prevails. (4) A supplemental collection, 22:17-24:22. This is introduced
by the suggestive superscription, "Incline your ear and hear the words of
the wise." (5) A shorter appendix, 24:23-34, with the superscription,
"These also are from the wise." (6) The second large collection of
proverbs, 25-29. This bears the superscription, "These also are the
proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah,
transcribed." It contains several proverbs found in the first large
collection, and evidently represents later gleanings from the same field.
(7) The words of Agur, 30. Of Agur nothing is known beyond his name,
which may be simply typical. The latter part of the chapter contains a
collection of numerical enigmas which may or may not have been associated
at first with the opening section. (8) The words of King Lemuel, 31:1-9.
(9) A description of the ideal Hebrew housewife, 31:10-31. The contents of
these collections as well as their superscriptions clearly indicate that
these proverbs represent the work of many different wise men, living at
different periods and writing from different points of view. Few, if any,
can be confidently attributed to Solomon. Even the proverbs in the large
collection, 10:1-22:16, which are definitely designated as the Proverbs of
Solomon, emphasize monogamy and denounce rulers who oppress their
subjects. Many of the proverbs in these larger Solomonic collections give
practical advice regarding the bearing of a subject in the presence of the
king, and few of them fit in the mouth of the splendor-loving monarch, who
by his foreign marriages and grinding taxation exerted a baleful influence
upon the political and religious life of Israel. The great majority of the
proverbs reflect the noble ethical teachings of the prophets. Clearly the
term Proverbs of Solomon is simply a late designation of early proverbs
the authorship of which, like that of most popular maxims, had long since
II. Date of the Different Collections. The preface and general
introduction to the book of Proverbs reflect the immorality and evils that
characterized both the Persian and Greek periods. Their background is the
corrupt life of the city. The tendency to personify wisdom is also one of
the marks of later Jewish thought. It is probable, therefore, that this
part of the book of Proverbs was added by a late editor who lived during
the Greek period. The oldest collection in the book is clearly to be found
in 10:1-22:10. The evils which it describes, the oppression of the poor
and dependent by the rich and powerful, existed throughout most of
Israel's history, but were especially prominent in the days of the
divided kingdom immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem. The
references to the king imply that the proverb writers had in mind Hebrew
rulers. In general their rule is just and they enjoy the respect of their
subjects. The prevailing occupation of the people is agriculture. Commerce
is just beginning to develop. The exile has not yet cast its shadow over
Hebrew life and thought. The majority of these proverbs clearly represent
the fruitage of the teachings of the pre-exilic prophets, and many of them
come from the days immediately before the final destruction of Jerusalem.
From the occasional references to the scoffers, the absence of allusions
to idolatry, and the fact that monogamy is here assumed, we may infer that
some of them at least come from the Persian or even the Greek periods. It
is probable that this large collection was not made until the latter part
of the Persian or the early part of the Greek period.
The appendices in 22:17-24:34 contain many repetitions of proverbs found
in the larger collection. The prevalence of intemperance, the existence of
a merchant class, and the allusions to exiled Jews (e.g., 24:11) point
rather clearly to the dissolute Greek period as the age when these small
collections were made. The word meaning "transcribe," that is found in
the superscription to the second large collection (25-29), is peculiar to
the late Hebrew, and implies that this superscription, like those of the
Psalms, was added by a late Jewish scribe. The literary form of these
proverbs is more complex than those of the other large collection. The
kings are feared by their subjects, but figure now as oppressors rather
than champions of the people. While this collection may contain a few
proverbs coming from the period before the final destruction of Jerusalem,
it is probable that, like the smaller appendices to the first large
collection, they were not gathered until the early part of the Greek
period. The long appendices in chapters 30-31 are clearly late. The note
of doubt in the opening section of 30 is closely akin to that which recurs
in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is also based on Isaiah 44:5 and 45:4.
Aramaisms and the acrostic form in 31:10-31 imply that the background was
the late Persian or early Greek period.
The history of the book of Proverbs is therefore reasonably clear. Its
original nucleus was probably a small group of popular proverbs that had
been transmitted orally from the days before the final destruction of
Jerusalem. These, together with proverbs which first became current during
the Persian period, were collected some time in the days following the
work of Nehemiah. To these was added in the Greek period the smaller
appendices in 22:17-24:34. Possibly the same editor joined to them the
large collection found in 25-29. He or some wise man in the Greek period
prefixed the elaborate introduction in chapters 1-9. To the whole was
added the appendices in chapters 30 and 31. It is probable that by the
middle of the Greek period, or at least before 200 B.C., the book of
Proverbs was complete in its present form.
III. The Wise in Israel's Early History. Long before 2000 B.C. the
scribes of ancient Egypt were busy collecting "the words of counsel of the
men of olden time." Many of these ancient maxims still survive. The
best-known is that which bears the title "The Wisdom of Ptah-hotep." The
desire to preserve and transmit the results of practical experience is the
common motive that underlies the work of the wise. It is that which
inspires the teachers of all ages. The ancients were keenly alive to the
importance of instruction and training. All that is significant in the
civilizations of the past is, in a sense, the result of this teaching
In early Israel there were many men and women famous for their ability to
give wise counsel. In his stormy career Joab, David's valiant commander,
frequently profited by the counsel of certain wise women (Sections
LIII:8-11 LIX:35). David's friend Hushai, by his wily counsel at the time
of Absalom's rebellion, saved the king's life. The narrative in II Samuel
declares that the counsel of Ahithophel was esteemed almost as highly as
the divine oracle. For his keen insight and acute decisions, as well as
for his witty utterances, Solomon gained a reputation which made him in
the thought of later generations the father of all wisdom literature. In
a significant passage found in Jeremiah 18:18 the three classes of
Israel's teachers are brought into sharp contrast. In urging that the
prophet be put to death his foes declared: "Teaching will not perish from
the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet."
From references in Isaiah and Jeremiah it is evident that before the final
destruction of the Hebrew state the counsel of the wise was chiefly
political and secular, and often not in accord with the higher ideals of
the great pre-exilic prophets.
IV. Their Prominence in the Greek Period. The transformation of the wise
into religious as well as secular teachers apparently came after the
destruction of Jerusalem. It was the result of a variety of forces which
have already been studied. The destruction of the Hebrew state and the
resulting prominence of the individual led the wise to turn their
attention from questions of political to those of personal import. The
result is that the word "Israel" is found nowhere in the book of Proverbs.
The teachings there found are both individual and universal and apply to
Gentile as well as Jew, to the present as well as the past. The gradual
disappearance of the prophets during the latter part of the Persian
period, and the fact that the priests ever devoted themselves more and
more to the ritual and less to teaching, left a great need in the life of
Judaism which called to the front the wise. At the same time the problems
of the individual became more and more complex and insistent. Especially
was this true during the Greek period when Hellenic civilization, with its
corrupting influences, swept over Palestine and the lands of the
dispersion. It was a period when the principles enunciated by the earlier
prophets had been in general adopted by the Jewish race. The task,
however, of interpreting these principles simply and practically into the
every-day life of the people was left to these lovers and teachers of men,
the wise. The evidence of the voluminous writings of Ben Sira, as well as
of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, makes it quite clear that it
was during the Greek period, and possibly in part under the intellectual
stimulus of Greek thought, that the wise attained their greatest
prominence and influence.
V. The Aims of the Wise. The aims of the wise are in part defined in the
remarkable preface to the book of Proverbs, which was intended primarily
to describe the purpose of the collection of proverbs which embodies their
teachings. Four distinct classes commanded their attention: (1) The
ignorant, those who were unacquainted with the moral, religious,
and practical heritage received from preceding generations. (2) The
inexperienced, those who had not yet learned in the school of life the art
of adjusting themselves successfully to their environment. (3) The
scoffers, who openly rejected the counsel of the sages. And (4) the
disciples who were eager to learn and profit by the teachings of the wise.
The definite aims of the wise must be inferred from their teachings. They
were concerned with the development of the individual, not the nation.
Their first aim was to instruct the ignorant in the fundamental moral and
religious principles already laid down by earlier priests and prophets.
In the words of the preface to the book of Proverbs they taught,
That men may learn wisdom and instruction,
May understand intelligent discourses,
May receive instruction in wise dealing,
In justice, judgment, and equity.
Their second aim was to point out the pitfalls that lay in the path of the
inexperienced, and to save them from moral wreck by inspiring within them
right ideals and ambitions. This aim is also well stated in the preface to
the book of Proverbs:
That discretion may be given to the inexperienced,
To the youth knowledge and a purpose.
The third aim of the wise was to educate the receptive and all who came
to them in the attitude of disciples. This aim corresponded very closely
to that of the modern educator. Again the preface to the book of
Proverbs clearly expresses this educational ideal:
That the wise man may hear and increase in learning,
And the intelligent man may receive counsel.
That he may understand a proverb and parable,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
The wise, therefore, sought not merely to instruct, but to educate; that
is, to develop sane, happy, and efficient men and women. They sought to
train those who would have not only knowledge and experience, but also the
ability to apply these successfully in the varied relations of life.
Above all, they endeavored to educate not parts of a man, but the whole
man. Hence their interest and the subjects that they treat are as broad
as human experience.
The wise were keenly alive to the importance of youthful education.
Train up a child in the way in which he should go,
And even when he is old he will not depart from it,
voices the fundamental principle upon which all effective education is
based. They recognized that in the plastic days of childhood and youth
ideals and character and efficiency could best be developed, and that
education was not the work of a moment, but a gradual, progressive
Primary education, however, they intrusted to parents, and in many
proverbs emphasized the responsibility which every parent owed to his
child. They also counselled parents regarding the training of their
children. The maxims:
The rod of correction gives wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings disgrace to his mother.
Chastise your son while there is still hope,
And set not your heart on his destruction.
He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him chastises him,
express their appreciation of the importance of discipline in the early
training of the child. It is not clear at what age the wise took up the
instruction of the young. Possibly it was at about the age of twelve,
when the individual passed from childhood to adolescence, with its
increasing dangers and possibilities. Many of their teachings are
especially adapted to the problems of this tempestuous period.
VI. The Methods of the Wise. In attaining their aims the wise men of
Israel employed a variety of methods. Proverbs such as,
Every purpose is established by counsel,
And by wise guidance make thou war,
suggest that, as in the days before the exile, they were still active in
connection with the civic, social, and national life of the people, and
that by influencing public policies they conserved the moral welfare of
the individual as well as the state. Many references to "wisdom's voice
crying aloud in the public places" suggest that, like the earlier
prophets, the wise men at times taught in public, in the market-places, in
the open spaces within the city gates, or wherever men were gathered
together. They appear also to have taught in private, by wise counsel
delivering the individual disciple who resorted to them from the
perils that beset his path, or aiding him by prudent advice in solving
successfully his individual problems.
In 6:32-37 Ben Sira has given a vivid sketch of the schools of the wise,
which are clearly the forerunners of the later rabbinical schools:
My son, if you wish, you will be instructed,
And if you pay attention, you will become prudent.
If you are willing to hear, you will receive,
And if you listen attentively, you will be wise.
Stand in the assembly of the elders,
And whoever is wise, stick close to him.
Be willing to listen to every discourse,
And let no illuminating proverbs escape you.
If you see a man of insight, hasten to him,
And let your foot wear out his threshold.
Let your mind dwell upon the law of the Most High,
And meditate continually on his commands.
Thus he will enlighten your mind,
And teach you the wisdom you desire.
It requires little imagination to picture these ancient prototypes of
our modern universities. Like all Oriental teachers, the wise doubtless
sat cross-legged, with their disciples in a circle about them. They
trusted largely to question and answer, and poured out from their own
and their inherited experience wise maxims such as would guide the
simple and inexperienced and develop efficient manhood.
VIII. Their Important Teachings. In the opening chapters of Proverbs the
wise describe the character and value of that wisdom which represents
their teaching as a whole. In chapters 8 and 9 "Wisdom" is personified.
Inasmuch as the Hebrew word for "wisdom" is feminine, it is spoken of as a
woman. Chapter 9 describes, in a form intended to arrest the attention of
the most inattentive, the feast that Wisdom offers to her guests. This is
contrasted with Folly's banquet, and the consequences to those who
participated in these rival banquets are clearly presented.
In the practical teachings of the wise no question that vitally concerned
the individual man was considered beneath their attention. Like the wise
modern teacher they made no distinction between the religious and the
secular. Everything that influenced man's acts and ideals possessed for
them profound religious import. While the proverbial epigrammatic form of
their teaching was not conducive to a logical or complete treatment of
their theme, yet in a series of concise, dramatic maxims they dealt with
almost every phase of man's domestic, economic, legal, and social life.
They presented clearly man's duty to animals, to himself, to his
fellow-men, and to God. If utilitarian motives were urged in the great
majority of cases, it is because they sought to reach their pupils on
their own level. Although their ideals sometimes fell below those of the
great prophets, and especially those of the Great Teacher of Nazareth, the
importance of their work in establishing individual standards of right and
wrong, in keeping alive in concrete form the principles of the earlier
prophets, and in preparing their race for the crises through which it was
soon to pass cannot be overestimated. As effective teachers of the
individual they have an intensely practical and significant message for
all men in the stream of life to-day as well as in the past.
Section CVI. THE DIFFERENT CURRENTS OF THOUGHT IN JUDAISM DURING THE
[Sidenote: Ps. 19:7-14]
The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of Jehovah is trustworthy, making wise the simple,
The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart,
The commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring forever,
The judgments of Jehovah are true and altogether just,
They are of more value than gold, yea, than much fine gold,
Sweeter than honey and the droppings from the honey-comb.
By them is thy servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.
Who can discern his errors; cleanse thou me from secret faults,
Also from the presumptuous restrain thy servant; let them not have
dominion over me.
Then shall I be perfect and cleared from great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth be acceptable and the meditation of my heart,
In thy sight, O Jehovah, my Rock and my Redeemer.
[Sidenote: Ps. 46:1-3]
Jehovah is our refuge and strength,
An ever present help in trouble.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be moved,
And though the mountains totter into the heart of the sea;
The seas roar, their waters foam,
Mountains shake with the swelling of its stream.
Jehovah of hosts is with us,
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
[Sidenote: Ps. 46:4-7]
His brooks make glad the city of Jehovah,
The holy dwelling place of the Most High.
Jehovah is in the midst of her, she cannot totter;
Jehovah will help her at the turn of the morn.
Nations raged, kingdoms tottered,
When he uttered his voice the earth melted.
Jehovah of hosts is with us,
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
[Sidenote: Ps. 46:8-11]
Come, behold the works of Jehovah,
What desolations he hath made in the earth.
He is about to make wars to cease unto the end of the earth.
The bow he breaketh, and dasheth the spear in pieces;
He burneth the chariots with fire.
Be still, and know that I am Jehovah;
I shall be exalted among the nations, I shall be exalted on the earth.
Jehovah of hosts is with us,
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
[Sidenote: Ps. 22:27-30]
All the ends of the earth will remember and will turn to Jehovah,
And all the families of the nations will worship in his presence;
For the dominion belongs to Jehovah and he rules over the nations.
Verily, him alone will all the prosperous of the earth worship.
Before him all those about to go down to the dust will bow,
A seed will serve him, it will be told to a generation to come;
And they will declare his righteousness that he hath accomplished to a
people yet to be born.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:1-8]
Now this word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai:
Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and preach against it; for their
wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish
from the presence of Jehovah. And he went down to Joppa and found a ship
going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare and embarked to go with them to
Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:4-7]
But Jehovah sent a furious wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty
tempest, so that the ship threatened to break in pieces. Then the sailors
were afraid and cried, each to his own god; and they cast into the sea the
wares that were in the ship, in order to lighten it. But Jonah had gone
down into the bottom of the ship; and he lay fast asleep. And the captain
of the ship came and said to him: What are you doing asleep? Call on your
God, perhaps that God will think on us that we perish not. And they said
to one another, Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose sake
this evil has come upon us. So they cast lots and the lot fell upon Jonah.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:8-10]
Then they said to him, Tell us, what is your occupation, and whence do you
come? what is your country and of what people are you? And he said to
them, I am a Hebrew, and a worshipper of Jehovah, the God of heaven, who
hath made the sea and the dry land. Then the men were exceedingly afraid,
and said to him, What is this you have done? For they knew that he was
fleeing from the presence of Jehovah, for he had told them.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:11-13]
Then they said to him, What shall we do to thee, that the sea may be calm
for us? for the sea grew more and more stormy. And he said to them, Take
me up and throw me into the sea; so shall the sea be calm for you, for I
know that for my sake this great storm has overtaken you. But the men
rowed hard to get back to the land; but they could not, for the sea grew
more and more stormy against them.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:14, 15]
Therefore they cried to Jehovah, and said, We beseech thee, O Jehovah, we
beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, neither bring
innocent blood upon us, for thou art Jehovah; thou hast done as it
pleaseth thee. So they took up Jonah, and threw him into the sea; and the
sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared Jehovah exceedingly, and
they offered a sacrifice to Jehovah, and made vows.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:17-2:1, 10]
Then Jehovah prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the
belly of this fish three days and three nights. Thereupon Jonah prayed to
Jehovah his God, out of the belly of the fish. And Jehovah spoke to the
fish, and it threw up Jonah upon the dry land.
[Sidenote: Jonah 3:1-4]
And the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go
to that great city, Nineveh, and preach to it what I shall tell thee. So
Jonah rose and went to Nineveh, as Jehovah said. Now Nineveh was a great
city before God, of three days' journey. And Jonah began by going through
the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Forty days more and
Nineveh shall be overthrown.
[Sidenote: Jonah 3:5-9]
And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and
put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. And when
word came to the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, and took off
his robe, and dressed in sackcloth, and sat in the dust. And he made
proclamation and published in Nineveh: By the decree of the king and his
nobles: Man, beast, herd, and flock shall not taste anything; let them
neither eat nor drink water; But let them clothe themselves with
sackcloth, both man and beast, and let them cry mightily to God, and turn
each from his evil way, and from the act of violence which they have in
hand. Who knows but that God may relent, and turn from his fierce anger,
that we perish not?
[Sidenote: Jonah 3:10]
And God saw their works, how they turned from their evil way; and God
relented of the evil which he said he would do to them, and did it not.
[Sidenote: Jonah 4:1-5]
But it displeased Jonah greatly, and he was angry. And he prayed to
Jehovah, and said, Ah now, Jehovah, was not this what I said when I was
yet in mine own country? Therefore I hastened to flee to Tarshish; for I
knew that thou art a God, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and
abounding in love, and relenting of evil. Therefore, O Jehovah, take now,
I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to
live! And Jehovah said, Doest thou well to be angry? Then Jonah went out
of the city, and sat down before the city, and there made him a booth, and
sat under it, until he might see what would become of the city.
[Sidenote: Jonah 4:6-11]
And Jehovah God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that
it might be a shade over his head. So Jonah rejoiced exceedingly over the
gourd. But as the dawn appeared the next day God prepared a worm and it
injured the gourd, so that it withered. And when the sun arose, God
prepared a sultry east wind. And the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, so
that he was faint, and begged for himself that he might die saying, It is
better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Is it well for
thee to be angry about the gourd? And he said, It is well for me to be
angry, even to death! And Jehovah said, Thou carest for a gourd, for which
thou hast not troubled thyself, nor hast thou brought it up--a thing that
came in a night and hath perished in a night. Shall I, indeed, not care
for the great city, Nineveh, in which there are one hundred and twenty
thousand human beings who know not their right hand from their left;
besides much cattle?
[Sidenote: Eccles. 1:12-18]
I, Koheleth, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my mind to
searching out and exploring wisdom, all that is done under heaven: it is
an evil task that God hath given the children of men at which to toil. I
have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, the
whole is vanity and a striving after wind. The crooked cannot be made
straight; and the wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with myself,
saying, Behold, I have increased and gathered wisdom more than all who
were before me in Jerusalem, and my mind has abundantly beheld wisdom and
knowledge. And I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and
folly: I know that this also is a striving after wind. For in much wisdom
is much trouble, and he who increases knowledge, increases pain.
[Sidenote: Eccles. 2:1-11]
I said in my mind, Come now, I will test you with pleasure; so look upon
what is attractive; and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter,
It is mad; and of pleasure, What does it do? I searched in my mind, how to
Stimulate my flesh with wine, while my mind was guiding with wisdom, and
how to lay hold on folly, until I should see what is good for the children
of men to do under the heavens all the days of their life. I did great
works: I built for myself houses; I planted for myself vineyards; I made
for myself gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them, every kind of
fruit-tree. I made for myself pools of water, to water a grove springing
up with trees. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves born in my
house; also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than all who
had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and
gold, and the treasure of kings and of provinces. I secured for myself
male and female singers, and the delights of the sons of men, mistresses
of all kinds. And I grew more wealthy than all who were before in
Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And nothing that my eyes
craved did I keep from them; I did not deny my heart any joy, for my heart
rejoiced because of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my
hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold,
all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was no gain under the
[Sidenote: Eccles. 2:12-17]
And I turned to behold wisdom and madness, and folly; for what can the man
do who comes after the king? Even that which has been done already. Then I
saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness. The wise
man's eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness: yet I know
that the same fate overtakes them all. Then I said in my heart, As is the
fate of a fool so will be my fate; so why have I then been more wise? Then
I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise man, even as
of the fool, there is no remembrance for ever, inasmuch as in the days to
come all will have been already forgotten. And how the wise man dies even
as the fool! So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun
is evil to me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
[Sidenote: Eccles. 2:24-26b]
There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and
find his pleasure in his labor. This also I saw that it is from the hand
of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment without him? This is
also vanity and a striving after wind.
I. The Ritualists. Liberty of thought as well as speech was from the
first characteristic of Israel's life and thought. It was one of the many
valuable heritages that the Hebrews brought with them from the free life
of the desert. Their close contact with the outside world, and especially
with Hellenic life and thought during the Greek period, increased this
sense of freedom. The result is that many different currents of thought
are reflected in the Old Testament writings that come from this age.
Most familiar and easiest understood is the ritualistic type. It is
represented by the Chronicler, who lived and wrote some time between 300
and 250 B.C. For him all life and interest centred about the temple and
its services. In general the vision of the ritualists was turned toward
the past rather than the present and the future. In the traditions
regarding the origin of the temple and its institutions, in keeping the
ceremonial law, in participating in the formal ritual, and in joining
their songs with those of the temple singers they found an escape from
the pettiness of the age and attained that peace and joy which is
expressed in many of the psalms of the Psalter.
II. The Legalists. Closely related to the ritualists were those whose
interests were all fixed in the study of the law and the teachings of the
earlier priests. They regarded the written laws as a complete guide to
conduct and the embodiment of Jehovah's supreme message to his race.
Psalms like the fragment found in 19:7-14 voice their convictions:
The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul,
The judgments of Jehovah are true and altogether just.
By them is thy servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.
They emphasized not merely external acts and words, but inner motives.
In character and in conduct they were noble products of that religion
which Israel had inherited from the past. By them were probably treasured
stories such as are found in the first chapters of the book of Daniel. The
detailed references in chapter 2 to the marriage of Antiochus Theos and
the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus in 248 B.C. and to the murder of
Antiochus by his former wife Laodicea, together with the absence of
allusions to subsequent events, indicate that these stories were probably
committed to writing somewhere between 255 and 245 B.C. Their aim was
clearly to emphasize the supreme importance of fulfilling faithfully the
demands of the law, even in the face of bitter opposition and persecution,
and the certainty that Jehovah would deliver those who were loyal to him.
Their teachings were especially adapted to inspire the tried and tempted
Jews of the dispersion, who were sorely persecuted by the heathen among
whom they lived. The dramatic picture of men who dared face the fiery
furnace or the hungry lions rather than depart from the demands of the law
undoubtedly proved a great inspiration to the Jews of the Greek period.
III. The Disciples of the Prophets. Throughout the centuries that
followed the destruction of Jerusalem the great ethical prophets of the
pre-exilic period had never been without spiritual disciples. They
faithfully studied and applied in their own lives the principles laid down
by their earlier guides. Although the influence of the contemporary
prophets constantly waned, yet the spirit of those earlier champions of
the faith lived in the hearts of their followers. In many of the psalms
of the Psalter Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah speak in terms adapted to the
changed problems of the Jews of the Greek period. In Psalm 46 the trust in
Jehovah which Isaiah advocated has become a living force in the life of
the Psalmist and of the class in behalf of which he spoke. In the
background one hears the march of the multitude armed by Alexander for
world-conquest and the din of conflict as army met army; but over all
stands Jehovah, protecting his sanctuary and people, supreme in the lives
of men and nations. The narrow, nationalistic, messianic hopes have long
since been abandoned, and instead Jehovah is recognized as the one supreme
being whose kingdom or dominion includes all the nations of the earth. In
imagination these disciples of the prophets saw the time when rich and
poor, Jew and Gentile, should bow before Jehovah and be united in loyalty
to him. Thus arose that highest conception of the kingdom of God which is
the foundation of Jesus' teaching.
IV. The Date and Character of the Book of Jonah. From those who sat at
the feet of the earlier prophets came one of the most remarkable books of
the Old Testament. In literary form the little book of Jonah is closely
akin to the stories in the opening chapters of Genesis and the first half
of the book of Daniel. Its many Aramaic words, its quotations from the
late book of Joel, its universalism, and its missionary spirit all
indicate that it comes either from the closing years of the Persian or
from the earlier part of the Greek period. The story of Jonah, like many
similar stories in the Old Testament, was probably known to the Semites
centuries before it was employed by the author of the book to point his
great prophetic teaching. In the familiar Greek story of Hercules,
Hesione, the daughter of the Trojan king, is rescued by the hero from a
sea-monster which held her in its stomach three days. An old Egyptian tale
coming from the third millennium B.C. tells of an Egyptian who was
shipwrecked and after floating three days was swallowed by a great
sea-monster and thus carried to the land. From India comes the tradition
of a man who went to sea contrary to the commands of his mother. While on
the way the ship was seized by an unknown power and not allowed to proceed
until the offender was three times selected by lot and then cast
V. Teachings of the Book of Jonah. The value and message of the book of
Jonah have in the past been largely overlooked because the true literary
character of the book has been misunderstood. It was never intended by its
author to be regarded as a historical narrative. Its hero Jonah, the son
of Amittai, according to II Kings 14:25, lived during the reign of
Jeroboam II (780-740 B.C.), and predicted the wide extension of the
territory of southern Israel; but the Jonah of the story is evidently a
type of the Jew of the Persian and Greek periods. By showing the pettiness
of his attitude toward the heathen the author sought to broaden the vision
and quicken the conscience of his fellow-Jews. The portrait is remarkably
vivid and suggestive. Jonah fled from Jehovah's land and took refuge in
the sea, not because he feared the Ninevites, but, as he plainly declares
later, because he feared that, if he did preach to the Assyrian foes of
his race, Jehovah would repent and spare them. In the scene in the midst
of the raging tempest the piety of the heathen Sailors and their zeal in
sparing the guilty Israelite stand forth in favorable contrast to Jonah's
action in refusing to carry out Jehovah's command. The Ninevites, clad in
sackcloth, repenting for their sins, and craving Jehovah's forgiveness,
are far more attractive than the sullen prophet, complaining because
Jehovah has spared the heathen foes of his race and later upbraiding
Jehovah because of the destruction of the gourd that for a time had
protected his head from the burning sun. Jehovah's concluding remonstrance
voices the message of the book. Like the New Testament parable of the
Prodigal Son, the story of Jonah presents in graphic form the unbounded
love of the heavenly father and contrasts it sharply with the petty
jealousies and hatred of his favored people. It was a call to Israel to go
forth and become a missionary to all the world and a protest against the
nation's failure to perform its God-given task.
VI. The Book of Ecclesiastes. Very different is the spirit and purpose
of the book of Ecclesiastes. It evidently comes from one of the many
wisdom teachers who flourished during the Greek period and it speaks in
the name of Solomon. It is an essay on the value of life. In its original
form its thought was so pessimistic that it has been supplemented at many
points by later editors. These insertions include (1) proverbs commending
wisdom and praising the current wisdom teachings, and (2) the work of a
pious scribe, a forerunner of the later Pharisees, who sought to correct
the utterances of the original writer (who is commonly designated as
Koheleth) and to bring them into accord with current orthodoxy. The
language and style of the book are closely akin to those of the Chronicler
and the author of the book of Esther. It also contains several Persian and
possibly one Greek word. The book in its earlier form was evidently known
to Ben Sira, the author of Ecclesiasticus, who lived about 180 B.C. In
4:13-16 and 10:16-17 there are apparent references to the reign of Ptolemy
Epiphanes, who came to the throne of Egypt at the age of five, and whose
court was famous for its dissoluteness and profligacy. The book,
therefore, may be dated with considerable confidence a little before 200
B.C. It was a corrupt, barren period. Crime was rampant in the temple as
well as at the court in Alexandria (3:16). The people were crushed by the
powerful and were without means of redress (4:1). A despot sat on the
throne (10:5-7) and spies lurked everywhere (10:20).
VII. Koheleth's Philosophy of Life. The author of the original book of
Ecclesiastes is the spokesman of that class in Judaism who were oppressed
and crushed by this dreary outlook. He evidently lived in Jerusalem and
probably near the temple (5:1 8:10). From the allusions in 7:26, 28 it is
evident that he was unhappily married. From the classic description of old
age found in 11:9-12:7 it would appear that when he wrote he was well
advanced in years, and spoke out of the depths of his own painful personal
experience, having been left without son or close kinsman (4:8). From his
teachings it is clear that he had broken away from the orthodox wisdom
school. Before his enfeebled vision rose the seamy, dreary side of life,
and yet back of the lament of this ancient pessimist is revealed a man of
high ideals, impelled by a spirit of scientific thoroughness. Though he
was intense and eager in his quest for true happiness and in his
analysis of the meaning of life, he found no abiding joy, for his
outlook was sadly circumscribed. Life beyond the grave offered to him
no hope or compensation. He was, however, by no means an agnostic. He
believed in God's rulership of the world; but the God of his faith was
inscrutable, far removed from the life of men. Hence, unlike many of his
contemporaries, as for example the psalmists, he found little joy or
inspiration in his religion. According to the conclusion, which he
proclaimed in the beginning of his essay and held consistently throughout,
all human striving and ambition, even life itself, are but superlative
vanity, nor can man attain any permanent or complete satisfaction. The one
positive teaching which Koheleth reiterates is that it is man's highest
privilege to extract from passing experiences the small measure of joy and
happiness that they offer, and therewith to be content. Compared with many
other Old Testament books, the religious value of Ecclesiastes is slight
indeed. Its chief value, however, is historical: it presents one phase of
thought in the Judaism of this period, and shows how sorely the Jewish
people needed the spur of a great crisis to rouse them to noble and
unselfish action. The book of Ecclesiastes also furnishes the darker
background which brings out in clear relief the inspiring messages of the
great prophets that had gone before, and of the greater Prophet who
was to set before the human race a worthy goal and a fresh and true
interpretation of the value of life.
Section CVII. THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS THE SON OF SIRACH
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 1:1-10]
All wisdom is from the Lord,
And is with him forever.
The sand of the seas, and the drops of rain,
And the days of eternity--who shall number?
The height of the heaven, and the breadth of the earth,
And the depths of the abyss--who shall search them out?
Wisdom hath been created before all things,
And keen insight from everlasting.
To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed?
And who hath known her shrewd counsels?
There is one wise, greatly to be feared,
The Lord sitting upon his throne,
He created her, and saw and numbered her,
And poured her out over all his works.
She is with all flesh according to his gift,
And he giveth her freely to those who love him.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 2:1-5]
My son, if you would serve the Lord,
Prepare your soul for temptation.
Set your heart aright, and be steadfast,
That you may not be dismayed in the time of calamity.
Cleave to him, and depart not,
That you may prove yourself wise at the last.
Accept whatever comes to you,
And be patient in sickness and affliction,
For gold is tried by the fire,
And acceptable men in the furnace of affliction.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 2:6-9]
Put your trust in the Lord, and he will help you,
Hope in him, and he will make smooth your way.
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy,
And turn not aside lest you fall.
You who fear the Lord trust in him,
And your reward shall not fail.
You who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
And for eternal gladness and deliverance?
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:17-20]
My son, if you are rich, walk in humility,
That you will be more beloved than a generous man.
The greater you are, humble yourself the more,
And you shall find favor before the Lord.
For great is the might of the Lord,
And he is glorified by those who are meek.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:21-25]
Seek not the things that are too hard for you,
And search not out things that are beyond you.
That over which power has been given you, think thereon,
For you have no business with the things that are hidden.
With that which is out of your field have nothing to do,
For more things are shown to you than you can understand.
For men have many speculations,
And evil theories have led them astray.
Where there is no pupil to the eye, the light fails,
And where there is no understanding, wisdom fails.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:26-29]
A stubborn heart fares ill at the last,
But he who loves the good finds it.
A stubborn heart has many troubles,
And the overbearing heap sin upon sin.
For the wound of the scorner there is no healing,
Since he is a plant of an evil kind.
A wise mind understands the proverbs of the wise,
And an ear attentive to wisdom is a joy.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:30-4:2, 9, 10]
Water quenches flaming fire,
And right acts make atonement for sins.
He who does a favor--it meets him on his way,
And when he falls he shall find support.
My son, deprive not the poor of his living,
And let not the eyes of the needy grow weary.
Make not a hungry soul groan,
And do not stir up the feelings of him who is smitten.
Deliver the oppressed from the oppressor,
And be not faint-hearted in giving judgment.
Be as a father to the fatherless,
And instead of a husband to the widow;
So will God call you his son,
And be gracious to you and save you from destruction.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 4:20-22]
Observe the opportunity and beware of evil,
And be not ashamed of yourself.
For there is a shame that brings sin,
And another shame, glory and grace.
Do not be obsequious to your own shame,
And do not humiliate yourself until it is a sin against yourself.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 4:23-25, 28, 29]
Hold not back speech, in its proper time,
And hide not your wisdom.
For by speech wisdom shall be known,
And instruction by the word of the tongue.
Speak not against the truth,
But be humble because of your own ignorance.
Strive for the right even to death,
And the Lord will fight for you.
Be not boastful with your tongue,
And slack and remiss in your work.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 4:30, 31]
Be not as a lion in your house,
Nor arrogant and suspicious among your servants.
Let not your hand be stretched out to receive,
And closed when you should repay.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 5:1, 2a]
Set not your mind upon your possessions,
And say not, They are sufficient for me.
Follow not your own mind and strength,
To walk in the desires of your heart.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 6:2, 4]
Do not give yourself up to your passion,
Lest it like a bull eat up your strength.
For a wild passion destroys its possessor,
And makes him the laughing-stock of his enemies.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 6:5-8]
Well ordered speech makes friends,
And a gracious tongue wins kindly greetings.
Let those who are friendly toward you be many,
But your confidant one of a thousand.
If you would get a friend, get him by testing,
And do not give him your confidence too quickly.
For there is many a fair-weather friend,
But he does not remain in the day of need.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 6:14-16]
A faithful friend is a strong defence,
And he who finds him finds a treasure.
There is nothing equal to a faithful friend,
And his worth is beyond price.
A faithful friend is a source of life,
And he who fears the Lord finds him.
He who fears the Lord directs his friendship aright,
For as he is, so is his friend.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:12, 13]
Devise not a lie against your brother,
Nor do the like to a friend or associate.
Never take pleasure in speaking a falsehood.
For its outcome is not good.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:20, 21]
Do not treat badly a servant who serves you faithfully,
Nor a hired servant who gives to you his best.
Love a sensible servant as your own self,
Defraud him not of liberty.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:22, 23]
Honor your father with your whole heart,
And forget not the pangs of your mother.
Remember that of them you were born,
And now you can recompense them for what they have done for you.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:29, 30]
Fear the Lord with all your soul,
And regard his priests with reverence.
Love your Creator with all your strength,
And do not neglect his ministers.
I. Date and Character of Jesus, the Son of Sirach. Out of the large
number of anonymous books that come from the Persian and Greek periods one
stands forth unique. It is the Wisdom of Ben Sira. With the exception of
the Psalter and Isaiah, it is the largest book that has come to us from
ancient Israel. Fortunately, its date and authorship may be determined
with reasonable certainty. In the prologue to the Greek translation, its
translator describes himself as the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach,
and states that he went to Egypt in 132 B.C. Hence it is probable that his
grandfather wrote some time during the early part of the second century
B.C. The appreciative description of Simon the high priest in the fiftieth
chapter of Ben Sira indicates that its author was a contemporary as well
as an admirer of that famous head of the Judean community. From the
references in the rabbinical writings, as well as from the definite
statement of Eusebius, it is reasonably certain that this Simon lived
between 200 and 175 B.C. Furthermore, the quotations in the writings of
Ben Sira from Ecclesiastes in its original form imply that he wrote during
the latter part of the Greek period. The complete absence of any reference
to the Maccabean struggle also proves beyond question that he lived before
168 B.C. These facts indicate that the date of his writing was somewhere
between 190 and 175 B.C.
In the Hebrew version the name of this famous sage appears as Jesus, the
son of Eleazar, the son of Sira. In the Greek version, however, he is
known simply as Jesus, the son of Sirach. Ben Sira, or Sirach, was
apparently his family name, while Jesus is the Greek equivalent of Jeshua
or Joshua. From his writings it may be inferred that he belonged to a
well-known Jerusalemite family. It is also not improbable that he was
connected with the high-priestly line. His references to Simon the high
priest reveals his deep sympathies with the ecclesiastical rulers of
Jerusalem. The closing words in the Hebrew version of 51:12 are equally
significant: "Give thanks to him who chose the sons of Sadok to be
priests." In his teachings Ben Sira is in some respects a forerunner of
the later Sadducees. Evidently he was a man of influence in the Judean
community. His fame as a wise man doubtless attracted many disciples. He
was deeply interested in every phase of life. While his point of view was
somewhat similar to that of Koheleth, his outlook was thoroughly
optimistic. His teachings were positive rather than negative. His faith
was that of the fathers, and his purpose constructive. Out of the wealth
of teachings inherited from the past, and also out of his own personal
experience and observation, he sought to inspire right ideals in the young
and to develop them into happy and efficient servants of God and of their
fellow-men. In this respect he was a worthy representative of the wise who
during this period moulded the life of Judaism.
II. His Writings. The prologue to the Greek version of the wisdom of
Sirach states that he was a devoted student of the earlier scriptures of
his race. In 33:16 he acknowledges, in all modesty, his indebtedness to
I awakened last of all as one who gathers after the great gatherers,
By the blessing of the Lord I profited and filled my wine-press as one
who gathers grapes.
It was natural, therefore, that he should write down his teachings in the
language of his fathers. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he possessed
a classical Hebrew style. Like the wise men whose teachings are preserved
in the book of Proverbs, he put his thought into poetic, proverbial form.
In his book there is a definite, logical arrangement of ideas. The first
part consists of a series of essays on various topics. The same subject is
often dealt with in many different settings (e.g., choice of friends,
6:5-17, 7:18, 12:8-12, 37:1-5). These brief essays are grouped together,
and each group is provided with a brief introduction, usually in
commendation of wisdom. Apparently the first half of the book consists of
notes based on Ben Sira's early teachings. Each group of sayings may
well represent his teachings on a given occasion. In 31:21 through 50:24
is found the roll call of Israel's spiritual heroes, beginning with a
psalm in praise of Jehovah's majesty and power and concluding with the
description of Simon the high priest. This latter part of the book is
clearly a pure literary creation, and was probably added by him as a
conclusion to the collection of his wisdom teachings.
III. History of the Book. The book containing the writings of Ben Sira
was known under a variety of titles. The Latin Church followed the Greek
in calling it Ecclesiasticus. This term was applied to those books which
were not in the canon, but were held to be edifying and proper for public
use in the churches. The Hebrew text of Ben Sira enjoyed wide currency,
was frequently quoted by the later rabbis, and was often referred to by
later Jewish and Christian writers. It was almost completely supplanted in
time, however, by the Greek version. Jerome was acquainted with the Hebrew
version, but most of the Church fathers followed the Greek. Ben Sira was
apparently quoted by Jesus, by Paul, and by the authors of the Epistle of
James and of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Twenty or thirty such references
or allusions are found in the New Testament. It was also a great favorite
with the Church fathers, who quoted from it even more frequently than from
the other Old Testament writings. It was adopted in the canon of the Greek
and Latin Church; but, in common with the other apocryphal books, was
given a secondary place by the Protestant reformers. Unfortunately, during
the earlier part of the last century it ceased to be printed in the
standard editions of the Bible. The modern revival of interest in the
apocryphal books, both in Europe and America, is tending to restore this
book, in common with I Maccabees, to the position which they certainly
deserve in the practical working canon of the Old Testament. The discovery
in 1896 of a fragment of the original Hebrew manuscript of Ben Sira, and
the subsequent recovery of many other parts, have also tended to arouse
wide interest in this hitherto much-neglected book. Hebrew portions of
thirty-nine out of the fifty-one chapters have thus far been discovered.
Most of them come from about the eleventh Christian century and are of
widely differing values. By means of these, however, and the quotations by
the Jewish rabbis and Christian fathers and in the Greek, Syriac, and
Latin versions, it is now possible to restore most of the original Hebrew
text, and the resulting translation is far superior to those based on the
IV. Its Picture of Jewish Life. Ben Sira has given a vivid picture of
the domestic, economic, and social life of the Jews of his age. The
debased, Oriental conception of marriage had corrupted the atmosphere of
the home. Wives were regarded as the possessions of their husbands, and
the immoral influence of Hellenism still further undermined the purity
and integrity of many a Jewish home. Greek customs and usages were
pervading Palestine more and more. Ben Sira refers to banquets with their
accompaniments of music and wine. Even these meet with his approval.
Agriculture and commerce are the chief occupations of the people. In
general Ben Sira voices the wholesome Jewish attitude toward labor:
Hate not laborious work;
Neither agriculture that the Most High hath ordained.
He is especially strong in his commendation of physicians:
Be a friend to the physician, for one has need of him,
For verily God hath appointed him.
A physician receives his wisdom from God,
And from the king he receives presents.
The knowledge of a physician causes him to lift up his head,
And before the princes may he enter.
God created medicines out of the earth,
And a prudent man will not be disgusted with them.
The following proverb has a universal application:
He who sins before his maker,
Let him fall into the hands of his physician!
V. Rise of the Scribes. The writings of Ben Sira reveal the close
connection between the earlier wise and the later scribes. He lived at
the period when the wise man was turning scribe. He himself had a
profound respect for the law:
A man of understanding will put his trust in the law,
The law is faithful to him as when one asks at the oracle.
One of his fundamental teachings is formulated in the proverb:
Fear the Lord and glorify his priests,
And give him his portion even as it is commanded.
Elsewhere he declares:
The leisure of the scribe increases his wisdom,
And he who has no business becomes wise.
In his famous description of the typical wise man in 39:1-11 may be
recognized many of the traits of the later scribes. As the law and the
ritual gained greater prominence in the life of Judaism, it was inevitable
that it should command the attention of the practical teachers of the
people. Thus gradually the wise devoted themselves to its study and
interpretation, ever emphasizing, however, thought and conduct as well
as conformity to the ritual. Scribism was greatly enriched by its lineal
inheritance through the earlier wise, and long retained the proverbial,
epigrammatic form of teaching and that personal attitude toward the
individual and his problems which was one of their greatest sources of
strength. The honor which the early scribes enjoyed was well deserved.
Their methods were free from the casuistry that characterized many of
the later scribes. They not only copied and guarded the law, but were
its interpreters, applying it practically to the every-day problems of the
people as well as to their duties in connection with the temple service.
Their influence upon the Jews in this early period was on the whole
exceedingly wholesome, and from their ranks rose the martyrs that a
generation later were ready to die for the law.
VI. The Teachings of Ben Sira. Ben Sira was acquainted with Greek
culture and shows at several points familiarity with Greek ideals and
methods of thinking, but his point of view in general was distinctly
Jewish. He gathered together all that was best in the earlier teachings
of his race. In many ways he represents an advance beyond all that had
gone before and a close approximation to the spirit and teachings of Jesus
of Nazareth. The God of his faith was omnipotent, majestic, omniscient,
just, and merciful. He was the God of all mankind, although it was through
Israel that he especially revealed himself. Ben Sira did not, like
Ezekiel, think of God as far removed from the life of men and as
communicating with them only through angels, but as directly and
personally interested in the experiences and life of the individual. In
23:1, 4 he addresses him as Lord, Father, and Master of my life. Thus he
employs in the personal sense the term Father, which was most often on the
lips of the Great Teacher of Nazareth. In Ben Sira's stalwart faith and
simple trust there is also much that reminds us of the Greater than
Solomon. Like the teachers who had preceded him, he had, however, no clear
belief in individual immortality (cf. 41:3-4, 38:16, 23) The only reward
after death that he could hold up before a good man was his reputation:
A good life has its number of days,
But a good name continues forever.
Consistent with the orthodox wisdom school, he taught that rewards for
right living came in this life:
Delight not in the delights of the wicked;
Remember they shall not go unpunished to the grave.
Even though he lacked the inspiration of future hope, Ben Sira taught
loyalty to God and fidelity to every duty. Justice toward all,
consideration for the needs of the suffering and dependent, and generosity
to the poor are constantly urged by this noblest Jew of the age.
Section CVIII. THE CAUSES OF THE MACCABEAN STRUGGLE
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:10-15]
Now there came forth from [Alexander's successors] a sinful root,
Antiochus Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been a hostage at
Rome, and he began to reign in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of
the Syrian rule (175 B.C.). In those days there appeared certain lawless
Israelites who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with
the heathen about us; for since we have stood aloof from them many evils
have befallen us. And the proposal met with approval. And certain of the
people were ready to do it, and went to the king who gave them the right
to do as the heathen. Then they built a place for gymnastic exercise in
Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen. They also made
themselves uncircumcised, and, forsaking the holy covenant, fraternized
with the heathen, and sold themselves to do evil.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:16-19]
Now when Antiochus saw that his authority was well established, he thought
to reign over Egypt, that he might reign over the two kingdoms. So he
invaded Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots and elephants and
horsemen, and with a great navy. And he made war against Ptolemy, king of
Egypt. And Ptolemy was defeated by him and fled, and many fell mortally
wounded. And they seized the strong cities in the land of Egypt, and he
took the spoils of Egypt.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:20-22, 24-28]
Then after Antiochus had conquered Egypt he returned in the hundred and
forty-third year (169 B.C.) and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with
a great multitude. And he insolently went into the sanctuary, and took the
golden altar, and the candelabrum, and all that belonged to the table of
the showbread, and the cups for libations, and the bowls, and the golden
censers, and the curtain and the garlands; and the decorations which were
on the front of the temple--he scaled them all off. And taking all, he
went away into his own land, after he had made a great slaughter, and had
spoken very insolently. Thus a great mourning came to the Israelites
wherever they were.
And the rulers and elders groaned,
he virgins and young men were made feeble.
And the beauty of the women was changed.
Every bridegroom took up a lamentation,
She that sat in the marriage chamber was in heaviness.
And the land was shaken because of its inhabitants,
And all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:29-40]
After two years the king sent a chief collector of tribute to the cities
of Judah, who came to Jerusalem with a great multitude. And he spoke words
of peace to deceive them, and they trusted him. Then he attacked the
city suddenly, and inflicted a severe blow on it, and destroyed many
Israelites. And he took the spoils of the city, and set it on fire, and
pulled down its houses and walls on every side. They took captive the
women and the children, and gained possession of the cattle. Then they
walled in the city of David with a great and strong wall, with strong
towers, and it served as a citadel. And they put there sinful people,
lawless men. And they fortified themselves in it. And they stored up
weapons and food and, gathering together the spoils of Jerusalem, they
stowed them away there.
And the citadel became a great trap,
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